A period of two years had passed since the vision recorded in the seventh of Daniel. The prophet's mind had dwelt often upon the scenes which his eye then beheld, and the subject of the judgment had been pondered again and again. He kept the matter in his heart, he himself says, for in the days of Daniel, as at the present time, only the few could comprehend and appreciate spiritual topics. Many changes of a material nature had taken place during those two years. Wickedness increased in the kingdom of Babylon, and no reverence whatever was shown for God or his people. This condition saddened the heart of Daniel. He who for years had been chief counselor in the empire, now no longer dwelt in the capital, but had his residence in the palace at Shushan. Shushan was the capital of Elam, which was formerly a subject province of the kingdom of Babylon, but as that empire began to weaken, and the strength of Cyrus, the Persian general, was recognized, Elam, under Abradates, the viceroy or prince, had revolted from Babylon, and joined the forces of the Persians. Years before this, the prophet Isaiah had said that Elam and Media would join forces in the conquest of Babylon. As Daniel lived in the palace of Shushan, he saw the way opening for the fulfillment of this prophecy. If Babylon was not already undergoing a siege at the hands of Cyrus
and Darius, her downfall was so imminent that in this vision the history of nations begins with the rising kingdom of the Medes and Persians.
Daniel was transported to the river Ulai, by the side of which stood a ram having two horns, one higher than the other, and the higher came up last. In his previous vision the second kingdom had been represented by a bear which raised itself on one side and had three ribs in its mouth. Both symbols apply to the double nature of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, but the uneven horns of the ram give a more specific description; for while the Median kingdom was the older of the two, the Persian excelled it in strength, and its position in history must be attributed to the line of Persian kings which began with Cyrus the Great. The definiteness with which this symbol is interpreted is an illustration of the fact that the Scriptures are their own best commentaries. Said the angel, "The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia."
As the ram pushed westward, northward, and southward, and no beast could stand before it, so the Medo-Persian empire extended its dominion in these directions. At the fall of Babylon one hundred and twenty provinces recognized the authority of Cyrus and Darius. These were held in subjection, and others added, so that in the time of Ahasuerus of Esther, the kingdom controlled one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, and extended from India on the cast to the Mediterranean on the west, and from the Caspian Sea to Ethiopia. It was then called a glorious kingdom, and the monarch was spoken of as "his excellent majesty." The same facts are
made prominent in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, where Xerxes, the fourth from Cyrus, stirs up all the Eastern nations to war with Greece: "He did according to his will, and became great."
Nevertheless, the greatness of the second kingdom did not insure length of life, and the prophet was shown a he goat coming from the west, and, as Spurrell's translation gives it, "rushing over the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground." The goat had a notable horn between his eyes. In the interpretation the angel said, "The rough goat is the king [or kingdom] of Grecia, and the great horn . . . is the first king." The kingdom of Greece was described in the previous vision (chap. 7, vs. 6), but at the time now under consideration, the details of its rise are given. The eleventh chapter states that the fourth kingdom after Cyrus should stir up the nations against Greece. This was done when Xerxes crossed the Hellespont with a large army in 480 b. c. His army is said by Herodotus to have numbered over a million and a half. It was a gathering of nations, and so vast was the army that seven days were required to pass from Asia to the Greek soil. But in spite of all preparations, the Persian army was defeated at ThermopylÊ, at Salamis, and at PlateÊ, and Xerxes, discouraged and disheartened, gave over the attempt to invade Greece. Prophecy had foretold that when Medo-Persia and Greece should contend, Greece would be the aggressive power.
Later, the he goat, Greece, came toward the ram, Medo-Persia, "and rushed upon him in the heat of his strength. And I saw him coming up close to the ram, and he was exceedingly embittered against him, and smote the ram, and brake
his two horns, so that there was no strength in the ram to stand before him, for he threw him down to the ground, and trampled on him; neither could any one deliver the ram from his grasp."-Spurrell.
No historian has ever given a more graphic account of the contest between the Greeks under Alexander the Great and the Persians under Darius. That kingdom which before had shown such wonderful strength, crumbled and fell, and there was none to help. She had passed her probation and filled the cup of her iniquity. Michael, the Lord of heaven, had stood at the right hand of the Persian monarch on the throne to persuade him, and yet he had resisted the divine influence, and that kingdom which had been a rod in the hand of God to overthrow Babylon in its wickedness, repeated her sins, and in turn met the same fate. Although the Persians restored the Jews to Jerusalem, that could not save them. It is only as nations or individuals continue in a love of the truth, only as they partake constantly of the leaves of the tree of life, that their existence is prolonged.
The ram and the goat met on a river. The first successful battle fought by the Grecians against the Medes was on the banks of the Granicus, a stream of Asia Minor. This was in the year 334 b. c. Already the victory of Greece was recorded in the books of heaven. The battle at Granicus was soon followed by the defeat of the Medo-Persian force at the pass of Issus, and the third and overwhelming defeat was on the plains of Arbela. None could deliver the sinking cause of the Medo-Persian empire from the hands of the victorious Alexander.
Alexander stands without a rival for the rapidity of his conquests. He was but a young man of twenty when, by the death of his father, Philip of Macedon, he fell heir to a small dominion. He united the Greek states, placed himself at the head of affairs, and led her armies in a series of wonderful victories. In the space of a few short years he was the recognized master of the world. He who rose to the highest position the world could offer, fell equally as suddenly. He had conquered kingdoms, but was not master of his own passions. His love of praise led him to have himself proclaimed Son of Jupiter-Ammon in Egypt, and his love of drink caused his death at the age of thirty-two years, after a universal reign of only two years. Such was the fate of one who feared neither God nor man. "The Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men."
"Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south, but God is judge. He putteth down one and setteth up another."
"By strength shall no man prevail." There is no restraint of the Lord to save by many or by few.
"There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their souls from death, and to keep them alive in famine."
Truly the Lord "increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them; he enlargeth the nations, and straighteneth them again. He taketh away the
heart of the people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way. They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man." "When he was strong, the great horn was broken, and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven." Alexander left no heir capable of ruling the kingdom, and in less than twenty years of strife, his four leading generals succeeded in dividing the empire among themselves.
Ptolemy had Egypt to the south; Seleucus took Syria and the eastern division; Lysimachus had Asia Minor and territory to the north; while Cassander had Greece or the western division. These four had not the power of Alexander. The history of these four divisions is given in the eleventh chapter of Daniel.
In the division under consideration, the prophet sees a little horn coming forth from one of these divisions. Here is brought to his view the power symbolized by the fourth beast of Daniel seven. In his first vision the fourth beast was so terrible and had such a strange appearance that Daniel asked for a clearer explanation of its work. In this second vision the little horn is not named, but its work as a kingdom is still further portrayed. One feels when reading both the vision and the interpretation that he is coming into the presence of a power greater and more terrible than any which had hitherto existed. The accumulated forces of the evil of past ages is concentrated in this rising power, which waxed exceeding great. It is in truth the masterpiece from Satan's workshop. Four thousand years of trial had not passed in vain. As heaven was
about to be emptied in the gift of the Saviour, so all the fiendishness of the lower world was brought into play to counteract the love of God and destroy the effect of the sacrifice. There is a world of meaning in the words of the angel.
Said Gabriel, "His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power." No merely human power could do what this kingdom would do. As light and love and power come from above to those whose eyes are directed heavenward, so a power from beneath takes possession of individuals and nations which resist the love of God. This kingdom waxed "exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land." Rome extended her territory around the Mediterranean; there was no place where her arms were not victorious. Some of the greatest battles which history records were fought by the Roman armies. The pen of inspiration says, "He [the little horn] shall destroy wonderfully." Cities which dared resist the power of Rome were blotted out of existence. In describing the government, the angel said, "He shall prosper and practice," and "through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand." But aside from the strong central government which was built up by Rome, which brought every other nation to her feet, and made slaves of the noblest of races; which was robbing men of God-given rights, and violating every principle of equity and justice-aside from all this, the great arrogance of Rome was displayed when the nation magnified itself against the host (church) of heaven, "Yea, he magnified himself even against [mar.] the prince of the host." "He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes."
God's people are precious in his sight, and he who touches them touches the apple of his eye. Rome first deprived the Jews of the right to worship, grinding that nation beneath the heel of oppression. Then Christ came, when the oppression was the most severe, that Rome might see God in human flesh. He came to identify himself with that downtrodden people, and to show to men that God is always with the oppressed and enslaved. He came to illustrate the workings of the Spirit in the human heart, and to prove that it is possible to have a heaven within, although outward circumstances are to the contrary.
But Rome crucified him whom Heaven sent. The dragon was wroth, and made war with the seed of the woman-Christ-who had been promised when sin entered the world. This was paganism in its greatest strength. It was in its dying throes, and with the agony of death it smote the truth.
What Satan could not accomplish through open opposition, he sought to accomplish by policy and strategy. Silently, stealthily, the principles of evil crept into the church of Christ, which had grown up in spite of the pagan opposition. The humility of the Son of God at first characterized the body of Christians, and therein lay the power of the early church. Christian mothers gathered their children about them as the Jewish mothers had done in the days of their prosperity. From infancy the truths of God's word were implanted in their hearts; sacred songs were on their lips; the Word of God was the text-book from which all lessons were learned.
Parents dared not allow their children to remain
in the pagan schools, for the very atmosphere breathed of the heathen worship; the air was heavy with the odor of sacrifice to idols. They dared not sit at the table with those with whom they had once been familiar, for the food had been consecrated to idols. In the most careful way the rising generation was educated, and Christianity took the place of paganism.
But Satan could not see his power overthrown without making a desperate struggle, and by stealth he insinuated his principles into the new church. Wrangling, disputes, theological controversies drove out the spirit of life. Self-exaltation put men in power; the equal rights of all fell before the rising power of a hierarchy. The principles of trusts and monopolies, of unions and leagues, which had always characterized pagan society, twined its tendrils about the new organization of Christians, and choked its life.
Paganism the "daily" of Dan. 8:12-was taken away, it is true. Rome became nominally a Christian empire. Her emperor professed the name of Christ, and carried before his army the banner of the cross. Decrees were issued causing men to worship according to the dictates of Rome. Then it was that man-the emperor-and the empire attempted to exalt themselves above the God of heaven. The principles of Lucifer himself had crowded out the truth of Christ, and, as was shown to Daniel, the truth was cast down to the ground.
To John this transfer from paganism to the papacy is represented as a transfer of power from the dragon to the beast. Rev. 13:7. The eleventh and twelfth verses of Daniel eight are parallel with the twenty-first and twenty-fifth verses of
the seventh chapter, where the little horn makes war with the saints, and speaks great words against the Most High, attempting even to change his times and laws. Twice Daniel had been shown the twofold history of Rome: first as a pagan power, when it was more cruel than any pagan government before it; and later as a professedly Christian power, when its cruelty far surpassed all the workings of paganism.
The prophet was heart-sick as he beheld these scenes and the deep sufferings of the people of God. He was unable to grasp the idea of the time of the fulfillment of the events, and thought that his own people, perhaps the very ones who were at that time in bondage to Babylon, would be called to suffer these things. The investigative judgment had been revealed to him, when the cases of men would be tried and the oppressor would be condemned. The end also of this oppressive power he had been shown was the lake of fire, when Roman authority should be broken without hands. In Nebuchadnezzar's dream the end would come when the stone cut out without hands should smite the image and finally fill the whole earth. As these scenes passed like a panorama before the eye of the prophet, angels also watched, for their interests are one with man's.
The universe has waited now six thousand years for the final issue between truth and error. No wonder angelic hosts wonder when the struggle will end, and when the song of songs can be taken up by the choir of heaven. These times are hidden with the Father, but man may understand some of the secrets of the Almighty. The interest heaven manifests at these scenes of earth is shown by the thirteenth verse.
One angel called to Gabriel, asking, "How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice [pagan Rome] and the transgression of desolation [the papacy] to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?" And Gabriel answered, "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
Daniel longed for an understanding of what he had seen, and the close connection between human longing and Christ's heart is shown here; for Christ, appearing as a man, stood before the prophet, and to Gabriel he said, "Make this man to understand the vision." Gabriel drew near, and before his exceeding brightness Daniel fell upon the ground with his face to the earth. Then as if to lift the strain from the mind of him who carried Israel on his heart, he said, "Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. . . . I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation; for at the time appointed shall the end be."
Gabriel took up the history of the kingdoms one by one, and when he came to the two thousand three hundred days, he said, "The vision of the morning and the evening [see margin, vs. 14, same as the two thousand three hundred days] which was told is true. Wherefore, shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days." Daniel fainted, for the crucifixion of the Saviour had just been revealed to him, and the view was more than he could endure. Further explanation was delayed until a later vision. The events which would take place during that period are noted in the following chapter of the book of Daniel.
In addition to the truth taught by the prophecy
itself there are connected with the eighth chapter of Daniel some underlying principles of wonderful beauty.
The spirit of prophecy is a gift to be coveted. God never leaves himself without some representation on earth, and among his people certain ones are prophets. The study of Daniel's life reveals the character which makes it possible for man to understand the language of God. A clean, pure soul is necessary. Gabriel is the angel of prophecy, the messenger who bears the light of truth to men. To the father of John the Baptist he said, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God." To Daniel he said, "There is none that holdeth with me in these things but Michael, your prince," Christ himself. Gabriel is then the personal attendant of the Son of God, holding the position as light bearer which Satan occupied before his fall. It was Gabriel who announced the birth of the Saviour to Mary in Nazareth. It was he who led the angel choir on the plains of Bethlehem; he with others, as the star, guided the wise men to the Babe of Bethlehem.
It was Gabriel who brought strength to the Saviour at the close of the forty days' conflict in the wilderness of temptation, and he who lifted the prostrate form of the Son of Man in Gethsemane and pillowed that aching head, wet with bloody sweat, upon his own bosom. Before Gabriel, the Roman guard fell like dead men, and his voice shook the earth as the Saviour came from the tomb. Taking his seat on the empty sepulcher, it was he who met the disciples and the women, and bade them seek their Lord among the living.
The Saviour ascended to heaven leaving his
disciples alone, but not alone, for "Behold two men stood by them in white apparel." While heaven rang with songs of welcome to the returning Son of God, two angels stood on earth to comfort the lonely ones. One of these was Gabriel, Christ's attendant angel. Of all the angels of heaven none have been more closely connected with man than has Gabriel. Yet to John, who fell before him to worship, he said, "See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow-servant." So bound up in the affairs of man is this mighty angel that he counts himself one with us. This is the one whom Christ has used to convey the light of future events to men upon earth. To every prophet, from Moses to John, the same angel came, and to the remnant church, Gabriel reveals truth through the person of the prophet.
Before his fall, Lucifer was the light bearer. Since that time he has used his power in bearing darkness to the sons of men. There always have been and will be to the end of time, false prophets and seers. Men who might be used by God, were their hearts given to him, often yield themselves to the influence of the counterfeit power. Herein lies the explanation of spirit manifestations. So great will be this power that before the end Satan himself, personifying an angel of light, will appear on the earth, deceiving, if possible, the very elect. The safety of God's people will lie in heeding the voice of Gabriel as he speaks through some chosen instrument. Christ speaks through Gabriel to his prophet.
Daniel, though living in the palace of Shushan, was carried by the angel to the river Ulai. On the banks of the river he witnessed the contest
between the ram and the goat; between the Medo-Persian empire and the Greeks. Ulai represents the river of time, which has its source in eternity. Time with which we have to deal is but an infinitely small fraction of eternity, as a drop in the bucket; as the stream to the ocean. But on the banks of this river all nations are located; there they rise and there they fall. Christ presides over the waters, and his voice was heard from between the banks of the river calling to Gabriel, "Make this man to understand the vision." Nation may contend with nation on its banks, but the "Holy Watcher" is ever near. This river contains the water of life for all who will drink, but all nations have built river walls exceeding the height of those of Babylon, to keep men away from the waters and to break the influence of Him who calls from between the banks.
Page 104: Dan. 8:1; Dan. 7:28; 1 Cor. 2:14; Dan. 8:2; Jer. 49:39; Isa. 13; 17; Isa. 21:1-3.
Page 105: Dan. 8:3; Dan. 7:5; Isa. 45:1-5; Dan. 8:20; Dan. 8:4; Esther 1:1; Dan. 6:1; Esther 1:4.
Page 106: Dan. 11:3; Dan. 8:5, 6; Dan. 8:21; Dan. 11:2; Nahum 3:2, 3; Ps. 146:3; Isa. 17:12, 13; Dan. 8:7.
Page 107: Jer. 6:30; Gen. 15:16; 1 Kings 21:26; Dan. 10:20. 21; Dan. 11:1; Jer. 51:20; Dent. 30:19, 20; Prov. 3:13, 18; Dan. 8:6; Acts 15:18; Job 12:17-19.