abomination of desolation

Abomination of Desolation. reference to the Roman army because of its ensigns and images, which the soldiers worshipped (Mat 24:15), compare with Daniel 9:27.


The ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION foretold by, Dan 9:27 denotes, probably, the image of Jupiter, erected in the temple of Jerusalem by command of Antiochus Epiphanes. But by the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by our Lord, Mat 24:15 Mark 13:14, and foretold as about to be seen at Jerusalem during the last siege of that city by the Romans under Titus, is probably meant the Roman army, whose standards had the images of their gods and emperors upon them, and were worshipped in the precincts of the temple when that and the city were taken. Luke 21:20. See ARMOR.


Abomination of Desolation. des-o-lā´shun: The Hebrew root for abomination is שׁקץ, shāḳac, “to be filthy,” “to loathe,” “to abhor,” from which is derived שׁקּץ or שׁקּוּץ, shiḳḳuc or shiḳḳūc, “filthy,” especially “idolatrous.” This word is used to describe specific forms of idolatrous worship that were specially abhorrent, as of the Ammonites (1Ki 11:5, 1Ki 11:7); of the Moabites (1Ki 11:7; 2Ki 23:13). When Daniel undertook to specify an abomination so surpassingly disgusting to the sense of morality and decency, and so aggressive against everything that was godly as to drive all from its presence and leave its abode desolate, he chose this as the strongest among the several synonyms, adding the qualification “that maketh desolate” (Dan 11:31; Dan 12:11), Septuagint βδέλυγμα ἐρημώσεως, bdél-ug-ma er-ē-mō̇-se-ōš. The same noun, though in the plural, occurs in Deu 29:17; 2Ki 23:24; Isa 66:3; Jer 4:1; Jer 7:30; Jer 13:27; Jer 32:34; Eze 20:7, Eze 20:8, Eze 20:30; Dan 9:27; Hos 9:10; Zec 9:7. The New Testament equivalent of the noun is βδέλυγμα, bdél-ug-ma = “detestable,” i.e. (specially) “idolatrous.” Alluding to Daniel, Christ spoke of the “abomination of desolation” (Mat 24:15; Mark 13:14).

1. The Historical Background

Since the invasion of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the Jewish people, both of the Northern and of the Southern kingdom, had been without political independence. From the Chaldeans the rulership of Judea had been transferred to the Persians, and from the Persians, after an interval of 200 years, to Alexander the Great. From the beginning of the Persian sovereignty, the Jews had been permitted to organize anew their religious and political commonwealth, thus establishing a state under the rulership of priests, for the high priest was not only the highest functionary of the cult, but also the chief magistrate in so far as these prerogatives were not exercised by the king of the conquering nation. Ezra had given a new significance to the tōrāh by having it read to the whole congregation of Israel and by his vigorous enforcement of the law of separation from the Gentiles. His emphasis of the law introduced the period of legalism and finical interpretation of the letter which called forth some of the bitterest invectives of our Saviour. Specialists of the law known as “scribes” devoted themselves to its study and subtle interpretation, and the pious beheld the highest moral accomplishment in the extremely conscientious observance of every precept. But in opposition to this class, there were those who, influenced by the Hellenistic culture, introduced by the conquests of Alexander the Great, were inclined to a more “liberal” policy. Thus, two opposing parties were developed: the Hellenistic, and the party of the Pious, or the Chasidim, ḥăṣīdhīm (Hasidaeans, 1 Macc 2:42; 7:13), who held fast to the strict ideal of the scribes. The former gradually came into ascendancy. Judea was rapidly becoming Hellenistic in all phases of its political, social and religious life, and the “Pious” were dwindling to a small minority sect. This was the situation when Antiochus Epiphanes set out to suppress the last vestige of the Jewish cult by the application of brute force.

2. Antiochus Epiphanes

Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus the Great, became the successor of his brother, Seleucus IV, who had been murdered by his minister, Heliodorus, as king of Syria (175-164 bc). He was by nature a despot; eccentric and unreliable; sometimes a spendthrift in his liberality, fraternizing in an affected manner with those of lower station; sometimes cruel and tyrannical, as witness his aggressions against Judea. Polybius (26 10) tells us that his eccentric ideas caused some to speak of him as a man of pure motive and humble character, while others hinted at insanity. The epithet Epiphanes is an abbreviation of theós epīphanḗs, which is the designation given himself by Antiochus on his coins, and means “the god who appears or reveals himself.” Egyptian writers translate the inscription, “God which comes forth,” namely, like the burning sun, Horos, on the horizon, thus identifying the king with the triumphal, appearing god. When Antiochus Epiphanes arose to the throne, Onias III, as high priest, was the leader of the old orthodox party in Judea; the head of the Hellenists was his own brother Jesus, or, as he preferred to designate himself, Jason, this being the Greek form of his name and indicating the trend of his mind. Jason promised the king large sums of money for the transfer of the office of high priest from his brother to himself and the privilege of erecting a gymnasium and a temple to Phallus, and for the granting of the privilege “to enroll the inhabitants of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch.” Antiochus gladly agreed to everything. Onias was removed, Jason became high priest, and henceforth the process of Hellenizing Judea was pushed energetically. The Jewish cult was not attacked, but the “legal institutions were set aside, and illegal practices were introduced” (2 Macc 4:11). A gymnasium was erected outside the castle; the youth of Jerusalem exercised themselves in the gymnastic art of the Greeks, and even priests left their services at the altar to take part in the contest of the palaestra. The disregard of Jewish custom went so far that many artificially removed the traces of circumcision from their bodies, and with characteristic liberality, Jason even sent a contribution to the sacrifices in honor of Heracles on the occasion of the quadrennial festivities in Tyre.

3. The Suppression of the Jewish Cult

Under these conditions it is not surprising that Antiochus should have had both the inclination and the courage to undertake the total eradication of the Jewish religion and the establishment of Greek polytheism in its stead. The observance of all Jewish laws, especially those relating to the Sabbath and to circumcision, were forbidden under pain of death. The Jewish cult was set aside, and in all cities of Judea, sacrifices must be brought to the pagan deities. Representatives of the crown everywhere enforced the edict. Once a month a search was instituted, and whoever had secreted a copy of the Law or had observed the rite of circumcision was condemned to death. In Jerusalem on the 15th of Chislev of the year 145 aet Sel, i.e. in December 168 bc, a pagan altar was built on the Great Altar of Burnt Sacrifices, and on the 25th of Chislev, sacrifice was brought on this altar for the first time (1 Macc 1:54, 59). This evidently was the “abomination of desolation.” The sacrifice, according to 2 Macc was brought to the Olympian Zeus, to whom the temple of Jerusalem had been dedicated. At the feast of Dionysus, the Jews were obliged to march in the Bacchanalian procession, crowned with laurel leaves. Christ applies the phrase to what was to take place at the advance of the Romans against Jerusalem. They who would behold the “abomination of desolation” standing in the holy place, He bids flee to the mountains, which probably refers to the advance of the Roman army into the city and temple, carrying standards which bore images of the Roman gods and were the objects of pagan worship.


Abomination of Desolation, The.

The importance of this Scriptural expression is chiefly derived from the fact that in Matthew 24:15, and Mark 13:14, the appearance of the “abomination of desolation” standing in the “Holy Place” (Matthew), or where “it ought not” (Mark), is given by Our Lord to His disciples as the signal for their flight from Judea, at the time of the approaching ruin of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). The expression itself is confessedly obscure. To determine its meaning, interpreters have naturally betaken themselves to the original Hebrew of the book of Daniel; for our first Evangelist distinctly says that “the abomination of desolation” he has in view “was spoken of by Daniel the prophet”; and further, the expression he makes use of, in common with St. Mark, is simply the Greek phrase whereby the Septuagint translators rendered literally the Hebrew wordsshíqqûç shômem found in Daniel 12:11; 9:27; 11:31. Unfortunately, despite all their efforts to explain these Hebrew terms, Biblical scholars are still at variance about their precise meaning. While most commentators regard the first “shíqqûç“, usually rendered by “abomination”, as designating anything (statue, altar, etc.) that pertains to idolatrous worship, others take it to be a contemptuous designation of a heathen god or idol. Again, while most commentators render the second “shômem” by the abstract word “desolation”, others treat it as a concrete form referring to a person, “a ravager”, or even as a participial known meaning “that maketh desolate”. The most recent interpretation which has been suggested of these Hebrew words is to the following effect: The phrase shíqqûç shômem stands for the original expression bá’ ál shámáyîm (Baal of heaven), a title found in Phoenician and Aramaic inscriptions, and the semitic equivalent of the Greek Zeus, Jupiter, but modified in Daniel through Jewish aversion for the name of a Pagan deity. While thus disagreeing as to the precise sense of the Hebrew phrase usually rendered by “the abomination of desolation”, Christian scholars are practically at one with regard to its general meaning. They commonly admit, and indeed rightly, that the Hebrew expression must needs be understood of some idolatrous emblem, the setting up of which would entail the ultimate desolation of the Temple of Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 1:57; iv, 38). And with this general meaning in view, they proceed to determine the historical event between Our Lord’s prediction and the ruin of the Temple (A.D. 70), which should be regarded as “the abomination of desolation” spoken of in Matthew 24:15, andMark 13:14. But here they are again divided. Many scholars have thought, and still think, that the introduction of the Roman standards into the Holy Land, and more particularly into the Holy City, shortly before the destruction of the Temple, is the event foretold by Our Lord to His disciples as the signal for their flight from Judea. It is true that the standards were worshipped by the Roman soldiers and abhorred by the Jews as the emblem of Roman idolatry. Yet they can hardly be considered as the “the abomination of desolation” referred to in Matthew 24:15. The Evangelist says that this “abomination” is to stand in the “holy place”, whereby is naturally meant the Temple (see also Daniel 9:27, where the Vulgate reads: “there shall be in the Temple the abomination of the desolation”), and the Roman standards were actually introduced into the Temple only after it had been entered by Titus, that, too late to serve as a warning for the Christians of Judea. Other scholars are of the mind that the desecration of the Temple by the Zealots who seized it and made it their stronghold shortly before Jerusalem was invested by Titus, is the event foretold by Our Lord. But this view is commonly rejected for the simple reason that “the abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel and referred to in St. Matthew’s Gospel, was certainly something connected with idolatrous worship. Others, finally, interpret Our Lord’s warning to His disciples in the light of the history of attempt to have his own statue set up and worshipped in the Temple of Jerusalem. The following are the principal facts of that history. About A.D. 40, Caius Caligula issued a peremptory decree ordering the erection and worship of his statute in the Temple of God. He also appointed to the government of Syria, bidding him carry out that decree even at the cost of a war against the rebellious Jews. Whereupon the Jews in tens of thousands protested to the governor that they were willing to be slaughtered rather than to be condemned to witness that idolatrous profanation of their holy Temple. Soon afterwards Petronius asked Caligula to revoke his order, and Agrippa I, who than lived at Rome, prevailed upon the Emperor not to enforce his decree. It seems, however, that Caligula soon repented of the concession, and that but for his untimely death (A.D. 41) he would have had his statue set up in Jerusalem (E. Schurer, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, I Div. II, 95-105; tr.). In view of these facts it is affirmed by many scholars that the early Christians could easily regard the forthcoming erection of statue in the Temple as the act of idolatrous Abomination which, according to the prophet Daniel 9:27, portended the ruin of the House of God, and therefore see in it the actual sign given by Christ for their flight from Judea. This last interpretation of the phrase “the abomination of desolation” is not without its own difficulties. Yet it seems preferable to the others that have been set for by commentators at large.

FRANCIS E. GIGOT Transcribed by Donald J. Boon The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume ICopyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton CompanyOnline Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. KnightNihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., CensorImprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

[Catholic Encyclopedia]

Abomination of Desolation. This exact expression occurs only in Matt. 24: 15 and Mark 13: 14, referring to what had been revealed to Daniel in Dan. 12: 11, where it is connected with the great tribulation (ver. 1) spoken of by the Lord in those Gospels.Dan. 9: 27 shows that the time of the abomination is in the last half of the last of the seventy weeks of Daniel named in Dan. 9: 24. The person who makes a covenant with the Jews in those days and afterwards breaks it, we know to be the head of the future Roman empire. See SEVENTY WEEKS. Of this person an image will be made, and the people will be constrained to worship it, Rev. 13: 14, 15; but we do not read that it will be carried into the future temple; whereas our Lord says that the abomination will stand in the holy place. On the other hand we read that the Antichrist “exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thess. 2: 4. The ‘abomination of desolation’ is evidently connected with the trinity of evil spoken of in Rev. 13 and will be the work of Satan, the Roman beast, and the false prophet. It will end in dire desolation. The desolator is the Assyrian, Isa. 8: 7, 8; Isa. 28: 2,18 the northern king who will then hold the territory of Assyria.Dan. 11: 40.