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. We’ll look at different kinds of tempers to see what Proverbs says about how to tick someone off (in case you are deficient in this skill) and also how to avoid that. The remaining instruction from Proverbs teaches about how to live opposite of anger—in peace.
II. HEBREW WORDS DEFINING ANGER
The Old Testament (OT) Hebrew root words that appear in the following numerous Proverbs are all 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: “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 New Testament (NT), the following Greek words are translated into the English word anger:
A. Orgizo: this Greek word is the most commonly used word in the NT for anger and it means “to make angry.” It appears in Galatians 5:20 in relation to the fruits of the flesh—those characteristics of the unregenerate that are at enmity with Christ— idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, etc. One famous commentary defines orgizo as, “jealousies, which, when smoldering in the heart, break out in wrath.”
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: parorgizo, when it commands, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The Greek word here is negated, meaning “not to provoke to anger.” This is a contrasting statement: By disciplining your child, you are not provoking him to anger. More about that here is in order:
Spanking is sometimes necessary to properly parent a child. in Proverbs 29:15, Solomon instructs Rehoboam not to prohibit God’s institution of the family from carrying out this responsibly lest he end up governing a police state. Proverbs 29:15 reads, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” In other words, a child who is not disciplined when he rebels and displays willful disobedience will learn that he can get away with what he knows in his heart to be wrong; he will become spoiled. In Proverbs 23:13 and 14, King Solomon also says to the future king, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol.” The Adamic curse is present in every child and the sin-laden nature is present in all mankind. A child who does not know his boundaries quickly and assuredly becomes unhappy and angry. Ephesians states that the parent who fails to discipline his child is, in essence, provoking your children to anger. The child rebels in search of the security of those boundaries. Accordingly, a failure to spank creates a child who grows up to depict much of what follows in this study.
F. Thumos relates to being quick-tempered and indicates a more agitated condition, an outburst of wrath from inward indignation. While orge suggests a more settled or abiding condition geared toward taking revenge, it is less sudden in its rise and more lasting in its nature.
Understand the root cause before you deal with an anger problem.
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 translated as jealousy. Some commentators 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.
“For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance” (Proverbs 6:34).
“Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy” (Proverbs 27:4)?
On the book of Proverbs, commentator Charles Bridges writes, “envy is an implacable passion with native principle … 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
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12).
The Hebrew word for hatred is sinah, meaning “malicious and unjustifiable feelings toward others.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hatred as, “prejudiced hostility.” Jealousy and envy stem from the fear of loss and the desire of wantonness, whereas hatred stems from a selfish-based belief that you are better than someone else. The sin is based in a Darwinian ideology that some are more fit than others. In essence then, rank pride is the seedbed of hatred. This epistemology is trumped by Scripture however, which states that all human beings (and only human beings) are created in God’s image. One’s theology then will ultimately determine the existence or else expungement of feelings of hatred. And hatred is a root of anger.
C. FROM INSOLENCE
“Through insolence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel” (Proverbs 13:10).
The Hebrew word for insolence is zadon, meaning “presumptuousness, arrogance, and pride.” Merriam-Webster defines insolent 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. People who are overly ambitious for advancement set themselves 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
“An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper” (Proverbs 28:25).
In this Proverb 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 they lead to an explosion.
Psalm 145:14 states, “The Lord … raises up all who are bowed down.”
E. FROM FOOLISHNESS
“When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest” (Proverbs 29:9).
No agreement can be made with a fool. Fools start their reasoning with their own mind—thinking it is the final and highest authority.
“A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11).
When you disagree with a fool—one who thinks his or her mind is infallible—you can expect that it will produce anger. This is because you are challenging a pride-filled core and we have seen, pride is the seedbed of anger.
In summary, these are the five roots of outward anger. Rather than take a Band-Aid approach, we must perform surgery on the root cause(s) of our anger in order to cure it. Only then will healing and victory occur.
V. EXAMINING THREE KINDS OF TEMPERS
A. QUICK TEMPERS
“A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Proverbs 14:17).
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28).
Whatever is in the air will affect and invade this person’s mind and emotions. He is thin skinned, reactive versus prudent, and defensive versus discerning and he allows others to affect his emotions. Especially in the world of political debate, he identifies and objectifies rather than react to ad hominem attacks.
B. HOT TEMPERS
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute” (Proverbs 15:18).
“A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19).
“An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).
C. SLOW TEMPERS
“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly”
“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
Parorgismos is the Greek word for anger in the second verse meaning, “irritation.” This is the only time anger is legitimate in the believer’s life and it relates to righteous indignation. A leading NT commentator explains:
In this statement he [Paul] may be legitimatizing righteous indignation, anger at evil which is done against the person of the Lord and 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 is defensive and self-serving and 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:
“The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully” (Proverbs 14:35).
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
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
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
“A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows” (Proverbs 18:6).
“Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Proverbs 26:21).
“A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them” (Proverbs 27:3).
The truths of these Proverbs are self-evident and need no comment.
B. SLANDER AND SCORN OTHERS
“A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
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.”
“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel” (Proverbs 18:19).
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.
“The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance” (Proverbs 25:23).
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.
“Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger” (Proverbs 29:8).
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.
“For the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood; so the churning of anger produces strife” (Proverbs 30:33).
Churning, pressing, and churning are all the same Hebrew verbs colorfully portraying the fruit of anger: strife.
C. STEP ON OTHERS
“He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction” (Proverbs 17:19).
In a parallel Proverb, each stanza helps to interpret the meaning of the other. In this one, the second portion is an idiom that denotes pride. Merriam-Webster defines idiom as “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.” This image 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:
“He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish” (Proverbs 22:8).
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
“A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath” (Proverbs 21:14).
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
“The fury of a king is like messengers of death, but a wise man will appease it. (Proverbs 16:14).
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:
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12).
“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11).
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
This advice isn’t related to murder, rape, robbery, or the 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
“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14).
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.
“Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
At this particular juncture in the outline, another very special skill at living life is contained in Proverbs 26:17. It pertains to the foolishness of entangling yourself in another’s transgression. It is wise not to get involved in quarrels between others that have nothing to do with you.
“Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him” (Proverbs 26:17).
C. RESTRAIN YOUR WORDS
“He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27).
The Hebrew word for restrains is chasak and means “to withhold, keep back.”
D. K EEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM SCOFFERS
“Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease” (Proverbs 22:10).
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.
“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 ” (Proverbs 22:24–25).
Be careful who you associate with: “Bad company corrupts good morals” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33. Definitive of bad company is this:
“For their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble” (Proverbs 24:2).
Don’t be around this kind of person unless you are evangelizing them.
VIII. THE BENEFITS OF PEACE VS. ANGER
“Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1).
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.
“The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass” (Proverbs 19:12).
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), a peace that results. Proverbs 20:2 portrays a parallel emphasis:
“The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; he who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life” (Proverbs 20:2).
To live in non-rebellion with governing authorities, even though you might not agree with their many decisions, is to live peacefully.
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 level 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.