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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Wrath (Anger)

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rath , rôth , rath ( אף , 'aph , from אנף , 'ānaph , "to snort," "to be angry"; ὀργή , orgḗ , θυμός , thumós , ὀργίζομαι , orgı́zomai ): Designates various degrees of feeling, such as sadness ( Psalm 85:4 ), a frown or turning away of the face in grief or anger (2 Chronicles 26:19; Jeremiah 3:12 ), indignation (Psalm 38:3 ), bitterness (Judges 18:25 ), fury (Esther 1:12 ), full of anger (Genesis 4:5; John 7:23 ), snorting mad (Genesis 27:45; Matthew 2:16 ).

1. Divine Wrath:

Wrath is used with reference to both God and man. When used of God it is to be understood that there is the complete absence of that caprice and unethical quality so prominent in the anger attributed to the gods of the heathen and to man. The divine wrath is to be regarded as the natural expression of the divine nature, which is absolute holiness, manifesting itself against the willful, high-handed, deliberate, inexcusable sin and iniquity of mankind. God's wrath is always regarded in the Scripture as the just, proper, and natural expression of His holiness and righteousness which must always, under all circumstances, and at all costs be maintained. It is therefore a righteous indignation and compatible with the holy and righteous nature of God (Numbers 11:1-10; Deuteronomy 29:27; 2 Samuel 6:7; Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 42:25; Jeremiah 44:6; Psalm 79:6 ). The element of love and compassion is always closely connected with God's anger; if we rightly estimate the divine anger we must unhesitatingly pronounce it to be but the expression and measure of that love (compare Jeremiah 10:24; Ezek 23; Amos 3:2 ).

2. Human Wrath:

Wrath, when used of man, is the exhibition of an enraged sinful nature and is therefore always inexcusable (Genesis 4:5 , Genesis 4:6; Genesis 49:7; Proverbs 19:19; Job 5:2; Luke 4:28; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8 ). It is for this reason that man is forbidden to allow anger to display itself in his life. He is not to "give place unto wrath" (Romans 12:19 margin), nor must he allow "the sun to go down upon his wrath" ( Ephesians 4:26 ). He must not be angry with his brother (Matthew 5:22 ), but seek agreement with him lest the judgment that will necessarily fall upon the wrathful be meted out to him (Matthew 5:25 , Matthew 5:26 ). Particularly is the manifestation of an angry spirit prohibited in the training and bringing up of a family (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:19 ). Anger, at all times, is prohibited (Numbers 18:5; Psalm 37:8; Romans 12:19; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:26; James 1:19 , James 1:20 ).

3. Divine Wrath Consistent with Love:

Wrath or anger, as pertaining to God, is very much more prominent in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. This is to be accounted for probably because the New Testament magnifies the grace and love of God as contrasted with His wrath; at least love is more prominent than wrath in the revelation and teaching of Christ and His apostles. Nevertheless, it must not be thought that the element of wrath, as a quality of the divine nature, is by any means overlooked in the New Testament because of the prominent place there given to love. On the contrary, the wrath of God is intensified because of the more wonderful manifestation of His grace, mercy and love in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. God is not love only: He is also righteous; yea, "Our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29 ); "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31 ). No effeminate, sentimental view of the Fatherhood of God or of His mercy and loving-kindness can exclude the manifestation of His just, righteous and holy anger against sin and the sinner because of his transgression (1 Peter 1:17; Hebrews 10:29 ). One thing only can save the sinner from the outpouring of God's righteous anger against sin in the day of visitation, namely, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the divinely-appointed Redeemer of the world (John 3:36; Romans 1:16-18; Romans 5:9 ). Nor should the sinner think that the postponement or the omission (or seeming omission) of the visitation of God's wrath against sin in the present means the total abolition of it in the future. Postponement is not abolition; indeed, the sinner, who continually rejects Jesus Christ and the salvation which God has provided in Him, is simply 'treasuring up' wrath for himself "in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who (one day) will render to every man according to his works:... to them that ... obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness,... wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil" (Romans 2:5-9; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 6:16 , Revelation 6:17; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 19:15 ). See RETRIBUTION , 5.

God's anger while slow, and not easily aroused (Psalm 103:8; Isaiah 48:9; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3 ), is to be dreaded (Psalm 2:12; Psalm 76:7; Psalm 90:11; Matthew 10:28 ); is not to be provoked (Jeremiah 7:19; 1 Corinthians 10:22 ); when visited, in the present life, should be borne with submission (2 Samuel 24:17; Lamentations 3:39 , Lamentations 3:43; Micah 7:9 ); prayer should be earnestly made for deliverance from it (Psalm 39:10; Psalm 80:4; Daniel 9:16; Habakkuk 3:2 ); it should be the means of leading man to repentance (Isaiah 42:24 , Isaiah 42:25; Jeremiah 4:8 ).

Certain specific things are said especially to arouse God's anger: continual provocation (Numbers 32:14 ), unbelief (Psalm 78:21 , Psalm 78:22; Hebrews 3:18 , Hebrews 3:19 ), impenitence (Isaiah 9:13 , Isaiah 9:14; Romans 2:5 ), apostasy (Hebrews 10:26 , Hebrews 10:27 ), idolatry (Deuteronomy 32:19 , Deuteronomy 32:20 , Deuteronomy 32:22; 2 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 44:3 ), sin in God's people (Psalm 89:30-32; Isaiah 47:6 ), and it is manifested especially against opponents of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:2 , Psalm 2:3 , Psalm 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:16 ).

4. Righteous and Unrighteous Anger:

There is a sense, however, in which anger is the duty of man; he is to "hate evil" (Psalm 97:10 ). It is not enough that God's people should love righteousness, they must also be angry with sin (not the sinner). A man who is incapable of being angry at sin is at the same time thereby adjudged to be incapable of having a real love for righteousness. So there is a sense in which a man may be said to "be ... angry, and sin not" (Ephesians 4:26 ). Anger at the sin and unrighteousness of men, and because their sin is grievous to God, may be called a "righteous indignation." Such an indignation is attributed to Jesus when it is said that He "looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart" (Mark 3:5 ). When anger arises because of this condition, it is sinless, but when anger arises because of wounded or aggrieved personality or feelings, it is sinful and punishable. Anger, while very likely to become sinful, is not really sinful in itself.

We have illustrations in the Scriptures of wrath or anger that is justifiable : Jesus ( Mark 3:5 ), Jacob (Genesis 31:36 ), Moses (Exodus 11:8; Exodus 32:19; Leviticus 10:16; Numbers 16:15 ), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:6; Nehemiah 13:17 , Nehemiah 13:25 ); of sinful anger: Cain (Genesis 4:5 , Genesis 4:6 ), Esau (Genesis 27:45 ), Moses (Numbers 20:10 , Numbers 20:11 ), Balaam (Numbers 22:27 ), Saul (1 Samuel 20:30 ), Ahab (1 Kings 21:4 ), Naaman (2 Kings 5:11 ), Herod (Matthew 2:16 ), the Jews (Luke 4:28 ), the high priest (Acts 5:17; Acts 7:54 ).

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Wrath (Anger)'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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