Daniel 8

DateVersionReading Plan
@October 17, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the Goat
  • The Interpretation of the Vision


The chapter opens with another vision that came to Daniel in the “third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (Dan. 8:1). Belshazzar became co-regent with Nabonidus in 553 BC. Assuming Daniel was about fifteen when he was exiled to Babylon, he would have received this vision in 550 BC when he was about seventy years old.

Dan. 8:2-8 is the description of Daniel’s vision that he saw from in Susa the citadel” (the royal residence of the Persian Empire (see. Esther 1:2) in the “province of Elam” (Dan. 8:2). Daniel saw a ram “standing on the bank of the canal” (Dan. 8:3), representing the Medo-Persian empire. It had two horns, representing the two nations in this confederated empire. One was longer than the other, and the longer one came up last, signifying the dominant status of Persia in the empire, even though it originally was the weaker kingdom. Daniel also saw “a male goat” that “came from the west across the whole face of the earth” (Dan. 8:5). The goat struck the ram and shattered his two horns, indicating the defeat of Medo-Persia by the Greek Empire (331 BC). The goat (Alexander the Great) became “exceedingly great”, but was struck down (”the great horn was broken”) at his peak. His kingdom was divided by four of his generals (Cassander over Macedon and Greece, Lysimachus over Thrace and Asia Minor, Seleucus over Syria and Babylon, Ptolemy over Egypt), described in the vision as four conspicuous horns that replaced him.

Dan. 8:9-14 is of “a little horn” that came out of one of the four kingdoms that divided the Greek Empire. This one was Antiochus IV (175–163 BC), ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, who conquered surrounding areas to the south and to the east but especially dominated the beautiful land of Israel. He brutally trampled and persecuted the Jewish people from 170–164 BC. Daniel then heard “a holy one speaking” and another one speaking “to the one who spoke” (Dan. 8:13). An angel announced that Antiochus’s defilement of Israel would last only 2,300 evenings and mornings, until the temple was rededicated by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC. This event is still celebrated by Jewish people today during the festival of Hanukkah.

In Dan. 8:15-26, Daniel seeks to understand the vision. As with his first vision in Dan. 7, he was not able to interpret himself. Instead, Daniel received the interpretation from the angel Gabriel who was ordered by “one having the appearance of a man.” (Dan. 7:15). Gabriel, only one of two angels (along with Michael) who are named in Scripture. Gabriel would also give the message of Daniel’s seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24–27) and announce the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah (Luke 1:19) and the birth of the Messiah Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26). Daniel responds to Gabriel by falling “into a deep sleep” but Gabriel promptly touches Daniel and made him stand up (Dan. 8:18). Gabriel makes the interpretation of the two horns of the ram being Media and Persia. After this, Gabriel expands his description of Antiochus and that he would take the throne through deceit against the rightful heir, his nephew Demetrius. His great power would not be his own but would have a satanic source. He would succeed at first, defeating powerful rulers and generals and destroying many of God’s holy people Israel and deceive himself, thinking himself great enough to oppose God. Nevertheless, he would ultimately and suddenly be broken, not through assassination or battle but through some ailment sent by God. The death of Antiochus can be found in the deuterocanonical texts: 1 Maccabees 6:8-16; 2 Maccabees 9.

The final verse (Dan. 8:27) is of Daniel’s illness and astonishment of the vision. He then recovers and continues in the king’s business remaining appalled by the vision and his lack of understanding because they referred to events well into the future.


Daniel has another vision of a ram and a goat with various horns; their actions and movements representing kingdoms as they rise, battle and fall. Gabriel is ordered to give Daniel the interpretation, however, since much of it was to happen in the far distant future, its meaning remained hidden. Daniel is told to “seal up the vision” for safekeeping and is left appalled and not understanding it (Dan. 8:25-26).

It’s important for us to see how Daniel did not completely understand the implications of his vision. If Daniel didn’t understand it having the vision himself and Gabriel to interpret, then it is safe to say we are not meant to fully comprehend it either. This can seem frustrating for us as modern day readers. We have virtually unfettered access to all recorded human history and so when we approach obscure texts like these, we can begin to question their purpose or value. But rather than being annoyed, we need to appreciate the much larger truth being administered, namely that we need to trust God more than we need to know. It is to the One who knows all that we are to look, confident that He will reveal everything needed in due time.

Scripture Journal Notes

Commentaries & Resources Used