What is an Abomination?                                                                                by Jack Kettler


In this study, the word abomination will be considered as to its meaning, along with its Old and New Testaments usage and the Hebrew and Greek word origins. A commentary on the Old Testament and a New Testament commentary will be consulted. A concise overview of the word abomination will come from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Finally, the study will conclude with a definition from two sources, one contemporary, and the other classic.   


“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination (תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת) to the LORD, But the words of the pure are pleasant.” (Proverbs 15:26)


Strong’s Lexicon:



תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת (tō·w·‘ă·ḇaṯ)

Noun - feminine singular construct

Strong's Hebrew 8441: 1) a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable 1a) in ritual sense (of unclean food, idols, mixed marriages) 1b) in ethical sense (of wickedness etc.)”


From the Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 15:26:


“Verse 26. - The thoughts of the wicked (or, evil devices) are an abomination to the Lord. Although the Decalogue, by forbidding coveting, showed that God's Law touched the thought of the heart as well as the outward action, the idea here refers to wicked plans or designs, rather than emphatically to the secret movements of the mind. These have been noticed in ver. 11. But the words of the pure are pleasant words; literally, pure are words of pleasantness; i.e. words of soothing, comforting tone are, not an abomination to the Lord, as are the devices of the wicked, but they are pure in a ceremonial sense, as it were, a pure and acceptable offering. Revised Version, pleasant words are pure. Vulgate, “Speech pure and pleasant is approved by him” - which is a paraphrase of the clause. Septuagint, “The words of the pure are honoured (σεμναί).” Proverbs 15:26” (1)


“And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination (βδέλυγμα) in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)


Strong’s Lexicon:


“[is] detestable

βδέλυγμα (bdelygma)

Noun - Nominative Neuter Singular

Strong's Greek 946: An abominable thing, an accursed thing. From bdelusso; a detestation, i.e. idolatry.”


From Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers on Luke 16:15:


“(15) Ye are they which justify yourselves before men. — The character described is portrayed afterwards more fully in the parable of Luke 18:9-14. The word there used, “this man went down to his house justified rather than the other,” is obviously a reference to what is reported here. They forgot, in their self-righteousness and self-vindication, that they stood before God as the Searcher of all hearts.

That which is highly esteemed among men . . .—Literally, that which is high, or lifted up, among men. The word is at once wider and more vivid than the English.

Abomination . . .—The word is the same as in “the abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15), that which causes physically nausea and loathing. The word seems chosen as the expression of a divine scorn and indignation, which answered, in part, to their “derision,” and was its natural result. (Comp. the bold language of Psalm 2:4, Proverbs 1:26, Revelation 3:16.)” (2)


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, a summary of abomination:




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” (3)


In conclusion:


How is abomination defined?


“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.” - Abomination (Bible) - Wikipedia



KJV Dictionary Definition: abominable:


“ABOM'INABLE, a. See Abominate.


1. Very hateful; detestable; lothesome.


2. This word is applicable to whatever is odious to the mind or offensive to the senses.


3. Unclean. Levit. vli.



“ABOM'INABLENESS, n. The quality or state of being very odious; hatefulness.





1. Very odiously; detestably; sinfully. 1Kings xxi.


2. In vulgar language, extremely, excessively.



“ABOM'INATE, v.t. L. abomino, supposed to be formed by ab and omen; to deprecate as ominous; may the Gods avert the evil.


To hate extremely; to abhor; to detest



“ABOM'INATED, pp. Hated utterly, detested; abhorred.



“ABOM'INATING, ppr. Abhorring; hating extremely.





1. Extreme hatred; detestation.


2. The object of detestation, a common signification in scripture.


The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. Prov. xv.


3. Hence, defilement, pollution, in a physical sense, or evil doctrines and practices, which are moral defilements, idols and idolatry, are called abominations. The Jews were an abomination to the Egyptians; and the sacred animals of the Egyptians were an abomination to the Jews. The Roman army is called the abomination of desolation. Mat. 24:13. In short, whatever is an object of extreme hatred, is called an abomination.” (4)


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Proverbs, Vol. 9., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 295.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Luke, Vol.6, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 322.

3.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for 'ABOMINATIO,'” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 15-16.

4.      Definitions from Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com