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A Ram and a Goat (chapter 8)
A Ram and a Goat
Daniel 8
In the first half of the book of Daniel, it is rather easy to see how Daniel was able to thrive in Babylon.  Even though he was a captive, God blessed his obedience and he was able to enjoy position and privilege, even though he was living in a pagan empire.  And he did it without compromising his faith or testimony!
So the first 6 chapters of the book hang together in that they are primarily narrative in nature, recording the personal experiences and accounts of the life of Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. And because of that, it is easy to pinpoint specific actions and attitudes that allowed these Hebrew children, not just to survive, but actually thrive in Babylon. 
The second half of the book, as we saw last week, is prophetic in nature.  That's not to say it isn't historical; it is.  It is still sharing the experiences of Daniel. but the story line isn't primarily about his life and what's happening.  It is on the future as Daniel looks forward through events yet to happen to reveal God's plan for the ages. 
God gave to Daniel in these chapters, a series of visions and revelations of the world powers that would come from the day of Babylon all the way to the end of the age, just before the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
In the seventh chapter God gave Daniel a vision of four animals that arise out of the Great Sea of humanity.
In verse 4 he talks about a lion, picturing the Babylonian Empire.  Then, in verse 5 he talks about a bear that represented the Medo-Persia reign.  In verse 6 he talks about the leopard that was Greece and in verse 7 he sees a fourth beast representing the Roman Empire that was so dreadful he couldn't even describe it. 
And as you know, the vision of Daniel was very similar to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in which he saw the same kingdoms represented by a statue made of various metals.  It is eventually destroyed by a stone cut from the mountain that represents the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ Himself.
Now, in chapter 8, the Spirit of God zeroes in on the second and third kingdoms to give some specific detailed revelation about the Medo-Persian Empire and the Greek Empire.  And it is a fascinating chapter.  Let's begin with
1.      The Setting of the Vision
verses 1-2
One thing that needs to be mentioned before we get too deep in our study is that the book of Daniel is
- the setting of the language
The book of Daniel was written in two different languages.  That's not apparent in our English translations because it's all in English.  But unlike any other book of the Bible, with Daniel part of it was written in Hebrew and part was written in Aramaic. 
For instance, the book begins with chapter one being written in Hebrew.  Then at the fourth verse of the second chapter, it switches over to Aramaic, which was primarily the language of the Gentile.  Then, in the eighth chapter, it switches back to Hebrew and concludes the book in that way. 
You may be asking, "So what?" The answer is found in looking at the content of what is written in each language with what was written in Hebrew dealing more with Hebrew matters and what was written in Aramaic dealing more with other nations and situations relating to them. 
So in chapter 8, he switches back to Hebrew, which I see as an indicator that God is about to get very specific about how these world powers and kingdoms are going to impact His chosen people, the nation of Israel.  So He writes in the Hebrew language.  We have the setting of the language.
There is also
- the setting of the location 
Daniel, all of these years, has been in Babylon.  When he was just a young person he was picked up from where he lived and was carried off to the nation of Babylon. He was specially trained for service in the nation. He has now risen to become the Prime Minister of Babylon.
And now God is revealing to him that Babylon is going to pass off the scene of world powers.  And the next world power is going to be the Medo-Persian Empire. 
And God indicates that to him by changing his physical location.  Did you catch that detail in verse 2? 
In this vision, Daniel sees himself in a place called Shushan, which was the winter capital of Persian kings.  So in this vision, God just picks Daniel up and carries him to the capital of the Persian Empire which is about 200 miles southeast of the city of Babylon.  And by doing that, God directs his attention away from Babylon and focuses it on the Medo-Persian Empire and what's about to happen. 
That's the setting of the vision.  Next, let's consider
2. The Substance of the Vision
Once God has Daniel in Shushan, thinking about the Mddo-Persian Empire, he begins to provide some specific details about these two world powers.  Now bear in mind, when Daniel wrote down what we read here, these kingdoms were not even in existence and were far beyond what men knew and recognized.
For instance,
verse 3
The first thing he sees is this ram with these unusual horns.  And we don't have to wonder about the meaning or interpretation of this ram.  We are told specifically what the ram represents in
verse 20
So we know exactly what the ram represents.  It represents the kingdoms of the Medes and the Persians and the two horns represent the two kings.  So why was the ram symbolic of the Medo-Persian Empire?  Well, it was because they all drove around in Dodge pickups honking their horns!
Actually, history records that the Persians considered a ram with sharp, pointed horns to be their guardian spirit, and that when the ruler of the Persians went out to battle, he wore a ram's head instead of a crown. 
In fact,  one commentary I read said it was usual for the king of Persia to wear a ram’s head made of gold, and set with precious stones, instead of a diadem.  He goes on to say that a ram’s head with horns, one higher and the other lower, was the royal ensign of the Persians, and is still to be seen on the pillars of Persepolis.
And I find it extremely interesting that Daniel saw two horns and one was higher than the other.  Those horns represent the Medes and the Persians and we know from history that Persia was the stronger of the two in this coalition. 
In verse 4 it says that the ram pushes westward, northward and southward. 
If you get out your history books about this particular period of history, you will discover that is exactly how the Persian Empire expanded.  It moved westward into Libya.  It moved northward into Asia Minor and southward into Egypt. 
And this Persia Empire was like a lumbering, roaming  ram that conquered everything in its way, including  Babylon.  So the first identity in Daniel's vision, that of the ram, is the Medo-Persian Empire.
Secondly in verse 5, Daniel sees a goat, and again, we're not left to wonder about who the goat represents. 
Verse 21
Now he sees the kingdom of Greece and it's interesting to know that when Daniel was given this vision, the Greek Empire was not even in existence.  I don't know what men did about their graying hair back then since the Grecian Empire wasn't around.    
Greece, at this particular time in history, was nothing more than a coalition of independent city states but they would eventually come together to form the mighty empire.  The national emblem of the Greek Empire became a goat, probably because the the Greek word "Aegea" means "goat.  Greece is located on the Aegean Sea which means the goat sea?
Now Alexander didn't invade the Persian Empire until 334 BC. The book of Daniel begins in 605 BC, and most scholars date its writing sometime around 530 BC.  So here is Daniel, 200 years before the Alexander and the Greeks begin their conquest of Persian, providing specific details about the coming kingdom long before any of it came into existence.
Now, in verse 5, we see the advancement of the Greek Empire.
verse 5
Notice, it says that the goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth.  This was a change in world power.  World power had always moved from the east to the west.  Now there is the prediction that it will move from the west to the east. 
That is exactly what happened when Alexander led his Grecian forces against the kingdom of Persia.  We are also told in verse 5 that this goat did not touch the ground.  This means that they had swiftness and mighty power in movement.  That is exactly characteristic of the Greek Empire.  They were swift in their movement.  They were tremendously powerful in their movement.
Then he draws attention to this "notable" horn between the goat's eyes.  It is a conspicuous feature, making it a unicorn goat.  And again, we're told just exactly what that horn represents.
verse 21
So here is a reference to none other than Alexander the Great.  He was an amazing man in many, many ways.  And here we are told about his amazing conquest of the world, and specifically that he will attack and overthrow the Medo-Persian Empire. 
In fact, so amazing is this prophecy that when Alexander the Great, in his exploits to assume control of the world, came to the city of Jerusalem, about to attack and destroy the city,  the high priest came out with the scroll of this very book and showed  Alexander the Great this very chapter and the verses that point to him. 
He showed him that God had predicted in His Word his existence and so impressed and so amazed by it was Alexander the Great that he changed his plans and spared the city of Jerusalem.
Verses 6-8 tell us about the power of the Greek Empire and the overthrow of the Persians. 
verses 6-8a
And notice what the Bible says will happen to this first king. 
verse 8b
At the height of his power the prediction is made here that the Greek king, Alexander the Great, will be broken and we know that happened.  It happened in June of 223 BC.  Alexander was in Babylon at the time.  He had conquered the known world at that time. So far as he knew there were no other worlds to conquer. 
Alexander was a drinker, and that weakened his defenses.  History tells us that while in Babylon, he became very, very ill with marsh fever. Isn't it something?  Here was a man who was a brilliant general.  A man who could conquer the nations of the world, and yet he could not conquer his own vices. He could not conquer his own intemperance. 
And just exactly as Daniel predicts, the kingdom of Alexander, his Grecian Empire, is divided into four notable parts.  We can pick up our history book, and we read the history of the Greek Empire. 
We read that after Alexander the Great died, they took his empire and divided it among four of his generals.  These generals are Seleucus, Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander.  That is exactly what scripture says.
Now Daniel is moving rapidly through world history. 
Verse 9 tells us about a little horn that arises from out of one of the four. 
verse 9
So here we have this leader who arose out of this Greek Empire that had been divided four ways.  He came out of Syria and his reign reached to the South, which would be Egypt, toward the eas, which is Babylon and toward the Glorious Land, which is Jerusalem and Israel. 
Again, we have the privilege of history helping us to know who this is referencing.  We know his name was Antiochus Epiphanes IV.
He came from the line of Seleucus, which means that his kingdom was centered in the area of modern-day Syria. He reigned over the Seleucid dynasty from 175-164 BC.
He is remembered mostly for his tyrannical persecution of the Jews.  He had a fierce hatred of all things Jewish. He began by attempting to seduce the Jews to adopt Greek culture. At one point he built a gymnasium outside Jerusalem where Jewish young men took part in Greek athletic events. Those games were played in the nude, which promoted the moral breakdown of traditional Hebrew values.
Many Jews were willing to make various compromises because they were attracted to Greek culture. They wanted to be Greek on the outside and Jewish on the inside. However, the majority of Jews would not give up their ancient faith.
In one attack on Jerusalem, 40,000 people were killed and 10,000 were carried into captivity. At one point Antiochus put an end to the daily sacrifices at the Temple. He systematically looted the Temple of its treasures, even carrying off the golden altar of incense and the golden lampstand.
Later he put a statue of Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar. This terrible event came to be known as the “abomination of desolation.” In Matthew 24:15 Jesus used the same term to describe the end-time blasphemies of the Antichrist.
Antiochus tried to stop the practice of circumcision, which lies at the heart of Jewish religion. He even had circumcised male babies put to death and hung around the necks of their mothers who were paraded through the streets of Jerusalem and then pushed off a cliff and dashed to pieces on the rocks below.
He ordered all copies of the Torah (the Old Testament) burned. Anyone found with a copy was put to death. Daniel talked about that in verse 12 when he mentioned “truth cast to the ground”. 
He called himself “Antiochus Epiphanes,” which means Antiochus the Magnificent” or “Antiochus the Glorious.”
Coins from that era have been found bearing his likeness and the Greek phrase Theos Epiphanes—God Manifest. The Jews called him Antiochus Epimanes, a play on words meaning Antiochus the Madman.
He was quite a character. History records him to be one of the cruelest, most vicious leaders the world has ever known.  The stories that come from his reign are almost too horrible to tell. 
Finally, there was a group of priests among the Jews who just had all they could stand of it.  They rebelled. They were known as the Maccabean priests, the Maccabees.
The Apocrypha, the extra-biblical books between the Old Testament and New Testament were written by the Maccabees. 
And even though they are not accepted as a part of the inspired scripture, they do give us history of that time.  We're given the story of the Maccabees and their resistance and rebellion against Antiochus Epiphanes. 
Ultimately, they were able to regain the Temple area and Judas Maccabees went into the Temple, and just exactly like it says in verse 14, the sanctuary was cleansed.
How many days do you think it was from the time Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the Temple until the time it was cleansed under Judas Maccabees?  Would you be interested to know it was 2300 days to the day, just exactly like God predicted in verse 14?
The Bible is an absolutely astonishing book. In fact, if you are ever running low on ignorance, I would encourage you to find a person doesn't believe the Bible, bore about a quarter of an inch from the top of his skull and you'll hit a gusher!  It's an astonishing thing.
Well, that's something of the substance of the vision.  Now let's think about
3. The Scope of the Vision
Obviously, God is doing more than just providing data about the future because God also reveals to Daniel that this vision is going to have broader fulfillment than just what was fulfilled under Antiochus Epiphanes. 
verse 15
Who is this man?  Daniel is about to find out that he is face to face with none other than the angel Gabriel. 
verses 16-19
He explains to Daniel that what he's seen is primarily about "the time of the end" and that the physical, earthly rulers are only prototypes of one who is coming at the end of the age.
verses 23-25
So here we are told about the personality of this coming king of the end time that we refer to as the anti-Christ.  Gabriel says he will have fierce features. 
He's going to have supernatural powers of intelligence.  He is energized by none other than Satan himself.  We are also told he will hate the Jews 
He will use methods of deceit, as well as peace.  He will promise peace, but he will bring destruction.  We'll see more of that in the next chapter. 
And notice what it says in the middle of verse 25 about his attack on "the Prince of princes."  That is a reference to Jesus Himself.  He'll stand up against the Prince of Princes but he shall be broken without human means.  That means he will be supernaturally destroyed. 
The antichrist is going to get so smart and he's going to be so victorious and powerful that finally, he's going to make the mistake of attacking heaven.  He decides to take on the Prince of Princes, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  And when he takes on Jesus, it's all over.
I heard about a farmer who had a bull.  It was a pretty obnoxious bull, a pretty bold bull.  One day this bull decided that it would get on the railroad tracks and take on the train coming down the tracks.  Here comes the engine down the tracks and that old bull just charged that train engine. 
Sometime later on the farmer had a shovel out on the track and was shoveling up the remains of his old bull.  The farmer said, "Well, I admire his courage, but I sure do question his common sense." 
I don't even admire the antichrist's common sense.  Because anytime you take on Jesus, you're going to lose.  You think you're going to defy Jesus Christ? 
You think you're going to rebel against the Lord Jesus Christ?  You're going to lose.  You're charging a train.  You can't win that battle.  And neither can the antichrist.  Suddenly, by the hand of God. His little journey from the womb to the tomb will be over. In the words of Martin Luther,
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
And notice
verse 26
What he's saying is this is all true and we know it is.  And one of these days it will happen.
Verse 27
In other words, it was so overwhelming that it actually made him physically sick.  You can only imagine.  But that wasn't the end of it for Daniel.  Daniel had work to do and he said, "I got up and went about the king's business."
Which brings me to this final word:
This chapter includes the ultimate good news. If we know the Lord, we are joined with the One who is the ultimate victor in the battle between good and evil.
But it also contains this warning: The battle between Christ and Antichrist is fought to the finish in every human heart. And we've got to choose with whom we will join forces.
And we have to make the choice now it will be too late to change sides at the second coming.”
So in the end the question becomes very personal. Where do you stand? Are you on the side of Jesus Christ? If you don’t know how to answer that question, you are already on the wrong side. No one slides into heaven by accident. Each one of us must decide which side we are on.
There is no room for neutrality. It is light or darkness, God or Satan, Christ or the Antichrist. Where do you stand?  Only those who stand with Christ will be safe in the days ahead. May each of us be found true to Christ no matter what the cost. Amen.
Let's pray.
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