WORD STUDY – HATE – שׁנה   


Psalms 139:21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?


Reading this verse in the English gives me a very unsettling feeling.  Every translation I read this verse in uses the word hate. I have heard sermons where we are to hate those who hate God and Psalms 139:21 is our proof text that we are given the right to hate so long as they are haters of God.


I was listening to the radio recently during the hearings on President Elect Trumps cabinet.  I heard protesters shouting out in the chambers of Congress against the cabinet candidates.  I could not understand a word they were saying but I could feel the hatred.  During President Elect Trump’s first news conference he got into a heated exchange with a reporter for the CNN news. I felt such hatred in that exchange.  Afterwards the reporter reported that he was just trying to get a question answered and fortunately someone else asked the question and got an answer and that was all that mattered.  It was obvious that was not all that matter, there was literal hatred being expressed.   The news keep playing this exchange over and over and I was getting physically sick listening to this hatered.


Hate is such a horrible, negative emotion.  People who are filled with hate suffering many physical and mental disorders. Hate produces no good, hate is pure evil and accomplishes nothing except to create more hate and division. What did that hateful exchange between the President Elect and the CNN reporter really accomplish?  All I heard afterwards were Trump supporters rubbing their hands in glee over this reporter getting his comeuppance and the Trump haters only expressing more hateful rhetoric.


Then I read Psalms 139:21 where it seems we are given a green light to hate those who hate God. We are to return evil for evil which is condemned in I Peter 3:9.  What do I do with this?  Just ignore it as something that I am unable to understand.  Declare as many that the Old Testament has no relevance to us today as the Old Testament is a book of anger and wrath where the New Testament is filled with love and forgiveness.  Am I to say we live in a new dispensation today and the teachings of the Old Testament are no longer applicable to us?


I believe the whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament are relevant to us today. Every word in the Bible is meant for us. I devoted my life to studying this book Old Testament and New Testament.


I hear Christians say that the Quran teaches hatred towards those who do not follow their teachings and yet does not Psalms 139:21 teach the same thing?  Yet many of the passages from the Quran which teaches hatred could be translated differently but radical leaders like the idea of the hatred and will teach from a misleading translation.  I personally believe that this is the case with passages such as Psalms 139:21 which seemingly teaches us to hate those who hate God. The Muslims worship the same God we do, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they view Him in a much different light than we do.  Thus, they hate the view of God that we worship.  Does not Psalms 139:21 instruct us to hate them in return?

Perhaps the problem is wrapped up in this word hate.  Our English word hate means to dislike intensely or passionately.  You know I have no problem disliking intensely the exchange between our President Elect and that reporter.  I have no problem disliking intensely the political demonstrations that accomplish nothing but create division.  That fits or English definition of  hatred.  We use the word hate in many different contexts.  I hate eating liver. In other words I have an extreme dislike for liver.  I say that and people sort of smile but they do not feel any negative emotion toward me when I express my dislike for liver.  Yet, if I were to say I hate an individual, that creates a negative emotion. If I say I hate the way that individual behaves the negative emotion I create is not so negative.


The word hate is very inchoate, that is it is a very confusing word.  The word used in the Hebrew here is sana’ which is the Hebrew word for hate and translators simply render this as hate.  However, as our English word for hate is very inchoate we really need to consider the emotional context that this word is used in and maybe consider an English word that expresses the emotional context.  Not to say hate is the wrong word to use but we need to keep in mind that our English word hate is also used in various contexts.  Some context hate expresses a very negative emotion and reaction from others.  In another context that word hate, as in “I hate liver” does not create an outrage in oneself or others.


The nineteenth Century Hebrew master and linguist Samson Hirsch applies the English word rejection to sana’.  He also uses the word reject or weaken.  He does not even apply the English word hate to sana’.  You see he is very mindful the emotion behind words.  As our English word hate in most cases create a negative emotion, he steers away from the emotion when used in the context of God.  Therefore, he would render the passage in Malachi 1:3 as Jacob I loved and Esau I hated as Jacob I loved and Easu I rejected.  Here we are using an English word that does not create such a strong emotion and yet it is a proper rendering for sana’.


The real clue to the emotion behind sana’ in Psalms 139:21 is the couplet where the writer repeats the same thought in a different way. There he says: “am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?” Now he is saying he is grieved by those reject God.  The word grieve in Hebrew here is qot which is used in a Hithpael form thus would mean a deep disquieting or loathing within himself.


So when I listen to that exchange between the President Elect and the CNN reporter I can say I feel a hatred in me or I can say that I feel a deep loathing within me.  In other words both the word sana’ and qot needs to be examined in its context as well as its emotional context.  It is technically accurate to render this passage as “I hate them O’ Lord who hate you.”  It is better understood if it is rendered: “I feel a deep unsettling, sick feeling for them who hate you.”



2 thoughts on “WORD STUDY – HATE – שׁנה

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts.
    I often think of how God puts us one to one with Him, e.g. “as much as you did to the least of these you did to Me..” (Mat 25:40) and so if I consider Psalm 139:21, and think about ‘what is hating God’ and is it not also hating/hurting people? And hating and hurting other people and creation does more than just give me a deep unsettling…it breaks my heart and lifts this kind of anger that can only be expressed in a frustration and longing for God to come fulfill “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.”
    Thanks again and enjoying your pieces,
    Jasmine @JasNotes, writing at Heart in Formation (https://heartinformation.wordpress.com/)

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