We hear Jesus saying in Mtt 5:43 (NIV):

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

< Cross reference of OT to first half of Mtt 5:43 is given as Lev 19:18 which reads as follows:

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

But, one does not find a mention as to hating of one's enemy in Lev 19. My question is: Which are the OT cross references for the complete verse of Mtt 5:43 ?

3 Answers 3


In answering this question, we should first note what Jesus does NOT say, namely, "It is written in the law ... " That is, Jesus does NOT attribute the aphorism to the Bible prophets, despite the fact that part of it does come from Lev 19:18 as the OP has correctly quoted.

What Jesus DOES say: "You have heard that it was said ..." Thus, Jesus attributes the aphorism to what is SAID, and not what is WRITTEN.

One presumes that this was either:

  • a common saying among people, or
  • a teaching of one of the schools of one of the Rabbis

In either case, it is not written in the Bible. This is expressed well by Ellicott -

(43) Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.—In form the latter clause was a Rabbinic addition to the former; and this is important as showing that our Lord deals throughout not with the Law as such, but with the scribes’ exposition of it.

Benson is similar:

Ye have heard, that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy — God enjoined the former part of this precept, Leviticus 19:18, and the scribes added the latter, abusing, it seems, the commands for destroying the Canaanites, to countenance such an addition, though this was in direct contradiction to many other scriptures. See Exodus 24:4-5; Leviticus 19:17; Proverbs 25:21.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary is similar:

Thou shalt love thy neighbour—To this the corrupt teachers added,

and hate thine enemy—as if the one were a legitimate inference from the other, instead of being a detestable gloss, as Bengel indignantly calls it. Lightfoot quotes some of the cursed maxims inculcated by those traditionists regarding the proper treatment of all Gentiles. No wonder that the Romans charged the Jews with hatred of the human race.

  • -1 these commentators ignore psalms 119 and 139 and thus wrongly blame scribes and rabbis. without evidence They also lived before the discovery of the DSS, which likewise teach hatred of the enemy. Feb 12 at 18:01
  • 1
    @DanFefferman - that is factually incorrect on two fronts: (1) the LXX reflects the Hebrew in the texts you quote and so the DSS did not need discovery to change the answer (2) those texts do not talk about hating your enemies; it teaches hating God's enemies, a quite different matter! This is quite unlike your usual careful research.
    – Dottard
    Feb 12 at 20:23
  • 1
    I accept your objection to the DSS... I included this as a counterpoint to those who blame the rabbis and scribes with no real evidence. I do not agree that "hate your enemies" is different than what is taught in Psalms 119 and 139. Are you suggesting that Jesus approved of hating one's enemies if on thinks they are hated by God? I think he was proposing a new paradigm that went beyond the old standard. Feb 12 at 22:02
  • 1
    @DanFefferman - I fully agree with the final sentence. The meaning of Ps 139:21, 22 should be the subject of another question. Suffice to say here that perhaps it includes hating what we should hate?
    – Dottard
    Feb 13 at 0:51
  • Could Jesus simply have been referring to the general treatment that most humans give to their enemies? As opposed to the scribes/Pharisees? Is there an actual quote from rabbinical literature saying to hate your enemies?
    – Nacht
    Feb 13 at 2:43

There are indeed OT cross references, although the cited commentators do not seem to be aware of them. For example, Psalm 139 does teach hatred for one's enemy.

21 Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you? Those who rise against you, do I not loathe? 22 With fierce hatred I hate them, enemies I count as my own.

Moreover, God himself is portrayed has full of wrath against his adversaries:

Nahum 1:2

A jealous and avenging God is the Lord, an avenger is the Lord, full of wrath; The Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries, and rages against his enemies;

Commentators have speculated that "hate your enemy" is a result of a rabbinical/pharisaic interpretation of Lev. 19. This is plausible but these commentators do not cite a specific rabbinical teaching to this effect. They also ignore Ps. 139 (see also Ps. 119:113 - "I hate every hypocrite.")

In addition to scriptures such as those cited above, a more definite source than putative rabbinical interpretations has come to light since the cited commentaries were written: namely, the "Community Rule" (Manual of Discipline) of the Qumran community (Dead Sea Scrolls). It states:

All those who devote themselves to do the ordinances of God shall be brought into the covenant of mercy for the community... He shall walk perfectly before Him... He shall love each one of the sons of light according to his lot in the council of God, and hate each one of the sons of darkness.

Conclusion: The OT does contain scriptures that teach hatred toward enemies. The scholarly opinion that "hate your enemy" is a specific rabbinical interpretation not found in the scriptures is contrary to clear evidence. Moreover, it is certain that the Qumran community (Essenes) taught their followers to hate their enemies. This may be what Jesus had in mind when he referred to this teaching - or he may simply have disagreed with texts such as Psalm 139.

  • 2
    The original question seems to inquire whether the quote "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy" is a biblical teaching that can be cross-referenced in the scriptures. The references you quote attributed to David and Nahum, though they are regarded as prophets, it's worth considering that they might have expressed their personal emotion. Notably their quotes do not begin with "This is what the Lord said". In contrast, Jesus provides a straight command to His followers to love their enemy. In the OT, God's expressions of hatred often relate to sin and imply His judgment, which is not personal. Feb 12 at 20:06
  • @VincentWong The OP asks for "OT cross references" for hating one's enemy. I would understand the objection that Nahum is speaking of God's attitude not how humans should behave, but the psalms (both 119 and 139) clearly teach how an exemplary man of God responds to God's adversaries. So they do qualify as cross-references IMO. Feb 12 at 20:15
  • Dan Fefferman, I think we need to focus on the purport of the word ' hate'. While love is meaningless unless accompanied by action, hatred needs not precede action. If you ignore your enemy, you are actually hating him. So, what Jesus quoted from the old 'saying ' is that one should limit the beneficiary range of actionable love, so that one's enemy does not gain undue advantage of it. Feb 13 at 3:31

In addition to concurring with Dottard's answer, it is worth noting that Jesus' quote in Matthew 5:43 serves to highlight the misconception of "hate your enemy", which Jesus addresses in the subsequent verses;

Matthew 5:46-47

46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

Jesus spoke out against the statement "hate your enemy", emphasizing that this concept is not taught in the scripture and therefore does not have a cross-reference.

  • - 1 Sorry, but there are definitely scriptures that teach hatred of one's enemy. See my answer. Feb 12 at 18:04
  • @DanFefferman - Thank you for your comment. I have responded to you under your answer. Please review it. Feb 12 at 20:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.