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Three Hebrew words connote abomination: תּוֹעֵבָה (toʿevah), שֶׁקֶץ (shekeẓ, sheqeẓ) or שִׁקּוּץ (shikkuẓ, shiqquẓ), and פִּגּוּל (piggul); toʿevah is the most important of this group. It appears in the Bible 116 times as a noun and 23 times as a verb and has a wide variety of applications, ranging from food prohibitions (Deut. 14:3), idolatrous practices (Deut. 12:31; 13:15), and magic (Deut. 18:12) to sex offenses (Lev. 18:22 ff.) and ethical wrongs (Deut. 25:14–16; Prov. 6:16–19). Common to all these usages is the notion of irregularity, that which offends the accepted order, ritual, or moral. It is incorrect to arrange the toʿevah passages according to an evolutionary scheme and thereby hope to demonstrate that the term took on ethical connotations only in post-Exilic times. For in Proverbs, where the setting is exclusively ethical and universal but never ritual or national, toʿevah occurs mainly in the oldest, i.e., pre-Exilic, passages of the book (18 times in ch. 10–29; 3 in the remaining chapter). Moreover, Ezekiel, who has no peer in ferreting out cultic sins, uses toʿevah as a generic term for all aberrations detestable to God, including purely ethical offenses (e.g., 18:12, 13, 24). Indeed, there is evidence that toʿevah originated not in the cult, and certainly not in prophecy, but in wisdom literature. This is shown not only by its clustering in the oldest levels of Proverbs but also in its earliest biblical occurrence where the expression toʿavat Miẓrayim (Gen. 43:32; 46:34; Ex. 8:22, ascribed to the J source) refers to specific contraventions of ancient Egyptian norms. Furthermore, Egyptian has a precise equivalent to toʿevah, and it occurs in similar contexts, e.g., "Thus arose the abomination of the swine for Horus' sake" (for a Canaanite-Phoenician parallel, note tʿbt ʿštrt – Tabnit of Sidon (third century B.C.E.) – in Pritchard, Texts, 505). Thus the sapiential background of the term in the ancient Near East is fully attested. True, toʿevah predominates in Deuteronomy (16 times) and Ezekiel (43 times), but both books are known to have borrowed terms from wisdom literature (cf. Deut. 25:13 ff., and Prov. 11:1; 20:23) and transformed them to their ideological needs. The noun sheqeẓ is found in only four passages where it refers to tabooed animal flesh (e.g., Lev. 11:10–43). However, the verb שקץ, found seven times, is strictly a synonym of תעב(e.g., Deut. 7:26; the noun may also have had a similar range). Shiqquẓ, on the other hand, bears a very specific meaning: in each of its 28 occurrences it refers to illicit cult objects. Piggul is an even more precise, technical term denoting sacrificial flesh not eaten in the allotted time (Lev. 7:18; 19:7); though in nonlegal passages it seems to have a wider sense (Ezek. 4:14; cf. Isa. 65:4). According to the rabbis (Sifra 7:18, etc.) the flesh of a sacrifice was considered a piggul if the sacrificer, at the time of the sacrifice, had the intention of eating the flesh at a time later than the allotted time. Under these circumstances, the sacrifice was not considered accepted by God and even if the sacrificer ate of it in the alloted time he was still liable to the punishment of *karet , i.e., the flesh was considered piggul by virtue of the intention of the sacrificer. This is an extension of the biblical text according to which he would be liable for punishment only if he ate it at the inappropriate time. The rabbis based their interpretation on the biblical passage "It shall not be acceptable" (Lev. 7:18). They reasoned: How could the Lord having already accepted the sacrifice then take back His acceptance after it was later eaten at the wrong time.


Humbert, in: ZAW, 72 (1960), 217–37.

[Jacob Milgrom]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.