Who Can Stand Against the Prince of Princes?
1, 2. Why is the vision that Daniel had in the third year of Belshazzar’s reign of importance to us?
FIFTY-SEVEN years have passed since the destruction of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. Belshazzar and his father, Nabonidus, jointly rule the Babylonian Empire, the third world power of Bible prophecy.* God’s prophet Daniel is exiled in Babylon. And during “the third year of the kingship of Belshazzar the king,” Jehovah sends Daniel a vision revealing certain details of the restoration of true worship.—Daniel 8:1.
2 The prophetic vision that Daniel saw had a profound effect on him and is of great interest to us living in “the time of the end.” The angel Gabriel tells Daniel: “Here I am causing you to know what will occur in the final part of the denunciation, because it is for the appointed time of the end.” (Daniel 8:16, 17, 19, 27) With keen interest, then, let us consider what Daniel saw and what it means for us today.
A RAM WITH TWO HORNS
3, 4. What animal did Daniel see standing before the watercourse, and what does it symbolize?
3 “I began to see in the vision,” writes Daniel, “and it came about, while I was seeing, that I was in Shushan the castle, which is in Elam the jurisdictional district; and I proceeded to see in the vision, and I myself happened to be by the watercourse of Ulai.” (Daniel 8:2) Whether Daniel actually was in Shushan (Susa)—the capital of Elam, located some 220 miles [350 km] east of Babylon—or was there only in a visionary way is not stated.
4 Daniel continues: “When I raised my eyes, then I saw, and, look! a ram standing before the watercourse, and it had two horns.” (Daniel 8:3a) The identity of the ram does not remain a mystery for Daniel. The angel Gabriel later states: “The ram that you saw possessing the two horns stands for the kings of Media and Persia.” (Daniel 8:20) The Medes came from the mountainous plateau to the east of Assyria, and the Persians originally led an often nomadic life in the region north of the Persian Gulf. As the Medo-Persian Empire grew, however, its inhabitants developed an outstanding taste for luxury.
5. How did the horn that “came up afterward” become taller?
5 “The two horns were tall,” reports Daniel, “but the one was taller than the other, and the taller was the one that came up afterward.” (Daniel 8:3b) The taller horn that came up later pictures the Persians, whereas the other horn represents the Medes. At first, the Medes were dominant. But in 550 B.C.E., Cyrus the ruler of Persia gained an easy victory over Median King Astyages. Cyrus combined the customs and laws of the two peoples, united their kingdoms, and expanded their conquests. From then on, the empire had a dual nature.
THE RAM PUTS ON GREAT AIRS
6, 7. How was it that “no wild beasts kept standing before” the ram?
6 Continuing his description of the ram, Daniel states: “I saw the ram making thrusts to the west and to the north and to the south, and no wild beasts kept standing before it, and there was no one doing any delivering out of its hand. And it did according to its will, and it put on great airs.”—Daniel 8:4.
7 In the preceding vision given to Daniel, Babylon had been pictured by the wild beast that came up out of the sea and that was like a lion having the wings of an eagle. (Daniel 7:4, 17) That symbolic beast proved to be unable to stand before “the ram” of this new vision. Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C.E. For almost 50 years thereafter, “no wild beasts,” or political governments, were able to stand up against the Medo-Persian Empire—the fourth world power of Bible prophecy.
8, 9. (a) How did “the ram” make “thrusts to the west and to the north and to the south”? (b) What does the book of Esther say regarding the successor of Persian King Darius I?
8 Coming from ‘the rising of the sun’—the east—the Medo-Persian World Power did as it pleased, making “thrusts to the west and to the north and to the south.” (Isaiah 46:11) King Cambyses II, who succeeded Cyrus the Great, conquered Egypt. His successor was Persian King Darius I, who moved westward across the straits of Bosporus in 513 B.C.E. and invaded the European territory of Thrace, the capital of which was Byzantium (now Istanbul). In the year 508 B.C.E., he subdued Thrace, and he conquered Macedonia in 496 B.C.E. Thus, by the time of Darius, the Medo-Persian “ram” had seized territory in three principal directions: north into Babylonia and Assyria, west through Asia Minor, and south into Egypt.
9 Testifying to the greatness of the Medo-Persian Empire, the Bible speaks of Darius’ successor, Xerxes I, as “the Ahasuerus who was ruling as king from India to Ethiopia, over a hundred and twenty-seven jurisdictional districts.” (Esther 1:1) But this great empire was to give way to another, and in this regard, Daniel’s vision reveals some intriguing details that should strengthen our faith in God’s prophetic word.
THE HE-GOAT STRIKES DOWN THE RAM
10. In Daniel’s vision, what animal struck down “the ram”?
10 Imagine Daniel’s astonishment at what he now sees. The account says: “I, for my part, kept on considering, and, look! there was a male of the goats coming from the sunset upon the surface of the whole earth, and it was not touching the earth. And as regards the he-goat, there was a conspicuous horn between its eyes. And it kept coming all the way to the ram possessing the two horns, which I had seen standing before the watercourse; and it came running toward it in its powerful rage. And I saw it coming into close touch with the ram, and it began showing bitterness toward it, and it proceeded to strike down the ram and to break its two horns, and there proved to be no power in the ram to stand before it. So it threw it to the earth and trampled it down, and the ram proved to have no deliverer out of its hand.” (Daniel 8:5-7) What does all of this mean?
11. (a) How did the angel Gabriel explain “the hairy he-goat” and its “great horn”? (b) Who was pictured by the conspicuous horn?
11 Neither Daniel nor we are left to guess about the meaning of this vision. “The hairy he-goat stands for the king of Greece; and as for the great horn that was between its eyes, it stands for the first king,” the angel Gabriel informs Daniel. (Daniel 8:21) In 336 B.C.E., the last king of the Persian Empire, Darius III (Codommanus), was crowned. In that same year, Alexander became king in Macedonia. History shows that Alexander the Great proved to be the foretold first “king of Greece.” Starting “from the sunset,” or the west, in the year 334 B.C.E., Alexander moved quickly. As if “not touching the earth,” he conquered territories and struck down “the ram.” Ending the Medo-Persian dominion of nearly two centuries, Greece thus became the fifth world power of Biblical significance. What a remarkable fulfillment of divine prophecy!
12. How was “the great horn” of the symbolic goat “broken,” and what were the four horns that came up in its place?
12 But Alexander’s power was to be short-lived. The vision further reveals: “And the male of the goats, for its part, put on great airs to an extreme; but as soon as it became mighty, the great horn was broken, and there proceeded to come up conspicuously four instead of it, toward the four winds of the heavens.” (Daniel 8:8) Explaining the prophecy, Gabriel says: “That one having been broken, so that there were four that finally stood up instead of it, there are four kingdoms from his nation that will stand up, but not with his power.” (Daniel 8:22) As predicted, at the very height of his victorious career, Alexander was “broken,” or died, at the age of only 32. And his great empire eventually came to be divided among four of his generals.
A MYSTERIOUS SMALL HORN
13. What grew out of one of the four horns, and how did it act?
13 The next part of the vision spans more than 2,200 years, its fulfillment stretching into modern times. Daniel writes: “Out of one of them [the four horns] there came forth another horn, a small one, and it kept getting very much greater toward the south and toward the sunrising and toward the Decoration. And it kept getting greater all the way to the army of the heavens, so that it caused some of the army and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it went trampling them down. And all the way to the Prince of the army it put on great airs, and from him the constant feature was taken away, and the established place of his sanctuary was thrown down. And an army itself was gradually given over, together with the constant feature, because of transgression; and it kept throwing truth to the earth, and it acted and had success.”—Daniel 8:9-12.
14. What did the angel Gabriel say about the activities of the symbolic small horn, and what would happen to that horn?
14 Before we can understand the meaning of the words just quoted, we must pay attention to God’s angel. After pointing to the coming to power of the four kingdoms from Alexander’s empire, the angel Gabriel says: “In the final part of their kingdom, as the transgressors act to a completion, there will stand up a king fierce in countenance and understanding ambiguous sayings. And his power must become mighty, but not by his own power. And in a wonderful way he will cause ruin, and he will certainly prove successful and do effectively. And he will actually bring mighty ones to ruin, also the people made up of the holy ones. And according to his insight he will also certainly cause deception to succeed in his hand. And in his heart he will put on great airs, and during a freedom from care he will bring many to ruin. And against the Prince of princes he will stand up, but it will be without hand that he will be broken.”—Daniel 8:23-25.
15. What did the angel tell Daniel to do with regard to the vision?
15 “You, for your part, keep secret the vision,” the angel tells Daniel, “because it is yet for many days.” (Daniel 8:26) The fulfillment of this part of the vision was not to occur for “many days,” and Daniel was to “keep secret the vision.” Its meaning apparently remained a mystery to Daniel. By now, however, those “many days” must surely have passed by. So we ask: ‘What does world history reveal regarding the fulfillment of this prophetic vision?’
THE SMALL HORN BECOMES MIGHTY IN POWER
16. (a) Out of which symbolic horn did the small horn come forth? (b) How did Rome become the sixth world power of Bible prophecy, but why was it not the symbolic small horn?
16 According to history, the small horn was an offshoot of one of the four symbolic horns—the one farthest to the west. This was the Hellenistic kingdom of General Cassander over Macedonia and Greece. Later, this kingdom was absorbed by the kingdom of General Lysimachus, the king of Thrace and Asia Minor. In the second century before our Common Era, these western sectors of the Hellenistic domain were conquered by Rome. And by the year 30 B.C.E., Rome took over all the Hellenistic kingdoms, making itself the sixth world power of Bible prophecy. But the Roman Empire was not the small horn of Daniel’s vision, for that empire did not continue till “the appointed time of the end.”—Daniel 8:19.
17. (a) What relationship did Britain have with the Roman Empire? (b) How is the British Empire related to the Hellenistic kingdom of Macedonia and Greece?
17 What, then, does history identify as that aggressive “king fierce in countenance”? Britain actually was a northwestern offshoot of the Roman Empire. Down till the early part of the fifth century C.E., there were Roman provinces in what is now Britain. In the course of time, the Roman Empire declined, but the influence of the Greco-Roman civilization continued in Britain and in other parts of Europe that had been under Roman dominion. “At the fall of the Roman Empire,” wrote Nobel Prize winning Mexican poet and author Octavio Paz, “the Church took its place.” He added: “The Church fathers, as well as the later scholars, grafted Greek philosophy onto Christian doctrine.” And the 20th-century philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell observed: “The civilization of the West, which has sprung from Greek sources, is based on a philosophic and scientific tradition that began in Miletus [a Greek city in Asia Minor] two and a half thousand years ago.” Thus, it could be said that the British Empire had its cultural roots in the Hellenistic kingdom of Macedonia and Greece.
18. What is the small horn that became “a king fierce in countenance” in the “time of the end”? Explain.
18 By 1763 the British Empire had defeated her powerful rivals, Spain and France. From then on she demonstrated herself to be the mistress of the seas and the seventh world power of Bible prophecy. Even after the 13 American colonies broke away from Britain in 1776 to establish the United States of America, the British Empire grew to embrace a quarter of the earth’s surface and a quarter of its population. The seventh world power gained still greater strength when the United States of America collaborated with Britain to form the Anglo-American dual world power. Economically and militarily, this power had indeed become “a king fierce in countenance.” The small horn that became a fierce political power in the “time of the end,” then, is the Anglo-American World Power.
19. What is “the Decoration” mentioned in the vision?
19 Daniel saw that the small horn “kept getting very much greater” toward “the Decoration.” (Daniel 8:9) The Promised Land, which Jehovah gave to his chosen people, was so beautiful that it was called “the decoration of all the lands,” that is, of the entire earth. (Ezekiel 20:6, 15) True, Britain did capture Jerusalem on December 9, 1917, and in the year 1920, the League of Nations assigned the mandate over Palestine to Great Britain, to continue until May 14, 1948. But the vision is prophetic, containing many symbols. And “the Decoration” mentioned in the vision symbolizes, not Jerusalem, but the earthly condition of the people whom God views as holy during the time of the seventh world power. Let us see how the Anglo-American World Power tries to threaten the holy ones.
“PLACE OF HIS SANCTUARY” THROWN DOWN
20. Who are “the army of the heavens” and “the stars” that the small horn tries to bring down?
20 The small horn “kept getting greater all the way to the army of the heavens, so that it caused some of the army and some of the stars to fall to the earth.” According to the angelic explanation, “the army of the heavens” and “the stars” that the small horn attempts to bring down are “the people made up of the holy ones.” (Daniel 8:10, 24) These “holy ones” are spirit-anointed Christians. Because of being brought into a relationship with God by means of the new covenant, made operative by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, they are sanctified, cleansed, and set apart for God’s exclusive service. (Hebrews 10:10; 13:20) Having assigned them as heirs with his Son in the heavenly inheritance, Jehovah views them as holy. (Ephesians 1:3, 11, 18-20) In Daniel’s vision, then, “the army of the heavens” refers to the remnant on earth of the 144,000 “holy ones,” who will reign in heaven with the Lamb.—Revelation 14:1-5.
21. Who occupy a “holy place” that the seventh world power attempts to desolate?
21 Today the remaining ones of the 144,000 are earthly representatives of the “heavenly Jerusalem”—the citylike Kingdom of God—and its temple arrangement. (Hebrews 12:22, 28; 13:14) In this sense they occupy a “holy place” that the seventh world power tries to trample on and make desolate. (Daniel 8:13) Speaking of that holy place also as “the established place of [Jehovah’s] sanctuary,” Daniel says: “From him [Jehovah] the constant feature was taken away, and the established place of his sanctuary was thrown down. And an army itself was gradually given over, together with the constant feature, because of transgression; and it kept throwing truth to the earth, and it acted and had success.” (Daniel 8:11, 12) How was this fulfilled?
22. During World War II, how did the seventh world power commit a notable “transgression”?
22 What was the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses during World War II? They suffered intense persecution! It started in Nazi and Fascist countries. But soon ‘truth was being thrown to the earth’ throughout the vast domain of the ‘small horn whose power had become mighty.’ “The army” of Kingdom proclaimers and their work of preaching “the good news” were banned in almost all of the British Commonwealth. (Mark 13:10) When these nations conscripted their manpower, they refused to grant ministerial exemption to Jehovah’s Witnesses, showing no respect for their theocratic appointment as ministers of God. Mob violence and various indignities were experienced by Jehovah’s faithful servants in the United States. The seventh world power, in effect, tried to take away a sacrifice of praise—“the fruit of lips”—regularly offered to Jehovah by his people as “the constant feature” of their worship. (Hebrews 13:15) That world power thus committed the “transgression” of invading the rightful domain of the Most High God—“the established place of his sanctuary.”
23. (a) During World War II, how did the Anglo-American World Power stand up “against the Prince of princes”? (b) Who is “the Prince of princes”?
23 By persecuting “the holy ones” during World War II, the small horn put on great airs “all the way to the Prince of the army.” Or, as the angel Gabriel states, it stood up “against the Prince of princes.” (Daniel 8:11, 25) The title “the Prince of princes” applies exclusively to Jehovah God. The Hebrew word sar, translated “prince,” is related to a verb meaning “exercise dominion.” In addition to referring to the son of a king or a person of royal rank, the word applies to a head, or a chief one. The book of Daniel mentions other angelic princes—for example, Michael. God is the Chief Prince of all such princes. (Daniel 10:13, 21; compare Psalm 83:18.) Can we imagine that anyone could stand up against Jehovah—the Prince of princes?
“HOLY PLACE” BROUGHT INTO RIGHT CONDITION
24. What assurance does Daniel 8:14 give us?
24 No one can stand up against the Prince of princes—not even a king as “fierce in countenance” as the Anglo-American World Power! This king’s attempts to desolate God’s sanctuary do not succeed. After a period of “two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings,” says the angelic messenger, “the holy place will certainly be brought into its right condition,” or “shall emerge victorious.”—Daniel 8:13, 14; The New English Bible.
25. How long is the prophetic period of 2,300 days, and with what event must it be associated?
25 The 2,300 days constitute a prophetic period. Hence, a prophetic year of 360 days is involved. (Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14) This 2,300 days, then, would amount to 6 years, 4 months, and 20 days. When was this period? Well, in the 1930’s, God’s people began to experience increasing persecution in various countries. And during World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses were fiercely persecuted in the lands of the Anglo-American dual world power. Why? Because of their insistence on ‘obeying God as ruler rather than men.’ (Acts 5:29) Therefore, the 2,300 days must be associated with that war.* But what can be said about the beginning and the end of this prophetic period?
26. (a) From when, at the earliest, should the counting of the 2,300 days begin? (b) When did the period of 2,300 days end?
26 For “the holy place” to be “brought,” or restored, to what it should be, the 2,300 days must have begun when it previously was in the “right condition” from God’s standpoint. At the earliest, this was on June 1, 1938, when The Watchtower published part 1 of the article “Organization.” Part 2 appeared in the issue of June 15, 1938. Counting 2,300 days (6 years, 4 months, and 20 days on the Hebrew calendar) from June 1 or 15, 1938, brings us to October 8 or 22, 1944. On the first day of a special assembly held at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on September 30 and October 1, 1944, the Watch Tower Society’s president spoke on the subject “The Theocratic Alignment Today.” At the annual corporate meeting on October 2, the Society’s charter was amended in an effort to bring it as close to a theocratic arrangement as the law would allow. With the publication of clarified Biblical requirements, theocratic organization was soon more fully installed in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
27. What evidence was there that “the constant feature” was restricted during the persecution-filled years of World War II?
27 While the 2,300 days ran their course during World War II, which began in 1939, the offering of “the constant feature” at God’s sanctuary was severely restricted because of persecution. In 1938 the Watch Tower Society had 39 branches supervising the work of the Witnesses worldwide, but by 1943 there were only 21. Increases in the number of Kingdom proclaimers were also small during that period.
28, 29. (a) As World War II drew to a close, what development took place in Jehovah’s organization? (b) What can be said of the enemy’s vicious attempts to desolate and destroy “the holy place”?
28 As we have noted, during the closing months of World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses reaffirmed their determination to magnify God’s rulership by serving him as a theocratic organization. It was with this objective that the rearrangement of their work and governing structure was initiated in 1944. In fact, The Watchtower of October 15, 1944, contained an article entitled “Organized for Final Work.” It and other service-oriented articles of the same period indicated that the 2,300 days had ended and that “the holy place” was again in its “right condition.”
29 The enemy’s vicious attempts to desolate and destroy “the holy place” had failed completely. Indeed, the remaining “holy ones” on earth, along with their companions of the “great crowd,” had come off victorious. (Revelation 7:9) And the sanctuary, in its rightful theocratic state, now continues to render sacred service to Jehovah.
30. What will soon happen to the “king fierce in countenance”?
30 The Anglo-American World Power still holds its position. “But it will be without hand that he will be broken,” said the angel Gabriel. (Daniel 8:25) Very soon, this seventh world power of Bible prophecy—this “king fierce in countenance”—will be broken, not by human hands, but by superhuman power at Armageddon. (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 16:14, 16) How thrilling it is to know that the sovereignty of Jehovah God, the Prince of princes, will then be vindicated!
Seven world powers of special Biblical significance are Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the Anglo-American dual world power. All of these are noteworthy because they have had dealings with Jehovah’s people.
Daniel 7:25 also speaks of a period of time when ‘the holy ones of the Supreme One are harassed continually.’ As explained in the preceding chapter, this was associated with the first world war.
WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?
• What is pictured by
“the ram” with “two horns”?
“the hairy he-goat” with its “great horn”?
the four horns coming up in place of “the great horn”?
the small horn that came forth from one of the four horns?
• During World War II, how did the Anglo-American World Power try to desolate “the holy place,” and did it succeed?
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Some prominent figures of the Anglo-American World Power:
1. George Washington, first U.S. president (1789-97)
2. Queen Victoria of Britain (1837-1901)
3. Woodrow Wilson, U.S. president (1913-21)
4. David Lloyd George, prime minister of Britain (1916-22)
5. Winston Churchill, prime minister of Britain (1940-45, 1951-55)
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. president (1933-45)