I grew up in the home of an American History teacher. Dinners were often spent hearing my dad share about the Winter at Valley Forge, battles of the Civil War, or the Trail of Tears. I felt awed by the valor of those who endured so much calamity but I was also moved by their pain, sorrow, and fear. These historical events often left me asking, “where was their hope?”
Daniel 8 conveys another of Daniel’s dreams, along with an interpretation that was revealed to him by the angel Gabriel. As apocalyptic literature, it both explains what is now history and creates wonder for future events. The dream occurred in Susa, north of the Persian Gulf. It begins when Daniel sees a ram with two horns, destroying everything in its wake to the west, north and south. The two horns portrayed the Median and Persian Empires, yet the Persian horn grew larger, representing Cyrus the Great who eventually dominated the Median Empire amongst others. Cyrus’ reign lasted around 30 years until the “goat” entered the scene.
This goat charged from the west without touching the ground. His might was far greater than the ram; executing powerful wrath. The initial power of the goat is represented by Alexander the Great who was ruthless and became arrogant in his greatness. At the height of his power, he died and the great horn “broke off”. In its place grew four more horns, representing four more kingdoms. Yet again, one of these horns grew in strength; greater than any other thus far.
This powerful horn is known as the Hellenistic King, Antiochus Epiphanes. Verse 11 says, “It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host.” Antiochus proceeded to dominate the Jews and pressure them to surrender their religious loyalties to conform to that of Greek culture and idolatry. Catching his victims unaware, Antiochus seized Jerusalem by treachery, suppressing their faith and worship of the one true God, hence his name means, “God Manifest”. The megalomania of Antiochus reached its apex when he sacrificed swine on the altar in the temple as he dedicated it to the Greek god Zeus. This was a total affront to the Jewish people which is referred to in verse 13 as the “abomination of desolation.”
No wonder Daniel fell ill following this vision! This dream sounds like a horror movie, yet hope is still found in verse 14, “the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.” So much of history is a portrayal of evil domination; leaders attempting to have the power of God. As believers in Christ Jesus, we have confidence in the true High Priest. Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”
In whom do you place your hope today? Is it in the powers that be or historical megalomaniacs? Or is it in the God of the universe who is the writer of his own story? The God of history is also the God of our hope.
Director of Counseling and Soul Care