Wrath, Anger – definition

God's wrath and anger is different than man's
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Wrath and anger, according to the concordance, are each translated from several different Hebrew and Greek words. (List near bottom of page.)  And many of the original words are translated as both wrath and anger and often several other words. As “anger” and “wrath” are used almost interchangeably in scripture, they are treated together in this glossary.

Traditional Legal Model – God’s outrage at the wrong done to Him; at how He has been treated. It is directed towards the one who has carried out the act and has a degree of retribution associated with it – to make the offender pay; to even the score so to speak. Includes God’s actions towards the offender.

Biblical Healing Model – How God feels and what He does in reaction to man’s sinful/distrustful actions. What He usually does is to allow people to have their desire/go the way they want etc. Also giving people over to the consequences of what they have chosen, even if detrimental.

From a Modern Dictionary 

Anger (noun)

a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.

Wrath (noun)

strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.
vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.
(www.dictionary.com, accessed Jan. 31, 2019)

From Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Anger (noun)

1. A violent passion of the mind excited by a real or supposed injury; usually accompanied with a propensity to take vengeance, or to obtain satisfaction from the offending party. This passion however varies in degrees of violence, and in ingenuous minds, may be attended only with a desire to reprove or chide the offender.
(http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/anger, accessed Jan. 31, 2019)

Wrath (noun)

1. Violent anger; vehement exasperation; indignation; as the wrath of Achilles.
When the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased–Esther 2:1.
O Lord–in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2.
2. The effects of anger. Proverbs 27:3.
3. The just punishment of an offense or crime. Romans 8:1.
God’s wrath in Scripture is his holy and just indignation against sin. Romans 1:18.
(http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/wrath, accessed Jan. 31, 2019)

Wrath as a Metaphor

Mad God?
The Wrath of God

Author Brian Zahnd describes the wrath of God:

“The wrath of God is a Biblical metaphor we use to describe the very real consequences we suffer from trying to go through life against the grain of love. Canadian theologian Brad Jersak says, ‘The wrath of God is understood as divine consent to our own self-destructive defiance.’ When we sin against the two great commandments – to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves – we suffer the inevitable consequences of acting against love. We can call this the wrath of God if we like; the Bible does, but that doesn’t mean that God literally loses his temper. God no more literally loses his temper than he sleeps, even though the Bible says ‘The Lord awoke as from sleep.’ Literalizing a divine metaphor always leads to error.” (Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p16-17)

A good point. We will see further though that God does get angry, He does react in wrath – when those words are understood as the Bible defines and uses them.

Understanding God’s Wrath and Anger

God’s wrath can be better understood by breaking it down like this:

What He is reacting to:    man’s sin
How He feels about it: anger/wrath
His action in response: God leaving etc
The result (usually negative): trouble from another source

 

An example:

“And he [Moses] said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.” (Exo 4:13-14)

The result came later when Aaron could not stand up to the demands of the Israelites (like Moses might have done) and fashioned a golden calf for them to worship. Had Moses fully accepted the role God had prepared him for, this probably would not have happened. See a detailed discussion of this passage here  Note that the color coding above follows the system explained on this page.

Anger in Scripture

The most common word translated as anger or wrath in the Old Testament is:

0639 aph

from 0599; n m;
AV-anger 172, wrath 42, face 22, nostrils 13, nose 12, angry 4, longsuffering + 0750 4, before 2, countenance 1, forbearing 1, forehead 1, snout 1, worthy 1; 276
1) nostril, nose, face
2) anger

“Aph” also has the meaning of face or even just the nostrils/nose:

“David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face <H639> to the earth, and bowed himself.” (1 Sam 24:8)

The first mention of anger involving God is when Moses resisted being appointed to lead Israel out of captivity:

“And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.” (Exo 4:14)

See a more-detailed explanation of this verse which shows that there is no hint of what we would call anger in God’s reaction.

In Deuteronomy, anger is associated with hiding the face:

“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? 18  And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.” (Deut 31:17-18)

Mark associates anger with the emotion of being grieved:

“And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5)

Wrath in Scripture

In the New Testament, wrath (and anger) are most often translated from:

3709 orge
from 3713; TDNT-5:382,716; {See TDNT 560 } n f
AV-wrath 31, anger 3, vengeance 1, indignation 1; 36
1) anger, the natural disposition, temper, character
2) movement or agitation of the soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion, but esp. anger
3) anger, wrath, indignation
4) anger exhibited in punishment, hence used for punishment itself
4a) of punishments inflicted by magistrates

The Bible itself defines the word “orge” by its use in Romans chapter 1:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” (Rom 1:18)

If the wrath “is revealed,” we should be able see what it looks like. Verses 19-23 describe the ungodliness that is the reason it is revealed. Then verse 24 says specifically what God did:

“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:” (Rom 1:24)

“Wherefore” or “therefore “God also gave them up” – He let them go the way they had chosen. Verses 25 and 27-28a describe other activities, additional reasons for which “God gave them up” (verse 26) and “God gave them over” (verse 28b).

God honors the free will of men and lets them have the consequences of the choices they have made. This is also seen in the Old Testament:

“But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.” (Psa 81:11-12)

See a discussion of this principle (sometimes termed Divine Recession).

God’s Wrath/Anger is Him Leaving

As already mentioned, anger can be associated with God hiding His face. It can also be linked by the use of Hebrew parallelism to God forsaking:

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.” (Psa 27:9)

Both anger and wrath are often associated with God withdrawing His protection or presence. It can be expressed in a variety of ways such as:

  • hiding His face – Deut 31:17
  • forsaking – Deut 31:17, Isa 54:7-8
  • delivering/giving up – Hosea 11:8
  • neither will I be with you – Josh 7:12
  • withdrawing His protection – Hosea 5:6
  • sold them into the hand of – Judg 2:14
  • gave them over/up – Psa 81:12
  • the Lord departed – Num 12:9
  • removed them out of His sight – 2 Kings 17:23
  • take away the hedge – Isa 5:5
  • break down the wall – Isa 5:5

In fact, there are over 70 examples in scripture (and probably many more) of a pattern I remember as S-A-L-T:

Because of man’s
Sin, God, in
Anger/wrath,
Leaves the sinner and
Trouble comes.

Difference Between Anger and Wrath

Any true differences in meaning between anger and wrath are hard to discern with so many different words and variations in translation (see box below). I have seen some suggestions.

One is that wrath is not anger itself but the intemperate expression of anger which leads to sin. However, God would never be intemperate, would He?

Another is this subtle distinction:

  • anger – letting us have our own way
  • wrath – the withdrawal of Divine protection or presence or even just influence.

It is definitely a subject that could be studied in depth and that would be a benefit to others.

Why the Dire Threats?

Some examples of wrath are cases where God verbally “threatened” Israel with what He might do:

“Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;  And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.” (Deut 11:16-17)

Note that “He shut up the heaven is not so much Him doing something as it is Him ceasing to do what He normally does (withdrawing His blessings):

“… he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt 5:45)

Why would God speak in such threatening language? It is similar to if our children are in danger and will not listen, so that we have to raise our voices and say words that get their attention to warn them:

“The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow?” (Hos 4:6, NIV)

God would much rather speak in a still, small voice but our spiritual hearing is so dull that He sometimes has to use stronger words and allow troubles to come in attempts to save His children.

Words Translated as Anger or Wrath

Each listing includes the Strong’s number, the original Hebrew or Greek word, the total number of uses of the original word and each major translation (in the KJV) with its number of occurrences. Cases of anger and wrath or variations of each are emphasized.

Hebrew

  • H599 anaph (14) – angry 13, displeased 1
  • H639 aph (276) – anger 172, wrath 42, face 22, nostrils 13, nose 12, angry 4
  • H2194 zaam, verb (12) – indignation 4, defy 3, abhor 2, angry 2, abominable 1
  • H2195 zaam, noun (22) – indignation 20, anger 1, rage 1
  • H2534 chemah (124) – fury 67, wrath 34, furious 4, displeasure 3, rage 2, anger 1
  • H2734 charah (90) – kindled 44, wroth 13, hot 10, angry 9, displease 4, grieved 1
  • H2740 charown (41) – fierce 23, fierceness 9, wrath 6, fury 1, wrathful 1, displeasure 1
  • H3707 kawas (54) – anger 43, provoked 3, angry 2, grieved 1, indignation 1, sorrow 1, vex 1
  • H5678 ebrah (34) – wrath 31, rage 2, anger 1
  • H7107 qatsaph (34) – wroth 22, wrath 5, displeased 3, angry 2, angered 1, fret 1
  • H7110 qetseph (29) – wrath 23, indignation 3, sore 2

Greek

  • G2372 thumos (18) – wrath 15, fierceness 2, indignation 1
  • G3709 orge (36) – wrath 31, anger 3, vengeance 1, indignation 1
  • G3949 parorgizo (2) – anger 1, provoke to wrath 1

The large amount of overlap and variation in translations is apparent.

The Difference Between God’s Wrath and Man’s Wrath

With such a variety of original words translated as anger and wrath in so many verses there is, no doubt more we can learn about this topic. It is useful though to compare the differences between God’s wrath/anger and man’s:

God’s Wrath Man’s Wrath
releases imposes
is consequential is vindictive
honors free choice destroys free choice
moves away from to honor free will moves towards to harm

This verse strongly suggests a difference between the wrath of God and the wrath of man:

“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)


“Neither are your ways my ways.” (Isa 55:8)


Return to the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary Index

Share this with your friends!
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    1
    Share
  •  
    1
    Share
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •