Daniel 8: Vision of the Ram and Goat
Chapters one to six of Daniel constitute the first section of his prophecy. They are historical, dealing with the period from the beginning of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar until the days of Cyrus the conqueror, from about 605 to 537 B.C. (Dan. 1:1; 6:28) The last six chapters form a separate section consisting of the visions and dreams of Daniel. Apparently, they were sent to the prophet during the last days of the captivity, and after the release. (Dan. 7:1; 8:1; 9:1; 10:1)
The eighth chapter describes the vision of the ram and the male goat. It was "a vision" and must therefore have been seen in the spirit in the spiritual world. (L. 52) Yet the vision speaks of earthly things, as "the palace of Shushan in the province of Elam, by the river Ulai." (Verse 2) The interpretation of the vision by the angel Gabriel also refers to earthly kings and kingdoms. It is very remarkable how closely the history of these kingdoms bears out the interpretation. The ram with two horns "pushing westward and northward and southward" is "the kings of Media and Persia." The goat coming from the west that smote the ram is "the king of Greece," its great horn being "the first king." It is a matter of history that the Persian kingdom pushed westward into Palestine, northward into Syria, and southward into Egypt. Then came Alexander the Great, the Greeks' first king, who vanquished the Persians and destroyed their power in the east. "And 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." (Verse 8) This means that "four kingdoms shall stand out of the nation, but not in his power." (Verse 22) The four kingdoms that arose out of the empire of Alexander at his death were those of "the Seleucidae at Antioch, of the Ptolemies in Egypt, of Lysimachus in Thrace, and of Cassander in Macedonia." Further, "out of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great," and profaned the altar in the sanctuary. (Verses 9-14) This refers to "a king of fierce countenance" (verses 23-25) whose name is not given. Commentators identify him with Antiochus Epiphanes, the great persecutor of the Jews in the second century B.C. He desecrated the altar in Jerusalem by erecting on it a small heathen altar, which remained there for three years, when the temple was purified and the altar of the Lord dedicated at a feast which lasted seven days. (Origin of "feast of dedication," John 10:22) A record of these events is to be found the Books of the Maccabees in the Apocrypha.
It is interesting to follow this literal historical interpretation of the vision. It may or may not be correct. In a similar way, John's vision in Patmos contains messages for each of the seven churches in Asia. These places, with which John was familiar, have all been identified. This also furnishes interesting information. The names provide a basis for the letter of the Divine Word. So far they have contributed to the construction of a Divine composition, even as the pen of the author lends its service to him in his work. It may be interesting to know whence the pen came, and even to formulate some probable conjectures about its origin. But the work of the author is immeasurably greater.
The main subject of this vision is the ram or sheep and the goat. Its meaning is more readily comprehended when thought of together with the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matt 25:31-40) Plainly, the sheep there refer to the blessed, and the goats to the unrighteous. The sheep are they who hear His voice and follow Him. (John 10) The goats hear but do not follow. They are in faith alone. Here, the ram pictures "the church in faith, in charity, and its power."(P. P. 1-3) The Lord's disciples and their immediate successors - the early Christians - were in faith and charity, and through them, Christianity spread with power all over Europe. It went westward and northward and southward. But gradually the spirit of love to the Lord, the desire to be led by Him, was destroyed by the influence of faith alone. This is the goat that destroyed the ram. (A. 4169; E. 212) From this ram proceed the horns that produced such havoc. They represent kings and kingdoms, according to the interpretation given by Gabriel. These signify the powerful arguments that proceed from this principle of faith alone. The most harmful are such as prove the impossibility of keeping the commandments of the Lord. These desecrate the temple of the Lord. They destroy all worship of Him, and violate the most direct teaching in the Word. The Lord continually pleads with people to keep the commandments. He world not have asked us to do this without giving us adequate power to do it. The selfish tendency in the external person is to live in ease and luxury without labor. Many labor simply to gain this selfish object. Likewise the selfish tendency of the soul is to gain heaven without labor. Many labor to do good simply that they may merit heaven. (Matt. 25:44) The spirit of faith alone must be conquered in every Christian. Its doom is sealed when we shun evils in our natural self as sins against God. This effects the Lord's advent in humanity. It is foretold by Gabriel. (Verse 16; Luke 1:26)
The angel Gabriel who spoke with Daniel and with Zacharias and Mary may have been a particular angel in heaven. (H. 255) If so, he did not speak for himself or from himself but for and from a society in heaven whose ministry it is "to teach from the Word, that Jehovah came into the world, and that the human which He took there is ‘the Son of God,’ and Divine…They who are in this ministry are called Gabriels." (R. 548; H. 52)
Daniel fainted and was sick after the vision. (Verse 27) The "end of the Church" depicted in the vision "is a sad time." (P. P.) It is a sore experience to come under the influence of the spirit of faith alone. The cure is to be up and work for the king. "Afterward I rose up, and did the king's business." This action suggests the cure for many a heart pang—live less for self, and more for others.