“hate.” The word “hate” in the Bible does not always have the meaning it has in English, a “deep, enduring, intense emotion expressing animosity, anger, and hostility towards a person, group, or object” (Penguin Dictionary of Psychology definition of “hate”). In Hebrew and Greek, the word “hate” has a large range of meanings from actual “hate” to simply loving something less than something else, neglecting or ignoring something, or being disgusted by something. In fact, often in the Bible the word “hate” has a combination of meanings.
For example, when God tells us to “hate” evil and love good (Amos 5:15), He wants us to have nothing to do with evil, be disgusted and repulsed by it, and actively work to eradicate it. Ecclesiastes 3:8 lumps many different meanings of “hate” together. It says there is a time to “love” and a time to “hate,” but that can mean everything from there being a proper time to engage in helpful (loving) or hostile (“hateful”) activity toward someone or something; a proper time to be delighted in or disgusted by someone or something; or a proper time to pay attention to or neglect and ignore someone or something.
Ecclesiastes 3:8 is a verse with a great many applications. It seems that far too often we are too accepting of things that are against God (we “love” what we shouldn’t love) and are not hostile to those things against God (we don’t “hate” things that should disgust us). Also, far too often we do not put enough attention into the things we should (we don’t “love” enough), and we do not let go of, neglect, or ignore things that are not really helpful in our lives (thus, we don’t “hate” them, or hate them enough). Surely, there is a time to “love,” and a time to “hate.” [For more on the large semantic range of “hate” and its use in the Bible, see commentary on Prov. 1:22, “hate”].