Daniel 8 Ram? Tough!

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Questions: If God is in control, why do His enemies appear to triumph? For how long? Does He ever explain Himself? Does it help? Will it?

“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Daniel.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Daniel 8:1-27

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.

It just occurred to me that — as far as we know — nobody had had visions quite like this ever before. The word doesn’t appear much before Ezekiel, and even there the word seems to be used generically; Daniel is the first book we have where the seer provided a detailed account of what he saw. Thus, it seems likely that Daniel had virtually no context for interpreting what was happening to him. The best he could do was write down as much as he could remember, and hope it would make sense to him (or someone) further down the road.

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.

I find it fascinating that he records both the place he actually was, as well as the place he saw in the vision.

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.

Another powerful symbol of kingly authority, albeit with some tension at the head. Though eventually the ram gets his goat…

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.

Ouch.

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.

Dang. Clearly, somebody was carrying a serious grudge.

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.

Kinda sad, that after its great victory the one horn should give place to four lesser ones. But that isn’t the weirdest plot twist:

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].

That being the land of the Jews, I presume.

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. 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.

Ugh. Not a pleasant prophecy. So where’s the hope in all this?

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.

Yow! 2,300 is a big number, no matter how you interpret it. What is Daniel to make of all this?

And it came to pass, when I, [even] I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.

Gabriel, I presume?

And I heard a man’s voice between [the banks of] Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this [man] to understand the vision.

I see that Gabriel gets the usual response given to angels:

So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face:

Though his mission this time is merely to explain:

but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end [shall be] the vision.

Um, what “time of the end” — That’s what always gets me about end-time prophecies; it is never clear what ending they are referring to. Ending of the occupation? Of the current age? Of all of human history? Or something else altogether?

Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright. And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end [shall be].

Hmm. Well, that’s something: “the end of indignation.” I also find it intriguing that it sounds more-or-less like Gabriel is now speaking to him “in real life”, rather than as part of his dream.

The ram which thou sawest having [two] horns [are] the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat [is] the king of Grecia: and the great horn that [is] between his eyes [is] the first king.

That would presumably be Alexander the Great.

Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.

This presumably referring to the various partitions following Alexander’s death.

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify [himself] in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many:

Again, I’m no historian, but this sounds very much like Antiochus Epiphanes (whose atrocities indirectly led to Hanukkah). Though his downfall sounds very Messianic:

he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

perhaps implying a Herodian connection. But, that’s all in the future:

And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told [is] true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it [shall be] for many days.

Heh. Why bother keeping it a secret, when nobody can understand it!

And I Daniel fainted, and was sick [certain] days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood [it].

I find it fascinating that in the midst of all this, Daniel still worries about being faithful to his job (despite his presumed lack of affection for Bel). I am not surprised that he is astonished, though I am curious that he appears to have told the vision to several people — not that they understood it any better than he did. I’m not quite sure how that squares with the command to “shut up the vision”, but perhaps that just meant he wasn’t to proclaim it openly, the way other prophets did.

While I can sympathize with critics who want to post-date Daniel (to make these “prophecies” just history), what I find even more intriguing is the larger idea of Jerusalem’s eventually restoration. Call it a self-fuflfilling prophecy if you will, but it is mind-boggling that over 2,300 years later Israel is now — once again — a major player in international affairs.

If the message of Daniel is that, no matter what happens, somebody is watching over the Jews — well, history sure seems to bear that out. Even if they sometimes wish God would choose somebody else

Prayer

God, I am touched again by your love for your firstborn, the Jews; even if it is often a painful love for both sides! Lord, I pray for the nation of Israel, that they would see your love for them, and respond with humility and grace instead of pride and self-righteousness. I pray for myself, that I would embrace the reality of suffering in this life, even while I look towards your deliverance in both this life and the next. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is in honor of the iconic Dodge truck of the 1980’s.

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