DANIEL'S PROPHECY OF THE 2300 “EVENING/MORNINGS”
In the process of researching this paper, I have prayerfully considered several alternative “interpretations” of this prophecy. A couple of the other options are briefly discussed in Appendix 1.
For a number of reasons, I don't want to “set this completely in concrete” just yet. There are a few factors which don't fit quite as “comfortably” as I would like them to. I will mention those at the appropriate places in this article. Maybe more information will turn up one day. Nevertheless, at this point of time, the view presented below seems to make far more sense than any of the others considered.
The vision in Daniel Chapter 8, is related to the history of the Empires of Media, Persia, and GREECE.
It predicts the impact of the Greek empire on the JEWISH NATION at a time when God inflicted severe punishment for their persistent transgression.
In particular, it refers to the defilement of the second temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in BC167, and its subsequent cleansing under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus in BC164.
Before we start on the main discussion, we need to draw a careful distinction between this vision and the one in the previous chapter.
One of the principal players in the vision is a “little horn”. It is essential that we avoid confusing the little horn from Chapter 8, with that of Chapter 7. They are not the same!
The little horn of chapter 7 was to arise out of the fourth world empire (which most understand to be Rome). But the angel told Daniel that the little horn from this prophecy in chapter 8 would arise out of the Greek empire, which was only the third of the great world empires mentioned by Daniel.
THE VISION DESCRIBED
In this vision, Daniel saw a ram and a he-goat. It was explained by the angel, that the ram was a symbol which represented Media and Persia, (verse 20).
The he-goat represented Greece (verse 21) which conquered Persia, and became the dominant power in the region.
The different phases of the Greek Empire were portrayed by the horns of the he-goat. Firstly there was a great horn , representing a time when the whole Greek empire was ruled by one king. This first king was Alexander the Great.
Strictly speaking Alexander was not the first Greek King. However he was certainly the first to rule over the Greek World Empire, which came into existence under his military leadership.
Then the great horn was broken and replaced by four new horns. These represented the four sections into which the Greek Empire divided, after the death of Alexander the Great.
Eventually, at a time when (Jewish) transgressions had reached their “full measure”, out of one part of the divided Greek empire there arose a little horn . This represented a Greek king of “fierce countenance”, whose destructive activities would affect many, including the Jews. (verses 23-25) This king was Antiochus Epiphanes.
THE GREEK KING
Daniel's prophecy says the Greek king represented by the “little horn” of the he-goat would :-
The Greek king who fulfilled this part of the prophecy was Antiochus Epiphanes. (who reigned BC 176 -164)
THE CESSATION OF THE DAILY SACRIFICES
&THE DESOLATION OF THE SANCTUARY
In BC169 Antiochus plundered the temple, and massacred many in Jerusalem. (some sources say BC170)
In BC167 Antiochus again visited Jerusalem. In a campaign of destruction, the finest buildings in the city were burned. The sanctuary was defiled by the innocent blood which was shed on every side. The sanctuary itself was laid waste, and the Jews were commanded to follow Greek laws instead of their own. Burnt offerings and sacrifices in the Temple were forbidden. Keeping of the Sabbath and circumcision were banned. They were ordered to set up groves and altars, and sacrifice unclean animals to idols. Thousands of Jews were taken away captive. Many others fled from Jerusalem to escape from oppression.
Then, on the 15th day of the month Kislev, that same year “the abomination of desolation” (an idol of Zeus) was placed on the altar in the Temple. Idol altars were built throughout the cities of Judah, and the books of the law were collected and burnt. A death sentence was decreed for any found in possession of any book of the Testament. Finally, on the 25th day of Kislev, the desecration of the altar was completed by the offering of swine's flesh.
By all this, God had “given both the host and the sanctuary to be trampled underfoot”. (Daniel 8:13)
THE CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE
This cessation of the daily sacrifice was predicted to happen because of rebellion by the Jews. The sanctuary and the Jewish people were to be trodden underfoot for 2300 “evening/mornings”.
At the end of that time, the sanctuary would be cleansed (reconsecrated NIV).
Judas Maccabeus was the Jewish leader under whom the forces of Antiochus were defeated and the temple was cleansed.
In BC165, Judas Maccabeus gathered an army and began a campaign against the Greek forces. In the following year (BC164) he inflicted a great defeat on the Greeks and decided that it was time to cleanse the Temple.
The altar was rebuilt, and the first sacrifices were offered on the 25th day of Kislev BC164. Josephus makes special note that it was three years to the day when the temple was re-dedicated. (Antiquities 12:7,6) To this day, the Jews celebrate the occasion at the Festival of Lights. (Hanukkah)
DEFINITION - “The Time Of The End”
In verse 17, the KJV says that “at the time of the end shall be the vision”. (Italicised words not in original). In verse 19, the angel qualifies that by saying that “at the appointed time the end shall be”. It is perhaps unfortunate that some modern versions cloud the issue by changing the words around to say that “the vision is for the time of the end”.
In several other places, the phrase “time of the end” often seems to point to the time just before the second coming of Jesus.
However it would be a mistake to automatically assume that it has that same meaning in this prophecy. We need to look at the phrase in its proper context to decide which “ end ” of “ what time ”, the prophecy is referring to!
Clearly, in this prophecy, the “appointed time” refers to the end of a period of time, after which a Greek invader will be appear. It is the end of a period of time during which (Jewish) “transgressors are come to the full” . (Verse 23) It refers to the end of a time of God's forbearance and long suffering for that generation.
”Many days” after Daniel's time, (verse 26) Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled the prophecy in remarkable detail. Indeed the accuracy of Daniel's prediction has often been used by some unfriendly critics, to claim that it must have been written after the event!
DEFINITION - “Transgression Of Desolation”
“Desolation of the sanctuary” is what happens when the scale of national transgressions reaches the “full measure”. God declares his total rejection of their meaningless sacrifices, by giving the Temple into the hands of an invader, for either total, or partial destruction. As a result, the Temple sacrifices are no longer possible, and must be abandoned. Jews can no longer even enter the site to worship there.
It has happened three times in the history of the nation. The first was when Nebuchadnezzar burned and demolished Solomon's Temple in BC586. The third was when the Romans destroyed Herod's Temple in AD70. On both of these occasions the Temple was totally destroyed.
This prophecy is about the second occasion. in BC167. Although not utterly demolished this time, it was left derelict.
The gates were burned; the priest's chambers were pulled down; and the Temple was stripped of all its gold and vessels of worship.
1 Maccabees tells us that when the Jews regained access to the site, they found the sanctuary “desolate”, and the site overgrown by a forest of shrubs. The altar was so completely profaned that it had to be rebuilt.
DEFINITION - The 2300 “Evening /Mornings”
The meaning of this unusual phrase deserves some attention. The 2300 in the King James Version of Daniel's prophecy is not “days” but “evenings and mornings” (see NIV, NEB, NASB) And it should be noted that in the NASB the word “and” is italicised. It is not part of the original text.
We have just noted that Josephus says that in a three year time span, these events fulfilled the prophecy by Daniel. But how can 3 years be 2300 days? (Three of our solar years amount only to 1095 days).
The first part of the answer lies in understanding the phrase “evening/morning”. The daily sacrifices offered in the Temple, included one in the evening, and one in the morning. Since the vision is about the taking away of the (twice) daily sacrifice, it is not unreasonable to suggest that 2300 “evening/mornings” means 2300 sacrifices. i.e. 1150 days! If that is so, three years is now much closer to the mark.
Can we find the “missing days” in that three year period? The answer to that is not totally “comfortable” because it involves a certain amount of speculation. However it is certainly possible to “find” them!
The answer lies in the difference between Jewish years and Solar years. The “standard” Jewish year was 354 days. However that was subject to regular adjustment, by the addition of extra days and months, to keep the seasons in balance and the feasts in their proper place in the solar year.
It was the responsibility of the priesthood to manage this. We lack information about exactly how that was done at this particular time. Indeed we cannot even be sure that it was actually done at all during the time of the desolation of the Temple. History suggests that there have been other times when the calendar was neglected. The priesthood was in confusion and under great pressure to abandon all ritual.
While there were no sacrifices, especially Passover and First Fruits, there was no pressing need to adjust the calendar. However we do know that it was the responsibility of the priesthood to make the adjustments. And it seems more than possible that a neglected duty might have suddenly become a necessity, with more than the usual adjustments required.
The modern Jewish lunar year can be 354, 355, 383 or 384 days, depending where it falls in the 19 year cycle which the Jews use to keep in step with the solar cycle. Although it is not usual to have three “13 month years” in a row, it is certainly conceivable that due to several years of neglect, a need might have arisen to add 3 years worth of extra months to catch up.
All that we need now is 2 years of 383 days and one of 384 days. The total? Exactly 1150 days!
Alternatively, it might be that the 1150 days should be calculated from the time when the order was given forbidding the sacrifices.
The erection of the idol of Zeus on the altar, was on the 15th day of Kislev. That accounts for 10 of the missing days! If we then had 2 years of 383 days, and one of 354 days (which is a “normal” Jewish calendar occurrence) all we need to find to complete the total, is another 20 days. It seems quite possible that the actual order for the sacrifices to cease might have been implemented just 20 days before the “Abomination of Desolation” was actually installed.
There is no point in pursuing this any further. Unless new information is available, it cannot be resolved any closer. But at the risk of adding to the ’discomfort”, it is worth noting that some older manuscripts quote the time period as either 2400, or 2200 days. The compilers of the King James version have simply made a “best guess” at the most likely of the three numbers, based on their assessment of the weight of evidence available.
Josephus is quite adamant that Daniel's prophecy is fulfilled by these events. It seems unlikely that he would have ignored any discrepancy between the three years and the number of days required to complete 2200, or 2300, or 2400 sacrifices.
THE DEATH OF ANTIOCHUS
The prophecy says that the Greek king would come to his end, “ broken without human hand .” (Daniel 8:25). The book of 1st Maccabees records that shortly after losing a battle for the city of Elymais, he also received the news that the Jews had retaken Jerusalem, removed the idol of Zeus from the altar, and rededicated the temple. At this he fell sick with grief and never recovered. At the last, Antiochus is said to have recognised that his sickness and approaching death, was on account of “the evils he did at Jerusalem”.
While there are still some questions about the meaning of the 2300 evening/mornings, the rest of the information does fit remarkably well.
I have written this paper, mainly because there are still some of us who feel that this understanding of Daniel's Prophecy is far more likely to be correct than either of the two alternatives discussed in the appendix below. In an age when old landmarks are fast disappearing under the onslaught of Futurism, we all need to be reminded that there are other options available.
For those who have their own “pet theory” about this subject, please note that I do not feel obliged to promote, defend, or discuss this particular understanding of the prophecy, to establish its “supremacy” over others.
From here on, unless compelling new information becomes available, I intend to fall back on the “PAN-PROPHETIC” method of interpretation.
I am going to wait to see how it “pans out” !
Suggested further reading :-
1. Josephus, Antiquities Of The Jews, 12:5 &12:7
2. 1st Maccabees Chapters 1 & 4.
Appendix 1 - THE “OTHERS”
ALTERNATIVE NO. 1 - THE FUTURIST VERSION - 2300 LITERAL DAYS STILL FUTURE
With all due respect to my “Futurist” friends, this one is the product of failure to recognise the Papacy as the true identity of the Antichrist. For the “futurists”, almost every time some “bad guy” appears in an Old Testament prophecy, the Antichrist seems to become the automatic answer. That fundamental mistake leads to other faulty conclusions which lead me to conclude that the Futurist version of the 2300 days, is the one least likely to be correct.
In all of the futurist versions, the “Little Horn” is identified as the Antichrist. While there is a great diversity of speculation about his identity, in the versions I have read, his nationality can be almost anything except Greek ! There lies our first problem. The “Little Horn” of this prophecy is very definitely Greek! And if the Futurist Antichrist wasn't clouding the issue, it would be easier to see Antiochus Epiphanes as the particular Greek who fulfilled this prophecy over 2000 years ago!
Some claim that the Jews will build a third temple in Jerusalem, before the Second Coming of Jesus. They say that this third temple will be destroyed by the “Antichrist”, 3 1/2 years before Jesus returns, and that 2300 literal days will pass, before a fourth temple is built by Jesus shortly after the start of the Millennium.
However, it is not at all clear that the Bible predicts the building of that third Temple by the Jews, before the return of Jesus. Even more unlikely is the prospect of the restoration of a Mosaic ritual.
The indications are all against that! It is at least one, and possibly, two temples too many !
a. When Jesus died, his sacrifice was a once for all time fulfilment of all that was foreshadowed by the Mosaic rituals. (Hebrews 10:1,12)
b. At that point of time, the Mosaic system was made “ obsolete, growing old, and ready to vanish away ”. (Hebrews 8:13)
c. Although the Jewish Temple sacrifices continued for 40 years after the death of Jesus, they were definitely no longer acceptable to God! From the death of Jesus onwards, every temple sacrifice was a new act of rebellion against God, and an affirmation of their continuing rejection of Jesus!
d. When the Second Temple was destroyed in AD70, God was removing for ever, a system which had been replaced by a new covenant . (Hebrews 8:8-12 & 10:16-17)
e. It seems most unlikely that God would allow the Jews to rebuild a temple dedicated to the service of an obsolete covenant.
f. One Roman emperor (Julian) did try to rebuild the temple, in an attempt to discredit Christianity and restore pagan worship. Of course he failed miserably! It seems most unlikely that any Jewish attempt to reinstate a system which continues to reject Jesus, would be any more successful.
THE REAL THIRD TEMPLE
According to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, there is no place in this present age for the building of a temple constructed with the same materials used for the first two. “God does not dwell in temples made with hands”. (Acts 17:24-25)
According to the same Gospel of the Kingdom the real Third Temple has long since commenced construction!
The chief corner stone has been set in place. The foundation has been laid. ((Ephesians 2:20) And the living stones are now being built together, to create a temple where God dwells. (verses 21-22)
The Royal Priesthood for the temple service is being chosen, and called, and trained for an everlasting ministry, which proclaims the praises of God from a new temple comprised of human hearts. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
ALTERNATIVE NO. 2 - THE DAY FOR A YEAR METHOD
There have been many of these. Starting at some point in time BC, they simply add 2300 years to arrive at a date in the 1800s or 1900s. However the end point of most of them has long since passed, and they stand as a reminder of the futility of trying to predict things that Jesus Himself did not know, and which God has continued to conceal from the rest of us!
One of the most famous was that of William Miller, a “forefather” of the Adventist movement. In the 1800s, Miller predicted the return of Jesus to occur in 1844. To arrive at this date, he commenced with the decree of Artaxerxes in BC457, and added 2300 years.
The Seventh day Adventists still call that event “The Great Disappointment”! Many, including Miller, faced the matter honestly and admitted their mistake. However others persisted and eventually a “prophetess” amongst them found a way to save face by inventing a “heavenly sanctuary” which required “cleansing”. They now claim that Jesus moved there in 1844, and ever since that time, has been involved in the work of cleansing it. (In passing, we ask the reverent question ..... does that perhaps sound just a little like “He is in the inner rooms”? Matthew 24:26)
In another version of this, John Thomas, “founding father” of the Christadelphians, changed 2300 to 2400 (which is the Septuagint rendering) and manipulated the conventional history a little to say it started in BC 540. From there he calculated it to finish in 1860. (He wrote that in 1848) Time has proved that one wrong also.
In yet another version, some authors claim that the time started in BC333, and finished in AD1967. This was the year of the 6 Day War, when the Jews re-captured the Arab section of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount.
I first encountered this one just after the 6 Day War. In our excitement over the result of that event, a lot of us simply seized upon it at the time, without due consideration of several important factors. In fact it did impress me enough when I heard it, to make a note of it in the Bible I was using at the time. I “rediscovered” that note while researching this paper. But alas ..... as I prayed, and found other pertinent information, it didn't “ring true” any more. And I now confess to you all, the folly of being too quick to scribble indelible notes in Bible margins! (That is not the only note in that old Bible which I wish I had been more careful about!)
But, at least this one does have something about the Ram and the He-goat in it. BC333 was selected as the starting point, because that was the year of the famous Battle Of Issus, between Alexander the Great and Darius III. This was claimed to be the time when Alexander won control over the Persian Empire. However that is not really correct. Issus was only the second in a series of three major battles between Alexander and Darius.
And in any case, 2300 years from BC333 finishes in 1968 ..... not 1967!
For this reason some shift ground to start with the battle of Grannicus, in the previous year, (BC334) to make it work out. However, this date is even earlier than the correct time of Alexander's final decisive victory over the Persian Empire. The real victory did not come until the Battle of Gaugamela, in BC331.
There is one other major element missing from this scenario.
We also ask the obvious question, “What has Alexander got to do with any defilement of the temple and the suppression of the daily sacrifices?” History does not record a defilement and desolation of the Jewish temple anywhere near the suggested starting time.
Neither was there a cleansing of the sanctuary at the finish. In 1967, there wasn't even a Temple in existence, which could have been cleansed! There still is no temple; neither is it likely that there can be, before Jesus returns.
In my current
(prayerful) opinion, all the “day for a year” versions I have seen appear
to be going from NOWHERE TO NOWHERE!