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Saturday Wordstudy: What or Who Does God Hate?

A point of perpetual debate in the modern church really addresses the core of how people evangelize. Can I say, “God loves you,” to a group of people that I don’t know? Certainly, an approach like that is a staple of contemporary evangelistic techniques. You know, the John 3:16 approach. But if you believe in the doctrine of election, which the Bible so clearly teaches, and you believe that God chose some to call to himself and others to leave as reprobate, can you genuinely say, “God loves you” when someone in the listening body may just be someone who is eternally under God’s wrath?

So, before we get into a debate over this or that, let us just spend some time taking a survey of what the Scriptures actually say about God and his hatred. Does it just refer to sins? Or, does God’s hatred refer to people as well? We will let God speak for himself. Citations below are from the ESV; end notes are my own observations.

Leviticus 20:23: “And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.”

Deuteronomy 7:25: “The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.”[1]

Deuteronomy 12:31: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.”

Deuteronomy 16:22: “And you shall not set up a pillar, which the LORD your God hates.”

Deuteronomy 17:1: “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 18:12: “for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.”[2]

Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Deuteronomy 23:18: “You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.”[3]

Deuteronomy 24:4: “then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

Deuteronomy 25:16: “For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.”[4]

Psalm 5:5-6: “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”[5]

Psalm 11:5: “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”[6]

Proverbs 3:32: “or the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.”[7]

Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 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.”[8]

Proverbs 11:1: “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”

Proverbs 11:20: “Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight.”[9]

Proverbs 15:8-9: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.”

Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”[10]

Proverbs 17:15: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.”[11]

Isaiah 61:8: “For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.”[12]

Isaiah 66:17: “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 12:8: “My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.”[13]

Hosea 9:15: “Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels.”[14]

Amos 5:21: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.”[15]

Amos 6:8: “The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts: ‘I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”[16]

Zechariah 8:16-17: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

Luke 16:15: “And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.’”

Romans 9:13: “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”[17]

Hebrews 1:9: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”[18]


[1] Idolatry requires those to be acting in an idolatrous way. What message does this send to so many American churches that are tolerating idolatry in worship?

[2] Note that the doer is an abomination before the Lord.

[3] There is an inference found here that God hates when pagan or immoral things are included in his worship.

[4] Note that the Bible often attributes God’s hatred to an action, her it  attributes God’s hatred to a person. Those who act dishonestly are an abomination to God. Note too, that “abomination” and “hatred” are used as synonyms in the Hebrew Bible (see Proverbs 6:16).

[5] Seeing this theme throughout these texts. God hates the evildoer and the liar as well as those who are bloodthirsty.

[6] God hates the wicked (person) and he hates the one who loves violence.

[7] Note again that this is a reference to a devious person.

[8] Note the use of hatred and abomination in parallel. This is common in Hebrew writings…to use parallel structure to emphasize a point. There are a number of anthropomorphic mentions here, but note that God hates the false witness (we have seen that above in Deuteronomy 25:16) and he hates the one who breeds discord amongst brothers — we might call that the contentious one in the church who likes to stir the pot as it were.

[9] Again, a person with a crooked heart — a schemer — is an abomination to God.

[10] The prideful and arrogant person is an abomination to God.

[11] “He who…”

[12] God makes an everlasting covenant to bring justice upon those who are robbers and who intentionally do wrong.

[13] “therefore I hate Her…” A reference to the nation of Israel which was cut off for the wild olive to be grafted on. Yet note the verses that come later speak of redemption for his people after they have been cast off for a season…this is a beautiful picture of Romans 5:6-8 being worked out.

[14] This is directed to Ephriam, a tribe of Israel that Scripturally is often used to refer to Israel (northern kingdom) as a whole. Verse 17 that follows is the devastating one…they will be cast out of the land and become wanderers. These 10 tribes were scattered by Assyria and remain scattered yet today.

[15] God hates the context where people engage in ritual not out of devotion.

[16] Note that Amos parallels hatred with abhorrence.

[17] This is the classic passage and is a citation of Malachi 1:2-3. In the case of Malachi he is comparing the descendants of Jacob (Israel) to the descendants of Esau (Edomites) — promising to build up the first and promising to destroy and pulverize the second in judgment. Paul takes this idea and says (in Romans 9) that this is an illustration of how God’s Election works. Thus the natural inference is that God loves his Elect and hates the Reprobate.

[18] This is an abbreviation of Isaiah 61:1-3 and is speaking about Christ. God is exalting him because of his hatred of wickedness.

We Need an Enemy…We Usually Choose the Wrong One

How else do you explain history? Even going back as far as Adam and Eve, they had an enemy in the serpent and chose to make God their enemy. Further, when confronted in their sin, Adam immediately turns on his wife and makes her his enemy rather than seeking to intercede and protect her. Look at how much of human history revolves around times of warfare. And when a common enemy is not found on the outside of a culture, how often those cultures descend into internal fighting and warfare. Even families do much the same. How often, after the death of a parent, siblings fall into internal fighting over who gets what. 

Unless you have been living in a cave of late, we are once again facing the question of racism and hatred in our nation. According to Wikipedia, racism can be defined thusly: 

“Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another.”

This plays itself out in many ways, and has over the years. It is the culprit behind the horrors that took place in Mississippi in 1964, it is the monstrosity that drove the Holocaust in Germany and founded the eugenics experiments in Appalachia in the earlier part of the 20th century — even the term “eugenics” breathes out the notion of racism, for if some genetic traits are good and desirable, that means that other traits are not and a hierarchy is formed. Regardless of your opinion of the validity of evolution, when such views are applied to humans, the end result is and must generally be a kind of racism, for if one group is further advanced on the evolutionary chain, that means other groups are not.

In God’s providence, I spent my seminary years in Mississippi. One one hand, I spent several nights a week, working with homeless men who stayed at Gateway Rescue Mission, downtown. On the other hand, I spent many of my Sunday mornings, preaching to rural Presbyterian congregations. In that context, I can say with integrity that I have preached to both Black Panthers and to Klansmen. Both were racist but both had the same need — the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During that time, I became close friends with an area pastor of a small black Missionary Baptist Church. He gave me the privilege of his pulpit one Sunday morning in the hopes of breaking stereotypes in his own congregation and it proved a very healthy experience for me as well (though it was overwhelming for my 2 year old son at the time). What struck me about my season in the deep south is that there were definitely pockets of racism present, but there were more people working hard to get beyond the racism that they grew up with as youth and who were trying to move on in the more integrated world in which they lived.

The principle, though, we see in other areas as well. As a pastor, I see much the same thing between churches and between denominations. Yes, there are some groups that pose as churches, but who are not, but even within the realm of what would be considered “orthodox” Christianity, this plays out all over. Funny, how much more work that the church could get done in our country if we were more willing to be co-belligerents with one another on critical issues — abortion being high on that list.

We see this also in people’s loyalties to their country. I am a child of the cold war. That means, growing up it was always the Soviets and the “Ruskies” that were the bad guys. As I write this today, I have spent 15 years traveling and teaching in a seminary in Ukraine and in that context, one of my closest friends grew up in Siberia. Go figure. We have both had fascinating (and sad) conversations about the propaganda that each of our governments fed us about the other. The fact that some of you were shocked when I said my friend grew up in Siberia (and considered it a beautiful place!), then that illustrates the fact that propaganda works both ways. Our history books were (and still are) full of it.

What am I saying? I am saying that we look for others to be our enemies. The sad thing (and the thing that leads to racism) is that we look in all the wrong places. Folks, let me say with clarity that from a Biblical perspective, there is one race. But let us not even constrain ourselves to the Bible. Scientifically, there is one race. The very fact that we can intermarry and have beautiful children whose DNA is a mixture of African, European, and Asian blood is a testimony to this truth. Given that we often pass along our best genetic traits to our children, maybe the truly “Aryan race” is that group of people who have a little bit of every ethnic group coursing through their veins. 

Don’t get me wrong, that does not mean that racism doesn’t exist. Anytime you look down on someone because of their ethnicity, you are guilty of racism…and that is wrong and it is sinful. It is also mislabeled. We are one race (and we better be about the work of learning to live together and grow together). We are just so desperate for an enemy, it seems to me that we look at the easiest direction.

Who or what ought to be our enemy, then? Sin should be our enemy. The Devil is our enemy. Injustice is an enemy we should hate because God hates it. Pride, a lying tongue, hands that murder the innocent (think how the riots are working out!), wicked plants of the heart, those who pursue evil ways, those who bear false witness, and those who sow discord amongst brothers. Those our our enemies, folks, not those who look different than we do or speak differently or whose cultural expressions do not match our own. 

Love and Hate

“A time to love and a time to hate; a time for battle and a time for peace.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:8)

Much of human history can be parsed by the wars that nations have waged against one another. And while many wars in the history of man have been about the expansion of power, there is great wisdom here from Solomon when he talks about a time to go to war and a time to make peace. There is indeed a time when war is justified for the common good of mankind — resisting the Nazi’s during World War II, for instance (and there are numerous other examples). 

Yet, this verse is not just about geopolitical matters, it is about personal struggles as well. There is a time to love one another, but Solomon makes it very clear that there is also a time for hatred. In our modern society, hatred is considered a bad thing and something to be repressed, yet that is not the testimony of Scripture (so long as that hatred is properly directed). Indeed, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and we are to love our enemies (Luke 6:27), so in what context are we supposed to hate?

We are to hate evil (Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:15). We are to hate the works of those who tempt us to sin (Revelation 2:6). We are to hate the things of this world (Luke 14:26). We are to hate falsehood (Psalm 119:163). In short, we are to hate sin and to strive against it. Is there ever a place to express hatred toward people? At times, but here we must be careful for we do not always know who God will eventually call to faith in himself. Even so, the Bible speaks about hating those who openly stand against God and his Saints (Psalm 129:5; 139:21). 

The challenge for the believer is to discern between that which we will love and that which we will hate. Jesus says that we cannot serve two masters for we will end up loving one and hating the other (Matthew 6:24), so begin by asking yourself, whom do you serve? When an action comes in conflict with God’s command in Scripture, to which do you give priority? We often say we love God but then bind ourselves in sin…if that is the case, whom do you really love by your actions? Repent.

Solomon reminds us that there is a time for love and a time for hatred. The time for love is when you are doing the things of God and attending to His Word. The time for hatred is when you are gazing upon your own sins. The sign of maturity, though, is not only keeping those two things straight, but acting upon it. There comes a point in time that if you really hate something, you will strive to keep it out of your life. Yet, how often we do not do so. Repent if these words apply to you.

Hatred of Christ

“For many are walking — as I frequently told you, and even now tell you with tears — as ones who hate the cross of Christ.”

(Philippians 3:18)

What happens when someone refuses to follow the model of Paul as Paul follows the model of Christ? Sadly, Paul reminds us, that person demonstrates their hatred for the cross of Christ and for the redemption that was achieved on that cross. The Heidelberg Catechism words it that we have a natural tendency to hate God and to hate fellow man.

But why such a strong word? What is someone is just ambivalent? Could there just be a kind of agnostic position where a person is just not interested but is not actively engaging in hatred? The answer is clearly, “no.” Jesus stated very clearly, “If you love me you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus further builds on that notion that “whoever has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me…and will be loved by my Father” (John 14:21). In other words, obedience is the mark of one’s love for the Son and if we do not love the Son we will not be loved by the Father. That in itself should be a convicting message.

But why hate? There are some, for example, that will argue that ambivalence is the opposite of love, not hatred. There is something to be said there…but let me suggest a different explanation, as I would argue that ambivalence is a form of hatred…typically expressed in passive-aggressive behavior. Hatred can be lived out either passionately (we might call that enmity) or passively (passive-aggressive behavior, ignoring the person, etc…). Either way it is hatred and in both contexts, obedience is not present.

Jesus tells a parable about two sons (Matthew 21:28-32) and each was asked to work in the vineyard. The first said yes but didn’t (passive-aggressive behavior) and the second said no (active refusal — an expression of enmity) but then repented and went to work. The first clearly represents the priests and the Jewish establishment who committed themselves to obedience in their vows yet didn’t; the second represents the active sinners who had openly rebelled against God and then repented and did what God commanded. Jesus asks the question…which did the will of the Father? Doing the will of the Father is another way of speaking about obedience and thus when Paul looks upon those who are actively or passively in disobedience, he speaks of them as hating Christ.

With this before us, we should be reminded, then, that Paul’s language is not just speaking about those who are outside of the church, but of those who are inside of the visible church but who, by their very actions, demonstrate their hatred for Christ and the cross. Most who are in this group in the church would not like to think of themselves as hating Christ, but if they do not walk in obedience as they live out every corner of their lives, then what does that say about their hearts? What does it say about our own hearts, too, when we choose to be disobedient in small things or in great things in our lives? And no, we don’t get the choice of picking and choosing either…Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, that means that all of Scripture is ultimately what He has commanded and what we are to obey in its proper context. No, we will not get it correct perfectly in this life, but we ought strive in that direction. Will you?