Daniel's vision of a ram and a he-goat recorded in the 8th chapter of Daniel has proved to be one of the most puzzling of all the prophecies of the Bible. After a description of the various horns, the prophecy focuses on one particular little horn, which grew great, and reached to heaven to cast stars down to the earth. Bible scholars are generally agreed on the identification of the ram and the he-goat, and the four horns, and the little horn which arose among them to become great. This little horn is identified with Antiochus IV, a Seleucid king who reigned over Syria and Mesopotamia 175-163 BC.
The little horn reaching to the sky and casting stars and the "host of heaven" to the earth can be understood as picturing the influence of Antiochus IV on the cosmology of the Bible, creation, and man's search for understanding about the nature of the universe. The subject of the prophecy relates to cosmology. This article explains.
The prophecy exposes certain corruptions in the cosmological passages in the Bible that were inserted by Antiochus IV and his supporters, that identified the "raqia" or "firmament" of Genesis 1:6 with the sky, whereas before, "raqia" referred to the crust of the earth. The Hebrew word "raqia" is translated "firmament" in the KJV. Antiochus did this, perhaps, because the concept of a rigid heaven (which he knew as Zeus Olympos) was missing in the Bible. The original cosmology of Genesis made no mention of a rigid sky, but the creation account said the crust of the earth was formed "in the midst of the waters" [Genesis 1:6], and so enclosed the interior waters. This was changed by Antiochus so that the creation account read as though God made a rigid heavenly "firmament" on the second day, that supported the upper waters. The lower water level then seemed to be the oceans instead of the interior waters.
The original cosmology of Genesis and the Hebrew Bible had two water levels, one below the crust, and one above. The subterranean waters were called "the great deep" and they are alluded to in Genesis 1:2. The two water level cosmology is depicted in scripture passages like Proverbs 8:22-31, Job 38:8-11, the reference in Genesis 7:11 to the breaking up of the "fountains of the deep" as a cause of the flood, and 2 Peter 3:3-7. In these passages, and in others besides, it is evident that a subcrustal water layer is implied. These subterranean waters were the waters "under the firmament" in the original version of the Genesis creation account.
Daniel 8:10-12 refers to the stars and the "host of heaven" being cast to the earth. Daniel 8:10 says, referring to the activities of the "little horn," (who was Antiochus IV):
And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven;
and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground,
and stamped upon them.
Interpreting this passage as saying the firmament (Hebrew: 'raqia') of Genesis 1:6-8 was identified with the sky, by alterations in the account of creation in Genesis 1, whereas the word originally referred to the earth's crust, allows the restoration of the original text of Genesis 1. Saying the earth's crust is the solid sky implies the converse, the sky is earth's crust; this is why in the prophecy, stars and the sun and moon are cast down to the earth and trampled. They were relocated inside the 'raqia' or "firmament" by these changes.
Daniel's decription of the little horn taking away the "constant" (or, in Hebrew, the "tamiyd"), mentioned in verse 11, can be interpreted as the supression of the truth about the earth's diurnal rotation by the policies of Antiochus. The scriptures were changed so that the geocentric cosmology was supported. It is interesting that Aristarchus of Samos had earlier advanced the theory of the earth's rotation, that was later revived by Copernicus. And in Babylon, Seleucus the mathematician taught a similar idea. He was a contemporary of Antiochus IV.
Daniel 8:11 refers to the "daily" [Heb: tamiyd] being taken away; the KJV inserts the word "sacrifice" -italicised. A certain regular evening and morning sacrifice, part of the Mosaic ritual, was probably interrupted during the reign of Antiochus. Most scholars suppose the word 'tamiyd' refers to this sacrifice. But this is an interpretation, and possibly not the correct one.
Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the
and by him the daily (Heb: 'tamiyd') was taken away,
and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.
This verse says the 'tamiyd' [ie, "daily", or "constant"] was "taken away" by Antiochus, which I suggest refers not to a ritual sacrifice being interrupted, but to the elimination of the knowledge of the earth's daily rotation, particularly in the scriptures; there are few things more "constant" than this; it was "taken away" by the insertion of the story of Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, for example, [Joshua 10:12] and various other corruptions. This fits the context of the passage, which refers to stars and the host of heaven, i.e., cosmology. It is not difficult to understand why this was done; an account of the creation of all things that made no mention of the rigid sky, in which the starry heavens were made before the earth, and which therefore suggested that the earth, not the sky, rotated, would have been seen as a threat to the pagan system of worship that was dominant in the Hellenistic world during the reign of Antiochus. The rigidity of the sky and geocentricity were the central premises of Greek philosophy. These ideas appear in the poems of Homer, who is credited with defining the Greek deities; Herodotus says it was Homer who gave the gods their names. That is, he defined them.
Antiochus was convinced the geocentric cosmology was true, as shown, for example, by some of his lavish building projects, that promoted the worship of Zeus Olympos, as well as the other Homeric gods. Zeus, in the Hellenistic Greek cosmology, was the rigid sky which rotated around the earth and carried around the stars, the spheres of the sun and moon, and the other planetary spheres. Antiochus had a great statue of Zeus installed at the temple of Apollo at Daphne, near Antioch. He built a temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Antioch, with ceilings and walls covered with gold. He began the construction of an enormous temple to Zeus Olympos in Athens, the ruins of which still remain. It remained uncompleted until the reign of Hadrian, three centuries afterwards. Antiochus looted numerous eastern temples, including the Jerusalem temple, to finance these lavish building projects. A woolen curtain taken from the Jerusalem temple may have been the one he is reported to have brought as an offering to the temple of Zeus Olympus at Elis.
History shows that belief in the rigid sky, and worship of the rigid sky as a deity, was characteristic of the Greek religion, not that of the Hebrews. Since the idea of a heavenly firmament is present in the first chapter of Genesis, it is reasonable to suspect that it may have been introduced during the period of Hellenistic influence, under Antiochus IV. This is confirmed by Daniel's prophecy.
When he became aware of the discrepancy between the Mosaic account and his cosmology, Antiochus ordered changes to be made. The words "And God called the firmament Heaven", or its equivalent in Greek or Hebrew, were added to Genesis 1:8 in the Greek and Hebrew scriptures, and numerous other alterations were made to support it, such as the addition of the idea that the sky is "strong" in Job 37:18, which has:
Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?
The strength of the sky is clearly depicted in Homer, who has Zeus boasting he could pull up all the other gods, sun and moon, earth and sea, from a golden chain fastened to the sky.
In Psalm 19:4b-6 the following passage containing a reference to the sun's motion across the heavens was inserted:
In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of heaven,
and his circuit unto the ends of it:
and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The "tent for the sun" is apparently a reference to the solid sky. The sun appears here as a personality, and a hero, but this seems to be inconsistent with the Mosaic law, where any worship of the sun and moon, or stars was proscribed. The worship of the sun as Apollo was popular amongst the Jews of the second century BC, and coins of Judea depicting Apollo have been discovered. The addition made to Psalm 19 above, together with the story of Joshua telling the sun to "stand still", inserted in Joshua 10:12-14, fit Daniel's prophecy about Antiochus taking away the "constant."
Genesis 8:22 records that after the flood God promised that there would be no interruption of the regular sequence of day and night, but if the tale of Joshua commanding the sun and moon to stand still in the sky for a whole day were true, this promise of God would be violated.
Man's discovery of the true nature of the universe was probably the most momentous event since the resurrection of Jesus; Daniel's simple phrase, "then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" encapsulates this. The sanctuary, or heaven, was cleansed of the celestial spheres of Aristotle, and the idea of a rigid rotating firmament, 2,300 years from the date Daniel received his vision. Men abandoned their belief in the rigid firmament after Newton's discoveries of the law of gravity and the principles of mechanics became widely known. The discoveries of Newton were popularized by Voltaire, in the mid eighteenth century. The overthrow of the geocentric cosmology was the scientific revolution. The prophecy has come to pass, just as Daniel predicted.
The 2,300 "evening-mornings" or days of Daniel 8:14 can be taken as years. Perhaps Daniel used the phrase "evening morning" (this is translated "days" in the KJV) because the prophecy relates to the creation account in Genesis, where this phrase "the evening and the morning" appears several times. The phrase is a pointer to Genesis chapter 1. Since the period of desecration was given as "unto 2,300 evening mornings" the period must begin when Daniel received this vision. This shows the units must be longer than literal days as Daniel lived centuries before the time of Antiochus.
The "sanctuary" mentioned in Daniel 8:14 can refer to heaven, because it is where God dwells. This is supported by Psalm 102:19:
For he hath looked down from the height of his
from heaven did the Lord behold the earth.
Jesus said heaven was God's throne, and the earth his footstool [Matt 5:35-35]. This must mean the universe, where the stars and galaxies are located. But, there is even more reason to identify the sanctuary of Daniel 8:14 with heaven, because the word "sanctuary" in verse 14 clearly refers to the same "sanctuary" that is mentioned in verse 11. This verse says, referring to the activity of the little horn:
Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the
and by him the daily [sacrifice] was taken away,
and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.
The host referred to here is the heavenly host of the previous verse, that is, stars, planets, and the sun and moon. The stars are mentioned in the previous verse. The question about the identification of the word "sanctuary" in verse 14 really depends on what is meant by "the place of his sanctuary" in verse 11. Since the stars are in heaven, and the "host of heaven" is also in heaven, the "prince of the host" must be God, who dwells in heaven, and "the place of his sanctuary" must be heaven.
The word "sacrifice" in verse 14 is italicised in the KJV so it can be ignored, as it was not part of the original text. It was added by translators who attempted to interpret the prophecy.
The crucial word here is "daily" which in the Hebrew is "tamiyd." It means "continual" or "constant". What is more constant than the earth's rotation? This can be called "daily" also; it is the diurnal rotation. The continuity of the earth's rotation was interrupted, when some insertions were placed in the scripture, saying the sun stood still! This was inserted in Joshua 10:12-14. This fits the context of cosmological changes that are the subject of the previous verse.
Here is another important clue to the meaning of the prophecy; it has to do with "truth" being cast down to the ground; this could certainly describe clandestine alterations to vital sections of the scripture, such as the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis.
The conditions in Judaea when Antiochus IV came to the Seleucid throne are summarized in the first chapter of the First book of Maccabees, some sections of which are quoted below:
10 And there came out of them a wicked root Antiochus surnamed
Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been an hostage at Rome,
and he reigned in the hundred and thirty and seventh year of the
kingdom of the Greeks.
11 In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow.
12 So this device pleased them well.
13 Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them licence to do after the ordinances of the heathen:
14 Whereupon they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen:
15 And made themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief.
This says that the Hellenizing party from among the Jews initiatiated the reforms, as they probably viewed their traditional customs as outdated, and they wished to adopt the Greek cosmology and be like the Greeks, who seemed to them to be much more advanced and "scientific".
Compulsory conversion to Greek ways was decreed by Antiochus, as we read later on in the same chapter:
41 Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should
be one people,
42 And every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king.
43 Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath.
The Hebrew Bible, as well as the LXX, were likely both altered upon the initiative of Antiochus. The attempts to translate the Law into Greek may have indicated there was a discrepancy between the biblical and Greek cosmologies. The Greek word for heaven, "stereoma", implied a rigid structure, for example. The translation was apparently done in Egypt but there must have been considerable interest in it in Judaea as well.
Antiochus had the necessary power to make the changes he wanted in the Hebrew Bible, as he had detained the legitimate high priest, Onias, in Antioch, and he appointed his replacements, Jason and Menelaus. Onias was eventually murdered in Antioch, when he denounced Menelaus for selling the golden ornaments from the temple. Both the high priests who succeeded Onias favoured the hellenistic reforms, especially Menelaus. The leaders of the hellenist party probably went along with revisions to the cosmology of scripture that depicted the sky as revolving around the earth, which requires a rigid heaven. Daniel 11:32 says:
Such as do wickedly against the covenant
shall he corrupt by flatteries
This suggests Antiochus had the support of hellenistic Jews when he imposed his reforms.
The following passage from 1 Maccabees 1 describes the decree that Antiochus made, requiring the Jews to abandon their traditional beliefs and practices and adopt the Greek religion (or cosmology):
44 For the king had sent letters by messengers unto
Jerusalem and the cities of Juda that they should follow the strange
laws of the land,
45 And forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days:
46 And pollute the sanctuary and holy people:
47 Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine's flesh, and unclean beasts:
48 That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation:
49 To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances.
50 And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die.
Whatever copies of the Bible survived this period would likely have been corrupted. Most manuscripts were destroyed:
54 Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and
fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar,
and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side;
55 And burnt incense at the doors of their houses, and in the streets.
56 And when they had rent in pieces the books of the law which they found, they burnt them with fire.
57 And whosoever was found with any the book of the testament, or if any committed to the law, the king's commandment was, that they should put him to death.
The words of the angel that Daniel recorded in the last part of chapter 8 explain what the effects of the corruptions of the cosmology of scripture introduced by Antiochus IV would be. These effects would be felt among God's saints of a later age, at a time called "the time of the end" [verse 17].
Some Bible scholars have assumed the message here was meant to explain the symbolism of the first part of the chapter. However, if that is what the angel's explanation really was about, the prophecy would not have been "shut up", or its meaning hidden until the end time, as the angel said it would be [verse 26]. Furthermore, this makes very little sense, because the prophecy itself was for the end time, while the events described were to take place in the second century BC. So anyone reading the prophecy after the time of Antiochus IV would have had the benefit of history, to help them understand the events described. What point would there be, for the angel to tell Daniel what we can learn from history books? But the prophecy contains information not found in history books, about the alteration of the sacred scriptures, to make them conform to the Greek cosmology, so that they now seem to support the false idea of a rigid sky or firmament.
The "mighty and the holy people" of verse 24 are the saints of God, who the prophecy says are destroyed by the "king of fierce countenance" who is able to "understand dark sentences." The prophecy does not say they were destroyed by violence, as many of those Jews were, who lived under the regime of Antiochus. It says they were destroyed "by peace." He causes "craft to prosper in his hand," [verse 25] which suggests technological accomplishments.
This king seems to be a sinister figure, and verse 25 says he opposes the "prince of princes", who Christians recognize as Jesus Christ; so, obviously, he represents the antichrist. As Paul said in 2 Thess 2:3-12, this was to take place in the "temple of God", a figure for the Church. Peter called the saints "living stones, built into a spiritual house" in 1 Peter 2:5. Paul said the Church is God's temple, where God dwells by His Spirit. In Ephesian 2:20-22; speaking of the saints, he wrote:
And [you] are built upon the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
As interpreted above, and in the light of the New Testament references to the antichrist that was yet to come, the prophecy of Daniel 8 accurately reflects the reality we see today.
Copyright © 1996 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.