Daniel 8 – “A Dream About the End of Days”

four_horn01Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Daniel has a dream about a two-horned ram that is trampled by a single-horned he-goat. The he-goat’s horn is replaced by four horns, and one horn sprouts another horn which halts the daily offerings, throws down the stars, and attacks God himself. The angel Gabriel informs Daniel of the dreams meaning: the two-horned ram represents the Persian and Median kingdoms, the single-horned he-goat represents Greece, and the other horns represent the subsequent kingdoms. Also, Daniel is informed that the offerings will return in 2300 days and nights.

II. Photo
Daniel dreams of a mythical creature: “Then the he-goat grew very great, but at the peak of his power his big horn was broken. In its place, four conspicuous horns sprouted toward the four winds of heaven.” (v. 8 )

III. Important Verses
v. 3: I looked and saw a ram standing between me and the river; he had two horns; the horns were high, with one higher than the other, and the higher sprouting last.
vv. 5-7: As I looked on, a he-goat came from the west, passing over the entire earth without touching the ground. The goat had a conspicuous horn on its forehead. He came up to the two-horned ram that I had seen standing between me and the river and charged at him with furious force. I saw him reach the ram and rage at him; he struck the ram and broke its two horns, and the ram was powerless to withstand him. He threw him to the ground and trampled him, and there was none to deliver the ram from his power.
v. 8: Then the he-goat grew very great, but at the peak of his power his big horn was broken. In its place, four conspicuous horns sprouted toward the four winds of heaven.
vv. 13-14: Then I heard a holy being speaking, and another holy being said to whoever it was who was speaking, “How long will [what was seen in] the vision last — the regular offering be forsaken because of transgression; the sanctuary be surrendered and the [heavenly] host be trampled?”
vv. 16-17: I heard a human voice from the middle of Ulai calling out, “Gabriel, make that man understand the vision.” He came near to where I was standing, and as he came I was terrified, and fell prostrate. He said to me, “Understand, O man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.”
v. 26: What was said in the vision about evenings and mornings is true. Now you keep the vision a secret, for it pertains to far-off days.

IV. Outline
1-2. Introduction
3-4. A powerful ram with two horns
5-7. A powerful he-goat with one horn crushes the ram
8. The he-goat’s horn is replaced by four other horns
9-12. Another horn halts the daily offerings and attacks God
13-14. Angels reveal that the offerings will be suspended for 2300 days and nights
15-26. The angel Gabriel explains the dream: the animals and horns represent kingdoms
27. Daniel is distressed

V. Comment
Chapter 8 begins enigmatically, but the angel Gabriel informs us of the meaning of Daniel’s dream. Collins puts Gabriel’s explanation in its historical context: “At first Daniel sees a fight between a ram, representing Persia, and a goat, representing Greece. The goat wins, but ‘at the height of its power, the great horn was broken,’ a reference to the early death of Alexander the Great. In its place grew four horns, representing the successors of Alexander in the separate kingdoms of Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. One of these (Syria) sprouts the little horn that becomes Antiochus Epiphanes. This little horn grew as high as the host of heaven, and cast some of the host and some of the stars to the ground and trampled on them. It then challenged ‘the prince of the host’ (God).” (567)

The shift of focus between the first half and second halves of Daniel is accentuated by Collins: “The setting of Daniel 7-12 also differs from that of chapters 1-6. The tales are set in the Diaspora, and generally reflect an acceptance of Gentile rule. The visions, in contrast, are focused on events in Jerusalem, and reflect a time of persecution. While no names are mentioned and the allusions are veiled, they point quite clearly to the persecution instigated by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168-164 B.C.E., which provoked the Maccabean revolt and which is described in 1 and 2 Maccabees. At that time Syrian forces occupied the Jerusalem temple and installed a pagan altar on top of the sacrificial altar there. The pagan altar becomes known as ‘the desolating abomination’ or ‘abomination of desolation’ both in Dan 11:31 and in 1 Macc 1:54. Some Jews were put to death for observing the law of Moses (e.g., by having their sons circumcised) or for refusing to participate in pagan sacrifices. According to Deuteronomy, those who kept the Law should prosper and live long lives. Now Jews were confronted with a situation where those who broke the Law prospered and those who observed it risked losing their lives. It is against this backdrop that the visions of Daniel must be read.” (564)

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneaolis: Fortress Press, 2004).

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