The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but he loves the one who pursues righteousness.
My translation: An abomination to the Lord (is) the way of the wicked, but one who pursues righteousness He loves.
Note: The English translation inverts the structure. Hebrew: The Lord:Wicked/Righteous:The Lord. English: Wicked:the Lord/the Lord:Righteous.
The structure gives an internal logic. In the English, the Lord is incapsulated by the paths/ways of the people. In the Hebrew, the people, no matter wicked or righteous, are enveloped by God.
Following from 15:8, this proverb continues the thought of disposition and presentation. Verse 8 speaks to how one presents themselves to God and the reality of their heart or disposition. This proverb makes it clear how God determines where a person resides on the wicked/righteous spectrum: it is by their path. The path is the continued journey, the constant direction of travel toward a destination. Thus, a path is the repeated and habited actions and dispositions of a person leading them ultimately to God or idolatry, freedom or slavery. This may give us some understanding to the Cain and Abel predicament, where no reason is given for God’s judgment. The proverbs allow us to assume that God judged by the “path” of each. Now, again, this may be a dangerous over-reading, quieting the mystery of Cain and Abel, but It may help us give a possible (and only a possible) explanation for the story.
Still, we must notice that in the Hebrew, we are enveloped by God, whether it be God’s disdain or love. Verse 8 begins with our actions (wicked sacrifice/prayer of the upright) and how it acts on God (abomination/favor). Verse 9 changes the direction, it is now God’s action/judgment toward us. Thus, both proverbs together complete the relationship between us and God. We approach God through worship, and indirectly through our daily actions, and God approaches us in love/favor, or as an abomination (typically attributed to Idols, whom God has a history of destroying).
This should bring about the fear of the Lord within us, and cause us to pursue righteousness. We are not free from God, but we may either be free or judged within God. Now notice that God’s judgment is not active toward the abomination. The wicked are always an abomination to God. God does not act to make them an abomination, but they act to make themselves an abomination before God. God does not actively judge the wicked, they judge themselves by their actions and dispositions.
But it is different with favor and love. God actively loves those who are righteous. We act and God reacts in love. Here the relationship is active and moving, developing and working. This is the true freedom. We can live in the movement of God.
Essentially, with righteousness, God continues a relationship to cultivate life. Life is activity, movement, action, and reaction, and it is rooted in God’s love. Wickedness is the reverse. There is no relationship, no action, no reaction, but only stagnation and eventually death.