Toevah: What Is Abomination?

(כב) וְאֶ֨ת־זָכָ֔ר לֹ֥א תִשְׁכַּ֖ב מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֑ה תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה הִֽוא׃

(22) [God says:] And with a male you shall not lie the lyings of a woman, it is a to'evah (abomination)

(יג) וְאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁכַּ֤ב אֶת־זָכָר֙ מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֔ה תּוֹעֵבָ֥ה עָשׂ֖וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֑ם מ֥וֹת יוּמָ֖תוּ דְּמֵיהֶ֥ם בָּֽם׃

(13) If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done a to'evah (abomination); they shall be put to death—their bloodguilt is upon them.

Tōʻēḇā is used in the following ways:

  1. Every shepherd was "an abomination" unto the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34).
  2. Pharaoh was so moved by the fourth plague, that while he refused the demand of Moses, he offered a compromise, granting to the Israelites permission to hold their festival and offer their sacrifices in Egypt. This permission could not be accepted, because Moses said they would have to sacrifice "the abomination of the Egyptians" (Exodus 8:26); i.e., the cow or ox, which all the Egyptians held as sacred and so regarded as sacrilegious to kill.
  3. Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things which are also abominations: "haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers."

Tōʻēḇā is also used in Jewish scriptures to refer to:

  1. idolatry or idols (Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 13:14, Isaiah 44:19)
  2. illicit sex (e.g. prostitution, adultery, incest) (Ezekiel 16:22,58, Ezekiel 22:11, Ezekiel 33:26)
  3. illicit marriage (Deuteronomy 24:2-4)
  4. male prostitution and/or other male homosexual acts (see Homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible) (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 18:27-30, Leviticus 20:13)
  5. temple prostitution (1Kings 14:24)
  6. child sacrifice to Molech (Jeremiah 32:35)
  7. cross-dressing -- likely for the sake of confusing a person for illicit reasons (Deuteronomy 22:5)
  8. cheating in the market by using rigged weights (Deuteronomy 25:13-19, Proverbs 11:1)
  9. dishonesty (Proverbs 12:22)
  10. dietary violations (Deuteronomy 14:3)
  11. stealing, murder, and adultery, breaking covenants (Jeremiah 7:9,10)
  12. usury, violent robbery, murder, oppressing the poor and needy, etc. (Ezekiel 18:10-13)

The Canaanites used homosexual acts as part of their pagan rituals. Therefore the Israelites were prohibited from doing this, not because it was an act between two men but because it was symbolic of pagan ritual. In today's world this prohibition now has no meaning [and homosexual sex is permitted]. - Rabbi Michele Brand Medwin

הויא ההיא רביתא דהות קא מפקא ריפתא לעניא בחצבא איגלאי מלתא שפיוה דובשא ואוקמוה על איגר שורא אתא זיבורי ואכלוה והיינו דכתיב (בראשית יח, כ) ויאמר ה' זעקת סדום ועמורה כי רבה ואמר רב יהודה אמר רב על עיסקי ריבה:
There was a young woman who would take bread out to the poor people in a pitcher so the people of Sodom would not see it. The matter was revealed, and they smeared her with honey and positioned her on the wall of the city, and the hornets came and consumed her. And that is the meaning of that which is written: “And the Lord said: Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great [rabba]” (Genesis 18:20). And Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: Rabba is an allusion to the matter of the young woman [riva] who was killed for her act of kindness. It is due to that sin that the fate of the people of Sodom was sealed.