This week we will examine all that the Bible book of Proverbs has to say about anger.
If you struggle with this sin, and who doesn’t, or you hang with those who do, then this study is for you.
Read on, my friend.
I have chosen to outline the study by first looking at the five roots of anger. Most of the time our anger stems from some sort of selfish sin, save righteous indignation. After inspecting the different kinds of tempers spoken of in the book, we will see what Proverbs says about how to tick someone off (in case you are deficient in this skill) — followed by what it says about avoiding the same. The remaining instruction in my outline, from the book of Proverbs, has to do with living opposite of anger — in peace.
II. HEBREW WORDS DEFINING ANGER
The OT Hebrew root words that appear in the following numerous Proverbs are as follows. All are translated into the English word anger:
A. Aph: literally, “a nostril, nose, face” referring to the facial expressions of someone who is angry.
B. Abar: this means “to be arrogant, to become angry.”
C. Chemah: “heat, rage.”
D. Ebrah: “overflow, arrogance, fury.”
E. Kaas: “vexation.”
One can easily see the connection, the similarity of authorial intent in the use of each of these different words.
III. GREEK WORDS DEFINING ANGER
In the NT, the following Greek words are translated into the English word anger:
B. Ephesians 4:31 uses the same root, orge, when it commands those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation to, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
C. Colossians 3:8 uses the same word when it states, But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. As you can see by these passages, anger is not a tool available to believers in the capital (or anywhere else for that matter) for any reason or purposes save righteous indignation, as we will see later.
D. James 1:19 states the same word when it commands, This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; Why? For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (1:20). All citations here in Roman numeral III refer to the same Greek word, orge.
E. Ephesians 6:4 contains a heightened form of the same root:
A WORD ABOUT SPANKING CHILDREN
In order to properly parent and raise a child, it is sometimes necessary to spank. Solomon made sure Rehoboam would lead with such wisdom in his civil governance — instructing him, as the future King of Israel, not to prohibit God’s institution of the family from carrying out its responsibilities in
F. In addition, in the NT, thumos often appears, indicating a more agitated condition of feelings, an outburst of wrath from inward indignation. Whereas orge suggests a more settled or abiding condition of the mind, frequently with a view toward taking revenge, it is less sudden in its rise and more lasting in its nature. Thumos relates (as we will see in what follows) to being quick-tempered.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS AN ANGER PROBLEM, THE WAY TO WIN OVER IT IS TO FIRST UNDERSTAND ITS ROOTS — AND DEAL WITH THE ROOT CAUSE
Having briefly overviewed five OT and four NT words related to anger, what follows are the five roots of anger from Proverbs.
IV. EXAMINING THE FIVE ROOTS OF ANGER
A. FROM JEALOUSY AND ENVY
The Hebrew word qinah, meaning “ardor, envy, rivalry, zeal,” is the word translated as jealousy in the New American Standard Bible. Some commentators attempt to define jealousy and envy as different, but twin sisters: jealousy being the attempt to guard what you are fearful another person might take and envy being the desire to have what another person possesses. Those are fine distinctions of the same genre of sin, but it is not as clear a distinction relative to the Hebrew words used in the book of Proverbs. Jealousy stems from a zeal to want what another person has which turns into anger when the expectations go unfulfilled.
6:34 For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
27:4 Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?
The commentator Bridges, on the book of Proverbs, states, “envy is an implacable passion with native principle” (p. 503), “it has a fearful train of evils.” “Reason [becomes] the oil to fan the flame [of this sin] rather than the water to quench it.” “Enmity invadeth their spirits and settleth itself.” Summarily, jealousy becomes a most uncontrollable sin, be it motivated by a fear of loss or a desire to have. It is often the underlying motive for angry behavior.
B. FROM HATRED
10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.
The Hebrew word for hatred is
C. FROM INSOLENCE
13:10 Through insolence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
The Hebrew word for insolence is Zadon, meaning “presumptuousness, arrogance and pride.” Merriam-Webster defines this word (that is not used much today, but is a good addition to your vocabulary) as “haughty and contemptuous or brutal in behavior or language: OVERBEARING.” I like Merriam-Webster’s second listed definition as it applies to the capital community: “lacking usual or proper respect for rank or position: presumptuously disrespectful or familiar toward equals or superiors.” Show me a climber in the capital and I will show you an insolent person who is easily angered when his path to the top is in any way thwarted. To be overly ambitious for advancement is to set oneself up for strife and anger. Oh, how I have personally seen this play out in too many short careers here on the Hill.
D. FROM ARROGANCE
28:25 An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.
This is the kind of Proverb where the second stanza informs the meaning of the first. Akin to C, the arrogant “climber” will go to any length to immediately prosper — not really believing that advancement comes from the Lord.
DO NOT FUEL YOUR CAREER WITH ARROGANCE, SELFISHNESS, OR AMBITION; MOST OFTEN IT LEADS TO AN EXPLOSION
Psalm 145:14 states, The Lord …raises up all who are bowed down.
E. FROM FOOLISHNESS
29:9 When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.
No agreement can be made with a fool. Fools start their reasoning with their own mind — thinking it is the final and highest authority.
29:11 A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.
You can expect when you disagree with the mind of a fool — one who thinks his or her mind is infallible — that it will produce anger. Why? Because you are challenging a pride-filled core and we have seen (D.), pride is the seedbed of anger.
In summary, these are the five roots of outward anger. Rather than take a Band-Aid approach, one must perform surgery on the root cause(s) of his anger in order to cure it. Only then will healing and victory occur.
V. EXAMINING THREE KINDS OF TEMPERS
A. QUICK TEMPERS
14:17 A quick-tempered man acts fool-ishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.
25:28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.
Whatever is in the air will affect and invade this person’s mind and emotions. Thin skinned, reactive versus prudent, defensive versus discerning, he allows others to affect his emotions. Especially in the world of political debate, identify and objectify rather than react to ad hominem attacks.
B. HOT TEMPERS
15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.
19:19 A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.
29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.
QUICK TEMPERS AND HOT TEMPERS REVEAL A HEIGHTENED DEGREE OF SELFISHNESS STEMMING FROM ONE OR MORE OF THE FIVE ROOTS PREVIOUSLY OUTLINED
C. SLOW TEMPERS
14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
Ephesians 4:26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Parorgismos is the Greek word for the second verse listed for the word anger, meaning, “irritation.” This is the only time anger is legitimate in the believer’s life: and it relates to righteous indignation. States a leading NT commentator on how to best understand this biblical command:
In this statement he [Paul] may be legitimatizing righteous indignation, anger at evil, at that which is done against the person of the Lord and against His will and purpose. It is the anger of the Lord’s people who hate evil. It is that anger that abhors injustice, immorality and ungodliness of every sort.
Jesus was always angered when the Father was maligned or when others were mistreated, but He was never selfishly angry at what was done against Him. Anger that is sin, on the other hand, is anger that is self-defensive and self-serving, that is resentful of what is done against one’s self. It is the anger that leads to murder and to God’s judgment.
Anger that is selfish, undisciplined, and vindictive is sinful and has no place even temporarily in the Christian life. But anger that is unselfish and is based on love for God and concern for others not only is permissible, but commanded.
Righteous anger and being slow to anger are evidenced in the following Proverbs:
14:35 The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.
16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Being slow to anger is akin to using anger in a righteous response to evil. It has its place and is a mark of true wisdom.
VI. HOW TO SOLICIT ANGER IN OTHERS
Just in case you are unskilled in how to anger others, here are some tips:
A. SPEAK HARSHLY TO OTHERS
15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
18:6 A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows.
26:21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
27:3 A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them.
The truths of these Proverbs are self-evident and need no comment.
B. SLANDER AND SCORN OTHERS
16:28 A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.
The Hebrew word for slander is ragan, meaning “to murmur, whisper, criticize, and grumble.” Merriam-Webster fitly defines slander as, “utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage reputation.”
Perhaps you have been slandered by another? The internet seems to be the new vehicle for spreading strife via slander. For sure such actions will induce anger in the one being slandered.
18:19 A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
The brother spoken of here is a blood relative in this colorfully depicted Proverb. No feud is as difficult to resolve as one with a family member and therefore, extra care should be taken to avoid such conflicts by everyone in every family.
25:23 The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance.
This describes cause and effect. As surely as it will rain with clouds from the north (Solomon wrote, living in the Northern Hemisphere) backbiting will cause anger in others.
29:8 Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger.
Scorn is an emotion involving anger and disgust, passionate contempt and disdain. Avoid being scornful in your personal and professional life. Realize that everyone in a fallen world has his faults — that should not surprise or disgust you if you are a Bible believing Christian. If you are a Humanist, however, you have every right to be scornful, given your misguided beliefs in the upward evolution of man. You should be rightfully disgusted with everyone who is not as perfect as you believe yourself to be.
Prolonged anger yields increasingly worsening results. Notice the following Proverb with that in mind.
30:33 For the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood; so the churning of anger produces strife.
Churning, pressing, and churning are all the same Hebrew verbs colorfully portraying the fruit of anger: strife.
C. STEP ON OTHERS
17:19 He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction.
The second portion of this parallel-meaning Proverb (each stanza helps to interpret the meaning of the other) is an idiom (“an expression established in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either in grammatical construction or in having a meaning that cannot be derived as a whole from the conjoined meanings of its elements” [Merriam-Webster]) denoting pride. The image here is of a proud man who flaunts his wealth — a man with a huge house and front door. Jeremiah 22:13-17 qualifies the meaning of this idiom in its time of use, further stating, “Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness…who uses his neighbor’s service without pay…your eyes and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain.” Such outward selfish behavior infuriates others; such could be likened today by drug lords living in mansions while their business — selling drugs — causes lives to be ruined. Such is portrayed in the following Proverb:
22:8 He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish.
Scripture often speaks in terms of sowing and reaping, i.e., the end result of an earlier action, cause and effect. Such is the case here. Stepping on others will make them angry.
D. BRIBE OTHERS
21:14 A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.
In this contrasting Proverb, the second stanza implies a perversion resulting in a wrathful reaction by the recipient. It is one thing to give a gift to quell anger in another (to offset a wrong action as a means of making up); it is quite another thing to bribe someone with your wealth.
VII. HOW TO AVOID ANGERING OTHERS
A. COVER SIN
16:14 The fury of a king is like messengers of death, but a wise man will appease it.
The Hebrew word for appease is kaphar, meaning “to cover over, pacify, and make propitiation.” Solomon states that it is a desired skill when working with those in political power to propitiate for their weaknesses — don’t make everything that is wrong about a person an issue! Many are those who live by the letter of the law, awaiting and exploiting the sins of others. Scripture, however, has much to say about grace. Grace is unmerited favor (for by grace you have been saved through faith [in Christ]) and is a principle of wise living. Notice the following passages that serve to buoy this concept:
10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.
19:11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
This advice isn’t related to murder, rape, robbery, or their like. Rather and in addition, generally speaking, it is better to address someone’s minor sins once you’ve built a relationship with him — and to do it in private. Covering, versus exploiting, another’s weaknesses will lead to peace versus anger.
B. ABANDON QUARRELS
17:14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.
The Hebrew word for strife is rib, carrying a broad generality of “disputes, adversaries, complaining, contending, controversies, indictments, lawsuits, or quarreling.”
HONE YOUR SKILL OF SENSING WHEN DIVISIVE SITUATIONS MIGHT OCCUR AND INTERCEDE PRIOR TO THEIR MATURATION
20:3 Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.
At this particular juncture in the outline, another very special skill at living life is contained in Proverbs 26:17, which identifies more of the principle stated in the aforementioned. It pertains to the foolishness of entangling yourself in another’s transgression. It is wise not to get involved in the quarrels between others, quarrels that have nothing to do with you.
26:17 Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.
C. RESTRAIN YOUR WORDS
17:27 He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
The Hebrew word for restrains is chasak and means “to withhold, keep back.”
D. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM SCOFFERS
22:10 Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease.
For those in positions of leadership and power, this is good advice. If you do not possess the authority to root such from your midst (for instance, a family member), at least register a strong protest to his actions. To do less is to live with his fruits.
22:24-25 Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.
Be careful who you associate with: “Bad company corrupts good morals” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33. Definitive of bad company is this:
24:2 For their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble.
Don’t be around this kind of person unless you are evangelizing them.
VIII. THE BENEFITS OF PEACE VS. ANGER
17:1 Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.
A parallel Proverb is 15:17: Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred. It is wise to be in the presence of those who are poor and loving than rich who hate. We live in a society consumed by gaining social status — hanging out with the rich and famous — celebrity is one of America’s idolatrous gods. See that for what it is. Solomon wisely points out that it is better to pursue peace than feasts…feasts that possess attitudinal strife.
19:12 The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.
This Proverb is akin to Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2: All are called to submit to governmental authority. In both of these NT passages there is resulting favor (cf. 13:3; 2:14 resp.), a peace that results. Proverbs 20:2 portrays a parallel emphasis:
20:2 The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; he who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.
To live in non-rebellion with governing authorities, even though you might not agree with their many decisions, is to live peacefully.
As you can see by the length of this study, Proverbs has much to say about anger.
IF YOU SUFFER FROM FREQUENT OUTBURSTS, MY PRAYER IS THAT THIS STUDY WILL HELP YOU TO FIND THE ROOT CAUSE
Whereas you can cover up and create a façade, your levels and frequency of anger should act as a barometer to indicate how sinful and self-absorbed you really are — and subsequently your need for Christ as Lord and Savior.
Righteous indignation, on the other hand, is a measure of your love for Christ. Are you angered over the things that anger God? Therein is an indication of spiritual maturity. God bless you for standing firm where Scripture is firm. Amen. cm