1. In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar — About 553 BC.
A vision appeared unto me — This is the Third Vision of the Book of Daniel. The prophet makes it clear that this is his vision, not an interpreted dream of a king as in chapter two. It is two years after the vision of chapter seven, which came to Daniel in a dream. Unlike the first two visions, it does not come as a dream, but as a waking vision. Unlike in the First Vision, an angel appears and gives Daniel an interpretation.
2. And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
3. Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
At Shushan in the palace — In a vision, Daniel is transported into Shushan, the capital of Persia – the kingdom signified by the two-horned ram.
A ram which had two horns — This refers to the empire of the Medes and the Persians.
One was higher than the other, and the higher came up last — The Medes conquered and destroyed Babylon, but the Persians ruled over the kingdom in the end.
4. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.
5. And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.
A he-goat — The empire of Macedonia and Greece
He touched not the ground — This is a metaphor meaning that he conquered all with so much rapidity that he seemed to fly rather than run or walk.
A notable horn — Alexander the Great
6. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.
7. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.
He smote the ram and broke its two horns — Alexander conquered all the lands of the Medes and Persians and as far east as India.
8. Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
The great horn was broken — Alexander died an untimely death at a young age shortly after conquering much of the known world.
Four notable ones — Antigonus, Cassander, Ptolemy and Seleucus, the successors of Alexander, who divided his empire among them.
9. And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.
A little horn — This refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the descendant of Seleucus.
Toward the South — In the year 170 BC, Antiochus conquered Egypt and plundered Palestine. (See 1 Maccabees 1:16-19.)
Toward the East — Antiochus invaded Persia and the countries of “the East” (See 1 Maccabees 3:28-37.)
Toward the pleasant land — Antiochus vanquished the city of Jerusalem in 167 BC.
10. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
It cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground — Antiochus removed the sacred furniture from the Temple and “went back to his own country, having shed blood and uttered words of extreme arrogance” (1 Maccabees 1:21-24 NJB).
11. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.
12. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
By him the daily sacrifice was taken away — Two years later, on the 15th and 25th day of the month Kislev in 167 BC. Antiochus defiled the Temple at Jerusalem by setting up a statue of Jupiter Olympus in the Temple and slaughtering a pig in the Holy Place.
13. Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?
How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice — In effect, the angels ask, “How long will the sacrifices cease? How long will God’s vengeance against the wickedness of His people last?”
14. And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
Two thousand and three hundred days — This is the time period, exactly six-years and three-and-a-half-months, during which Antiochus occupied the city of Jerusalem. Although the Jews were oppressed for over six years under the tyranny of Antiochus, for the last three years of the occupation, the sacrifices ceased to be offered. The purifying of the Temple was not at the end of the sixth year, but not until the ninth month of the Jewish ecclesiastical year, Kislev (November/December), which is also the third month of the Jewish civil year.
According to the testimony of 1 Maccabees 4:52: “Now on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month (which is called Kislev), in the hundred and forty-eighth year (165 BC) they rose up betimes in the morning. And offered a sacrifice according to law upon the new altar of burnt offerings which they had made.”
Josephus writes that the Temple was desecrated in fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel, “Indeed it so came to pass that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision and what he wrote years before they came to pass” (Antiquities X:11:7).
15. And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.
16. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.
The appearance of a man — An appearance of Jesus Christ. Apparently, Jesus Christ, the same person as “the Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13) appears to Daniel and directs the angel Gabriel to give Daniel the interpretation of this vision.
17. So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
18. Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.
19. And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.
He touched me, and set me upright — Gabriel wakes Daniel and stands him up. This is to show that this is not merely a dream, but that the angel appears to him physically.
At the time appointed the end shall be — The angel tells Daniel that He will show him the time when the vision will be fulfilled.
20. The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
The kings of Media and Persia — The kingdom of Medo-Persia.
21. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
The king of Grecia — The Macedonian-Greek Empire.
The great horn — This is Alexander the Great.
22. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
23. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
A king of fierce countenance — This is Antiochus Epiphanes. 1 Maccabees 1:1-62 chronicles Alexander’s conquest of the known world; the division of his empire upon his death bed among his noblemen; the coming of a wicked offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, who defiled the Temple in 167 BC by setting up an idolatrous altar on the Jewish altar of burnt offering.
24. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
25. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.
He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes — In defiling the Temple, Antiochus made war not just against the Jews, but against God himself. Christ is called the “King of kings” in Revelation 17:14; 19:16.
He shall be broken without hand — Although the Seleucid line of kings was eventually overthrown by the Romans, the angel reveals that the destruction of Antiochus would be by the hand of God. Antiochus did not die in battle. According to 1 Maccabees, Antiochus died in a fit of melancholy in 164 BC after having repented of his mistreatment of Jerusalem and the Jews. “This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land” (1 Maccabees 6:13 NJB).
26. And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.
27. And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.
Shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days — Although Daniel lived to see the reigns of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian, the Greek-Seleucid line of kings from Alexander to Antiochus would not be completed until 370 years after his death.
None understood it — Although the angel explained the vision concerning Media, Persia and Greece, none understood the identity the Little Horn because the vision was not yet fulfilled. This part of the vision is often misunderstood even today. John Calvin, in his Commentary on Daniel, writes at this point that some see in the Little Horn “the figure of Antichrist. But I do not think this reasoning sufficiently sound.”