Does God hate sinners (Psalm 5:5)?


Verse in question:

In Psalm 5:5 we read that: “The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.”

Does God hate sinners? I thought he loved everyone?

A response:

A first look seems to suggest that the author, David, is implying that God hates sinners, but is that necessarily God’s view? For instance, we see Psalm 137:9 the author’s hatred of the Babylonians for their capturing of the Jews: “How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.”

Would that be God’s view? Does God condone dashing “little ones against the rock(s)”? No, the author is simply speaking his mind, and if that is the case there is no reason to suppose that David in Psalm 5:5 is not speaking his.

Second, there is a writing device called metonymy. This is a figure of speech that replaces the name of a thing with the name of something else with which it is closely associated. For example, when I say that “I really hate Shakespeare”, I do not mean that I hate his personality, I mean I hate his work, his poems.

A Biblical case in point would be when we read that God hates “a false witness who speaks lies” (Proverbs 6:19), if metonymy is deployed, then God hates the lies and the one who is doing the lying (the cause) is put in place of the lies (the effect). In Proverbs 6:17 God hates “a lying tongue.” Would that mean that God hates physical tongues? No, obviously not, it means God hates the sin that a tongue can perform.

It is crucial to bear in mind that the Bible writers often used figures of speech when they write. So, in this case (Psalm 5:5) God hates sin, but loves sinners, the figure of speech known as metonymy clears up the confusion. Just as God does not hate physical feet or tongues, he does not hate sinners. These nouns are put in the place of the things they cause – sin. It would also defy explanation to suggest that God hates sinners which is the very reason he had Jesus die on a cross.

One response to “Does God hate sinners (Psalm 5:5)?

  1. Thanks for the helpful response on the use of metonymy. There are several reasons, though, why I feel this response is inadequate.

    1. Hatred of the sinner or the sin is inconsequential upon the day of wrath. Every person in hell right now thinks that God hates him. The eternal torment of which the Bible speaks is indicative of a punishment of the person – not the sin. The sin doesn’t go to hell – the sinner does.

    2. Saying that God loves everyone is unhelpful. Do you mean that God loves everyone in the exact same way? Why, then, are some born into Christian homes and are inundated with the Gospel at an early age, and why are some born in lands where they will never even hear the gospel – and are thus condemned? For that matter, how is it loving to know someone is going to be born, live and die never hearing the gospel – thus knowing they will burn in hell for all eternity – and yet let them be born anyway. Heresies like open theism have crept in to try and excuse God from this inconvenient truth. A better message would seem to be that you are at enmity with God and you are storing up wrath on the day of judgment – REPENT!

    3. How much can you love someone and still send them to hell? As a parent, there is no chance that I would send one of my children to an eternal punishment regardless of what they do. They could murder my entire family – me included – and I would not want them to suffer for all eternity for it. Those who question how a loving God could send someone to hell, then, raise a very good point. God doesn’t love the person he sends to hell like he loves the person he saves – which again confuses with the use of the term “loves”. If you mean by love that God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked – that he wants everyone to repent – that the Gospel is for all men – then I agree.

    4. It seems to make promises from Jesus somewhat meaningless. From John 14:23: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him….”

    I thought the Father already loved him? At a minimum, the kind of love of which Jesus speaks is contingent upon a person keeping Jesus’ word.

    I appreciate your thoughts and the opportunity to interact.

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