Despise often has the connotation of hatred in modern conversation. In the Bible, the words translated despise primarily mean to think lightly of or to regard as unimportant (relatively or objectively).

Despise is often used to indicate not giving someone or something the proper respect or value. Esau despised his birthright by trading it for a meal. The firstborn’s inheritance was worth far more than a bowl of stew, but he didn’t consider its value when he made the trade. Despising God and his word is a common charge in the Old Testament. It refers to the lack of respect behind people’s disobedient actions. They ignored God’s authority and the consequences of sin. Genesis 25:34; Numbers 15:30-31

Despise is also used in comparisons. Jesus despised the shame of the cross. Crucifixion was designed to inflict as much shame as physical pain. The condemned person was stripped of outer clothing and displayed on a tall cross for thousands to see. Yet, Jesus counted the extreme public humiliation as insignificant compared to the joy beyond it. Providing salvation for the world far outweighed the physical and emotional pain in his decision to die. This verse motivates us to despise the difficulties we must endure to be with Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2

God deserves our greatest respect and honor, because he is our Creator and Judge. His word deserves our most diligent attention and obedience. People deserve to be thought of and treated with respect, regardless of age, sex, race, or other inherent qualities. God created us in his image and we each have a soul that will live on beyond this life. That makes our physical lives and spirits valuable.

Synonyms in English Bibles include spurn, esteem lightly, treat with contempt, scoff, and disdain. Other synonyms include look down on, take lightly, disregard, and underrate.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

~ SR

Ruhmann, Scott. “Word of the Week: Despise.” 27th Street Church of Christ. Access date: .