“These six things the LORD hates. Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” Proverbs 6:16–19

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are filled with wise words from a father to his son. King Solomon may be recalling advice he received from his own father and adding to it wisdom that he has gleaned. Though the advice is couched in terms directed to a son, there is absolutely no reason to think that it is advice exclusively for a son. A father’s advice is always directed to both sons and daughters. Wisdom is always wisdom.

The other thing that is unique about the first nine chapters is the fact that these chapters are quite thematic. The rest of the book of Proverbs appears to be more of a collection of disparate, general maxims only loosely thematically ordered. Our passage from 6:16–19 has a context which further embellishes its meaning.

Chapter one starts off expressing the absolute necessity of embracing God’s wisdom. Chapter two elevates the protecting role of wisdom in a young man’s life. Chapter three communicates the high personal value of wisdom learned and practiced. Chapter four elevates the guiding role of wisdom for one’s entire life.

Then, the tenor of the advice changes in chapter five. The advice takes on a very practical tone. Wisdom is not just for personal enrichment, it is also to help a young man identify where danger lurks around him. Wisdom’s practical role is to provide insight into how dangerous sinful, human nature can be. Sinfulness is not just dangerous because of the fact that evil abroad masquerades, but it is also dangerous because of the naivete to which youthfulness is prone.

The fifth chapter illustrates that wisdom provides practical clarity in emotion-driven and sensual relationships. And then, chapter six continues to provide specific illustrations of dangers encountered in real life situations. Wise beyond his years will be the son who embraces in his heart God’s wisdom in all its nuances.

Wisdom will guard you against the danger of taking on another’s debts. There are friends who happily take advantage of you. Solomon advises against taking on a profligate’s debt in pledge (6:1–5). Wisdom will make you aware of the dangers of laziness. Solomon advises you to become a good steward of your resources in time, talent, and treasure (6:6–11). Wisdom will also alert you to evil characters. Solomon would have you be on the alert for evil “tells” (6:12–15). Constantly be discerning and evaluating yourself and others. Be on the lookout for crooked speech (12), for insinuations about others (13), for duplicity in heart, plotting, and wielding distrust as a weapon (14). These things (i.e., people) God will judge in His good time (15).

Our text (Proverbs 6:16–19) appears to be Solomon’s way of making evil behaviors more memorable to the young man. The list is easily remembered. In fact, the way Solomon enumerates them aids in memory, “Six things God hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him!” There is an obvious enthusiasm with which he dispenses this indispensable wisdom! There is also a rather abrupt “wake-up call” delivered by using the word hate, which is used sparingly in Scripture. I believe the word serves to underscore the importance of this wisdom. If God hates these enumerated things, believers are duty bound to do the same.

Evil is recognized by these seven behaviors. It is because of these behaviors God will strike them and judgment will fall. First in the list is the proud look (Proverbs 6:17). Be on the lookout for disdainful, disrespectful, arrogant people with a haughty bearing. Selfishness is the engine of the soul of sinful man, and pride is the distinct aroma of a life that has not been brought into submission to God. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).

Next is a lying tongue. God is no friend of liars, plain and simple. “Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death” (Proverbs 21:6). Since the very essence of God is truth, and Satan’s nature is the opposite (John 8:44), and lying tongues do so much damage (James 3:5ff), no wonder the heavy hand of God’s judgment will fall.

Hands that shed innocent blood is next in the list. God always defends the defenseless. It is spiritually senseless to make yourself an enemy of God. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without a cause’” (Proverbs 1:10f).

A heart that devises wicked plans means someone who hatches evil plots. From the look, to the tongue, to the hands, and now to the heart, we are steadily getting to the heart of the matter (or to the heart of the sinner). It was for the fact that the thoughts of men were only evil continually that the flood came upon mankind (Genesis 6:5).

From the heart to the feet we go, running after evil and then testifying falsely. If you cannot do the evil yourself then you get someone else to do so by manipulating them with treachery. The last on the list is therefore the one who sows and stirs up dissension. Be on the alert against such evil everywhere it appears. Trust and obey.