Daniel – Chapter 8

A Goat Rams a Ram

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Daniel had another vision during the reign of Belshazzar. In this vision, he was in the capital city Shushan, in the province of Eilam, at the river Ulai. He looked up and saw a ram standing by the river; both of the ram’s horns were tall, but one was taller than the other and the taller one came in later. The ram gored west, north and south, defeating all the other beasts. No one could stop the ram from doing as it pleased.

Then, Daniel saw a goat coming from the west without touching the ground. The goat was unusual because it had a horn between its eyes. The goat attacked the ram and defeated it, breaking its horns and trampling it. The goat then grew in size. When it reached its apex, its horn shattered and four others took its place, reaching towards the four directions.

One of the horns grew a smaller horn that grew south, east and towards Israel, the land that everyone seems to want. It grew towards Heaven and threw some angels and some stars to the ground, where it trampled on them. It even dared to approach G-d Himself and it caused the Temple service to be interrupted and the Temple itself to be degraded – though the service is scheduled to be suspended for some time because of the sins of the nation. Then, Daniel heard one angel ask another how long the unliving idol would be permitted to disrupt the holy. The answer was “Until evening, morning, 2,300. Then the holiness will be corrected.”

Daniel was trying to understand the meaning of this vision when he saw an angel. A voice came from the river and said, “Gabriel, explain the vision to him.” Gabriel (Gavriel in Hebrew) approached Daniel, who prostrated before him. Gabriel told Daniel that the vision concerns The End.

As Gabriel spoke, Daniel fell asleep with his face on the ground. The angel touched him and Daniel arose. “I am ready to tell you,” Gabriel said, “what comes after the wrath, because The End comes at its designated time. The ram with two horns represents Persia and Media.” (Persia came later, but was the superior power, which is why the horn that came in later was the longer one.) “The goat is Greece and the big horn is its first king (Alexander). That mighty empire will be divided into four smaller kingdoms. When that reign is over, there will be an arrogant ruler who can figure out riddles. He will grow, but not from military strength, and he will be successful in his destruction. He will raze mighty nations as well as the holy nation (Israel). Deceit will thrive in his hands and he will become arrogant. He will even attack G-d, at Whose “hand” this king will die, rather than by the hand of man. This vision is true, but don’t publicize the details because it is far off.”

The vision made Daniel literally ill for days, but he eventually got up and went back to work. He continued to be bothered by the vision, but he managed to keep it to himself.

So, who is the arrogant king that defied G-d and defiled the Temple? Rashi says it is Titus of Rome, who destroyed the second Temple. Ibn Ezra says that it is Antiochus of the Chanukah story, who desecrated the Temple and suspended the sacrifices. Both of them fit the description of throwing some of the “stars” (i.e., the Jews) to the ground and stomping on them, as well disrupting the Jews’ service of G-d, albeit for drastically different durations.

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