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Vision of a Ram and a Goat


In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me at first. 2In the vision I was looking and saw myself in Susa the capital, in the province of Elam, and I was by the river Ulai. 3I looked up and saw a ram standing beside the river. It had two horns. Both horns were long, but one was longer than the other, and the longer one came up second. 4I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. All beasts were powerless to withstand it, and no one could rescue from its power; it did as it pleased and became strong.

5 As I was watching, a male goat appeared from the west, coming across the face of the whole earth without touching the ground. The goat had a horn between its eyes. 6It came toward the ram with the two horns that I had seen standing beside the river, and it ran at it with savage force. 7I saw it approaching the ram. It was enraged against it and struck the ram, breaking its two horns. The ram did not have power to withstand it; it threw the ram down to the ground and trampled upon it, and there was no one who could rescue the ram from its power. 8Then the male goat grew exceedingly great; but at the height of its power, the great horn was broken, and in its place there came up four prominent horns toward the four winds of heaven.

9 Out of one of them came another horn, a little one, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the beautiful land. 10It grew as high as the host of heaven. It threw down to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled on them. 11Even against the prince of the host it acted arrogantly; it took the regular burnt offering away from him and overthrew the place of his sanctuary. 12Because of wickedness, the host was given over to it together with the regular burnt offering; it cast truth to the ground, and kept prospering in what it did. 13Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one that spoke, “For how long is this vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled?” 14And he answered him, “For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

Gabriel Interprets the Vision

15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I tried to understand it. Then someone appeared standing before me, having the appearance of a man, 16and I heard a human voice by the Ulai, calling, “Gabriel, help this man understand the vision.” 17So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, “Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end.”

18 As he was speaking to me, I fell into a trance, face to the ground; then he touched me and set me on my feet. 19He said, “Listen, and I will tell you what will take place later in the period of wrath; for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21The male goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between its eyes is the first king. 22As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.


At the end of their rule,

when the transgressions have reached their full measure,

a king of bold countenance shall arise,

skilled in intrigue.


He shall grow strong in power,

shall cause fearful destruction,

and shall succeed in what he does.

He shall destroy the powerful

and the people of the holy ones.


By his cunning

he shall make deceit prosper under his hand,

and in his own mind he shall be great.

Without warning he shall destroy many

and shall even rise up against the Prince of princes.

But he shall be broken, and not by human hands.

26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true. As for you, seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

27 So I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days; then I arose and went about the king’s business. But I was dismayed by the vision and did not understand it.

Here Daniel relates another vision, differing from the former as a part from the whole. For God wished to show him first what various changes should happen before Christ’s advent. The second redemption was the beginning of a new life, since God then not only restored afresh his own Church, but as it were created a new people; and hence the departure from Babylon and the return to their country are called the second birth of the Church. But as God at that time afforded then only a taste of true and solid redemption, whenever the prophets treat of that deliverance, they extended their thoughts and their prophecies as far as the coming of Christ. God therefore, with great propriety, shows the Four Monarchies to His Prophet, lest the faithful should grow weary in beholding the world so often convulsed, and all but changing its figure and nature. Thus they would be subject to the most distressing cares, become a laughing stock to their enemies, and ever remain contemptible and mean, without the power to help themselves, under these constant innovations. The faithful, then, were forewarned concerning these Four Monarchies, lest they should suppose themselves rejected by God and deprived altogether of his care. But now God wished to show only one part to his Prophet. As the destruction of the Babylonian empire was at hand, and the second kingdom was approaching, this dominion also should speedily come to its close, and then God’s people should be reduced to the utmost extremity. And the chief object of this vision is to prepare the faithful to bear patiently the horrible tyranny of Antiochus, of which the Prophet treats in this chapter. Now, therefore, we understand the meaning of this prophet, where God speaks of only two Monarchies, for the kingdom of the Chaldees was soon to be abolished: he treats first of the Persian kingdom; and next, adds that of Macedon, but omits all others, and descends directly to Antiochus, king of Syria. He then declares the prevalence of the most wretched confusion in the Church; for the sanctuary should be deprived of its dignity, and the elect people everywhere slain, without sparing even innocent blood. We shall see also why the faithful were informed beforehand of these grievous and oppressive calamities, to induce them to look up to God when oppressed by such extreme darkness. And at this day this prophecy is useful to us, lest our courage should fail us in the extreme calamity of the Church, because a perpetual representation of the Church is depicted for us under that calamitous and mournful state. Although God often spares our infirmities, yet the Church is never free from many distresses, and unless we are prepared to undergo all contests, we shall never stand firm in the faith. This is the scope and explanation of the prophecy. I will defer the rest.


Grant, Almighty God, since thou formerly didst permit thy servants to maintain their courage in the midst of so many and such heavy commotion, that we may reap the same edification from these prophecies: are since we have fallen upon the fullness of times, may we profit by the examples of the ancient Church, and by the pious and holy admonitions which thou hast set before us. Thus may we stand firm and unconquered against all the attacks of Satan, and the world, and the impious, and so may our faith remain impregnable, until at length we enjoy the fruit of its victory in thy heavenly kingdom, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.

Lecture Thirty-Ninth

I have written a short preface to this vision, which is here described for us in this eighth chapter, to enable you to comprehend its contents, and to perceive the object for which it was offered to the Prophet. As to the time, we must remember that the Prophet was informed of the victory of Cyrus and Darius while the Babylonian monarchy was still standing., and flourishing. Although Cyrus had already made great progress, and begun to lay waste the Chaldean territories, yet Belshazzar, as we have already seen, was carelessly enjoying his festivities. No one ever thought Cyrus would become the conqueror of so great a monarchy, for Belshazzar would not collect a great army to defend the boundaries of his kingdom. He thought he should repel all the endeavors of Cyrus as easily as possible; and the greater his violence the more King Belshazzar hoped to overthrow him. Now God wished to show his servant these future events. First of all, the immediate change is revealed; and next the calamity to follow ultimately is made known — -the calamity, I mean, of the Church under King Antiochus and his successors. The Prophet therefore says: —

Daniel 8:2-3

2. And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at the Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.

2. Vidi in visione: et fuit cum videram, ut ego essem in Susan, 4040     הבירה, hebirah, which some translate citadel, or palace, or royal residence. — Calvin. quae est in Elam provincia. Vidi in visione, et ecce eram super fluvium Ulai.

3. Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.

3. Et extuli oculos meos, et vidi: et ecce aries unus stabat coram fluvio, 4141     That is, on the river’s bank. — Calvin. et ei cornua duo, et cornua erant excelsa, et unam excelsius altero, et excelsum hoc ascendebat retro.


Without any doubt, the Prophet here recognized a new empire as about to arise, which could not happen without Babylon being reduced to slavery. Hence it would tend in no slight degree to alleviate the cares of the pious, and to mitigate their sorrows, when they saw what they had previously thought incredible, namely, the approaching destruction of that horrible tyranny under which they had been so, cruelly oppressed. And if the liberty of returning to their country was not immediately granted to the people, it would be no small consolation to behold God’s judgment against the Chaldeans as foretold by the prophets. We must now examine the Prophet’s language. I have seen in a vision, says he. This word חזון, chezon, a “vision,” is added to show us that the ram of which mention is made was not seen by the eyes of the body. Hence this was a heavenly oracle, and ought to have raised the beholder above all human sensations, to enable him to discern from lofty watch-tower what was hidden from the rest of mankind. He did not see then what ordinary men might behold, but God showed in a vision things which no mortal senses could apprehend. He next adds, The vision was shewn to me, Daniel, and I happened, says he, when I saw it, to be in Shushan Some think Daniel to be then dwelling in Persia, bug this view is by no means probable; for who could persuade the holy Prophet of God, who had been led captive with the rest and was attached to the king of Babylon, to depart as if he had been entirely his own master, and to go into Persia when the Persians were then open enemies? This is not at all likely; and I wonder what can induce men to adopt this comment, so contrary to all reason. For we need not dispute about a matter by no means obscure if we weigh the Prophet’s words, as he removes all doubt by saying he was in Shushan when he saw, that is, when he was caught up by the prophetic spirit beyond himself and above the world. The Prophet does not say he dwelt in Shushan, or in the neighborhood, but he was there in the vision only. The next verse, too, sufficiently shews him to have then been in Chaldean in the third year, he says, of the reign of King Belshazzar. By naming the king, he clearly expresses that he then dwelt under his power and dominion. It is clearly to be gathered from these words, without the slightest doubt, that the Prophet then dwelt in Chaldea. And perhaps Babylon had been already besieged, as we saw before. He says he was in the palace at Shushan I know not how I ought to translate this word, הבירה, hebireh, as I see no reason for preferring the meaning “palace” to that of” citadel.” We are sure of the nobility and celebrity of the citadel which was afterwards the head of the East, for all nations and tribes received from thence their laws, rights, and judgments. At the same time, I think this citadel was not then built, for its empire over the Persian territory was not firmly established till the successors of Cyrus. We may perhaps distinguish Shushan from Persia at large, yet as it is usually treated as a part of that kingdom, I will not urge the distinction. The country is, however, far milder and more fertile than Persia, as it receives its name from being flowery and abounding in roses. Thus the Prophet says he was there in a vision.

He afterwards repeats this I saw in a vision, and behold I was near the river Ulai The Latin writers mention a river Eulaeus, and as there is a great similitude between the words, I have no hesitation in understanding Daniel’s language of the Eulaeus. The repetition is not superfluous. It adds certainty to the prophecy, because Daniel affirms it; not to have been any vanishing specter, as a vision might be suspected to be, but clearly and certainly a divine revelation, as he will afterwards relate. He says, too, he raised his eyes upwards This attentive attitude has the same meaning, as experience informs us how often men are deceived by wandering in erroneous imaginations. But Daniel here bears witness to his raising his eyes upwards, because he, knew himself to be, divinely called upon to discern future events.

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