DANIEL 8:11-14 - The 2300 Days  


John F. Walvoord
Daniel The Key to Prophetic Revelation (1971, 76)
Moody Press
Pages 186-190

THE DESOLATION OF THE SANCTUARY 8:11-14 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered. Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

Up to Daniel 8:11, it is not difficult to find fulfillment of the vision in the history of the Medo-Persian, Alexandrian, and post-Alexandrian periods. Beginning with verse 11, however, expositors have differed widely as to whether the main import of the passage refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, with complete fulfillment in his lifetime, or whether the passage either primarily or secondarily refers also to the end of the age, that is, the period of great tribulation preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ. The divergence of interpretation is so wide as to be confusing to the student of Daniel. As Montgomery states, verses 11 and 12 "constitute . . . the most difficult short passage of the bk."3O

If the many divergent views can be simplified, they fall into three general classifications. First, the critical view that Daniel was a second century forgery written by a pseudo-Daniel regards this prophecy as simply history written after the fact and completely fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes. This, of course, has been rejected by the great majority of conservative scholars. Second, the view that this is genuine sixth-century B.C. prophecy, but completely fulfilled historically in Antiochus Epiphanes. Edward J. Young is strongly in favor of this interpretation31 and speaks in general for many amillenarians who are conservative interpreters. Third, the view that the prophecy is genuine prediction fulfilled historically in the second century B.C., gut typical and anticipatory of the final conflict between God and Gentile rulers at the time of the persecution of Israel prior to the second advent of Christ. The third view sometimes confuses the prophetic and typical interpretations or attempts to find dual fulfil1ment literally of both aspects of the prophecy. The ultimate decision must rest not simply on verses 11 through 14 but on the interpretation of the prophecy given in verses 20-26.

According to verse 11, the little horn, fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes historically, magnifies himself even to the prince of the host. By this is meant that he exalted himself up to the point of claiming divine honor as brought out in his name Epiphanes which refers to glorious manifestation such as belonged to God. His pretentions are similar to the little horn of Daniel 7:8, 20. Antiochus, however, obviously also directed blasphemous opposition against God Himself and to this extent magnified himself against God as well as reaching toward the glory and honor belonging to God.

As a specific illustration and supreme act manifesting this attitude, it is stated that he took away the daily offerings and desecrated the sanctuary. "By him," in verse 11, is literally, "from him," that is, from God. By this is meant that Antiochus stopped the morning and evening sacrifices, taking away from God what were daily tokens of Israel's worship.32 The expression daily sacrifices, from the Hebrew tamid, which means "constant," applies to the daily offerings (cf. Ex 29:38 ff.; Num 28:3 ff.). Young, accordingly, feels that it should not be restricted to the morning and evening sacrifices, but that it included all the offerings customarily offered in the temple services.33

This is brought out in 1 Maccabees 1:44-49, referring to the command of Antiochus Epiphanes to depart from the worship of the law of Moses, "And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars in sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die" (RSV).

Although it is not necessary to take the expression "the place of his sanctuary was cast down" as meaning destruction by Antiochus of the temple itself, it is of interest that in 1 Maccabees 4:42 ff., in connection with the cleansing of the sanctuary, they literally tore down the altar and built a new one, "they also rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the temple, and consecrated the courts" (1 Mace 4: 48). As Young comments, "Apparently Antiochus did not actually tear down the temple, although eventually he desecrated it to such a point that it was hardly fit for use."34 The obvious parallel between the cessation of the daily sacrifice by Antiochus Epiphanes and that anticipated in Daniel 9:27, which occurs three and one-half years before the second coming of Christ, has led some expositors to find here evidence for reference to the end of the age and not simply to Antiochus. As far as this prophecy is concerned, however, it did have complete fulfillment in Antiochus.

Verse 12 is a recapitulation of Antiochus Epiphanes' activities against God. The statement that an host was given him apparently refers to the fact that the people of Israel were under his power with divine permission. The phrase against the daily sacrifice can be translated "with the daily sacrifice," that is, the daily sacrifices were also in his power and he was able to substitute a heathen worship. The phrase by reason of transgression should be understood as an extension of this, that is, the daily sacrifices are given in his power in order to permit him to transgress against God. The result is that Antiochus "cast down the truth to the ground," that is, the truth of the law of Moses, practiced his activities, and seemingly prospered. Although the translation of this verse is very difficult, conservative scholars generally interpret it to mean that the people of Israel along with their worship are given over to the power of Antiochus Epiphanes with the resulting transgression and blasphemy against God. The extent of departure from the law is indicated in 1 Maccabees 1:421-49 Revised Standard Version.

Having described the nefarious activities of Antiochus Epiphanes, Daniel now records a conversation between two "saints" or "holy ones," apparently angels, concerning the duration of the desecration of the sanctuary. The question is "How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?"

The answer given in verse 14 has touched off almost endless exegetical controversy. Daniel is informed that the answer to the riddle is "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." The answer is said to be given "unto me," that is, to Daniel rather than to the other angel. Obviously these angels are brought in for Daniel's benefit and the result is that Daniel hears the answer. The interpretation and fulfillment of this passage is to some extent the crux of the entire chapter.

The Seventh Day Adventists understood that the two thousand and three hundred days referred to years which, on the basis of their interpretation, were to culminate in the year 1884 with the second coming of Christ.35 The year-day theory for all practical purposes was excluded by the fact that Christ did not come in 1884 in any real fulfillment of the anticipation of this interpretation.

If the twenty-three hundred days are to be considered as days, instead
of years, two basic alternatives are offered. Many have taken this as twenty-three hundred twenty-four hour days. Because the days are related to the cessation of the evening and morning sacrifices, another theory was that the phrase actually referred to eleven hundred and fifty days, that is, twenty-three hundred evenings and mornings as set forth by Ephraim of Syria and Hippolytus.36

Obviously, the interpretation of this difficult time period is determined largely by the expositor's desire to find fulfillment either in history or in parallel prophecies concerning the future. Generally, expositors even of differing schools of eschatological interpretation follow the idea that these are twenty three hundred literal days. The concept that the period in view is eleven hundred and fifty days also is taken by some to coincide with the three and one-half years of the great tribulation predicted in Daniel 9:27 and elsewhere, even though there is a discrepancy of over one hundred days.

Keil, in his discussion extending over nine pages, concludes,

A Hebrew reader could not possibly understand the period of 2300 evening-mornings of 2300 half days or 1150 whole days, because evening and morning at the creation constituted not the half but the whole day. Still less, in the designation of time, 'till 2300 evening-mornings,' could 'evening-mornings' be understood of the evening and morning sacrifices, and the words be regarded as meaning that till 1150 evening sacrifices and 1150 morning sacrifices are discontinued. We must therefore take the words as they are, i.e., understand them as 2300 Whole days.37

Keil supports this by numerous arguments including the fact, "when the Hebrews wished to express separately day and night, the component parts of a day of a week, then the number of both is expressed. They say, e.g., forty days and forty nights (Gen. vii.4, 12; Ex. xxiv.18; I Kings xix.8), and three days and three nights (Jonah ii.I; Matt. xii.40), but not eighty or six days-and-nights, when they wish to speak of forty or three full days."38

If they are literally twenty-three hundred days, what is the fulfillment? The attempts to relate this to the last seven years of the Gentile period referred to in Daniel 9:27 have confused rather than helped the interpretation. Twenty-three hundred days is less than seven years of 360 days, and the half figure of eleven hundred and fifty days is short of the three and one-half years of the great tribulation. Exegetically, a safe course to follow is to find fulfillment in Antiochus Epiphanes, and then proceed to consider what eschatological or unfulfilled prophecy may be involved.

Innumerable explanations have been attempted to make the twenty three hundred days coincide with the history of Antiochus Epiphanes. The terminus ad quem of the twenty-three hundred days is taken by most expositors as 164 B.C. when Antiochus Epiphanes died during a military campaign in Media. This permitted the purging of the sanctuary and the return to Jewish worship. Figuring from this date backward twenty-three hundred days would fix the beginning time at 171 B.C. In that year, Onias III, the legitimate high priest, was murdered and a pseudo line of preists assumed power. This would give adequate fulfillment in time for the twenty-three hundred days to elapse at the time of the death of Antiochus. The actual desecration of the temple, however, did not occur until December 25, 167 B.C. when the sacrifices in the temple were forcibly caused to cease and a Greek altar erected in the temple. The actual desecration of the temple lasted only about three years. During this period, Antiochus issued coins with the title "Epiphanes," which claimed that he manifested divine honors and which showed him as beardless and wearing a diadem.39

Taking all the evidence into consideration, the best conclusion is that the twenty-three hundred days of Daniel are fulfilled in the period from 171 B.C. and culminated in the death of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C. The period when the sacrifices ceased was the latter part of this longer period. Although the evidence available today does not offer fulfillment to the precise day, the twenty-three hundred days, obviously a round number, is relatively accurate in defining the period when the Jewish religion began to erode under the persecution of Antiochus, and the period as a whole concluded with his death.

The alternate theories produce more problems than they solve. Considering the days as year-days has provided no fulfillment. Using the figure of eleven hundred and fifty days only creates more problems as it does not fit precisely any scheme of events and has a dubious' basis. By far the simplest and most honoring to the Scriptures is the solution that the twenty-three hundred days date from 171 B.C. to 164 B.C. This prophecy may safely be said now to have been fulfilled and does not have any further eschatological significance in the sense of anticipating a future fulfillment. As far as Daniel 8:1-14 is concerned, there is no adequate reason for considering it in any other light than that of fulfilled prophecy from the standpoint of the twentieth century. It is adequately explained in the history of the Medo-Persian and Greek empires, and specifically, in the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes.


30. J.A. Montgomery, The Book of Daniel, p. 335.
31. E.J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, pp. 165 ff.
Montgomery, pp. 335-36.
33. Young, p. 172.
34. Ibid.
35. Uriah Smith, The Sanctuary and the Twenty-three Hundred days of Daniel 8:14, p. 119.
36. Young, p. 173.
37. C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 304.
38. Ibid., pp. 303-4.
39. See D.H. Wheaton, “Antiochus,” the New Bible Dictionary, pp.41-42.


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