25 May 2021

Ram, Goat, Little Horn

Goat - Photo by Ray Aucott on Unsplash
Next, Daniel received a vision of a “ram” and a “goat.” The ram represented the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians,” and the goat the kingdom of Greece, beginning with its first great king who overthrew the “ram.” The vision is followed by an interpretation provided by an angelic figure. The focus is on the figure represented by the “little horn,” a king who ruled one of the four lesser kingdoms that appeared after the death of the “great king” of Greece. - [
Photo by Ray Aucott on Unsplash].

The visions in chapters 7 and 8 are related - There are multiple structural, verbal, and conceptual parallels. The imagery of chapter 7 is “apocalyptic” and cosmic, and therefore, ambiguous. In contrast, in chapter 8, both the vision and its interpretation include clear historical references.

Two of the four “kingdoms” or “beasts from the sea” described in chapter 7 are named in chapter 8 – The kingdom of the “Medes and Persians” and “Greece.” Both visions were received by Daniel in the reign of Belshazzar, both were interpreted by an angel, and both end with Daniel “troubled” by what he saw. A common theme is the assault against the “people of the saints” by the same malevolent figure - The “little horn.”

The vision of the “ram and goat” occurred in 550 B.C., approximately the same time that Cyrus the Great annexed the kingdom of the “Medes” to his growing Persian empire; thus, his realm became the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians”:
  • (Daniel 8:1-3) - In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, even to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; now it was so, that when I saw, I was in Shushan the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision, and I was by the river Ulai. Then I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.”
Shushan” or “Susa” was the ancient capital of the Median province of Elam, located between Babylon and Persia. “Ulai” was the waterway along which the city was built. It does not state that Daniel was physically in Susa; possibly, he found himself there as part of the visionary experience. It became a prominent royal city in the Persian Empire - (Nehemiah 1:1, Esther 1:1-2).

After that which appeared to me at the first.” This refers to the preceding vision received by Daniel concerning the “four beasts from the sea.” The two visions are connected.

Alongside the river, the prophet saw a “ram with two horns.” One horn came up after the first, then grew higher than the first one. This feature corresponded to the “bear” from the previous vision that had one side elevated higher than the other.
  • (Daniel 8:4-8) - I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; and no beasts could stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will and magnified himself. And as I was considering, behold, a goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a prominent horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had the two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran upon him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close to the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and smote the ram, and broke his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; but he cast him to the ground and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.”
The “ram” was pushing “westward, northward, and southward.” No nation could resist its expansion. In the interpretation, the “ram” was identified as the “kingdom of the Medes and the Persians,” which, historically, expanded rapidly in all directions, but especially to the south, west, and north. To the south it conquered Babylonia, Egypt, and Libya; to the west, Lydia, and most of Asia Minor; and to the north, Armenia and the Scythians.

Next, a “goat” charged out from the west so rapidly that its feet “touched not the ground.” It had a prominent horn between its eyes and rushed headlong into the “ram,” casting it to the ground, thus breaking both horns. The “ram” was powerless to resist.
The “prominent horn” represented the first and great “king of Greece.” This could be none other than Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warlord who conquered the Persian Empire in only three years.
But at the height of his strength, the “prominent horn” was broken and replaced by four lesser but “notable horns” aligned with the “four winds of heaven.”

There are several conceptual links to the third “beast,” the leopard. Its two pairs of “wings” symbolized swiftness in conquest. Likewise, the “goat” conquered so swiftly that its feet did not touch the ground. The leopard had “four heads,” just as the “prominent horn of the goat” was broken and replaced by four lesser horns.
  • (Daniel 8:9-14) - And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great toward the south and the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them. Yea, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the daily burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the daily burnt-offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who spoke, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily burnt-offering, and the transgression that desolates to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
The “little horn” emerged from one of the four lesser horns. It “waxed great” in three directions. This was the same figure as the “little horn” from the fourth beast” of the preceding vision.

The beauty” may mean the “beautiful land,” although the term for “land” is not present in the text. It may refer to Mount Zion where the “sanctuary” was situated. The “little horn” waxed great against “the host of heaven” and “removed the daily burnt-offering and cast down the sanctuary.” This appears to describe an assault against the Temple and its sacrificial rituals - (Psalm 48:1-2, 50:2, Daniel 11:16, 11:41).

Stars and Mountains -Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash
Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

The overthrow of the sanctuary and the assault on the saints are described in mythological terms. The “little horn” waxed great, even to the “host of heaven” - it cast down stars and “trampled them underfoot,” further links to the “little horn” from the preceding vision. It, also, “made war with the saints and prevailed against them…and spoke words against the Most-High to wear out His saints” - (
Daniel 7:21-25).

The “little horn” exalted itself over the “Prince of the Host.” Elsewhere, Yahweh is the Lord of hosts, therefore, this probably refers to Him. Thus, the “little horn” attempted to trespass on things that were the prerogative of God.

An angelic being then asked, “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily burnt-offering and the desolating transgression, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” This introduces a key term that links this vision with the remaining visions of Daniel - The “transgression” or “abomination that desolates” - “desolates” translates a participle form of the Hebrew verb shamem, meaning “desolate, make desolate, devastate” - (Daniel 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, 12:11).

The angel’s question highlights the concern of the vision - The removal of the daily burnt offering, and its restoration. In other words, the disruption of the sacrificial system and the desecration of the Temple.

The “little horn” was a malevolent figure that acted wickedly, however, it did not do so of its own accord. Note the first question: “How long is the vision…for both sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled?” This implies divine purpose. The sanctuary was given to the “little horn” to be “trampled underfoot” until the appointed time - (Daniel 7:20-22).

Another angel responded, “For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings, then will the sanctuary be cleansed.” This is the goal - to cleanse the sanctuary. The preposition rendered “until” confirms this profanation was according to a divine decree that would end at the predetermined time.

The “sanctuary” would be vindicated and restored, not destroyed. The purpose was purgation and restoration, not destruction. In the end, the “little horn” would be “broken without hand.” In contrast, the “sanctuary” would be restored - (Daniel 8:25).

The expression “evening-morning” has no conjunction between the two nouns - they form a single unit of measure - “Evening-morning.” The phrase refers to the daily burnt offerings made each morning and evening. In the “law of the burnt offering,” sacrifices were laid on the altar “from evening until morning.” Thus, the 2,300 “evenings-mornings” equates to one thousand eleven hundred and fifty days (1,150) - (Leviticus 6:8-18).

The vision was interpreted by an angel in the last half of the chapter. Its central figure was the “little horn” with its assault against the “sanctuary.” This is the passage that first introduced the reality that would become known as the “abomination that desolates.”