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 #4 – The “God of Forces”
So far, we have looked at this mystery of the “abomination” mostly from the secular angle. But let’s see it now from a religious viewpoint.
In ancient times most “abominations” were abhorrent practices, or objects, that were part of the worship and service of a demon god. So, what “god” should the “abomination of desolation” be associated with? Where is the clue for this? Well, if we look in Daniel 11:38, there is mention of a “god of forces”. So, perhaps we have here (verse 38) the spiritual background behind the Antichrist’s physical act (from verse 31). Could it be that we have here the name of the god who inspires the creation/invention and use of these abominations of desolation?
Back in verse 31 it is said of the Antichrist and his forces that “they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength” by sending in “the abomination that makes desolate”. Then here in verse 38, as if by way of explanation for this shocking act of desecration in verse 31, we are given a look into the Antichrist’s spiritual life: he “shall honor the god of forces”. Put very simply, it is because of the Antichrist’s “honour” for some strange new god of war, that he is motivated to send the destroying “abomination” into the “sanctuary”.
So, who or what exactly is this “god of forces”? The word “forces”, in the most general sense, just means “strength” or a “place of strength”. * In this case, the context of warfare in this chapter would point to the specific meaning of “god of military strength”. So, “god of war” would more or less sum up what the “god of forces” is. (For the interested reader, the post “God of Fortresses“ explains in more detail the meaning of this mysterious phrase.)
* The word “forces” is the same word used in the phrase (“sanctuary of strength”). In that verse the context tells us that it is referring to a sanctuary devoted to God. The word for “strength” is often applied like this – in a spiritual sense, as in“The Lord is the strength of my life”. (Psalm 27:1 – KJV) But when “strength” refers to those who are relying on their own strength, then it takes on a different meaning of physical strength rather than spiritual strength.
Indeed, scholars have often thought of this “god of forces” as a reference to some ancient god of war, such as Mars or any other of a number of similar gods. Well true, this is a god of war. But this is “a god which his fathers (ancestors) did not know.” (Daniel 11:38) And since the setting for this prophetic message is the distant future (our modern day), then we know this is not an ancient god of war or idol. There are going to be some differences.
So let’s hone in a bit more on this word “forces” as it is used here. In simple terms and according to the war context, it should mean a militarily fortified place. In ancient times, to fortify a city required building high walls; and it also meant stockpiling an arsenal of weapons. Back in those days, high walls were an important means of fortification for cities. Even whole nations tried to protect themselves with walls, e.g. the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall in England. But nowadays they would serve little useful purpose. Instead, the emphasis now is on amassing a great arsenal of high-tech weaponry. This is how to “fortify” a city or nation in this day and age.
In the margin of many Bibles the alternative translation is given: “god of munitions” – probably in recognition of the fact that weaponry and associated war materials should also be included under the general term of “fortified place”. And the word “munitions” certainly does fit the modern reality better. So rather than calling this a “god of forces”, the more appropriate translation would be “god of munitions”. War and the munitions that go along with it are the objects of worship.
So that is the great difference from days gone by. Other “beast” superpowers, those from ancient times, also conquered by means of their military prowess, just as the final Antichrist will do. But nowadays, there’s a new twist – a greater emphasis on weaponry. This may be why the passage does not read “god of war”, but uses a phrase that would get across, not only the idea of “war”, but could also point towards the importance of “munitions” in the warmongering of the future.
And probably that is why this “god of forces (munitions)” is given a rather high profile here in the Daniel 11 chapter. For no ancient god of war ever had at his disposal such colossal destructive power as exists now through modern armaments, including nuclear weapons. Possession of these weapons has become a major “fortification” that nations seek after. Such nuclear capability, according to military strategists, acts as a deterrent against attack from other nations.
And furthermore, in the domain of conventional weapons, modern warfare has seen many a battle lost or won on the basis of whoever had the more up-to-date weapons technology. During the Colonial Era, the Europeans were able to subjugate less advanced nations simply because swords and spears were no match against the Europeans’ rifles and cannons. At the start of World War I, the German army with its machine guns easily mowed down hordes of French and British soldiers who were armed with outdated artillery.
Thus, a modern politician or general might say that the Antichrist will place great stress on his weapons-building program. Daniel 11:38, however, expresses it in a more spiritual way: “He shall honor the god of forces (or munitions)… with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.” (The war god, as modern military budgets will testify, is an extremely expensive god to maintain.)
Other “beast” superpowers from ancient times also conquered by means of their military prowess, just as the final Antichrist will do. But nowadays, there’s a new twist – a greater emphasis on weaponry, which could be why this “god of forces (or munitions)“, this power of the Antichrist’s, is given a bit of a high profile here in Daniel 11. Nowadays military weapons are extremely important, more so than they have ever been in history.
No ancient god of war ever had at his disposal such colossal destructive power as exists now through nuclear weapons. And this was foreseen by the Lord centuries ago – comprehended here in this phrase about the “god of forces”, and more particularly, “god of munitions”.
So the phrase can be seen either way: as referring to a “fortress”, a high-walled enclosure/bastion of military strength common in ancient times, or, since the passage was referring to the Modern Age, it can and probably should be understood as referring to “munitions”. Weapons, not its surrounding walls, are the most vital components in a modern city’s defense.
Nowadays, for a nation to be a “fortress”, a military stronghold, it must possess a great arsenal of high-tech weaponry; this is the equivalent of the fortified cities of ancient times. Whether in the form of anti-missile defence weaponry and warning systems (a “wall” of sorts) or offensive weaponry of various kinds, it is weaponry/munitions that feature more prominently (than fortified enclosures) in the exercise of modern military activity.
This modern day emphasis on weaponry is suggested also in the next verse 39; in the original Hebrew, the phrase “the most strongholds” combines the same word “forces (munitions)” with another word meaning “defenced city”. And in the margin of some Bible versions is written the alternative translation, “fortresses of munitions”.
So again, like the “abomination of desolation” phrase, this “god of forces” phrase was a good way for the Lord to express in an ancient language a historical reality that would not arrive until several centuries into the future: the unique form of warmongering that exists today.
And why shouldn’t there be references somewhere in the Sacred Book to the unique form of warmongering that is such a prominent feature of our modern world?
The “god of forces” phrase points us to the realization that the “abomination of desolation” may be nothing more than an ancient way of referring to a modern weapon or vehicle of war. Creating/inventing these abominable devices would be the natural activity of a demon god of war and munitions. His aim would be to use these “abominations” to cause desolation in the earth – whether it be confined to a certain “holy place”, or spread out as nuclear devastation over a vast territory.
As for the Antichrist, whether he realizes it or not, it is through honoring this “god of forces” that he gets his inspiration to escalate his warmongering activity in the world – in particular, by sending a destroying abomination into the Jewish sanctuary. And that provocative act signals the start of all-out war against the forces of Light whom the forces of Darkness fear will oppose their plans to exalt the Antichrist as the world’s new demagogue.