Abomination - Biblical Cyclopedia



(פַּגּוּל, piggul', filthy stench, Le 7:18; "abominable," Le 19:7; Isa 65:4; Eze 4:14; שׁקּוּוֹ, shikkuts', De 29:17; 1Ki 11:5,7; 2Ki 23:13,24; 2Ch 15:8; Isa 66:3; Jer 4:1; Jer 7:30; Jer 13:27; Jer 16:18; Jer 32:34; Eze 5:11; Eze 7:20; Eze 11:18,21; Eze 20:7-8,30; Eze 37:23; Da 9:27; Da 11:31; Da 12:11; Ho 10:10; Na 3:6; Zec 9:7; or שֶׁקֶוֹ, shekets, filth, Le 7:21; Le 11:10-13,20,23,41-42; Isa 66:17; Eze 8:10; elsewhere תּוֹעֵבָה, toebah', abhorrence; Sept. βδέλυγμα, and so N.T., Mt 24:14; Mr 13:14; Lu 16:15; Re 17:4-5; Re 21:27), any object of detestation or disgust (Le 18:22; De 7:25); and applied to an impure or detestable action (Eze 22:11; Eze 30:26; Mal 2:11, etc.); to any thing causing a ceremonial pollution (Ge 43:32; Ge 46:34; De 14:3); but more especially to idols (Le 18:22; Le 20:13; De 7:26; 1Ki 11:5,7; 2Ki 23:13); and also to food offered to idols (Zec 9:7); and to filth of every kind (Na 3:6). There are several texts in which the word occurs, to which, on account of their peculiar interest or difficulty, especial attention has been drawn. SEE IDOLATRY.

The first is Ge 43:32: "The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination (תּוֹעֵבָה) unto the Egyptians." This is best explained by the fact that the Egyptians considered themselves ceremonially defiled if they ate with any strangers. The primary reason appears to have been that the cow was the most sacred animal among the Egyptians, and the eating of it was abhorrent to them; whereas it was both eaten and sacrificed by the Jews and most other nations, who, on that account, were abominable in their eyes. It was for this, as we learn from Herodotus (2. 41), that no Egyptian man or woman would kiss a Greek on the mouth, or would use the cleaver of a Greek, or his spit, or his dish, or would taste the flesh of even clean beef (that is, of oxen) that had been cut with a Grecian carving-knife. It is true that Wilkinson (Anc. Egyptians, 3, 358) ascribes this to the disgust of the fastidiously-clean Egyptians at the comparatively foul habits of their Asiatic and other neighbors; but it seems scarcely fair to take the facts of the father of history, and ascribe them to any other than the very satisfactory reasons which he assigns for them. We collect, then, that it was as foreigners, not pointedly as Hebrews, that it was an abomination for the Egyptians to eat with the brethren of Joseph. The Jews themselves subsequently exemplified the same practice; for in later times they held it unlawful to eat or drink with foreigners in their houses, or even to enter their dwellings (Joh 18:28; Ac 10:28; Ac 11:3); for not only were the houses of Gentiles unclean (Mishna, Ohaloth, 18:7), but they themselves rendered unclean those in whose house they lodged (Maimonides, Mishcab a Morheb. 12:12) which was carrying the matter farther than the Egyptians (see also Mitsvoth Tora, 148). We do not trace these instances, however, before the Captivity (see J. D. Winkler, Animadvers. Philol. 2:175 sq.). SEE UNCLEANNESS.

Bible concordance for ABOMINATION.

The second passage is Ge 46:34. Joseph is telling his brethren how to conduct themselves when introduced to the king of Egypt; and he instructs them that when asked concerning their occupation they should answer, "Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we and also our fathers." This last clause has emphasis, as showing that they were hereditary nomade pastors; and the reason is added, "That ye may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination (תּוֹעֵבָה) unto the Egyptians." In the former instance they were "an abomination" as strangers, with whom the Egyptians could not eat; here they are a further abomination as nomade shepherds, whom it was certain that the Egyptians, for that reason, would locate in the border land of Goshen, and not in the heart of the country. That it was nomade shepherds, or Bedouins, and not simply shepherds, who were abominable to the Egyptians, is evinced by the fact that the Egyptians themselves paid great attention to the rearing of cattle. This is shown by their sculptures and paintings, as well as by the offer of this very king of Egypt to make such of Jacob's sons as were men of activity "overseers of his cattle" (47:6). For this aversion to nomade pastors two reasons are given; 'and it is not necessary that we should choose between them, for both of them were, it is most likely, concurrently true. One is, that the inhabitants of Lower and Middle Egypt had previously been invaded by, and had remained for many years subject to, a tribe of nomade shepherds, who had only of late been expelled, and a native dynasty restored-the grievous oppression of the Egyptians by these pastoral invaders, and the insult with which their religion had been treated. SEE HYKSOS. The other reason, not necessarily superseding the former, but rather strengthening it, is that the Egyptians, as a settled and civilized people, detested the lawless and predatory habits of the wandering shepherd tribes, which then, as now, bounded the valley of the Nile and occupied the Arabias — a state of feeling which modern travelers describe as still existing between the Bedouin and fellahs of modern Egypt, and indeed between the same classes everywhere in Turkey, Persia, and the neighboring regions (see Critici Sac. Thes. Nov. 1, 220). SEE SHEPHERD.

The third marked use of this word again occurs in Egypt. The king tells the Israelites to offer to their god the sacrifices which they desired, without going to the desert for that purpose. To this Moses objects that they should have to sacrifice to the Lord '"the abomination (תּוֹעֵבָה) ' of the Egyptians," who would thereby be highly exasperated against them (Ex 8:26). A reference back to the first explanation shows that this "abomination" was the cow, the only animal which all the Egyptians agreed in holding sacred; whereas, in the great sacrifice which the Hebrews proposed to hold, not only would heifers be offered, but the people would feast upon their flesh (see J. C. Dietric, Antiquitates, p. 136). SEE APIS.

Definition of abomination

A fourth expression of marked import is the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION (שַׁקּיּוֹ משֹׁמֵם, Da 11:31; Sept. βδέλυγμα ἠφανισμένον, or שַׁקּיּוֹ שֹׁמֵם, Da 12:11; Sept. τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως, literally, filthiness of the desolation, or, rather, desolating filthiness), which, without doubt, means the idol or idolatrous apparatus which the desolater of Jerusalem should establish in the holy places (see Hitzig, in loc.). This appears to have been (in its first application) a prediction of the pollution of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, who caused an idolatrous altar to be built on the altar of burnt offerings, whereon unclean things were offered to Jupiter Olympius, to whom the temple itself was dedicated (see Hoffman, in loc.). Josephus distinctly refers to this as the accomplishment of Daniel's prophecy; as does the author of the first book of Maccabees, in declaring that "they set up the abomination of desolation (τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως) upon the altar" (1 Maccabees 1:59.; 6:7; 2 Maccabees 6:2-5; Joseph. Ant. 12:5, 4; 12:7, 6). The phrase is quoted by Jesus in the same form (Mt 24:15), and is applied by him to what was to take place at the advance of the Romans against Jerusalem. They who saw "the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" were enjoined to "flee to the mountains." This may with probability be referred to the advance of the Roman army against the city with their image-crowned standards, to which idolatrous honors were paid, and which the Jews regarded as idols. The unexpected retreat and discomfiture of the Roman forces afforded such as were mindful of our Savior's prophecy an opportunity of obeying the injunction which it contained. That the Jews themselves regarded the Roman standards as abominations is shown by the fact that, in deference to their known aversion, the Roman soldiers quartered in Jerusalem forbore to introduce their standards into the city; and on one occasion, when Pilate gave orders that they should be carried in by night, so much stir was made in the matter by the principal inhabitants that, for the sake of peace, the governor was eventually induced to give up the point (Joseph. Ant. 18:3, 1). Those, however, who suppose that "the holy place" of the text must be the temple itself, may find the accomplishment of the prediction in the fact that, when the city had been taken by the Romans and the holy house destroyed, the soldiers brought their standards in due form to the temple, set them up over the eastern gate, and offered sacrifice to them (Joseph. War, 6:6, 1); for (as Havercamp notes from Tertullian, Apol. c. 16:162) "almost the entire religion of the Roman camp consisted in worshipping the ensigns, swearing by the ensigns, and in preferring the ensigns before all the other gods." Nor was this the last appearance of "the abomination of desolation in the holy place;" for not only did Hadrian, with studied insult to the Jews, set up the figure of a boar over the Bethlehem gate of the city (AElia Capitolina) which rose upon the site and ruins of Jerusalem (Euseb. Chron. 1. 1, p. 45, ed. 1658), but he erected a temple to Jupiter upon the site of the Jewish temple (Dion Cass. 49. 12), and caused an image of himself to be set up in the part which answered to the most holy place (Nicephorus Callist. 3:24). This was a consummation of all the abominations which the iniquities of the Jews brought upon their holy place (see Auberlen, Daniel and the Revelation, p. 161 sq.). SEE JERUSALEM.

In Da 9:27, the phrase is somewhat different and peculiar: יעִל כּנŠ שַׁקּוּצַים משֹׁמֵם, which (as pointed in the text) must be rendered, And upon the wing of filthinesses that desolates, or (there shall be) a desolater; but the Sept. has ἐπὶ τὸ ἱερὸν βδέλυγμα τῶν ἐρημώσεων (v. r. τῆς ἐρημώσεως) ἔσται, Vulg. et erit in templo abominatio desolationis; a sense that is followed by Christ in his allusion (Mt 24:15), and which may be attained by a slight change of pointing (כָּנָŠ in the "absolute"), and so rendering, "And upon the wing (of the sacred edifice there shall be) filthinesses, even a desolater." Rosenmüller (Scholia in Vet. Test. in loc.) understands the "wing" (כָּנָŠ) to signify the hostile army or battalion detached for that purpose (a sense corresponding to the Latin ala), at the head of which the proud Gentile general should enter the city. Stuart, on the other hand (Commentary on Daniel, in loc.), likewise interpreting the whole passage as denoting exclusively the pollution of the temple caused by Antiochus, translates the verse in question thus, "And over the winged-fowl of abominations shall be a waster," and applies the "wing" (כָּנָŠ, i. q. "fowl," in our version "overspreading") to a "statue of Jupiter Olympius erected in the temple; and this statue, as is well known, usually stood over an eagle at its feet with wide-spread wings." Both these interpretations, however, appear too fanciful. It is preferable to render כָּנָŠ, with Gesenius (Thesaur. Heb. p. 698), First (Hebrews Handw. s.v.), and the marginal translation, a battlement, i.e. of the temple, like πτερύγιον, in Mt 4:5; both words meaning literally a wing, and applied in each case to a corner or summit of the wall inclosing the temple. Neither can we so easily dispose of our Savior's reference to this prophecy, since he speaks of it as about to be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. It appears to tally completely with that event in all its particulars, and to have had at most but a primary and typical fulfillment in the case of Antiochus (q.v.). (For the dates involved in this coincidence, see the Meth. Quar. Review, July, 1850, p. 494 sq.) SEE SEVENTY WEEKS. The distinction attempted by some (Alford and Olshausen, in loc.) between the events referred to in this passage and in Lu 21:20, is nugatory, for they are obviously parallel (see Strong's Harmony, § 123). Meyer (in loc.) thinks the pollution designated was but "the horrible desolation by the Romans of the temple area generally," but the terms are more explicit than this. The allusion cannot in any case be to a profanation of the sacred precincts by the Jews themselves, for the excesses of the Zealots (q.v.) during the final siege (Josephus, War, 4:3, 7) were never directed to the introduction of idolatry there; whereas the first act of heathen occupancy was the erection of the standards crowned with the bird of victory — a circumstance that may be hinted at in the peculiar term "wing" here employed (see F. Nolan, Warburton Lect. p. 183). SEE BANNER.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

A still more important difference among commentators, as to the meaning of the expression in question, has respect to the point, whether the abomination, which somehow should carry along with it the curse of desolation, ought to be understood of the idolatrous and corrupt practices which should inevitably draw down desolating inflictions of vengeance, or of the heathen powers and weapons of war that should be the immediate instruments of executing them. The following are the reasons assigned for understanding the expression of the former:

1. By far the most common use of the term abomination or abominations, when referring to spiritual things, and especially to things involving severe judgments and sweeping desolation, is in respect to idolatrous and other foul corruptions. It was the pollution of the first temple, or the worship connected with it by such things, which in a whole series of passages is described as the abominations that provoked God to lay it in ruins (2Ki 21:2-13; Jer 7:10-14; Eze 5:11; Eze 7:8-9,20-23). And our Lord very distinctly intimated, by referring on another occasion to some of these passages, that as the same wickedness substantially was lifting itself up anew, the same retributions of evil might certainly be expected to chastise them (Mt 21:13).

2. When reference is made to the prophecy in Daniel it is coupled with a word, "Whoso readeth let him understand," which seems evidently to point to a profound spiritual meaning in the prophecy, such as thoughtful and serious minds alone could apprehend. But this could only be the case if abominations in the moral sense were meant; for the defiling and desolating effect of heathen armies planting themselves in the holy place was what a child might perceive. Such dreadful and unseemly intruders were but the outward signs of the real abominations, which cried for vengeance in the ear of heaven. The compassing of Jerusalem with armies, therefore, mentioned in Lu 21:20, ready to bring the desolation, is not to be regarded as the same with the abomination of desolation; it indicated a farther stage of matters.

3. The abominations which were the cause of the desolations are ever spoken of as springing up from within, among the covenant people themselves, not as invasions from without. They are so represented in Daniel also (Da 11:30,32; Da 12:9-10); and that the Jews themselves, the better sort of them at least, so understood the matter, is plain from 1 Maccabees 1:54-57, where, with reference to the two passages of Daniel just noticed, the heathen-inclined party in Israel are represented, in the time of Antiochus, as the real persons who "set up the abomination of desolation and built idol altars;" comp. also 2 Maccabees 4:15-17. (See Hengstenberg on the Genuineness of Daniel, ch. 3, § 3; and Christology, at Da 9:27, with the authorities there referred to.) These arguments, however, seem to be outweighed by the conclusive historical fact that the material ensigns of paganism were actually erected both by the Syrian and Roman conquerors in the place in question, and in so plainly physical a prediction, it is most natural to suppose that both Daniel and our Lord intended to refer to this palpable circumstance. SEE DESOLATION.

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