One of the Danielic passages that has plagued interpreters is Daniel 8:14, wherein two angels, Gabriel and another, are discussing the vision of Daniel 8, specifically the little horn, the desolating sacrilege he will carry out against the Jewish temple, and how long it will take for these things to be completed, until the temple is “properly restored”. The specific time frame designated is “2,300 evenings and mornings.” In this short article, I will explain my conclusion concerning this time period.
Because this commentary pertains only to a small segment of the larger passage, I should say that I espouse the “consistent-futurist interpretation” of this passage. What this means is that many futurist interpreters look at the vision of Daniel 8 and divide it into two segments. Verses 3-8, which speak of the ram, the goat, and the four conspicuous horns that emerge out of the goat, are interpreted as being historical. Verses 9-12, which speak of the little horn, are interpreted as having an historical fulfillment in Antiochus Epiphanies, but only as a type, whereas its ultimate fulfillment is in the last days in the person of Antichrist. The consistent-futurist interpretation views the whole vision as having its ultimate fulfillment in the last days. The events of history serve only as a type.
Now let’s consider the meaning of the 2,300 evenings and mornings.
After seeing the vision of the ram, the goat and the small horn, Daniel then overhears one angel ask the other, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” (v. 13). The answer, given by the second angel is: “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored” (v. 14).
A straight-forward reading of the text would inform us from the time the small horn begins his acts of desolating and trampling both the temple and the holy people, until the temple is restored, there will be “2,300 evenings and mornings.” The question is, what exactly does this mean? Commentators are thoroughly divided. According to John Walvoord, determining the meaning of this riddle has sparked, “almost endless exegetical controversy.”1 There are five primary opinions among interpreters. We will consider each view below.
The year-day interpretation: The first approach, what we can call the day-year interpretation, holds that the 2,300 “evenings and mornings” should be understood symbolically to refer to 2,300 literal years. This view has been espoused by Seventh Day Adventists Uriah Smith, Jacques B. Doukhan, and Desmond Ford.2 This approach was also used by William Miller (d.1849), leading him to claim that Christ would return sometime between 1843 and 1844.3 Of course, when Christ didn’t return, the resulting disillusionment among students of Miller became infamously know as “The Great Disappointment.”
Most commentators today are divided between those who believe the 2,300 evenings and mornings simply refer to 2,300 actual days, and those who argue that “evenings and mornings” should be understood as separate units, thus leading them to divide the number 2,300 in half, pointing to only 1,150 days.
The 1,150 day interpretation (applied to Antiochus): According to John Whitcomb, the “1,150 day theory face[s] insuperable obstacles.”4 Foremost among these obstacles is the timeframe of Antiochus’ acts of desolating the temple. In December of 167 BC, Antiochus’ men set up an altar to Zeus in the temple. Just over three years later, he died on December 14, 164 BC. This simply doesn’t equate to exactly 1,150 days, falling short by about two months.
The 2,300 day interpretation (applied to Antiochus): For those who seek to connect 2,300 days to the historical career of Antiochus, the same problems persists. 2,300 days, roughly six years and four months, simply does not align with the period of time that Antiochus desolated the temple. Stephen R. Miller takes this view, placing the terminus a quo, or beginning point of the 2,300 days with the murder of Onias III, the former high priest, in 171 BC.5 But Gleason L. Archer Jr. rightfully highlights the problems with this view:
Moreover, there is not the slightest historical ground for a terminus a quo beginning in 171 B.C. While it is true that the interloper Menelaus murdered the legitimate high priest Onias III in that year, there was no abridgment of the temple services at that early date. It was not until the following year that Antiochus looted the temple of its treasure, and the abolition of the tāmîd [the daily offering]… did not take place till 167.6
Even John Walvoord, who himself also holds this position, comes across as quite resigned to the fact that this view is far from precise:
Although the evidence available today does not offer fulfillment to the precise day, the twenty-three hundred days, obviously a round number, is relatively accurate in defining the period when the Jewish religion began to erode under the persecution of Antiochus, and the period as a whole concluded with his death.7
Needless to say, the best this view can offer is a vaguely close match to an ill-defined period of persecution. Worse yet, the the text simply does not refer to a general persecution, but is quite specific in referring to the ceasing of the “regular sacrifice” and the trampling of the “holy place.”
Ultimately, the inability of either number, 1,150 or 2,300, to align with the period of Antiochus’ persecution leads us to conclude that this portion of the vision is not ultimately pointing to Antiochus’ historical persecution of the Jewish people, but instead, it must apply to the Antichrist, and is yet to be fulfilled in the future. But we are still left with the question as to which number is correct, a full 2,300 days or half that time, pointing to 1,150 days.
The 2,300 day interpretation (applied to Antichrist): I believe that any serious consideration of the arguments for both positions will lead one to acknowledge that a far more solid case stands for 2,300 days as opposed to half that number. C.F. Keil has set the bar in offering the best argument for this position, devoting nine pages to this one issue. His argument summarized is that the phrase “evenings and mornings” would have been clearly understood as referring to a single day and a “Hebrew reader could not possibly understand” it to mean anything other than 2,300 days.8 Keil points out that in Old Testament usage, an evening and morning specified a complete day. This is the usage throughout the entire first chapter of the Bible in fact, describing the first week of creation: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Gen. 1:5). It is the same usage during the flood wherein we have “forty days and forty nights” (Gen. 7:4,12). And so also is the phrase “three days and three nights” used to simply refer to three days as in Jonah 1:17 or by Jesus in Matthew 12:40. And finally, in Matthew 4:2, we read that after Jesus “fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.” Jesus fasted for forty days, not twenty, and certainly not eighty.
What time period within the Antichrist’s career then does the 2,300 days point to? I believe there are two good options, depending on how one translates and understands verse 13. Both the KJV and the NIV for instance, read as if the angel is listing three or four things that fall within the 2,300 days:
How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? (KJV)
“How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the LORD’s people?” (NIV)
The first view then, looking to such translations, sees the 2,300 days as applying entirely to the tāmîd (the daily sacrifice); its beginning, ceasing, and finally its restoration. This view then would start counting the 2,300 days when the regular offering is reinstated, early on in the first half of the final seven years before Jesus returns, and see its conclusion when the temple or sacrifices are restored, shortly after His return.
The second option, supported more by the NASB translation, sees the 2,300 days as revolving around the desolating acts of the Antichrist, particularly as they apply to the tāmîd daily sacrifice. This view then begins counting when the regular offerings cease, at the middle of the week, when the Antichrist begins his work of desolation and concludes after Jesus returns and the temple is rebuilt and restored.
Because the time of the Antichrist’s desolations within the temple lasts 3.5 years, this leaves approximately 1,040 days, or roughly two years and ten months after Jesus’ return, until the temple is completely restored.
Regardless as to which view one takes, what is clear is that neither 1,150 or 2,300 days can be made to apply to Antiochus in a way that clearly satisfies the text.
1. John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago, Moody, 1989) p. 188
2. Uriah Smith, The Sanctuary and the Twenty-three Hundred Days of Daniel 8:14 (Battle Creek, Michigan, Steam Press, 1877) pp. 21-23, 95-101; Doukhan, Jacques B., Daniel: The Vision of the End, (Berrien Springs, MI, Andrews University Press, 1987) pp. 23-36; Ford, Desmond, Daniel (Nashville, Southern Publishing Association, 1978) p. 189
3. K. Boa, Cults, World Religions, and You (Wheaton, Victor, 1977) p. 90
4. Whitcomb, John C. Daniel (Chicago, Moody Press, 1985) p. 113
5. Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. Vol. 18. The New American Commentary. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994) pp. 229-230
6. Archer Jr., Gleason L. Daniel, Vol. 7. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1985) p. 103
7. Walvoord, p. 185
8. Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 9. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996) pp. 693-694