Daniel is now about to receive one of the most specific prophetic visions about the future recorded in the Bible. The language of the original text now switches from Aramaic back to Hebrew. Why he chose to write the rest in Hebrew, we don’t know, but it is thought that Daniel was concerned that this and the rest of the book that follows was not for just anyone to read, but rather for his fellow Jews.
It is believed by most conservative scholars of the Book of Daniel — those who believe it was written by him during his lifetime and not by some pseudo-Daniel living centuries later in the time of the Maccabees — that the Book of Daniel wasn’t compiled in its final form until the last few years of Daniel’s life. So perhaps Daniel at that time thought it better not to have some of these prophetic passages easily avail-able for the authorities to read, in case they would be regarded as subversive.
This vision was shown to him in the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, which would place it at around 547 BC. Due to the way he words the first part, we are not sure if he was in Shushan (also called Susa), a city bordering on the Persian lands, or if he was transported there in this vision. He states he was in the fortress attached to the city, and then in the vision he is on the riverbank.
Shushan is about 30 miles west of the modern-day city of Shustar, Iran. The river called Ulai in this passage is most likely the Karūn River, Iran’s only navigable river, which runs by the ruins of the ancient city.
Cyrus the Persian had already defeated the Median King Astyages and had captured his capital of Ecbatana. He was now in the process of conquering Lydia, and by 546 BC that kingdom would be his, and Croesus, its fabled king, his prisoner.
This vision to an extent parallels those in chapters 2 and 7 in which God describes empires that are to come. But what is different about this vision is that in giving Daniel the interpretation, the angel actually names two of the coming empires, something not done previously.
In the first part of the vision Daniel sees a ram with two great horns, with the second horn growing taller than the first. Then the ram pushes west and north and south, and no adversary could stand before him. Later in this chapter we are told that the two horns on the ram are the kings of Media and Persia. As we already know, the Persians came to prominence after the Medes (the second horn growing taller) and this united empire went on to conquer all before them. And indeed, they were to go north and conquer Lydia, west and conquer Babylon, and under Cambyses II, Cyrus’s son, were to go south and conquer Egypt.
But then a one-horned male goat came charging from the west, traveling so fast that his feet didn’t touch the ground. He charged headlong into the ram, broke its two horns, knocked him down, and trampled him.
We are told later in this chapter that this goat was the kingdom of Greece and the large horn its first king. Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and hegemon of the League of Corinth (the federation of most of the Greek city-states) was to come some 200 years later and within 10 short years conquer Persia and all its lands, gaining more territory in that time than the Persian Empire had in 200 years.
That the battle action in the vision took place at a river is interesting, because, of the three major battles that Alexander fought and won against the Persians, two of them took place in river valleys, and in both of those Alexander’s army charged across the rivers to attack the Persians, who were massed on the other side. These were the battles of the Granicus River in 334 BC and the Battle of Issus in 333 BC.
And just as the horn was broken when the goat became strong, so Alexander died of a fever at the age of 33, at the height of his power and conquest. Then four notable kings and kingdoms arose from Alexander’s fragmented empire, and details of that were covered in the previous chapter. We can see that while the animal is different, the description of Greece is very similar to the leopard in Daniel’s vision recorded in chapter 7.
The vision then jumps to the Endtime, for we are told that the rest of the vision applies not to the latter time of these kingdoms but that it refers to the time of the end. And out of one of those four kingdoms came a little horn, a fierce king, who is destined to rule a great empire in the last days.
It is believed by many scholars of Bible prophecy that the little horn of this vision was Antiochus Epiphanes, the last king of any importance of the Seleucid empire, one of the four kingdoms. That he was in the latter time of the empire could possibly apply — although it was to limp along in an enfeebled state for a hundred years or more after his death — and he did do things in his reign that seem like they fulfilled some of the prophetic events listed in this chapter. But the fact that the vision refers to the “time of the end,” meaning the time shortly before Jesus’ return, makes it impossible for him to be the person spoken about in the rest of this chapter. And later on, we will see that an important comment by Jesus on the predictions of Daniel in chapter 11 clearly place these events as happening after His time on Earth, and therefore long after Antiochus.
Two personages appear in this vision to help Daniel understand what all this means. One is the angel Gabriel, who to Daniel looked like a man. The other is someone who instructs Gabriel to tell Daniel what the vision means. The second personage Daniel doesn’t apparently see, but rather hears His voice coming from the middle of the river. Gabriel is one of God’s archangels, and any voice that tells him what to do must be senior to him. So it is believed by scholars of the Bible that this voice belongs to Jesus.
Between what Daniel saw and what Gabriel explains to him, we are given a lot of information about the little horn, who is understood to be no less a personality than the devil-man of the End, the Antichrist. This “horn” is both a man and a spiritual entity, for he cannot do what he does only being a mortal.
The horn grows out of one of four areas that today correspond to 1) Greece, 2) Turkey, 3) Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Iraq, and Iran, and 4) Egypt. — Just which one at this time, we don’t know. In chapter 7 we saw the corresponding horn come out of the head of what was the Roman Empire, and that encompassed all the lands listed except for Iran and Iraq.
He expands his control to the south, to the east, and to the Glorious Land. The Glorious Land would be a reference to Israel, sacred homeland to Daniel and the Jews who had been exiled from it for 50 or so years.
This horn, or king as he is referred to later in the chapter, grows as high as the host of heaven and casts some of them down to the earth and tramples upon them. Revelation states something similar about Satan: “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (Revelation 12:4). Although this horn is the Antichrist and not Satan, the Antichrist is, in time, totally possessed by Satan.
We are told later that this man is a fierce-looking fellow who is in the know about some very sinister plots and schemes. He has a lot of power, but it is not really his own power. This is echoed in Revelation, where it says that “the dragon [Satan] gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2).
But he prospers in all that he does and he destroys the mighty and also the holy people. We already read in the last chapter that the Antichrist makes war on the saints and prevails, and here that information is given again. Not only are the saints mentioned this time, but also the mighty, which means powerful nations that oppose him. In a later chapter we will explore just who these nations and powers may be that he overcomes and destroys, even in their prosperity.
The Saints and the Holy People
The “saints” and “holy people” are terms used to describe the same people. They are not only the saints of the Catholic Church and other churches that some might imagine. Those saints might be included in this designation, but Daniel is writing of a much broader brotherhood of people. “Saint” comes from the Latin word sanctus, which means holy. “Holy” means something that is dedicated to God. These saints therefore are those that are dedicated to God, or even more broadly, those who are the believers in God. The Israelites of the Old Testament can be regarded as the “Holy People” of those days by virtue of the fact that they were the chosen people. In the New Testament era this now pertains to all those who believe in Jesus, as Paul explained, “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly ... but he is a Jew who is one inwardly ... in the Spirit.” And “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Romans 2:28–29; Galatians 3:28–29).
The King James translation of this verse says “the mighty and the holy people,” and it could be interpreted that they are one and the same, meaning a reference to God’s children who resist the Antichrist. However, we can deduce from other scriptures in Daniel and Revelation that many will oppose the Antichrist, including not only those who follow God, but others, probably on religious or nationalistic grounds.
We know, however, that at the Second Coming of Jesus when all those who believe on Him will rise to meet Him in the air, there will be multitudes of believers. (See “Jesus’ Second Coming,” chapter 8 in The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist.) The Antichrist’s attempts to destroy all the holy people are obviously far from thorough. Even though there is intense persecution of believers, it has only limited success, as have all persecutions of Christians through the ages.
The next verse in this chapter gives added information as to whom the Antichrist destroys when it says “he shall destroy many in their prosperity” (v.25). So it seems that the holy people referred to here might be more accurately understood as the rich and high-profile churches who have often been targets of godless and anti-religious regimes when they have come to power.
The Antichrist is a cunning devil — in fact, he is possessed by the very Devil. Deceit prospers under his rule, no doubt referring to a lot of political and other chicanery that he and his cohorts engage in.
This king then claims to be as high as the “Prince of the host.” Who is the Prince of Heaven’s host? That has to be Jesus. And this is confirmed by the apostle Paul when he wrote of the Antichrist’s self-exaltation: “The man of sin ... the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped ... sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4).
“And he takes away the daily sacrifices” (verse 11). In Daniel’s time the Jewish temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and Jerusalem was a wasteland. There were no daily sacrifices going on, because they could only be done in the temple and noth-ing was left of that sanctuary. The sanctuary can refer to both the whole Jewish temple and also the central and most sacred part of the Jewish temple, called the Holy of Holies. In later prophetic messages Daniel was told again about these specific happenings. In some ways this news must have encouraged Daniel, because by deduction it meant that there was going to be a rebuilt temple and temple services were going to be revived. And the only place the Jews could rebuild the temple was on the summit of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, on the exact spot it had been located before.
Then Daniel overhears two “holy ones” speaking, and one asks the other how long it will be until the sanctuary is cleansed, which we can understand as being cleaned from something that is defiling it. And we find that there is a big and terrible thing that is defiling it in the next chapter. And the other tells him that it is going to be 2,300 days. Keep that number in mind because, in chapter 12, we are going to see how it may fit into our Endtime timeline.
But as the Antichrist rises against the Prince of princes, Jesus, he is broken. At the Battle of Armageddon he and his forces are utterly trounced and destroyed, not by the human armies, but by a heavenly force that is superhuman. That is the happy ending, or should I say, the beginning of the happy ending that we all have to look forward to.
Dear Daniel was so worn out getting this revelation that he fainted again and was sick for days. He apparently sounded out a few others about what he had experienced, but no one understood it because it was for many days in the future. But that future is now here and God wants us to understand what it is about.