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Holman Bible Dictionary
Abomination, Abomination of Desolation
Abomination translates four Hebrew and one Greek word. Ba' ash , “stink,” refers to that which becomes odious, despised, or hated as water polluted by dead fish (Exodus 7:18 ). Israel became a stinking abomination to the Philistines (1 Samuel 13:4 ). Shiqquts , “a detested thing,” and shaqats , “to be filthy” refer to that which cannot be accepted in worship or eaten (Leviticus 11:1 ). It often refers to idols (Deuteronomy 29:17 ). Piggul , “stinking, rotten” refers to meat unfit for sacrifice (Leviticus 7:18 ). To' ebah , “offensive, detestable,” the most common word for abominable, occurring 117 times to refer to worship, cultural and moral practices which offend such as homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22 ), Egyptians' eating with foreigners (Genesis 43:22 ), and particularly foreign gods (Ezekiel 6:11 ). Bdelugma , “that which stinks, is disgusting,” things people value are an abomination to God (Luke 16:15 ). See Revelation 21:27 .
“Abomination of desolation” is a special term in Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 16:15; Revelation 17:4-5; Revelation 21:27 .
Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; and Daniel 12:11 give evidence of a heathen idol or altar. “Abomination” ( shiqquts ) is used to describe an idol which would desecrate the holy Temple and/or altar in Jerusalem.
The term “desolation” (shomem ) permeates the book of Daniel (Daniel 8:13; Daniel 9:2 ,Daniel 9:2,9:17-18 ,Daniel 9:17-18,9:26-27; Daniel 11:31; and Daniel 12:11 ). The word has two root meanings: “to be desolated, ravaged” or “to be appalled, astounded.” In these verses, the meaning of desolation is primary to the context.
The three occasions where the two words “abomination” and “desolation” are used together present interpreters with baffling grammatical and syntactical problems. Translators have had an impossible task in making accurate representations of the texts. Compare various translations.
In Daniel, the historical situation was apparently the building of an altar of Zeus by Antiochus Epiphanes in Jerusalem in his attempt at complete hellenization of Israel in the second century B.C. Antiochus fancied himself to be a god who greatly resembled Zeus Olympios. Zeus was known as “bacal shamem” (lord of heaven). Hebrews did not want to write or pronounce the pagan term “bacal” and so substituted “abomination” (shiqquts). “Shamem” in a typical “play on words” was written “desolating one” (shomem). Thus, the Zeus (lord of heaven) is loosely referred to as “abominations one who makes desolate.”
Antiochus selected for himself the title “Epihyphanes” (God manifest). However, the people who were forced to endure his persecutions dubbed him “Epimanes” (madman). “Shamem” (desolate) could also mean “to be mad” and thus identified a more direct reference to Antiochus.
The historical situation of Daniel is clarified in 1 Maccabees 1:54; 1 Maccabees 6:7; 2 Maccabees 6:2; 2 Maccabees 1:1 Enoch 89:68-90:27; and Testament of Levi 16-17.
The idea of “idol worship” being conquered by The Righteous One and righteousness reaches its full and climactic expression when the Kingdom of God was inaugurated by Jesus the Messiah. The passages in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Revelation clearly show this, pointing ahead at least to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in A.D. 70 and possibly beyond to the end of time.
Later literature picks up this same type of violation of proper worship in Jerusalem when Caligula (A.D. 40) sought to erect his own statue in the Jerusalem Temple. Josephus even identified the abomination of the desolator in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Titus in A.D. 69-70.
Bible students give differing interpretations about the eschatological meaning of the abomination of desolation. Such interpretations often depend on the interpreter's view of the millennium. Some would interpret the “eschaton” or end time in the Book of Daniel to be the end of Antiochus Epihyphanes. Others see the end of any and all efforts of heathenism in the spiritual victory by Jesus over Satan. Others point to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Others put off the final fulfillment to the end of all time. Some see this activity occurring repeatedly in history. Others see the fulfillment only in the final end when evil is put down finally and completely. The original passage in Daniel serves as the textual and historical presaging for later applications. One must be sensitive to the immediate interpretation of a passage as differentiated from successive applications of that same principle.
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Abomination, Abomination of Desolation'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/a/abomination-abomination-of-desolation.html. 1991.