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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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This word describes generally any object of detestation or disgust (Leviticus 18:22; Deuteronomy 7:25); and is applied to an impure or detestable action (Ezekiel 22:11; Ezekiel 33:26; Malachi 2:11, etc.); to anything causing a ceremonial pollution (Genesis 43:32; Genesis 46:34; Deuteronomy 14:3); but more especially to idols (Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Deuteronomy 7:26; 1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13); and also to food offered to idols (Zechariah 9:7); and to filth of every kind (Nahum 3:6). Especial attention has been drawn to two or three of the texts in which the word occurs, on account of their peculiar interest or difficulty. The first is Genesis 43:32 : 'The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.' The primary reason of this seems to have been that the cow, which was a sacred animal in Egypt, was eaten by the Jews and most other nations, and therefore the Egyptians considered themselves ceremonially defiled if they ate with any strangers.

The second passage is Genesis 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.' And the reason is added: 'That ye may dwell in the land of Goshen—for every shepherd is an abomination 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 nomad shepherds, whom the Egyptians held in peculiar abhorrence. For this aversion two reasons are given: one is the grievous oppression which the inhabitants of Lower and Middle Egypt had suffered from a tribe of nomad shepherds, to whom they had for many years been subject, who had only of late been expelled. 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.

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 which Moses objects, that they should have to sacrifice to the Lord 'the abomination of the Egyptians,' who would thereby be highly exasperated against them (Exodus 8:25-26). 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.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Abomination'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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