Daniel 8:1-27 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. Describe the first part of the vision that was given to Daniel. See Daniel 8:3-7 (printed below)

I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns standing beside the river. The two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, and the longer one came up last. (4) I watched the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand against him, neither was there any who could rescue out of his hand; he did as he pleased and magnified himself. (5) As I was considering this, suddenly a goat came from the west, crossing the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground—and the goat had a prominent horn between his eyes. (6) He came to the ram with the two horns, the one I had seen standing beside the river, and he charged at him with the fury of his power. (7) I saw him approach the ram, and he was enraged against him. He struck the ram and broke his two horns, and the ram had no strength to stand against him. The goat threw him down to the ground and trampled upon him; and there was none who was able to deliver the ram out of his hand. (Daniel 8:3-7)

Daniel first sees a ram with two horns (representing the empire of the Medes and Persians.) The ram charges to the west, the north, and the south—depicting the conquests and expansion of the Persian Empire. Suddenly, Daniel sees a goat coming out of the west (representing Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire.) The goat tramples upon the ram—the Greeks conquered the Persians and succeeded them as the new ruling power.

2. What does Daniel now see transpiring in his vision? See Daniel 8:8-9 (printed below)

Then the goat greatly magnified himself. But when he had become strong, the large horn was broken. In its place there came up four prominent horns facing toward the four winds of heaven. (9) And out of one of them there came a little horn that grew to become very great, exerting its power toward the south and toward the east and toward the glorious land. (Daniel 8:8-9)

After the goat has become prominent, his horn is broken—this is depicting the sudden death of Alexander. In place of the one prominent horn there appear four lesser horns: after Alexander’s death, his empire was divided among four of his generals. Daniel’s attention is now focused on one of those horns, a little horn that exerts its power toward the south, the east, and “the glorious land” (i.e.; Israel.) This little horn is representing Antiochus Epiphanes who became ruler over the Syrian portion of Alexander’s former empire.

3. What does “the little horn” do? See Daniel 8:10-11 (printed below)

It grew great, even reaching the host of heaven. Some of the host and of the stars it threw to the ground and trampled upon them. (11) Indeed, it magnified itself, even against the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was thrown down. (Daniel 8:10-11)

“The little horn” becomes great, even reaching the host of heaven. He threw some of the stars to the ground and trampled upon them. Here is a reference to Antiochus’s arrogance as he persecuted the people of God. Verse 11 describes in greater detail his blasphemous defiance of God (who is referred to as “The Prince of the host”) and his efforts to eradicate the religion of Israel.

4. According to verse 12 (printed below), why will this villain (Antiochus Epiphanes) be permitted to perpetrate his evil work against the nation of Israel?

On account of transgression, the host was given over to the horn along with the daily sacrifice; it flung truth to the ground and it did as it pleased and succeeded. (Daniel 8:12)

Verse 12 indicates that the devastation and desecration perpetrated by this villain known as “the little horn” was the consequence of the transgression of Israel: “On account of transgression, the host (i.e.; the community of the people of God) was given over to the horn along with the daily sacrifice.” The Lord would use this evil and blasphemous king in His sovereign hand as His instrument to inflict judgment upon His people for their apostasy.

5. The angel informs Daniel that the vision pertains to events that will take place “at the end of the indignation” (i.e.; following Israel’s return to the Promised Land after the Babylonian Captivity.) What was characteristic of the people of God after they had returned and were resettled in the Promised Land? Note Ezra 9:13-14 (printed below)

What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this. (14) Shall we again break your commandments and join with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? (Ezra 9:13-14)

For the Old Testament Jews, the Babylonian Captivity was the experience of God’s righteous indignation against sin. The experience of that indignation—on the part of those who survived—was a terribly bitter ordeal (note Psalm 137:1-4). But once the captivity was over and they were restored, there arose the temptation to forget that painful encounter with God’s righteous indignation. In his prayer Ezra laments the fact that the people of Israel have turned back to their sinful ways and stand in danger of once again incurring God’s righteous indignation, perhaps even in a far more severe form than previously.