Corresponds with Sabbath School Study Guide: Nov 20-Dec 3
Daniel chapter eight dates to the third year of Belshazzar, or 547 BC, two years after the date of the vision from chapter seven. The message of the two chapters is the same. Both teach that the conflicts on earth along with the challenges against God in heaven will some day come to an end and be replaced by God’s kingdom. The oppression and rebellion will give place to love and justice. Forgiveness and love will take place of sins. Then the faithful will serve God eternally.
Unlike Daniel 7 that was written in Aramaic, an international language, Daniel 8 was written in Hebrew, the language of God’s particular people. The symbols of wild beasts that represent earthly powers in the previous chapter are now replaced by domestic sacrificial animals, while the Ancient of Days and the human like person who receive authority and power are replaced by the institution of the temple and its continual services. The central concept of this chapter is God’s sanctuary which is presented as the target of the attacks by the anti-God power.
What is the sanctuary? In the Bible, the sanctuary was a structure or a building on earth that marked the place where God came down to meet with his people. Since God is holy, and the human beings are sinful, in the sanctuary the sins of the people are cleansed, so that they can be acceptable in God’s presence. Sanctuary services in Bible times had for purpose to show how eager God was to do away with the sins of His people so that they could be one with Him. Thus the sanctuary was central in the life and worship of God’s people. Some life-death issues were resolved in that place. In the Hebrew mind the world could not exist without God’s temple on earth. The Bible says that God led the Israelites out of Egypt so that they could worship him in the sanctuary (Exodus 4:23 and 15:13, 17). At Babylon’s fall King Cyrus set the captives free so that they could go back home and rebuild the temple which lay in ruins (Ezra 1:1-4). In Jesus’ time the destruction of the temple and the end of the world were two concepts that were inseparable in the mind of the Hebrew people (Matthew 24:1-3).
The Jewish work known as the Mishnah or “the second law” contains a number of oral laws. In the tractate named Yoma that speaks of the holy days, the Book of Daniel is tied to Yom Kippurim or the Day of Atonement. In that text the person whose duty was to read selected biblical passages before the High Priest on the eve of the Day of Atonement says the following: “Many times I read before him [the high priest] out of Daniel.” Thus, we find an interesting link between the book of Daniel and the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In fact, a good number of sanctuary terms are scattered throughout this chapter showing that the sanctuary is the central concept of Daniel 8.
The plan of this chapter is rather simple consisting of only three parts:
The middle part of this plan or the audition, describes the conversation that took place in heaven, whereas the rest of the chapter describes the event that happened on earth. The function of this part is the same as of the poetic section found in the previous chapter that also focused on the events that took place in heaven.
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Daniel 8:1-8. The opening verse of the chapter dates the vision and ties it with the previous one. Is there any significance in that? The first scene is one dominated by an aggressive ram that comes from the east and it charges toward the other three points of direction. Then, a flying goat comes from the opposite direction and engages the ram in a battle. The next scene is a war of horns. How can the text of the Bible help explain these symbols? What is the significance of the fact that the two animals mentioned here play a prominent role in Leviticus 16? Isn’t this scene, when set against the background of the events of the Day of Atonement, comical (two sacrificial animals fighting before the High Priest)?
- Daniel 8:9-12. The comic scene soon turns into a tragic one when a horn from one of the altars sets itself up against the sanctuary, its services and even the officiating priest. Where did this power known as “the little horn” come from? What are some of the other objects of its attack? Can you find some terms in this text that are typically “sanctuary terms”? Which of the hostile actions of the little horn take place on earth and which one in heaven? Can these vertical dimensions be related to those from chapter 7? Do they confirm the notion that in apocalyptic genre, heaven and earth are closely linked together?
- Daniel 8:13, 14. The audition reports on a conversation that took place in heaven. Why are the angels called here “holy ones”? The question from verse 13 is long and it serves as a summary of all the work of destruction that the little horn was doing against God’s sanctuary. In the beginning of verse 14 there is a problematic expression “he said to me [Daniel]” and some textual variants suggest that the original read “he said to him” [an angel]. Why are the days expressed here as “evenings and mornings?” How should we understand the words “then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated”? The interpretation of the vision specifies in three places that the fulfillment of this vision concerns “the time of the end” (verse 17), “the appointed time of the end” (verse 19), and “the distant future” (verse 26). Does this suggest the relevance of this passage for our time?
- Revelation 10:5-11:2. Early Adventists, after the 1844 disappointment, came to an understanding that the little scroll held in the angel’s hand was the Book of Daniel and its teaching about the sanctuary. They were able to find a great deal of comfort for themselves in John’s own bitter-sweet experience. Like John, they also heard the call “you must prophesy again” and the subject to be proclaimed was symbolically related to the measuring of the temple, which meant God’s judgment. Was this a legitimate application of biblical prophecies for that time? Should these two books (Daniel and Revelation) be studied together? Are the believers of today as bold in their application of similar end-time prophecies?
Lessons for Life
If the Bible teaches that the ultimate origin of sin is in heaven (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28), is it logical to believe that the solution to sin’s problem should come from heaven(ly sanctuary) [Isaiah 6]? The central concept in this chapter is God’s sanctuary. How relevant is that topic for our time? Do you sometimes feel that “the sanctuary doctrine” has been made extremely complicated and hard to understand by people? How can it be made simple and Christ-centered? (See Hebrews 8:1, 2).