The 8th chapter of Daniel presents one of the most profound prophecies in the Bible; as it foretells vital details concerning the final conflict between God’s kingdom and the last human kingdom. Unfortunately, the Watchtower’s interpretation has grossly mutilated Daniel’s vision of the conflict between the king fierce in countenance and the Prince of princes.
The Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy book identifies the British Empire as the little horn that emerges to become the king of fierce countenance. One problem with that view is that the prophecy presents the king of fierce countenance as coming on the scene during the time of the end; yet, the British Empire came to power more than a century before 1914. Besides, the evidence of scripture indicates that the beginning of the time of the end is still future.
Another apparent contradiction is that the prophecy foretells that the king of fierce countenance succeeds in bringing the holy ones to ruin. However, the Society says that the king fails. For example, please note that the last sentence of the 19th paragraph says “Let us see how the Anglo-American World Power tries to threaten the holy ones.” Farther down in the 24th paragraph we read: “This king’s attempts to desolate God’s sanctuary do not succeed.” The prophecy, however, indicates that the king does more than merely try—it says that he succeeds in throwing truth to the earth and in dragging down and trampling the sons of the kingdom and brings them to ruin.
According to the Society’s interpretation the persecutions of Jehovah’s Witnesses prior to and during the Second World War fulfilled the prophecy—this in spite of the fact that the Watchtower Society weathered the storm of persecution remarkably well. Whereas the prophecy foretells that the holy place will be completely desolated, the Society’s interpretation would have us believe that the prophecy was fulfilled in the temporary banning of Watchtower literature in some lands and the closure of a number of branch offices.
Another problem with the Society’s teaching is what is omitted. Specifically, Daniel 8:24-25 says: “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. ”Presumably, the angel’s explanation of the vision is the only reliable means by which we may understand the prophecy. But the Watchtower neglects to even comment on a substantial portion of the prophecy—for reasons that should be apparent.
No doubt the reason why is because the Society has no explanation as to how the Anglo-American king may have become mighty, but not by its own power; or how the king may have caused ruination in a wonderful way during the Second World War; or how it is that the king may have brought mighty ones to ruin along with the holy ones. Furthermore, how could the period of the Great Depression and the Second World War possibly fit the description of being a time of “freedom from care”?
No doubt the Society's Bible interpreters recognized this difficulty and chose to simpy ignore details of the prophecy which could not conveniently be made to mesh with their version of reality. In so doing, Bethel has merely made a pretense of interpreting the prophecy and is evidently confident that none of Jehovah’s Witnesses will even notice that the Society’s presumably verse-by-verse commentary of Daniel omits any comment on the angel’s own explanation, which is the most important aspect of the prophecy.
Perhaps the most absurd aspect of the Society’s explanation, though, is the notion that the holy place was brought into its right condition as a result of some insignificant organizational adjustments that were announced at a corporate meeting in 1944.
But the most glaring deficiency of the "Pay Attention" commentary is the fact that the Prince of princes stands up and destroys the king of fierce countenance as an immediate reaction to the ruining of the sons of the kingdom. Yet, according to the Society the sons of God were trampled on long ago and the holy place has long since been repaired and still the king of fierce countenance continues on without suffering any consequences for his impertinence.
Clearly, the Watchtower’s interpretation of the 8th chapter of Daniel is wholly artificial. For a fuller discussion on the king of fierce countenance please see the essay entitled: A King of Fierce Continence.
Finally, the idea that the Prince of Princes is Jehovah does not harmonize with the other prophecies of Daniel; all of which culminate with the last human king being destroyed by Christ. Evidently the Society feels compelled to identify Jehovah as the Prince of Princes because the sanctuary is said to belong to him. But, since the spiritual sanctuary is intimately connected with Christ's congregation and Jesus is the head of the congregation, as well as the high priest of Jehovah's temple, it does not seem inappropriate for the angel to refer to the sanctuary as Christ's sanctuary. Being the Prince of princes would harmonize with Christ's other titles of King of kings and Lord of lords.