1. Third year. For a discussion of the reign of Belshazzar, see Additional Note on Chapter 5. Beginning with ch. 8 the writer reverts to the Hebrew language (see p. 749), which is used from here to the end of the book.
At the first. Doubtless a reference to the vision of ch. 7.
2. I was at Shushan. There has been considerable discussion as to whether the prophet Daniel was bodily present in Susa, or was present there only in vision. As far as the context is concerned, bodily presence need not be inferred. “I saw in a vision,” or simply “I saw in vision,” may be understood as introducing a series of events seen in vision with no necessary reference to actual presence. Other examples of such transportations taking place in vision, but not in actuality, are the “visit” of Ezekiel to Jerusalem (see on Eze. 8:3) and that of John to the wilderness (Rev. 17:3). We might mention also the experiences of Ellen G. White (see EW 32, 39). On the other hand, it cannot be proved that Daniel was not bodily in Susa at the time. It is not difficult to imagine that his travels, either on official business or otherwise, may at some time or another have taken him to the former metropolis of Elam. At the time of this vision, if we begin the 1st year of Belshazzar in 553, Elam was probably still a Babylonian province, though it went over to Cyrus at some time before he took Babylon. Josephus alleges that the prophet was actually in Susa at the time of the vision (Antiquities x. 11. 7).
Palace. Heb. birah, “citadel,” or “acropolis.” In the Hebrew the term is in apposition to Shushan. The phrase may be translated “in the citadel Shushan,” or, employing the form of the name more familiar in modern times, “Susa the capital” (RSV). According to the Greek historian Xenophon, Persian kings later used the city as a winter residence, and spent the rest of the year at Babylon or at Ecbatana. For further information regarding Susa see on Esther 1:2.
Ulai. Assyrian Ula, an unidentified river. Classical writers place Susa on the Eulaeus (Karun) or on the Choaspes (Kerkha). Some scholars see it as a canal between the Choaspes and Coprates rivers.
3. A ram which had two horns. The angel later identifies this symbol as representing the kings of Media and Persia (v. 20).
Higher than the other. Although it rose later than Media, Persia became the dominant power when Cyrus defeated Astyages of Media in 553 or 550. The Medes, however, were not treated as inferiors or as a subjugated people, but rather as confederates. See on ch. 2:39.
4. Pushing westward. Cyrus conquered Lydia in 547 b.c. and Babylon in 539. Cambyses extended the conquests south into Egypt and Nubia in 525. Darius Hystaspes went north against the Scythians in 513 (see Vol. III, pp. 54–59).
The Medo-Persian Empire covered much more territory than its predecessor, Babylon. So successful were Persian arms that in the days of Ahasuerus (Esther 1:1) the empire extended from India to Ethiopia, the eastern and southern extremities of the then-known world. A frequent title of the Persian monarch was “king of kings” or “king of the countries.”
Became great. Literally, “did great things,” “made himself big,” or “magnified himself” (RSV).
5. Goat. Identified by the angel as representing Greece (v. 21), that is, the Macedonian Empire of Alexander (see on ch. 7:6).
From the west. Greece lay west of the Persian Empire.
Touched not the ground. This description of great swiftness appropriately depicts the astonishing speed and completeness of Alexander’s conquests (see on ch. 7:6).
Notable horn. According to v. 21 (see also the parallel prophecy, ch. 11:3, 4), this notable horn represents the first great Grecian king, that is, Alexander the Great (see on ch. 7:6).
7. Moved with choler. Heb. marar, in the form here found, “to be enraged”. Choler is Old English for “anger.” The language of this verse depicts the completeness of the subjection of Persia to Alexander. The power of the empire was completely broken. The country was ravished, its armies cut in pieces and scattered, its cities plundered. The royal city of Persepolis, whose ruins still stand as a monument to its ancient splendor, was destroyed by fire.
When he was strong. Prophecy predicted that Alexander would fall while his empire was at the height of its power. At the age of 32, still in the prime of life, the great leader died of a fever aggravated, no doubt, by his own intemperance. See on ch. 7:6.
Four notable ones. On the four Macedonian (or Hellenistic) kingdoms into which Alexander’s empire was divided, see on chs. 7:6; 11:3, 4.
9. Out of one of them. In the Hebrew this phrase presents confusion of gender. The word for “them,” hem, is masculine. This indicates that, grammatically, the antecedent is “winds” (v. 8) and not “horns,” since “winds” may be either masculine or feminine, but “horns,” only feminine. On the other hand the word for “one,” ’achath, is feminine, suggesting “horns” as the antecedent. ’Achath could, of course, refer back to the word for “winds,” which occurs most frequently in the feminine. But it is doubtful that the writer would assign two different genders to the same noun in such close contextual relationship. To reach grammatical agreement, either ’achath should be changed into a masculine, thus making the entire phrase refer clearly to “winds,” or the word for “them” should be changed into a feminine, in which case the reference would be ambiguous, since either “winds” or “horns” may be the antecedent. A number of Hebrew manuscripts have the word for “them” in the feminine. If these manuscripts reflect the correct reading, the passage is still ambiguous.
Commentators who interpret the “little horn” of v. 9 to refer to Rome have been at a loss to explain satisfactorily how Rome could be said to arise out of one of the divisions of Alexander’s empire. If “them” refers to “winds,” all difficulty vanishes. The passage then simply states that from one of the four points of the compass would come another power. Rome came from the west. In the literal explanation of the symbols of the vision Rome is said to arise “in the latter time of their kingdom” (v. 23), that is, the “kingdom” of the four horns. However, v. 23 refers only to the time when the little horn would arise and says nothing of the place of its rising, whereas v. 9 is concerned exclusively with its location.
It should be remembered that the prophet is here giving a running account of the prophetic symbolization, as the scenes were presented to him. He is not yet interpreting the vision. The interpretation of this feature of the vision occurs in v. 23. An important rule to follow when interpreting the symbols of visions is to assign an interpretation only to those features of pictorial representation that were intended to have interpretative value. As in parables, certain features are needed to complete the dramatic presentation, but are not necessarily significant of themselves. Which of these have interpretative value, Inspiration alone can determine. Seeing that in this instance Inspiration (v. 23) speaks only of the time when the power represented by this horn was to emerge, and says nothing as to its geographical point of origin, there is no reason for us to lay stress on the phrase, “out of one of them.”
Inasmuch as the vision of ch. 8 closely parallels the prophetic outlines of chs. 2 and 7, and inasmuch as in both of those outlines the power succeeding Greece is Rome (see on chs. 2:40; 7:7), the reasonable assumption here is that the “horn” power is of v. 8 also applies to Rome. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that Rome precisely fulfilled the various specifications of the vision.
A little horn. This little horn represents Rome in both its phases, pagan and papal. Daniel saw Rome first in its pagan, imperial phase, warring against the Jewish people and the early Christians, and then in its papal phase, continuing down to our own day and into the future, warring against the true church. On this double application see on vs. 13, 23.
Exceeding. Heb. yether, basically meaning “remainder.” In a few instances it describes, as here, that which is above measure, in the sense of leaving a remainder. It is translated “excellency” (Gen. 49:3), “plentifully” (Ps 31:23), “much more abundant” (Isa. 56:12). The word translated “very” in Dan. 8:8 is me’od, the more common word for “exceedingly.” In the OT me’od is translated “exceeding” or “exceedingly” 22 times (Gen. 13:13; 15:1; etc.) in its simple form and 9 times in its repeated form. It cannot be argued that yether (Dan. 8:9) represents a greater degree than me’od. Any excelling greatness in Rome over that of Greece must be proved historically, not on the basis of these words.
Toward the south. Egypt was long an unofficial protectorate of Rome. Her fate was already in Rome’s hands in 168 b.c. when Antiochus Epiphanes, who was seeking to make war on the Ptolemies, was ordered out of the country. Egypt, still under the administration of its Ptolemaic rulers, was a pawn of Roman Eastern policy for many years before it became, in 30 b.c., a Roman province.
Toward the east. The Seleucid Empire lost its westernmost lands to Rome as early as 190 b.c., and finally became the Roman province of Syria in 65 b.c. or shortly thereafter.
Pleasant land. Heb. ṣebi, “ornament,” “decoration,” “glory.” Either Jerusalem or the land of Palestine is here referred to. Ṣebi is translated “glorious” in ch. 11:16, 41. However, there the Hebrew has the word for “land,” whereas here “land” is understood. Palestine was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 63 b.c.
10. Host of heaven. Daniel is still describing what he saw in vision. Inasmuch as the angel later provides the interpretation (v. 24), we are not left in darkness concerning the significance of what is here described. The “host” and “stars” obviously represent “the mighty and the holy people” (v. 24).
Stamped upon them. This has reference to the fury with which Rome has persecuted the people of God so often throughout the centuries. In the days of the tyrants Nero, Decius, and Diocletian in pagan times, and again in papal times, Rome has never hesitated to deal harshly with those whom she chooses to condemn.
11. Prince of the host. Verse 25 speaks of this same power standing up against the Prince of princes. The reference is to Christ, who was crucified under the authority of Rome. See on chs. 9:25; 11:22.
By him. Heb. mimmennu, which may also be rendered “from him,” that is, from the “prince of the host.” The Hebrew of this passage presents certain difficult problems of translation. A very different reading is found in the Greek version of Theodotion. It reads as follows: “And [this shall be] until the chief captain shall have delivered the captivity: and by reason of him the sacrifice was disturbed, and he prospered; and the holy place shall be made desolate.” There is no way of determining to what extent, if any, this version reflects more perfectly the original text of Daniel. The Masoretic text as reflected by the KJV and RSV seems on the whole to be the more natural reading.
Daily sacrifice. Heb. tamid, a word occurring 103 times in the OT, used both adverbially and adjectivally. It means “continually” or “continual,” and is applied to various concepts, such as continual employment (Eze. 39:14), permanent sustenance (2 Sam. 9:7–13), continual sorrow (Ps. 38:17), continual hope (Ps. 71:14), continual provocation (Isa. 65:3), etc. It is used frequently in connection with the ritual of the sanctuary to describe various features of its regular services, such as the “continual bread” that was to be kept upon the table of shewbread (Num. 4:7), the lamp that was to burn continually (Ex. 27:20), the fire that was to be kept burning upon the altar (Lev. 6:13), the burnt offerings that were to be offered daily (Num. 28:3, 6), the incense that was to be offered morning and evening (Ex. 30:7, 8). The word itself does not mean “daily,” but simply “continual” or “regular.” Of the 103 occurrences it is translated “daily” only in Num. 4:16 and in the five occurrences of it in Daniel (chs. 8:11, 12, 13; 11:31; 12:11). The idea of “daily” was evidently derived, not from the word itself, but from that with which it was associated.
In ch. 8:11 tamid has the definite article and is therefore used adjectivally. Furthermore, it stands independently, without a substantive, and must either be understood subjectively as meaning “continuance” or be supplied with a substantive. In the Talmud, when tamid is used independently as here, the word consistently denotes the daily sacrifice. The translators of the KJV, who supplied the word “sacrifice,” obviously believed that the daily burnt offering was the subject of the prophecy.
As to the meaning of tamid in this passage three main views have been held:
1. That the “daily” refers exclusively to the sacrifices offered in the Temple in Jerusalem. Some expositors holding to this view apply the taking away of the “daily” to the interruption of the Temple service by Antiochus Epiphanes for a period of three years, 168–165 or 167–164 b.c. (see on ch. 11:14). Others apply it to the desolation of the Temple by the Romans in a.d. 70.
2. That the “daily” stands for “paganism,” in contrast with “the abomination that maketh desolate” (ch. 11:31), or the papacy; that both terms identify persecuting powers; that the word for “daily,” correctly meaning “continual,” refers to the long continuance of Satan’s opposition to the work of Christ through the medium of paganism; that the taking away of the daily and the setting up of “the abomination that maketh desolate” represents papal Rome replacing pagan Rome, and that this event is the same as that described in 2 Thess. 2:7 and Rev. 13:2.
3. That the term “daily”—“continual”—refers to the continual priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1) and to the true worship of Christ in the gospel age; that the taking away of the “daily” represents the substitution by the papacy of compulsory unity in a visible church in place of the voluntary unity of all believers in Christ, of the authority of a visible head—the pope—in place of that of Christ, the invisible head of the church, of a priestly hierarchy in place of direct access to Christ by all believers, of a system of salvation by works ordained by the church in place of salvation by faith in Christ, and, most particularly, of the confessional and the sacrifice of the mass in place of the mediatorial work of Christ as our great high priest in the courts of heaven; and that this system quite completely diverted men’s attention from Christ and thus deprived them of the benefits of His ministry.
Further, inasmuch as this third view maintains that the little horn is a symbol of imperial Rome as well as of papal Rome (see on vs. 9, 13), predictions concerning its activities may also be understood as applying to pagan Rome, as well as to papal Rome. Thus the “daily” may also refer to the earthly Temple and its services, and the taking away of the “daily” to the desolation of the Temple by Roman legions in a.d. 70 and the consequent cessation of the sacrificial services. It was this aspect of the activity of “the abomination of desolation” to which Christ referred in His delineation of future events (see on Dan. 11:31; cf. Matt. 24:15–20; Luke 21:20).
In comment on these three views it may be said that the Antiochus view must be ruled out for the reason that Antiochus does not fit the time periods or other specifications of the prophecy (see on Dan. 9:25).
Both the second and the third interpretations have been held by the various able expositors within the Advent Movement. Some devout Bible students have considered that the “daily” refers to paganism, and other equally devout Bible students, that the “daily” refers to the priestly ministry of our Lord. Perhaps this is one of the passages of Scripture on which we must wait until a better day for a final answer. As with other difficult passages of Scripture, our salvation is not dependent upon our understanding fully the meaning of Dan. 8:11.
On the historical development of the second and third views, see pp. 60–64.
Place. Heb. makon, “site.” Makon is used in the phrase “for the house of God to set it up in his place” (Ezra 2:68). The primary reference here may be to the destruction of Jerusalem (see Dan. 9:26).
12. Host. Heb. ṣaba’, generally meaning “host,” or “army,” and a few times meaning “service,” such as military or compulsory labor (see Job 7:1; 10:17; 14:14; Isa. 40:2). Interpreted as “host,” or “army,” the prediction may refer to the multitudes that fell under the influence of this power. The power would become mighty, “but not by his own power” (Dan. 8:24). See further on Dan. 10:1.