International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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 Genesis 43:32; Genesis 46:34) 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 (Genesis 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 Kings 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?" (Exodus 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" (Deuteronomy 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 Isaiah 44:19 Deuteronomy 32:16 2 Kings 23:13; and especially Exodus 8:22.
Everything akin to magic or divination is likewise an abomination to`ebhah; as are sexual transgressions (Deuteronomy 22:5; Deuteronomy 23:18; Deuteronomy 24:4), especially incest and other unnatural offenses: "For all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you" (Leviticus 18:27; compare Ezekiel 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 (Deuteronomy 25:14-16); and in Proverbs where "lying lips" (Proverbs 12:22), "the proud in heart" (Proverbs 16:5), "the way of the wicked" (Proverbs 15:9), "evil devices" (Proverbs 15:26), and "he that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the righteous" (Proverbs 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' (Isaiah 1:13; compare Jeremiah 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 Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:27; Proverbs 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 Deuteronomy 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 Leviticus 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41, 42, Isaiah 66:17; and in Ezekiel 8:10 sheqets is the word used and likewise applied to the prohibited animals; as also in Leviticus 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 Deuteronomy 29:17 Hosea 9:10 Jeremiah 4:1; Jeremiah 13:27; Jeremiah 16:18 Ezekiel 11:18-21; Ezekiel 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 Kings 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 Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 19:7 Ezekiel 4:14 Isaiah 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") Malachi 1:7. A chief interest in the subject for Christians grows out of the use of the term in the expression "abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15 and Mark 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
ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
des-o-la'-shun: The Hebrew root for abomination is shaqats, "to be filthy," "to loathe," "to abhor," from which is derived shiqquts, "filthy," especially "idolatrous." This word is used to describe specific forms of idolatrous worship that were specially abhorrent, as of the Ammonites (1 Kings 11:5, 7); of the Moabites (1 Kings 11:7 2 Kings 23:13). When Daniel undertook to specify an abomination so surpassingly disgusting to the sense of morality and decency, and so aggressive against everything that was godly as to drive all from its presence and leave its abode desolate, he chose this as the strongest among the several synonyms, adding the qualification "that maketh desolate" (Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11), Septuagint bdel-ug-ma er-e-mo-se-os. The same noun, though in the plural, occurs in Deuteronomy 29:17 2 Kings 23:24; Isaiah 66:3 Jeremiah 4:1; Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 13:27; Jeremiah 32:34 Ezekiel 20:7, 8, 30 Daniel 9:27 Hosea 9:10; Zechariah 9:7. The New Testament equivalent of the noun is bdel-ug-ma = "detestable," i.e. (specially) "idolatrous." Alluding to Daniel, Christ spoke of the "abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15 Mark 13:14).
1. The Historical Background:
Since the invasion of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the Jewish people, both of the Northern and of the Southern kingdom, had been without political independence. From the Chaldeans the rulership of Judea had been transferred to the Persians, and from the Persians, after an interval of 200 years, to Alexander the Great. From the beginning of the Persian sovereignty, the Jews had been permitted to organize anew their religious and political commonwealth, thus establishing a state under the rulership of priests, for the high priest was not only the highest functionary of the cult, but also the chief magistrate in so far as these prerogatives were not exercised by the king of the conquering nation. Ezra had given a new significance to the Torah by having it read to the whole congregation of Israel and by his vigorous enforcement of the law of separation from the Gentiles. His emphasis of the law introduced the period of legalism and finical interpretation of the letter which called forth some of the bitterest invectives of our Saviour. Specialists of the law known as "scribes" devoted themselves to its study and subtle interpretation, and the pious beheld the highest moral accomplishment in the extremely conscientious observance of every precept. But in opposition to this class, there were those who, influenced by the Hellenistic culture, introduced by the conquests of Alexander the Great, were inclined to a more "liberal" policy. Thus, two opposing parties were developed: the Hellenistic, and the party of the Pious, or the Chasidim, chacidhim (Hasidaeans, 1 Maccabees 2:42; 7:13), who held fast to the strict ideal of the scribes. The former gradually came into ascendancy. Judea was rapidly becoming Hellenistic in all phases of its political, social and religious life, and the "Pious" were dwindling to a small minority sect. This was the situation when Antiochus Epiphanes set out to suppress the last vestige of the Jewish cult by the application of brute force.
2. Antiochus Epiphanes:
Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus the Great, became the successor of his brother, Seleucus IV, who had been murdered by his minister, Heliodorus, as king of Syria (175-164 B.C.). He was by nature a despot; eccentric and unreliable; sometimes a spendthrift in his liberality, fraternizing in an affected manner with those of lower station; sometimes cruel and tyrannical, as witness his aggressions against Judea. Polybius (26 10) tells us that his eccentric ideas caused some to speak of him as a man of pure motive and humble character, while others hinted at insanity. The epithet Epiphanes is an abbreviation of theos epiphanes, which is the designation given himself by Antiochus on his coins, and means "the god who appears or reveals himself." Egyptian writers translate the inscription, "God which comes forth," namely, like the burning sun, Horos, on the horizon, thus identifying the king with the triumphal, appearing god.
When Antiochus Epiphanes arose to the throne, Onias III, as high priest, was the leader of the old orthodox party in Judea; the head of the Hellenists was his own brother Jesus, or, as he preferred to designate himself, Jason, this being the Greek form of his name and indicating the trend of his mind. Jason promised the king large sums of money for the transfer of the office of high priest from his brother to himself and the privilege of erecting a gymnasium and a temple to Phallus, and for the granting of the privilege "to enroll the inhabitants of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch." Antiochus gladly agreed to everything. Onias was removed, Jason became high priest, and henceforth the process of Hellenizing Judea was pushed energetically. The Jewish cult was not attacked, but the "legal institutions were set aside, and illegal practices were introduced" (2 Maccabees 4:11). A gymnasium was erected outside the castle; the youth of Jerusalem exercised themselves in the gymnastic art of the Greeks, and even priests left their services at the altar to take part in the contest of the palaestra. The disregard of Jewish custom went so far that many artificially removed the traces of circumcision from their bodies, and with characteristic liberality, Jason even sent a contribution to the sacrifices in honor of Heracles on the occasion of the quadrennial festivities in Tyre.
3. The Suppression of the Jewish Cult:
Under these conditions it is not surprising that Antiochus should have had both the inclination and the courage to undertake the total eradication of the Jewish religion and the establishment of Greek polytheism in its stead. The observance of all Jewish laws, especially those relating to the Sabbath and to circumcision, were forbidden under pain of death. The Jewish cult was set aside, and in all cities of Judea, sacrifices must be brought to the pagan deities. Representatives of the crown everywhere enforced the edict. Once a month a search was instituted, and whoever had secreted a copy of the Law or had observed the rite of circumcision was condemned to death. In Jerusalem on the 15th of Chislev of the year 145 aet Sel, i.e. in December 168 B.C., a pagan altar was built on the Great Altar of Burnt Sacrifices, and on the 25th of Chislev, sacrifice was brought on this altar for the first time (1 Maccabees 1:54, 59). This evidently was the "abomination of desolation." The sacrifice, according to 2 Maccabees was brought to the Olympian Zeus, to whom the temple of Jerusalem had been dedicated. At the feast of Dionysus, the Jews were obliged to march in the Bacchanalian procession, crowned with laurel leaves. Christ applies the phrase to what was to take place at the advance of the Romans against Jerusalem. They who would behold the "abomination of desolation" standing in the holy place, He bids flee to the mountains, which probably refers to the advance of the Roman army into the city and temple, carrying standards which bore images of the Roman gods and were the objects of pagan worship.
Frank E. Hirsch
ABOMINATION, BIRDS OF
Leviticus 11:13-19: "And these ye shall have in abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the gier-eagle, and the osprey, and the kite, and the falcon after its kind, every raven after its kind, and the ostrich, and the night-hawk, and the sea-mew, and the hawk after its kind, and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, and the horned owl, and the pelican, and the vulture, and the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe, and the bat." Deuteronomy 14:12-18 gives the glede in addition.
Each of these birds is treated in order in this work. There are two reasons why Moses pronounced them an abomination for food. Either they had rank, offensive, tough flesh, or they were connected with religious superstition. The eagle, gier-eagle, osprey, kite, glede, falcon, raven, night-hawk, sea-mew, hawk, little owl, cormorant, great owl, horned owl, pelican and vulture were offensive because they were birds of prey or ate carrion or fish until their flesh partook of the odor of their food. Young ostriches have sweet, tender flesh and the eggs are edible also. In putting these birds among the abominations Moses must have been thinking of grown specimens. (Ostriches live to a remarkable age and on account of the distances they cover, and their speed in locomotion, their muscles become almost as hard as bone.)
There is a trace of his early Egyptian training when he placed the stork and the heron on this list. These birds, and the crane as well, abounded in all countries known at that time and were used for food according to the superstitions of different nations. These three were closely related to the ibis which was sacred in Egypt and it is probable that they were protected by Moses for this reason, since they were eaten by other nations at that time and cranes are used for food today by natives of our southeastern coast states and are to be found in the markets of our western coast. The veneration for the stork that exists throughout the civilized world today had its origin in Palestine. Noting the devotion of mated pairs and their tender care for the young the Hebrews named the bird chacidhah, which means kindness. Carried down the history of ages with additions by other nations, this undoubtedly accounts for the story now universal, that the stork delivers newly-born children to their homes; so the bird is loved and protected.
One ancient Roman writer, Cornelius Nepos, recorded that in his time both crane and storks were eaten; storks were liked the better. Later, Pliny wrote that no one would touch a stork, but everyone was fond of crane. In Thessaly it was a capital crime to kill a stork. This change from regarding the stork as a delicacy to its protection by a death penalty merely indicates the hold the characteristics of the bird had taken on people as it became better known, and also the spread of the regard in which it was held throughout Palestine. The hoopoe (which see) was offensive to Moses on account of extremely filthy nesting habits, but was considered a great delicacy when captured in migration by residents of southern Europe.
See also ABOMINATION; BIRDS, UNCLEAN.
BIRDS OF ABOMINATION
See ABOMINATION, BIRDS OF.
DESOLATION, ABOMINATION OF
See ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION.