Abomination (from Latin abominare, "to deprecate as an ill omen") is an English term used to translate the Biblical Hebrew terms shiqquwts ("shiqqûts") and sheqets, which are derived from shâqats, or the terms תֹּועֵבָה, tōʻēḇā or to'e'va (noun) or ta'ev (verb). An abomination in English is that which is exceptionally loathsome, hateful, sinful, wicked, or vile.
The Biblical words usually translated as "abomination" do not always convey the same sense of moral exceptionalism as the English term does today, as it often may signify that which is forbidden or unclean according to the religion (especially sheqets). Linguistically in this case, it may be closer in meaning to the Polynesian term taboo or tapu, signifying that which is forbidden, and should not be eaten, and or not touched, and which sometimes was a capital crime. The word most often translated "abomination" to denote grave moral offenses is Tōʻēḇā. This article examines the term as it is used in English translations of the Bible, and also the actual senses of the words which are being translated into this term in English.
The term shiqquwts is translated abomination by almost all translations of the Bible. The similar words, sheqets, and shâqats, are almost exclusively used for dietary violations.
The most often used but different Hebrew term, tōʻēḇā, is also translated as abomination in the Authorized King James Version, and sometimes in the NASB. Many modern versions of the Bible (including the NIV and NET) translate it detestable; the NAB translates it loathsome. It is mainly used to denote idolatry; and in many other cases it refers to inherently evil things such as illicit sex, lying, murder, deceit, etc.; and for unclean foods.
Another word which can signify that which is abhorred is zâ‛am. There are less used Hebrew words with a similar conveyance, as well as Greek terms for such.
Analysis of the term
Shiqquwts is used in the following ways:
- In Daniel's prophecies in Daniel 11:31 (cf. 12:11), it is generally interpreted as referring to the fearful calamities that were to fall on the Jews in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, saying "And they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate." Jerome, and most of the Christian fathers, suppose that the reference is to Antiochus as the type of Antichrist, and that the description passes from the type to the antitype. Idolatry is presented as the chief sin in the Bible, and shiqquwts is often used to describe such.
- In his campaign of Hellenization, Antiochus caused an altar to be erected on the altar for burnt-offerings of the Second Temple, on which sacrifices were offered to Zeus Olympios. (Comp. 1 Maccabees 1:54). Following the wording of Daniel 9:27, this may have been the abomination of desolation of Jerusalem.
- sinful sacrifices (Isaiah 66:3)
- idolatry (Deuteronomy 29:17, Ezekiel 20:7,8, 1Kings 11:5-7, Jeremiah 13:27)
- witchcraft (2 Kings 23:24)
The word sheqets is used with eating:
- seafood that lacks fins and scales (Leviticus 11:10-12)
- all insects except for locust, crickets, and grasshoppers (Leviticus 11:20-23, Leviticus 11:41)
- eagles, ossifrage, and the osprey (Leviticus 11:13
Shâqats is rendered in the KJV as follows:
- abominable (Leviticus 11:43, Leviticus 20:25)
- abomination (Leviticus 11:11, Leviticus 11:13)
- abhorred (Psalms 22:24)
- detest (Deuteronomy 7:26)
Tōʻēḇā is used in the following ways:
- Every shepherd was "an abomination" unto the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34).
- 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" (Exodus 8:26); i.e., the cow or ox, which all the Egyptians held as sacred and so regarded as sacrilegious to kill.
- Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things which are also abominations: "haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers."
Tōʻēḇā is also used in Jewish (and Christian Old Testament) scriptures to refer to:
- idolatry or idols (Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 13:14, Isaiah 44:19)
- illicit sex (Ezekiel 16:22,58, Ezekiel 22:11, Ezekiel 33:26)
- illicit marriage (Deuteronomy 24:2-4)
- male prostitution and/or other male homosexual acts (see Homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible) and (collectively) heterosexual immorality (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 18:27-30, Leviticus 20:13)
- temple prostitution (1Kings 14:24)
- offerings from the above (Deuteronomy 23:18)
- child sacrifice (Jeremiah 32:35)
- cross-dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5)
- cheating in the market by using rigged weights (Deuteronomy 25:13-19, Proverbs 11:1)
- dishonesty (Proverbs 12:22)
- dietary violations (Deuteronomy 14:3)
- stealing, murder, and adultery, breaking covenants (Jeremiah 7:9,10)
- usury, violent robbery, murder, oppressing the poor and needy, etc. (Ezekiel 18:10-13)
Tâ‛ab is rendered the following ways in the KJV
- abhor, 9 Deu_7:26, Deu_23:7 (2), Job_9:31, Job_30:10, Psa_5:6, Psa_119:163, Amo_5:10, Mic_3:9;
- abominable, 6 1Ch_21:6, Job_15:16, Psa_53:1 (2), Isa_14:19, Eze_16:52;
- abhorred, 3 Job_19:19, Psa_106:40, Eze_16:25;
- abhorreth, 2 Psa_107:18, Isa_49:7;
- abominably, 1 1Ki_21:26;
- committed, 1 Eze_16:52.
- Fire and brimstone
- Leviticus 18
- The Bible and homosexuality
- Religion and homosexuality
- Total depravity
- Hebrew/English dictionaries. Strong's Concordance of the Bible.
- "inherently evil": things, words, deeds which of their very nature ["intrinsic property"] are always harmful, degrading, debasing, dehumanizing or lethal to the human person (but frequently deemed by some opportunists to be most useful and convenient, thinking "the end always justifies the means") and which, by extension, are always harmful and eventually lethal to the nature and stability of human culture and society--"evil". Biblical references: Leviticus 18:6-30; Leviticus 20. Deuteronomy 12:29-31; 23:17-19; 25:13-16; 27:16-25. Compare Romans 1:23; 3:8; 13:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21.
- Albert Barnes commentary
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- bibletab.com/a/abomination.htm Bible concordance for the term