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HATE, HATRED (שָׂנֵא, H8533, μισει̂ν). An intense aversion or active hostility that is expressed in settled opposition to a person or thing.

In ordinary Old Testament usage of the term, “hate” expressed the hatred that men had for their fellow men, the very human response that usually comes from anger, fear, or a sense of injury, as when Esau hated Jacob (Gen 27:41). In the New Testament, something of the same emphasis can be seen in the prophetic statement that Christ’s disciples will be hated by men (John 15:18-24). The Apostle Paul condemned hatred, listing it as one of the works of the flesh (Gal 5:20). Also, the Old Testament includes a clear prohibition of hatred between brethren (Lev 19:17).

There is a special and sometimes problematic usage of “hate” in the Old Testament. God was said to love Jacob but to hate Esau (Mal 1:2, 3), to hate ungodly men (Ps 5:5), and to hate that which was evil (Prov 6:16). The emotional connotation should be subtracted from such passages; God must not be understood to act on the human plane of anger and hostility. It must likewise be recognized that the Hebrew thought-form makes no sharp distinction between the individual and his deeds. A man in Hebrew thought is the sum total of the actions of his life, so that to say God hated a man is not to say that God was maliciously disposed toward a particular personality, but to note divine opposition to evil that was registered in that life. In connection with Esau, “hate” had a very colorless sense, being almost equivalent to the acknowledgement of a divine selectivity. Jacob He chose and Esau He rejected.

God also was said to hate idolatry and false worship (Deut 12:31; 16:22; Jer 44:4) and even Israel’s worship when it was external only (Isa 1:14; Amos 5:21; Mal 2:13-16).

Some Old Testament passages intertwine God’s hatred with the hatred of men. God’s enemies were the enemies of His people, and the enemies of God’s people likewise became the objects of a divine hatred (Num 10:35; Deut 7:15; 33:11). The Book of Psalms esp. joined the hatred of God and His people for their mutual enemies (Pss 68:1, 2; 139:19-22).

Jesus modified the teaching of the Jews by insisting that although they had heard it said they were to love their neighbors but hate their enemies, they should rather love their enemies and do good to those who hated them (Matt 5:43; Luke 6:27). Jesus’ words of admonition to His disciples seem strange in light of His teaching of love for enemies when He also said, “If any one 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” (Luke 14:26). The key to understanding these words is found in a knowledge of Sem. thought-forms. The Sem. mind thought by the contrast of extremes, such as light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate. The disciples were thus instructed not that they should have anger, or hostility, toward those nearest and dearest to them, but rather that even those nearest and dearest to them must be given second place to their loyalty and affection for Jesus. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with the disciples’ commitment to the cause of Christ, esp. not their own selfish desires or ambitions.

Especially in the writing attributed to John is the spirit of Christ with reference to the antithesis of love to hatred emphasized. John saw and expressed the sharp Semitic juxtaposition of love and hatred in the imagery of light and darkness. “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). In the same context, it is the love of God in Jesus Christ that has become operative in the world to destroy the hatred of the light; and even though the disciples are hated by the world, they are to reveal to it the love of Christ that is stronger than hate (17:14, 20-26).

Additional Material

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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