Enemy, Enemies

ENEMY, ENEMIES. One who feels or behaves in a hostile manner.


2. Old Testament teaching. Enmity among men, resulting in murder, is one of the first recorded results of the Fall (Gen 4:5-8). This enmity between men will someday be removed (Mic 4:3, 4). Enmity is opposed to love, a basic ethical principle even in the law (Lev 19:18). The law commanded love even for the resident foreigner (19:34).

The enmity of nature toward man is also a result of the Fall (Gen 3:17, 18). The future will include reconciliation of the parts of nature with one another, as, for example, in the case of reconciling the enmity between the animals (Isa 65:25).

Men, including God’s chosen people (Lam 2:4; Isa 1:24, 25), who oppose God’s purposes can become enemies of God. Scriptures hint that their hatred of God is self-destructive (Isa 26:11c: “your enemies’ fire will consume them”—writer’s tr.). God’s vengeance on His enemies is coming (Jer 46:10), and God’s enemies must be destroyed when God reigns (Ps 97:1, 3).

The OT principle of revenge (Lev 24:19-21) seems to sanction revengeful enmity against one’s enemy. On the other hand, revenge may have been a necessary, though unpleasant, expedient for maintaining public order in the absence of central governmental authority. Also, the OT principle of revenge prevented the act of revenge from becoming disproportionately larger than the original crime. The revenge could not exceed in degree the crime or hurt committed. As such, the principle of revenge would not have been an unconditional warrant for personal hatred. In personal relations, the OT attitude is expressed in the warning not to rejoice in the enemy’s misfortunes (Prov 24:17) and in the command to return the enemy’s lost goods (Exod 23:4, 5).


3. New Testament teaching. The NT specifically and unequivocally commands love both for the stranger (Luke 10:29-37) and the hostile enemy (Matt 5:38-44).

The message of Christ, however, may produce enmity (Matt 10:34-36). Theologically, enmity with God has been universalized and used to describe fallen mankind (Rom 5:10). “Reconciliation,” then, views salvation as making enemies of God into friends of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20). See Wrath.

Bibliography D. Philipson, “Enemy,” Jew-Enc (1901); W. Foerster, “ἐχθρός, G2398,” TDNT (1964).