Darrow Miller and Friends

What Does God Hate?

Hate is a four-letter word in the West.

Christians are often accused of being hateful because we recognize a moral dimension to the universe. Christians believe that when we live according to God’s principles we tend to thrive; when we reject God’s precepts and pursue our own paths we eventually wilt. Those who take this view of the universe, and speak of it, attract the ire of those who disagree. And to be sure, if there is no Creator and we are nothing more than animals, this position of Christians is untenable and to insist on it, in such a universe, is hateful.

Rick Warren distinguishes between hate and disagreement

This accusation is mostly unfair. You can believe in a moral universe, you can have moral expectations of your neighbors, without hating. Pastor Rick Warren has said, “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Darrow has written about this before, attempting to show the distinction between recognizing truth (and calling your neighbors to the way of truth), on the one hand, and, on the other, despising those who cannot or will not acknowledge that truth. Disagreeing is different from despising.

But there’s another dimension of this discussion, something beyond distinguishing between honest disagreement and hatred. We should be careful not to discard hatred per se, to toss it away as if totally useless. Sin is useless. Evil, ugliness, falsehood, bigotry … all these are useless. None is ever attributed to God, nor commended in humans. But that cannot be said about hatred. God hates.

The Hebrew word שָׂנֵא (sane’ [saw-nay’]) “expresses an emotional attitude toward persons and things which are opposed, detested, despised and with which one wishes to have no contact or relationship. It is therefore the opposite of love. Whereas love draws and unites, hate separates and keeps distant.”[1]

God has emotions. Including hatred. God hates. To suggest that hatred is inherently evil is to assign evil to God.

Naturally we think of God as loving. And He is. God’s love is one of the most central truths of divine revelation. We know what love is because God is love. He abounds in love. His love is steadfast.

But God also hates. Mind you, His hate is not on a par with His love. The Bible affirms “God is love” but never suggests “God is hate.” He abounds in love; He does not abound in hate. His love is steadfast, but that is not said of His hatred.

Nevertheless, the Bible clearly teaches that God hates. God hates what threatens “the very foundation of all human order” (New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 536). Idolatry, for example (Deu 16:22). Religious hypocrisy (Isaiah 1:14). The writer of Proverbs says, “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” (Pro 6:16-19 ESV).

At least nine times God is said to hate sinful behavior.[2] Four times God is said to hate sinful people.[3]

God hates, and humans hate. Human hate is mostly sinful, unlike God’s hate which is always righteous. We hold others in contempt. We despise and scorn others. The Bible condemns all such ungodly treatment. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him” (Lev 19:17 ESV). Hatred is one of the “deeds of the flesh” listed in Galatians 5:20. Human hatred, unlike divine hatred, is driven by jealousy and envy. Human hatred is reprehensible to God because it mars His image in man.

The hating that is usually referred to in the Old Testament is the opposition, ill-will, and aversion humans have for fellow humans. The extent and perversity of the depravity of the human heart is expressed by the hatred of a husband for a wife (Gen 29:31, 33), among brothers (Gen 37:4), of a brother for a sister (2Sam 13:15), among neighbors (Deut 19:11), among poor people (Prov 19:7), by a parent for his son (Prov 13:24), among nations (Isa 66:5).

On the other hand, there are times when the Bible approves of human hate.

There is also a hating on the part of man which is acceptable to God. Man must have an aversion to and depart from evil, hence the Psalmist says, “I have hated the assembly of evildoers” (Psa 21:5). This hatred is also in diametric opposition to a believer’s trust in the Lord, for the man of God says, “I hate them who regard vain idols but I trust in the Lord” (Psa 31:6 [H 7]). … Haters of good hate the Psalmist cruelly (Psa 25:19) and the Psalmist hates them in return with perfect hatred (Psa 139:2).

Fourteen times, the Bible charges people to hate, or commends people for hating, or indicts people for not hating.[4] Seven times, someone testifies to a hatred which is apparently virtuous.[5]

The ability to hate is part of being created in God’s image. Animals cannot hate. Animals apparently have emotions, but their emotional structure is much simpler than that of humans. An animal can experience fear but not anxiety, affection but not love, aversion but not hate. Only humans are enough like God to hate.

Many people would be shocked and even offended to hear that God hates. But at one level this should not be surprising. Everyone hates something or someone. Even those who condemn hating in others, if they are honest, will admit to hating some things or people.  Want a current example? Witness those who see hate in president-elect Donald Trump, and then violently censure Trump supporters.

author relates story from Anchorage about hate
By Frank K. from Anchorage, Alaska, USA – Anchorage looking nice on an April evening

Several years ago I found myself outside the Anchorage Gay and Lesbian Center and felt compelled to go in and speak of Jesus’ love. This was not something I would normally do but I sensed a compulsion, so after calling my wife to ask her to pray, I went in. A young man was at the reception desk, and a teen at a computer nearby. I introduced myself as “straight,” and a Christian, and in fact a Christian who actually believes the Bible. And, I said, while I did not agree with their lifestyle I felt compelled to come in and tell them that Jesus loved them.

The receptionist had grown up in a Christian church and was willing to talk to me but made it clear that he had rejected Christianity. I tried to explain how it was possible to love one’s neighbor without agreeing with their choices.

“Surely there are things you disagree with,” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said without hesitation. “Bigotry and hate!”

“Fair enough,” I responded. “So isn’t it conceivable that you could live next door to someone like that and be their neighbor and not hate them even though you disagreed with their lifestyle?”

I don’t remember his reply. But the conversation illustrates the inconsistency in the argument that hatred is categorically wrong or always improper.

God’s love and God’s hate met at the cross. There, Jesus was “pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” because God’s hatred of sin could not merely tolerate human rebellion. God’s hatred of sin and the suffering it causes compelled Father and Son, before the foundation of the world, to agree: Jesus would go to the cross to ransom those who hated Him. Out of love for rebellious humans—we who “like sheep have gone astray,” who have “turned, every one, to his own way”—the Lord “laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:5-6 ESV).

  • Gary Brumbelow


[1] All dictionary entries are taken from the Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd Edition, Edited by J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida.  Copyright © 1988 by the United Bible Societies, New York, NY 10023. Used by permission.

[2] God hates sinful behavior.

  • Deu 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.
  • Deu 16:22 And you shall not set up a pillar, which the LORD your God hates.
  • Prov 6:16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
  • Isa 1:14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
  • Isa 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.
  • Jer 44:4 Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’
  • Amos 5:21 “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
  • 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.”
  • Zech 8:17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

[3] God sometimes hates sinful people.

  • Psa 5:5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
  • Psa 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
  • Hos 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.
  • Mal 1:3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert. (Rom 9:13)

[4] God sometimes expects people to hate.

  • Exo 18:21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
  • Psa 45:7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; (Prov 15:27)
  • Psa 97:10 O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. (Amos 5:15)
  • Prov 11:15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
  • Prov 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
  • Prov 13:5 The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.
  • Prov 28:16 A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
  • Eccl 3:8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
  • John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
  • Heb 1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
  • Jude 1:23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
  • Rev 2:6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
  • Eze 35:6 therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; because you did not hate bloodshed, therefore blood shall pursue you.
  • Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

[5] Examples of virtuous hate.

  • Psalm 26:5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
  • Psalm 31:6 I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.
  • Psalm 101:3 I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
  • Psalm 119:104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. (v 128)
  • Psalm 119:113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
  • Psalm 119:163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
  • Psalm 139:21-22 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

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Gary is the Disciple Nations Alliance editorial manager. He manages Darrow Miller and Friends and serves as editor and co-writer on various book projects. For eight years Gary served as a cross-cultural church planting missionary among First Nations people of Canada. His career also includes 14 years as executive director of InterAct Ministries, an Oregon-based church-planting organization in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Gary is a graduate of Grace University, earned an MA from Wheaton College and a Graduate Studies Diploma from Western Seminary. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Valerie. They have two married sons and twelve grandchildren. In addition to his work with the DNA, Gary serves as the pastor of Troutdale Community Church.