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Abomination of Desolation


ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION , literal translation of the Greek Βδέλυγμα ὲρημηώσεωϚ (i Macc. 1:54). This in turn, evidently goes back to a Hebrew or Aramaic expression similar to shiqquẓ shomen ("desolate," i.e., horrified – for "horrifying" – "abomination"; Dan. 12:11). Similar, but grammatically difficult, are ha-shiqquẓ meshomem, "a horrifying abomination," (disregard the Hebrew definite article?; ibid. 11:31); shiqquẓim meshomem, "a horrifying abomination", disregarding the ending of the noun? (ibid. 9:27); and ha-peshaʿshomem, "the horrifving offense" (ibid. 8:13). According to the Maccabees passage, it was something which was constructed (a form of the verb οὶκοδομέω) on the altar (of the Jerusalem sanctuary), at the command of *Antiochusiv Epiphanes, on the 15th day of Kislev (i.e., some time in December) of the year 167 b.c.e.; according to the Daniel passages, it was something that was set (a form of ntn) there. It was therefore evidently a divine symbol of some sort (a statue or betyl [sacred stone]), and its designation in Daniel and Maccabees would then seem to be a deliberate cacophemism for its official designation. According to ii Maccabees 6:2, Antiochus ordered that the Temple at Jerusalem be renamed for Zeus Olympios– "Olympian Zeus." Since Olympus, the abode of the gods, is equated with heaven, and Zeus with the Syrian god "Lord of Heaven" – Phoenician Bʿal Shamem, Aramaic Be'el Shemain (see Bickerman) – it was actually Baal Shamem, "the Lord of Heaven," who was worshiped at the Jerusalem sanctuary during the persecution; and of this name, Shomem, best rendered "Horrifying Abomination," is a cacophemistic distortion.


E. Bickerman, Der Gott der Makkabaeer (1937), 92–96.

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

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