For an introduction to this series, click here.
Oct. 24, 2006
The book of Daniel is divided into two halves. The first half is a series of episodes in the life of Daniel. That is the part most of us are familiar with. The second half has to do with prophetic visions of the future. Of course the Catholic version adds two chapters at the end of Daniel. They are not recognized by the Protestant churches of today or by the Jews as authentically a part of the Old Testament. But they are interesting, and there is no doubt that some of the historical events described actually did take place pretty much as written. I have a copy of the King James Apocrypha (yes, the original KJV did include it) at my house in Poplar Bluff. I wish I had picked it up when I was down there Saturday. The story in Chapter 14 about Daniel killing the dragon is cool, but I don't know if it actually happened.
Chapters 7-12 are the visions of Daniel. This part is the most controversial part of Daniel. I guess the skeptics don't have a problem with God allowing men to go through a blaze of fire unharmed, but they do have a problem with Him revealing the future to Daniel. Many skeptics will say this portion of Daniel was written much later, as late as 90 B.C. But traditionally Jews and Christians have held that this entire book was indeed written by Daniel in the mid-500s B.C., before any of the events described so accurately happened.
In Chapter 7, Daniel sees a vision of four beasts. They are a progression of four kingdoms, actually quite similar to Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the statue with the five parts. The fourth beast, symbolic of the Roman empire, grows 10 horns, congruous to the ten toes of the vision of Chapter 2, and a little horn that conquers three other horns and defies God. I think most dispensationalists agree that this is prophetic of the Beast who will rise during the Tribulation and set up his kingdom in opposition to God. I am not aware of any other interpretations of the 10 horns, although I am sure there are other explanations.
Chapter 8 is even more specific. Daniel sees a vision of a ram with two mighty horns that runs wild over the earth. Then a goat with one large horn subdues the ram and becomes more powerful. Yet suddenly the large horn is broken and four smaller horns rise in its stead. Then one horn in particular rises to oppress the Jews in the "glorious land."
When Daniel asks the interpretation of the dream, the angel tells him point blank that the ram is Media and Persia, which at the time of the vision were two small kingdoms to the east of Babylon. He then says, "The goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first great king." (8:21, ESV) This prophecy of Alexander the Great's rise 200 years before he was born is one of the most amazing prophecies in scripture. After Alexander died at the age of 33, his kingdom was indeed divided into four kingdoms. One of the kings of Ptolemy, which was the kingdom of which Israel was a part, was Antiochus Epiphanes. He stopped the sacrifices in the second Temple in Jerusalem and then committed a worse injustice by sacrificing a pig in the Temple. The Jewish observance of Hanukah commemmorates the Jews' victory over this evil ruler. This prophecy of events that happened 400 years later is also astounding in its accuracy.
However, there are some who see the little horn in Daniel 8 as another prophecy of the Beast as well as a prophecy of Antiochus. I am not sure. What I am sure of is that God is in control of everything. He knows what is going to happen and our job is to trust that He knows what is best. If God had already laid out the near future for the Middle East, then He is powerful enough for me to entrust my future with Him.