... I was at Shushan in the palace ... and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
Then I lifted up mine 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 (verses 2,3).
The ram had two horns, one higher than the other, the higher one coming up last. There was none that could stand before it. The ram represents the kings of Media and Persia. It was the symbol of this realm, and is found on coins and worn as an emblem of royalty by its kings. The horns represented Darius, and his son Cyrus who became greater than his father, and both were living when the vision was given to Daniel.
And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.
And he came to the ram ... and ran unto him in the fury of his power (verses 5,6).
The ram was overcome by the he goat, who ran upon it so that his feet hardly touched the ground. The he goat is the symbol of Greece. According to legend an oracle directed the first settlers to follow a goat, so here was foretold the mighty Alexander the Great, who by the time he was thirty-four had conquered the world. The swiftness of his conquest over Persia is indicated in verses 5 and 6 -- 'his feet touched not the ground', and 'he ran unto him in the fury of his power'.
Then in verse 8 we read that the he goat waxed very great: 'and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven'.
At the death of Alexander, we now know his empire was divided among four of his generals, as he had no son. Ptolemy took Egypt, Palestine and parts of Asia Minor; Cassander took Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus took Thrace and Bithynia; and Seleucus took Syria and east of the Euphrates.
So far we have a prophecy of what is now part history to us. It is prophecy that has been fulfilled to the letter. Absolutely accurate!
And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
Yea, he magnified himself even to the Prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised and prospered (verses 9-12).
Daniel, however, was not told the interval there would be between the fourfold division of Alexander's kingdom and the rise of the little horn in verse 9, although we know today that the one represented here has not yet come. The might of Rome in A.D. 71 did destroy Herod's Temple and annihilate the City of Jerusalem and take the people of Israel into captivity, but that was merely a type of the figure here, a foreshadowing of the fulfilment of the evil power foretold in this vision, who 'waxed great even to the stars of heaven'.
Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?
And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed (verses 13,14).
We have an indication as to who these 'saints' were in chapter 4:13 -- angelic beings who watch over the affairs of men. The question asked was not how long shall be the interval before the fulfilment of these things, but what is the duration of what is said concerning the 'daily sacrifice' and 'the desolation'. In verse 14 the answer to this was given as 'two thousand and three hundred days'.
We have brought to mind the answer to the disciples' question to the Lord in Matthew chapter 24 -- 'what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age?' The Lord's answer was, 'when ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place ... then let them that be in Judaea flee ...'. The Lord then puts His seal upon the book of Daniel. Here is no idle tale, but the Word of God.
To Daniel the interpretation of this vision was given by the mighty angel, Gabriel, (verse 16), this divine messenger who stands in the presence of God as we read in Luke chapter 1, and was sent to Zacharias to announce the birth of John, and to Mary to tell her of the birth of the Lord. In verse 19 we have confirmed the time when this vision will be fulfilled. It was 'the time of the end', the days immediately preceding the Lord's return to the earth to restore His people Israel in their land.
The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up (verses 20-23).
Not with Alexander's vigour of action and dominance. This will take place in a yet future time. In verse 23 we are told that this super-human dictator will arise in the latter days of the kingdom that was formerly ruled by Alexander's four generals, that is 'the middle east'. He will not appear, however, until 'the transgressors are come to the full'.
It will be remembered that Abraham was told by God that his descendants would have to wait four hundred years, and in bondage for a part of that time, because 'the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full' (Gen. 15:16). Again the long suffering of God waited through the period covered by the Book of the Acts until Israel had filled up the measure of their fathers (Matt. 23:32; 1 Thess. 2:16).
As we look around today and see the forces of evil building up in the world, this great mercy of God is again in operation in our own day and generation. God has spoken in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and offers full and free salvation to all who by faith believe and trust in Him. His love and grace are being spurned, cast aside, ridiculed, neglected, forgotten, persecuted and rejected. So the mystery of iniquity is at work now beneath the surface, and when 'the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up'. Here is one who will be energized by the depths of Satan, it is the one spoken of by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12.
His power shall be mighty ... he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people ... he shall cause craft to prosper ... and by peace shall destroy many ... but he shall be broken without hand' (verses 24,25).
Satan, in the temptations in the wilderness, offered the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them to the Lord Jesus Christ, for one act of worship. What was refused by Him, will be acquired by the man of sin. 'Craft', i.e. 'deceit', and 'peace' are his weapons. 'His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power' (verse 24).
In Revelation 13:2 we read that the dragon gave the beast his power, and his throne, and great dominion. Who was the dragon? The answer is in Revelation 12:9 -- 'And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world'. Paul writing to the Thessalonians in his second letter, leaves us in no doubt who is the power behind this evil monster: 'Then shall that Wicked be revealed ... even him, whose coming is after the working (energising) of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness' (2 Thess. 2:8-10).
"He shall destroy the mighty and the holy people", and as we read in chapter 7 verse 25: "shall wear out (or afflict) the saints of the most High", i.e. the people of Israel. Here we have the first glimpse of the time of Jacob's trouble, the great tribulation which this nation must finally undergo.
It must have been the contemplation of these awful days that staggered Daniel as we read in verse 27 of chapter 8, yet, as in chapter 7, so in this chapter, this Satanic world ruler 'will be broken without hand' (verse 25). The Lord Himself shall consume him with the spirit of His mouth and destroy him with the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).
Just as the image of chapter 2 of Daniel was smashed to pieces by a stone cut out without hands, so it is here. Human agencies can never bring in the millennium, neither can they destroy the evil that is here. That is the work of the Lord alone, and peace and safety will really be brought in, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He comes the second time. This time it will be in power and glory to reign over the earth as well as heaven.