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The Beasts of Daniel 8 Explained

Posted by adventbiblestudy on February 12, 2009


This lesson teaches some of the fundamental rules of Biblical interpretation. Visions are identified as such within the Bible. When dealing with visions, key characters will often be symbolic in nature. Search for symbolic interpretations in same chapter, than book before searching other areas of the Bible.

Daniel 8 is a good example, this chapter introduces a series of events and symbols many find difficult to understand.

KJV Daniel 8:1-8

1. In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.

2. And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at 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.

Notice the text identifies this event as a vision. There is a difference between a vision and a dream. Each is interpreted in an entirely different manner. The interpretation of symbols within dreams comes directly from God. “And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.” KJV Genesis 40:8. The interpretation of symbols shown in visions are found in Biblical text. “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: KJV Isaiah 28:9-10.

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.

4. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.

5. And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

6. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.

7. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.

8. Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

The first step is to identify the key words. In Daniel 8 we find the key words, ram, goat and horn. Notice how often these key words are repeated. This shows the effort God has taken to attract our attention. This also illustrates the steps God has taken to make interpretation simple. As we read further in Daniel 8 we are given the interpretation of all three key words.

KJV Daniel 8:20-21

20. The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.

21. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.

After interpreting the key words the text may be rewritten, substituting the physical words used in the vision for the spiritual words found later in the chapter.

Daniel 8

3. Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river the kings of Media and Persia: and the two kings were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.

4. I saw the kings of Media and Persia pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.

5. And as I was considering, behold, the king of Grecia came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and Grecia had a notable king.

6. And he came to the kings of Media and Persia, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.

7. And I saw him come close unto the kings of Media and Persia, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the kings of Media and Persia, and brake his two kings: and there was no power in the kings of Media and Persia to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the kings of Media and Persia out of his hand.

8. Therefore the king of Grecia waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great king was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

Notice the theme or main thought contained within the passage has not been altered. When the physical words are substituted for the symbolic words the vision becomes clear. This passage introduces a simple rule of Bible interpretation. A proper interpretation uses the Bible and only the Bible to reveal the meaning of scripture. Human thoughts are never sufficient to expound upon the word of God. The Bible will always explain itself.

This lesson has introduced the following rules of interpretation.

1. Dreams and visions contain symbols that must be interpreted to be correctly understood.

2. Dreams differ from visions and must be approached using different methods. Dreams are interpreted by God. Visions are interpreted by comparing Biblical text.

3. Look for interpretations first within the same chapter, than book before looking elsewhere in the Bible.

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3 Responses to “The Beasts of Daniel 8 Explained”

  1. adventbiblestudy said

    There is a follow up study I am working on. This new study will involve identifying the 4th beast using only the Bible. Most of the text is in Daniel which can be termed the book of knowledge. I have not finished but this new study may result in links to Revelation.

  2. Sifiso said

    Would like to have the whole understanding of the book of Daniel and Revelation. Thank you for the information that I have obtained thus far. God Bless!

  3. adventbiblestudy said

    Because much of Rev and Daniel deal with the future, we will not have all the answers until after the prophecies have been fulfilled. Those which have been fulfilled prove God is in control. The remaining will tell us the time for Jesus’ return is getting near. And I can see a number of them displaying pieces of the puzzle, falling into place. The main thing is, keep an open mind, and let the Spirit let you know when they are about to be fulfilled.

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