The last chapters of Daniel’s inspired writing present some of the most exciting information anywhere in the bible! Here the Holy Spirit lays out a “panorama” of the events and empires that would exist between Daniel’s time and the coming of the Messiah. These chapters show the rise of Alexander the Great (chapter 8), the division of his empire after his death (chapters 10-11), a “window” of Jewish freedom under the Maccabees (chapter 11), and the eventual rise of the Roman Empire (chapter 11). The impact of being shown these things was profound for Daniel, as his prayer in chapter 9 shows. God’s care for His faithful servant is seen in the response by the angel Gabriel at the end of this chapter. Gabriel’s explanation of “seventy weeks” – in its proper context – formed a kind of “timetable” for the coming of the Messiah. Jews in the first century were very aware that they were living at the time when He would come – they just weren’t looking for a Messiah like Jesus! The vision Daniel sees in chapter 10 is actually his introduction to the “future history” laid out in chapter 11, and even though Daniel is initially terrified by what he sees, the purpose of this vision is to give him comfort and reassurance.
The last chapter of Daniel (12) depicts the “time of the end” – and it is critically important that we understand what this “end” is! What Daniel sees here is often interpreted as the end of all time – in the imaginations of millennialist theologians, this is the time of a “rapture,” a period of “great tribulation,” the time of final judgement, and the initiation of a one thousand year rulership of the Messiah on earth from Jerusalem. In context, however, NONE of these things can be found here. What Daniel is shown (and what the various numbers of days refer to) is the end of Judah as God’s chosen people, and the conclusion of His covenant with them (and therefore, the end of Judaism as His “authorized” religion for His people – cf. Acts 17:30-31).
The vision of a ram, a male-goat, and a “desecrating horn” in chapter 8 shows the rise of Alexander the Great, and his conquest of the Medo-Persian empire (which Daniel was then serving). The ram represents the Medes and Persians, while the “he-goat” – more agile and surefooted than the ram – represents the rising power of the Greek armies under Alexander’s leadership. The he-goat skims over the whole face of the earth, rapidly moving against the ram and affecting all of the countries he touches (Alexander conquered this way). The result is that the ram is utterly vanquished by the goat (vs. 7). The breaking of the goat’s single horn (vs. 8) represents Alexander’s death at the height of his power and influence (at age 33), and the four smaller horns that arise in its place represent the division of his empire by his generals (Lysimachus, Cassander, Seleucus, and Ptolemy) into four smaller nation/empires.
The “little horn” – and the desecration of the temple, in verses 9-14 – foretell the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, a descendant of Seleucus, who was able to conquer many neighboring lands, including “the glorious land,” (Judah). Antiochus became very powerful by means of deceit, cruelty, and violence, and he personally defiled the temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing a pig (an unclean animal) on the altar, which he then replaced with an altar to dedicated Zeus/Jupiter. The “2300 days” in verse 14 equals 6 years, 110 days (almost 7 years); since “7” represents completion in figurative literature, this period of desecration would not be the END of Judaism. The temple would be defiled, but only for a limited time.
– Dave Rogers