Desolating Abomination - Context

The climax of the ‘Seventy Weeks’ prophecy is the appearance of the “abomination that desolates.” But what is it? The reference to it in chapter 9 is neither the first nor the last word on the matter. Interpreting the “abomination” in isolation from the larger literary context produces incomplete and even false answers to the question.

The book of Daniel is not a loose collection of ancient stories but a well-structured work. Each vision is connected to the others by verbal and conceptual links.  No one vision tells the whole story, and a correct understanding can only be achieved by heeding the overall context – the immediate, larger, and historical contexts.

For example, the “little horn” is found in the visions of chapters 7 and 8. In the first vision, the descriptions are symbolic and enigmatic, but in the second there are clear historical references.

The “ram” is the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians,” the “goat” is Greece, and the “little horn” is a malevolent king linked to one of the four subsequent Greek kingdoms derived from Alexander’s conquests. Understanding BOTH visions is necessary for determining this figure’s identity.


The “abomination that desolates” is first described in the vision of the “ram and the goat” as the “transgression that desolates.”  In both phrases, the term “desolate” represents the same Hebrew word, shâmén (Strong’s - #H8074).

And the same events are linked to both phrases - the cessation of the daily burnt offerings, the profanation of the sanctuary, and the “casting down of the host.”

In the passage in chapter 8, the “desolation” is said to last for 2,300 “evenings-mornings” - 1,150 days – or a little over three years. - (Daniel 8:9-13).

Moreover, regarding the “transgression,” in the interpretation of the vision the king who persecutes God’s people only begins his assault after the “transgressions have filled up their measure, and then a king of fierce of countenance and skillful in dissimulation will stand up.”

Among other things, this ruler “corrupts the mighty ones and the people of the saints.” It was not the king’s “transgression” that causes the “desolation,” but the sins of the “people of the saints” - (Daniel 8:23-25).

Likewise, in the final “week” of the “seventy weeks,” a figure called the “leader” corrupts the “city and sanctuary,” erects the “abomination that desolates,” and causes the daily burnt offerings to cease. These events occurred in the last half of the “seventieth week,” presumably, the final three and one-half years of the seventy “weeks” - (Daniel 9:26-27).

And in chapter 11, a “contemptible” ruler “profanes the sanctuary,” removes the daily burnt offerings, “erects the abomination that desolates,” and corrupts many of the people “with flatteries” - (Daniel 11:31-34).


Finally, at the conclusion of the book, an angelic figure declares that all these things will occur over a period defined as a “season, seasons, and part of a season,” which is interpreted as 1,260 days, then as 1,290 days. Why the additional thirty days are added to the final figure is not clear - (Daniel 12:7-11).

The final reference to the “season, seasons, and part of a season” connects the conclusion of the book to the vision of the “four beasts from the sea.” In the interpretation of that vision, the “little horn” is identified as the “king” who “wages war against the saints,” seeks to change laws and “seasons,” and continues in this effort for a “season, seasons, and part of a season” - (Daniel 7:21-26).

The inclusion of the “abomination that desolates” and these related events in its concluding section demonstrates its importance to the entire book of Daniel.

In Daniel’s visions, references to the “abomination that desolates,” the profanation of the sanctuary, the cessation of the daily burnt offerings, and the period of approximately three and one-half years connect all the visions recorded in chapters 7-12.

Moreover, the described events are all connected to the same figure called the “little horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” the “leader,” and the “despicable one.”

In each case, based on the literary evidence, it is reasonable to assume the same events and persons are in view. To argue otherwise is neither reasonable nor plausible unless evidence from Daniel itself proves that more than one “abomination that desolates” is intended.

By no means does our recognition of the links between the several visions resolve all questions about the “abomination that desolates.” However, recognizing the above-described reality is the starting point for doing so – Context is key.



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