By John F. Walvoord
Moody Press, Chicago, 1976, pages 178-186



Two IMPORTANT FACTORS mark Daniel 8 as the beginning of a new section. First, beginning with this chapter, the language returns to Hebrew instead of the Aramaic used by Daniel from 2:4 through 7:28. Second, the change of language is in keeping with the change in thought introduced by this chapter. From here to the end of Daniel, the prophecy, even though it concerns the Gentiles, is occupied with human history as it relates to Israel. Therefore, although many expositors divide the book of Daniel into two halves (1-6 and 7-12), there are also good reasons for dividing Daniel into three sections (1, 2-7, 8-12).1

The first of Daniel's own visions recorded in Daniel 7 is a broad summary of the times of the Gentiles, with emphasis on the climactic events culminating in the second coming of Christ to the earth. Beginning in chapter 8, Daniel's second vision concerns the empires of Persia and Greece as they relate to Israel. Under Persian government, Israelites went back to rebuild their land and their city, Jerusalem. Under Grecian domination, in particular under Antiochus Epiphanes, the city and the temple were again desolated. Daniel 9 presents Israel's history from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah to the inauguration of the kingdom from heaven at the second coming of Christ immediately preceded by the time of great trouble for Israel. Chapters 10-11 reveal the events relating the Persian and Greek Empires to Israel, with emphasis on the Gentile oppression of Israel. The final section, 11: 36-12: 13, deals with the end of the age, the period of the revived Roman Empire, and the deliverance of Israel. It is fitting that the last five chapters of Daniel should be written in Hebrew, the language of Israel.


8:1-2 In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.

The second vision of Daniel occurred, according to verse 1, "in the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar," in other words, about two years after the vision of chapter 7. Because it took place in the reign of Belshazzar, it is clear that both chapter 7 and 8 chronologically occur before chapter 5, the night of Belshazzar's feast. Before archeological discoveries confirmed the historical character of Belshazzar, it was common for critical expositors to conclude that the events of chapter 8 occurred immediately before chapter 5. Some recent expositors also follow this interpretation, although there is no ground for it. For instance, A. C. Gaebelein states, "It was the year when the feast of blasphemy was held and Babylon fell. Then God took His faithful servant aside and revealed to him new things concerning the future."2 Edward Young assumes without evidence the same chronology, stating, "At any rate, this vision occurred shortly before the events of the fatal night of ch. 5."3 Z6ckler also places this chapter "shortly before the end of this king [Belshazzar]."4

On the basis of The Babylonian Chronicle, it is now known that Nabonidus began his reign in 556 B.C., and apparently Belshazzar became coregent three years later, 553 B.C., when Nabonidus took residence at Teima, as brought out in chapter 5. Belshazzar previously had served in other royal capacities beginning 560 B.C. Accordingly, if the vision of chapter 7 occurred in 553 B.C., the vision of chapter 8 occurred in 551 B.C., or twelve years before Belshazzar's feast in chapter 5. There is, therefore, no support for placing Daniel 8 near the downfall of Babylon as was the customary chronology before The Babylonian Chronicle was discovered. A. L. Oppenheim points out that Belshazzar was officially recognized as coregent while also the crown prince. He cites two legal documents dated in the twelfth and thirteenth years of Nabonidus, the king, and Bel-sharusur, a variation of Belshazzar, the crown prince, for which there is no parallel in cuneiform literature. 5 This confirms beyond question both the role of Belshazzar as coregent and the dating of this vision before 539 B.C., the date of Belshazzar's death, and indicates the probability of the year 551 B.C. as the date of the vision as the sixth year of Nabonidus as well as the third year of Belshazzar.

The vision of chapter 8 is somewhat different in character from that of chapter 7, as it apparently did not occur in a dream or in a night vision. As Young correctly says, "This vision was not a dream vision like that of ch. 7."6 Keil says in a similar way, "But not in a dream as that was, but while he was awake."7 Daniel is careful to distinguish not only the character of the vision but its time by adding "after that which appeared unto me at the first," that is, the vision of chapter 7.

Although this much is clear, expositors have differed widely as to whether Daniel was in the palace at Shushan in the province of Elam, by the river Ulai (as v. 2 indicates) or \vas transported there in vision and actually was in Babylon at the time. Ancient Susa (called Shushan in the King J ames Version), about 150 miles north of the present head of the Persian Gulf, was situated midway between Ecbatana and Persepolis, and later became one of the main residences of the Persian kings. According to Josephus, Daniel was actually in Elam.*8

*Josephus is also the source of the story that Daniel built a building at Ecbatana in Media in which later the kings of Media, Persia and Parthis were buried. Cf. Montgomery's discussion on the tomb of Daniel at Susa, and the tradition that Daniel built a tower at Ecbatana (The Book at Daniel, pp. 10-11, 325).

Keil notes that Bertholdt and Rosenmuller interpret Daniel as stating that he is actually in Shushan (Susa). He also notes that Bertholdt uses this to substantiate a charge of error against the pseudo-Daniel.9

Most expositors, whether liberal or conservative, understand Daniel 8 to teach that Daniel was actually in Babylon and in vision only was transported to Shushan. Montgomery cites the overwhelming weight of scholarship on this point that Daniel was there only in vision, which is supported by the Syriac version and the Vulgate, and held by John Calvin and many contemporary writers.10 Ezekiel also was transported in vision, presumably (Eze 8:3; 40:1 ff.).

The question as to whether Babylon at this time controlled ancient Susa is debated but is beside the point; in any case, in the vision Daniel is projected forward into the prophetic future of the Persian and Grecian Empires.

The probability is that Babylon did not control this city or area at this time, and this perhaps accounts for Daniel's astonishment as he contemplated the vision to find that he was in this place rather than at Babylon. The expression Shushan the palace reoccurs in historical sections dealing with the Persian Empire (Neh 1:1; Est 1:2,5; 2:3,5). By the palace is probably meant the king's residence, which was more in the form of a castle or fortress than merely a luxurious building. Shushan the palace, nevertheless, was destined in the Persian Empire to become the capital rather than Babylon. This was unknown at the time that this vision was given to Daniel, although Susa had served as the capital of the Elamites in antiquity; and conservative scholars find a genuine prophetic prediction in this reference to Susa.

Daniel finds it necessary to define in particular the location of this city, something a second-century pseudo-Daniel would not have had to do. Some critics have attempted to prove that Daniel was in error because Elam was probably not a province of Babylon at that time; however, Daniel does not literally say that it was.n Daniel also mentions that he was by "the river of Ulai." In regard to this stream near ancient Susa, :\1ontgomery states, "The Ulai can best be identified with an artificial canal which connected the rivers Choastes and Coprates and ran close by Susa."12

In a word, Daniel finds himself projected in vision to a town little known at that time and unsuspected for future grandeur, but yet destined to be the important capital of Persia, the home of Esther, and the city from which Nehemiah came to Jerusalem. Beginning in 1884, the site of ancient Susa, then a large mound, has been explored and has divulged many archeological treasures. The code of Hammurabi was found there in 1901. The famous palace referred to by Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah was begun by Darius I and enlarged by later kings. Remains of its magnificence can still be seen near the modern village of Shush.13 This unusual setting described in detail by Daniel in the opening verses of the eighth chapter now becomes the stage on which a great drama is portrayed in symbol describing the conquests of the second and third empires.


8:3-4, 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. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.

Daniel, in his vision, sees a ram with two horns which are unequal, one higher than the other, and the higher one growing out of the ram last. As Daniel watches, he sees the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward; but no mention is made of pushing toward the east. No other beast is found to stand before the ram nor was anyone, whether man or beast, able to deliver from his power. As Daniel summarizes it, the ram does according to his will and becomes great.

The interpretation is provided in Daniel 8:20 that the ram is Medo-Persia, with the two horns representing its major kings. The fact that the ram represents both the Median and Persian Empires in their combined states rather than as separate empires is another important proof that the critics are wrong. The critics attempt to prove, on the basis of the reference to Darius the Mede, that Daniel erroneously taught two empires, first a Median and then a Persian. This, of course, is contradicted by history; and critics use this in attempt to prove Daniel in error. The critics, however, attribute to Daniel what he does not teach; and the problem is their own faulty interpretation. As Young puts it, "Neither here or elsewhere does Dan. conceive of an independently existing Median empire."14 Historically, it was the combination of the Medes and the Persians which proved irresistible for almost two hundred years, until Alexander the Great came on the scene.15

The portrayal of the two horns representing the two major aspects of the Medo-Persian Empire, that is, the Medes and the Persians, is very accurate, as the Persians coming up last and represented by the higher horn were also the more prominent and powerful. The directions which represent the conquests of the ram include all except east. Although Persia did expand to the east, its principal movement was to the west, north and south. It is the accuracy of this portrayal, rather than any alleged inaccuracy, which is embarrassing to the critic who does not want to accept a sixth-century Daniel who wrote genuine prophecy.

In regard to the use of a ram to represent that great empire, Keil observes, "In the Bundehesch the guardian spirit of the Persian kingdom appears under the form of a ram with clean feet and sharp-pointed horns, and. . . the Persian king, when he stood at the head of his army, bore, instead of the diadem, the head of a ram.16 The references to beasts, as Keil states, "represent kingdoms and nations."17

Not only are both the ram and the goat mentioned in the Old Testament as symbols of power, but Cumont has noted that different lands were assigned to the signs of the Zodiac according to astronomical geography. In this view, Persia is thought of as under the zodiacal sign of Aries, the "ram," and Greece as sharing with Syria, the principal territory of the Seleucid monarchy, the zodiacal sign of Capricorn, the "goat." The word capricorn is derived from the Latin, caper, a goat and cornu, a horn.J8 Taken as a whole, as Driver states, "The verse describes the irresistible advances of the Persian arms, especially in the direction of Palestine, Asia Minor, and Egypt, with particular allusion to the conquests of Cyrus and Cambyses."19


8:5-7 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on 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 two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.

Interpreters of Daniel 8 are generally agreed that the he goat or literally, "buck of the goats,"20 represents the king of Greece, and more particularly the single important horn between its eyes, as also stated in Daniel 8:21, is "the first king," that is, Alexander the Great. All the facts about this goat and his activities obviously anticipate the dynamic role of Alexander. Like Alexander, the he goat comes "from the west on the face of the whole earth," that is, his conquests beginning in Greece move east and cover the entire territory. The implication in the vision, where it states that the he goat "touched not the ground," is the impression of tremendous speed, which characterized the conquest of Alexander. The unusual horn, one large horn instead of the normal two, symbolically represents the single leadership provided by Alexander.

As Daniel considers, the he goat attacks the ram. The ram is identified with the one seen earlier in the vision as standing before the river. An unusual feature of the attack by the he goat is that it is accomplished "in the fury of his power." There was considerable feeling based upon the historical background in which the Persians had attacked Greece earlier in history. Now it was time for Greek retaliation against the Persians. The goat accordingly "moved with choler against him," that is, "in great anger," and butting the ram, breaks the ram's two horns. This symbolically refers to the disintegration of the Medo-Persian Empire with the result that the ram had no power to stand before the he goat. The contest ends with the he goat casting the ram to the ground and stamping upon it.

All of this, of course, was fulfilled dramatically in history. The forces of Alexander first met and defeated the Persians at the Granicus River in Asia Minor in May 334 B.C., which was the beginning of the complete conquest of the entire Persian Empire. A year and a half later a battle occurred at Issus (November 333 B.C.) near the northeastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea. The power of Persia was finally broken at Gaugamela near Nineveh in October 331 BC.21

There is no discrepancy between history, which records a series of battles, and Daniel's representation that the Persian Empire fell with one blow. Daniel is obviously describing the result rather than the details.22 That the prophecy is accurate, insofar as it goes, most expositors concede. Here again, the correspondence of the prophecy to later history is so accurate that liberal critics attempt to make it history instead of prophecy.

The divine view of Greece is less complimentary than that of secular historians. Tarn gives high praise of Alexander, for instance: "He [Alexander] was one of the supreme fertilizing forces in history. He lifted the civilized world out of one groove and set it in another; he started a new epoch; nothing could again be as it had been. . . . Particularism was replaced by the idea of the 'inhabited world,' the common possession of civilized men. . . . Greek culture, heretofore practically confined to Greeks, spread throughout the world; and for the use of its inhabitants, in place of the many dialects of Greece, there grew up the form of Greek known as
the koine, the 'common speech.'23 Porteous comments on Tarn's praise, "Not a glimmer of all this appears in the book of Daniel.”24 God's view is different from man's.


8:8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

As Daniel contemplates in his vision the triumph of the he goat, an unexpected development takes place. The great horn between the eyes of the he goat is broken just when the he goat has reached the pinnacle of its strength. Out of this grows four notable horns described as being "toward the four winds of heaven." Expositors, both liberal and conservative, have interpreted this verse as representing the untimely death of Alexander and the division of his empire into four major sections. Alexander, who had conquered more of the world than any previous ruler, was not able to conquer himself. Partly due to a strenuous exertion, his dissipated life, and a raging fever, Alexander died in a dru:1ken debauch at Babylon, not yet thirty-three years of age. His death left a great conquest without an effective single leader, and it took about twenty years for the empire to be successfully divided.

Practically all commentators, however, recognize the four horns as symbolic of the four kingdoms of the Diadochi which emerged as follow: (1) Casandra assumed rule over Macedonia and Grecce; (2) Lysimacus took control of Thrace, Bithynia, and most of Asia Minor; (3) Seleucus took Syria and the lands, to the east including Bahylonia; (4) Ptolemy established rule over Egypt and possibly Palestine and Arabia Petraea.25 A fifth contender for political power, Antigonus, was soon defeated. Thus, with remarkable accuracy, Daniel in his prophetic vision predicts that the empire of Alexander was divided into four divisions, not three or less or five or more.


8:9-10 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 pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.

While there is comparatively little disagreement as to the identity of the ram and the he goat, practically all the controversy over this vision has centered on the meaning of the little horn described in verses 9 and 10. According to Daniel's account, the little horn emerges from one of the four notable horns mentioned in verse 8. The horn, small in the beginning, grows "exceeding great" in three directions: toward the south, toward the east and toward the pleasant land. The implication is that the point of reference is Syria, that "the south" is equal to Egypt, and "the east," in the direction or ancient Medo-Persia or Armenia, and "the pleasant land," or "glorious land" referring to Palestine or Canaan, which lay between Syria and Egypt. The original for "pleasant land" actually means "beauty," with the word for "land" supplied from Daniel 11 (cf. Dan 11:16, 41,45; Jer 3:19; Eze 20:6, 15; Mal 3:12). Actually, the meaning here may be Jerusalem in particular rather than the land in general.

These conquests, of course, are confirmed in the history of Syria, especially under Antiochus Epiphanes, the eighth king in the Syrian dynasty who reigned 175-163 B.C. (1 Mace 1:10; 6:16). In his lifetime, he conducted military expeditions in relation to all of these areas. Montgomery considers the expression "toward the pleasant land" as a gloss "which is absurd when aligned with the given points of the compass, in which the book is remarkably accurate."26 There is no justification for this deletion from the text, however, as from Daniel's viewpoint in this whole section, the important question is how the times of the Gentiles relate to Israel. The land of Israel indeed became the battle ground between Syria and Egypt, and the setting of some of Antiochus Epiphanes' most significant blasphemous acts against God. According to 1 Maccabees 1:20, Revised Standard Version, Antiochus first invaded Egypt and then Jerusalem: "after subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred and forty-third year. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force."

As a result of his military conquests, the little horn, representing Antiochus Epiphanes, is said to grow great "even to the host of heaven." He is pictured as casting some of the host and of the stars to the ground and stamping upon them. This difficult prophecy has aroused many technical discussions as that of Montgomery which extends over several pages.27 If the mythological explanations such as identifying stars with heathen gods or the seven planets is discarded and this is considered genuine prophecy, probably the best explanation is that this prophecy relates to the persecution and destruction of the people of God with its defiance of the angelic hosts who are their protectors, including the power of God Himself. As Leupold says, "That stars should signify God's holy people is not strange when one considers as a background the words that were spoken to Abraham concerning the numerical increase of the people of God, Gen. 15:5; 22:17. To this may be added Dan. 12:3, where a star-like glory is held out to those who "turn many to righteousness." Compare also Matt. 13:43. If the world calls those men and women stars who excel in one or another department of human activity, why should not a similar statement be still more appropriate with reference to God's people?"28 Leupold considers the host and the stars in apposition, that is, "the host even the stars." That Antiochus blasphemed God and heavenly power as well as persecuted the people of Israel, the people of God, is all too evident from history. Even Driver states “The stars ale intended to symbolize the faithful Israelites: cf. Enoch xlvi. 7."29



1. Cf. R. D. Clulver, Daniel and the Latter Days, pp 95-104
2. A. C. Gaebelein, The Prophet Daniel, p 94.
3. E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, p. 165
4. Otto Zockler, “The Book of the Prophet Daniel,” in a Commentary of the Holy Scriptures, 13:171; cf. pp. 33-34.
5. A. L. Oppenheim, “Belshazzar,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1:379-80.
6.Young, p. 165
7. C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 285.
8. J. A. Montgomery, The Book of Daniel, p. 325. CF. Josephus, The Works of Flavius Josephus, p. 320.
9. Keil, p. 285
10. Montgomery, pp. 325-26.
11. S. R. Driver, The Book of Daniel, p. 111.
12. Montgomery, p. 327.
13. Cf. M. F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, pp. 1022-23.
14. Young, p. 178
15. For a brief history of Medo-Persia, see Walvoord, The Nations in Prophecy, pp. 70ff.
16. Keil, p. 290.
17. Ibid, p. 291.
18. F. Cumont, “La plus Ancienne geographie astrologique,” Klio 9:263-73.
19.Driver, p. 113.
20. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, p. 339.
21. Young, p. 169; cf. Walvoord, The Nations in Prophecy, pp. 76ff.
22. Young, p. 169
23. William W. Tarn, Alexander the Great, 1:145-46.
24. N. W. Porteous, Daniel: A Commentary, p. 123.
25. Young, p. 169; Leupold, p. 344; Montgomery, pp. 332-33.
26. Montgomery, p. 333.
27. Ibid., pp. 333-335.
28. Leupold, p. 346.
29. Driver, p. 116.


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