Thursday, January 21, 2010

Daniel 8: Part 2 - The goat with comsetic difficulties

Every winter I get a cold sore on my lower lip, and let me tell you, there are few things I hate more. They look terrible, feel gross, and you can tell by the look in people's eyes that you disgust them. The up side is that they are temporary and go away after a week. This poor goat wasn't as lucky. His cosmetic difficulty was a big horn right between the eyes, that breaks off and is replaced by all sorts of other wacky horns. I guess at least I don't have a big horn problem every winter. Let's take a look at the prophecy about this cosmetically challenged goat.

Prophecy #2 (Dan. 8:5-8) The goat:

The ram is powerful, but not as powerful as our next colorful character, the goat. What do we learn about the goat?

1. He was from the west of where Daniel was located (which was Babylon, modern day Iraq).
2. He crossed the land so swiftly that he didn't even touch the ground.
3. He possessed a super long horn right between his eyes.
4. He charged directly at the ram and stuck it as hard as he could.
5. He broke off the rams two horns, so that the ram was helpless.
6. He trampled the ram and no one could rescue the ram from the power of the goat
7. The goat continued to become more and more powerful.
8. Until one day, the large horn was broken inexplicably.
9. Then, four horns grew in its place extending north, south, east, and west.

Angelic Interpretation of Prophecy #2 (Dan. 8:21-22)

Gabriel tells us a few things about this goat in his angelic explanation. He lets us know the identity of the goat; he is the king of Greece. He also tells us that the large horn that was in between the goat's eyes was an image for the first king of the Greek Empire. The four other horns demonstrate that the Greek Empire will be broken into four sections, each with their own king. Yet, none of these kings will be as powerful as the first.

The fulfillment of Prophecy #2

First off, the large horn represents the king of Greece. It couldn't be clearer that this prophecy is about Alexander the Great, who instituted a policy of expanding Greece and Dominating Darius and the Persians. However, Alexander was never technically "king" of the Greek Empire. He was "king" of Macedonia, and was technically just the "governor" of a coalition of Greek city states. which his father assembled. Is it a problem that the prophecy doesn't use the precise political title for Alexander and merely calls him king?

Also, Gabriel calls Alexander the FIRST "king" or more technically "governor" of the Greek Empire. But . . . his position and title were the exact same as his father, Philip, making him the second "king" not the first. Wouldn't we then assume by just reading the propehcy that Philip is being spoken about? The fulfillment makes us take a second look. Maybe first doesn't necessarily mean first. Maybe it means the first important king of Greece. Alexander is the one who started to push the boundaries of the Greek Empire, first by liberating, then by conquering. So, for observers from foreign lands, Alexander would appear as the first and pre-eminent leader of Greece. What I want you to take note of is the lack of precision in prophecy about titles and even about some details, like Alexander not technically being the first king of the Greek Empire. If this is true in prophecy that has already been fulfilled, we should expect in prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled.

When the prophecy speaks about the collapse of the ram (Medo-Persian Empire) at the hands of the goat (Greek Empire), it mentions only one great battle. As history plays out, it does not happen in one main battle, but several decisive defeats at different locations. Also, when the ram is defeated, we see that its horns are broken off. In the image of the goat, the horns represent kings, first Alexander and then the kings after the Empire is broken apart. However, in the image of the ram, the horns represent the kingdoms of Media and Persia respectively. So, just because a horn represents something in one image, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will mean the same thing in another image. Notice the versatility of images as they relate to prophecy even within a few verses of text.

Finally, let's take a look at the breaking up of the Empire. We are told by Gabriel that the great horn breaking off represents the death of Alexander. After Alexander's untimely death, four prominent horns step up into his place, and we are told that these horns represent four kingdoms that would arise from Alexander's Empire. History doesn't fit this prophecy as conveniently as we would like. The death of Alexander led to many great power struggles over who will rule what. Originally the plan was for Alexander to have a successor. Some believed it should be his brother, but he had mental problems. Others thought it should be Alexander's son by Roxana, but he was still in the womb. When this original plan fell apart, a guy named Perdiccas took control of the empire and appointed Satraps who were loyal to him over many different regions of the empire. This struggle led to six main wars over 60 years and finally ended with three main kingdoms (Antigonids, Seleucids, and Ptolemys), not four. What should we think about this?

For a very brief period during this time of struggle, there were four separate kingdoms (Cassander took Macedonia and Greece, General Lysimachus took Asia Minor and Thrace, Seleucus I Nicator went with Mesopotamia and Syria, and Ptolemy I, Egypt and Palestine). However, this was very brief, complicated, not what was true immediately after Alexander's death, and soon settled into just three. So, was Daniel merely referring to this brief period in the middle of the struggle? Didn't he foresee that only three would end up surviving in the end? What is clear is that if we were living in the period of Daniel and reading this prophecy, we would assume that the Greek Empire would end up in four sections, north, south, east, and west, and that the transition would have been easy. We would have been wrong.

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