Exposition of Daniel 8:19-27 Fall of the Last Evil King

Daniel 8:19-27

19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 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. 23 ”In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. 26 ”The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”

27 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 by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

As the angel Gabriel continues his explanation of the vision, verse 19 takes up the story where verse 17 left off. What he sees is a steady stream of Gentile oppressors for Israel, ending with the worst of all, the Antichrist. Note carefully the phrases “later in the time of wrath … the appointed time of the end” (verse 19). Miller explains that the first half of this quotation may also be translated “in the latter part of the time of wrath” (emphasis added).[1] The term translated “later part” will recur in verse 23.

Looking at matters from our own position in history, we find that Gabriel identifies three kingdoms long past (Medo-Persia, Greece, and the four kingdoms that emerged after Alexander) and one that will rise in our future, in the latter part of the time of wrath. The accuracy of the prophecy about the kingdoms in our past gives us complete confidence in what Gabriel says about the evil ruler to come, someone also known as the Antichrist or “the beast” (Rev. 13:2).

It is certainly wise to ask what ends at “the appointed time of the end” (verse 19). Wood explains the answer with skill: “The long period known as the times of the Gentiles (when Gentiles are dominant over Palestine, Luke 21:24) will be brought to a conclusion. The period began with the Judean captivity to Babylonia, since which time God’s people have never enjoyed a period of true autonomy over their land, and will end only with the Antichrist’s dethronement.”[2]

The NET Bible’s translation of verse 23 is probably preferable: “Toward the end of their rule, when rebellious acts are complete, a rash and deceitful king will arise.” In relation to the italicized phrase, the NET Bible Notes say, “The filling up of transgressions is a familiar OT expression (cf. Gen 15:16) and fits this context well.”[3] The idea to take away is that at the moment when rebellion against God is at its peak, the Antichrist will make his move toward supreme political power.

In verse 24 we are told that the fierce-looking king achieved great strength “but not by his own power.” There can be little doubt that the source of his power is none other than Satan (Rev. 12:9; 13:2; 2 Thess. 2:9).

At this point it is appropriate to say that we are interpreting this set of verses as if their chief referent were the Antichrist (following Wood) rather than Antiochus IV Epiphanes (following Miller). For example, verse 24 speaks of this evil ruler as causing “astounding devastation.” It is hard for us to see how a regional ruler, even one as bloody as Antiochus, can be said to have caused destruction that far surpassed rulers who came before him and those who came after. When the Roman general Titus led four legions against Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the temple was destroyed, its articles taken away, and over a million Jews died while almost 100,000 were sold into slavery.[4] Antiochus was an evil, boastful man, but he is just a shadow of what the Antichrist will be.

Verse 25 is important because it talks in summary about both the evil king’s methods and his eventual destruction. Since NIV omits translation of two phrases, we will consider the ESV instead: “By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken– but by no human hand.” From verse 25 we may conclude several things:

  • Deceit will play a major role in his rule.
  • He will have a high opinion of himself and behave arrogantly.
  • Many will die “without warning” (NIV: “when they feel secure”; NET: “unaware of his schemes”; CEB: “in a time of peace”).
  • He will oppose “the Prince of princes” [probably a reference to Jesus the Messiah as Lord of lords and King of kings].
  • He will be shattered by divine power.

For those who are historically aware, the closest modern equivalent might be Adolph Hitler, especially when we consider his deceit-filled rise to power, his arrogance and his earnest effort to exterminate the Jews. The coming evil king will make Hitler look like an amateur before God strikes him down.

Gabriel concludes (verse 26) by reaffirming the validity of “the vision of evenings and mornings” (verse 14), yet he orders the vision sealed up for preservation since it concerns the distant future. It makes sense that proclamation of the vision among the Jews would only create problems in light of the fact that the vision appalled Daniel, who actually saw it and heard the interpretation; he found the matter “beyond understanding” (verse 27).

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

[1] Miller, Daniel, 233.

[2] Wood, Daniel, 223.

[3] NET Bible Notes for Daniel 8:23.

[4] Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, VI.9.3.

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