OT Words

gāʾal [‏גָּעַל‎, ]

This word carries with it the primary sense of "abhorrence," "despising," or "loathing" in the face of something or someone detestable. In Lev. 26, for example, gāʾal signifies first of all God's solemn declaration not to abhor his people, provided they follow his decrees in terms of the Mosaic covenant (Lev. 26:11). If they despise and disobey his laws (Lev. 26:15, 43), the result will be divine abhorrence (Lev. 26:30). Finally, Lev. 26:44 indicates Yahweh's promise not to so loathe his people as to violate his covenant agreement with them.

gāʾal conveys similar meanings in Jer. 14:19 and Ezek. 16:45. Jeremiah asks his God, "Do you abhor Zion?" The context makes plain that he is fully conscious that his countrymen are guilty of violating the sacred articles of the covenant law. In Ezekiel the reference is an allegorical one, indicting Israel and Judah as immoral women who have abhorred or despised their husband (i.e., Yahweh) and family (i.e., fellow Israelites). The fundamental charge against the people of God is one of adultery. In each use of the term, the context is clearly covenantal.

tāʾab [‏תָּעַב‎, ]

The root meaning here again suggests abhorrence or repulsion; and the term is used in a variety of scriptural contexts. As with gāʾal, above, tāʾab refers to God's abhorrent disdain of both the wickedness of his people (cf. Ps. 106:40; Ezek. 16:25, 52; Mic. 3:9; Amos 5:10) and of corrupt humankind in general (cf. Pss. 5:6; 14:1; 53:1; Isa. 14:19). There are also similar commands for the people of Israel to keep away from any object or practice that will provoke a divine response of abhorrence and loathing (cf. Deut. 7:26). See also Deut. 23:7 for a slightly different perspective.

On another level, there are general expressions of abhorrence towards Job, for example, in Job 9:31; 15:16; 19:19; 30:10; as well as such general usage by the psalmist, as in Ps. 107:18.

There is an intriguing use of tāʾab in 1 Chr. 21:6, where Joab expresses abhorrence at David's command to take a census of the people in violation of the Mosaic law. Because of his abhorrence, Joab refuses to include Levi and Benjamin in the count. Similarly, Ps. 119:163 expresses the godly person's abhorrence of sin.

Finally, in Isa. 49:7, the redemptive purposes of God negate and overcome the hatred and abhorrence of the godly servant king. For God will cause the once despised ruler to be glorified in the eyes of all people.

shiqqēṣ [‏שִׁקֵּץ‎, ]

This verb and its derivative noun are not extensively used in the Old Testament, but the meaning is predominantly a ritual one. shiqqēṣ refers to the ceremonial uncleanness of certain animals and foods which are deemed abhorrent and detestable to both God and Israel (cf. Lev. 11:11, 13, 43; 20:25; Deut. 7:26).

In Ps. 22:24, the psalmist refers to Yahweh's refusal to disdain or abhor his suffering servant. It is clear from the context that the object of God's concern is none other than the Messianic King. Ps. 22 is generally recognized as a messianic psalm.

NT Words

apostygeō [ἀποστυγέω, ]

apostygeō is a rare verb, found only in Rom. 12:19, constituting an injunction to "abhor" or "hate" what is evil.

bdelyssō [βδελύσσω, ]

bdelyssō is another rare verb referring to the "abhorring" or "despising" of idols in Rom. 2:22. In Rev. 21:8 it is used participially to refer to those who are "abhorrent" (i.e., vile, abominable) to God.

Additional Notes

With apostygeō in Rom. 12:9, the admonition to hate or abhor what is evil reflects the Levitical and Deuteronomic usage of both tāʾab and shiqqēṣ.

In regard to bdelyssō, again the idea about abhorring idols carries a ritual association. And it is this preoccupation with the Jews' relationship to the law that forms the context of Romans 2.

Also, in Rev. 21:8, it is significant that those who are designated as "vile" or "abhorrent" constitute part of the apostate company of unbelievers who will suffer the ultimate divine penalty.

Although these terms for "abhor" do not occur frequently in the New Testament, the meaning is consistent throughout the whole Bible. Those who are abhorred by God in either a relative or absolute sense find themselves beyond the sphere of covenant blessing.