Appease – definition
Traditional Legal Model – to satisfy the wrath of an offended God in the sense of making payment to meet the required penalty and to offset the injustice He feels over sin.
Biblical Healing Model – the Bible does not use the word in relation to God. God does not need to be appeased in order to change His attitude towards us. He loves us with an everlasting love.
From a Modern Dictionary
“to bring to a state of peace, quiet, ease, calm, or contentment; pacify; soothe: to appease an angry king.”
(www.dictionary.com, accessed Dec. 3, 2017)
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
“To make quiet; to calm; to reduce to a state of peace; to still; to pacify; as, to appease the tumult of the ocean or of the passions; to appease hunger or thirst.” (http://webstersdictionary1828.com/appease, accessed Dec. 3,2017)
Especially in a spiritual sense, the word has come to mean not just to quiet or to calm in a general sense but, more specifically, to make a payment to lessen anger or wrath. Here is another definition:
“The definition of appeasement is the act of giving something to an aggressive power to keep the peace.” (https://www.yourdictionary.com/appeasement)
Uses of Appease in Scripture
There are only four uses of “appease” or variations thereof in the Bible. Let’s consider each:
- “And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease (Strong’s H3722) him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.” (Gen 32:20)
“Appease,” in that verse, is translated from the Hebrew word “kaphar” (Strong’s H3722) which is rendered in the KJV as:
“AV-atonement 71, purge 7, reconciliation 4, reconcile 3, forgive 3, purge away 2, pacify 2, atonement … made 2, merciful 2, cleansed 1, disannulled 1, appease 1, put off 1, pardon 1, pitch 1; 102” (The On-line Bible)
Its usual meaning is atonement (see “atonement”); to bring to a state of oneness. That is what Jacob wanted for himself and his brother. Clearly though, he feared:
“Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.” (Gen 32:11)
That fear was fear of the be-afraid kind. So it was quite reasonable that the KJV translators would have chosen the word “appease” and, in that case, payment was even offered in the multitude of animals that Jacob sent before him to his brother.
Does that fit: “the act of giving something to an aggressive power to keep the peace”? Here is another definition from the same source that seems to fit this case very well:
“The policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace.” (https://www.yourdictionary.com/appeasement)
- “After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, (Strong’s H7918) he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.” (Esther 2:1)
It could be said that the king was appeased of his wrath having recognized that Vashti paid a price (appeasement) in having to forfeit her position as queen. The king’s wrath was wrath as we normally understand it but Bible students should be aware that there is a difference between the wrath of man and the wrath of God – (James 1:20) (See “wrath.”)
- “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth (Strong’s H8252) strife.” (Pro 15:18)
That verse could be understood in the sense in which we today understand wrathful and to appease. However, the “slow to anger” is used in the sense of not to lessen anger but to prevent it. Being slow to anger will not stir up strife like acting in a wrathful way would. Remember, the Bible speaks of “the wrath of man” as distinct from the ways of God.
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
- “And when the townclerk had appeased (Strong’s G2687) the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?” (Acts 19:35)
Cases 3 and 4 give no indication of giving anything to placate anger. There is just the idea of quieting or calming. The next verse in Acts 19 supports this:
“Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet (Strong’s G2687), and to do nothing rashly.” (Acts 19:36)
To appease doesn’t have to mean, as is commonly thought, to “make payment or reparation in order to calm a rage.” Appeasement, in that sense, is demanded by pagan gods (“somebody is going to pay for this”), but not by Yahweh. He does not ask us to pay; He makes the payment (if you must call it that); He pays the price or ransom. A common element of false religions it to have some manner of appeasement to an offended deity.
“It is the height of absurdity to say that God is so angry with men that he will not forgive them unless something is provided to appease his wrath, and that therefore he himself offers the gift to himself, by which he is appeased. (E. J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p72-73)
The love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us:
“[Love] Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Cor 13:7)
To “bear (put up with) all things” is completely inconsistent with the idea of having to be appeased because of a wrong.
So, Biblically, to appease can and often does include the concept of making payment to someone who is angry but the Bible never uses that concept in relation to God. God’s “wrath” never needs to be appeased.
Go to The Character of God and the Gospel Glossary
April 3, 2019 @ 2:31 am
This has helped me so much. Thank you and God Bless
December 2, 2019 @ 11:54 am
Good points Ray. I have been dealing with people the past several weeks who believe that Jesus had to die in order to appease a wrathful God. While I have spent time attempting to prove to them that God is NOT “wrathful” (or “wrath-full”-filled with “wrath”) I did not consider the fact that the word appeased is never used in relation to God. Thanks for the article.
May 20, 2021 @ 7:44 am
Thanks for your insight here. I’ve been looking into this for a while.
I got into a discussion with a preacher over the wrath of God. After a few exchanges, I boiled it down and asked him point-blank, “so sacrifice in the Old Testament is A symbol of God’s wrath?” His reply was an emphatic one-word answer: “Yes.” Pretty scary “hirelings” out there.