Holy hatred: Introduction

Jesus was once asked what is the greatest command in Scripture. His answer was simple: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He said that this is “the great and first commandment” (Matthew 27:36–40). Love for God is the most important of all divine commands.

But how do we know if we love God? That question can be answered in numerous ways. For example, love for God will be manifested by obedience to God. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We might also say that evidence of love for God is love for others. The apostle John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20–21). There are no doubt several other biblical answers to the question?

One answer is given to us by the writer of Psalm 97. The psalmist there writes, “O you who love the LORD, hate evil” (v. 10). Love for the Lord is manifested in hatred of what the Lord hates. It is manifested, we might say, by holy hatred. The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to what the Lord hates. It is accurate to say that God hates sin in general, but Solomon specifically wrote of seven things that the Lord hates: “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).

These verses begin with what someone has called a “numerical ladder”: “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” The point is not that these are the only seven things God hates. Instead, the formulation (“six things … seven things”) is suggestive of the fact that these are a sampling of the things that the Lord hates. There are six things, yes. Is there a seventh? Indeed. We may well add an eighth, ninth and tenth. But these seven are a good place to start.

Because those who love the Lord are called to hate evil, there is some value in taking time to consider each of the things listed here. A brief survey will suffice here, we will take each matter individually in future posts.

Before we overview these seven sins, we should pause to consider Solomon’s purpose in giving them to us. He does not content himself with speaking of “sin” in general terms, because to do so may leave the reader open to the temptation of affirming general principles without being too specific about their own sins. Solomon therefore speaks “in characteristically concrete, personal terms.”1 In other words, his purpose is that the reader will look at very specific sins and look to identify those sins in himself. We are not meant to look at a text like this an immediately think of our neighbour, but to ask ourselves whether we are guilty of things that the Lord hates, and whether we, as God’s people, hate the very things he hates.

It is important to note that these seven things, contextually speaking, have to do with the way that we relate to others. Sin is always ultimately an offence to God, but here Solomon is calling us to be careful of the way we treat others. That should come as no surprise, of course, because the way we treat others is reflective of the way we view God. If we mistreat those who are made in God’s image, we actually blaspheme the God in whose image they are made.

Let’s then briefly overview these seven things that the Lord hates, before taking each in its turn in future posts.

“Haughty eyes” speaks of arrogant pride. It is an attitude that is entirely self-focused to the detriment of others.

“A lying tongue” speaks for itself. God is truth, and he hates any form of dishonesty. Dishonesty is destructive to people and dishonouring to God, and for both those reasons it is something that the Lord hates.

“Hands that shed innocent blood” refers properly to murder, but the New Testament makes it clear that bitter, unjustified anger is tantamount to murder.

“A heart that devises wicked plans” is a heart that gives careful forethought to doing what is displeasing to God. It is to make up your mind that you are not going to honour the Lord.

“Feet that make haste to run to evil” speaks of enthusiastic and complete involvement in activities that bring pain to all who are involved. When we know that the course of action we have chosen to pursue will hurt others, and yet we choose to pursue it anyway, our feet have made haste to run to evil.

Properly speaking, “a false witness who breathes out lies” has reference to perjury in a legal setting. However, the principle of deliberately assaulting another’s character is the heart of what is being described here.

Finally, the Lord hates “one who sows discord among brothers” by spreading lies, gossip, rumours and dissension.

These are just some of the things that the Lord hates, and they are some of the things that we are also called to hate. We must, said Richard Sibbes, “loathe and hate sin from the heart.” In the words of Spurgeon, “we cannot love God without hating that which He hates. We are not only to avoid evil, and to refuse to countenance it, but we must be in arms against it, and bear toward it a hearty indignation.” Only as we hate what God hates can we claim to truly love the Lord.

  1. Derek Kidner, Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964), 73.