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What is an abomination?

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An abomination is something that causes hate or disgust. In biblical usage, an abomination is something that God loathes or hates because it is offensive to Him and His character.

The Hebrew words translated “abomination” are often used in association with things like idolatry and false gods (Deuteronomy 17:2–5; 27:15; 29:17; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 32:34; Ezekiel 5:9; 11:18; Hosea 9:10). In 1 Kings 11:5, the god Molech is called “the abomination of the Ammonites” (ESV). The NIV translates it as “the detestable god of the Ammonites.” The point is that God hates the falsehood, impurity, and wickedness of these pagan gods.

Occult practices are also called an abomination in Scripture, as is child sacrifice (Deuteronomy 18:9–12; 20:18; 2 Chronicles 28:3). Other abominations in God’s sight are ungodly sexual relationships like homosexuality and adultery (Leviticus 18:22–29; 20:13; Deuteronomy 24:4), cross-dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5), imperfect sacrifices (Deuteronomy 17:1), dishonest business dealings (Deuteronomy 25:13–16; Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 23), wickedness (Proverbs 15:9, 26), injustice (Proverbs 17:15), turning a deaf ear to God’s instruction (Proverbs 28:9), and hypocritical offerings from the unrepentant (Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 1:13). Most of the references to that which is abominable or detestable come in God’s Law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in prophecies declaring God’s judgment against Israel, and in Proverbs.

Proverbs 6 contains a list of seven things that God calls an abomination: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16–19, ESV).

In Luke 16:15 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (ESV). The context of Jesus’ statement is a rebuke of the Pharisees’ love of money. He had just been teaching that a person cannot serve two masters and that serving God and serving money are mutually exclusive (verses 13–14). The Pharisees responded with ridicule, showing the blindness of a heart that revels in what God calls an abomination.

Titus 1:16 says that false teachers may “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Jesus and Daniel both predicted the abomination of desolation that would corrupt the holy place of the temple (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27). Also related to the end times, the whore of Babylon is pictured as holding “a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries” (Revelation 17:4). She is said to be the mother of all the abominations on earth (Revelation 17:5) and identified as “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). This city with all of its loathsome acts will be destroyed (verses 16–17).

From idolatry to unfair scales to ungodly sexual relationships to wickedness of various kinds, abominations separate people from God. Really, all sin (missing the mark of God’s perfection) can be considered an abomination. All sin separates us from God and is detestable to Him (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Proverbs 15:9). God’s hatred of sin makes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross all the more remarkable. It was at the cross that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). As He suffered and died for our sin, Jesus could identify with the psalmist: “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6). Jesus took our abominations upon Himself and gave us the gift of His righteousness in return. All who put their trust in Him will be saved.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022