Ram and Goat - Vision

Daniel received a vision of a “ram” that was overthrown by a “goat” with a prominent horn, representing Greece - Daniel 8:1-14

Ram Photo by Paxson Woelber on Unsplash
Next, Daniel received the vision of a “ram" and “goat.” The ram represented the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians,” and the goat, the kingdom of Greece, beginning with its first great king. The vision is followed by an 
interpretation from an angelic figure. The focus of the vision is the figure represented by the “little horn,” the king who was to rule one of the lesser Greek realms - [Photo by Paxson Woelber on Unsplash].

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 In contrast, the vision and interpretation in chapter 8 include clear historical references.

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

The vision of the “ram and goat” occurred in 550 B.C., the same year that Cyrus the Great annexed the kingdom of the “Medes” to his Persian domain; 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 unto 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 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.”
Here, the text reverts from the Aramaic language to Hebrew - (Aramaic is used from Daniel 2:4 to 8:1). This marks the start of the second half of the book.

Shushan” or “Susa” was the ancient capital of the Median province of Elam, between Babylon and Persia. “Ulai” was the waterway along which the city was built. Susa became a prominent royal city in the Persian Empire - (Nehemiah 1:1, Esther 1:1-2).

Alongside the river, he saw a “ram with two horns.” One horn came up after the first and grew higher than it, which corresponds to the “bear” in the previous vision that had one side elevated higher than the other. The “ram” was pushing “westward, northward, and southward.” No one could withstand it. The “ram” is identified in the interpretation as the “kingdom of Media and Persia.”
  • (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 he-goat came from the west over 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 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 unto 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 down to the ground and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the he-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 Medo-Persian empire expanded rapidly in all directions, but especially to the south, west, and north. To the south it conquered Babylon, Egypt, and Libya; to the west, Lydia and most of Asia Minor; and to the north, Armenia and the Scythians in the Caucasus.

Next, the “goat” charged out of 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 and breaking its horns.

The prominent horn represented the first and great “king of Greece.” This could only be Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warlord who conquered the Persian Empire in only three years. However, at the height of its strength, the goat’s prominent horn was broken and replaced by four “notable horns,” which were aligned with the “four winds of heaven.”

There are several conceptual links to the third “beast” in chapter 7, the leopard. Its “wings” symbolized swiftness in conquest. Likewise, the “goat” conquered so swiftly 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 toward 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 continual burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the continual 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 continual burnt-offering, and the transgression that desolates, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said to me: Unto 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, and “waxed great” to the south, the east, and to the “glorious land.” The beauty” may mean the “beautiful land,” although the term for “land” is not present in the text. Possibly, it refers to Mount Zion, where the sanctuary was situated. The “little horn” waxed great against “the beauty… against the host of heaven,” and it “removed the daily burnt-offering and cast down the sanctuary.” This describes an assault against the Temple and its sacrificial rituals - (Psalm 48:1-2, 50:2, Daniel 11:16, 11:41).

Goat Photo by Peter Neumann on Unsplash
Photo by Peter Neumann 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.” These are additional links to the “little horn” in chapter 7:
  • It 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 against the “Prince of the Host.” Elsewhere, Yahweh is the Lord of hosts, and therefore, this probably refers to Him. The “little horn” attempted to trespass on things that were His prerogative.

Daniel heard one angelic being ask concerning the “desolating transgression.” This introduces a key term that links this vision with the remaining visions of the book; that is, 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 vision’s concern - 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, but 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 - (See Daniel 7:20-22).

Another angel responded - “Until two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then will the sanctuary be cleansed.” This was 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,” but the sanctuary restored - (Daniel 8:25).

The expression “evening-morning” was used in the creation story in Genesis for a full day. The phrase has no conjunction between the nouns, and they form a single unit of measure; that is, “evening-morning” - (Genesis 1:5-31).

The passage concerned the cessation of the daily burnt offering, not the original creation. “Evening-morning” is better explained by the context; it 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” - (Leviticus 6:8-18).

If this is the correct background, then the 2,300 “evenings-mornings” equates to one thousand eleven hundred and fifty days (1,150). The vision was then interpreted by an angel, as recorded in the last half of the chapter.


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