When Yeshua (Jesus) tells us the signs of his second coming, he quotes Daniel by telling us, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place … for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (See Matthew 24:15-21 for complete quote.) Daniel 12:11 tells us that this abomination that maketh desolate will start a final count of 1290 days until the end of days, so recognizing it is very important to understanding Bible prophecy of the very end of time. But what does this phrase mean, and how will we recognize it when it happens? The following word study gives us some excellent clues.
The Hebrew word used for “abomination” in Daniel is Strong’s # 8251, shiqquts, defined as: disgusting, filthy, idolatrous. This word appears approximately 25 times throughout the Old Testament. The overwhelming majority of the time that the word abomination is used, it is linked with idols, other gods, or some type of worship that displeases God. A sampling of uses of this word are found in Deuteronomy 29:17 (context: idols); 1 Kings 11:5 and 7 (Solomon turned to other gods); 2 Kings 23:13, 24 (King Josiah put away mediums, images, idols, abominations). It appears several times in the book of Jeremiah, 7:30 (set abominations in my house…to pollute it), 13:27 (lewdness, whoredom, abominations), 32:34 (abominations in the temple). It is also used frequently in Ezekiel: 5:11 (defiled my sanctuary), 7:20 (images of their abominations); 20:7-8 (abominations of his eyes, idols); 37:23 (idols, detestable things).
This same trend continues. Here are more examples of abominations being linked with breaking God’s law: Deuteronomy 23:17-18: Bringing a whore into house of YHVH (breaking a statute that falls under the adultery command), Deuteronomy 24:4: Former husband not to remarry former wife who was married to another husband in the interim (adultery), Deuteronomy 25:14-16: False weights and measures (stealing); Deuteronomy 27:15: Graven image (idol). Again, all of these are examples of broken commandments being called an abomination.
Often the things called abominations involve not just the breaking of one of God’s Ten Commandments, but breaking them as a form of false worship. Examples: Deuteronomy 7:25-26: graven images of false gods are an abomination. This is breaking the command against graven images, done as a form of worship to a false god. Deuteronomy 12:31: every abomination which God hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.” This is breaking the command against murder and offering blood sacrifices, done as a form of worship to a false god. Deuteronomy 17:1-5: The gist is about sacrificing something with blemishes, transgressing God’s covenant, serving other gods, and worship of the sun or moon. This is breaking the command to have no other gods before Him, done as a form of worship to a false god. Deuteronomy 18:9-12: Do not the abominations of the surrounding nations: make son pass through fire, use divination, observe times, witchcraft, consult familiar spirits or the dead. This is breaking the command to have no other gods before Him, by consulting false gods.
Time and time again, various forms of false worship, or breaking of God’s commands in the form of worship to false gods, is called an abomination.
Now let’s do the same thing and look at the word desolate, which in Hebrew is Strong’s 8074, Shahmem. It is used approximately 80 times, and is most often translated as “be astonished”, “desolate”, “desolations”, “destitute”. It is also translated a few times as “waste”, “destroy”, “wondered”. The definition of shahmen in Strong’s is: to stun, grown numb, devastate, stupefy, make amazed, astonish, make desolate, destroy, make waste, wonder. It is used several times in Leviticus 26 (example, verse 22). The context of the word is that disobedience to the law of God (His statutes and judgments) results in the desolation of your land, your cities, and your sanctuaries.
Following are some of the things that are called desolate, astonished, etc. as translated from the same Hebrew word. Time and again, the desolation comes as a result of broken commands. Ezekiel 33:28: God lays the land most desolate, because of idols, murder, adultery (all commandments). Ezekiel 35:12-15: Israel is laid desolate because of blasphemies, boasting against God (taking God’s name in vain). 1 Kings 9:8-9 & 2 Chronicles 7:21-22: Israel is cut off because they forsook God and took hold of other gods and worshipped them (having other gods before Him.) Isaiah 42:14: Those who trust in graven images and call them gods will be destroyed (false idols). Jeremiah 18:16: Lands will be made desolate because God’s people have forgotten him and turned from ancient paths to other gods (having other gods before Him.) Jeremiah 19:8: God will make the city desolate and cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, verse 15, because they have hardened (stiffened) their necks that they don’t hear His words (murder and having other gods.)
So what we have seen is this: Most of the things called abominations in scripture are related to the breaking of God’s commands, often by worshipping false gods. Most of the reasons things are laid desolate are because of failure to honor God and breaking his commands. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that the abomination which maketh desolate will involve the breaking of God’s commands done in a way that is worship to a false god, and done on such a wide scale or in manner that many will consider astonishing or amazing.