One of the major problems in our world is that many people hate other people. This is true between nations, within nations, and even within families. Hatred may be passively expressed in the form of feelings such as dislike or ill will, but at other times hatred is actively demonstrated in the form of verbal or physical encounters.
In this article we will attempt to determine if the Bible indicates that all hatred is wrong or if it indicates that sometimes hatred is appropriate.
What Does the Bible Teach about Hating Our “Brothers” or “Neighbors”?
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, unless indicated otherwise.]
In the Old Testament of the Bible, Leviticus 19:17-18 declares,
You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Strong’s Concordance of the Bible says the Hebrew word sane that is translated as hate in this scripture refers to an emotion ranging from “intense hatred” to “set against.” And, Strong indicates that the Hebrew word ach that is translated as brother in the same scripture usually refers to a countryman, but occasionally it may have a broader connotation.
Adam Clarke Commentary states in reference to Leviticus 19:17-18, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother – Thou shalt not only not do him any kind of evil, but thou shalt harbor no hatred in thy heart towards him. On the contrary, thou shalt love him as thyself.”
With regard to whom the same scripture deems to be “neighbors,” John Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible says, “Not only those with whom we have some connection are called our neighbors, but all without exception; for the whole human race forms one body, of which all are members. . . .”
Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible indicates that the terms brother and neighbor in Leviticus 19:17-18 are essentially the same, stating, “Thy brother; the same with neighbour [sic], as it follows, i.e. every man. . . .”
So, at the very least, Leviticus 19:17-18 instructs those who believe in God not to hate people who are their countrymen, which presumably includes women as well as men.
In the New Testament of the Bible, there are several scriptures that likewise address the question of whether or not it is wrong to hate someone. Among these scriptures are the following:
1 John 2:9: He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
1 John 2:11a: [H]e who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness. . . .
1 John 3:15: Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
1 John 4:20: If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
Strong states that the Greek word miseo, which is translated as hate in all of these last four scriptures, “basically means having a preference for one thing over another,” and goes on to say, “It may work itself in strong emotion, but not necessarily.” In reference to the Greek word adelphos that is translated as brother in these scriptures, Strong indicates that it probably refers to any man, although sometimes it refers just to a man with a common nationality or a common interest.
Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible makes the following comments regarding the term brother in 1 John 2:9, and the comments are also applicable to the other three scriptures in First John that we cited previously:
hateth his brother – The word “brother” seems here to refer to those who professed the same religion. The word is indeed sometimes used in a larger sense, but the reference here appears to be to that which is properly brotherly love among Christians.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary likewise takes the position that the word brother in 1 John 2:9 refers to fellow Christians rather than to fellow men in general, a viewpoint that is also applicable to the three other First John scriptures that we previously referenced.
In contrast, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, in specific regard to 1 John 2:9, but with applicability to the other three scriptures in First John that we have cited, states,
hateth his brother: who is so either by creation, as all men are brethren, having one Father, that has made them, and brought them up; or by regeneration, being born of God the Father, and in the same family and household of faith. . . .
Thus, there is disagreement as to who are the so-called brothers referred to in the four previously referenced scriptures in First John. The term brother may refer to men having the same nationality, men who are Christians, or every man.
What Did Jesus Christ Teach about Hating Our Enemies?
In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus Christ asserts, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. . . .”
Before we attempt to explain the significance of Matthew 5:43-44, it should be noted that nowhere in the Bible does it say that is alright for a person to hate their enemy, so the saying to which Jesus was alluding must have been conventional dogma that was not based upon Old Testament teaching. Barnes’ explanation of this matter is,
The command to love our neighbor was a law of God, Leviticus 19:18. That we must therefore hate our enemy was an inference drawn from it by the Jews. They supposed that if we loved the one, we must of course hate the other.
According to Strong. the Greek word apapao that is translated as love in Matthew 5:43-44 is love in a social or moral sense, And, Strong indicates that this type of love is not as deep as agape love, which is the deepest (or greatest) type of love. Instead, apapao generally involves genuine caring, as opposed to hate or indifference.
Barnes offers the following explanation regarding the command of Jesus Christ to love our enemies:
Love your enemies – There are two kinds of love, involving the same general feeling, or springing from the same fountain of good-will to all mankind, but differing so far as to admit of separation in idea. The one is that feeling by which we approve of the conduct of another, commonly called the love of complacency; the other, that by which we wish well to the person of another, though we cannot approve his conduct. This is the love of benevolence, and this love we are to bear toward our enemies. It is impossible to love the conduct of a person who curses and reviles us, who injures our person or property, or who violates all the laws of God; but, though we may hate his conduct, and suffer keenly when we are affected by it, yet we may still wish well to the person; we may pity his madness and folly; we may speak kindly of him and to him; we may return good for evil; we may aid him in the time of trial; we may seek to do him good here and to promote his eternal welfare hereafter, Romans 12:17-20. This seems to be what is meant by loving our enemies; and this is a special law of Christianity, and the highest possible test of piety, and probably the most difficult of all duties to be performed.
Also, with regard to loving our enemies, Jesus Christ states in Luke 6:27: “I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. . . .”
The same Greek word that is translated as love in Matthew 5:43-44, which we just discussed, is used in Luke 6:27 too. Therefore, Bible commentaries do not make any significant comments that differ from what they said in regard to Matthew 5:43-44.
[For a more comprehensive discussion about loving everyone, click on “Are Christians Supposed to Love Everyone?”]
What Does the Bible Teach about Hating Evil?
If we are not supposed to hate anyone, as indicated by the preceding discussion, is hate ever justified? The answer is: Yes, the Bible does mention that we should hate evil.
Psalm 97:10a admonishes, “You who love the LORD, hate evil!”
The Hebrew word translated as hate in this scripture is the same word that is used in Leviticus 19:17a, which we previously discussed. Thus, hating evil in Psalm 97:10a refers to an emotion ranging from intense hatred to “set against.”
Although Psalm 97:10a is the only scripture in the Bible that specifically instructs people to hate evil, Proverbs 6:16-19 mentions seven types of evil that God hates. Therefore, those who love God and want to please Him should also hate evil.
In this regard, Barnes declares,
Show your love for the Lord by hating all that is evil; that is, all that he hates, or that is evil in his sight. There can be no true love for God where evil is not hated in all its forms, since it is the object of the divine abhorrence.
If we love even our enemies, as Jesus Christ taught, we will not hate anyone. However, we should hate every form of evil in which people engage. Stated another way, we should hate the evil things that people do, but not the people themselves.