Disclaimer: Bible prophecy interpretation is complex, and as Sir Isaac Newton noted, generally not well understood until fulfillment. Yet Jesus told his disciples to "keep on the watch" and to "lift up your heads" when they see significant events--that deliverance is near. It is in this spirit that this is written: to help Christians make sense of today's events in the context of prophecy. There is no claim to inspiration or special insight. All errors are mine.
In Daniel chapter 8 we are presented with a vision of a conflict between a ram, representing Medo-Persia, and a goat, representing Greece. The goat defeats the ram, but his single large horn is broken, and four horns grow up in its place. This much is well known, and represents Alexander the Great, who dies at the pinnacle of his power and whose empire is divided among his four generals. The vision then describes a “little horn” that arises and “opposes the Prince of princes” (v25, NASB), a reference to Jesus Christ. We are told it would be in place for 2300 “evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored” (v14). The prophecy states that the "regular sacrifice” would be curtailed. Some translations say “burnt offering” but this is not in the original text. It is added because many commentators see the Jewish temple in the prophecy. The Hebrew word used, tamid, in English, means “regular”, implying regular worship [God Cares, Vol. 1, 163-164, 179-180]. Although the prophecy may include earlier suppression of Jewish worship, it more pointedly refers to Christian worship, considering the latter part of the prophecy involves the Christian era when the temple in Jerusalem is no longer in existence. The verse that has tripped up many commentators is verse 9 of Daniel 8. Daniel describes the dividing of Alexander the Great's empire between his four generals after his death: “Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land.” This small horn has the characteristics of the “little horn” of chapter 7: it “magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down” (v11). Most commentaries assume that it is out of one of the four horns mentioned previously that this little horn emerges. It is then further suggested that Antiochus Epiphanes is that evil little horn, since he emerges from the Seleucid dynasty—one of the four powers which Alexander's generals founded—and harassed Israel.
There are two major problems with this, however. First, Antiochus Epiphanes does not fulfill all the details of the prophecy. He was mostly despised by his contemporaries, had only brief success in the “south”, that is, Egypt: he was humiliated by the Roman Ambassador and had to retreat. He was often referred to, sarcastically, as “Epimanes”, the madman [GC1, 158-160]. And second, there is a problem with the Hebrew itself. The pronoun “[one of] them” is masculine, but the horns are feminine, and the winds can be feminine or masculine. The pronoun should agree with its antecedent, and so should be masculine, suggesting the little horn should be associated with the winds, not the horns.
William H. Shea, in Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation, Volume 1, p. 51, lays out a convincing grammatical argument:
The English translation, "Out of one of them,"...obscures and smooths out the actual Hebrew construction. The sentence actually opens with two prepositional phrases. Translated literally the sentence reads, "and from the one from them … ," etc. The reason why it is important to notice this literal construction is that it provides a precise parallel to the gender of the elements found in the last phrase of verse 8. This can best be shown by transposing the first phrase of verse 9 to line up beneath the last phrase of verse 8 with these elements in parallel columns.
Shea then aligns the phrases and shows how gender agreement is preserved (I am only including Shea's English translation here, not the Hebrew):
verse 8 “to the four winds of the heavens”
verse 9 “from the one from them”
Therefore, the “Out of one of them” phrase refers to one of the four winds, not one of the four horns. The little horn arises from one of the four winds, that is, from one of the four compass directions, so cannot be Antiochus Epiphanes, who arose from the Seleucid dynasty, one of the "four horns" of Alexander's empire. It is lamentable that most commentaries have missed this key point. Antiochus Epiphanes, although a wicked oppressor of the Jews, had no lasting success in the south, and since he emerged from one of the four horns, cannot be its fulfillment. What power could this possibly be that would arise from one of the four winds (one of the four points of the compass) and grow to become a superpower that oppresses God's people? History shows that Rome began as an insignificant small town on the west coast of today's Italy. It was not part of Alexander's empire after that empire was divided. It “grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful land” (v9). Therefore, it came out of the north or west, with respect to Israel, which Rome did, and it did grow towards the south, east, and “beautiful land”—Israel—conquering these areas convincingly. It “magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the Host”, that is, Jesus Christ, and “removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down” (v11). This refers to, I believe, Constantine—a murderer and apparent Sun God worshiper—who subverted the church in the 4th century, and later, Papal Rome arising after the destruction of Imperial Rome in the 5th century [A History, 67-68]. The Papacy would make blasphemous claims for itself as the so-called Vicar of Christ, abuse sincere Christians, and largely control how God was to be worshiped. Many Christians were persecuted under Constantine if they didn't accept church council decisions—many which were biblically questionable [A History, 87-88]. Later, the Papacy jailed, hounded, robbed, tortured, and burned or otherwise killed those who did not not bow to its authority [Vicars, 139-203]. The vision was to cover “2300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored” (v14). The “evenings and mornings” refer to the evening and morning sacrifice in the temple, but later and more importantly, to Christians who would worship God openly and publicly according to their consciences. This would be taken away from them during the latter period of the prophecy, and we know it was Rome—especially Constantine and the Papacy—that was the culprit. Daniel prefigures this persecution. In Daniel 3:8-27 the prophet's companions are told they must worship an image the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar set up. They refuse, and are thrown into a furnace, but God miraculously rescues them, and the King is chastised. Some years later, in Daniel chapter 6, the prophet refuses to worship King Darius' statue (the Persian king that conquered Babylon), but prays to his God Yahweh openly from his home, in plain view. He is arrested and thrown to the lions, but is miraculously saved by God and his persecutors are executed instead. Daniel is warning believers that there would be prolonged, severe persecution coming, but that God would make a way out if they stayed faithful.
The control of religion under Constantine and later, the Papacy with its abuses, would last for centuries. But what was the starting point? Since it is this “little horn”, or Rome, that is the culprit, we need to consult history. Rome was founded in 753 BCE, but did not come into its own until it became a republic in 509 BCE. By becoming a republic, Rome's form of government lasted beyond any human ruler, and allowed it to quickly absorb other towns and powers, who saw Rome as a protector. If we add 2300 prophetic years to 509 BCE we get 1792 CE—the exact year that France, a key Papal power, became a republic as a result of the French Revolution. France adopted the Rights of Man and would no longer tolerate Papal interference in its affairs, and these ideas spread throughout Europe and even found their way to the New World. America would adopt the principle of separation of church and state in its Constitution. This signified the end of Papacy's political power, as well as the power and abuses of Protestant state churches [A History, 287-290]. In case there was any doubt, Napoleon had the Pope arrested in 1798, and he died in transit to prison—the final humiliation. And today, no Christian need fear the Catholic Church and its Pope or oppressive Protestant churches. No longer would God allow a mere man, pretending divine authority, to abuse his people. Freedom of conscience would henceforth be the norm in most countries.
The prophecy of the 2300 “evenings and mornings” has been fulfilled. God will no longer allow his people to be oppressed by false religion. So let us worship Yahweh, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, sincerely, publicly, and according to our biblically trained conscience.
1. De Rosa, Peter. Vicars of Christ – The Dark Side of the Papacy. Crown, New York, 1988.
2. Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. Atheneum, New York, 1985.
3. Maxwell, C. Mervyn. The Message of Daniel – God Cares Volume One. Pacific Press, Boise, 1981.
4. Shea, William H. Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation, Volume 1. Biblical Research Institute, Silver Spring, 1992.