This Week in the Context of Scripture

I want to highlight from our reading this week the “Cultic Abomination of the Pig” (COS 1:19). In ancient Israel, pigs were taboo as both food and cultic offering (Lev 11:7-8; Isa 65:2-5; 66:3, 17). Some of these passages, however, presuppose the existence of Israelites who ignored the divine injunction to abstain from the flesh of pigs.

A similar situation existed in Egypt where the pig was considered an abomination to the god Horus, and yet, in the introduction, we learn this prohibition was “never uniformly accepted.” What the text from our reading this week provides for us is the theological motivation for the prohibition. Horus’ eye was wounded by Seth who would “make transformations against him as [a] black pig.” Re gives Horus the first recorded opthamological exam, and during the exam he has Horus look at a black pig while covering his healthy eye. This ends up causing him such pain that he loses consciousness. For the sake of Horus, Re commands “Abominate the pig for Horus” and the text reads, “SO SAID THE GODS. THAT IS HOW THE ABOMINATION OF THE PIG CAME TO BE FOR HORUS BY THE GODS AND THEIR FOLLOWERS.”

There are those who believe the Bible contains scientific truths that ancient people were incapable of acquiring apart from a special revelation by God. Thus, they understand the prohibition against pork in the Hebrew Bible to be a revelation by God motivated by his concern for our health and well being. However, like the Cultic Abomination of the Pig, the Hebrew Bible provides its own explanation for why YHWH prohibits the consumption and the sacrificing of pork. “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.” (Lev 11:7) And, “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.” The prohibition against pork is rooted in God’s concern for humanity; that concern, however, is not scientific but spiritual.

We could argue that some Israelites became convinced that the eating of pork led to increased disease or sickness from long-term observations, and that the “scientific” rational is somewhere rooted in Israel’s history. Would those who believe the prohibition is an indication of special scientific revelation believe that it is equally true for Egypt? I doubt it, and they would probably look at this story as proof that it was not. However, by doing so, their logic would demand the same conclusion be made concerning Israel. Israel’s uniqueness is not related to special, scientific knowledge, it rooted in the God whom she worshiped. Until this is fully grasped, those who seek for special scientific knowledge in Israel will be striving after the wind as this text from our reading plainly shows.

Next Week in the Context of Scripture:

27th – Book of the Dead 112; Arad 7: Another Order for Allotment of Supplies (1.20; 3.43F)
28th – The Repulsing of the Dragon;  Arad 16: A Letter Between Brothers (1.21; 3.43G)
1st – The Bible and the Monuments; (Halloʼs Intro v 2,)
2nd – The Legend of Isis and the Name of Re; Arad 17: Another Order For Allotment of Supplies, with Postscript (1.22; 3.43H)
3rd – The Legend of Astarte and the Tribute of the Sea; Arad 18: A Letter From One of Elyashib’s Subordinates (1.23; 3.43I)
4th – The Destruction of Mankind; Arad 21: A Son’s Letter (1.24; 3.43J)
5th – The Great Cairo Hymn of Praise to Amun-Re; Arad 24: Military Movements (1.25; 3.43K)


2 thoughts on “This Week in the Context of Scripture


    See also Wilfred G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature, for further verses.

    Also. . . if you like ANE parallels w/Judaism:

    “Religio-Historical Approaches: Monotheism, Method, and Mortality” by Christopher B. Hays in Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible:

    See also my chapter on “The Cosmology of the Bible” that features a discussion of “high creator gods” in the ANE. The chapter will be published in The Christian Delusion.

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