Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the Goat

by Mike Ratliff

1 In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously. 2 I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. 4 I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself. Daniel 8:1-4 (NASB) 

Many of the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled. For instance, Jesus Christ fulfilled every one of the prophecies that spoke of His first coming, His torture, His death, His burial, etc. We have now arrived at Daniel Chapter 8. Daniel switches from Aramaic, which he used from 2:4b through 7:28, back to Hebrew starting in 8:1 through the end of His book. In Chapter 8 we will look at some already fulfilled prophecies and also how one of the characters from those that have been fulfilled also prefigures another character that is still future to us.

Daniel has another vision two years after the one from Chapter 7. In this vision Daniel sees himself at the Persian city of Susa. This does not mean that he was physically there. He may have still been in Babylon since the Medo-Persian Empire had not yet come to power. He sees himself at the Ulai canal. Some translations call it a river. He looked and saw a Ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, one higher than the other. They were both high, but the higher grew taller later. No one could withstand his power.

The first part of Daniel’s vision reveals a Ram that represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The two horns represent the Medes and the Persians. The Persians provided the civilization and the Medes provided the military might. At the beginning of the empire the Medes were more powerful, but the Persians soon dominated after the fall of Babylon. The Medo-Persian Empire became huge. It covered the entire near East and threatened to spread into Europe with invasions into Greece. It did conquer Egypt. The Ram corresponds to the Bear from Daniels vision from Chapter 6 and the silver portion of the image from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Chapter 2.

5 While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. 7 I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. Daniel 8:5-8 (NASB) 

The next part of Daniel’s vision pertains to a male goat with one conspicuous horn that moved so swiftly that it appeared to not touch the ground. The Ram with the two horns falls before the great wrath of the goat. The two horns of the ram are broken and no one could come to his aid. The goat became great and strong, but the great horn became broken. In its place four horns came up towards all directions.

The goat was the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great. This corresponds to the Leopard from Daniel’s vision in Chapter 7 and the Bronze part of the image from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Chapter 2. His army was contained 35,000 men. The Persian army was much bigger. However, Alexander’s leadership enabled him to win every battle. However, as soon as the Medo-Persian Empire became his, Alexander died. The empire was split into four parts governed by his four generals. It was split into four sections: Macedonia, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt.

9 Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. 11 It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. 12 And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.” Daniel 8:9-14 (NASB) 

General Seleucus received Syria. His descendants were the Seleucids. The little horn refers to Aniochus Epiphanes, a Seleucid, who came to power in 175 B.C. He was not in line to be king, but took the throne by deceit. The name “Epiphanes” means, “God made manifest.” He sought to force Greek culture on the Jews. He attempted to bring the Jews into line with the rest of the Greek empire through changing their culture. In fact, he was successful in bringing many of the “free-thinking” priesthood into abandoning the Jewish Religion. However, there was a hard-core group of priests and common people who refused to be “assimilated” into Hellenistic cultic religion along with its immoral cultural values. The more he tried to force his will on the Jews the more obstinate the resistance became leading to revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes announced a law requiring all citizens to present themselves four times a year to pay formal homage to him as the senior god of the Seleucids. The day chosen for these periodic submissions was Shabbat, when Jews preferred not to leave their homes, this being their day of prayer. Epiphanes was met by revolt and the setting up of a small state in which the high priest was the central figure. This was the Maccebean revolt which gained the Jews their independence. Antiochus Epiphanes occupied Jerusalem. He entered the temple. In the Holy of Holies he desecrated the sanctuary by offering unclean animals upon the alter of burnt-offerings. Then he polluted the whole building by sprinkling it with water in which flesh had been boiled. Then he dedicated the Temple itself to Jupiter Olympius, and erected the statue of that deity and plundered the temple treasures. This was called the Abomination of Desolation.

In v10 we read of the little horn throwing some of the stars of heaven to the ground and trampling on them. What does this mean? The best commentaries I have read on this verse say it is describing the persecution against the Jewish people in picturesque language. The stars are the Jewish people themselves. Other examples of this in scripture are found in Genesis 12:3, Genesis 15:5, Genesis 22:17, Exodus 12:41 and Deuteronomy 1:10. In v11 we have a description of Antiochus Epiphanes demanding sacrifice and worship. We know that the temple sacrifices ultimately were directed to our Lord, the Prince of Princes. When the little horn demands that those sacrifices be directed to him then he was exalting himself over our Lord Himself. In v13-14 we read of how long this little horn will be able to trample on the Jews and their religion. The answer is 2,300 evenings and mornings. This is describing a period of 6 1/3 years of sacrificing a lamb twice a day on the altar of sacrifice. This shows us how precise this prophecy was because the persecution under Antiochus ran from September 6 171 B.C. to December 25, 165/4 B.C. When he died, the Jews cleansed the temple. This began the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah.

15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.” 17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.”
18 Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. 19 He said, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end.
20 The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.
21 The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 The broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power.
23 “In the latter period of their rule,
When the transgressors have run their course,
A king will arise,
Insolent and skilled in intrigue.
24 “His power will be mighty, but not by his own power,
And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree
And prosper and perform his will;
He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.
25 “And through his shrewdness
He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence;
And he will magnify himself in his heart,
And he will destroy many while they are at ease.
He will even oppose the Prince of princes,
But he will be broken without human agency.
26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings
Which has been told is true;
But keep the vision secret,
For it pertains to many days in the future.”
27 Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it. Daniel 8:15-27 (NASB) 

The “time of the end” from v19 is referring to a time late in the period of time that is in the historical view of this prophecy. In other words, this is the end of the time of the Greek Empire in the form of four kingdoms. The little horn is obviously Antiochus Epiphines (175-164 B.C.) He did persecute the Jews and died of natural causes. Men did not kill him and he did defy God. He prefigures the Antichrist who is yet to come. We see that Antiochus is a pattern for him. We will see more of this when we get to Chapter 11.

Soli Deo Gloria!