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In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time. I saw in the vision, and it so happened while I was looking, that I was in Shushan, the citadel, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision that I was by the River Ulai. Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great. (Daniel 8:1–4, NKJV)


The prophecy of the Ram and the Male Goat is the second prophecy God gave Daniel. Daniel refers to this vision as “after the one that appeared to me the first time,” the first time being the prophecy of the Four Beasts in chapter seven. This prophecy was given to him in the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, 551 b.c.

This prophecy was given to Daniel in the form of a vision, as with the previous vision, the characters are depicted by animals, horns, and another little horn. This prophecy features two animals identified as a Ram and a Male Goat, or as the King James Version styles it, a He Goat.

The Ram symbolizes the Medo-Persian Empire, which is clearly stated in verse 20, “The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia.” The word ram is the Hebrew word ah-yil, meaning strength. This word is used to denote various things that are strong, such as a ram, a strong man, and strong trees. This word appears 185 times in the Old Testament; 156 times it is translated ram, 21 times post, 4 times mighty men, 2 times trees, and lintel and oaks one time each. It is not coincidental that the ram was the symbol used by the Persians, such as the eagle is the symbol of the United States.

The Male Goat is used to symbolize the Greek Empire as revealed in verse 21, “And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king.” Male goat, or he goat in the King James Version, is two Hebrew words: aze tsaw-feer. Aze means goat, particularly a female goat, but by implication, it refers to the strength of the goat. Tsaw-feer means a male goat. The two words together indicate a very strong goat. Adam Clarke comments on this male goat:


A goat was a very proper symbol of the Grecian or Macedonian people. . . . Two hundred years before the time of Daniel they were called Aegeadae, the goat’s people. . . . Caranus, their first king, going with a multitude of Greeks to seek a new habitation in Macedonia, was advised by an oracle to take the goats for his guides; and afterwards, seeing a herd of goats flying from a violent storm, he followed them to Edessa, and there fixed the seat of his empire, and made the goats his ensigns or standards; and called the place Aege or Aegea, the goats’ town; and the people Aegeadae, the goats’ people.


Later in history, Alexander the Great named his son Alexander Aegus, Alexander the goat.

It was assumed in our study of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the prophecy of the Four Beasts, based on our knowledge of history, that successions of kingdoms forward from Daniel’s time would be Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece to Rome. In this prophecy the two middle kingdoms of this succession are identified in plain language. This fact alone confirms the assumptions made concerning the succession of empires in the previous prophecies. It also confirms to us the foreknowledge of God; that He knows what the future is and will be.

Daniel writes in verse two that he saw a vision and in this vision he saw himself in Shushan, which was the capital city of Persia. It is strange that our beloved commentator, Adam Clarke, writes “Daniel was at this time in Shushan, which appears to have been a strong place, where the kings of Persia had their summer residence.” The prophecy came to Daniel in 551 b.c., the third year of Belshazzar’s reign. Babylon fell to the Persians in 539 b.c. and we know from the fifth chapter of Daniel that Daniel was present at the fall of Babylon. The reader will recall that Daniel translated the writing on the wall and promoted Daniel to third ruler in the kingdom on the very night Darius the Mede overthrew the city. There is no way Daniel could have been in Persia when he received the vision, he only saw himself in Shushan in the vision. The fact that he saw himself in Shushan in the vision suggests that he would someday be there to experience some of what this prophecy reveals.

It is interesting to learn from this prophecy that another little horn would grow up. In the prophecy of the Four Beasts, the little horn mentioned there turned out to be Herod the Great, who rose up to be the king of Palestine under the Romans and whose reign marked the time at which Messiah and His kingdom would come to the world. This little horn is not the same as the one in the previous prophecy because it is associated with the Male Goat, the Greek Empire. He is not the same as the large horn on the goat, and he was not one of the four horns that came up after the large horn was broken off. We are told in verse nine that this little horn came out of one of the horns and grew “exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.” Most of this prophecy has to do with the actions of this little horn against God’s people.

The vision troubled Daniel and while he was trying to understand what the vision meant, someone having the appearance of a man spoke to the angel Gabriel telling him to explain the vision to Daniel. In verse 17 Gabriel tells him “that the vision refers to the time of the end;” and in verse 19 he says, “for at the appointed time the end shall be.” Some have construed this to mean the prophecy concerns the end of time, the return of Christ, or the end of the world. Gabriel explains the vision in verse 23–25, and it becomes apparent that the end of time two which the prophecy concerns is the end of the time of the little horn.

What Daniel learned from the vison made him sick. Verse 27: “And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days; afterward I arose and went about the king's business. I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it.” The events in the vision were to happen hundreds of years in the future—a time in which Daniel would not even be alive. He saw these events would severely impact the “holy people,” the Jews who in the future would be under the rule of this little horn. The shock of what he saw overloaded his nervous system causing him to faint and be sick for several days. He eventually recovered and went back to work. Daniel writes that he shared this vision with some others, possibly the prophet Ezekiel, but no one could understand it. For the rest of his life, this vision and what it meant for the “holy people” haunted him.

Some things in this vision have led certain modern prophecy teachers to a wrong conclusion. Particularly, two things in the prophecy of the Ram and the Male Goat were exploited and used to predict the return of Christ and the end of time. The first thing is the 2300 days mentioned in verse 14, which is the number of days after which the sanctuary shall be cleansed. The second is Gabriel’s statement in verse 17, “the vision refers to the time of the end.” Tying the two things together, it has been imagined that after 2300 days, assumed to be prophetic days, the sanctuary, whatever that is, should be cleansed and the end would come.

In particular, the Adventists, Seventh-Day Adventists, rely on the manipulation of this prophecy for what they believe to be the prophetic indication and foundation of their movement. First, they connect the 2300 days of Daniel chapter 8 with the 70 weeks of Daniel chapter 9. It is believed that the 70 weeks prophecy is really a continuation of the prophecy in chapter 8. The 70 weeks prophecy predicts the return of the Jews to Judah, which happened in 457 b.c. In their thinking, 457 b.c. is the starting date for the 2300 days.

Next, they assume the 2300 days is actually 2300 years. The justification for this is what can be called the day-for-a-year principle. The prophetic use of a day to represent a year appears twice in the Old Testament: Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6.


According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. (Numbers 14:34, NKJV)


And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year. (Ezekiel 4:6, NKJV)


In the verse from Numbers, God is pronouncing judgment on the Israelites for their refusal to go into the Promised Land. Spies were sent into the land and came back with a fantastic report on the wealth and fertility of the land, but a discouraging report on the fierceness of the inhabitants. The Israelites refused to go into the land and God sentenced them to wander in the Sinai Peninsula for forty years, one year for every day the spies were in the Promised Land. This does not appear to qualify as a prophetic principle.

The passage from Ezekiel was delivered long after the Israelites were in the Promised Land. In fact, the kingdom had been long divided, the northern kingdom having been carried away into oblivion, and the southern kingdom was soon to be held captive in Babylon. The prophecy actually begins in verse four where God has Ezekiel to lay on his left side for 390 days, indicating God’s judgment on the House of Israel, the northern kingdom. In verse six, Ezekiel lays on his right side for forty days, the sign of God’s judgment on the House of Judah, the southern kingdom. The 390 days indicates the number of years Israel sinned against God, which is reckoned from the rebellion of Jeroboam and the division of the kingdom. The forty days for Judah are the years since Josiah’s reformation from which Judah backslid. While this is interesting, it is not germane to Daniel’s prophecy. The point here is that the days Ezekiel laid on his side represented years, and while it can be said the days are prophetic years, this does not constitute a prophetic principle that must be applied to the word “days” in this prophecy or any other prophecy.

Context has everything to do with interpreting scripture, even prophecies. The Hebrew word of day is yowm, and the word for days is yamim. Neither of these words appears in Daniel 8:14. The word translated “days” in our English Bibles is ereb boqer, meaning evenings and mornings. The reason the words for evenings and mornings is used instead of the word “days” is because of the continual reference in the chapter to the daily sacrifices in the temple, verses, 11, 12, and 13, which were made every evening and every morning. It is also made clear in verse 26 where the prophecy is called “the vision of the evenings and mornings.” It is plain to see from the context of the prophecy that the 2300 days have to do with the daily sacrifice and cannot be interpreted to mean 2300 prophetic years.

As mentioned earlier, the Adventists use the prophecy of the 70 weeks to fix the start date for their 2300 prophetic years. Starting at 457 b.c. and looking forward 2300 years takes their reckoning to October 22, 1844. In their thinking, this was the date on which the sanctuary was to be cleansed as stated in verse 14 and for Christ to return bringing the end, verse 17. History painfully records that there was no earthly sanctuary to cleanse on that date and Christ did not return. Adventists were waiting, having sold their property and personal possessions, but they were not caught up with Christ. The event became known as The Great Disappointment. In response to the disappointment, they changed their doctrine to teach that on that date Christ cleansed the sanctuary in heaven.

In Adventist thinking, why did the sanctuary need cleansing? They held that the little horn in this prophecy was papal Rome. They believed the little horn in chapter 7 to be papal Rome therefore this little horn must be the same since it is a little horn. They also believe that the cleansing of the sanctuary refers to the process of the Day of Atonement recorded in Leviticus 16 where the sins of Israel were ceremonially cleansed by the blood of Christ. To them, the sanctuary was symbolic of the church and the church had been desecrated by Roman Catholicism by sins of the people and the priests. According to their belief, the confessed sins of the people were transferred to the heavenly sanctuary through confession and the celebration of the mass. On October 22, 1844, it is supposed that Christ had had enough of this and spiritually cleansed the heavenly temple.

With the supposed cleansing of the temple in heaven, the time of the end came. The end of what time? The Adventists believe the prophecy means the end of prophetic time. Uriah Smith, famous Adventist author who was not involved in the Great Disappointment explains what Adventists mean by the end of time. In his book, Thoughts, Critical and Practical on the Book of Revelation, he comments on Revelation 10:5–6, which reads:


And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer. (King James Version)


He writes:


It must therefore mean prophetic time shall be no more; not that time should never be used in a prophetic sense . . . but no prophetic period should extend beyond this message; they should all close here. Arguments on the prophetic periods show that the longest ones no not extend beyond the autumn of 1844.[1]


Smith cleverly avoids the folly of 1844 as if it never happened. In saying the Revelation declares that prophetic time shall be no more, he ties the words of the angel to the 2300 days of Daniel and comes to the conclusion that no prophetic period can extend beyond 1844. This limits all prophetic projections to the time and message of the Adventists.

We now know what the 2300 days are not. As this prophecy is unveiled we will come to the correct understanding, which happens to be recognized by the vast majority of Bible commentators.


[1] Smith, Uriah,  Thoughts, Critical and Practical on the Book of Revelation,  Steam Press: Battle Creek, MI,  1875, ppg 195, 196