Some people believe that if God hates anything, that is incompatible with His love. They are bothered or even shocked by this idea.
But God does indeed hate things: “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him” (Proverbs 6:16). The writer of Proverbs shared those seven things (verses 17-19) as a representation of the evils God detests.
Exploring the idea of God hating things tells us a lot about God Himself, and it also calls us to examine our hearts to see if these hated things are part of our lives.
Proverbs 6:16 Says God Hates — How Can That Be?
Love and hate are opposites, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be compatible in a person. For example, Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there is “a time to love and a time to hate.” It’s not hard to see good and evil in our fallen world — even though at times, the culture gets it backwards, loving sin and hating what the Bible calls “righteous.”
Billy Graham said, “It’s God’s love for man that prompts Him to hate sin with a vengeance.” Graham said the church has “failed to remind this generation that while God is love, He also has the capacity to hate. He hates sin, and He will judge it with the fierceness of His wrath.” Much has been written about indulgent, permissive parenting that fails to discipline children, but God is not like that. Just like a good, wise earthly father, the all-loving God hates evils that afflict His children and cause their suffering. He loathes and grieves over the sins that plague those He created. That’s why He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. He hates sin, but He loves the sinner for whom Jesus died.
Why Only Seven Sins in Proverbs 6:16?
Proverbs 6:16 is a sobering passage. God, who is perfect and holy, does not sin. He is clearly set against evil, taking a firm position against all sin because it is “detestable” and “an abomination” to Him. Sin repulses God.
Solomon wasn’t saying the seven specific things in Proverbs 6:16-19 were the only things God hates, but they do somewhat summarize the kind of wickedness God condemns. These sins deal with the “heart” — a person’s deep intentions and motives. It is at the heart level a person’s true character is formed and revealed.
Solomon used a literary device, the “x… x + 1” formula, to show the list was not meant to be exhaustive. (Another example of this device in found in Proverbs 30:18-20.) In Proverbs 6, the list offers examples of sins God finds offensive. The “+ 1” feature of the formula indicates that the last item is the main focus. In this case, the “person who stirs up conflict in the community” — the troublemaker — would likely exhibit some or all of the previously listed traits. Other scriptures reveal how much unity among God’s people means to Him.
Jesus repeatedly told his audience in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said . . . But I tell you. . . .” As He spoke about murder, adultery, divorce, and other sins, His point was that sin is conceived in heart attitudes before it moves people to wicked actions.
What Is the Context of Proverbs 6?
Proverbs is part of the wisdom literature in the Bible. King Solomon wrote wise sayings to his “son” — which in Hebrew context could be an actual son, a student, or even group of students.
In Proverbs 6, Solomon wrote about financial matters (the wise use of wealth), work ethics (laziness versus wise use of time and opportunities), sinful attitudes (watching out for and avoiding “worthless” people who practice sin), good choices (following parents’ wise instructions that are based in the scriptures on the “way of life”), and sexual immorality (avoiding seduction of an adulterous woman).
In the context of sinful attitudes, Solomon reminds his son of things God hates.
What Is Hated and Detestable to God, and Why?
1. Haughty Eyes
Haughty eyes denotes arrogance (yahir in the Hebrew), a spirit of superiority. A haughty spirit leads to “a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
This is often called Lucifer’s sin. He exalted himself above God (Isaiah 14:13-14). It was also a factor in the dramatic humbling of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. A few signs of haughtiness are setting oneself up as judge over others, criticizing or rebelling against authorities, and boasting.
King David said God will bring low those “whose eyes are haughty.” Daniel said God will humble those who walk in pride. Jesus said, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” And the Apostle Paul described arrogance as acting out of “selfish ambition or vain conceit,” an attitude so unlike the humble mindset of Jesus. God resists the proud, and Paul said he was kept from this detestable sin by a “thorn in the flesh” to humble him.
Arrogance closes people off from godly wisdom and instruction and the salvation they need. “No one can come proudly to the Savior,” Billy Graham said.
2. A Lying Tongue
A person with a lying tongue aggressively intends to deceive. The falsehoods are used to hurt people, exalt oneself, challenge others’ character, or flatter people for selfish purposes. While it’s impossible for God to lie, and He detests lies, Satan is a liar and the “father of lies.” Jesus said it is out of the abundance of the heart that our mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Psalm 109:2 predicted that those with wicked hearts would open their mouths in lies against the Messiah.
Signs of a lying tongue might include not telling the truth about a wrongdoing, telling half-truths or “white lies,” flattering for personal gain, exaggerating facts, blaming others for our own sins, making excuses, and even withholding needed information. “Lying lips are an abomination” to God, but He delights in the truthful. His hatred for lying was evident in the early church when Ananias and Sapphira died as a result of their deception. Paul exhorts believers not to lie, because it is part of the “old self.” Instead, we should walk (and talk) in truth.
3. Hands That Shed Innocent Blood
Additional scriptures bear on certain issues concerning killing people regarding abortion, capital punishment, and deaths taken in war. While these issues are often debated by Christians, with many other verses that can be examined, for the purposes of this article it’s important to consider the words of Jesus regarding the murderous heart. In Matthew 5:21-24, He said anyone who is unreasonably angry with someone — without offering mercy for forgiveness — commits a sin that is equivalent to murder. This concept is repeated in 1 John 3:15. Murderers who kill the body are dealt with by the law, but many bullies and “murderers” of reputations and relationships are not behind bars.
4. A Heart That Devises Wicked Schemes
God hates it when people conceive (plot, conspire, manufacture) evil against any person or group for personal benefit or for foolish, wicked purposes. God sent the flood in Noah’s day because “every inclination” of humans’ thoughts were “only evil all the time.” David’s wicked scheme — a cover-up for his sin with Bathsheba — was a plot against her righteous husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11). Jesus addressed adultery in Matthew 5:28, saying even a look of lusting after a woman is committing adultery in the heart.
Those who manufacture wicked plots will find plans returning upon themselves! Evil imaginations can lead to sinful habits, addictions, and bondage. In Matthew 15:19, Jesus said such wickedness comes from the “heart” — sown in the thoughts, and contaminating the will and emotions. Our deceitful hearts can make us justify these sins, but God sees thoughts and intentions. The heart must be transformed and guarded against wicked scheming.
5. Feet That Are Quick to Rush into Evil
This indicates a person who exhibits no resistance to sin, but rather is enthusiastically involved in doing what displeases God. For example, when Eve was tempted, she failed to resist the serpent’s words; but, believing him, she plunged into sin. Unlike Eve, Jesus refused to yield to Satan’s temptation.
Some claim they’re not sprinting into wickedness, but they’re not exactly running from it either, and that can set them up to sin. (For instance, how many people linger on an evil scene while changing TV channels?) Many evils are not “stumbled upon,” however. They are willfully and intentionally planned with delight in doing wrong. When evil thoughts and wicked imaginations are fed, sinful actions are not far behind. The Bible says to depart and restrain from walking toward evil, because we will reap what we sow. James says, “resist the devil” and he will flee from you.
6. A False Witness Who Pours Out Lies
While similar to the lying tongue mentioned previously, this narrower focus of lying — giving false testimony — could send someone who’s innocent to jail or to some form of destruction. False witnesses led to Naboth’s stoning, and those who sought Jesus’ death sought false witnesses against Him. Intentionally spreading misinformation, sharing malicious gossip, subtly misrepresenting the truth to create a false impression, and any act of character assassination are also forms of breathing out lies. The Bible tells Christians to put away evil speaking, because slander and lies are part of the old self.
False witnesses could also include pastors in pulpits or Bible teachers who misrepresent the Gospel of Christ. Remember: a truth-teller does not need to fear accountability; but “a false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish.”
7. A Person Who Stirs Up Conflict in the Community
Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse person stirs up conflict and a gossip separates close friends.” James says fights and quarrels come from ungodly personal desires and ambitions. Those who sow discord sabotage the work of God in the church and in other places where believers are gathering — even in the Christian home. Paul exhorts Christ-followers to, as much as possible and with effort, live at peace with others.
What Does All This Mean for Us?
If we want to do things that please God and not things He hates, we must first be certain we are in Christ. We cannot change outward behavior until our hearts are changed. Then we need to offer our bodies daily to God as a “living sacrifice” and allow Him to transform our thinking through the Word of God — replacing ungodly thinking and behavior with godly thinking and behavior.
The Holy Spirit will show us how to pursue humility, truth, and unity, and build up believers instead of tearing them down. One of the best way to build Christian community is through practicing the “one another’s” of Scripture.