This Daniel 8 Bible study outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Daniel 8 Bible Study Commentary And Questions
Daniel 8 Bible Study Video
Daniel 8 Podcast
I. The vision of the ram and the goat (1-8)
II. The little horn that took away the burnt offering (9-14)
III. The interpretation of the vision (15-27)
I. The vision of the ram and the goat (1-8)
- When did this happen?
- Where was Daniel when he saw this vision?
- What did Daniel see in the vision?
- What are your observations about his vision?
- What were the special features of the ram?
- What were the special features of the goat?
- Why do you think God gave this vision to Daniel?
- What does this vision and its fulfillment show us about God?
Psalm 103:19 – The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 – Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
Psalm 135:6 – Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
Verse by Verse Commentary
Introduction – Daniel chapters 2-7 were written in Aramaic. Chapters 8-12 are written in Hebrew. Daniel’s message in these chapters is written primarily to the Jews. He deals with four major Gentile nations. He does not write about everything each nation will do, but focuses in general on how the age of the Gentiles effects the Jews and specifically on how they will dominate Jerusalem and the temple.
1. In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar – The dream came to Daniel after the dream in chapter 7 which occurred in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. At the time Babylon was in power. Persia was starting to emerge as a power to contend with, but Greece was not yet any type of threat.
2. I was in Susa the citadel – Susa was an important city in the region, a capital of Elam. Later, it would become the capital of the Medo-Persian empire. The backdrop of Esther and parts of Nehemiah take place in Susa.
3. I saw a ram – As Gabriel will explain later in the chapter, the ram represents the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. The ram has long been a symbol of the Persian empire. Persian kings often wore helmets with ram horns in battle. Many aspects of the ram depicted point to specific characters of the Achaemenid Empire.
A. It had two horns – The empire was forged by an alliance between the Medes and the Persians. Thus, the ram had two horns. Both of these horns were high. Each part of the alliance was strong. However, one was stronger than the other. The higher horn came last. This fits with the fact that the Persian people, who were the stronger part of the alliance, rose to prominence after the Medes.
B. I saw the ram charge westward, northward, and southward – No major conquests were taken by the empire to the east. However, much territory was seized and key battles fought in the three other directions.
C. He did as pleased and became great – For a while, the Persian Empire could not be matched militarily. Victories came in all directions. Babylon and Egypt, with all of their history and might, were easily dispatched with.
4. A male goat came from the West – In verse 21, Gabriel identifies the goat as representing Greece. Even without this clear statement, with the benefit of history the goat’s identity is clear.
A. Came from the west – Greece started in the west (relative to Israel) and came east.
B. Across the face of the whole earth – This is likely a reference to the vast swath of territories Greece conquered.
Without touching the ground – The Greek expansion was all about speed. Alexander the Great and his armies moved with lightning speed. He didn’t stop for long before moving to his next conquest. It was that speed that enabled him to rule such a vast empire by the young age of 31.
C. The goat had a conspicuous horn between its eyes – Most likely this is a reference to Alexander the Great. His military prowess is legendary. The Greek Empire was established largely because of his genius.
D. The goat struck the ram and broke his horns – The text says that the goat ran at the ram with “powerful wrath.” Alexander decisively defeated the Persians in a string of three improbable victories. In each one the invading Macedonians went against far larger armies. But their superior training, and more importantly Alexander’s tactics, were enough to drive the Persian armies into chaos. The final major battle between the two powers was the Battle of Guagamela in 331 BC. It was the nail in the coffin for the Achaemenid Empire. Soon after, Darius was killed. Alexander declared himself King of All Asia.
E. The great horn was broken and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven – Alexander died suddenly at the age of thirty-one. Because he had not named any successors, his generals divided up the kingdom among themselves with our separate kingdoms emerging.
II. The little horn that took away the burnt offering (9-14)
- What does a horn often symbolize in the Bible?
- Which part of the split Greek empire might this little horn come from?
- What does it mean that some of the host and stars of heaven were thrown down?
- Who is this vision describing?
- What does it mean that it became great even as great as the prince of host?
- What will this person do?
- What is he like?
- Did these things happen already or are they still future?
- What do we learn in this passage about persecution?
- What do we learn in this passage about god’s sovereignty?
Psalm 75:10 – All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.
Proverbs 16:5 – Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 21:4 – Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. A little horn – Daniel is still describing the third beast, which represents Greece. The large horn represented Alexander the Great and the four horns after it were symbols for the four rulers who split the kingdom. In similar manner, this “little horn” also represents another ruler within one of these four regions of the split Greek empire.
In chapter 7, there was another “little horn.” He made war against the saints and boasted great things. However, that ruler was part of the fourth beast while the “little horn” in Daniel 8 is part of the third beast. Therefore, although they are very similar in some respects, they are two unique individuals who rule over different kingdoms in different ages.
These two rulers have many similarities. Both hate God and His people. Both desolate the temple. Both trample the Jews. Both are called “little horns.” The use of similar imagery is a way God calls our attention to the fact that these two brash rulers are very similar. While ruling over different kingdoms in different eras, they are kindred spirits. Both have the spirit of the antichrist that John talks about in 1 John 4. The first is an antichrist who foreshadows the final most powerful and evil antichrist in the end-times.
2. The identity of the little horn – Who is this ruler who will trample God’s people?
History reveals to us a ruler who fits the description remarkably well. In fact, he fits it so well that Bible critics refuse to accept that Daniel 8 can be prophecy and instead try to revise the date of the book.
This historical king is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He was a Greek Hellenistic king who ruled the Saleucid Empire, one of the four branches of the split Greek empire, from 175 BC to 164 BC.
Antiochus IV took the throne by murdering his brother Seleucus Philopater. He then held Philopater’s son and the rightful heir hostage. The name Epiphanes was a name that Antiochus took and it means “illustrious.” This name alludes to deity.
Let’s look at how this ruler fits the description here in Daniel 8:9-14.
Toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land – Antiochus IV fought the other Greek kingdoms to the south and east in order to expand his territory. In addition, he invaded Palestine (the glorious land) and defeated it.
Some of the host and some of the stars it threw down and trampled them – Daniel is recording a vision and many of the things in the vision are symbolic. Did a man actually grow to the heavens and grab some stars to throw down to the earth? No, that is symbolic language.
We need to ask ourselves what the stars represent?
Sometimes stars represent angels, but that also doesn’t make sense in this passage. A man cannot cause angels to fall or defeat angels. However, there is a Bible passage that may shed some light on this.
Genesis 37:9-10 – Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”
In Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37, the stars are a reference to the tribes of Israel, to Jews. Genesis 15:5 also refers to stars as being Jewish people. Within the context of Daniel 8, this interpretation makes the most sense. Stars refer to Jews.
Antiochus Ephiphanes was notorious for his brutal treatment of Jews. In one campaign, he had 40,000 Jews murdered. By some account, he was responsible for the death of over 100,000 Jews.
1 Maccabees 1 describes some of the cruelty of Antiochus. He ordered Scripture to be burned and those who possessed it put to death. Parents were forbidden from having their children circumcised. When a child was found circumcised he was hung and his parents were executed.
The regular burnt offering was taken away and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown – One of his most notorious deeds was the way he desecrated the temple. After a defeat in Alexandria, the despot turned his wrath to Jerusalem. He commanded it to be taken on the Sabbath day. Then he had an image of Zeus erected in the temple. Going even further in his blasphemy, he had a pig sacrificed on the altar.
Because of the desecration, regular sacrifices were stopped.
3. It will throw truth to the ground and it will act and prosper – You might expect that God would immediately intervene and have such a blasphemer summarily struck down by lightning. However, he didn’t. Truth was thrown to the ground. And those who did evil prospered. It is not the first time that the wicked seemed to benefit from sin and won’t be the last.
Asaph questioned why this happens in Psalm 71. Seeing the wicked prosper confused him. How could God allow it? And if that happens, what good is doing the right? Once he meditated on this question, he “perceived their end.” He realized that the wicked may prosper for a moment, but in the end they will be judged. This world is not always fair. But one day when we face God everything will be set right.
In His time, God will judge the wicked. But He may tolerate their evil schemes for far longer than we would expect.
Application – Don’t be surprised to see the wicked prosper. Neither should you covet their success. Instead, think about where their path will finally lead.
4. The offering and sanctuary will be trampled for 2300 days and then it will be restored –
There are a number of different attempts by scholars to understand exactly the 2300-day part of this prophecy. Unfortunately, some have gone off on this passage and entertained all types of wild speculation and theories. One of these poor interpretations is that each one of these 2300 days signifies a year. William Miller used this theory to espouse the idea that Jesus would return in 1844. His movement was the seed which started the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Obviously, he was wrong.
This prophecy was made in regard to the Greek empire (the goat). It takes place in the days after the splitting of the Greek kingdom. So it would be poor hermeneutics to take these as day-years and extending well past the end of the Greek empire.
Two reasonable interpretations are generally proposed. One is that the “evening and morning” reference is to a 24-hour period. According to this interpretation, it is a total of 2300 days. The other is that it is 2300 evenings and mornings, meaning that it is 1150 total days (each day having one evening and one morning).
We know when the temple sacrifices were restored. After the successful Maccabean revolt, the temple was rededicated on December 25, 165 BC. To commemorate that day, the Jews celebrate Hanukah.
The exact day regular sacrifices stopped is less clear. Antiochus’ severe persecution began six years before (fitting with the 2300-day theory). However, the temple was only desecrated about 3 years before (fitting with the 1150-day theory.)
It is not something that believers should divide over. No matter which interpretation you support, the principle we learn is still the same.
God rules over history. Evil will not be tolerated forever. According to His sovereign purpose, God may allow evil for a time. He allowed Antiochus Epiphanes to set up an image of Zeus in the temple. He allowed a pig to be burnt on the altar. He even allowed His people to be killed. But He did not forget. And He would not allow the evil-doer to go unpunished.
Application – When you look around and see evil triumphing, remember that God will not forget. Neither will He allow it to continue forever. One day He will put a stop to all sin. Each person will face judgment for what He has done. Wrongs will be set right. Do not admire the life of the wicked or the things that he has. Instead, consider what will happen to him and his wealth when God’s patience runs out.
III. The interpretation of the vision (15-27)
- How did Daniel react when he saw the vision (15)?
- What can we learn from his response?
- What is the desire of the being who looks a man?
- Who do you think this is? Why?
- What does this teach us about God’s desire for us?
- How can we understand the phrase, “the vision is for the time of the end?”
- What does verse 24 mean in that this man is powerful not by his own power? What power?
- How can we guard against becoming great in our own minds?
- How did Daniel react to the vision? Why do you think it affected him so deeply?
Proverbs 25:2 – It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out.
Amos 3:7 – For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.
Psalm 119:30 – The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
John 15:18 – If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. I sought to understand it – A hunger to learn is one of Daniel’s outstanding character traits. He didn’t just say, “this is too difficult to understand, never mind.” He “sought to understand it.”
In the twenty-first century, people seem less willing to use their brains. In the age of Netflix binge-watching, some prefer not to use their brain-power. It is too tiring. Short attention spans are common-place. Some statistics tell us that over 50% of people will abandon visiting a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
If we are not careful, this mindset can creep into the church. When it does, sermon length grows shorter. And believers continue drinking milk instead of moving on to solid meat.
Hebrews 5:12-14 – For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Application – When you don’t understand something in Scripture, if it is important, seek it out. Study the Word until you find the answer.
2. “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision” – For our part, we are supposed to have a heart to learn. When we do, God graciously teaches us. Throughout Scripture, we see that God has a heart to educate us. He wants us to know the truth. He wants us to see the light. Like a kind shepherd, He leads us step by step. We don’t need to walk in the dark.
The Lord opens our eyes and gives us understanding.
Psalm 119:130 – The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
Job 32:8 – But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
It is an amazing blessing for us that our Creator is not only transcendent, but also immanent. Immanent is a theological word that means God draws close to us and operates within our world. He is knowable because He has made Himself to be knowable.
Application – Thank the Lord for the light that He gives. And when you are in the dark, ask the source of all light to illuminate.
3. I was frightened and fell on my face – Many Bible characters had the same reaction when they came face-to-face with an angel. They are supernatural and their appearance can be terrifying.
4. I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation – The events of this chapter appear to refer to the Persian and Greek eras of history. These concluded before the time of Jesus. So how can the angel say it is about the times of the end?
Many Bible prophecies have a near-term and long-term fulfillment. For example, the Messiah is coming twice. That split fulfillment is not always clear in the Old Testament. The prophecies about the trampling of the temple and the war against the saints seem to be one of these split events with a near-term and long-term fulfillment. The first fulfillment can be seen as a foreshadowing of the final fulfillment in the end times. Thus, Antiochus Epiphanes and his cruel treatment of the Jews foreshadows the antichrist who is to come. He is a type of the antichrist to come.
Solomon said in Ecclesiastes that there is “nothing new under the sun” and this is one example of that. The end-times antichrist will in some way be an embodiment of all of the evil that has ever come against God’s people.
5. Description of the coming king – In verses 23-25, a description is given of this ruler. As noted above, I believe there is a duel-fulfillment of these prophecies.
As Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac was a type foreshadowing Jesus given in sacrifice for us by the Father, so Antiochus Epiphanes is a type, giving a hint of the types of cruel persecution God’s people will suffer in the last days.
A. A king of bold face who understands riddles – This ruler will be bold and skilled in intrigue.
B. Cunning deceit –He will be very gifted at telling lies. Don’t take his words at face value.
C. His power shall be great, but not by his own power – Here is a hint of the evil forces at work behind his rise to power. Satan uses men as pawns in his war against the Almighty. Believers need to prayerfully discern the evil agenda behind men such as these.
D. He shall destroy – His father is the devil and the devil seeks to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).
E. In his own mind he shall become great – This ruler will be pride personified. In reality, he is nothing next to the King of Kings. But he will have his own reality. And in that reality he is far greater than what he actually is.
Application – Let us be reminded not to be great in our minds! Those are qualities of antichrist. Jesus was humble. Satan is prideful. Whose example are we following?
F. He shall rise up against the Prince of princes and he shall be broken, but not by human hand – Antiochus IV blasphemed the Lord. The antichrist in the end-times will do the same. Revelation 16-19 describes some of the events of Armageddon. Antiochus was struck down with an unknown disease and died. The Maccabees believed this was judgment from God for his desecration of the temple. In Revelation, the beast (the antichrist) will be judged even more clearly. He will be sentenced directly by Jesus and thrown alive into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).
Many rise up against God in open rebellion. Many more secretly scoff Him. God will have the last word. Those who seek to thwart Him will be broken with no remedy.
6. Daniel was appalled by the vision – God had revealed to him some amazing things. No one else alive knew it. It was a heavy burden. But the Lord was gracious. And Daniel was faithful. He was able to continue in his duties. Although it seems from Daniel 5, that he did not have active duty at the court during Belshazzar’s reign, he apparently was still employed in some capacity.
Application – From this chapter we see that God holds the future in His hands. He is sovereign and on the throne. Which aspect of your future are your worried about? How can you entrust that to Him? How would your life look different if you entrust your future to the Lord?
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