What does Proverbs 21:27 mean?
ESV: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
NIV: The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable-- how much more so when brought with evil intent!
NASB: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, How much more when he brings it with evil intent!
CSB: The sacrifice of a wicked person is detestable;-- how much more so when he brings it with ulterior motives!
NLT: The sacrifice of an evil person is detestable, especially when it is offered with wrong motives.
KJV: The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?
NKJV: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; How much more when he brings it with wicked intent!
Verse Commentary:
Scripture often reminds us that God judges more than mere actions. Every act is inspired by attitudes, thoughts, and motives, which matter just as much to the Lord (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). Earlier in the book of Proverbs, Solomon noted that God despises sacrifices from wicked people, but accepts even the prayers of righteous persons (Proverbs 15:8). Here, the Bible notes that when the "wicked," meaning those ungodly and guilty, try to offer Him gifts or sacrifices, He is repulsed. The Hebrew root word translated as "abomination" here is tow'ebah, which literally means something disgusting.

What repels God is not the sacrifice itself, but the intent of the person making it. It's bad enough when someone who defies God attempts to offer sacrifice. It's even worse when that person thinks they can offer sacrifice to make up for sins for which they have no repentance. In other words, God is especially sickened when a person feels no remorse for sin and thinks they can buy God's forgiveness. Likewise, when someone tries to gain God's favor in some inappropriate scheme.

The Lord instituted the Old Testament sacrificial system, but it was intended to be used by worshipers whose hearts were intent on honoring Him. The sacrifices were external, tangible evidence of the person's internal faith. Sacrifices were never intended to be a substitute for a broken and contrite heart. Although the sacrificial system was fulfilled when Christ offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 10:13–14), believers today may offer their bodies to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1–2).

Giving money to God willingly and proportionately is another way to worship Him (2 Corinthians 9:6–8). Yet it is detestable—a sin, in and of itself—to give money to God with the hope of appeasing Him or obtaining His help for an unrighteous endeavor.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 21:17–31 continues the recorded wisdom of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1). He contrasts the wise person with the foolish person, the righteous with the wicked, the lazy person with the diligent, and human wisdom with the Lord's sovereignty.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter begins and ends with a declaration of God's sovereignty. He alone judges the heart; the Lord considers intentions just as important as physical actions. Other comments include statements about unpleasant spouses, proper perspectives on wealth, work ethic, and the essential nature of godly wisdom. Human wisdom is no match for the sovereign Lord, who alone is ultimately responsible for victory in battle.
Chapter Context:
This is part of the second major section of the book (Proverbs 10—22) featuring nearly four hundred statements. Most of these are two-line comments presenting common sense and general wisdom. The vague theme of chapter 21 is God's control. Man may believe he is in control of his circumstances, but God superintends everything. The chapter begins and ends by assuring the readers that God holds ultimate sway over all things.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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