Proverbs 6:16-20 lists seven things that God finds abominable and hateful. It’s a rich text.
For starters, the “seven” stands out. God loves His creation since it is good; what He hates is a seven-fold inversion of creation. At the very least, we can say that the wicked person who is sketched out in Proverbs 6 becomes a photo negative of creation, and leaves an unraveling creation in his wake. Creation is maintained in right order by humility, truth, productive hands, hearts devoted to God, feet that walk in God’s ways, harmony among brothers. God hates the wicked because they ruin His creation at every point by their pride, lies, violence, and discord.
We might press the analogy with the creation week by linking the hateful features with the days of creation: Eyes are the light of the body; the tongue is the permeable boundary between inside and outside as the firmament is the boundary across which heaven and earth converse; hands should be put to productive uses, tending the grains and trees created on day 3, but evil hands destroy; in the “fourth day” position, the heart is the ruler of the person, as sun, moon, and stars rule the heavens; feet that run to evil are linked with the “crowd creatures” of day five; a false witness is an anti-Adam; whoever sows discord among brothers is undermining the possibility of Sabbath.
Like the creation account, the list is chiastically structures:
A. Haughty eyes
B. Lying tongue
C. Hands that shed innocent blood
D. Heart that devises wickedness
C’. Feet that run to evil
B’. Breath of falsehood
A’. Whoever sows discord
B and B’ are linked since both have to do with lies, and C’ and C’ for the pair, hands and feet. As we would expect, “heart” is at the center of the text as the heart is at the center of the body, and of the moral and religious life. At the heart, in the heart, of what God hates is deliberate plotting of evil.
The passage begins with a little two-step: Six things God hates, no seven. And there’s a similar two step within the structure of the passage. The first five items on the list provide a sort of physical portrait, a wasf of the wicked. The text moves from eyes to tongue to hands to heart, all the way down to the feet. Five is a military number in the Bible, the number of men in a rank; five is a number of power, the five-fingered hand; the wicked devotes all five powers to evil. But then there’s a sixth feature implied: Breath indicates “nose,” though the nose is not mentioned. With its six features, the wicked is a full inversion of Adamic innocence, using all his creation powers for evil.Eyes are given for discernment and judgment, but to function rightly, the eyes must be humble, not haughty; haughty eyes judge wrongly, judge harshly; haughty eyes miss crucial things that must be seen. The tongue is created to be a mediator of truth, hence a mediator of life, but the tongue of the wicked is devoted to lies. Hands are to be creatively productive, but wicked hands destroy. Hearts always devise plans, but the heart of the wicked plots to do evil. We have feet because we are creatures in space, and thus creatures also in time; feet move us from place to place, and from intentions to ends; feet move us along the path from beginning to conclusion. To walk well, we must walk deliberately, without haste, by faith; but the feet of the wicked not only pursue evil, but pursue evil hastily. At the center of the face, the nose is central to life; it is the point of exchange for the breath that enables us to live; it is created not only to breathe in from outside, but to breathe out; we depend on breath, and others depend on the breath of speech that we breathe out. Yahweh breathed life into Adam’s nostrils, but the Last Adam breathes out the Spirit on His disciples. Filled with the Spirit, we are sources of the breath of life. But the wicked breathes out falsehood, and hence breathes out noxious. What Proverbs describes here in detail is what Paul has in mind in Romans 6 when he tells the Romans they have died and so no longer need to devote the members of their bodies to injustice.
When all six powers of sixfold humanity are devoted to falsehood and evil, the result can only be dissonance. There can be no social harmony when eyes, tongue, hands, heart, feet, and nose are all agents of sin.
One last point arises from an absence. The human head has four points of exchange between inside and out: eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Proverbs 6 doesn’t mention ears. The ears of the wicked are so stopped up to wise correction that it is as if they have no ears. The wicked devote all their powers to evil because, at bottom, they have gone deaf to the Word of Yahweh that is the beginning of wisdom.