Abomination, towebhah or toebah in Hebrew, Never Refers To Homosexuality In The Bible

tôw'êbhâh - abomination (Strong's #8441)


Abomination or towebhah in Hebrew.
The word tôw'êbhâh (Strong's #8441, x117) is consistently translated by the strong word "abomination" in all its KJV uses.

It is first used not of God declaring a thing forbidden but of the Egyptians refusing to dine with Joseph's brothers, "for that is an abomin@tion to them" (Genesis 43:32), along with shepherds, especially Hebrew ones (Genesis 46:34).

Moses first mentions the term (Exodus 8:26) when he is asked to sacrifice to God in Egypt, presumably a sheep, a beast that was sacred to the Egyptians, the ram being one of their deities, an interpretation accepted by the Aramaic Targum of Jonathan.

Towebhah as used in the Bible, simply does NOT indicate homosexuality.

Probably the most well known use is in modern theological exchanges concerning homosexuality in which reference is often made to Leviticus 18:22 (cf. 20:13),

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomin@tion [toebah or towebhah]."

Verses 26 and 27, however, refer to many different abomin@tions from the preceding narrative (vv.3-21) as things done in the land of Canaan or Egypt, resulting in the defilement of the land. These other abomin@tions include sex or marriage with uncles, aunts, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, mother and daughter, two sisters, sex during a [woman's] period, marital adultery, bestiality, and child sacrifice.

The root verb [for towebhah] is tâ'abh (Strong's #8581, x22) although some have argued for the verb to be derived from the noun, against Hebrew's more common converse practice. They occur together in the verb's first instance,

"Nor shall you bring an abomination (tôw'êbhâh) into your house, lest you be doomed to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest (shâqats) it and utterly abhor (tâ'abh) it, for it is an accursed thing." (Deuteronomy 7:26)


Believe what the Bible says, not someone's anti-gay interpretation of the Bible.
The translation "utterly" indicates a doubling of the Hebrew verb, an Hebraic way of indicating intensity. shâqats (Strong's #8262, x7) is a synonym of tâ'abh. The previous verse (Deu 7:25) uses the noun and ties it in with carved idols of pagan gods.

Later in Deuteronomy 23:7, the verb is used again to caution Israel against abhoring a person rather than a thing, particularly a brother Edomite (now an Arab) or an Egyptian (pagan) because she was once a stranger in their land.

Elijah sentences Ahab for his wickedness because he "behaved very abominably," which sounds like a scolded child, but this was serious - and the real crime was his "following idols" (1 Kings 21:26).

Job uses the verb 4 times not in relation to any idolatry but to his person being rejected and stood apart from by his friends (Job 9:31; 15:16; 19:19; 30:10). In some instances this is with the implication that he is now physically filthy and plagued with boils, so that even his clothes "abhor" him.

towebhah In Ezekiel

Ezekiel 16:25 seems to connect the idolatry with harlotry, the prostitution not being inherently abominable but paired with the pagan building of

"high places at the head of every road, and made your beauty to be abhorred. You spread your legs [yes, that is what the Hebrew actually says, but the English versions are more polite!] to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your acts of harlotry." The RSV and NRSV actually render the verb as "prostitute."

Ezekiel 16:50-52 uses tâ'abh and tôw'êbhâh repeatedly in the context (v.49) of the sin of Sodom, but not the oft cited reputed "abomination" of Sodom's homosexuality for Sodom's sin is here explicitly pride, greed, injustice and lack of concern for the poor. Social rather than sexual sin.

Nowhere is Sodom's sin seen as anything other than their social sins or inhospitality to strangers that may have included forced physical relations which Jude 1:7 describes as a desire for not homo but hetero "strange/other" flesh.


The Bible never says abomination = homosexuality.
Ezekiel has 41 references to tôw'êbhâh more than twice that of any other biblical book. Proverbs has 20. Deuteronomy has 16 spread throughout its chapters and Leviticus just 6 (5 in chapter 18:22-30; and 20:13).

Amongst Proverbs' famous uses [of towebhah] are:

"These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him" (6:16),

which are interestingly interpreted by the early rabbis (not renowned for their toleration of homosexuality or sexual sin) as (i) Haughty eyes, (ii) A lying tongue, and (iii) Hands that shed innocent blood; (iv) A heart that devises wicked thoughts, (v) Feet that are swift in running to evil; (vi) A false witness that breathes out lies, and (vii) He that sows discord among brethren [considered to be the most heinous] (Midrash, Leviticus Rabbah 16.1). The adulterer is sometimes added to the list for his sowing discord between a man and his wife.

Just to be on a par with any sexual sin, the Lord equally hates dishonest scales, perverse hearts, lying lips, pride, injustice, dodgy traders (Proverbs 11:1, 20; 12:22; 16:5; 17:15; 20:10,23).

Amos 5:10 parallels sinners' (sânê’ "hatred" of justice and correction with tâ'abh "abhoring" the upright. Similarly, Micah 3:9 speaks of Israel's "abhoring" justice. In these situations tâ'abh seems to mean "hate," especially to perversely hate that which is good.

Malachi 2:11 speaks of "an abomination" being

"committed... for Judah has profaned the LORD's holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god."

Again this passage pairs the abomination with intermarriage leading to foreign idolatry, interestingly using a word for marriage bâ'al (Strong's #1166, x16) that is the root verb related to the word for the pagan god, Ba'al (Strong's #1168, x80).

A Common Sense Conclusion



Molech Idol, worship of Molech was prohibited in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
Thus, tâ'abh and tôw'êbhâh, sometimes spelled toebah or towebah, seem to mean nothing more that hate, though often associated with idolatrous practices, more so than a general critique of alleged sexual deviancies which were lambasted more for their relation to foreign practice, pagan worship and associated destruction of the social and family structure.

This Hebrew Thoughts article is Copyright 2003 © by Jonathan Went. http://www.biblicalhebrew.com

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