“16 There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19 NASB)
Introduction: Proverbs 6:16-19 is presented amid a section of Proverbs intended by Solomon to provide examples of prudence (Constable 25). According to Constable, “A prudent person can foresee the consequences of possible actions and behaves accordingly” (Constable 25). There is little doubt that this passage connects the inward condition of one’s heart to their outward behavior. For the original audience, it would have been clear according to the context that to foster and nurture a soiled heart results in “sins that displease the Lord” (Steveson 77). Of course, the modern reader is privy to the full revelation of Jesus Christ and understands that even the worst heart can be washed clean by the blood of Christ.
Verse 16: Dr. Thomas Constable writes, “The phrase ‘six … yes, seven’ implies that this list is not exhaustive of what God hates, though it is explicit” (Constable 26). Verse 16 is an example of what Longman refers to as numerical parallelism as it follows an x, x+1 pattern. Longman writes, “Such a device is a way of saying there are a number of different examples of the phenomenon, only a few of which are given” (Longman 45). For the original hearer of this Proverb, as well as the modern reader, it must be understood that there are more things than just the seven items on the following list that are an abomination to God. However, each item on this list must be taken seriously. According to Strong’s dictionary, these “abominations” are things that are particularly disgusting and abhorrent in the sight of God (Strong). As such, the reader will do well to avoid each of the following items.
Verse 17: The first three items on the list are presented in this verse: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. It does not seem to be a coincidence that these three items each represent an action that is first birthed in the heart and then acted upon with a part of the body: eyes, tongue, and hands. Steveson writes, “… the eyes serve as a mirror of the soul” (84). The outward actions of pride, lying, and even murder reflect an inward condition of sin. In his commentary, Matthew Henry writes, “These things which God hates, we must hate in ourselves; it is nothing to hate them in others (Henry). The disciple of Christ must learn to recognize these inward sins before they are birthed into action. Inward sin left unaddressed will inevitably spill over into our actions.
Verse 18: Verse 18 echoes the sentiment of verse 17. “A heart that devises wicked schemes” and “feet that run rapidly to evil”. Again, these two concepts do not seem to be mutually exclusive. The astute reader cannot help but notice the parallelism present in this verse. In reference to parallelism, Longman writes, “… the second part [of the verse] sharpens and intensifies the thought of the first part” (Longman 39). This is certainly the case in this verse. It is evitable that a man whose heart devises wicked schemes will eventually run rapidly to evil. This is in direct contradiction to the admonition Paul gave Timothy, “But flee from these things [godlessness and depravity], you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 NASB emphasis mine). A person who allows his or her heart to remain sinful and to devise wicked schemes will ultimately run into sinful acts if given the opportunity. Our actions will inevitably mirror our inward condition. We may wonder at times how a man is capable of heinous sin. According to this passage, the answer is clear – he has practiced it many times over in his heart.
Verse 19: Again, the astute reader will notice the parallelism present in this verse. Solomon offers two suggestions of how a sinful heart may spill over to impact those closest to us. A sinful person may utter lies and those lies will inevitably spread strife among brothers. The modern reader will inevitably read the New Testament back into this passage and understand that lies will cause strife in the local church. Brothers will turn on brothers and chaos will result. More than one local church has split because of such conditions.
Conclusions: Certainly, a prudent man will learn how to recognize the sin in his heart before it spills over into actions. A wise person will understand the ramifications of their actions before they commit to them. Constable writes that this passage speaks to our “attitude, thought, speech, actions, and influence” (Constable 26). In other words, they speak to the totality of our being. Our heart as well as the actions of our tongues, eyes, and hands. The person who desires to gain control over his or her sinful actions will begin with the sinful nature of his or her heart.
Constable, Thomas. “Notes on Proverbs.” SonicLight.com. Retrieved from http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/proverbs.pdf. Web. 24 May 2013.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary. ChristNotes,org. Retrieved from http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=20&c=6. Web. 12 June 2013.
Longman, Trempor. How to Read the Proverbs. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Steveson, Peter. A Commentary on the Book of Proverbs. Greenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2001.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance with Greek and Hebrew Definitions. Electronic source included in the E-Sword Bible software. Downloaded from www.e-sword.net