Exposition of Daniel 8:9-18 An ancient sketch of the Antichrist

Daniel 8:9-18

9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the LORD; it took away the daily sacrifice from the LORD, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the LORD’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled — the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the LORD’s people?” 14 He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”

15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.” 17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” 18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.

When we considered verse 8, we concluded that the four horns were Alexander’s generals, who inherited the four parts of his kingdom. In verse 9, our attention narrows to one of the four horns, Seleucus (312-280 B.C., reign), who ruled the area of Syria, Babylon and India. As the dynasty continued, the kingship eventually came to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 B.C., reign). He is considered by scholars to be “another horn, which started small and grew in power” (verse 9). Examining his image on his coinage would reveal in detail the strong resemblance of this coin to one depicting Alexander the Great. That should give you a clue about Antiochus IV.

That strange epithet “Epiphanes” means manifest or manifestation in Greek.  The inscription on the back of the coin reads “King Antiochus, God Manifest, Victor.” Not too shy, is he? The Greek historian Polybius, a contemporary of Antiochus Epiphanes, said that the king had gained the different surname Epimanes {“the Madman”] by his conduct.[2] His conduct may have been strange, but his power expanded greatly, including toward “the Beautiful Land” (verse 9b), an epithet referring to Palestine.

Antiochus Epiphanes is brought to Daniel’s attention — though not by name — because he treated the inhabitants of Palestine so severely and desecrated the temple. In addition, his conduct previews what the Antichrist will do in the last days. Wood explains:

Antiochus Epiphanes is sometimes called the antichrist of the Old Testament; that is, the one who brought suffering to the Jews in his day, in the pattern of what the real Antichrist will do during the Great Tribulation (compare 7:24-26 and 9:27 with 8:10-13). From what Antiochus did to Jews in his day, therefore, one may know the general pattern of what the Antichrist will do to them in the future.[3]

Two examples will show the savage, defiant nature of Antiochus Epiphanes. Two ancient Jewish historical works, 1 and 2 Maccabees, “are considered to contain generally reliable history.”[4] They allege that in 169 B.C., the king ordered an attack on Jerusalem that resulted in 80,000 deaths, including even infants. Miller also says, “In December 167 B.C. Antiochus committed his crowning act of sacrilege against the Jewish religion by erecting an altar to Zeus in the temple precincts and offering swine on it.”[5]

The term “the commander of the armies of the LORD” (verse 11) is NIV’s clarifying expansion of a two-word Hebrew phrase meaning “commander of the army.” We consider this term to be a reference to the Messiah; the phrase is a close match to the title found in Joshua 5:14, when Joshua met the commander of Yahweh’s army before the walls of Jericho. Jesus the Messiah is also pictured in this role in Rev. 19:11-16.  The acts of Antiochus in killing some of God’s people was considered the killing of part of God’s army.

Verses 11–12 contain a litany of defeat in which worship of Yahweh is overthrown and his truth is treated with contempt. We are told all this occurs “because of rebellion” (verse 12), and we agree with Miller about the cause: “The books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees report that many in Israel were not faithful to their God and even adopted the idolatrous Greek religion (cf. 1 Macc. 1:11-15, 43).”[6] It is important to realize that Antiochus was able to do these things because God allowed his defiance to manifest itself for a certain period of time. The same pattern will recur for the Antichrist.

It is fascinating to find that angels share our curiosity about things to come (verse 13) and wonder how long the tragic events would be allowed to go on. The answer is provided in terms of “evenings and mornings” (verse 14), a unit that has proven controversial. Because two sacrifices occurred at the temple in a day, morning and evening, some think the period will be 1,150 days. However, no mention of sacrifices occurs in verse 14, and the phrase is literally “evening morning,” similar to Genesis chapter 1. For these and other reasons, we agree with Miller[7] and Wood[8] in saying the verse’s explicit reference to “2,300” refers to 2,300 days, or about 6 years and 4 months. The end point appears to fall on December 14, 164 B.C., when the temple was cleansed and rededicated.

We will have more to say about the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in relation to verse 25 below, but we can tell you now that his career did not take him to the same spiritual destination as Nebuchadnezzar.

Verses 15-18 are transitional in that they begin with Daniel trying to understand the vision and end with Daniel waiting to hear a heaven-sent explanation (given in verses 19-26). However, certain details are elusive, perhaps because the intent of the encounter is to provide the explanation of the vision rather than to dissect an overwhelming experience.

Three figures are present: Daniel, the angel Gabriel and “one who looked like a man” (verse 15). With Miller, we conclude that this last figure “is best understood to be God himself.”[9] It is his voice that echoes off the walls of the Ulai canal to command Gabriel to provide the meaning of the vision to Daniel (verse 16).

In verses 17-18, it is easy to focus on the wrong thing: Daniel’s condition. Far more important is Gabriel’s statement that “the vision concerns the time of the end” (verse 17). Scholars differ over the referent of the two-word Hebrew phrase translated “time of the end.” Some think it refers to the end of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Others think it refers to the Antichrist’s reign of terror just prior to Christ’s second coming. A final group thinks it applies to both.

We adopt the view that the vision mainly relates to the period of profound trouble — still future to us today — during which the Antichrist occupies center stage. The similarity of the vision to events during the reign of Antiochus IV illustrates the kind of measures the Antichrist will take, but only in the way that a sketch of a criminal fugitive suggests the true face of the criminal.

We adopt that view for several reasons:

  1. The two-word Hebrew phrase translated “time of the end” (verse 17) occurs four other times in Daniel (11:35, 40; 12:4, 9), and all of them relate to the time just prior to Christ’s return.
  2. Wood rightly asks what really ends when Antiochus IV falls: “This did not bring an end to Jewish suffering. No day of blessedness [such as the Millennium predicted by the prophets] then set in.”[10]
  3. The similarity of the vision in Daniel 7 to the one in Daniel 2 makes a decisive difference. The stone that shattered the image in chapter 2 quickly becomes a world-spanning, eternal kingdom (Daniel 2:44). No such kingdom arises after the fall of Antiochus IV.

More support will be presented in a post to come.

Copyright © 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[2] Polybius, The Histories, Book XXVI, line 1.1.

[3] Wood, Daniel, 212.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 226, footnote 26.

[5] Miller, Daniel, 226.

[6] Miller, Daniel, 227.

[7] Miller, Daniel 229.

[8] Wood, Daniel, 218.

[9] Miller, Daniel, 231.

[10] Wood, Daniel, 222–3.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!