“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.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
What did your mother hate? What annoyed your father? What about your kids? Your spouse? Work-colleague, best-friend or neighbour? If you don’t know the answers to such simple questions, you probably haven’t met these people. To know someone is to appreciate what enthrals them as well as what they hate. Loving them entails appropriately aligning behaviours. A young married man not only displays public affection for his wife but also carefully cleans up the bathroom after he uses it, and as an employee, he not only makes every sales call, but also avoids turning up late. His wife hates the towels on the floor and his boss detests tardiness. What they hate shapes his own practices. How much more must what God hates shape those of us who take his name as their own!
Job 28:28 expresses this essential symmetry, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but to turn away from evil is understanding”. Whenever the internal compass needle points us to God, it has no alternative but to point us away from he hates. We turn to Christ in baptism and also reject all that is evil.
In our age, when people like to manufacture a God who is only ever affirming and embracing, it is important to see that he deeply hates certain things. The word abomination cracks open this truth very powerfully.
Abomination is the consistent translation in the ESV of to’evah, perhaps the strongest expression detestation, revulsion and repugnance . However the English word is unfortunately quaint and old-worldly. Our own childhood memories of “the Abominable Snowman” and “abominations of nature” should not cloud what the Bible clearly teaches. When used of God, it is what he hates (see the parallelism of Prov. 6:16 above) in the strongest possible form.
The Egyptians found many of the Hebrew practices abominations (Gen. 43:32; 46:34; 8:26). God revealed his character to his people Israel. In Leviticus the word is particularly used for homosexual intercourse (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). The major use in the Deuteronomy and the historical books is idolatry and false worship (Deut 7:25; 13:14; 18:12; 27:15; 32:16; 1 Kings 11:5-7; 14:24; 2 Kings 21:11, 23:13, 24).1
As well as showcasing what people find abominable (8:6-8; 13:9; 16:12; 24:8-9, 26:24-26, 29:27), the book of Proverbs says a surprising amount about what God himself finds loathsome. Unfortunately, they are not behaviours at the limits and extremes of human experience, but what is very deeply entrenched in the wills and minds of all people. You can be known as one of God’s people, worshipping in the temple, and never turning to idols and yet be detestable in God’s eyes. This is bad news, but deadly important for us to hear.
1. God abhors arrogant ways and all kinds of injustice
- “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.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
- “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.” (Proverbs 15:9)
- “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure.” (Proverbs 15:26)
- “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)
- “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:11)
Eyes are meant to look to God, tongues to sing his praise, hands were shaped for doing good and hearts to seek God, even the strange looking feet formed to take the gospel of peace wherever we go. It is little wonder that when each is turned into a corruption of its intention, God hates it. God abominates the thoughts, ways and practices of the wicked. He hates it when people are unjust, incarcerating the innocent or setting free the guilty. Proverbs 17:11 even shows us something of the moral problems at the very heart of the gospel that actually required a substitute to take our place. The cross is actually a demonstration of God’s justice rather than an abomination of that same virtue (Rom 3:23-26).
How do you respond to such a great list? Do you believe that God hates these behaviours? Do you see them as-black-as hell’s darkness or just as slightly off white stains on otherwise good peple? God does detest evil behaviours and even displays visceral revulsion at arrogant people themselves.
2. God particularly detests deception
- “… the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.” (3:31-32)
- “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.” (11:1)
- “Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight.” (11:20)
- “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” (12:22)
- “Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” (20:10)
- “Unequal weights are an abomination to the LORD, and false scales are not good.” (20:23)
We saw lying tongues and false witnesses in the earlier list of reprehensible behaviour. False balances and unequal weights were obviously things that were easy to get away with in the times of Solomon’s kingship. You could swap the scales over if you were buying, selling or bartering. We might find an ambiguous measuring standard, but God has absolute moral standards. He cares so profoundly about how we treat people. God hates deception at work when we put our fingers on the scales, when we rip off the customer selling fruit that is actually already rotten, when we we provide false addresses on internet so that we can buy products overseas. God hates false witnesses in the court-room, or in the bedroom. When John sees the new heavens and new earth, there will be no-one there who “loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 21:15; cf. Zech 5:1-5). We are being created in Christ Jesus into God’s image, putting off lying and speaking the truth to each other. (Eph 4:24-25). The true God must hate things that are false.
3. Even good things can become hateful in God’s sight
- “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” (15:8)
- “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” (21:27)
- “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (28:9)
Bringing a lamb, the first-fruits of the crops, or even in the most metaphoric senses a sacrificial ministry of giving, overseas service or Christian leadership will actually be repugnant to God if the person who does so is caring on in wicked opposition to God. Prayer is also not exempt. One of the lies of anaemic evangelical piety is that God listens to all prayers. He most emphatically does not (Isa 59:1-2). This is one of the problems with the sacrificial system and even human intercession; and is why the prophets also railed against them so much.
“What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats….When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. (Isa 1:11,15)
We need someone who is clean and righteous to declare us right with God. This is what makes Christ’s sacrifice all the more glorious. He was at once our passover lamb, atonement cover, holy of holies, and high priest and as such he was well pleasing. He did not sin and ”neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Pet 2:21).
Often we think that practices “out there” are abominations in the Lord’s sight, and what I do is not that bad. We don’t worship idols or indulge in pagan practices, or do we? Could it be that the Lord hates what you do? It could be, and you must face this truth with real wisdom. Does he hate the way you lie to your spouse, your boss, your clients, your pastor, or even your congregation? Is there an unequal scale that you are using. No one else knows, except the Lord. Or is it more your arrogance. Are you doing acts that seem like living for him, but are really not? If you don’t listen to God’s word, could it be that he thinks your prayers are just the most detestable things ever. After all, why would God want to hear our words if we are not bothered with his.
Abominations matter. We must know what God hates and turn from it. This is the corollary to the the beginning of wisdom.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but to turn away from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28)
1 There is only one use in the food rules, which would be worthy of its own study (Deut. 14:3).