Rendering in the English versions of different Biblical terms denoting that which is loathed or detested on religious grounds and which, therefore, is utterly offensive to the Deity. These terms differ greatly in the degree of the abhorrence implied and should be distinguished in translation, as follows:
- (1) (to'ebah):Abomination of the highest degree; originally that which offends the religious sense of a people. Thus (Gen. xliii. 32): "The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians." The reason is that the Hebrews, as foreigners, were considered an inferior caste. According to Herodotus, ii. 41, no Egyptian would kiss a Greek on the mouth, or use his dish, or even taste meat cut with a carving-knife belonging to a Greek. But especially as shepherds the Hebrews were "an abomination unto the Egyptians" (Gen. xlvi. 34). The eating of unclean animals is a religious offense called to'ebah: "Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing" (Deut. xiv. 3). This is the introduction to the laws prohibiting the use of unclean animals (see Clean and Unclean Animals). Still more offensive to the God of Israel is the practise of idolatry. The idol itself is called an Abomination: "for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house and thus become a thing set apart [tabooed=ḥerem] like unto it; thou shalt utterly detest it and utterly abhor it; for it is a thing set apart [tabooed]" (Deut. vii. 25, 26, Heb.): "Cursed be the man that maketh a graven or molten image, an abomination unto the Lord" (Deut. xxvii. 15). Often the word to'ebah is used for idol or heathen deity; for instance, in Isa. xliv. 19; Deut. xxxii. 16; II Kings, xxiii. 13, and especially Ex. viii. 22 (26, A. V.), it is to be taken in this sense. When Pharaoh had told the Israelites to offer sacrifices to their God in Egypt, Moses replied: "How may we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians [that is, the kind of animals worshiped by them] before their eyes, and they not stone us?" (see Ibn Ezra, ad loc.).All idolatrous practise is an Abomination because of its defiling character: "Every abomination to the Lord which he hateth have they done unto their gods" (Deut. xii. 31; compare Deut. xiii. 15, xvii. 4, xx. 18). Also magic and divination are an Abomination (Deut. xviii. 12). Sexual transgression is particularly denounced as an Abomination (to'ebah) (Deut. xxii. 5, xxiii. 19 [18, A. V.], xxiv. 4); especially incest and unnatural offenses (Lev. xviii. and xx.): "For all these abominations have the men of the land done who were before you, and the land became defiled; lest the land vomit you out also when ye defile it" (Lev. xviii. 27, 28, Heb.; compare also Ezek. viii. 15 and elsewhere).But the word to'ebah also assumes a higher spiritual meaning and is applied also to moral iniquities: "Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. . . For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deut. xxv. 14-16). In the same strain we are taught that "lying lips" (Prov. xii. 22), "the perverse" (ib. iii. 32, R.V.) the "proud in heart" (ib. xvi. 5), "the way of the wicked" (ib. xv. 9), "thoughts of evil" (ib. xv. 26, Heb.), and "he that justifieth the wicked and he that condemneth the righteous" (ib. xvii. 15) are an Abomination. "These six things doth the Lord hate, yea, seven things are an abomination to him: haughty eyes; a lying tongue; hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations; feet that be swift in running to mischief; a false witness that uttereth lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren" (ib. vi. 16-19, Heb.). In another direction the prohibition of an abominable thing is given an ethical meaning: "Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God an ox or a sheep wherein is a blemish, for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deut. xvii. 1, Heb.). Here the physical character of the sacrifice is offensive. But prophet and sage declare that any sacrifice without purity of motive is an Abomination: "Bring no more an oblation of falsehood—an incense of abomination it is to me" (Isa. i. 13, Heb.; compare Jer. vii. 10). "The sacrifice of the wicked" (Prov. xv. 8, xxi. 27) and the prayer of "him that turneth his ear from hearing the law" (Prov. xxviii. 9, Heb.) are an Abomination.
- (2) (sheḳeẓ) or (shiḳḳuẓ): Expresses detestation, or a detestable thing of a somewhat less degree of horror or religious awe; also rendered "Abomination" in the Authorized Version of the Bible. It is applied to prohibited animals (Lev. xi. 10-13, 20, 23, 41, 42; Isa. lxvi. 17; Ezek. viii. 10): "Ye shall not make yourselves abominable" (Lev. xi. 43). But it is also used for that which should be held as detestable; often parallel to or together with to'ebah and applied to idols and idolatrous practises (Deut. xxix. 17; Hosea, ix. 10; Jer. iv. 1, xiii. 27, xvi. 18; Ezek. xi. 18-21, xx. 7, 8). See especially Milcom, "the detestable thing of the Ammonites," the god of the Ammonites (I Kings, xi. 5), used exactly as to'ebah in the passages referred to above (see also Abomination of Desolation).
- (3) (piggul): Unclean, putrid; used only for sacrificial flesh that has become stale and tainted (Lev. vii. 18, xix. 7; Ezek. iv. 14; Isa. lxv. 4); compare leḥem megoal, "the loathsome bread," from gaal, "to loathe" (Mal. i. 7). For the later rabbinic conception of piggul, see Sacrifice.