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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Daniel 8

 

 

Verse 1

Daniel 8:1. In the third year of King Belshazzar — Daniel’s former vision of the four great beasts, representing the four great empires of the world, took place in the first year of Belshazzar; now, in the third year of that king’s reign, he had another vision, which chiefly respected two of those empires. Thus God showed the same things to Daniel at different times, and under different symbols; doubtless in order that they might be more deeply impressed on his mind, and that he might more distinctly understand them in all their circumstances. We find God acting in the same manner with some of the other prophets, particularly Ezekiel, to whom he showed the destruction of Jerusalem by a great many different types, or symbols. This vision was communicated to Daniel about the year before Christ 553, according to Usher, Prideaux, and other chronologers.


Verse 2

Daniel 8:2. I saw in a vision — When I was awake, and had my bodily senses: see Daniel 8:3, and compare Daniel 10:4-5. This was accounted a more perfect degree of revelation than the having a representation of things imprinted on the imagination during sleep. When I saw, I was at Shushan in the palace — This circumstance shows that Daniel continued in some post of honour, at least during the former part of the reign of Belshazzar. Which is in the province of Elam — The province of Elam, or Persia, properly so called, was taken from Astyages, king of Media, by Nebuchadnezzar, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah against Elam, Jeremiah 49:34. And it was subject to the king of Babylon when Daniel saw this vision; though afterward the viceroy of that country revolted to Cyrus, and joined with him in taking Babylon. And I was by the river Ulai Or, Eluæus, as it was called by the Greeks and Romans. This river divided Susiana from the province of Elam, properly so called: see Plin., lib. 6. cap. 27. Elam, however, is often taken in a larger sense, so as to comprehend Susiana under it. It was usual for the prophets to see visions by river sides, of which Daniel gives us another instance, chap. Daniel 10:4; and Ezekiel likewise saw visions by the river Chebar, Ezekiel 1:3; as if the Holy Spirit delighted to manifest himself in such retired scenes. And the gifts and graces of the Spirit are often, in Scripture language, described by the metaphors of springs and streams of water, than which nothing is more agreeable and refreshing in hot and dry countries.


Verse 3

Daniel 8:3. I saw, and behold, a ram with two horns — In the former vision there appeared four beasts, because there four empires were represented; but in this two only, because here we have a representation of what was transacted chiefly within two empires. The first of the four empires, that is, the Babylonian, is wholly omitted here; for its fate was sufficiently known, and it was now drawing very near to a conclusion. The second empire in the former vision is the first in this; and what is there compared to a bear, is here prefigured by a ram. This ram had two horns; and, according to the explication of the angel Gabriel, Daniel 8:20, it was the empire of the Medes and Persians. The source of this figure of horns for kingdoms, must be derived from the hieroglyphics of Egypt, from which most of the metaphors and figures in the oriental languages were originally derived; and in these languages the same word signifies a horn, a crown, power, and splendour, whence a horn was an ensign of royalty among the Phenicians; and the Hebrew word קרן, keren, signifying a horn, is several times by the Chaldeans rendered מלכותא, malchutha, or a kingdom; and horns are frequently used for kings and kingdoms in the Old Testament. This empire, therefore, which was formed by the conjunction of the Medes and Persians, was not unfitly represented by a ram with two horns. Cyrus, the founder of this empire, was the son of Cambyses, king of Persia, and, by his mother Mandane, was grandson of Astyages, king of Media; and afterward marrying the daughter and only child of his uncle Cyaxares, king of Media, he succeeded to both crowns, and united the kingdoms of Media and Persia. It was a coalition of two very formidable powers, and therefore it is said that the two horns were high; but one, it is added, was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. The kingdom of Media was the more ancient of the two, and more famous in history. Persia was of little note or account till the time of Cyrus; but under him the Persians gained and maintained the ascendant. But a question remains, why that empire, which was before likened to a bear for its cruelty, should now be represented by a ram? Now the Hebrew word for a ram, which is איל, ail, and עילם, eelam, which is the Hebrew word for Persia, both sprang from the same root; and both implying something of strength, the one is not improperly made the type of the other. The propriety of it appears further from hence, that 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. We may add, 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: see Bishop Newton.


Verse 4

Daniel 8:4. I saw the ram pushing westward, &c. — Under Cyrus himself the Persians pushed their conquests westward, as far as the Ægean sea, subduing Babylonia, Syria, and Asia Minor; and extended them to part of Greece under his successors, Darius the son of Hystaspes, and Xerxes: northward they subdued the Lydians, Iberians, Albanians, Armenians, Cappadocians, and the adjacent countries: southward they conquered Arabia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, if not under Cyrus, as Xenophon affirms, yet most certainly under Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus. Under Darius they subdued India; but in the prophecy no mention is made of their conquests in the East, because those countries lay very remote from the Jews, and were of little concern or consequence to them.


Verse 5

Daniel 8:5. As I was considering, behold, a he-goat, &c. — This is interpreted, Daniel 8:21, to be the king, or kingdom, of Grecia. “A goat is very properly made the type of the Grecian or Macedonian empire; because the Macedonians at first, about two hundred years before Daniel, were denominated Ægeadæ, or the goats’ people; and upon this occasion, as heathen authors report: Caranus, their first king, going with a great multitude of Greeks to seek new habitations in Macedonia, was commanded by the oracle to take the goats for his guides to empire: and afterward, seeing a herd of goats flying from a violent storm, he followed them to Edessa, and there fixed the seat of his empire, made the goats his ensigns, or standards, and called the city Ægeæ, or, The Goats’ Town, and the people Ægeadæ, or, The goats’ people. And to this may be added, that the city Ægeæ, or Ægæ, was the usual burying-place of the Macedonian kings. It is also very remarkable, that Alexander’s son, by Roxana, was named Alexander Ægus, or the son of the goat; and some of Alexander’s successors are represented on their coins with goats’ horns. This he-goat came from the west; and who is ignorant that Europe lies westward of Asia? He came on the face of the whole earth, carrying every thing before him in all the three parts of the world then known; and he touched not the ground — His marches were so swift, and his conquests so rapid, that he might be said, in a manner, to fly over the ground without touching it. For the same reason, the same empire, in the former vision, was likened to a leopard, which is a swift, nimble animal; and, to denote the greater quickness and impetuosity, to a leopard with four wings.” “He flew,” says Dean Prideaux, “with victory, swifter than others can travel; often with his horse pursuing his enemies upon the spur whole days and nights; and sometimes making long marches for several days one after the other, as once he did in pursuit of Darius, of near forty miles a day, for eleven days together. So that, by the speed of his marches, he came upon his enemies before they were aware of him, and conquered them before they could be in a posture to resist him.” The goat had a notable horn between his eyes “This horn, says the angel, is the first king, or kingdom, of the Greeks in Asia, which was erected by Alexander the Great, and continued for some years in his brother, Philip Aridæus, and his two young sons, Alexander Ægus and Hercules.” — Bishop Newton.


Verse 6-7

Daniel 8:6-7. And he came to the ram that had two horns, &c. — “The ram had before pushed westward, and the Persians, in the reign of Darius Hystaspes and Xerxes, had poured down with great armies into Greece; but now the Grecians, in return, carried their arms into Asia, and the he- goat invaded the ram that had invaded him. And he came to the ram &c., which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. One can hardly read these words without having some image of Darius’s army standing and guarding the river Granicus, and of Alexander on the other side, with his forces plunging in, swimming across the stream, and rushing on the enemy with all the fire and fury that can be imagined. And I saw him come close unto the ram — He had several close engagements, or set battles, with the king of Persia, and particularly at Granicus in Phrygia, at the straits of Issus in Cilicia, and in the plains of Arbela, in Assyria. And he was moved with choler against him — For the cruelties which the Persians had exercised toward the Grecians; and for Darius’s attempting to corrupt sometimes his soldiers to betray him, and sometimes his friends to destroy him: so that he would not listen to the most advantageous offers of peace, but determined to pursue the Persian king, not as a generous and noble enemy, but as a poisoner and a murderer, to the death which he deserved. And smote the ram, and brake his two horns — He subdued Persia and Media, with other provinces and kingdoms of the Persian empire; and it is remarkable, that in Persia he barbarously sacked and burned the royal city of Persepolis, the capital of the empire; and in Media, Darius was seized and made prisoner by some of his own treacherous subjects, who not long afterward basely murdered him. And there was no power in the ram to stand before him, &c. — He conquered wherever he came; routed all the forces, took all the cities and castles, and entirely subverted and ruined the Persian empire. And there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand — Not even his numerous armies could defend the king of Persia, though his forces in the battle of Issus amounted to 600,000 men, and in that of Arbela, to 10 or 1100,000, whereas the whole number of Alexander’s was not more than 47,000 in either engagement.” — Bishop Newton.


Verse 8

Daniel 8:8. Therefore the he-goat waxed very great — See note on chap. Daniel 2:39. The empire of the goat was in its full strength when Alexander died. He was succeeded by his natural brother Philip Aridæus, and by his own two sons before mentioned; but in the space of about fifteen years they were all murdered, and the firstborn, or kingdom, was entirely broken.

And for it came up four notable ones — The royal family being thus extinct, the governors of provinces, who had usurped the power, assumed the title of kings, and by the defeat and death of Antigonus in the battle of Ipsus they were reduced to four, Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus; who parted Alexander’s dominions between them, and divided and settled them into four kingdoms, which are the four notable horns that came up in the room of the first great horn, and are the same as the four heads of the leopard, chap. 7. Toward the four winds of heaven — In the partition of the empire Cassander held Macedonia and Greece, and the western parts; Lysimachus had Thrace, Bithynia, and the northern regions; Ptolemy possessed Egypt and the southern countries; and Seleucus obtained Syria and the eastern provinces. Thus were they divided toward the four winds of heaven.


Verse 9

Daniel 8:9. And out of one of them — Namely, out of one of the four notable horns, mentioned in the preceding verse, came forth a little horn — The reader will be pleased particularly to observe this, as being a key to the right interpretation of the subsequent prophecy. The little horn proceeded from one of the four kingdoms just mentioned, into which Alexander’s empire was divided after his death: therefore to look for it elsewhere, or to interpret it of any power, king, or kingdom, which had not its origin in one of them, must be a misinterpretation of the prophecy. From one of the four successors of Alexander, namely, from Antiochus the Great, came forth Antiochus, afterward called Epiphanes, or Illustrious, by his flatterers; but by Polybius termed more properly Epimanes, or the madman. He was indeed a vile person, as the angel characterizes him, Daniel 11:21, to whom the honour of the kingdom did not belong, Demetrius, his eldest brother’s son, being the rightful heir. He is here called a little horn: as he was originally of no great fortune or dignity, a younger brother, a contemptible person, and a sort of captive at Rome. Some have objected, that the word horn, in these visions, never signifies a single king, but always a kingdom or empire; but this is evidently a mistake, as the notable horn, mentioned Daniel 8:5, which the goat had between his eyes, manifestly means Alexander the Great. This little horn belonging to the third, or Macedonian monarchy, must not be confounded with the little horn belonging to the fourth, mentioned Daniel 7:8-20, although this here spoken of may be allowed to be a type or figure of the latter. Which waxed exceeding great toward the south — He extended his dominion toward the south, when, taking advantage of the youth of Ptolemy Philometer, (see 1 Maccabees 1:16-19,) he made himself master of Egypt, called the south, in several places of chap. 11. of this prophecy. And toward the east — Where he conquered Armenia, and penetrated into Persia. And toward the pleasant land — Or, the land of Judea, called the pleasant land, by the holy writers, as being chosen by God for the place of his people’s habitation, and of his house or temple; where also the Messiah was to appear, called elsewhere the glory of all lands, Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:15. The cruelties which Antiochus Epiphanes exercised in Judea seem to be the primary subject of the following verses. In which, however, he may be considered as a type of antichrist, exercising still greater cruelties on the Christian Church.


Verse 10-11

Daniel 8:10-11. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven — By the host of heaven, seems to be here meant the Jewish priesthood, so called from their continual attendance on God’s service in the temple, as the angels do in heaven. The word צבא, here rendered host, is applied to the attendants in the sanctuary, Exodus 38:8 ; Numbers 4:23. And it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground — Persons of principal dignity and high offices are often called stars in the Scriptures. In Isaiah 24:21, The host of the high ones that are on high, is explained by Vitringa of the Jewish rulers and people: see Daniel 12:3, and Revelation 1:20, where the angels, or governors of the church, are called stars. The words here seem to import, either that Antiochus should put an end to the services of the temple, by taking away the daily sacrifice, Daniel 8:12; or else that he should seduce some of the priests and rulers, by threats and flatteries, to turn apostates. And stamped upon them — Utterly subdued and destroyed them: see Daniel 7:7. Yea, he magnified himself even to [or against] the prince of the host — This may be understood of the high-priest Onias, (compare Daniel 11:22,) whom Antiochus deprived of his office, putting Jason in his place, an ungodly wretch, who set up heathen rites in God’s temple, 2 Maccabees 4:13-17. But Jerome and Theodoret understand it of God himself, as do many others; or of Christ, the High-Priest over the house of God, whose sanctuary the temple is called in the following words. Antiochus erected in the temple a statue to Jupiter Olympus, deservedly esteemed the abomination of desolation, and thus magnified himself against God, to whom the sanctuary and its services were appropriated. And by him the daily sacrifice was taken away — The sacrifice which was offered, in the name of the whole nation, every morning and evening: see Numbers 28:3. This was taken away by Antiochus, together with the whole customary worship, and both altar and temple profaned: see 1 Maccabees 1:44-64. And the place of his sanctuary was cast down — Or cast out, or rendered profane: comp. Revelation 11:2. It was deprived of the honour and privileges that belonged to a holy place, as if the enclosures had been thrown down which separated it from common ground. It may include also the profanation of the high- priesthood, which Antiochus set up to sale, and let men of the most profligate lives have it; so that both the sanctuary itself, and the priesthood, might truly be said to be rendered profane.


Verse 12

Daniel 8:12. And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression — Antiochus prospered so far in his attempts against the Jews and their religion, that he built a citadel in the city of David, and placed a garrison of soldiers there, to disturb those that should come to worship God at the temple: see 1 Maccabees 1:33-36. This God permitted, as a just punishment for the sins of the people, and particularly of those who professed a willingness to forsake the worship of God, and to join with the heathen in their idolatry, 1 Maccabees 1:11; 2 Maccabees 4:13-17. Some translate the words, And a set time was appointed against the daily sacrifice; for the word צבא, rendered host, signifies likewise a set time: see Daniel 10:1 . And it cast down the truth to the ground, and prospered — The book of the law, or the divine ordinances delivered to the Jews by Moses, is here called the truth. He prospered so far in his attempts against the true religion, as to suppress it for a time, and hinder the open profession of it: see Daniel 8:24, and Daniel 11:28-32. We read, 1 Maccabees 1:56, that Antiochus ordered the copies of the law to be cut in pieces and burned.


Verse 13-14

Daniel 8:13-14. Then I heard one saint speaking — The word saint here is equivalent to angel: see Daniel 4:13. What this saint or angel said, is not expressed; no more than the words spoken by that illustrious person who appeared to Daniel 10:5, are recorded. And another saint said to that certain saint which spake — Several angels are introduced in Daniel’s visions, and so in Zechariah’s. This appears to be spoken of one of a higher rank, as being able to unfold those secrets which were hid from the other angels; and is therefore justly supposed to mean the Son of God, called the Wonderful Counsellor, Isaiah 9:6, as being acquainted with all God’s purposes and designs. How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice? &c. — The words, says Lowth, may be translated more agreeably to the Hebrew thus: For how long a time shall the vision last, the daily sacrifice be taken away, and the transgression of desolation continue? Since, however, there are no words in the Hebrew for taken away and continue, Mr. Wintle rather thinks the inquiry respects only the duration of the vision, and that the other words are by way of explaining what the vision is, namely, “of the daily sacrifice, and of the transgression of desolation, and of the sanctuary and host,” or its attendant ministers, “being suppressed and trampled on.” He therefore translates the clause thus: How long will be the term of the vision of the daily sacrifice, and the transgression that maketh desolate, exposing both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled on? The plain meaning of the verse is, that one of the angels asked the superior personage, distinguished here by the title of that certain saint, How long the evils signified in this vision, and particularly the taking away, or interruption, of the daily sacrifice, &c., should last. By the transgression of desolation seems to be meant the harassing and ravaging of the city by the garrison of Antiochus, setting up an idol to be worshipped in God’s temple, and, by that and other heathenish superstitions, profaning it, and also the host, or the Levites; persuading them, either by threats or enticements, to quit the worship of Jehovah, the true God, or to mix it with the worship of idols, contrary to the divine law. And he said, Unto two thousand and three hundred days — Hebrew, Until the evening [and] morning two thousand and three hundred. This signifies a space of about six years, and is to be taken from the first invasion of Judea by Antiochus, when he profaned the priesthood, and includes his second coming into that country, when he forbade the worship of God in the temple, and set up an idol there. After this time of two thousand three hundred days, or about six years from the first coming of Antiochus, it is here declared that the temple should be purged, or cleansed from the polluted or unclean things which Antiochus had brought into it, or from those things in it which he had defiled, by using them for idolatrous rites: see 1 Maccabees 4. It must, however, be remembered, that many interpreters understand these days in the same sense in which days are generally understood by this prophet, namely, for years; and thus refer the prophecy to antichrist, of whom Antiochus was a type. This will carry us on to a still distant time in the church of God, to the completion of that opposition to the church of Christ which has been wished for long since, when the sanctuary will be perfectly cleansed, and to which the twelve hundred ninety and thirteen hundred thirty-five years of chap. 12. must have a reference. Sir Isaac Newton, Obs., chap. 9., not only reckons the days to be years, but will have the horn to be Rome, and does not refer it at all to Antiochus; and in this he is followed, in a great measure, by Bishop Newton, who makes the years commence from the time of Alexander’s invading Asia, three hundred thirty-four years before Christ, and thus to end with near the sixth millennium of the world. With this interpretation of Bishop Newton, Mr. Faber (a late writer) finds great fault, and endeavours to prove that the Mohammedan delusion, and not that of the Papacy, is intended here by the little horn. His reasonings, calculations, and quotations on this subject, cannot possibly be inserted here, nor even an abstract of them. The reader that wishes to be acquainted with his scheme, must necessarily be referred to the book itself. There seems, however, to be one insuperable objection, both to Bishop Newton’s and this interpretation, and that is, that they are utterly irreconcileable with Daniel 8:9, where it is expressly said, that this little horn came forth from one of the four notable horns, or kingdoms, into which Alexander’s empire was divided. Now it cannot be said that either the Papacy, which arose in the west of Europe, or Mohammedanism, which had its rise and first prevailed in Arabia, sprang from any of the four branches of the Macedonian empire.


Verse 15-16

Daniel 8:15-16. When I had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning — Here we are informed of Daniel’s earnest desire to have the vision explained to him. For those that rightly know the things of God, cannot but desire to be led still further into the mystery of them. And those who desire to know the meaning of what they have seen or heard from God, must seek it, and that diligently, namely, by earnest prayer and close meditation. Then there stood before me as the appearance of a man — The Scriptures frequently represent the angels as appearing in human forms, which it is likely they do, because, perhaps, there is nothing visible to us that so much resembles what they really are, as the human form does. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai — That is, between me and the river Ulai. Which said, Gabriel, make this man understand the vision — Explain it more clearly to him, if there be any thing in it which he does not perfectly understand. He who spake this seems to be the same angel who is spoken of Daniel 8:13, and called there that certain saint, by way of distinction; for he here speaks as one that had authority over the angel Gabriel.


Verse 17

Daniel 8:17. So he came near where I stood — That he might speak more familiarly with him. And when he came, I was afraid — This fear was probably occasioned by the effulgent brightness of the heavenly messenger, which quite amazed Daniel upon his drawing near to him. And I fell upon my face — Not to worship the angel, but because he could not bear the lustre of his glory. But he said unto me, Understand, O son of man — We find this is a title given to none of the prophets but Ezekiel and Daniel, who had more frequent converse with angels than any of the rest: and it is given to the prophet here, either to put him in mind that he was but flesh and blood, that he might not be exalted for having these heavenly visions imparted to him; or else it was used as a mark of honour, implying that he was something more than an ordinary man, even one highly favoured and beloved of God. For at the time, or, to the time, of the end shall be the vision — That is, there is a precise time determined for the accomplishment of the vision, when it shall certainly be fulfilled. Or the meaning may be, that the fulfilling of the vision should not come to pass for a considerable space of time; that it was concerning matters at a distance, namely, at the distance of almost four hundred years.


Verse 18-19

Daniel 8:18-19. Now as he was speaking, I was in a deep sleep — I was as one that faints away, and falls into a swoon through fear and astonishment. But he touched me, and set me upright — By only a touch of him my strength revived, and I came to myself. And he said, Behold, I will make thee know — I will inform thee, and give thee to understand, what shall be in the last end, or, to the last end, of the indignation — I will acquaint thee with the whole series of God’s judgments upon his people, to the end and conclusion of them. “The prophet had doubtless a regard to the captivity in the first place; and therefore, beginning from this, the angel hints at a sort of epitome of the evils which would fall upon the posterity of God’s chosen people, till their iniquity was taken away, and their sin purged, when the indignation would be overpast, Isaiah 26:20.” — Wintle.


Verses 20-22

Daniel 8:20-22. The ram, &c., having two horns, are the kings, or kingdoms rather, of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king, or kingdom, of Grecia. And the great horn, &c., is the first king — Namely, Alexander the Great, the first Grecian king that reigned over Asia. Now that being broken — That is, this first king being deceased; four kingdoms shall stand up, &c. — Shall arise from it, under the rule of the same nation that the first king was of, namely, the Grecian. But not in his power — They were to be kingdoms of Greeks, not of Alexander’s own family, but only of his nation; neither were they to be equal to him in power and dominion, as an empire united is certainly more powerful than the same empire divided, and the whole is greater than any of its parts.


Verse 23

Daniel 8:23. And in the latter end of their kingdom — When their power was diminishing, and the Roman empire beginning to be established in Greece, from whence the Grecian kingdoms in Asia had their origin: for the bringing of Greece into subjection to the Roman power was a manifest indication of the declension of the Macedonian, or third monarchy, with its four heads, and the advancement of the fourth monarchy. Now this was remarkably brought to pass when Æmilius, the Roman consul, vanquished Perseus, king of Macedonia, and thereby brought all Greece under the power of the Romans, which happened one hundred and sixty-six years before Christ, and about the time when Antiochus profaned the temple, and set up therein the abomination of desolation. It must be observed likewise, that, before that time, the four horns, or kingdoms, had been reduced to two principal ones, Syria and Egypt. Antiochus had attempted to gain the latter, and had marched toward Alexandria to besiege that city, the conquest of which would have made him absolute master of the whole kingdom; but in order to prevent his success, Ptolemy Euergetes and his sister Cleopatra had sent ambassadors to the Romans, to beg their relief; and when Popilius was deputed by the senate to go into Egypt, he proposed terms to Antiochus which he was obliged to accept, and obey the commands of the senate. Thus both Syria and Egypt became, in some sort, vassals to Rome. When the transgressors are come to the full — Here the reason is assigned why God permitted these calamities to fall on his people, namely, their wickedness had risen to a very great height: of which Bishop Newton gives the following account. “The high-priesthood was exposed to sale. Good Onias was ejected for a sum of money, to make room for wicked Jason; and Jason again was supplanted for a greater sum of money, by a worse man, if possible, than himself, his brother Menelaus; and the golden vessels of the temple were sold, to pay for the sacrilegious purchase. At the same time, the customs of the heathen nations were introduced among the Jews; the youth were trained up and exercised after the manner of the Greeks; the people, apostatized from the true religion, and even the priests, (2 Maccabees 4:14,) despising the temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened to be partakers of unlawful diversions. Nay, the temple was profaned under the conduct of the high-priest Menelaus, was defiled with swine’s blood, and plundered of every thing valuable; and in the same year that Paulus Æmilius vanquished Perseus, the last king of Macedonia, and thereby put an end to that kingdom, the Jewish religion was put down, and the heathen worship was set up in the cities of Judea, and in Jerusalem; and the temple itself was consecrated to Jupiter Olympus, and his image was erected upon the very altar.” So evident it is that the transgressors were come to the full, and that it was in the latter time of the Macedonian empire, when what follows took place. A king of fierce countenance shall stand up — This is a very just character of Antiochus, according to Diodorus, Polybius, and all the historians. And such a character may be presumed to belong to antichrist, who would be acquainted with all the depths of Satan, Revelation 2:24. “I must confess,” says Mr. Wintle, “that this part of the interpretation appears to me to agree better with Antiochus than with the Romans: when interpreted of the latter, it is understood to mean a warlike and politic state.” Understanding dark sentences — One practised in craft and policy, particularly in the arts of seducing men from their religion. In this Antiochus was too successful with the Jews. Michaelis renders the clause, rex omnis doli peritus, a king skilled in every kind of deceit. Mr. Wintle reads, penetrating in mysterious craft.


Verse 24

Daniel 8:24. And his power shall be mighty — His power shall increase more and more, namely, in Judea; but not by his own power — This shall not be owing so much to himself, as to the wickedness and factions among the Jews. “Antiochus,” says Mr. Wintle, “was certainly much favoured in his designs by a factious party of the Jews themselves, by the treachery of the Jewish people, according to Josephus, and, according to Appion, the perfidy of others. Eumenes, king of Pergamus, and his brother Attalus, being jealous of the Romans, desired to make the king of Syria their friend, and supported Antiochus in his kingdom. The divine displeasure also against the Jews operated to the furtherance of his designs, who was herein an agent of the vindictive justice of God.” And he shall destroy wonderfully — He shall cause a very great and scarcely credible desolation in Judea. Wintle renders it, He shall make astonishing havoc, and shall be successful: which prediction was accomplished when Jerusalem was taken by Antiochus, 40,000 Jews were slain, and as many were sold into slavery. And shall destroy the mighty and the holy people — Or, the people of the holy God, as עם קדשׂים may be rendered, the noun plural being sometimes applied to the Deity. Or the expressions may mean, that he should destroy many of the principal and chief men, and many of the common sort, termed the holy people, as being good men, and sincere worshippers of God. With regard to the former, Grotius observes, from Josephus, that men of the greatest reputation, and of the most generous spirit, among the Jews, paid no regard to Antiochus, and therefore were harassed daily, and died under the most bitter torments. Antiochus, in his first invasion of Judea, slew and led captive 80,000 Jews; and two years afterward sent Apollonius, with an army of 22,000 men, to destroy those that assembled in their synagogues on the sabbath, 2 Maccabees 5:14; 2 Maccabees 5:24; and 1 Maccabees 1:29.


Verse 25

Daniel 8:25. Through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper — His craft and cunning shall succeed. And he shall magnify himself in his heart Elated by his successes, he will always be aiming at more and more, and making further attempts; and by peace shall destroy many — Without making war, and without being a declared enemy, or receiving injuries from them, he shall destroy many. Under pretence of peace and friendship, he invaded and spoiled both Egypt and Judea. The character which Grotius gives of Antiochus may serve to throw light on these clauses of the verse. “He had no regard to piety or integrity, to any true or false God, but measured all things by the rule of his own convenience. He certainly deceived many nations, and by his flatteries and frauds obtained, as well as enlarged his dominion; and under the colour of peace, or pretended tranquillity, he oppressed the unwary, and destroyed multitudes:” see 1 Maccabees 1:30. He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes — He shall exalt himself against the true God, the Lord of heaven and earth, abolishing his worship, and setting up idolatry in its stead. But he shall be broken without hand — By an immediate judgment of God. God struck him with a noisome disease, attended with horrible torments both of body and mind: see 1 Maccabees 6:8-13; 2 Maccabees 9:5-29. It is observable, that Polybius and Josephus both confirm the account which the authors of the books of Maccabees give of his death, in a state of madness, from the apparitions and reproaches of spectres and evil spirits.


Verse 26

Daniel 8:26. And the vision of the evening and the morning, &c., is true — The vision of the 2300 evenings and mornings, mentioned Daniel 8:13, is certain. The angel here tells him, that these calamities would certainly last during the time expressed by that number of days, and then would have an end. Wherefore shut thou up the vision, for it shall be for many days — Some consider these words as expressing the same thing that is meant by shutting up the words, and sealing the book, Daniel 12:4. The sense in both places, they think, is, that the full meaning of the prophecy should be concealed from people in general, till the accomplishment of the events foretold. Thus we find that shutting and opening, sealing and unfolding, are opposed in the prophetical language, and import the same as concealing and revealing. Thus taken the words imply, that prophecies are never fully understood till they are accomplished: and the nearer the time approaches of their accomplishment, the more light shall diligent inquirers have for the explaining them. But the words may also imply a command to Daniel to commit this vision to writing, and then to take such care of the copy as would ensure its preservation, even till the things spoken of in it should be fulfilled; that so the prophecies might be compared with the events accomplishing them, and it might be seen how exactly they had been foretold. And in order that Daniel might take proper measures for preserving the account of these visions, and that posterity might take the same care, the angel concludes with observing, that the vision should be for many days; that is, that the accomplishment of it would not take place till after a long space of time; it being a term of near four hundred years from the first intimation of the vision, in the third of Belshazzar, to the cleansing of the sanctuary by Judas, in the time of Antiochus. It is of importance to observe here, that in remembrance of this great mercy which God had showed to his people, in delivering them from the tyranny and idolatry of Antiochus, a solemn feast was instituted, called εγκαινια, or the feast of dedication, which was annually observed, in consequence of cleansing the sanctuary, and the consecration of the altar, by Judas Maccabeus, for the space of eight days, from the 25th day of the month Casleu, 1 Maccabees 4:59. And to this St. John alludes, John 10:22, where he speaks of the feast of dedication.


Verse 27

Daniel 8:27. And I Daniel fainted — Rather, languished, or pined, being overwhelmed with grief at the calamities which I learned by the vision were to come upon my countrymen, and also for the profanation of the temple in those days. And I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it — The meaning of this clause seems to be, that though Daniel was greatly troubled at this vision, even after he rose and went about the king’s business, yet he took care to conceal it, so that none might take notice of it.

In the explication of this vision, the usurpations of Antiochus have been referred to, for the primary sense of the ravages committed by the little horn; yet, at the same time, it has been hinted, that there are some strong features in the vision, which favour the opinion of those who refer it to later times, particularly to the rule and dominion of antichrist. “I am of opinion,” says Mr. Wintle, “that, in the spirit of prophecy, both applications were meant to be comprehended; and I see no reason for not extending the prophetic visions, or revelations, to events, to which, by the rules of fair and just interpretation, they shall be found applicable. The only sure way of knowing the meaning of a prophecy is, by comparing it with the accomplishment; and if successions of events shall, in more than one instance, be found to agree, and square exactly with a single series of predicted circumstances, I should be inclined to make the improvement as extensive as may be, consistently with truth and justice; and to acknowledge the wisdom and prescience of the Divine Contriver, who is acquainted with all his works from the foundation of the world, and who could adapt human language, in one form, to such an admirable variety of purposes, thus making his own strength perfect in weakness.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 8:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/daniel-8.html. 1857.

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