Does God Hate?

Pastor, I have a question. In Psalm 5:5 it says God hates all who do iniquity. How can that be if God is love?

There are actually quite a few passages that of Scripture that speak of God hating the wicked, and these passages often cause his people to feel a bit squeamish because they don’t seem to fit our understanding of a loving God.

This is largely because our idea of love tends to be derived more from 19th century Romanticism than from the Bible. Therefore, the language of Scripture often proves troublesome for modern Christians. However, if our understanding of God doesn’t allow us to use the language of Scripture, then our understanding of God must change. Scripture always speaks truly and we are required to bring our thinking into line with it.

The passage you refer to says,

You are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evil doers (Ps. 5:4-5).

And David goes on to say,
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man (Ps. 5:6)

In Psalm 11:5, he says,
The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked.
And then there is Psalm 95:10, "For forty years I loathed that generation."

And in Hosea 9:15 God says of Israel,
Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal;
there I began to hate them
Because of their wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of my house.
I will love them no more;
all their princes are rebels
Furthermore, Scripture often commends God’s people for hating the wicked. In Psalm 15, for example, David asks,

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
And in answer to his own question, he says (among other things), the one “in whose eyes a vile person is despised” (Ps. 15:1, 4a).

There are several other passages to the same effect.

I hate the assembly of evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked (Ps. 26:5)

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols (Ps. 31:6)

I hate the double-minded (Ps. 119:113)

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 (Ps. 139:21-22)

In addition, consider the Psalms of imprecation, that is, the Psalms in which the Psalmist calls upon God to destroy the wicked (e.g. Ps. 5:9-10; 7:6, 9; 9:19-20; 10:2, 15; 12:3; 17:13; 28:4-5; 31:17-18; 35:1-8; 40:14-15; 55:12-15; 56:7; 58:6-11; 59:5; 59:10-15; 68:1-2; 69:22-28; 70:2-3; 71:13; 79:6-7, 10, 12; 83:9-18; 94:1-2; 104:35; 109:6-20, 29; 129:5-7; 137:8-9; 139:19-22; 140:9-11). As you can see, there are not just a few isolated passages.

How are we to reconcile these things with the love of God, and with the command he gives us to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44)? First, we have to understand that we often have too superficial a definition of the meaning of love and hate. Both words have a range of meaning and take on different nuances according to the context. Just think of the different ways in which the word “love” is used.

When I say that I love my wife, I am speaking about a romantic love, a kind of love I do not have for any other person. When I say that I love my neighbor, I am speaking about a general good will that I am to have toward others (even my enemies). When I say that I love my friend, I am speaking about a love I have for someone because we share common interests and he has an agreeable personality. When I say I love chocolate, I am speaking of a fondness for a particular sensation chocolate produces on my taste-buds. When I say I love basketball, I am speaking of the enjoyment I derive from the sport. And when I say I love God, I am speaking of a deep-seated affection of my soul for him. These are many, very different, kinds of love.

The same kind of variation in meaning is true with the word “hate.” It can be used to indicate anything from mild dislike to revulsion or disgust to having an unjust and malicious intent toward someone. For example, I might say, “I hate it when I have a flat tire.” Or, “I hate liver.” Or, “I hate white people.” Or again, “I hate John.” In each case, something quite different is meant. When I say, “I hate it when I have a flat tire,” I’m saying I’m irritated by its inconvenience. When I say, “I hate liver,” I mean it’s disagreeable to my palate. If I say, “I hate white people” (or blacks, or Hispanics, or Chinese, etc.), I mean I have a prejudice against them. If I say, “I hate John”…well…you don’t know what I mean unless you inquire as to why I hate John. Am I disgusted with John’s behavior? Is John a pervert or a mass murderer whose actions are revolting? Or is John really a rather nice guy whom I envy because he happens to be successful, and I’m not? There are many different ways in which the word hate is used.

When the Bible speaks of God hating the wicked it does not mean that God forms an unjust and malicious intention toward them. But it does mean that he finds them revolting. He takes no pleasure in them, as he does in the righteous. God’s love of the righteous is the delight he takes in them. Their lives are pleasing to Him. Not so the wicked. He finds their way of life disgusting. He is angry with them (Ps. 7:11; Jn. 3:36; Rom. 1:18), and in his holy wrath, he will punish them. This is not the result of malice, but of justice. Two very different things. God has a love of good will toward everyone, but a love of delight, only toward the righteous. His good will is expressed toward the evil and the good by sending sunshine and rain upon them both (Matt. 5:45), and by accepting everyone who comes to him trusting in Christ and repenting of their sins, no matter how vile they have been previously.

From all that has been said, it is clear to see how God can be said to love sinners in one sense, but hate them in another.

Some people attempt to express it like this, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” But this doesn’t quite do. It seems to suggest that sin has an existence independent of the sinner, as if God abstracts the sin from the sinner. But it is not sin as such that is punished; it is sinners. They are punished in their own persons. It is with them that he is angry, not with sin as an abstract concept.

Another way of saying it is, that considered as a man God loves the sinner; but considered as a sinner, God hates him. Man is the work God’s own hands, and as such God loves him (is benevolent toward him); but God hates what man has made of himself. We should be careful to add, however, that this does not preclude God from freely offering and generously granting every sinner who repents abundant mercy in the forgiveness of sins.


Anonymous said…
Excellent! I have wondered about the love/hate thing in relation to God, and now it has been explained. Thank you!

Kristen C.
Doug Enick said…
You are most welcome. Glad you found it helpful!

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