I am a follower of Christ seeking truth in the mire of false doctrines that are pervasive today.
A lot has been said about the prophecies found in the book of Daniel. Of all of the prophetic books found in the Old Testament, I’m not sure that any have captured the attention and imagination of its readers as much as the stories and prophecies contained in this book. Through the use of strange and mysterious creatures we are given prophecies that give insight concerning the setting up and tearing down of kingdoms, the sanctuary being desecrated and restored, the return of the Jewish people from Babylonian captivity, the precise timing of the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, information concerning geopolitical events with details too precise to ignore and even a brief glimpse into the promise of the resurrection.
While much has been written concerning chapter 2 and Nebuchadnezzar's statue dream, chapter 7 and the mysterious creatures that come out of the sea, the 70-weeks found in chapter 9 concerning the returning Jews from Babylon and the coming of the Messiah and the abomination that causes desolation, I would like to focus on chapter 8.
The events of this prophecy lead up the arrival of a "little horn" power that would rise up against the people of God and disrupt the very act of worship to God. What I want to look into here is who this person is, when did he arrive and exactly how long was his reign of terror to last from a literal perspective.
Brief Overview Of Daniel 8
In this vision Daniel saw himself at the citadel in Susa, which is very near to what was then the border between Babylon and kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Daniel then sees a ram with two horns (Media & Persia) which charged to the west, north and south. It was doing as it pleased until a shaggy goat with a single horn appears onto the scene and it trampled, at will, the two-horned ram. This goat represents the king of Greece, which of course was Alexander the Great. This horn (Alexander) is then broken and four horns rise in its place, but not with the same power as was possessed by the single horn. From among these four horns a “little horn” would arise, he would move to the south, to the east and to the “Beautiful Land”. Within the course of events he would magnify himself and ultimately cause regular sacrifice to cease for a period of 2,300 evenings and mornings, at that time the sanctuary would then be properly restored.
The Goat’s Kingdom Divided
In verse 21, Gabriel the archangel tells Daniel that these two animals represent Media-Persia and Greece, so there should be absolutely no question in the mind of anyone who trusts in what is written in scripture who they represented. Any student of ancient kingdoms should be able to quickly discern that these four kingdoms would rightfully represent the four divisions of Greece that came about because of the untimely death of Alexander at the young age of 33. Alexander had no legitimate heirs when he died, so when asked on his deathbed who the kingdom should be given to, he reportedly said “to the strongest”.
When Alexander said "to the strongest", it was a reference to one of the four generals that ruled under him; Cassander, Ptolemy, Antigonus, and Seleucus. These four generals basically divided up the Greek Empire into four sections and their kingdoms would become known as the Ptolomaic, Seleucid, Antipatrid and Antigonid kingdoms. They would end up being rivals with one another and would eventually fade into history as the Roman Empire rose up from a rather small city state to become one of the most successful empires the western world would ever know.
Who Is The "Little Horn", And When Does he Arise?
I am of the opinion that when scripture provides clues or anchor points, we should make every effort to adhere to them in our interpretation. Failure to do so only fuels wild speculations in order to support broader eschatological views. It is my belief that the place of origin, purpose and the timing of this little horn are all revealed within the words of Daniel 8. Please take note of a few important aspects of this prophecy, for it is, or at least it should be, self-explanatory.
1. The little horn comes up during the latter period of the kingdoms of divided Greece.
Daniel 8:21 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.
Verse 23 states that the little horn comes up in the latter period of their rule. The Antigonid and Antipatrid empires didn't last very long as they had both ended by 168 BC. The battle of Corinth in 163 BC marked the beginning of the expansion of the Romans into the eastern part of what was left of divided Greece, the once might Greek Empire basically ceased to exist as the time the Roman Empire rose to power in the Mediterranean region. The remaining two kingdoms lasted a little while longer with the Seleucid Empire ending in 63 BC and the Ptolemaic Kingdom in 30 BC. Since this little horn comes up in the latter period of the of the four kingdoms that came of Greece, logic should tell us that this little horn has to come to power before 30 BC when at last of the four horns still existed.
2. This little horn would cause the daily sacrifices to cease.
Daniel 8:11 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.
By contextual rules, this prophecy should pertain to a time when regular sacrifices were still occurring and were forced to cease by this little horn. Gabriel was quite intentional about the regular sacrifices being the key event in this prophecy. With regular sacrifices being the main event, we must maintain focus on the sacrifices that occurred in the old sanctuary, as regular sacrifices were an intricate part of the temple and the old covenant sanctuary system.
3. There is a restoration of the sanctuary that takes place.
Daniel 8:14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”
A restoration of the holy place implies that something would occur that would cause it to become defiled, thus needing to be cleansed or restored. When the temple had been defiled, a ritual or ceremonial cleansing had to occur before the temple could be used again for regular sacrifices. An example of this is found in 2 Chronicles 29 when Hekeziah ordered that the sanctuary should be cleansed after it had fallen into disrepair.
5 Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. 6 For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the Lord our God, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and have turned their backs. 7 They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Antiochus IV Epiphanes was an overzealous king of the Seleucid Empire who had his eyes set on conquering Egypt which was then the Ptolemaic kingdom. He was was also intent on the Hellenization of the Jews. During his reign he had outlawed Judaism, slaughtered thousand of Jews, including priests, offered pigs on the altar of the Lord, set up a statue of Zeus in the temple and stripped the temple of its sacred vessels, menorah and treasury.
Antiochus had succeeded in conquering most of Egypt in 170 BC and even captured King Ptolemy, but failed to capture its capital, Alexandria. Antiochus allowed Ptolemy VI to rule Egypt as a puppet king, but when he withdrew from Egypt, the citizens of Alexandria chose one of Ptolemy's brothers to rule instead. In 168 BC Antiochus set out again to attack Egypt, but this time he was met by an ambassador of the Roman Senate who demanded that he withdraw. This story is foretold in greater detail in Daniel 11.
Daniel 11:29 “At the appointed time he will return and come into the South, but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before. 30 For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore he will be disheartened and will return and become enraged at the holy covenant and take action; so he will come back and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.
It was at this time that Antiochus began to severely persecute the Jews, most likely as a result of frustration with his failed attack on Egypt. This attack on the Jews would lead to the Maccabean Revolt (167 BC - 160 BC). The worship of God was made illegal, sacrifices were ceased and a statue of the pagan god Zeus was erected in the temple. His actions caused the temple to be defiled in every ceremonial aspect. After the Maccabean Revolt and Antiochus' death (164 BC), the Jews were then able to finally restore normality to temple services.
"Day For A Year Principle", Is It Always Vaild?
Some people say that a day in prophecy should always be interpreted as a year, are there truly any rules found in scripture that tell us to abide by that equation? If so, is it only for some time prophecies and not for others?
When Moses had ordered spies to go into Canaan and to return with a report of the land, all but two of the spies warned against entering and possessing the land that God had promised to Abraham for his descendants and the people became afraid. Because of their lack of faith in the things promised by God, they were punished a year for each of the forty days that the men had spied out the land.
Numbers 4:34 According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.’”
In the book of Ezekiel where we read that the prophet Ezekiel was to lie down on his sides one day for each year that Israel and Judah were to bear iniquity.
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Ezekiel 4:4 “As for you, lie down on your left side and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on it; you shall bear their iniquity for the number of days that you lie on it. 5 For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity, three hundred and ninety days; thus you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah; I have assigned it to you for forty days, a day for each year. 7 Then you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it. 8 Now behold, I will put ropes on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.
So, for every year that Israel and Judah would suffer iniquity, Ezekiel was to lay on his left and right side, respectively. Since the day for a year rule is given within this passage, there is no dispute of this interpretation as the methodology is supplied.
As far as I know, these are the only times in scripture where this principle is required as we are told that the day for a year principle is to be used. In other prophetic time periods where a day is mentioned, there is no day for a year principle correlation given. Here are a couple of points that I found worth mentioning:
- Since God was consistent with giving us the time method to be applied for Numbers 14 Ezekiel 4, why is this interpretative method never mentioned again in future prophecies?
- In both of these examples, the years are punishment for the people of Israel.
In the infamous "Daniel's 70 Weeks Prophecy" found in Daniel 9, we read the following:
24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
I feel it necessary to point out that the word "weeks" as we know it was not in the original Hebrew text. The actual Hebrew word used is shabua H7620 (שְׁבֻעַ). The meaning of shabua is a "period of seven", or heptad. A literal translation of verse 24 would read "seventy period of seven". By all literal accounts, it could have been seventy periods of seven days or seventy period of seven weeks, months, years, etc.. However, in this case we do know that the intended meaning was seventy periods of seven years as this unit of time can be used to precisely calculate the time from the decree to rebuild the city, the completion of the city, when Jesus, the Messiah would began His earthly ministry and when He would be crucified.
In short, the day for a year principle has no real bearing here because a seven day "week" cycle never was used in the original Hebrew, therefore the day for a week principle is not needed to interpret its fulfillment.
Daniel 8:14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”
In literal translations, the word "day" does not appear. What was written is "Till evening -- morning two thousand and three hundred, then is the holy place declared right.". Some English translations, including the King James, have sadly changed the wording to days instead of evenings and mornings, thus obscuring the literal intent (sorry KJV fans).
I have heard some say that this is an inference to evening morning equals a day cycle found in Genesis 1, but if that were the case, wouldn't God have used the same verbiage in other time prophecies? I think that it is much safer, considering the context, that Gabriel was referring to the regular sacrifice (verse 12) that occurred in the evenings and mornings. The Jewish day starts at sunset, thus the first daily sacrifice would have been the evening sacrifice. Since the actual context of this prophecy has to do with sacrifices ceasing, the sanctuary being defiled and then being cleansed, the evenings and mornings should be viewed as having dealing with daily oblations.
2,300 Days or 2,300 Years?
If the day for a year principle were to be applied to this prophecy, then the starting point of the 2,300 years would have to be when regular sacrifices were ceased.
Daniel 8:9 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.”
The context is clear, this prophecy is concerning a period of time when the regular sacrifice would cease from being offered. As far as I know, there are only two times since Daniel was given this vision when the regular sacrifices ceased; in 168 BC when Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, and in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed. If the day/year principle is to be applied, then a 168 BC start date would take us to 2132 AD. If 70 AD were to be used as a start date, then 2370 would be the end date. Both of these dates are future and can not be verified as prophetic in nature. Not only that, but there is no abomination that currently stand in correlation to a 168 BC or 70 AD start date.
A different start date to the 2,300 years?
There are some that adhere to the day for a year principle for the 2,300 evenings and mornings and claim that they began with the declaration to rebuild Jerusalem as prophesied in Daniel 7 which occurred in 457 BC, but there are major problems with that concept:
- There are no events on record showing that there was any attack on God's people in 457 BC as this prophecy states, no event that would cause the regular sacrifice to cease or an abomination that would cause desolation of the holy place. In fact, this was a joyous occasion for those who had returned from exile to rebuild the temple. If we are to adhere to the context of this prophecy, then we can't ignore the events that were to unfold during this time period.
- If 457 BC was the starting point, then 1844 would be the end. This prophecy states that the holy place would then be restored at the end of the 2,300 evenings and mornings. All of the prophecies given in the book of Daniel were events that we, as readers of these prophecies, can bear witness that they came to pass. What event would have come to come to pass in 1844 where regular sacrifices would be offered again that we can point to and say that this is the fulfillment of this prophecy?
- Christ was the end of sacrifice for sin and He was offered up once and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. (Hebrews 9:27, 1:3, Ephesians 1:20, 2:6, Colossians 3:1). Since Christ was the end of all sacrifice, then there cannot be a resumption of regular sacrifices. Obviously, sacrifices did not resume in 1844.
- With His resurrection, Jesus Christ defeated Satan, thus Satan has no power to attack the heavenly sanctuary or the heavenly host.
- If we are to believe that this prophecy was from 457 BC to 1844 AD as some have suggested, then the reader might have to assume that this was a prophecy concerning events that take place in the heavenly sanctuary. But Christ, our High Priest, has already entered into the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary. This theory would then contradict what was written in Hebrews 1:3 when Jesus "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high". Jesus entered into the holiest place in all the universe when He ascended to heaven after offering Himself as a perfect sacrifice, not in 1844. Again, this theory ignores that this prophecy is about the ceasing and resuming of regular sacrifices, and the restoration of the sanctuary.
If the earthly sanctuary was a model of the heavenly sanctuary, then the most holy place with its mercy seat was and earthly representation of the Father's throne, where only the High Priest could enter. It is from His throne that that mercy and grace extend to the fallen human race.
The Cleansing Of The Temple Celebrated In Jesus' Time
The restoration or cleansing of the temple was celebrated in Jesus' day. In the gospel of John we read:
John 10:22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.
This Feast was not in the spring or fall like the seven feasts introduced in Leviticus 23, it was in the winter. This feast used to be called "Feast of the Maccabees", now it is called “Hanukkah”. It celebrates the defeat of Antiochus during the Maccabean Revolt from 167 BC – 160 BC. Hanukkah is similar to Purim, it is a celebration of the Jewish people commemorating deliverance from Antiouchus, much like Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of those who would kill them in Persia by the proclamation initiated by Haman, which is found in the book of Esther.
Could the Little Horn be the Roman Empire?
It has been suggested by some that the little horn of Daniel 8 is referring to the Roman Empire. They conclude that this is the same event that Jesus alluded to in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 where He talks about the abomination that causes desolation in reference to the temple being destroyed, not one stone left upon another. But there are some glaring issues with that idea:
- Rome did not come up from among the four horns of divided Greece. The city state that was Rome that grew to be the vast Roman Empire was never part of the Greek Empire. It arose as a totally separate empire.
- In keeping with the theme of Daniel’s vision, a third empire should have appeared as a third animal that would come and overtake the shaggy goat, not as a horn that came up among the other horns.
- The Roman Empire did not simply cause the daily sacrifices to cease for 2,300 evenings and mornings, the Roman Empire caused them to completely stop.
I would have to say no, the Roman Empire does not qualify to be the little horn of Daniel 8.
In my opinion, one would be hard pressed to come to the conclusion that the events and persons mentioned in Daniel 8 are anyone other than the ceasing of regular sacrifices that was brought on by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He came at the appointed time, he was from one of the divided kingdoms of Greece, his actions match what was foretold in this prophecy and the regular sacrifices were restored.
I will admit that I have yet to find any reliable sources that give the exact stop and start times of the regular sacrifices, that it would equal 2,300 evenings and mornings. Records of exact dates from that time period seem to be a bit sparse, but given the incredible accuracy of both Daniel 8 & 11, I have no doubt that it was fulfilled just as precisely as Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy in chapter 9. The various prophecies found in the book of Daniel primarily deal with rise and fall of kingdoms in the region of Biblical importance. All of the empires and kingdoms spoken of in this book had a marked effect on the nation of Israel, who were Daniel's people. They all came true and they stand as a witness that God's word is true and reliable. We can read the book of Daniel and compare it with history books and see that God's hand was in every detail, what a God we serve!
*** All scripture quoted from the NASB.
© 2019 Tony Muse