Daniel 8: Abomination of Desolation Foreshadowed
Two years after Daniel’s vision in chapter 7, he is shown another vision that covers the history of Alexander the Great’s conquests over Medo-Persia some 300 years in Daniel’s future and what happens to Alexander’s kingdom when he dies.
I’ve excerpted Daniel 8 below without verses as it was originally. If you would like to read it with verse numbers and inline Hebrew definitions, read it at Blue Letter Bible. I am not an historian and the references of historical events will likely be from a mix of Wikipedia and other sources I will reference. On certain things I do not trust Wikipedia to be accurate, but when it comes to secular history, I’m a little more willing to accept the information presented. If there are any errors in the histories presented here, please let me know.
Daniel 8: History or Future?
Before I share my understanding of this passage, I feel that the question of whether this is a historical vision or a future vision needs to be addressed. There are several reasons that some believe this chapter points to the future man of sin. Where this is placed in the timeline of human history can affect interpretation. Given this, I want to cover some of the points in both cases that I’ve considered and why I hold the historical view.
The Little Horn
One of the reasons is because of the little horn mentioned both here and in Daniel 7. The first thing to note is the difference of origin for this little horn.
In Daniel 7, the little horn comes up from the fourth beast, diverse from the other three and having ten horns. It is out of these ten horns, three of which are plucked, that he comes up.
In Daniel 8, the goat is defined as the king of Greece after identifying the ram as the kings of Medo-Persia. This immediately locks it in the historical context. The great horn that is broken on the goat is the first king of Greece, Alexander the Great. When he is broken, four notable ones arise and it is out of one of those four that the little horn waxes exceedingly great.
These depict two completely different scenarios from which the little horn arises to power and as we will see, history lines up with Daniel 8 exactly as written so there is no need to further shape and fit the little horn to be the same as that of Daniel 7. What this does do, when viewing Daniel 8 as historical, is provide a foreshadow and mirror of the events of history compared to the events of the future and highlight the tie that Yeshua gives when pointing back to Daniel regarding the abomination of desolation. Matthew 24:15 | Mark 13:14 | Daniel 9:27
The Fourth Beast
Similar to the above, another point of association is the mention of the fourth beast, the fourth kingdom. Daniel 8:8-12 defines four horns, which are four kingdoms, that will stand up out of the broken horn of Greece. Since the little horn comes out of one of those four, it could then be said that he comes out of the fourth kingdom. This is also used to try and define the origin of the future man of sin as having Grecian origins. However, if this is a historical narrative to us, this doesn’t define the future man of sin at all, but a historical person we can look back to.
Daniel 7:7; 23-24 speaks to a fourth beast, interpreted as the fourth kingdom with great iron teeth that devours and breaks in pieces. This is the same one with ten horns, which are ten kings, from which the little horn rises. Therefore in both cases it is out of the fourth kingdom that the man of sin comes to power. However as pointed out above, the origin stories of these two little horns are distinct and one can be accounted for historically. Daniel’s fourth kingdom is that of the future man of sin, but its origin story has some distinct differences.
Daniel 2 also speaks of a fourth kingdom that is tied to Rome historically. The final kingdom mentioned next there is the one in power when the Messiah comes to set up the Messianic Kingdom, it is the iron mixed with clay. While this fourth kingdom is then not the one in power at Messiah’s return, the fact that it is made of iron and the fifth kingdom that is in power when He returns is iron mixed with clay leads some to translate this to a revived Roman Empire as the last kingdom and that of the man of sin. Therefore it is determined that the antichrist must come from this European revived Roman Empire.
As I describe in the Daniel 2 page, iron is used as a description of something strong that breaks in pieces, it’s not tied to the identity of a kingdom. If that were true, Yeshua will rule the Messianic Kingdom with a rod of iron, is He from Rome as well?
Daniel 11: Antiochus to Antichrist
Daniel 11-12 gives greater detail of the kingdoms from Medo-Persia through Greece and part way through describing the same time as Daniel 8, describing the vile Antiochus IV Epiphanes. What is both interesting and causes some confusion, is that it continues this narrative through to the end time antichrist. For more detail on these chapters, check out the link above, but in short, note the language between these two verses.
Daniel 11:31 already previously described the abomination of desolation and through to verse 35 it describes the people who know their God being strong and doing exploits, the understanding instructing many and falling by the sword many days. As you will see there, this describes the situation of the Maccabeean revolt following the stopping of the daily sacrifice and abomination of desolation of Antiochus IV Epiphanes historically. Verse 35 ends with them of understanding falling and being tried and purged to make them white even to the time of the end that is for a time yet appointed.
Then the king, which would seem to point back to Antiochus, does according to his will and declares himself above all gods. Antiochus didn’t declare himself above all gods, but he setup idols of his gods in the temple to be worshipped and stopped the daily sacrifice. From verse 36 on, this doesn’t seem to tie into him. As to put a finer point on it, the king of the south and north are brought back up, but this time “at the time of the end.”
Four Shadows and Mirrors
In putting together the chart lining up all the visions of Daniel and John, something really interesting became evident that would seem to correlate all these similarities and variances between the various accounts.
Daniel 8 describes a time future to Daniel, but historical to us. It describes history from Medo-Persia to Greece, depicting the conquering Alexander the Great, his death, and the subsequent splitting of Macedonia into four horns, or kingdoms. Out of one of those kingdoms comes a little horn who will take the kingdom being politically crafty and become great and ultimately takes away the daily sacrifice and causes an abomination of desolation by setting up an idol in the temple to be worshipped by the Jews.
Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 both describe a future time to us, a transition of power into four beasts, or kingdoms. Out of one of those kingdoms with ten horns, arises a little horn who will stand out among the leadership. He will ultimately take away the daily sacrifice and cause an abomination of desolation when he stands in the temple declaring himself to be above all gods demanding worship as god by all the Jews.
Daniel 11-12 compliments both Daniel 8 and Daniel 7, as well as John’s vision in Revelation 13. It gives greater detail of the conflict following the death of Alexander the Great that leads to the more focused view of Antiochus Epiphanes IV and the stopping of the daily sacrifice and abomination of desolation he performs. It then leaps into the future as if to make the connection between the two for us. In this way Yeshua has pointed to Daniel regarding the definition of the abomination of desolation and Daniel’s visions given to him by God have shown a historical event that foreshadows and mirrors that yet to come. However, the one yet future will be much greater in scope and dreadfulness and affect the whole earth for 3½ years leading to the end of humankind as we know it forever.
I believe that this vision, future to Daniel’s time, is actually a foreshadow of the emergence of the future man of sin. It shows the historic split of Alexander’s kingdom upon his death and the subsequent rise of a ruler from the Syrian Seleucid Empire, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who is a foreshadow of the future man of sin, the antichrist.
Medo-Persia (Achaemenid Empire)
The Medes were an ancient people who inabited what is between Western and Northern Iran from around 687 - 549 BC. They did not document their history and so there is little to go on. In 553 BC, Cyrus the Great revolted against the Median Empire and in 550 BC assumed control of the empire. More detail on Wikipedia.
“In the Histories the Persians are sometimes not exactly distinguishable from other peoples of their empire, especially when the Greeks’ opponents are simply qualified as “Persians.” The Persians generally are run together with the Medes, as can be recognized by Herodotus’s use of the terms mēdízein and mēdismós (Myres, 1936; Graf, 1984; Tuplin, 1994, 1997; Rollinger, 2003). He also states that the Persians have adopted Median attire (1.35; Armayor, 1978c, p. 5). Both Medes and Persians are qualified by Herodotus as an éthnos, and he lists six génea for each, respectively... According to Herodotus it was not until the appearance of Cyrus the Great that the Persians acquired a visible profile and emerged from the shadows of history. They thus came forth as actors in some of the monumental events in the history of Asia, involving several opposing and alternating imperial power factions, which were finally to merge within the imperium of Cyrus and his successors.” | Encyclopædia Iranica, Herodotus iii. Defining the Persians - Link
As such, the vision showing the two horns where the latter horn was higher than the first, fits with secular history of the Medes and Persians both being of the same origin (ie. the ram, or modern day Iran) and the later kingdom, Persia led by Cyrus the Great, being greater than the former.
In 547 BC, Cyrus the Great conquered the area of Iona on the Mediterranean Sea just below Macedonia. From Persia, this is to the Northwest. The Achaemenid Empire also conquered territory to the Southwest through Syria, Israel, Sinai Peninusla, Egypt and Libya. Conflict continued between Greece and Persia and in 498 BC the Persian capital of Sardis was captured and burned. In 494 BC the Persians under Darius I the Great stopped the revolt that led to the destruction of Sardis and Darius the Great planned the elimination of future revolts, but died in 486 BC.
It was during this time in 480 BC that the famous Battle of Thermopylae took place when the Persian army of estimates between 120,000 to millions under Xerxes I attacked the defending Greek army of around 7,000 led by Leonidas. They held them off for seven days until a last stand was made at the pass where 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, and reportedly 900 helots, and 400 Thebans remained and fought to the death. The Greco-Persian wars eventually quietly ended in 449 BC. More detail on Wikipedia.
Alexander the Great was the first great king of Greece, son of Philip of Macedon. He was one of the most successful military commanders in history, defeating the Medo-Persian Empire from 334 to 324 BC and assimiliating it into the Greek Empire.
In 323 BC at the age of 32, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon. There are several accounts of what caused his death, but the common point had to do with some wine that he drank after which he was sick for 11 or 12 days and later died. More detail on Wikipedia.
As expected following Alexander’s unexpected death, much intrigue began to determine his successor. Through the Wars of the Diadochi (Wars of Alexander’s Successors), his kingdom was split into four under four of his generals. In this, the Greeks remained in control over his kingdom, but his kingdom was not passed fully to his descendents and so his power ended with his death.
Kingdom of Macedonia
The kingdom of Macedonia’s succession was led by Perdiccas, one of Alexander’s generals, who was for a short time made regent of the empire. Philip III Arrhidaeus was named co-ruler with Alexander IV, child of Alexander III (the Great) and his wife Roxana. Philip III had diminished mental capacity and so Olympias, Alexander’s mother, went through a series of regents. Cassander later had Alexander IV murdered and took power. More detail on Wikipedia.
Founded by Alexander’s general Ptolemy I Soter, it was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty until the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC. More detail on Wikipedia.
Kingdom of Lysimachus
Lysimachus, a general of Alexander, gained the territory following the Wars of the Diadochi and in 309 BC he founded Lysimachus. More detail on Wikipedia.
Founded in 312 BC by Alexander’s general Seleucus I Nicator, it was eventually overthrown in 63 BC by the Roman general Pompey. More detail on Wikipedia.
The Little Horn
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Antiochus Epiphanes (“God Manifest”) IV ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175 - 164 BC when he died. His rise to power began when he was a political hostage of Rome until 187 BC when he was exchanged for Demetrius I Soter, the son and heir of Seleucus. His older brother Seleucus IV Philopator had taken the throne a year before his release and Antiochus was in Athens with his brother in 175 BC when his brother was assassinated, according to some sources, by the government minister Heliodorus who proclaimed himself regent. Seleucus’ legitimate heir Demetrius I Soter was still a hostage in Rome, so Antiochus seized the throne for himself, proclaiming himself co-regent with another son of Seleucus, an infant named Antiochus.
Antiochus IV was extravagant, taking money from the Seleucid treasury to scatter on the streets to the common people, give unexpected gifts to people he didn’t know, hold banquets and parades, etc. He also attempted to maintain good relations with Rome, paying them the money owed and, with the help of Eumenes II, securing a new treaty of friendship with Rome. It was likely through this political maneuvering, flatteries, deceit, and cunning that he became as powerful as he did. In other words, he was a great polititian.
This was demonstrated when he seemed to have some advance warning of an attack by King Ptolemy VI Philometor and they were attacked and defeated by Antiochus IV. He didn’t always have the political upper hand though. In 168 BC, he went to attack Egypt a second time, but was given a message from the Roman senate to either withdraw or consider himself at war with Rome. This embarrasing put down was followed shortly after when he was traveling back North. More detail on Wikipedia.
1 Maccabees 1:17-26
Abomination of desolation
Antiochus IV Epiphanes arrived at Jerusalem and began to persecute the Jews. One account of this is recorded by Diodorus Siculus.
“King Antiochus besieged Jerusalem. The Jews withstood the siege for some time; but when all their provisions were used up, they were forced to send ambassadors to him, to seek terms for a truce. Many of his friends urged him to storm the city, and to root out the whole nation of the Jews; for they only of all people hated to mix with any other nations, and treated them all as enemies. They suggested to him that the ancestors of the Jews were driven out of Egypt, as impious and hateful to the gods: for seeing that their bodies were infected with white marks and leprosy, by way of expiation the Egyptians gathered them all together, and expelled them out of their county, as profane and wicked wretches. After they were thus expelled, they settled around Jerusalem, and were afterwards united into one nation, called the nation of the Jews; but their hatred of all other men descended with their blood to their posterity. And therefore they made strange laws, and quite different from other people; they never will eat nor drink with any of other nations, or wish them any prosperity. His friends reminded him that Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, after subduing the Jews, entered into the temple of God, into which none was allowed to enter by their law except the priest. When he found in there the image of a man with a long beard, carved in stone sitting upon an ass, he took it to be Moses, who built Jerusalem and brought the nation together, and who established by law all their wicked customs and practices, abounding in hatred and enmity to all other men. Antiochus therefore, abhorring their antagonism to all other people, tried his utmost to abolish their laws. To that end he sacrificed a great swine at the image of Moses, and at the altar of God that stood in the outward court, and sprinkled them with the blood of the sacrifice. He commanded likewise that the books, by which they were taught to hate all other nations, should be sprinkled with the broth made of the swine’s flesh. And he put out the lamp (called by them immortal) which burns continually in the temple. Lastly he forced the high priest and the other Jews to eat swine’s flesh. When Antiochus’ friends had spoken about all these things, they earnestly advised him to root out the whole nation, or at least to abolish their laws, and compel them to change their former manner of living. But the king, being of a generous spirit and mild disposition, received hostages and pardoned the Jews: but he demolished the walls of Jerusalem, and took the tribute that was due.” | Diodorus Siculus 34:1(1-5)
Being a peculiar people called out from the world, the Jews had things that would make them unclean, which is why they do not eat pig and other animals. Sacrificing a pig at the temple made it ritually unclean as well as sprinkling water soaked in its dead flesh on the books and forcing the priests to eat it.
1 Maccabees records in greater detail the return of Antiochus and his armies that leads to the abomination of desolation.
1 Maccabees 1:30-67
Here we see a detailed depiction of what Antiochus did:
Understanding the foreshadow that this was and a mirror of the future, from this description we can get a glimpse of what will happen on a much larger scale, yet slightly differently. In the future, it will be the dragon himself empowering the man of sin and false prophet to change the times and laws, demand worship of the beast and of the dragon, and whoever does not will be killed. And all those that worship the beast will participate in the slaughter of the innocent Jews and Christians who are found reject and not worship this false idol and remain faithful to their God in heaven.
2 Maccabees has a depiction of Antiochus’s death that may shed some light on the statement from Daniel 8:25 that, “he shall be broken without hand.”
2 Maccabees 9:5-10; 28-29
Evening and Morning
The first thing to point out in relation to the 2,300 days spoken of in the vision is related to the daily, that is the continual or perpetual sacrifice.
Coming out of Egypt, God told Israel to have a continual, perpetual sacrifice at the door of the tabernacle. Once Israel was in the Promised Land and the temple of Solomon and the second temple were built, it was outside the temple that each morning and evening a lamb under a year old would be sacrificed and offered as a burnt offering.
In the Masoretic text, what is written as “two thousand and three hundred days” is actually “two thousand and three hundred evening (ereb) morning (boqer),” speaking to the evening and morning sacrifices. So when it says 2,300 days, it is saying 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices. Dividing this in two to get the actual number of days, it is 1,150 actual days. Thanks to the Maccabees, we have precise dates for the abomination of desolation and the cleansing of the sanctuary.
I Maccabees 1:54
If we calculate 365 days per year times 3 and add 10 days, that is only 1,105 days, 45 days short. Taking into account this was in 167 BC and the Julian calendar was not in use until 45 BC, and a separate communication from Herodotus from 445 BC, we see the ancient calendar was a 360-day calendar per year.
“Take seventy years as the span of a man’s life. Those seventy years contain 25,200 days without counting intercalary months. Add a month every other year to make the seasons come round with proper regularity, and you will have 35 additional months which will make 1050 days. Thus the total days of your seventy years is 26,250 and not a single one of them is like the next in what it brings.” | Herodotus, In a passage where he discusses Solon who is speaking to Croesus, a Greek king in Asia Minor, about the relativity of happiness in life, Solon cites the usual length of a man’s life.
25,200 / 70 = 360 days (without counting intercalary months)
“Using the Greek calendar according to Herodotus and assuming that the years 146 and 148 were intercalary years, we come up with the following calculation: 9-15-145 to 9-25-148, the dates given in Maccabees from the desecration to the cleansing, is three years and ten days. Thus, the math sentence following the Greek calendar which was in use at the time the prophecy was fulfilled would be: (3 X 360) + (2 X 30) + 10 = 1,150.” | The 2300 Day Prophecy of Daniel 8
I actually learned of this from The 2300 Day Prophecy of Daniel 8 web page, which is no longer up and is only available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. I recommend checking it out as it presents a more detailed explanation and examination of history and scripture to show the fulfillment of this prophecy ending with what is celebrated today as Chanukkah.
Taking this into account, the whole of Daniel 8 is an account future to Daniel, but historical to us. It introduces the foreshadow of the man of sin, even to the rising out of one of four kingdoms and association to a little horn.
Other Narratives of the Historical Record
“The ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The longer horn that grew up later was the Persian side. The Medes were originally the dominant force but Cyrus quickly turned things around so that the Persians overwhelmed the Medes and claimed the Empire through shrewd political maneuvering.”
The story of Chanukkah begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks, in much the same way that Jews in America today blend into the secular American society.
“During the latter part of the Seleucid dynasty, Antiochus III was succeeded by his son Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BC). In order to collect tributes, Seleucus IV sent his tax collector, Heliodorus, to rob the Jerusalem temple, however, Heliodorus engineered a conspiracy against Seleucus IV, killed him, and assumed interim Syrian leadership
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In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work herein is archived under fair use without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in reviewing the included information for personal use, non-profit research and educational purposes only. Ref.