All Saints' Day
Taken from Roland Bainton's masterful biography on Martin Luther, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.
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Labels: Studies in Eschatology
[Daniel 8:1-8, 15-22]
I have been considering the book of Daniel. This unique prophet ministered in two great world empires: the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian. His prophecies are so exact as he describes the future kingdoms and how God's purposes will unfold in relation to those kingdoms that people have claimed the book is written after the facts.
I have covered the first 7 chapters. One thing I noted is the language in which chapters 2-7 is written. Those chapters are written in Aramaic, the common language of the world at that time. Thus, Daniel chapters 2-7 may had served as a testimony to the unbelievers as to God's dealings with Isarel as they related to that world.
Another portion of Scripture written in Aramaic that may also have a similar purpose as Daniel's portions is Jeremiah 10:11 which states, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens. Chapter 8 sees the language of Daniel switch back to Hebrew. The information contained in chapters 8-12 have a message written directly to Israel.
Chapter 8 is a second vision Daniel has of world empires. Once again the vision employs animals to symbolize these world empires.
I'll consider three sections:
I. The Setting (8:1-2)
There are a few things to note about the historical setting of this vision.
The Time It was during the third year Belshazzer's reign. This is two years or so after Daniel had his first vision during the first year of Bels. Remember, Bels. became a co-regent with his father, Nabonidus, in 553 B.C., thus this second vision takes place around 551-550 B.C. Nabonidus departed to live in Arabia and he left Babylon in the hands of his corrupt, worthless son.
Things looked bleak for Israel, because the collapse of the empire was imminent as Cyrus began conquering the Median empire. The fall of Babylon and the kingdom was merely a decade away.
The Location The vision takes place in Susa the citadel. In this vision, Daniel is transported 350 miles east at the birth place of the Medo-Persian empire, the headquarters of Cyrus. The book of Esther takes place here, as did Nehemiah. At the time of Daniel's vision here in chapter 8, Susa is a province of Elam.
II. The Vision (8:3-8)
Daniel lifts up his eyes and sees a series of visions with a ram and a goat with a large horn.
The ram is described as having two horns. One is larger than the other. The shorter one, however, then grows larger that the first one. The ram is said to trample everything around it.
The next vision is of a goat. A flying goat to be exact. It flies across from the west and attacks the ram and the ram is said to be helpless against this belligerent goat. The goat grows great, but is suddenly cut down. It’s horn is broken off and in its place grow four horns.
III. The Interpretations (15-22)
Beginning in 8:15, Daniel has his vision interpreted for him. A man (appearance of a man), an individual describe as gabor, or a mighty man, appears to Daniel. Quite possibly this is a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Gabriel also stands next to Daniel and the man's voice tells Gabriel to interpret the vision for Daniel.
What he tells Daniel is his future, a future he will not see personally, and the distant future for his people, Israel.
The Ram. It pictures the Medo-Persian empire. The two horns represented two divisions of the empire. The bigger horn is originally Media, originally, the larger of the two divisions. The shorter horn that grows larger than the first pictures Persia which overtook Media in greatness. This two part kingdom has been pictured as the silver arms in Daniel 2, the lopsided bear in Daniel 7, and now the ram with 2 horns. The ram attacked in all directions and no one could withstand it, which is exactly what happened with the Medo-Persian empire.
The Goat. Gabriel plainly states that the goat is Greece. This prophecy is provided some 220 years before these events even took place. It would be like someone during the Revolutionary War predicting how Obama would be president in 2008.
The first king of this kingdom was Alexander the Great, the son of Philip of Macedon. He was twenty years old in 336 B.C. when he became king and he launched his attack against the Persian in 334 B.C. Daniel’s vision tells how he attacked the ram “with great rage” and the image of this goat flying across the earth speaks to the swiftness of his attack. Alexander’s military victories fulfilled this prophecy perfectly.
Alexander was determined to avenge the assaults on his homeland when the Persians invaded Greece in the late 400 B.C. His first victory was at the Granicus river in Asia Minor. He crushed Darius III in North Syria in 333 B.C. He took Tyre after a 7 month siege in 332. He then conquered Egypt without any real battle. He founded Alexandria on the northern coast of Egypt, naming it after himself. By 330 B.C. all the major Persian cities had fallen as he pushed Darius' army back through Afghanistan to India. He conquered the Near East in less than 3 years and spread the Greek culture all over the Mediterranean region.
Four Horns. Even though Alexander was a great and remarkable commander, he died unexpectedly of a high fever at the young age of 32 in 323 B.C. He left two, young sons, Alexander IV and Herakles, who were both murdered. After a time of fighting among themselves, Alexander’s kingdom was divided between four military commanders who came to be known as the Diadochi or the “Successors”: Antipater, and later Cassander controlled Greece and Macedonia, Lysimachus ruled Thrace and a large portion of Asia Minor, Seleucus I Nicator governed Syria, Babylon, and a big section of the Middle East, and Ptolemy I Soter controlled Egypt and Palestine. As Daniel’s prophecy notes, none of these four horns achieved the greatness once held by Alexander.
Labels: Gleanings from Daniel
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There is a frequently retold story about a little old lady who claims, after hearing a scientific lecture, that the world is a flat plate resting on the back of a giant tortoise. When asked what the turtle is standing on, she invokes a second turtle. And when the inevitable follow-up question comes, she replies, “You’re very clever, young man, but you can’t fool me. It’s turtles all the way down.”
As a metaphor for the scientific understanding of biology, the story is marvelously truthful. In the study of organisms, “It’s life all the way down.”
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