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 #7 – Perspective of Ancient Times
The usual abominations of ancient times were the pagan idols, some of which were designed in such a way that they could gobble up their sacrificial victims – certainly a detestable practice. Perhaps then, in the minds of people in ancient times, the “abomination of desolation” was something similar, some awful and sinister invention of the future – what exactly they didn’t know, of course – but it seems the Lord was trying to show them it would be something unimaginably powerful and horrible in its destructive capability, and very deserving to be called an “abomination that maketh desolate (violently)“.
Daniel may very well have thought it was some kind of idol, especially since the prophecy says it appears in the “sanctuary of strength”. (11:31) Or, if Daniel didn’t think this, certainly most interpreters after him have conjectured along those lines. Whatever the case, the fact remains it was beyond their imaginations in those days to comprehend this thing. And the term “abomination” carries this hint of the unusual, of something beyond the scientific knowledge of those times.
When it comes to weapons of war, there’s nothing so peculiar about them as far as we’re concerned. But for anyone from ancient times, to behold something like, for example, an armored tank rumbling and roaring away, moving by itself, spitting out fire and smoke, death and destruction, this could only be regarded as some kind of great, sinister, sci-fi marvel of the future; it wasn’t just another weapon of war, or “engine of war”. (This term, in 2Chronicles 26:15 and Ezekiel 26:9, was used for ancient weapons like the catapult, siege tower, or battering ram.) When we consider that one modern warplane, for example, can cause more devastation than a whole army could in ancient times, it hardly falls into the same category as the clumsy, horse-drawn contraptions of old.
Although those “war engines” were the forerunners of our modern weapons, they were primitive compared to what we have now – self-powered vehicles with internal combustion or jet engines, radar and computer tracking systems, explosive bombs, etc.
So, from the viewpoint of ancient times, what better way could the Lord have of describing a modern instrument of war than as an “abomination that maketh desolate (violently)”, especially one that enters into a “holy place”. But from our viewpoint, we wouldn’t think of it the same way because of our cultural familiarity with modern inventions. As a result, this term “abomination that maketh desolate” leads us into thinking that it must be something else, something that to us would appear unusual, bizarre, beyond the realm of usual inventions, something we haven’t quite seen yet.
But we forget that what’s ordinary to our point of view was something extraordinary to the point of view of those in ancient times. Because of our cultural familiarity, modern war machines and weaponry don’t arouse in us any aura of mystery or sense of revulsion and abominableness. But if someone from ancient times were to come into the present and see one, that’s how they would feel about it. And their viewpoint would be well comprehended in that ancient term “abomination that maketh desolate”.
We could imagine if someone came from another planet or time era and they happened to come across a CD player, they might call it a “music device”, which for them would be about the most accurate way of describing it. They wouldn’t know any of the terms we use: CD player, hi-fi stero, i-pod, etc. A clock or watch might be called a “time-piece”. Likewise this term “abomination that maketh desolate (violently)”, for those from the era of ancient times, this was the best term they could use to describe a modern weapon or vehicle of war, especially one that had entered a “holy place”.
God’s way of looking at things often differs from man’s, and His Word gives us a deeper spiritual insight – a perception that is generally lacking in the secular mindset of modern times. In the mind of modern man, the weapon that enters the “holy place” would be just a collection of nuts, bolts, and metal put together to make an armoured tank (or whatever it might be). We might go so far as to call it a military invention inspired by diabolical genius. But unlikely we would think of it in the way the Bible describes – a destroying abomination unleashed against the world by a demon god of war (the “god of forces”).
In Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 Jesus said, “Whoso readeth, let him understand”. The Lord was saying something to the effect that this “abomination of desolation” will have to remain a mystery because it’s so far in the future. So, “whoso readeth, let him understand”, as it won’t be too obvious. For those in ancient times, it had to remain a mystery; the technology was just too far advanced, and their language did not have the words to describe it in the kind of secular, technical terms that we could more easily relate to.
Nevertheless, the word used here – “abomination” – does get across the spiritual meaning well enough, its diabolical nature. And then, the other word, “desolation”, does give us some clue, in practical terms, of what the “abomination” is supposed to be capable of doing. Really, when we think about it, this was the best way for the Lord to express, in an ancient language, the unique form of weaponry that exists today.