Two years after Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, he has another vision of two beasts which in many ways is similar to the first.
Here he dreams of a ram with two horns, with one horn longer than the other. This, as Gabriel will point out later, represents once again the Medo-Persian empire. And for a while, they could do what they pleased, and no one could stop them.
But then a goat with a prominent horn shows up and vanquishes the ram, shattering its horn and trampling upon him. The goat too became powerful, but at the peak of its power, its horn was broken off and four horns grew in its place. This again represents the Greek Empire under Alexander, who at the peak of his power suddenly died, and had his empire divided under his four generals.
Then we get a little more detail about what happened under this empire, which would foreshadow things that are yet to come. One of the horns stared out small but became great in power. It cast down some of the stars to the ground and trampled on it. It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host of stars, stopping the sacrifices, throwing truth to the ground and prospering in all it did.
This horn represents Antiochus Epiphanes who took control of one of the four divisions of the Greek empire (the Seleucid throne). During his reign, he sent 20,000 troops to seize Jerusalem, and upon doing so, he set up an idol of Zeus in the temple, and sacrificed a swine on the altar of God, thus desecrating it. This was the “abomination of desolation.”
The stars refer to the Jews were persecuted and killed under Antiochus, and as Daniel predicted, he threw truth to the ground, stopping the sacrifices, and turning the temple of God into a temple of Zeus. Antiochus in his pride even made claims of godhood, printing on his coins, “theos epiphanes” which meant, “God manifest.”
But eventually he was cast down. Judas Maccabaeus led a revolt that ultimately resulted in the purification and rededication of the temple. Antiochus, meanwhile, would die of a sudden illness. While he was riding his chariot, he had sudden abdominal pains that caused him to fall out of his chariot, and as a result of his injuries from the fall and the worms in his bowels, he died.
As well as predicting the life of Antiochus, this passage also seems to be a foreshadowing of the Antichrist as well, who will do many of the same things that Antiochus did. But as we know, this Antichrist will be cast down.
What can we learn from this? Essentially, power is fleeting. Persia and its kings thought itself to be a great power that no one could stop. But they were cast down. Alexander the Great thought the same, but he too was cast down. Even the Antichrist, empowered by the devil himself, will also be cast down.
I seriously doubt that most people reading this have any dreams of world domination. But how do you view your dominion, that is, your life? Are you at the center of it? Do you believe that the people around you are there to serve you? Are you willing to step on others or even destroy others to get to where you want to go? And are you taking God off the throne of your heart, trying to take his place?
Ultimately if you follow that path, you’ll find out what all these men Daniel described found out. The power you wield in your life is fleeting. And you can either surrender it willingly to God, or try desperately to hold on to it, only to lose it anyway. In surrender, however, we find life. In trying to hold on, we find only death.
Jesus put it this way,
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25)