Daniel 8: The Prince of the Heavenly Host
Introduction: Our study of Daniel is beginning to look more and more like a barnyard and a band with all of these animals and horns running around! What do these visions of animals have to teach us today? Is there anything relevant to us? Anything that inspires confidence in God? Or, is this just old, boring stuff? Let's dig in and find out!
- The Ram and the Goat
- Read Daniel 8:1-2. Was Daniel standing by the water in the province of Elam? (No. He was there in vision.)
- Do you like to stand beside water? If so, why? (It is peaceful to look at water.)
- We are told this is the third year of the reign of Belshazzar. Do you have any idea how long he reigned as King of Babylon? (Matthew Henry tells us this was this last year! Babylon was about to fall to the Medo-Persians.)
- Read Daniel 8:3-4. You are Daniel, in your dream you are having a peaceful stroll by the waterside, and you look up and see this ram with "long horns." Is this dream turning into a nightmare? How would you like to see a ram like this staring you in the face?
- The text says the ram "did as he pleased." Does this sound like your children?
- What do you think this means? (The text says that no one could stand against him or rescue from his power. This was a dangerous animal.)
- Let's skip ahead and read Daniel 8:20. What is this ram? (The interpretation of the dream is made clear in this chapter. This is the Medo-Persian empire. This refers to a time when it ruled the world.)
- Let's skip ahead a little more. Read Daniel 8:27. The vision makes Daniel sick. Why do you think he got sick over it? Is that because he is scared by his dream of this dangerous ram? (Remember that Daniel was one of the top administrators of the Babylonian empire. He had just been told in this vision that the Medo-Persian empire will take control ( Daniel 8:4) from the Babylonians. This means turmoil and upheaval in his life.)
- Let's go back to Daniel's waterside stroll. Read Daniel 8:5-7. That takes care of the ram problem. What do you think is meant by this goat with the big horn entering Daniel's vision? (Since the two-horned ram represented Medo-Persia, this goat with the big horn must represent a world power that took over by defeating Medo-Persia.)
- Read Daniel 8:21. What do we learn about then identity of the "Goat" power? (It is Greece. The "big horn" no doubt refers to Alexander the Great and the reference in v.5 to the goat moving so fast he did not touch the earth refers to the lightening speed of Alexander's conquests.)
- What parallel do you see between these texts and what we learned in the prior lessons about Daniel 2 and 7? (This reaffirms part of the king's dream about the statute (Daniel 2) and Daniel's dream about the beasts (Daniel 7). It reveals the political future of Daniel's world.)
- Why would God give Daniel the same information three times? (It must have been important.)
- What importance do you see in it?
- Put yourself in Daniel's place. You are a captive - and you have been a captive for most of your adult life. You worship what you claim to be the most powerful (and only) God of the universe. How would you explain the apparent powerlessness of your God? Why are "God's people" in captivity? (Worshiping the most powerful God has not resulted in you or your fellow Jews being released from captivity. This could cause doubt about whether God is in control. God gives Daniel three messages that, at their center, say God is in charge of kings and kingdoms.)
- Is this a relevant message for today? Is it encouraging to you?
- The Horn
- Read Daniel 8:8-9, 22-23. What are these four horns - and the one that grows into a "stern-faced king?" (Verse 22 clearly tells us that the four horns are four kingdoms that arise from the Greek Empire. Since we have already seen in Daniel 2 and 7 that the Roman Empire arises after Greece, this growing "stern-faced" horn appears to be the beginning of the Roman empire.)
- Let's read on: Daniel 8:10-11, 24-25. When you read (v.10) about the horn throwing down the "starry host" what other Bible text comes to mind? ( Revelation 12:4. It says the "red dragon" "swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.")
- What do you make of this similarity between these texts? (That the horn is related to Satan. The power of Satan must be behind it.)
- Did the Roman empire (v.11)stop the daily sacrifice of the temple? Did it (v.25) take a stand against the "Prince of princes?" Did it (v.11) bring low "the place of his sanctuary?" (Yes! Rome destroyed the temple in 70 A.D.. By its authority, it killed Jesus - the Prince of princes. Obviously, destroying the temple stopped the "daily sacrifice.")
- Let's just stop a minute here. Put yourself in Daniel's shoes. Did a temple in Jerusalem exist at the time he was strolling by the water? (No. It had been destroyed by the people who took him captive.)
- What would Daniel have to conclude about the reference in the future to stopping the daily sacrifice and (v.11) bringing low the place of the sanctuary? (The temple in Jerusalem had not yet been rebuilt. Remember this vision took place ( Daniel 8:1) in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar. This was sometime between 536 B.C. and 551 B.C. The temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and it is not rebuilt until about 516 B.C. However, it seems likely that work had begun on the rebuilding of the temple at this point. Another thing that would made Daniel sick ( Daniel 8:27) was the obvious conclusion that the temple that was being (or about to be) rebuilt would be destroyed for a second time!)
- 2300 Days
- Read Daniel 8:13-14. Is this good news for Daniel? (Yes. This paints a picture of a time when the temple will be restored.)
- At this point we get into controversy among Christians. Some suggest that the end of the temple sacrifice is the work of Antiochus Epiphanes at a time before Jesus was born. Does this seem logical to you? (Attributing this to Antiochus is a common belief, but the time frame is not correct. Antiochus desecrated the sanctuary in 168 B.C.. Daniel is looking at the destruction of the temple by Rome in 70 A.D.. Jesus, referring to Daniel's vision in Matthew 24:15, also speaks of the future destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The suggestion that this horn/stern-faced king is Antiochus has serious time problems.
- Other Christians believe that this horn is the head of the Roman Church. Does this seem logical to you? (If this text does refer to the destruction of the temple (and that seems plain), then the suggestion that the horn is the Roman Church also seems to have time-frame problems. The temple was destroyed long before the Roman Church became powerful.)
- What do you think Daniel concluded from this 2300 day prophecy? (It was, at bottom, good news. It meant that the temple would be back in operation at some time in the future.)
- Why would it be important for the temple to be in operation with its sacrifices? (This was the method used by the Jews to obtain forgiveness of sins.)
- The "teacher comments" in the "Teachers Edition" of the lesson states that "questioning voices regarding the interpretation of Daniel 8:14 ... strike at almost every major [church] doctrine." Do you agree or do you think that the lesson writers need to get out more?
- Those who think this refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, and who, based on Daniel 8:11, believe this is 2300 literal days, set the end of this time as 165 or 142 B.C.. The "Millerite movement," believing this referred 2300 literal years, set the end of this time period at 1844. Adam Clarke, a famous Bible commentator, wrote in 1825 (in his commentary on this text) that the end of the time period was 1966. If the time period is years, and it starts with the time of the destruction of the temple, then the end would be 2370 (about 368 years in the future). Is the timing of this important? (The SDA Bible commentary on Daniel 8:11 discusses the Antiochus theory, the Roman Church theory and the Roman Empire theory. It discounts the Antiochus theory and concludes, "as with other difficult passages of Scripture, our salvation is not dependent upon our understanding fully the meaning of Daniel 8:11.)
- What do you understand to be the major doctrines of the church? Do ANY of them turn on time prophecies? (No. The major doctrines of true Christians deal with the Deity, atonement and mediation of Christ, righteousness by faith and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the proper worship of God here on earth, the resurrection and the promise of a sin-free new world to come. Not even the belief in Christ's work in heaven as our mediator in the judgment, which is clearly taught in Hebrews 8 (and elsewhere in Hebrews), is dependent on a time prophecy.)
- Friend, why did God give Daniel these visions? (Other than to make a difficult and challenging study?) God gave Daniel (and us) these visions so that when our world seems to be going awry, when life is not going as we hoped, we can have confidence that God is in charge. He will win the battle against evil. Since God is in charge, will you choose to serve Him today?
- Next Week: Daniel 9: The Coming of the Messiah.