Three interpretations of the evil horn of Daniel 8

SUMMARY

The two animals in Daniel 8 are explicitly identified as Mede-Persia and as Greece. But the main character in the chapter—an anti-god power that persecutes God’s people and corrupts God’s message—is not explicitly identified. This evil power is the same as the one in Daniel 7 that persecutes the saints and blasphemes God. The different schools of prophetic interpretation identify the horn differently as:

      • The Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes;
      • An end-time antichrist; or as
      • The Roman Church.

PURPOSE

The previous two articles are preliminary overviews respectively of the metal statue of Daniel 2 and the four beasts of Daniel 7. The Daniel 7 article did not identify the four beasts. Neither did it identify the main character in that chapter, represented by the 11th horn that “will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One” (Dan 7:25)

Daniel 8The current article gives an overview of Daniel 8 and lists the alternative interpretations of the main character in this chapter, also represented by a small horn.

OVERVIEW OF THE PROPHECY

The Ram and the Goat

Only two animals appear in the Daniel 8 vision; a ram and a goat:

The first is a ram, conquering into three directions: to the north, west, and the south (Dan 8:3-4). It is explicitly identified as Mede-Persia (Dan 8:20).

Next, a goat with one large horn appears. It defeats the Medo-Persian ram and becomes the dominant power (Dan 8:5-7). The goat is explicitly identified as Greece (Dan 8:20-21).

The Horns

The goat, at first, has one large horn. But this horn was “broken” and four horns, extending out to the four winds of heaven (we would say, the four directions of the compass), came up in its place (Dan 8:8). Commentators generally concur that the one large horn refers to the kingdom of Alexander the Great and that the four horns are the four kingdoms into which Alexander’s empire was divided after his death.

But then another horn (“a little horn“) appears on the scene. There is much disagreement about its identity. It did not attack any beast or kingdom, but it opposed:

(a) God’s people, identified as “the host of the stars” (Dan 8:10).
(b) God’s work of redemption, described as the tamid (daily or continual) and the temple (Dan 8:11-12), and
(c) God’s principal representative, called “the Prince of the host” or “the Prince of princes” (Dan 8:11, 25).

The Conversation in Heaven

Daniel then overheard two heavenly beings discussing the vision. One asked:

“How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?”

The other responded:

“For 2300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”

Daniel 8 does not mention the first kingdom of Daniel 7 (Babylon). Neither does it mention the last (eternal) kingdom. It rather focuses on and provides additional information about the main evil character in the book of Daniel, symbolized by an evil horn-king in Daniel 7 and Daniel 8. Most of Daniel 8 is devoted to this king.

THE SAME HORN

It is the same evil horn as in Daniel 7.

For the following reasons, it is generally agreed that the evil horn of Daniel 8 is the same as the evil horn of Daniel 7:

The same symbol

The same symbol (a horn) is used for both. If a distinction had been intended, the best way would have been to use a different symbol.

They are similar.

Both:

      • Begin small and become great (Dan 7:8 and 8:9);
      • Blaspheme God (Dan 7:8, 25 and 8:11, 25);
      • Persecute God’s people (Dan 7:21, 25 and 8:11, 25);
      • Are the last in a series of symbols;
      • Are identified with a period (Dan 7:25 and 8:14); and
      • Eventually suffer similar fates (Dan 7:26 and 8:25).

Later prophecies amplify the earlier ones.

Virtually all commentators accept this principle. For example, Daniel 7 repeats the four empires of Daniel 2, with additional information, particularly through the use of horns to represent the divisions of these empires. The book of Daniel itself also mentions this principle at least twice:

In Daniel 9:22-23, Gabriel said that he came to give Daniel an understanding of “the vision.” This would be the vision in Daniel 8.

In Daniel 10-12, Daniel receives a “message” to explain the “vision” (Dan 10:1, 14). This also refers to the vision in Daniel 8, for that is the last “vision” before Daniel 10.

This principle implies that the vision of Daniel 8 elaborates on the vision of Daniel 7, which supports the conclusion that the little horn in Daniel 8 represents the same force as the little horn in Daniel 7.

THREE INTERPRETATIONS

The Three Interpretations of the Horn

Who is this little horn that blasphemes God and persecutes His people (Dan 8:9-14)? And what is its 2300 evening-mornings, when it will profane the sanctuary? The Preterist, Futurist, and Historicist schools of prophetic interpretation have different answers to these questions:

Preterist – The Greek king Antiochus

In this view:

(A) The majority of the prophecies of the book of Daniel have already been fulfilled and, therefore, have no significance for the present day or for the future.

(B) The little horn arose from one of the divisions of Alexander’s Greek empire.

(C) The little horn is the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

(D) The 2300 “evening-mornings” are 2300 individual morning and evening sacrifices, or 1150 literal days. These are then applied to events in the career of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century B.C.

(E) The sanctuary refers to the temple in Jerusalem which was polluted by Antiochus and later purified by the victorious Jewish rebels. It was purified before January 1, 164 B.C.

Futurists – An end-time Antichrist

Futurists generally follow this line of interpretation as well. But they also see Antiochus as a type of an end-time Antichrist who will arise in the final years of earth’s history; just before Christ’s Second Advent. Some futurists also apply the 2300 “evening-mornings” to the end time. They interpret it as literal evenings-mornings or the literal 2300 days of the future reign of this final Antichrist. During the final seven years of earth’s history, according to this interpretation, a literal temple (to be rebuilt in Jerusalem for the Jews) will be polluted by this Antichrist. The temple will be restored when Christ comes and puts an end to the reign of the Antichrist.

Historicists – Church of the Roman Empire

In this view:

(A) The prophecies in Daniel portray an outline of history and the story of the ongoing struggle between good and evil down to the end of time.

(B) The evil horn-king represents the church of the Roman Empire (the Roman Church):

In the year 380, the emperor Theodosius made the Trinitarian version of Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. During the fifth century, Europe became ‘Arian’ again as ‘Arian’ Germanic tribes fragmented Western Europe into various kingdoms. In the sixth century, Emperor Justinian subjected these ‘Arian’ nations. Thereafter, through two centuries of rule by the Eastern Roman Empire through the church in the West, all ‘Arian’ nations converted to Trinitarian Christianity. Consequently, the church of the Middle Ages was the Roman Church; the Church of the Roman Empire. 

(C) Utilizing the day-for-a-year principle, historicists have held that the 2300 evening-mornings refer to a period of 2300 literal years, commencing in the time of the Persian Ram and concluding with the recovery of the message of the Bible truth after the distortions of the Middle Ages.

(D) The purification of the sanctuary is interpreted symbolically as the restoration of God’s people and/or their message.

Comparison of the Three Views

These three interpretations of the various elements in Daniel 8:9-14 may be summarized as follows:

Preterlst Historicist Futurist
Little horn Antiochus IV Roman Church End-time Antichrist
2300 days 1150 past days 2300 historical years 2300 end-time days
Temple In Jerusalem God’s people In end-time Jerusalem
Cleansing Before 164 BC After the Middle Ages Return of Christ

The next article evaluates these three interpretations and identifies the evil horn-king by comparing the Animals in Daniel 7 to the animals in Daniel 8.


OTHER ARTICLES

Daniel reveals the antichrist – List of Articles

Daniel 2 sets the stage to identify the Antichrist.

The Four Beasts and Ten Horns of Daniel 7

Three interpretations of the evil horn of Daniel 8

Daniel’s fourth beast is the Roman Empire.

In Daniel 8, did the evil horn come out of the Greek goat?

The Antichrist in Daniel 11 is not Antiochus IV.

Antiochus IV does not fit the profile of Daniel’s Antichrist.

The 490 years of Daniel 9 – Evaluation of the Four Major Interpretations

Revelation’s Dragon is the Roman Empire.

Revelation’s Sea Beast is Daniel’s 11th horn.

The Beast’s fatal wound is its sixth head. (Rev 13:3-4)

Revelation’s Beast is the Church of the Roman Empire.