Daniel once again saw a vision of animals representing kingdoms.
To recap the vision:
Daniel first saw a ram with two horns. One was longer than the other, but the second one quickly out grew it. This ram went out pushing and butting all the other animals. THEN – As Daniel was considering this ram – a he-goat comes flying out of nowhere and attacks the ram. The goat has one large horn.
The angel Gabriel comes to Daniel and interprets the vision. The ram represents the Medo-Persian empire, an interesting prophecy seeing that the Medo-Persians had yet to capture Babylon at the revelation of this vision. The He-goat represented Greece and the one large horn on the goat was Alexander the Great who attacked the Persian empire and over came it. The one large horn (Alexander) on the goat is broken, and out of the remains, four other horns grow. These four horns were four of Alexander’s key generals who split his empire into four parts, with each ruling his designated portion. The vision notes that they do not gain the power and authority Alexander had.
The vision, however, goes on to reveal one other little horn that would arise. This horn will grow exceedingly great toward the south, east, and towards what is called “the beautiful land.” What or who is this horn? Gabriel interprets this vision for Daniel and his description of this horn tells us it can be only one historical person: Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
I. The Horn’s Identity [8:9-10]
Out of the four horns came one little horn. The text states he started small, but grew great. He also has significance to the Jews because of what Daniel describes this horn as doing. It “threw down the starry host.” The expression often pictures angels, but in some cases, like here in this context, it speaks of a holy people – the saints (8:24), or Israel. The horn “throws” them down and tramples them, which means simple that it persecutes them.
There is only one specific individual all scholars agree fits this description, a fierce persecuter who follows after the fall of Alexander the great and comes from the remnants of his four generals, the 8th ruler of the Seleucid Greek Empire – Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He specifically was a ruler who persecuted the Jewish people. He was also a “master of intrigue” or as Daniel describes him, one who “understands sinister schemes.” Antiochus was known for his political manipulations through extortion and bribes. His kingdom started small, but then grew exceedingly great. He also called himself “epiphanes” which is to say, “deity manifest” or “the illustrious one.” This fits Daniel’s prophetic description of one who “rises against the prince of princes,” or the Lord God. The historical, but non-canonical Apocrypha books of Maccabees, tell how Antiochus came to persecute the Jews, [1 Macc. 1:29-32, 41-64].
II. The Horn’s Deeds [8:11-14]
The main act the horn does is persecute God’s people. He persecuted the Jews two ways.
Physically – Harsh persecution by slaying the Jewish people.
Religiously – The text states this horn brings the sacrificial system of the Jews to cease and casts down the sanctuary. Antiochus did this when he asserted his authority over Israel. He prevented the Jews from worshiping God and in one instance, he erected a statue of Zeus on the temple mount and offering pig flesh to this statue.
A couple of thoughts about the horn’s deeds.
The Reason: Daniel 8:12 mentions this happens “because of transgressions” and 8:23 notes “when the transgressors have reached their fullness. First Maccabees, the non-canonical history written during the intertestimal period explains what this transgression was and why the Jews were given over to judgment:
In those days there went out of Israel wicked men, and they persuaded many, saying: Let us go, and make a covenant with the heathens that are round about us: for since we departed from them, many evils have befallen us. [1 Macc. 1:12]
These Jewish apostates involved themselves in the worship of heathen gods.
The length: Daniel 8:13, 14 states a time marker for the length of time the transgressions of the horn will take place: 2,300 evenings and mornings. The question is raised, “what exactly is meant by this figure? Additionally, “are these real evenings and mornings, or merely a symbolic figure of time?”
The most unusual interpretation that played out in the 1800s is William Miller’s view that the figure meant 2,300 years, the evening and mornings being “days” that symbolically represented years. He calculated that the 2,300 days was the date of Christ’s return and predicted Christ would return sometime between March, 1843 and March, 1844. This led to the Great Disappointment and the founding of the SDA cult led by Ellen G. White.
There are basically two legitimate perspectives of the figure, however:
1) The “evening and mornings” total 1,150 days, because Daniel is referring to the daily sacrifices that take place in the mornings and evenings. Because there are two daily sacrifices given during one day, 2,300 divided by 2 is 1,150 days. This means the period of the horn’s persecution would be a little more than three years. If the termination date of Antiochus’s sacrilege is Dec. 14th, 164 B.C. when the temple was rededicated, calculating back 1,150 days would be December 167 B.C. The beginning date of this prophecy would start at the setting up of the statue of Zeus. The actual 1,150 days go back to Sept./Oct. of 167, a few months before Dec. Which means Daniel’s prophecy was meant as a close approximation, and that the sacrifices were possibly ended during those months prior to the sacrilege of the temple in Dec.
2) But, a more plausible way to look at the prophecy is to take these days as genuine, 2,300 days. There is good reason for this view.
First, the phrase is literally “evening morning 2,300” in Hebrew. The OT usage of “evening morning” means day. A precedent set in Genesis 1.
Second, when Hebrews wished to make a distinction between the two parts of a day, the number of both was given, for example “Forty days and Forty nights.”
Third, the term “daily sacrifice” doesn’t appear in verse 14, and it is assumed it is the meaning of the phrase “evening morning.”
Fourth, when the two daily sacrifices are specificed, the order in the OT is always “morning and evening,” never “evening and morning.”
Taking the 2,300 as really 24 hour days indicates a period of six years and almost four months. Starting at Dec. 14, 164 B.C. as the termination point and adding 2,300 days, the beginning of the persecution is the fall of 170 B.C. Something significant marked the starting point: the murder of Onias III, a former high priest by the order of Menelaus, a high priest appointed by Antiochus. From that point on, Antiochus led a persecution against the Jews that continued until the Maccabees rededicated the temple and when the holiday of Hanukkah was established. Thus, the 2,300 days are not a reference only to the end of the sacrifice, but the entire period of the little horn’s persecution of God’s people.
III. The Horn’s Demise [8:25]
Daniel 8:25 states Antiochus will die apart from human means. In other words, he would die of natural causes and not be killed by assassination. This is precisely what happened. He died of grief and remorse after a major military defeat at the city of Elymais and after receiving word that his forces had been routed by the Jews in Palestine.
Antiochus foreshadows the Anti-Christ, a greater eschatological villain who will rise up to persecute the Jews before the return of Christ and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. Like Antiochus, the Anti-Christ is pictured as a horn who rages against the God of heaven and seeks to destroy God’s people with he hatred. In the same manner that Antiochus died apart from human hands, the Anti-Christ will be destroyed personally by Jesus at His return (Rev. 19).