Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence. Leviticus 18:22 JPS
Abhorrence – When it comes to the Hebrew word to’evah (abomination, abhorrence), most discussions move immediately to this verse. Why? Because homosexuality is such a hot political/religious topic. The incendiary comments on both sides offer plenty of garbage and confusion. But little progress can be made without first understanding the framework and intention of the biblical concept of to’evot (plural). After you have digested what we will discover, you might want to look at Jay Michaelson’s article claiming a mistranslation of the term (he misses the point of to’evot because he stands outside the culture) or the unnamed author of this web blog who doesn’t connect the biblical passages to cultural identity either.
To’evot are prohibitions within the cultural framework of Israel. What is an abomination for those in the household of Israel is what God calls an abomination, period. It doesn’t matter what the other nations do or what other arguments suggest. If you are part of Israel, the things God calls abominations are prohibited to you. Claims that other nations would not call some of these practices abhorrent are correct. Other nations have different prohibitions. But that is beside the point. As followers of YHWH, we are not held accountable to the standards of other nations. We are held accountable to the standards God sets for His nation. In fact, the biblical record specifically demands that the followers of YHWH do not live as the other nations live in all kinds of areas, not just sexual practices. With all of the contemporary fuss over homosexuality, we may overlook that fact that eating pork and forsaking the Torah are also considered to’evot. The Tanakh lists several other practices, some considered perfectly acceptable in contemporary society, as abominations. This should help us realize that we are not dealing with universalized human mores. We are dealing with what God expects of His people. And God expects that His people will not eat certain things, will not worship in certain ways, will not make certain vows and will not engage in certain sexual practices even if the rest of the world does so. In other words, to’evot are marks of distinctive difference; the difference in behavior that accompanies being a citizen of the Kingdom.
Let’s set aside the claim that some people are born with homosexual proclivities. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. The biblical issue with homosexuality is not about DNA, cultural mores or legality. It is about identification with the tribe of Abraham. Just as the tribe of Abraham is distinguished by its dietary restrictions, so it is distinguished by its sexual restrictions. If you want to belong to the tribe, you live by the rules of the tribe. You can live by other rules, but you won’t belong to the tribe. You will belong to the “nations.” You decide. It’s still a choice. It has always been a choice. Of course, living by the mores of the nations ultimately means death, but that has always been the choice too.
Topical Index: to’evah, abomination, prohibition, Torah, homosexuality, Leviticus 18:22