The Deadly Sins of Proverbs 6:16-19: Hands that Kill

Perhaps you have noticed by now that Proverbs 6:16-19 is not simply a list of ills that God hates though it most certainly is that.  But it is more. On the surface of this list is an explanation. God is not only telling us the things He hates but why He hates them.  Have you noticed what is included in this list? We have eyes, a tongue, hands, a heart, feet and even breath! If we were Dr. Frankenstein we might create an entire person! And that is the point. God is telling us that the entire person is corrupt.

It’s not only the externals but the entrails that are problematic.  By entrails we are not simply talking about the muscle that pumps our blood.  No, when talking about the heart Solomon has inclinations and motivations in mind.  The person is rotten to the core. What’s the message?  Quite simply, God hates these things because they are evidence that the image of God in man has been destroyed. Of course, we are talking here about the image of God in the narrow (e.g. knowledge, righteousness and holiness) and not the broad sense (rationally and linguistically). The point is that these behaviors are evidence of our hatred for God. 

This is even clearer when we think of “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). After the flood we read that murder is a capital offense. This was not new. But annexed to this statement regarding the capital crime of murder is the explanation, “for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).  In other words, murder is a crime and a capital offense at that, because it is a strike at God Himself.  In man’s act of killing man he is, at the root of the matter, seeking to murder God.  This, of course, God hates.

Now, even this is not without nuance.  For example, in Exodus 22:2-3 we read, “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him.”  You see the point. If it’s after dark, then the homeowner was clearing protecting himself and his family.  We might say, he was protecting the image of God as it resided in his home.  However, if the sun was up, well then, it could be that the homeowner was in fact striking at the image of God in fallen man. The point is not to adjudicate this example but to notice the nuance.

However, when murder is on the mind it is something that God hates. But the question is when is it murder? Is it only when someone plunges a knife in another person? Well, anyone who knows the Sermon on the Mount knows differently.  Murder is the worst form of a species of behavior that swings at the image of God in man.  A lesser form of the same is anger. Jesus wants us to equate these two and helps us to do so by not simply mentioning them but creating a mental image of the first murder.  Think of these elements found in Matthew 5:21-26: murder, brother, offering, and altar.  Of what do these remind you?  If you said, “Cain and Abel” you hit the mark.  But what’s the point? Simply this, sin’s affect on us is deeper than any of us imagine. We are sinful and corrupt in every part of our being.  We may have not pulled the trigger of a gun with the barrel pointed at another person but we get angry with people and both are of the same species. 

It’s no wonder Paul tells the Christian not to let the sun go down on their anger (Ephesians 4:26).  The opportunity for the devil to get a foothold in an angry life is real. We ought to strenuously avoid it. Let me ask, “Are you angry?” Have you allowed annoyance to become something far worse? If so, let me remind you that your life is hidden in the One who was murdered for you.  And because your life is hidden in Christ we are able to let go of our anger. It’s not easy but it is possible.  It need not consume us. Together let’s stop doing the thing God hates.

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is also an online instructor for Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA. He is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and has published academic articles and book reviews in various journals. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth (placefortruth.org) an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.