Desolating Abomination

SYNOPSIS – Literary context is vital for understanding the “Abomination that Desolates” in the book of Daniel - Daniel 9:27. 

The climax of the “seventy weeks” prophecy is the appearance of the “abomination that desolates” in the final half of the “seventieth week.” What is this “abomination”? When did it appear? Is it a yet future reality? Investigations seeking to answer these and similar questions must begin with what book of Daniel has to say about it. Moreover, the reference to it in the “seventy weeks” prophecy is neither the first nor the last word on the matter. Interpreting the “abomination” in isolation from the larger context of Daniel will not produce accurate answers.

The book of Daniel is not a loose collection of ancient stories, but a well-structured work in which each vision is connected to the others by verbal and conceptual links.  No one vision tells the entire story; a correct understanding can only be achieved by paying heed to the context – The immediate, larger, and historical contexts.

For example, the “little horn” occurs in the visions of chapters 7 and 8. In the vision and interpretation of the “four beasts from the sea,” the provided information is symbolic and enigmatic. However, in the interpretation of the “ram and the goat,” clear historical references are included - The “little horn” is connected explicitly to “Greece.” Understanding BOTH visions is necessary to ascertain the identity of this figure.

The “abomination that desolates” is first described in the vision of the “ram and the goat”:
  • (Daniel 8:9-13) - “And out of the first of them came a little horn, which became exceedingly great against the south and against the east and against the beautiful land. It became great as far as the host of the heavens, and caused to fall to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled them underfoot; even as far as the ruler of the host showed he his greatness, and because of him the daily burnt offering was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down; and a host was set over the daily burnt offering by transgression, and faithfulness was cast down to the ground, and so he acted with effect and succeeded. Then, heard I a certain holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that certain holy one who was speaking, How long is the vision of the daily burnt offering as taken away, and the transgression which desolates for both sanctuary and host to be given over to be trampled underfoot?
Here, it is called the “transgression that desolates.” So, does this refer to something distinct from the “abomination that desolates”? Not necessarily. In both phrases, “desolate” represents the same Hebrew word - shâmén - (Strong’s - #H8074), meaning “desolate, desert, devastate, abandon.” The same related events are linked to both phrases – The cessation of the daily burnt offering, the profanation of the sanctuary, and the “casting down of the host.” In this passage, the “desolation” was to last for 2,300 “evenings-mornings” - 1,150 days - a little over three years.

Regarding the “transgression,” in the interpretation of the “little horn,” the figure represented by it only appears when the “transgressions have filled up their measure, then will stand up a king of fierce of countenance and skillful in dissimulation.” Among other things, this ruler “corrupts the mighty ones and the people of the saints” - (Daniel 8:23-25).

Likewise, in the final “week” of the “seventy weeks,” a figure called the “leader” corrupted the “city and sanctuary,” erected the “abomination that desolates,” and caused the daily burnt offering to cease. These events occurred in the last half of the “seventieth week,” presumably, the final three and one-half years of the seventy “weeks” - (Daniel 9:26-27).

In chapter 11, a “contemptible” ruler “profaned the sanctuary,” removed the daily burnt offering, “erected the abomination that desolates,” and corrupted many of the people “with flatteries” - (Daniel 11:31-34).

Finally, in the conclusion of the book, an angelic figure declared that all these things would occur over a period defined as “season, seasons, and part of a season,” interpreted as 1,260 days – “And from the time that the daily burnt offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that desolates set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days” - or approximately three and one-half years. Why an additional thirty days was added to the final figure, or 1,290 days, is not clear. These events constituted an attack on the “saints” - (Daniel 12:7-11).

The final reference to the period of “season, seasons, and part of a season” connects the conclusion of the book to the vision of the “four beasts from the sea” and its interpretation. Identified as a “king,” the “little horn waged war against the saints,” sought to change laws and “seasons,” and continued in this effort for a “season, seasons, and part of a season” - (Daniel 7:21-26).
The inclusion of the “abomination that desolates” - and related events - in its concluding section demonstrates its importance to the book.
In Daniel’s visions, the several references to the “abomination that desolates,” the profanation of the sanctuary, the cessation of the daily burnt offering, and a period of approximately three and one-half years connect all the visions of the last half of the book. This is not coincidental; some details are just too precise.

Based on the literary evidence, it is reasonable to assume the same set of events and timeframe are in view in each case. To argue that different “abominations that desolate” at different times are intended is neither reasonable nor plausible, unless evidence from the book of Daniel itself can be produced to prove otherwise.

By no means does our recognition of the links between the several visions resolve all our questions about the “abomination that desolates.” However, recognizing this reality is the starting point for doing so – Context is the key.



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