The Vision of the Ram and the Goat - (Daniel 8:1-14)

Corner of the Acropoplis - Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash
Next, Daniel received a vision about a “ram" and a male “goat.” The ram represents the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians”; the goat symbolizes Greece and its first great king that conquered the Persian Empire (Daniel 8:1-14).
The vision is followed by its interpretation, which is provided by an angelic figure. The real focus of the vision is on a king who descended from one of the four Hellenistic kingdoms that arose after the death of Alexander the Great (Daniel 8:20-27).
The two visions recorded in chapters 7 and 8 are related; there are structural, verbal, and conceptual parallels between them. The imagery of Chapter 7 is “apocalyptic” and cosmic; that of Chapter 8 contains clear historical references. Two of the four kingdoms from Chapter 7 are named in Chapter 8. Both visions occur during the reign of Belshazzar; both are interpreted by an angel, and both end with Daniel alarmed by what he has seen. A theme common to both is an assault against “the people of the saints” by a malevolent figure labeled the “little horn” ((Daniel 7:1,7:15, 7:28, 8:1, 8:27).
This next vision occurred in 550 B.C. during the reign of Babylon’s last ruler, about the time that the kingdom of Media was annexed by Cyrus the Great and his realm became the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 8:2-4).
In verse 1, the original text reverts from Aramaic back to Hebrew (Aramaic is used from Daniel 2:4 to 8:1). The change 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 name of the waterway along which the city was built. It does not state that Daniel was physically in Susa; possibly, he found himself “in Susa” as part of a visionary experience. Susa became a prominent royal city in the Persian Empire (Nehemiah 1:1, Esther 1:1-2).
Alongside the river, Daniel saw a ram with two horns. One horn came up after the first and grew higher than it. This corresponds to the image of the bear in which one side of the beast was elevated higher than the other (Daniel 7:5).
The ram was pushing “westward, northward and southward.” None could stand before it; it did according to its will. The ram with two horns is later identified as the “kings of Media and Persia” (Daniel 8:20).
This empire 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, it absorbed Lydia and most of Asia Minor, including its Greek cities; to the north, it conquered Armenia and the Scythians.
This the ram did “according to his will and magnified himself.” This stresses its belief that its success was due to its own prowess.
(Daniel 8:5-8) - “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 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 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; instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.”
Daniel saw a male goat charging out of the west so rapidly that its feet “touched not the ground.” The goat had a prominent horn between its eyes. It rushed headlong into the ram with such fury that it cast it to the ground, breaking both its horns in the process. The ram was powerless to resist.

The goat is identified as the “king of Greece,” its prominent horn its “first king.” The latter can be none other than Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warlord who conquered the Persian Empire (Daniel 8:21, 11:1-4).

At the height of its strength, the prominent horn of the goat was broken and replaced by four “notable horns,” which were aligned with the “four winds of heaven” (compare Daniel 7:2, 11:4, Revelation 7:1-3: “His kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven”).
There are conceptual links to the third beast from Chapter 7, the leopard with four wings that symbolized swift conquests. Likewise, the goat moved so swiftly that its feet did not touch the ground. Alexander conquered the entire Persian Empire within three years, an astonishing feat, especially, considering the vast distances his army covered on foot and horseback.
The leopard had four heads, just as the prominent horn of the goat was broken and replaced by four “notable horns.” As will be seen, the imagery fits neatly with the history of Alexander’s Greco-Macedonian empire.
(Daniel 8:9-14) - “And out of the first of them came forth a little horn, which became exceedingly great against the south and against the east, and against the beauty; yea, it became great as far as the host of the heavens, and caused to fall to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled them underfoot; even as far as the Prince of the host showed he his greatness, and because of him was taken away the daily burnt offering, and the place of the Sanctuary was cast down; and a host was given against the daily burnt offering because of transgression, and faithfulness was cast down to the ground, and so he acted with effect and succeeded. Then heard I a certain holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that certain holy one who was speaking, ‘How long is the vision of the daily burnt offering as taken away and the transgression that desolates, for both Sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said unto him, ‘Until two thousand and three hundred evening-mornings, then shall the Sanctuary be vindicated’.”
The four “notable horns” replaced the one prominent horn. From one of the four emerged a “little horn,” which “waxed great” towards the south, the east, and the “glorious land.” The “little horn” is a verbal link to the “little horn” of the previous vision. Some commentators dispute this identification since the first “little horn” rose out of ten horns, yet this next one appears from one of the four horns of the goat. But this view ignores the different formats used in the two visions, and the “little horn” from Chapter 8 is not the only link between the two visions.
Mountain *Goat - Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

The slight difference in the spelling of “little horn” in the original texts of Daniel 7:8 and 8:9 is attributed to the use of Aramaic in the first instance and Hebrew in the second. The Hebrew noun in verse 9 means little, insignificant (מצעירה), as does the corresponding Aramaic noun in Daniel 7:8 (זעיר). The form of either Aramaic or Hebrew for horn is identical in both passages (קרן).
The beauty” may mean the “beautiful land,” though “land” is not present in the Hebrew sentence (compare Daniel 11:16, 11:41). It may refer to Mount Zion where the Sanctuary was situated (e.g., Psalm 48:1-2, 50:2). The “little horn” waxed great against “the beautyagainst 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 rituals, not Judea or the land of Palestine.
The overthrow of the Sanctuary and the assault against God’s people are described in mythological terms. The “little horn” waxed great, even to “the host of heaven”; it cast down stars, and it “trampled them underfoot.” These are additional links to the “little horn” of Chapter 7. That horn “made war with the saints and prevailed against them,” and it “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.” Since elsewhere in the Old Testament Yahweh is the Lord of hosts, this designation probably refers to Him. The “little horn” attempted to trespass on things that were and are God’s prerogative.
Then Daniel heard one angelic being ask, “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?” This introduces a thematic phrase that links this vision with the remaining visions of the book; the “transgression” or “abomination that desolates.” “Desolates” translates a participle form of the Hebrew verb shamem, meaning, “desolate, make desolate, devastate, appall” (compare Daniel 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, 12:11).
The question by the angel highlights the real concern of the vision: the removal of the daily burnt offering and its restoration; that is, the disruption of the sacrificial system and the desecration of the Temple.
The “little horn” is a malevolent figure that acts wickedly but does not do so of its own accord. Note the first angel’s question: “How long is the vision…for both Sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled?” This implies divine purpose; the Sanctuary is given to the “little horn” to be “trampled underfoot.” In part, this is Divine judgment on the Sanctuary and God’s people (Daniel 7:20-22).
A second angel responded, “Until two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then will the Sanctuary be cleansed.” The goal is stated - the cleansing of the Sanctuary. The preposition rendered “until” confirms this profanation is according to a divine decree. The attack of the “little horn” ends at a predetermined time.
The Sanctuary will be vindicated and restored, not destroyed, which points to divinely appointed judgment for a specific period. The purpose is purgation and restoration, not destruction. In the end, the “little horn” is “broken without hand” but the Sanctuary is restored (Daniel 8:25).
The expression, “evening-morning,” is used in the creation story in Genesis to represent a full day (Genesis 1:5-31). Accordingly, some conclude 2,300 “literal” solar days are intended. But the phrase has no conjunction between the two nouns, no “and”; the two words form a single unit of measure. The description in Genesis is fuller and more specific: “So it was evening and it was morning, one day” (Genesis 1:5).
The passage concerns the cessation of the daily burnt offering, not the creation. “Evening-morning” is better explained by the context of the daily burnt-offering. 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 two thousand three hundred “evenings-mornings” equates to one thousand eleven hundred and fifty days (1,150).
The vision will be interpreted by an angel in the last half of Chapter 8 (click here to read the article on the interpretation of the vision).


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