The Abomination of Desolation as Reckoned in Daniel

Posted by on May 18, 2022

The abomination of desolation as spoken and reckoned in Daniel makes this book different from the writings of the other prophets. The prophecies in this book are not prophetic addresses to Israel or the nations, but enigmatic visions partially unveiled in such a way that they still perplex the readers today.

The whole prophetic part of the Book of Daniel (from Chapter 7 and forward) is obscure. It gives neither measure for the “time, times and half a time” nor for “days” and thus no clear understanding of what exactly the visions convey. Hence, it leaves undefined when all these visions will take place.

Thus, the reader is left with more questions than answers, and therefore, with variety of interpretations concerning the durations of the prophetic events and with difficulties in placing them in the correct chronological order.

Blessed is he who awaits and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. The reckoning is running out of time.

Blessed is he who awaits and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. The reckoning is running out of time.

Traditional commentators offer various interpretations of cryptic phrases found in the prophetic chapters of Daniel. The main difficulty is found in the ambiguity of the words employed by the messengers of Elohim when speaking of the coming of the Messiah. And as we explained in other places, there was a good reason for it.

For instance, the designation of time in Dan 7:25; is it a general idea of time, years, or days? Or the 2300 “evenings and mornings” (JPS). Is it 2300 half days or 1150 whole days?  Likewise, what constitutes “week” in Dan 9:27? Is it a week of days or a week of years?

And the last but not the least: Who is the one who shall confirm a covenant with many for one week? The answer may not be so obvious.

Antiochus Epiphanes or a future tyranny?

And if there are any doubts that the prophecy in the Book of Daniel is not concerning the end of times, but Antiochus Epiphanes, the last Chapter 12 of Daniel, wherein the end of the world is described, refutes them all.

Chapter 12 begins with the unheard persecution of the Jews that is far too strong than the period of persecution under Antiochus, and also the promise of the deliverance of those that will be found written in the Book of Life does not agree with the period of the Greek oppression.

Furthermore, the interpretation of referring the prophecy in Daniel to the historical period of Antiochus can neither be supported from Daniel 9 concerning the Seventy Weeks prophecy, nor from Matthew 24 concerning the signs of the Messiah, because (1) both chapters clearly speak of the end of days and (2) Matthew was written more than five hundred years later.

To end the doubts that the prophecies in the Book of Daniel are not concerning the end of times, we should only mention that Chapter 12 of Daniel begins not only with a persecution that has never been seen since there was a nation but also with the resurrection from the dead, which cannot be interpreted allegorically.

That the prophecy in Daniel is indeed all about the end of days is clearly understood at the end of the chapter which is also the end of the book and the prophecy, as Daniel himself will be one of them who will be risen from the dead,

But you, go your way till the end. And rest and arise to your lot at the end of the days. (Dan 12:13)

The failure of all attempts to prove a gap of time between Dan 11:45 allegedly concerning the end of Antiochus and Dan 12:1, irrefutably shows that the prophecy of Daniel is nothing but one prophecy of the end of times.

The revelation of Elohim and of the book concerning the end of days closes with the command,

But you, Daniel, hide the words, and seal the book until the time of the end. Many shall diligently search, and knowledge shall increase. (Dan 12:4)

This command alludes to the assumption that Daniel wrote all the words of the prophecy but some of them he was to hide and seal, as this verse (as Dan 8:26) presupposes that Daniel wrote down all the revelations and visions as soon as he received them.

The reason for the hiding of the prophecy is that the generation of Daniel would not have possibly had the knowledge of the real meaning of it and/or would have misunderstood that the prophecy was meant to be for their time.

The sealing of the prophecy does not however mean that it was meant to be hidden from studying, because if that were the case, then, it would have lain unused and useless for centuries and we would have learned nothing today. But on the contrary, the prophecy of the end of days has been given for the very purpose of enlightening the people of YHVH in all times, as it is written, “those who have insight shall shine like the brightness of the expanse, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever (Dan 12:3)”.

What did Daniel hide and seal, and what did he reveal for “those who will have insight and shine like the brightness of the firmament”? This is the subject of this study on the last vision the prophet received.

For the appointed times

After Daniel was commanded to hide and seal the prophecy, then the close of the prophecy continues in a most peculiar way. Daniel saw two messengers of Elohim each standing on both sides of the river. One of them said to the other, “How long until the end of these wonders?” It is the messenger who is asking here, not Daniel. The answer did not delay but came with a solemn oath,

… it would be for an appointed time, appointed times, and half a time. And when they have ended scattering the power of the set-apart people, then all these shall be finished (Dan 12:6-7).

Daniel heard this answer, but he understood nothing and asked, “What is the end of these matters?”

And indeed, the whole answer is obscure. It gives no measure for the “time” and thus no clear understanding for Daniel regarding the duration of the end. And it leaves undefined when all this will take place. Hence his desire for a more particular answer followed but to no avail, “My master, what is the latter end of these matters?”

Daniel again was told that the words of the prophecy were hidden and sealed until the time of the end (Dan 12:9). Since the last revelation, Daniel received, also forms the essential conclusion of all earlier revelations and visions, then the command to hide and seal the prophecy refers most definitely to the sealing of the whole book. He must seal the book until the end of days.

Yet, the messenger gave Daniel the final revelation of the prophecy, regarding the duration of the time of tribulation and its end, which should help him understand,

And from the time that which is continual shall be removed, and the abomination that devastates is given, shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who awaits and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. (Dan 12:11-12)

The revelation of the 1290 and 1335 days

This answer can be very differently interpreted. The phrase, “from the time that which continual shall be taken away, and the abomination of the desolation is set up” points back to Dan 11:31-33, which indeed refers to the historical Antiochus Epiphanes who profaned the Temple, canceled the daily sacrifice, and set up an idol in its place (see also 1Ma 1:54, 1Ma 2:27-38, and 2Ma 6:1-6 for the historical account of these events in the Book of Maccabees).

But as we explained in the beginning of this study, Chapter 12 of Daniel changes the entire perception of the prophecy.

First, the translations of “continual burnt-offering” and “set up” can be disputed. JPS translation reads thus,

And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the detestable thing that causes appalment set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. (Dan 12:11 JPS)

Notice the phrase, “the continual burnt-offering”. King James’ version of the Bible follows the same rendering but places the word “sacrifice” in italics to denote that it is not in the text but assumed and added for more clarity. But both translations do little justice to the text. They imply (especially in the Christian theology) that someone will appear at the Temple, cease the daily sacrifices, and proclaim himself to be a god or God.

But if we translate the Hebrew words תָּמִיד tamid for something constant and perpetual and נָתַן natan, for giving and assigning, as we did above, then a different picture may emerge.

According to this more literal translation, from the time that which is continual is removed (i.e., be without it), and the abomination that devastates is given (assigned), the reckoning of 1290 days start. From the same starting point another reckoning starts: that of the 1335 days.

Note: The 1290 days amount to 43 months, or three years and seven months, and the 1335 days to 44.5 months, or 3 years and eight and a half months, wherein the prophetic year is reckoned at 12 months, and the months at 30 days. Each of the two periods of time thus amounts to a little more than three and a half years (1260 days or 42 months).

From this logical interpretation of the two statements, it follows that (1) the removal of the continual comes first, (2) and then the abomination is set up (וְלָתֵת signifies literally “and is given afterwards”), as both can be done at the same time, the one immediately after the other.

It is also said that after 1335 days the time of distress or tribulation will be past. This appears from the words “blessed is he who is waiting” but literally “awaiting” or “longing for”.

Since all interpreters rightly understand that the 1290 and the 1335 days have the same earliest starting point, and thus the 1290 days are included in the 1335, the latter period extends beyond the former by only forty-five days.

________________________________ 1290 days

______________________________________ 1335 days

This also means that the tribulation in Dan 12:1 cannot last longer than 1290 days, since he who reaches to the 1335-day mark will be regarded as blessed, and then comes the resurrection in verse 2.

If this is the case, then we have two unknowns in our passage: (1) the event that will cause the reckonings of the 1290 and 1335 days, and (2) the events with which the two reckonings will end.

Note: The Sages have noticed the peculiarity of number 1290. They teach that Elohim had decreed three times 430 years of exile on Israel (Avraham the father of the nation wandered without land for 430 years). This number, they reason, must have been the basis of the calculation in Daniel. Number 1290 is number of years made up of three times 430, and the redemption will come at the end of 1335 years.

What events are to be expected after the 1290 and 1335 days? The terminal points are most regrettably not named in both definitions of reckoning. We do not know; it has been hidden from us. This is one way of interpreting the enigma, and it seems that this is the most logical understanding of the prophecy. But there is another way.

The other way of the interpreting the 1290- and 1335-days prophecy is to see them starting at different points and ending together in one event. In this case, (1) we can expect that something will trigger the reckoning of the 1335 days, and (2) forty-five days later that which is continual will be taken away and the abomination of devastation will trigger the reckoning of the 1290 days, thus both reckonings end in one event. The beginning point of the 1335 days is not named in the prophecy.

Although, the terminal points are not named in both variants of reckoning, most obviously, the event that will end both is the coming of the Messiah, for it is said “Blessed is he who is longing and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days”.

The revelation of 2300 days

To make the things even more complicated in our study, we will add to our consideration another reckoning of time: that of the 2300 evening-mornings, as it was revealed to Daniel,

Then I heard a certain set-apart one speaking. And another set-apart one said to that certain one who was speaking, “Until when is the vision, concerning that which is continual, and the transgression that lays waste, to make both the set-apart place and the host to be trampled under foot? And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred evening-mornings, then that which is set-apart shall be made right”. (Dan 8:13-14)

Daniel heard a messenger of Elohim speaking. What the messenger said is not recorded. But while he was speaking, another one interrupted him with a question concerning the duration of the affliction. And the first messenger addressing Daniel gave him the answer: for 2300 evening-mornings (a period of time of evening and morning constituted on the first day of Creation, i.e., a whole day).

The reckoning of the 2300 evening-mornings in Dan 8:13-14 is very diverse from the 1290- and 1335-days reckonings in Dan 12:11-12. Yet, they are all interconnected.

In this reckoning of time, it appears that the period of oppression during the three times and half time in Dan 7:25 is extended to 1290/1335 days in Dan 12:11-12, and further extended to 2300 whole days in Dan 8:13-14.

____________________________ 1260 days

________________________________ 1290 days

______________________________________ 1335 days

____________________________________________________ 2300 days

If the Messiah will come after 1335 days, because it is said “Blessed is he who is awaiting …”, how then will the oppression continue after his coming?

The contradiction

The apparent contradiction can be resolved by presupposing that the whole duration of the oppression of Israel will last 2300 days, while the periods of three times and half a time (1260 days) and 1290/1335 days refer only to the time of the greatest oppression that will begin with the abomination of desolation and intensify until the appearance of the Messiah after the great distress. Notice how the Messiah intensified the distress more and more,

And you shall begin to hear of wars and a company of forces. See that you are not troubled, for these have to take place, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there shall be scarcities of food, and deadly diseases, and earthquakes in places. And all these are the beginning of suffering. Then they shall bind you up to affliction and kill you, and you shall be hated by all nations for my name. (Mat 24:6-9)

So, if we are correct in our presupposition, then we are forced to accept that these periods of reckoning of time will end up with the coming of the Messiah, and therefore, the most logical variant of reckoning is the second one, which we just consolidated.

Since the oppression of 2300 days cannot possibly extend beyond that point, it is logical to suggest that the reckoning of 2300 days too will end with the coming of the Messiah, and all four reckonings will have their own events that will trigger them. This suggestion is best illustrated thus,

____________________________ 1260 days

________________________________ 1290 days

______________________________________ 1335 days

____________________________________________________ 2300 days

It is not in the scope of this study to cover all visions and revelations Daniel received from the messengers; they all are complex enough to deserve studies of their own. Here, however, for the reason of advancing to the next stage in our study, we will suppose that this variant of the interpreting the reckoning of time is what Daniel was told to seal.

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