Image source: MappingCivilisation
Daniel’s first vision in Daniel Chapter 2 shows that there will be four empires, from Daniel’s day to the coming of the messiah – these ended up being Babylon (head of gold), Persia (chest of silver), Greece (thighs of bronze), and Rome (legs and toes of iron mixed with clay). The first vision shows that these empires become less glorious as time goes on; while the second vision in Daniel 7 show these empires as wild animals – informing Daniel that their cruelty grows worse as time goes on.
Today, we are studying the third vision in Daniel Chapter 8; it is about how the Persian empire (symbolized as a Ram) was defeated by the Greek empire (the Goat); and about how down the line the Greek empire will produce a king, who will act viciously towards Israel and directly challenge God’s authority.
Daniel 8: 21-25 (NIV) (shortened) states: “The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power… [in] the latter part of their reign… a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise… He will destroy… the holy people… he will consider himself superior…. he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.”
History shows that after Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he died and his empire was split among four of his military officers into four kingdoms. Lysimachus ruled in the west; Antigonus ruled the central regions; Seleucus ruled the eastern regions; Ptolemy ruled the southern regions; click on the map to see all of this clearly. The eastern kingdom, the Seleucid dynasty, ruled from Syria to Babylon; the southern kingdom, the Ptolemaic dynasty ruled over Egypt and later Israel.
However, 115 years later, Seleucid King Antiochus the third, captured Israel, from the Ptolemites, he was gentle with Israel. His son King Antiochus the fourth called himself Antiochus Epiphanes (‘God Manifest’ in the flesh). He was vicious to Israel, sacrificing a pig in the temple, an abomination; in his 12 years of rule, he almost wiped out Israel from existence. Judas Maccabeus, a priest, led a revolt with a small army and won against the larger army of Antiochus; Jews celebrate Hanukkah to remember this victory; Antiochus Epiphanes later died suddenly of illness.
The third vision showed Daniel that Israel in captivity in Babylon was a small matter, compared with was still to come in the future during the Greek empire. Daniel Chapter 8 closes in verse 27 with these words – “I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled [horrified, shocked] by the vision; it was beyond understanding.”
Daniel saw human leaders continually think of themselves as gods and do vicious things. We see how these human leaders pass away and God’s kingdom continues to grow. Daniel saw how human leaders can be cruel and unafraid to challenge God’s authority, we see how God remains on his throne from age to age, human leaders pass away. The book of Daniel calls us to stay with God in hard times like what we experience today; God is the rock, all other ground is sinking sand.
Great God, help us to see that your boat is the most stable from age to age; and that there is a place for everyone in your boat, Amen!