The Abomination of Epiphanes

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.

1290 & 1335 days

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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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9 thoughts on “The Abomination of Epiphanes

  1. SFWhite

    Why did you add the number of years (1290 + 1335)? From my reading, I’d always understood it to mean “blessed is he that waiteth” an additional 145 days past the beginning 1290 days. In other words, the total span of days (including both numbers of days) is contained in the final number of 1335 days.

    But, think I see what you’re saying, the 1290 days and the 1335 days are two completely different time periods, separated from each other. I’d never thought of that. So, in total, counting the 42 months of Revelation, there are (possibly) three distinct time periods listed. Interesting!

    1. William Struse Post author

      Hi SFWhite,

      Thank you for your comments. I think you are probably right about the two periods not being separate, the 1335 just being an additional 45 days. (though it is possible they are meant to be different) I added them together simply to provide a little different perspective. Sometimes it helps me to look at these subject from a different angle.

      Yes, I think we should at least consider the possibility that they are three different periods of time. Especially since true Biblical “time” is based upon a month of 29.53 days not a month of 30 days.

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Warm regards,
      William Struse

      1. SFWhite

        “days” not “years”, “45” not “145”… was I in a hurry or something? LOL

        However, think that “years” was due to my playing with the possibility of “days” actually being “years”. 45 extra years is a while to wait, but not out of character for the Bible, and certainly an accomplishment. Of course you’d have to be born near the end of the 1290 years…

        Going back to days, if the times listed were two separate periods, they’d have to occur relatively close to each other, though, within a normal lifespan, even if one had to wait only until the beginning of the 1335 days.

        Daniel’s always pretty well fried my brain, Revelation makes more sense to me… though that’s not saying all that much. Been studying Revelation since I was 12 and never made much headway, too many possibilities, even in narrow context, especially when you’re a literalist like me.

        What I don’t understand is why prophecy teachers continue to say the AntiChrist will rule the entire world, when Daniel states plainly he won’t. According to Daniel, his kingdom won’t even be the most powerful, since it’s the most powerful who take him down. From Walid Shoebat’s take, the “whole world” encompasses the Biblical world, not the globe, and he has solid arguments using Biblical quotes to back up his assertion.

        The main message I’ve discovered is that some very important things are meant to be uncertain for a reason, “like a thief in the night,” the only thing that’s certain is God is with us and we just have to trust Him, He knows what He’s doing, even if we never will until after the fact. :)

        Thanks for your reply!

  2. Joel Richardson

    Good article. I’m actually writing a bit about some of this right now. Perhaps more interesting is that when Josephus mentions what Daniel wrote in the plain if Susa, he was referring to Daniel 8 specifically. Like Daniel 11, most conservative futurist commentators apply that to Antiochus. This also has numerous, glaring problems. Also interesting there is that the 2,300 days mentioned (or if one opts for half that time: 1,150 days) do not align with the actions of Antiochus.

    Blessings William

    1. William Struse Post author

      Hi Joel,

      Thanks for your comments. Chronology is a powerful contextual tool which really helps bring perspective to the subject.
      Take Shushan for instance. This is the Persian palace which Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah all mention. Though many scholars see these Biblical heroes as part of a nearly 200 year period of the Medo/Persain era there is really no reasonable Biblical evidence to support this. Instead all Biblical chronology shows that Esther and Nehemiah were in fact contemporaries of Darius “the great” Artaxerxes. When the implications of this are fully realized it will forever change how we see many of the prophecies of Daniel.

      Warm regards to you Joel,

    2. William Struse Post author

      For those interested, Joel Richardson has posted a related article at his blog: Joel’s Trumpet I thought the article offered several insights worthy of further consideration.

      In keeping with a Biblical perspective of time I would point out that Joel’s statement of 3.5 years for the “Antichrist’s great persecution” is a bit confusing. To most readers this implies a solar (365.24 day) or a lunar (360 day) year reckoning of time. Neither of these type of calendars were used when the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation were given. The Biblical calendar was lunar/solar thus causing the “year” to vary between 12 or 13 months. This is the reason the text specifies these time frames, not in “years”, but in days or months. This allows the prophecies to be specific even though the Biblical year length varied. Keep in mind that Biblical months were 29.53 days in length not 30.


  3. Lacy

    It was interesting that I was led to study out this very event when people were exploring the blood moon theories. I decided to look at all the lunar Tetrads throughout history regardless of if they fell on feast days. While I could not find any distinct pattern throughout history due to varying historical evidence or the lack thereof, the Tetrad of 166-168 BC did seem to play a significant role in some of the events surrounding the abomination of desolation. The whole Tetrad could be seen from the Middle East area which is rare if you study the Tetrad subject completely. It will happen twice in this century, 2050 and 2090.
    I enjoy reading your view point. I also have concluded that these varying days, months and week time periods are not the same as so many people make the mistake of doing. Such handling always ends up with events being forced to work into the timelines and described events. 42 months is not the same as 1260 days. 1290 days is not the same as arriving at the 1335th day. There could be overlapping but I don’t think stop and start days are the same. There are certainly some vast treasures left to be found.

  4. GregM

    I find Jesus’ warning interesting…
    “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel (Matthew encourages his readers to use discernment), Then let them in Judaea flee into the mountains…”

    Many listening to Jesus’ words here may have asked themselves…Wasn’t that already fulfilled through that Antiochus guy?

    Jesus was indicating that Antiochus was not the ultimate fulfillment of that passage, although Antiochus had set a pattern for future fulfillments.

    Luke, in his account of this same teaching of Jesus, identifies the abomination as the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem. Is this Luke using his discernment, or did Jesus actually use these words? Perhaps Jesus clarified this to his disciples privately (after the public discourse) as he did with other things.

    My belief is that Antiochus was a fulfillment of Daniel, the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem was another, and there will be a future one as well, which will follow a similar pattern to the past ones.

  5. Danny Swan

    I’m believing that there are both minor as well as major fulfillments of some prophecies. Although Antiochus epiphanies did commit an abomination, Jesus (much later in time) spoke in mt 24:15 about Daniels prophecy as future tense, long after Antiochus epiphanies actions. Danny swan


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