Chapter 9 The He-Goat
Shiur #15: Chapter 9:
In the third year of the reign of King Belshatzar, a vision appeared to me I,
Daniel after that which had appeared to me beforehand. And I saw in the
vision, and when I looked I saw that I was in Shushan, the capital, which is in
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the certain one who spoke: How long shall there be the vision concerning the continual burnt offering, and the transgression of desolation, which allow both the Sanctuary and the Host to be trampled underfoot? And he said to me: Until evening and morning, two thousand and three hundred have passed; then the Sanctuary will be victorious.
And it came to pass, when I I, Daniel had seen the vision, I sought to
understand it, and behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.
And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and it called and
said: Gavriel, make this man understand the vision.
So he came to where I stood, and when he came I was terrified, and fell upon my
face; but he said to me: Understand, son of man; for the vision concerns the
time of the end.
Now as he was speaking with me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the
ground; but he touched me, and set me upright. And he said:
Behold, I will make known to you what will be at the end of the fury; for it
concerns the appointed time of the end: The ram which you saw
with the two horns they are the kings of Media and
The text provides a detailed explanation of the meaning of the vision. According
to the angel (verses 20-25), the ram and the he-goat are a metaphor for the
struggle between the
Let us consider some of the details of this vision. Previously, the kingdoms had been compared to beasts a lion, a bear and a leopard, which are aggressive animals of prey. This vision, in contrast, presents two seemingly tame animals a ram and a he-goat. However, while seemingly docile when compared with wild beasts, the ram and he-goat are not truly peaceful. Even among the weak a hierarchy exists, and the relatively stronger rule over the weakest among them. An example of the power relations among them is provided by Yechezkel:
As for you, My flock so says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between one lamb and another, the rams and the he-goats. Is it not sufficient for you that you have eaten up the good pasture, but you must also trample with your feet the rest of your pasture land? And not sufficient that you have drunk of the clear waters, but you must also foul that which remains with your feet?... Because you have thrust with your side and your shoulder, and have pushed the weak ones with your horns until you scattered them away and I shall judge between one lamb and another. (Yechezkel 34:17-22)
The ram in Daniel's vision represents the Persian kingdom, which possesses huge
forces and quantities of weapons, but is weighed down by this very
ponderousness. The he-goat is Alexander's
Rashi views the chapter as focusing mainly on the Roman Empire and its decrees
up until the Destruction of the
However, when it comes to the calculations of the redemption which arise from this vision, the commentators once again speak in terms of an end of days in the far distant future.
The text reads: "How long shall there be the vision concerning the continual burnt offering, and the transgression of desolation, which allow both the Sanctuary and the Host to be trampled underfoot? And he said to me: Until evening and morning, two thousand and three hundred, have passed; then the Sanctuary will be victorious" (8:13-14). What are the "two thousand and three hundred" which must pass until we arrive at the stage where "the Sanctuary will be victorious," which the commentators regarded as the end of days? What is the meaning of "evening and morning"?
Various dates for the time of redemption, based on these verses, have come and gone, and we are still waiting. Rashi notes the challenge to faith that may well arise from calculations for the redemption which turn out to be false, but despite this, he does not suggest that they should not be permitted. In his commentary on our chapter, he establishes the following principle:
I saw a calculation of this attributed to R. Sa'adia, [the date of which] has already passed But we are certain that God's word will be upheld; it will never be annulled The seer was commanded to seal up and conceal the matter And we shall await the promise of our King, one appointed time after another, and concerning the appointed time that was previously derived, we now know that his calculations were wrong, and whoever comes after him will seek and calculate in a different manner. (Rashi 8:14)
In other words, there is nothing wrong with calculating the time of the redemption, so long as we do not place all our faith in that date as the time when God will redeem us.
R. Sa'adia calculated the appointed time for the redemption as 2300 years from the time of the Exodus. Then there would be a time when evening became morning "And it shall be, at evening time, that there will be light" (Zekharia 14:7). According to the calculation of the Seder Olam and supported by Tanakh the Exodus took place in the year 2448 from the Creation. Another 2300 years later the date was 4748, the year 988 C.E., forty-six years after the death of Sa'adia. Rashi was born 52 years after this date.
Rashi's own calculations point to a later date, with three-fold support:
Rashi begins his
calculation of the years from the beginning of the Egyptian exile, 210 years
before the Exodus, in the year 2238 from the Creation. He then adds the 2300
years mentioned in Sefer Daniel, as well as the gematria
(numerical value) of the words "erev boker" (evening and morning),
arriving at the year 5112. Based on the final chapter of Sefer Daniel and
a midrash aggada, he adds a further 45 years of "cutting off" of
Mashiach after he appears, and ends up with the year 5157 after Creation as
the time for redemption. This corresponds to the Gregorian year 1397 6 years
after the terrible massacres that included the slaughter of Jews in many cities
Further on (12:11), the
text reads, "From the time that the continual offering will be taken away, and
the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a thousand two
hundred and ninety days." Rashi calculates these from the cessation of the
continual offering at the end of the Second Temple Period; according to the
gemara, this was 6 years prior to the Destruction. The
c. Commenting on Daniel 7:25, Rashi calculates the expression "a time and times and half a time" to mean the same 1335 years that are mentioned later, in 12:12. He derives this from the gematria of "haster astir" ("I shall surely hide [My face]"), which is 1336, as well as from a calculation of the "times:" The first "time" lasted 480 years, from the Exodus from Egypt until the First Temple was built (see Melakhim I 6:1); the second "time" lasted 410 years, from the completion of the Temple until its destruction. To this Rashi adds half of the sum of these two times, which is his understanding of the expression "half a time." The sum of the two "times" = 890 years, plus half of that (445) = 1335. Rashi counts these years from the cessation of the continual offering (6 years prior to the Destruction) and once again arrives at the year 5157 (3822+1335).
Other commentators have different ways of calculating 2300 years. R. Avraham bar
Hiya the Nasi (author of Yesod Olam), as well as Ralbag and Ramban,
started their calculations from the time of Shmuel, the time of David, and the
building of the First Temple, respectively. If we add 2300 years, we arrive at
the year 5170, 5194, or 5228 (all within the 15th century of the
Gregorian calendar). Abravanel addresses these dates (see ma'ayan 9,
tamar 7), all of which passed without any sign of redemption. The year 5252
(1492 C.E.) witnessed the Expulsion of the Jews from
After the greatest of the calculators, Abravanel, had been proved wrong, Malbim proposed a calculation based on the most straightforward interpretation: 2300 years from the revelation of this vision to Daniel, which took place in the year 3388 according to his calculation (3389 according to ours). 2300 years later was 5688 or 5689 (1928-9). But those years also saw riots and massacres instead of redemption! Malbim explains that the calculation of the redemption should be counted from 15 years prior to this final date, bringing us to the year 5673 or 5674 (1913-4).
Here we find an interesting coalescence between the calculations of Malbim (who
died on Rosh Hashana 5640 , some 34 years prior to the date he had arrived
at for the redemption), and Rav Kook, who was alive in the year 5674 (1914)
the year of the outbreak of World War I (on Tish'a be-Av!). That same year, Rav
Kook wrote concerning the war: "When there is a great war in the world, the
power of Mashiach is aroused."
Rav Kook foresaw what was going to happen in the wake of this war: the "four
kingdoms" the Russian Empire, the Prussian Empire, the Austo-Hungarian Empire,
There are also some who calculated the 2300 years from the building of the Second Temple in the year 3408, arriving at the year 5708 (1948) the year of the declaration of the State of Israel.
Until now, we have consistently maintained that Daniel's visions were not meant to refer to events thousands of years in the future. (It may, of course, be the case that even then, the redemption was not supposed to be so far off.) It should also be remembered that the vision concerns the he-goat the Macedonian-Greek empire and its decrees. Moving the vision 2300 years forward from any point takes us well beyond the period of that kingdom.
It may be that Ibn Ezra noted this difficulty in his commentary on verse 25, and
that this is what lead him to suggest that 2300 was a number of days rather than
years. 2300 days are 6 years, 3 months, and 14 days; Ibn Ezra suggests that this
period represents the duration of the harsh decrees of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Thus, we remain within the boundaries of the rule of
We shall adopt Ibn Ezra's approach as our inspiration in attempting to provide an additional explanation. The narrow path we propose will run alongside the broad road paved by Ibn Ezra and the broad road set down by all the great commentators we have mentioned.
Let us return to the vision itself:
It magnified itself even to the prince of the host; and the continual burnt-offering was taken away from him, and the place of his Sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it, together with the continual burnt-offering through transgression; and it cast truth down to the ground, and it acted, and prospered.
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the certain one who spoke: How long shall there be the vision concerning the continual burnt offering, and the transgression of desolation, which allow both the Sanctuary and the Host to be trampled underfoot? And he said to me: Until evening and morning, two thousand and three hundred, have passed; then the Sanctuary will be victorious. (8:11-14)
The vision is talking about neither days nor years; it is talking about the
continual burnt-offering (olat ha-tamid), the sacrifice offered twice
daily in the
The Sefer Chashmonaim teaches that the Greeks seized the
Let us suppose, based on pure speculation and without any proof, that 2 of the
years of the struggle were leap years (like the years 6-8 or 17-19 of our
19-year cycle). An average leap year has 384 days. Two such years would total
768 days. To this we add one regular year, of about 354 days, bringing us to a
total of 1122 days. Now we add 17-18 days, from the 15th of Kislev
until the conclusion of the re-dedication of the
This leaves us with one major question: Why do Daniel's visions always focus on the conflict between the Hasmoneans and the Greek House of Seleucid? What was so special about the Hasmonean victory?
We shall address this question in the next chapters.
Concerning the "
Abravanel experienced much suffering leading up to the date he had calculated
for the redemption. He was forced to flee the court of the King of Portugal in
the middle of the night, headed for
It is impossible to discuss calculations
of the date for the redemption without making mention of the calculation
proposed by the greatest opponent of such calculations the Rambam, in his
Iggeret Teiman (Letter to
To come back
to Balaam's prophecy, the verse "After the lapse of time, one will tell Jacob
The year 4972
(1212) of which the Rambam speaks was about seven years after his death.
(According to our calculation, the date should be 4988, since it would seem that
Bil'am uttered his words in the fortieth year from the Exodus, and not in the 38th
year.) In the year 1212, R. Shimshon of Sens, along with 300 of the Ba'alei
ha-Tosafot, moved from
It [the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisrael] is not practiced at this time, owing to the dangers of the journey. And Rabbeinu Chaim taught that at present there is no mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael, since there are several mitzvot which are specific to the land, and several punishments, and we are not able to exercise the proper caution with them and to grasp them. (Tosafot, Ketuvot 110b, s.v. "hu omer").
The aliya of the 300 Ba'alei ha-Tosfot brought about the great turning point in the desolate history of Eretz Yisrael, where the small Jewish population had steadily declined over the preceding 1000 years. The year 4972 (1212) marked the lowest ebb and the beginning of the aliyot to the land and the greatest increase in the numbers of its Jewish inhabitants until the development of the Zionist movement, the establishment of the State, and the huge ingathering of the exiles which followed. The year 4972 was thus the turning point in the redemption of the land and of the people.
Although prophecy was not restored in that year, something of Bil'am's prophecy was realized. It may be that the Rambam was Divinely inspired in his deciphering of the basis for calculating the time of the redemption, may it come speedily in our days. In any event, the Rambam is the only authority known to me who arrived at his calculation without relying on the verses in Daniel which are the subject of our discussion.
 See Sefer Ha-Makkabim I, chapter 1 and end of chapter 4.