Vision of the Ram and the Goat

SYNOPSIS - Daniel received a vision of a “ram” overthrown by a “goat” with a prominent horn, followed later by a “little horn” that attacked the saints - Daniel 8:1-14

Ram Photo by Paxson Woelber on Unsplash
In chapter 8, Daniel received a vision of a “ram" and a male “goat.” The ram represented the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians,” and the goat the kingdom of Greece, beginning with its first great king who overthrew the “ram” – The Medo-Persian Empire. The vision is followed by an 
interpretation provided by an angelic figure. The focus of the vision and its interpretation is the figure represented by the “little horn,” a king who ruled one of the four lesser kingdoms that arose after the death of the “great king” of Greece. - [Photo by Paxson Woelber on Unsplash].

The visions in chapters 7 and 8 are related - There are multiple structural, verbal, and conceptual parallels between them. The imagery of chapter 7 is “apocalyptic,” cosmic, and therefore, ambiguous. In contrast, in chapter 8, the vision and its interpretation include clear historical references.

Two of the four “kingdoms” or “beasts from the sea” described in chapter 7 are named in chapter 8 – The kingdom of the “Medes and Persians,” and “Greece.” Both visions were received by Daniel in the reign of Belshazzar, both were interpreted by an angel, and both end with Daniel “troubled” by what he saw. A common theme is the assault against the “people of the saints” by a malevolent figure - The “little horn.”

The vision of the “ram and goat” occurred in 550 B.C., approximately the same time that Cyrus the Great annexed the kingdom of the “Medes” to his growing Persian domain; thus, his realm became the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians”:
  • (Daniel 8:1-3) - In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me, Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. And I saw in the vision; now it was so, that when I saw, I was in Shushan the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision, and I was by the river Ulai. Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.”
In verse 1, the original text reverts from the Aramaic language to Hebrew - (Aramaic is used from Daniel 2:4 to 8:1). This marks the start of the second half of the book. “Shushan” or “Susa” was the ancient capital of the Median province of Elam, between Babylon and Persia. “Ulai” was waterway along which the city was built. It does not state that Daniel was physically in Susa; possibly, he found himself “in Susa” as part of the visionary experience. Susa became a prominent royal city in the Persian Empire - (Nehemiah 1:1, Esther 1:1-2).

Alongside the river, he saw a “ram with two horns.” One horn came up after the first and grew higher than it, which corresponds to the “bear” in the previous vision that had one side elevated higher than the other. The “ram” was pushing “westward, northward, and southward.” No one could withstand it. The “ram” is identified in the interpretation as the “kings of Media and Persia” - (Daniel 7:5, 8:20).
  • (Daniel 8:4-8) - I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; and no beasts could stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will and magnified himself. And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had the two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran upon him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and smote the ram, and broke his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; but he cast him down to the ground and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the he-goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.”
The Medo-Persian empire expanded rapidly in all directions, but especially to the south, west, and north. To the south it conquered Babylonia, Egypt, and Libya; to the west, Lydia and most of Asia Minor; and to the north, Armenia and the Scythians in the Caucasus.

Then, a “goat” charged out of the west so rapidly that its feet “touched not the ground.” It had a prominent horn between its eyes and rushed headlong into the “ram,” casting it to the ground and breaking both its horns. The “ram” was powerless to resist.

The prominent horn of the “goat” represented the first and great “king of Greece.” This can be none other than Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warlord who conquered the Persian Empire in only three years. However, at the height of its strength, the goat’s prominent horn was broken and replaced by four “notable horns,” which were aligned with the “four winds of heaven.”

There are several conceptual links to the third “beast” of chapter 7, the leopard; its “wings” symbolized swiftness in conquest. Likewise, the “goat” conquered so swiftly its feet did not touch the ground. The leopard had “four heads,” just as the “prominent horn of the goat” was broken and replaced by four lesser horns.
  • (Daniel 8:9-14) - And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them. Yea, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the continual burnt-offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said unto that certain one who spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering, and the transgression that maketh desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
The “little horn” emerged from one of the four lesser horns. It “waxed great” to the south, the east, and the “glorious land.” This is an obvious verbal link to the “little horn” of the vision of “four beasts ascending from the sea.”

Goat Photo by Peter Neumann on Unsplash
Goat - Photo by Peter Neumann on Unsplash

The beauty” may mean the “beautiful land,” although the term for “land” is not present in the Hebrew text. Possibly, it refers to Mount Zion where the sanctuary was situated. The “little horn” waxed great against “the beautyagainst the host of heaven,” and it “removed the daily burnt-offering and cast down the sanctuary.” This describes an assault against the Temple and its sacrificial rituals, not Judea or the land of Palestine - (Psalm 48:1-2, 50:2, Daniel 11:16, 11:41).

The overthrow of the sanctuary and the assault on the saints are described in mythological terms. The “little horn” waxed great, even to “the host of heaven” - it cast down stars and “trampled them underfoot.” These are additional links to the “little horn” in chapter 7, which “made war with the saints and prevailed against them…and spoke words against the Most-High to wear out His saints” - (Daniel 7:21-25).

The “little horn” exalted itself over against the “Prince of the Host.” Elsewhere, Yahweh is the Lord of hosts, and therefore, this probably refers to Him – The “little horn” attempted to trespass on things that were His prerogative.

Daniel heard one angelic being ask, “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily burnt-offering and the desolating transgression, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” This introduces a key term that links this vision with the remaining visions of Daniel - The “transgression” or “abomination that desolates.” “Desolates” translates a participle form of the Hebrew verb shamem, meaning, “desolate, make desolate, devastate” - (Daniel 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, 12:11).

The angel’s question highlights the concern of the vision - The removal of the daily burnt offering, and its restoration. In other words, the disruption of the sacrificial system and the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The “little horn” was a malevolent figure that acted wickedly, however, it did not do so of its own accord. Note the first question: “How long is the vision…for both sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled?” This implies divine purpose. The sanctuary was given to the “little horn” to be “trampled underfoot” until the appointed time - (See Daniel 7:20-22).

Another angel responded - “Until two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then will the sanctuary be cleansed.” This is the goal - to cleanse the sanctuary. The preposition rendered “until” confirms that this profanation was according to a divine decree that would end at a predetermined time.

The sanctuary would be vindicated and restored, not destroyed. The purpose was purgation and restoration, not destruction. In the end, the “little horn” would be “broken without hand,” but the sanctuary restored - (Daniel 8:25).

The expression “evening-morning” was used in the creation story in Genesis for a full day. Accordingly, some interpretations conclude 2,300 “literal” solar days are intended. However, the phrase has no conjunction between the nouns; they form a single unit of measure - “Evening-morning” - (Genesis 1:5-31).

The passage concerned the cessation of the daily burnt offering, not the original creation. “Evening-morning” is better explained by the context – it refers to the daily burnt-offerings made each morning and evening. In the “law of the burnt offering,” sacrifices were laid on the altar “from evening until morning” - (Leviticus 6:8-18).

If this is the correct background, then the 2,300 “evenings-mornings” equates to one thousand eleven hundred and fifty days (1,150). The vision is interpreted by an angel in the last half of the chapter.


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