Recently Joel Richardson posted an interesting article entitled : Daniel 11:21-35: History or Future? In this article Joel explores the consensus opinion of scholars which claim that Daniel 11:21-35 applies to the historical Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Daniel 11:36-40 applies to a yet future Antichrist. I don’t intend to explore his entire article here but one great point (of several) he made was concerning the “abomination which maketh desolate” mentioned in Daniel 11 & 12.
Joel’s main point is that the angel in Daniel 12, when speaking about the abomination of desolation, is explaining the events as described in Daniel 11. So by this premise either Daniel 11 & 12 both speak of Antiochus Epiphanes or they speak of some other event. In my opinion, Joel rightly observes that this has great implications for our understanding of the future Antichrist and the Abomination of Desolation. If you get a chance I believe his article is worth pursuing. (see link above).
Daniel 11:30-32 …….he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant. And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.
Daniel 12:11-12 11 And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. 12 Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.
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For those who would like to explore the subject a little deeper I would like to offer some additional historical context which lends support to Joel’s thesis. Historically speaking there are two main sources which scholars point to when they claim Antiochus Epiphanes was the character responsible for the Abomination of Desolation. Those sources are the book of Maccabees and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. Though the book of Maccabees describes the Abomination of Desolation, it does not specifically mention it in the context of Daniel’s prophecies. Josephus on the other hand explicitly states the events were a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies. I’ve reproduced the relevant passages below. It’s worth taking a moment to read. (I’ve abridged the passage for the sake of brevity)
1 Maccabees 1:54 Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side;
1 Maccabees 4:36-56 Then said Judas and his brethren, ….. So he chose priests of blameless conversation, such as had pleasure in the law: Who cleansed the sanctuary, and bare out the defiled stones into an unclean place…. Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former; And made up the sanctuary, and the things that were within the temple, and hallowed the courts….. Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is called the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighth year, they rose up betimes in the morning, And offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made. Look, at what time and what day the heathen had profaned it, even in that was it dedicated with songs, and citherns, and harps, and cymbals….
Antiquities of the Jews 12:246-253 King Antiochus …. made an expedition against the city of Jerusalem; …. Now it came to pass, after two years, in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of that month which is by us called Chisleu, and by the Macedonians Apellaios, in the hundred and fifty-third Olympiad, that the king came up to Jerusalem, and, pretending peace, he got possession of the city by treachery:….So he left the temple bare, and ….. he forbade them to offer those daily sacrifices which they used to offer to God, according to the Law. ….. And when the king had built an idol altar upon God’s altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the Law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country.
Antiquities of the Jews 12:319-326 So on the five and twentieth day of the month of Chisleu, which the Macedonians call Apellaios, they lit the lamps that were on the lampstand, and offered incense upon the altar [of incense], and laid the loaves upon the table [of showbread], and offered burnt offerings upon the new altar [of burnt offering]. 320 Now it so happened, that these things were done on the very same day on which their divine worship had stopped, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after three years’ time; for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years. This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Apellaios, and on the hundred fifty and third Olympiad: but it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty-fifth of the month of Apellaios, on the hundred and forty-eighth year, and on the hundred and fifty-fourth Olympiad. And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would stop that worship [for some time]…… And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights .
Antiquities of the Jews 10:272-276 Daniel wrote that he saw these visions in the plain of Susa; and he has informed us that God interpreted the appearance of this vision after the following manner….. and that from among them there should arise a certain king that should overcome our nation and their laws, and should take away their political government, and should spoil the temple, and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years’ time.” And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.
The Jewish War 1:32 He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation, for three years and six months.
So both the book of Maccabees and the Antiquities of the Jews indicate that the events of 168-165 BC were a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel. I must admit the events described sure look like they fit the prophecy. Josephus even goes so far as to say that Antiochus Epiphanes “forbid the sacrifices” for “three years’ time” according to the vision of Daniel. Josephus must be given credit for his zeal to prove Daniel prophesied the events which befell Jerusalem under Antiochus Epiphanes but there is a problem with Josephus’ math.
The prophecy of Daniel 11 & 12 was not for 3 years time. The prophecy was for 1290 days & 1335 days. Based upon a year of 365.24 days the 1290 days is equal to 3.53 years. Both the book of Maccabees and Josephus’ Antiquities state the cleansing of the Temple took place in the same month 3 years after the Abomination of Desolation.
A Biblical lunar/solar calendar in use during the 2nd temple era would have had only 354.36 days. Once every third year or so an intercalary month was added which made for a year of 383.89 days. So even if one of the years between 168-165 BC was an intercalary year, at the most there were only 1092.61 days between the Abomination of Desolation by Antiochus and the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabeus.
Bottom line: Judas Maccabeus’ cleansing of the temple was about 200 days short of fulfilling the 1290 days as described in Daniel 12. While the heroics of Judas Maccabeus were of great historical importance to the Jewish people they are by no reasonable rendering of the chronological record a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 11 & 12.
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While I agree with Joel Richardson that the most reasonable rendering of Daniel 11 & 12 points to a yet future fulfillment, I think it only fair to note that no matter which type of calendar month one uses the 1290 or 1335 days does not equal the 42 months mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The prophecy of Daniel 11 & 12 may run before, after, or during the 42 months of Revelation but it is a distinctly different period of time.
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I can’t help but mention one other statement by Josephus that I find ironic in light of today’s scholarship regarding the prophecies of Daniel. As Joel Richardson noted in his article the “overwhelming majority of conservative commentaries” attribute the prophecy of Daniel 11:21-35 to Antiochus Epiphanes. This, as we have seen above, is in large part based upon the historical account of Josephus in Ant. 10:272-276. Yet, those same scholars ignore the very same passage where it states the following:
Antiquities of the Jews 10:272-276 Daniel wrote that he saw these visions in the plain of Susa; ……….And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.
Contextually the prophecy which “Daniel also wrote” could only be a reference to Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks. It is the only prophecy of Daniel which could have been attributed to the Roman empire’s destruction of Jerusalem and Judea. After all, Josephus had witnessed its fulfillment first hand. Right or wrong, we have at least one Jewish eyewitness who believed the Roman desolation of Jerusalem was a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.
Daniel 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
For those who would like to dig a little deeper into the chronology of Josephus and the Maccabees the chart below might help. References for each date are provided. Click on the image below for a larger size image or download a full PDF version at the following link Chronology of the Old Testament. (You’ll find the chronology you are looking for on page 8.)
Red dates = BC
Yellow (center) = Seleucus era
Light blue = Olympiads
Gray = A.U.C. (Roman year)
White = Y.C. (year of Creation)
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