Friday, March 15, 2013

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday March 17, 2013
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DANIEL’S VISION OF THE RAM AND GOAT
(Our times, like everything else, are in GOD’s hands)
(Daniel 8)

During the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, another vision, similar to the one seen two years earlier (Daniel 7), came to the prophet Daniel. He envisioned himself as being at the fortress called Susa, in the Persian province of Elam, some 200 miles east of Babylon. There he was standing by the Ulai River when he saw the images of a ram and a shaggy goat.
In this vision Daniel first sees the image of a ram having two long horns, with one horn being longer than the other. The two horns did not rise out of the ram’s head at the same time, but rather, the shorter horn sprang up first, and was later overshadowed by the springing up of a, much longer, second horn.
As Daniel was watching, the ram began to charge toward the west, then the north, and then to the south. Nothing could evade the ram’s onslaught, and he conquered all who stood in his way, in all three directions. He went on to become very great in the world, and he did exactly as he pleased (Vs. 1-4).
Then Daniel is shown the vision of a shaggy male goat (Vs. 5-8) with a single, very large horn that arose suddenly on its head, between its eyes. He came out of the west, and was crossing the land so swiftly that its feet didn’t even seem to touch the ground. He charged furiously at the ram, striking it with tremendous force, breaking both of the ram’s horns, leaving it helpless. The goat then knocked the ram down and trampled over it, and nothing and no one could rescue the ram from its demise, as it succumbed under the power of the goat.
The goat became still more powerful, but seemingly at the height of its power, its large horn was broken off. In its place, four new horns grew that pointed in all four directions. And from one of those four horns, a smaller horn grew and became very powerful. It extended toward the south and the east, and toward Israel. Its power even reached the heavens where it attacked the heavenly armies throwing some of the heavenly beings and stars to the ground and trampling on them (Vs.8-10).
This powerful horn even challenged the COMMANDER of heaven’s army by canceling the daily sacrifices that were offered up to HIM by Israel, and, he even destroyed the temple at Jerusalem. And when the army of heaven restrained itself from destroying him for his sin, he then committed sacrilege against the temple ceremonies, and truth was overthrown (Vs. 11-12).
Then Daniel heard two of the holy ones talking to each other, and one of them asked, “How long will the events of this vision last? How long will the rebellion that causes desecration stop the daily sacrifices? How long will the temple, and heaven’s armies be trampled on? And the other holy one replied, “It will take 2300 evenings and mornings; then the temple will be restored”.
As the prophet Daniel was struggling trying to understand the meaning of this vision, the voice of the vision of a man called out from the Ulai River and instructed the archangel Gabriel to tell Daniel its meaning. As Gabriel approached Daniel, the prophet fainted and fell down with his face to the ground. But Gabriel touched him and woke him up, and then, helped him to his feet. He told Daniel that the events that he had seen in the vision related to the time of the end, or, the time of wrath (Vs.15-19).
In verses 20-21 Gabriel explains the meaning of the ram with two horns. He tells Daniel that this beast represented Media and Persia, (the same empire that was represented by the “bear” in Daniel 7:5) and even though Media rose first, Persia, who was its partner, would soon overshadow it. That is why the second horn was larger than the first. Persia would go on to expand its empire to the west, north, and south, with an incredible army that numbered more than two million soldiers.
In verses 21-22 Gabriel gives Daniel the meaning of the goat with the single large horn between its eyes. He tells him that the goat represents Greece, and the single large horn is “Alexander the great”, the first king of the Greek Empire (This is the same empire that is represented by the “winged leopard” in Daniel 7:6). Remember Alexander came from the west, Macedonia, with a small swift army that conquered Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and Mesopotamia in less than seven years. At the height of his power (age 33) he was cut down by malaria and alcoholism, while in Babylon (323 B.C.). Alexander’s kingdom was divided between his four generals, Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, the four smaller horns in the vision.
Out of one of the four smaller horns, and, at the height of their sins, Gabriel says that there would arise, a fierce king, who would be a master of deception. He would become strong with demonic power (given to him by satan himself), and cause a shocking amount of destruction and seem to succeed at everything that he does. He would destroy powerful leaders (stars) and devastate holy people (GOD’s anointed), catching them off-guard, and without warning, destroying them. He could only be broken by divine power, for human power was incapable of subduing him (Vs.23-25).
The evil king referred to, here, in this passage, is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who inherited the kingdom from Seleucus’ dynasty (the Seleucids), one of the four horns, or generals, of Alexander the greats’ army. He was called “Epiphanes” by his friends, which means “the illustrious one”, but the Jews referred to him as “Epimanes”, which means “the madman”. Antiochus went on to defeat Egypt, (his growth in power to the south), and then decided to subdue Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem were subjugated to him, and the temple there was desecrated, and robbed of its treasures.
Antiochus then returned to Egypt, but was forced out by Rome. He then decided to make Israel a buffer zone between himself and Egypt. He attacked Jerusalem, and killed many of its Jewish citizens in the process. He disallowed them to follow Mosaic Laws such as observing the Sabbath, annual feasts, and traditional sacrifices. He even went as far as to forbid the Jews from circumcising their children. He also set up altars to idols, and forced the Jews to offer unclean sacrifices to GOD, and to either eat the meat of swine, or die.
The 2300 days that are mentioned in this vision, represent the time from when Antiochus first invaded Jerusalem (170 B.C.), until the time that the temple was restored by Judas Maccabeus, the great Jewish hero, in 164 B.C. Antiochus achieved great power by killing and subduing others. He also rose to power by offering false security, and, by deception. He was intelligent, and, he was persuasive. He was controlled by a power that was not his own (demonic power from satan). He was an opponent of CHRIST and Israel, and his reign was ended by divine judgment from GOD, in the person of Judas Maccabeus.
However, the vision in this chapter of Daniel has to take on a dual meaning because the archangel Gabriel tells us that it is a vision that also relates to the “end times” which is yet to come. Therefore, Antiochus IV Epiphanes can also be seen as foreshadowing of a future person or persons, who will embody the demonic characteristics and influence of an eschatological “antichrist” near the end of days. And so Daniel is ordered to seal up the prophecy and preserve it for a future time as a warning to Israel (the Church, or the Body of CHRIST).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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