1 – Introduction and Clue #1
2 – Clue #2: What Kind of Desolation?
3 – Clue #3: “Overspreading of Abominations” in a Time of War
4 – Clue #4: The “God of Forces”
5 – Clue #5: Better Perspective on Matthew 24
6 – Clue #6: Historical Precedents
7 – Clue #7: Perspective of Ancient Times
8 – Clue #8: What about Daniel 11:31 and 12:11?
9 – Clue #9: Idol Worship in a Secular World?
10 – Clue #10: “Image” and “Abomination” – Separate Inventions
11 – Summary
12 – Appendix: News Articles
Clue #3 – “Overspreading of Abominations” in a Time of War
(26) The people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (27) And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week [Hebrew way of saying “seven years”]: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make (it) desolate…
Briefly, this passage describes the invasion of the Antichrist into Jerusalem in the middle of a seven-year “covenant”, a treaty of some kind that, as far as we know, is supposed to bring peace and religious freedom to the Mideast area for a time. The invasion overlaps with, or springboards from, the ancient invasion of the Romans who in 70 A.D. devastated Jerusalem and the temple.
Following are some observations about certain phrases in this passage:
The phrase “overspreading of abominations” is a peculiar one, and we might wonder what on earth is it actually talking about? The word “overspreading” literally means a bird’s wings. However, it can also be used figuratively to mean armies, or military invasion (and possibly a veiled reference to aerial bombardment). In Isaiah 8:8, Jeremiah 48:40, and Jeremiah 49:22 the same Hebrew word was used (but translated as “wings”), and in those passages it refers to military invasions. (Interestingly, “wings” has a military connotation in English also; the flank of an army is called a “wing”.) So “military invasion/armies” is the figurative meaning, which makes more sense. And that’s what the word “overspreading” is supposed to mean here in this passage.
About this use of the Hebrew word “wings” in a military sense, here is one helpful quote from a reputable source:
“Wings are also spoken of as applied to armies (as in Latin).” (from Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, page 406, by H.W.F. Gesenius, first published in 1847)
“Abominations“: Strangely enough, the plural form is used here rather than the singular.
Conclusion: How then would the Antichrist conduct a “military invasion” using “abominations” (plural) that make desolate violently“? In the old days it was a great puzzle trying to figure out what on earth it meant by an army of abominations; armies are composed of soldiers, not things. But now in modern times it’s easy to understand how an invader can do this very thing: send in these abominations of violent destruction – missiles, war planes, UAVs, tanks, bombs, and what have you.
What would have been unthinkable in ancient times, it is now possible to do. If a general wants to, he can bring violent destruction to a whole region without sending in a single soldier to do it; and he can do this, for example, just by sending in an “army” of missiles into his enemy’s territory. And with the latest technology that “army” may consist of unmanned aerial vehicles – also known as robots, drones, or predator vehicles. (For more information about the latest advances in this type of weaponry, see the News Articles Appendix.)
Evidently, during the course of the invasion (this “overspreading of abominations“), one of these abominable weapons enters the “holy place” in Jerusalem. This explains why the singular form is used in other passages (Daniel 11:31, Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14), referring to the abomination when it enters the “holy place”, while here the plural form is used for referring to the big invasion force.
(That’s one of those nagging little details we tend to gloss over, by the way: why is it plural here in this verse but singular in the other verses?)
These verses in the Old Testament confirm what we learned in Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14, Luke 21:20: the single “abomination of desolation” is only one of many instruments of war used to carry out the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. And we can easily imagine how this will take place. An invasion of tanks, planes, and missiles enters the city of Jerusalem; but only one of them happens to enter the “holy place”. (And as it barges its way in, it quickly transforms from secular abomination into a religious one.)
Note: The word “it” in the phrase “he shall make it desolate” is not there in the original Hebrew but was added by the translators. So what exactly shall the Antichrist “make desolate”? In the previous verse, “the city and the sanctuary” were destroyed, and the same theme carries over into this verse 26. The ancient invasion of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in verse 26 telescopes into (or pre-figures) the modern invasion of Jerusalem by the Antichrist in verse 27. So the “it” should refer again to “the city and the sanctuary”.
The “covenant” too gets destroyed – or rather, brought to an end – during this future “one week” (seven-year) time period, but it is the modern “city and sanctuary” that will receive physical and violent destruction (similar to what happened in ancient times). And of course, that destruction ties in well with the phrase, “For the overspreading (armies) of abominations he shall make desolate (violently)”.
Just as the ancient city and temple were physically destroyed, that probably means something similar will happen in the future scenario. However, the “war” that brought about “desolations” in ancient times is different (technologically) from the war in modern times and so is expressed differently – with a reference to the peculiar “overspreading [military invasion] of abominations” that is going to take place.
So, could that possibly be the answer to the riddle Jesus posed about the “abomination of desolation standing in the holy place“? He said, “Whoso readeth, let him understand” – because it’s not the usual kind of religious abomination; it’s something different, and as outlined here, it could be a military instrument of destruction that becomes a religious abomination by virtue of the fact that it enters the “holy place”. It was a way of expressing in ancient times an invention and event of the far distant future – something that in those days couldn’t be comprehended or expressed in secular or technical terms.
From Daniel 9:27 it is evident that there is a military invasion (“overspreading”) of several “abominations” that “desolate” the city of Jerusalem and its sanctuary. Therefore, it seems to follow that the single “abomination that maketh desolate”, which appears in the “holy place” in Daniel 11:31 (and in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14), is only one of several used in the invasion.
And it’s hard to imagine how this could mean anything else other than an invasion of modern weapons and vehicles of war, and that it’s just a matter of one of them invading the holy place. This explanation has the advantage of accuracy and simplicity.
So a suitable definition for “abomination that maketh desolate” might be this: it’s a general term for any of our modern weapons or vehicles of war whose destructive power far outmatched anything that was ever used in ancient times. It was a way of expressing in ancient times an invention and event of the far distant future – something that in those days couldn’t couldn’t be comprehended or expressed in secular or technical terms.
The previous verse studied above, Daniel 9:26b-27, is set in a time of war: “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. . . unto the end of the war. . . for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate.”
This war setting exists also in the descriptions where only one “abomination of desolation” is mentioned:
- Daniel 8:12,24. “An host (army) was given him against the daily sacrifice… he shall destroy wonderfully (as in modern warfare?)”
- Daniel 11: Starts off by describing ancient wars in the Mideast, then switches to the future war campaigns of the Antichrist.
- In verse 31 of Daniel 11, the word “arms” is used. Similar to its use in the previous verses 15 and 22, “arms” is intended in a figurative sense to mean “military forces”. (Interestingly, this double meaning for the word “arms” exists in both ancient Hebrew and modern English.) Let’s see what happens then when we substitute the word “arms” and its representative pronoun “they” with the word “military forces” in verse 31:
“And military forces shall stand on his part,
and military forces shall pollute the sanctuary of strength and take away the daily sacrifice,
and military forces shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.”
So, if the military forces are the ones who carry out this operation of polluting the sanctuary, then it seems likely that one of their vehicles or weapons would be the desolating “abomination” that invades the temple.
- Daniel 12:1 “a time of trouble such as never was.”
- Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21: These passages mention “wars and rumours of wars” leading up to the time “when there shall be great tribulation… And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” (Matthew 24:6,21-22; Mark 13:7,19-20; Luke 21:9) It certainly sounds as though a lot of warfare is being waged at this time – “Jerusalem compassed with armies”, as Luke 21:20 mentions.
The war setting appears also in the Book of Revelation, where it is said of the Beast (the Antichrist), “Who is able to make war with him?” (13:4)
Judging by the context in these Scriptures – so much warfare going on at the time of the appearance of the “abomination” – it seems likely the abomination itself should also have something to do with the war activity.