Daniel lived his life in
captivity, a soothsayer for kings. From the time he was brought to Nebuchadnezzar
as a child, he saw visions at night. He knew secrets, could read the future
in the throw of the stones, and understood the significance of numbers.
It was in Sushan, as he was sleeping on the ground, that Daniel first saw
At that time, Daniel was
worried; his visions chased him all night long, and for many months he
had not been still in his mind. For once, he would have liked a night to
pass without event, without shimmering edges. This night, the winds blew
around him, and he buried his face in his sleeves. Eventually he fell asleep,
but once again his sleep was troubled. In his dream he was at the River
Ulai. By its bank stood a ram with two horns, one larger than the other.
The ram was growing; it expanded with every breath, and its gray sides
looked like smooth brains. With every breath, it grew to the west, and
the north, and the south. It was invincible.
Then the unicorn appeared
It looked like a goat, stood above the curve of the river, and its eyes
were white and red with rage. With lowered horn it stalked across the river
toward the ram. With its every footstep ripples swelled outward and broke
against the banks like tidal waves. The wind whipped around its horn and
sounded low, like thunder, like the call of whales; and lightning splintered
from the tip of its horn.
The unicorn pursued the
ram until the two animals were facing each other. The ram backed up, the
unicorn pushed forward. Finally the two beasts stood still. They both lowered
their horns and stamped upon the ground with their hoofs. The unicorn lunged
at the ram's head; with a swoop of its swordAike horn, it severed the horns
of the ram, knocked the beast into the river and trampled it. The muddy
waters of the Ulai swiHed scarlet.
Then the unicorn began
to grow. Its single horn, now tipped with blood, broke off, and in its
place there sprung up four smaller horns. Out of one of them sprouted yet
another, which grew greater than the others until it touched the heavens.
Stars plummeted in a veil of sparks and the ground was covered with the
dust of comets.
Daniel knew not what the
dream meant, and he was faint with confusion and worry. Searching for meaning
he dipped his fingers in the river and touched the cast-off horn of the
unicorn. At once, he heard a voice from between the banks of the Ulai that
made the earth beneath him vibrate. He whirled around, and saw before him
the Angel Gabriel, with wings like rainbows.
Gabriel told him what
the vision meant. The ram's two horns were the kings of Media and Persia~and
although one king was greater than the other, they lived together side
by side. But then the rough unicorn with its one horn approached; the horn
was Alexander, the ruler of Greece, who one day would conquer the other
kingdoms with his sword. But his kingdom, great as it would be, would not
last. Four kings without his power would rise up when he died and divide
his kingdom among them. One kingdom would become four, and out of one of
those would come Antiochus Epiphanes, who would persecute the Jews and
defile the temple.
That night, Daniel became
sick and all the next day was nauseous and could not eat. Nonetheless,
he went about his daily tasks and was relieved when, the next night, his
sleep was cloudy and unremarkable. Daniel told his vision to the king.
And in time the events he had prophesied came to pass.