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Sunday, July 21, 2019

posted Jul 21, 2019, 8:35 PM by Site Administrator



Daniel 8:1-27

Key Verse 8:25


He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. 


First, “A ram and a goat” (1-8). Look at verse 1. In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. The third year of King Belshazzar's reign was 551 B.C. Daniel was in Babylon. But in his vision, he saw himself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam. Susa, located about 230 miles east of Babylon, about 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf, was going to be the capital city of the Persian Empire. In his vision, Daniel was teleported to Susa about 230 miles away, and was shown what's going to happen there in the future. In the vision he was beside the Ulai Canal. He looked up, and there before him was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. As verse 20 shows, this two-horned ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire. Two horns refer to two kings – the king of the Medes and the king of Persia. Even though the two kingdoms were in coalition, the king who came later, Cyrus, king of Persia was stronger than Darius, a Mede. Cyrus let the king of the Medes, Darius be the king of Babylon in 538 B.C., since he was his uncle and at the same time, his father-in-law, while he himself remained as the king of Persia. Then, two years later, when Darius died, he became the king of Babylon also.


Verse 4 describes how successful the Persian Empire was. It reads: “I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.” Here, “no animal could stand against him,” means that no kingdom was powerful enough to resist the Persian Empire. An interesting point is that God describes the kingdoms of the world as “animals.” If any kingdom was significant, God would describe it as another animal, maybe, hyena. God really sees the world history as “Beast Wars!” The Persian Empire spread into three continents - Asia, Africa and Europe. At its greatest extent, the empire included the territories of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the territories of northern India, parts of Central Asia, Asia Minor, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya.


Verse 5 talks about another beast. “As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground.” As verse 21 shows, this shaggy goat refers to the Greek Empire, and a prominent horn between his eyes Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). The first animal, the ram was about 6th Century, but the second animal, the goat was about 4th century. The Greek Empire spread so quickly that it was described as a goat crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. Alexander the Great became king at the age of 20, and in 10 years, he built the vast Greek Empire – Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Bactria (the Central Asia under the Pamir Plateau – Modern day Uzebekistan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan), and a part of India. In those days, it was even not easy to travel all these areas in 10 years! Verses 6 and 7 describe the war between the Persian Empire and the Greek Empire. The goat attacked the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power. This description shows that simply the ram could not be a match for the goat. The first major battle was at Issus, Turkey. Alexander's army was less than 40,000, but the Persian's army led by Darius III, according to the ancient historians' records, ranged from 250,000 to even 600,000. But Alexander defeated them at Issus; while about 450 men of the Greek army died, more than 100,000 of the Persian army were killed. Shortly after this, Darius offered Alexander a deal to take all the land west of the Euphrates, and his daughter in marriage. At this, one of his general, named, Parmenion said, If I were Alexander, I would accept the terms.” At this, Alexander replied, “So would I, if I were Parmenion.” The next major battle was at Gaugamela, Persia. This time, Darius came up with his largest army, according to the ancient historians' record, about 600,000 or even one million soldiers, and Alexander's army was about 35,000. But again, Alexander won; while about 100 men of the Greek army died, about 300,000 men of the Persian Empire died. Soon, Alexander conquered the Persian Empire. 


Alexander the Great believed in the supremacy of Greek Culture, called, “Hellenism” – Greek philosophy, Greek mythology, and Greek arts and buildings. He dedicated himself to spreading Hellenism. As he had conquered the vast area - Europe, Middle East, and Asia Minor, Hellenism spread widely, and as a result, the whole world around the Mediterranean Sea, was unified culturally with Hellenism, and thereby they could communicate with each other freely. That’s why even almost all of the New Testament books were written in Greek. That’s one of the reasons why God established him to build this vast empire. Then, later, as the world was unified politically under the Roman rule, the gospel workers would travel and preach the gospel freely. God was working powerfully for his redemption work.


Verse 8 talks about the death of Alexander and his kingdom being divided into four kingdoms. Alexander was a great young warrior, with such a fighting spirit. But after coming back from his military campaign in India, he lost his vision and indulged himself into a pleasure-seeking life in Babylon. Then, at the age of 33, he got fever and died. Even if he was a great conqueror, he was found powerless before sin and death. At his death bed, when asked by his generals about to whom he wanted give his throne, he said, “To the strongest!” At this, his generals went out and established themselves as kings. In 321 B.C., Ptolemy took possession and ruled Egypt. In 317 B.C., Cassander assumed the government of Macedonia and Greece. In 311 B.C., one of Ptolemy's generals, named Seleucus, took over Babylon and Syria. In 306 B.C., Antiogus declared himself king of Asia Minor, but 5 years later, he was killed, and was succeeded by Lysimachus. By this time, within 15 years after the death of Alexander the Great, all of his family members, including his mother, his wives, his children were killed that not one of his family members remained alive.


This history lesson helps us think about how we must live our life. Even establishing a great empire does not give us any true fulfillment; instead, often, such success in the world makes people only proud, cruel and sinful; in many cases, even such success becomes the cause of real tragedy or sorrow to themselves and their family members. The true success is to have faith in Jesus and live for him; true victory is the victory over the power of sin and death, that can be found only in Jesus Christ. 


Second, “Another horn” (9-14). Look at verses 9 through 11. "Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low.” Here, as we see the interpretation in verses 24 and 25, the Beautiful Land refers to Israel, or more specifically, Jerusalem, and “the host of heavens” refers to the worshipers of God, and “the starry host,” the spiritual leaders there. In God’s eyes, all those great kingdoms are nothing but beasts, and all their kings great or small are nothing but horns of animals, but his worshipers are the host of the heavens, and the spiritual leaders are the starry host. This is how God sees you when you sincerely love him and serve him – such precious and beautiful people to him. 


This vision talks about the persecution on the Jews. Here, another horn refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (his reign: 175-164 B.C.). He was the eighth ruler of the Seleucid Empire. In 170 BC, Antiochus launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, conquering all but Alexandria and capturing King Ptolemy VI. To avoid alarming Rome, Antiochus allowed Ptolemy VI to continue ruling in Egypt. In 168 BC Antiochus led a second attack on Egypt and also sent a fleet to capture Cyprus. But this time, he was not so successful. Before reaching Alexandria, his path was blocked by a single, old Roman ambassador named Gaius Popillius Laenas, who delivered a message from the Roman Senate directing Antiochus to withdraw his armies from Egypt and Cyprus, or consider themselves in a state of war with the Roman Republic. Antiochus said he would discuss it with his council. But the Roman envoy drew a line in the sand around him and said, "Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate" - implying that Rome would declare war if the King stepped out of the circle without committing to leave Egypt immediately. It was really humiliating, but Antiochus could not help, but withdraw. While Antiochus was busy in Egypt, a false rumor spread in Israel that he had been killed. 


Before this, when Antiochus became king in 175 B.C., Jason a priest in Israel visited him and offered him a lot of money asking him to assign him as the High Priest in Israel, promising him that he would pay the same amount of money every year. Antiochus accepted this offer and assigned him as the high priest. The high priest’s position in those days in Israel had authority not only religiously but also politically. It was equivalent to the governor’s position. Then, in 171 B.C., he sent one of his officials, Manelaus to King Antiochus to pay the money. But when Manelaus met Antiochus, he suggested that he would pay three times more than Jason paid, for the high priest’s position. Antiochus accepted it. Manelaus, in his return, kicked Jason out and became the high priest. Manelaus was not Aaron’s descendant, but a Benjamite. Then, later when the rumor spread that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt, the deposed high priest Jason gathered a force of 1,000 soldiers and made a surprise attack on the city of Jerusalem and Manelaus fled Jerusalem during a riot.  


When these things were reported to the king, he was raving mad. He set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In three days, forty thousand were killed, and forty thousand were sold into slavery. Not long after this, the king sent his senator to force the Jews to abandon the customs of their ancestors and live no longer by the laws of God; also to profane the temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to Olympian Zeus. They also brought into the temple things that were forbidden, so that the altar was covered with abominable offerings prohibited by the laws. Those who struggled to keep their integrity before God were killed. Two women who circumcised their sons were killed together with their babies. Those who had assembled in nearby caves to observe the Sabbath in secret were caught, and burned to death. Those who were afraid of such consequences had to give up their faith in God. This lasted about three and a half years until Maccabees overthrew the Syrian rule and rededicated the temple to God. Thus, the Jewish festival called Hanukah began, and also, the Hasmonean Dynasty (140-37 B.C) in Israel – Maccabees belonged to the family of Asmon, or Hasmoneus


Look at verses 13 and 14. While Daniel was thinking about this vision, he heard a holy one speaking to another holy one, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled – the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?” Then he said to Daniel, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” This period of six years and 110 days referred to the time when the sacrifice to God was hindered; this includes the three and a half years of Antiochus' persecution and the time when the Jews neglected the temple worship due to the Hellenistic culture, supported by Jason and Manelaus the high priests


When we think about the power struggles between Jason and Manelaus, we can see how corrupt the priests in those days; they were not spiritual at all, but worldly, political and materialistic. When things went this way for so long, these priestly people formed a group called “the Sadducees” as we see in the gospel of Jesus. When the main stream worship of God was corrupt this way, there were some people who dedicated themselves to God’s words and obeyed God’s laws absolutely. These people became the Pharisees. Also, there were some people who felt sick and tired of all these mundane struggles. They left their homes and stayed in the caves around the Dead Sea, reading and copying the Scriptures, and praying and praising. They became the Essenes; John the Baptist was known as an Essene. Thus we can understand why the chief priests rejected Jesus as a man of God, even if he had made everythingclear to them; they eventually killed him.


As this passage shows, God considers his worshipers so highly; he calls his worship place “the Beautiful Land,” his worshipers “the host of the heavens,” and his servants, “the starry hosts.” The expressions are amazing. These expressions show how precious and beautiful they were in God's eyes. Then, why did God allow such a terrible persecution occur in Jerusalem? Why did he hand them over to such an evil man? Verse 12 shows us the reason, saying, “Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it.” English Standard Version translates this as “And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression.” Also, in verse 14, we see the expression, “Then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated,” showing God's earnest desire for his temple to be consecrated. The reason was because of their transgression, their disobedience. God’s people should not sin; instead, God’s people should live in obedience to God’s words – only God’s people can obey him and do what He wants – this is our privilege and at the same time, our divine responsibility as God’s people. When God’s people sin, when their transgression reaches the limit, God disciplines them with challenges and difficulties. It is our nature that whenever we become successful or enjoy some prosperity, we become proud and self-indulgent; then, God is being pushed away from the center of our hearts; instead, other things occupy our hearts such as money, fame, human recognition, or even pleasures; the symptom of such change is that suddenly people become so concerned about how others think of them or see them, not how God sees them. God disciplines those whom He loves so that their hearts may be purified and restored with love for Him, and thereby, his sanctuary may be reconsecrated. When such difficulties or hardships rise, we must remember God's unchanging love and plan for his worshipers; when difficulties rise, we must accept God's love for us and turn to him in repentance.


Third, “Yet he will be destroyed, not by human power” (15-27). Look at verses 15 and 16. While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai canal calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.” When Gabriel came near the place where Daniel was standing, Daniel was terrified and fell prostrate. Daniel was righteous; he had glory. But Gabriel's glory was different. When Gabriel was a little distant from him, Daniel had no problem. But when Gabriel came near him, and as Daniel was exposed to his boundary, Daniel's human body could not bear his glory that he was terrified and fell prostrate. Simply, Daniel's computer was shut down due to too high voltage. “Son of man,” Gabriel said to Daniel, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” As we see the interpretation in the passage, the vision was about the Persian Empire and the Greek Empire and the Syrian Empire. But Gabriel says here that the vision concerns the time of the end, showing that this vision, especially, the vision of another horn, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, serves as a pattern that will happen again during the end times. Antiochus is a shadow of the Antichrist, and in the same way Antiochus persecuted the Jews and desecrated the temple, the Antichrist will persecute the Jews and the Christians, desecrating the temple and God's churches. He will first have the seven years' covenant with the Jews. Then, during the second half of the covenant, he will change his mind and hate the Jews, stop the temple worship service and try to destroy them.  


Look at verse 18. “While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.” When Gabriel touched Daniel, power came to Daniel and he could stand. Simply, Gabriel's power and Daniel's power were synchronized and thereby, Daniel could stand before him. Gabriel said to him, “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.” Then, he told Daniel about the rise and fall of the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, and the four kingdoms after him. 


Gabriel's interpretation focused on “another horn,” Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He says, “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise.” According to the treaty between the Roman Republic and the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus became a political hostage of the Roman Republic. When his older brother, Seleucus IV became king in 187 B.C, Antiochus was exchanged for his nephew Demetrius I Soter (the son and heir of Seleucus). After king Seleucus was assassinated in 175 B.C., since the true heir, Demetrius was still in Rome, Antiochus proclaimed himself as co-regent for another son of Seleucus, an infant named Antiochus, whom he then murdered a few years later. Indeed, the expression, “a master of intrigue,” describes Antiochus very well. In verse 24, Gabriel says, “He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people.” Here, the expression, “but not by his own power,” shows that in his rise, success and persecution of the saints, there was a spiritual force involved; he persecuted the Jews and desecrated the temple, having such hatred toward the Jews with the inspiration and power of Satan. During the Holocaust, Adolph Hitler killed millions' Jews, surely not by his own power, but with the help and support of Satan. So many people tried to assassinate him, but strangely, things happened and Hitler survived through all those attempts, because Satan was helping him. When the Antichrist rises and persecutes the saints, we must understand that behind the scene, Satan is involved. But that's not it. God is also involved in that matter. Look at verse 25. Let's read this verse together:


He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. 


According to this prophecy, in 164 B.C., as Antiochus returned to his country, he became ill and soon died and the Jews were set free from the Syrian rule. “Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.” While those who persecute us grow in power continually, it seems that they are invincible; we are afraid of them. But at that time, we must remember that God is in control. “But not by human power.” We don't need to fight with those who hate us, those who persecute us. Instead of spending out time and energy in fighting with them, we must use such precious time and resources in spreading the gospel, entrusting all matters in God’s hands. Then, God will deal with them.  


Look at verse 26. “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” Daniel served the Babylonian Empire as the prime minister. But the vision showed him that soon the Persian Empire would rise and conquer the world, and then, the Greek Empire. If he talked about this vision, the Babylonian Empire would not be so happy with him. Maybe, that's why Gabriel told him to seal up the vision, so that Daniel could be protected. After seeing this vision, Daniel was ill for several days, because the vision he saw, the encounter he had with Gabriel, and the whole message were too big and great for his body to handle. 


Today's passage shows God's control over the world history. For his own purpose, God established the Persian Empire and the Greek Empire. He even established Antiochus, a master of intrigue, to help and refine his own people through the persecution. Today, when we open our eyes toward God, we can see that everything is going on according to his plan and purpose. Don’t get involved in the Beast Wars. Instead, give yourselves fully to God's work, for you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain


One Word: Not By Human Power