A Perfect Hatred
"I hate them with perfect hatred:
I count them mine enemies."—Psalm 139:22
How did David, beloved of God, cope with his anger?
Without knowing more, in this text it is not clear whether he is coping with anger or
letting it eat him up. How do you cope with anger?
"Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down
upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Paul implies that unless we are careful, becoming
angry can lead to sin.
The Emotion of Anger
Anger is an emotion, a natural function of being human. It
is not possible for one to avoid anger any more than it is possible to avoid love or fear
or grief. God himself experiences anger. The scriptures are replete with references to
Could God hate if he did not experience anger? We read in
Proverbs 6:16-19 of seven things God hates: "These six things doth the LORD hate:
yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed
innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running
to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among
brethren." The child of God should likewise hate these sinful characteristics of the
fallen nature and be angry at seeing them displayed. This is righteous anger and is not
McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia defines anger as
"the emotion of instant displeasure, which arises from the feeling of injury done, or
the discovery of injury intended, or, in many cases, from the discovery of the omission of
good offices to which we supposed ourselves entitled."
This portion of the definition applies uniquely to us.
Notice that it frequently stems from pride! It arises from not necessarily injury actually
done but from a feeling of injury intended, or the omission from an honor or position of
which we thought ourselves worthy. That should give us great reason to ponder our right to
Two Types of Emotions
We are told that there are two basic types of human
emotions, based on their effect upon the body. The first group includes those that result
in over stimulation of various parts of the body: an over stimulation, via the nervous
system, of any organ or any muscle or of one or more of the endocrine glands. This over
stimulation produces an unpleasant feeling. Anger, anxiety, fear, discouragement, grief,
and dissatisfaction are just a few in this category.
The second group includes those emotions whose
manifestations in the body are an optimal (or most favorable) stimulation. These emotions
give us a pleasant feeling or a sense of well being. Among these are hope, joy, courage,
affection, love, agreeableness, and many others. Would any classify emotions of this sort
a sin? Of course not, and yet these are also emotions, as are anger and fear.
That emotions are reactions to stimuli is borne out in the
origin of the Hebrew words for anger. Half a dozen Hebrew words are translated
"anger," and they all seem to deal with external signs of body reaction to
stimulus. One is "to breathe hard," an obvious external sign of anger. Another
is "nostril," which flares out when one is angry. Another means to
"glow," or grow warm, and yet another means to "froth at the mouth."
Some of the external manifestations of the emotion of
anger are a reddening of the skin of the face, a widening of the eyelids, bloodshot whites
of the eyes, contraction and tightening of the lips, a setting of the jaw, a clenching of
the fists, a tremor in the arms, and often in the voice. The onlooker can detect a state
of anger immediately upon seeing anyone with such manifestations.
However, the internal manifestations are much more
profound and remarkable. When people become angry, their blood will clot much, much
quicker. This is a natural defense mechanism, because emotional reaction often implies a
fight, and a wound or wounds, so blood clotting becomes necessary to minimize blood loss.
Another similarly valuable manifestation is that the
number of blood cells in the circulating blood increases dramatically. Also, the muscles
at the outlet of the stomach squeeze down so tightly that nothing can leave the stomach
during anger. The entire digestive tract becomes so spastic that many people have severe
abdominal pains during or after a fit of anger. The heart rate goes up markedly during
anger, often to 180 or 220, and even higher, and will remain there until the anger has
passed. The blood pressure will go up from a normal of 130 to 230 or more, and in anger,
the coronary arteries will squeeze down, producing angina pains.
Obviously anyone who undergoes repeated and unrestrained
fits of anger also undergoes a great deal of undue stress and strain on the various parts
of the body. Physical health is placed in jeopardy. As the apostle points out concerning
the integral parts of the body of Christ in Ephesians 4:16, what affects one member of
that body will affect other members. Would it not follow that the health of that spiritual
body would also be placed in jeopardy by the uncontrolled anger of its members?
Understanding the nature and extent of this emotion we
call anger can go a long way toward learning to cope with it. Remember the Apostle
Paul’s admonition above (Ephesians 4:26, 27). Note the Diaglott wording: "When
angry, do not sin; let not the sun set on your wrath; nor give an opportunity for the
accuser." One cannot help becoming angry, but the Christian must not give in to the
temptation of venting his wrath. That is what the old fallen nature, which is in slavery
to Satan, longs to do. But if one gives in to it, then it becomes sin. In Romans 8, Paul
emphasizes that "ye are not in the flesh," and thus are not subject to Satan;
but in the spirit, "if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have
not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Furthermore, Paul, in the concluding
verses of Romans 12 and the opening verses of chapter 13, explains that we, as Christians,
are not to avenge ourselves. We are not authorized to set things right as we see the
wrong, but we are to step out of the way and let God handle the matter in his own way. He
then quotes Deuteronomy 32:35, saying, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the
The responsibility of the follower of Jesus then is to
exercise faith that the Lord is not only capable of dealing with the matter but is also
active at all times in all such arrangements for the very purpose of giving his followers
experiences to test, develop, and strengthen their loyalty and faith. Whenever one is
tempted to exercise his personal wrath, he is in jeopardy of preempting the Lord’s
next move, assuming authority where he has none.
What of David’s anger as expressed in his phrase,
"I hate them with perfect hatred"? In the context we see that he is really
echoing God’s statement in Proverbs and expressing his hatred for all things wicked
in the sight of God. He concludes this psalm by saying, "Search me, O God, and know
my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and
lead me in the way everlasting" (vs. 23, 24).
Think of David’s experience with Bathsheba and the
lengths to which he was willing to go to have her for his own. It seems beyond reason that
he went to the point of having her husband murdered. That is exactly the issue here! It is
beyond reason! Love, hate, anger are all beyond reason because they are emotions! After
the parable that Nathan recited to him, can we not readily assume that David examined
himself and found wickedness in his own character that was beyond his control? Perhaps it
was exactly this kind of wickedness that he hated with "a perfect hatred!"
Slow to Anger
"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty;
and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."—Proverbs 16:32
This text tells us how God views the self control of his
children and is, of course, the theme of the followers of Christ, changing their
character. Changing the character of fallen human nature, for those called out of
darkness, has been the greatest work of the past 2000 years of the Gospel age. According
to the Apostle Paul, in Romans 8:5-8, the fallen human nature is opposed to God and is not
subject to his laws. He even said that it cannot be. That is quite a statement and one
most baffling to those in Christendom who presently see themselves in covenant
relationship with God on Sunday but pursue their own personal interests the other six days
of the week. The law of God has not to do with actions or activities. It is not a set of
rules to follow in order to become righteous. The laws given to Israel by Moses were not
designed to make Israel righteous. No laws can do that. We reiterate Romans 8:7: "The
carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed
can be." Becoming righteous is not accomplished by following laws but rather by faith
changing the thought processes of the mind and thus the condition of the heart.
The Ten Commandments should control the mind of man. When
asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus said that love is greatest; first, to love
God with all one’s heart and soul, and then to love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew
22:36-40). While love itself is not a physical action, it can only be defined by
one’s actions. The parable of the sheep and the goats shows that, in the end, it is
love in the character that is important and that the character shows itself in one’s
actions rather than the other way around.
It is a simple matter to advise one, "When you become
angered, do not let it control you." It is another matter entirely to instill control
in one’s character. For example: you are driving your car in traffic and others keep
cutting into your lane without so much as a signal. You keep slowing down to avoid
following too closely in order to allow for a margin of safety. You are just as concerned
about getting to work on time as the others, yet you want to get there in one piece. Just
how do you "turn the other cheek" in a case like this? Then, with this
experience fresh in mind, you arrive at work to find that someone has parked in your
designated parking space, and you have to drive around looking for a place to park. Now,
arriving late at your workplace due to delays caused by others, your co-workers tease you
for over-sleeping. At this point your nostrils have flared, your face has taken on a pink
glow, and your breathing is heavy. Are you angry? Certainly! Have you lost control?
Possibly, at least to the extent that your co-workers are alerted and they are reacting
This is hardly an unusual set of circumstances in the
hustle and bustle of today. What will you do about it? How do you cope with your anger
when it is piled on layer after layer? One trial at a time you can handle, but this load
If we can remember what anger does to us physically and
that only spiritual strength can overcome it, then we can seek that strength. In the
privacy of our car on a quiet street or before going to work, we can seek the Lord and put
the burden on him.
We might do well, in time of need, to be able to call to
mind one or more of the following mini-lessons. "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:
fret not thyself in any wise to do evil" (Psalm 37:8). "He that is slow to wrath
is of great understanding" (Proverbs 14:29). "A soft answer turneth away wrath:
but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).