This word is used, (1.) To express the idea that the Egyptians considered themselves as defiled when they ate with strangers (Gen. 43:32). The Jews subsequently followed the same practice, holding it unlawful to eat or drink with foreigners (John 18:28; Acts 10:28; 11:3).
(2.) Every shepherd was "an abomination" unto the Egyptians (Gen. 46:34). This aversion to shepherds, such as the Hebrews, arose probably from the fact that Lower and Middle Egypt had formerly been held in oppressive subjection by a tribe of nomad shepherds (the Hyksos), who had only recently been expelled, and partly also perhaps from this other fact that the Egyptians detested the lawless habits of these wandering shepherds.
(3.) Pharaoh was so moved by the fourth plague, that while he refused the demand of Moses, he offered a compromise, granting to the Israelites permission to hold their festival and offer their sacrifices in Egypt. This permission could not be accepted, because Moses said they would have to sacrifice "the abomination of the Egyptians" (Ex. 8:26); i.e., the cow or ox, which all the Egyptians held as sacred, and which they regarded it as sacrilegious to kill.
(4.) Daniel (11:31), in that section of his prophecies which is generally interpreted as referring to the fearful calamities that were to fall on the Jews in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, says, "And they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate." Antiochus Epiphanes caused an altar to be erected on the altar of burnt-offering, on which sacrifices were offered to Jupiter Olympus. (Comp. 1 Macc. 1:57). This was the abomination of the desolation of Jerusalem. The same language is employed in Dan. 9:27 (comp. Matt. 24:15), where the reference is probably to the image-crowned standards which the Romans set up at the east gate of the temple (A.D. 70), and to which they paid idolatrous honours. "Almost the entire religion of the Roman camp consisted in worshipping the ensign, swearing by the ensign, and in preferring the ensign before all other gods." These ensigns were an "abomination" to the Jews, the "abomination of desolation."
This word is also used symbolically of sin in general (Isa. 66:3); an idol (44:19); the ceremonies of the apostate Church of Rome (Rev. 17:4); a detestable act (Ezek. 22:11).
- a-bom-i-na'-shun (piggul, to`ebhah, sheqets (shiqquts)): Three distinct Hebrew words are rendered in the English Bible by "abomination," or "abominable thing," referring (except in Gen 43:32
) to things or practices abhorrent to Yahweh, and opposed to the ritual or moral requirements of His religion. It would be well if these words could be distinguished in translation, as they denote different degrees of abhorrence or loathsomeness.
The word most used for this idea by the Hebrews and indicating the highest degree of abomination is to`ebhah, meaning primarily that which offends the religious sense of a people. When it is said, for example, "The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians," this is the word used; the significance being that the Hebrews were repugnant to the Egyptians as foreigners, as of an inferior caste, and especially as shepherds (Gen 46:34).
The feeling of the Egyptians for the Greeks was likewise one of repugnance. Herodotus (ii.41) says the Egyptians would not kiss a Greek on the mouth, or use his dish, or taste meat cut with the knife of a Greek.
Among the objects described in the Old Testament as "abominations" in this sense are heathen gods, such as Ashtoreth (Astarte), Chemosh, Milcom, the "abominations" of the Zidonians (Phoenicians), Moabites, and Ammonites, respectively (2 Ki 23:13), and everything connected with the worship of such gods. When Pharaoh, remonstrating against the departure of the children of Israel, exhorted them to offer sacrifices to their God in Egypt, Moses said: "Shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians (i.e. the animals worshipped by them which were taboo, to`ebhah, to the Israelites) before their eyes, and will they not stone us?" (Ex 8:26).
It is to be noted that, not only the heathen idol itself, but anything offered to or associated with the idol, all the paraphernalia of the forbidden cult, was called an "abomination," for it "is an abomination to Yahweh thy God" (Dt 7:25,26). The Deuteronomic writer here adds, in terms quite significant of the point of view and the spirit of the whole law: `Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thy house and thus become a thing set apart (cherem = tabooed) like unto it; thou shalt utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is a thing set apart' (tabooed). To`ebhah is even used as synonymous with "idol" or heathen deity, as in Isa 44:19; Dt 32:16; 2 Ki 23:13; and especially Ex 8:22 ff.
Everything akin to magic or divination is likewise an abomination to`ebhah; as are sexual transgressions (Dt 22:5; 23:18; 24:4), especially incest and other unnatural offenses: "For all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you" (Lev 18:27; compare Ezek 8:15). It is to be noted, however, that the word takes on in the later usage a higher ethical and spiritual meaning: as where "divers measures, a great and a small," are forbidden (Dt 25:14-16); and in Proverbs where "lying lips" (12:22), "the proud in heart" (16:5), "the way of the wicked" (15:9), "evil devices" (15:26), and "he that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the righteous" (17:15), are said to be an abomination in God's sight. At last prophet and sage are found to unite in declaring that any sacrifice, however free from physical blemish, if offered without purity of motive, is an abomination: `Bring no more an oblation of falsehood--an incense of abomination it is to me' (Isa 1:13; compare Jer 7:10). "The sacrifice of the wicked" and the prayer of him "that turneth away his ear from hearing the law," are equally an abomination (see Prov 15:8; 21:27; 28:9).
Another word rendered "abomination" in the King James Version is sheqets or shiqquts. It expresses generally a somewhat less degree of horror or religious aversion than [to`ebhah], but sometimes seems to stand about on a level with it in meaning. In Dt 14:3, for example, we have the command, "Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing," as introductory to the laws prohibiting the use of the unclean animals (see CLEAN; UNCLEANNESS), and the word there used is [to`ebhah]. But in Lev 11:10-13,20,23,41,42; Isa 66:17; and in Ezek 8:10 sheqets is the word used and likewise applied to the prohibited animals; as also in Lev 11:43 sheqets is used when it is commanded, "Ye shall not make yourselves abominable." Then sheqets is often used parallel to or together with to`ebhah of that which should be held as detestable, as for instance, of idols and idolatrous practices (see especially Dt 29:17; Hos 9:10; Jer 4:1; 13:27; 16:18; Ezek 11:18-21; 20:7,8). It is used exactly as [to`ebhah] is used as applied to Milcom, the god of the Ammonites, which is spoken of as the detestable thing sheqets of the Ammonites (1 Ki 11:5). Still even in such cases to`ebhah seems to be the stronger word and to express that which is in the highest degree abhorrent.
The other word used to express a somewhat kindred idea of abhorrence and translated "abomination" in the King James Version is piggul; but it is used in the Hebrew Bible only of sacrificial flesh that has become stale, putrid, tainted (see Lev 7:18; 19:7; Ezek 4:14; Isa 65:4). Driver maintains that it occurs only as a "technical term for such state sacrificial flesh as has not been eaten within the prescribed time," and, accordingly, he would everywhere render it specifically "refuse meat." Compare lechem megho'al, "the loaths ome bread" (from ga'al, "to loathe") Mal 1:7. A chief interest in the subject for Christians grows out of the use of the term in the expression "abomination of desolation" (Mt 24:15 and Mk 13:14), which see.
See also ABHOR.
Commentators at the place Rabbinical literature in point. Driver; Weiss; Gratz, Gesch. der Juden, IV, note 15.
George B. Eager