Bible Studies/God's Wrath
QUESTION: In human beings, Anger is always a secondary emotion - by that i mean that first the person is grieved or hurt and then becomes angry as a result of that first primary emotion. Is the same true of God or do his emotions go straight to wrath? Thankyou
ANSWER: Hi Pete,
You asked whether God the Father becomes filled with wrath as a result of being "grieved or hurt" or, "do his emotions go straight to wrath". Some might take that to mean that God becomes filled with wrath without cause, but we are reluctant to believe that is what you meant. Some would think exactly that, because many have an image of the Father as "an angry old man." This image is so common that some have said that Christ came "to save us from God", rather than as Christ taught, to save us from our sins.
"I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes on me should not abide in darkness." Jn. 12:46.
The Father sent Christ, not because of wrath, but because of his love. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." Jn. 3:16-17.
Throughout scripture, God's first response to sin is patience (a character trait rather than an emotion). In response to the whole world's every thought being evil, his emotion was grief, not wrath, although the physical results are often called the wrath of God. (See discussion of Genesis flood, below).
God is repeatedly described as "slow to anger" (Neh. 9:17, Psa. 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, Nah. 1:3. We are encouraged to imitate that trait (Pro. 14:29, Jas. 1:19).
However, God will not put up with sin forever. He has limits, he sets limits and he can change those limits. Regarding the pre-flood evil, when men lived an average of over 700 years, "And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive [Heb. diyn, plead, strive, quarrel, contend] with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." Since then, only one person has been (allegedly) "verified" as having lived to age 122, the rest have been age 119 or younger.
A shallow reading of some scriptures, such as Num. 11:33 could be misunderstood to describe a quick temper, but the whole account shows that from the time they provoked God, until they died was two to three days. From the time God announced to Noah that he would cause a flood, until it came, was 100 years (Gen. 5:32, 7:6).
However, sometimes punishment is swift (Num. 12:1-9). Swift punishment should not be taken as proof of a quick temper. For example the parent who reacts immediately to one child endangering the life of a sibling, is reacting out of love and a sense of being protective, not of anger, even though the anger may soon follow.
"These six things does the Lord hate: yes, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren." (Pro. 6:16-19).
"And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord." (Zech. 8:17).
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." (Ecc. 8:11).
Swift punishment has a deterrent effect on sin, perhaps more so than righteous anger.
For an in-depth discussion of God's anger versus man's anger, see "Is An Angry Christian, An Oxymoron?" at
The following is excerpted from that article:
"In less than two years after leaving Egypt, the Israelites had managed to anger God at least 10 times (Num. 14:22). Moses became angry only four times in forty years of dealing with the same group. This does not imply that Moses was more righteous than God, only that he seldom ever failed to rule over the temptation to become angry. God would not have judged him the "meekest man" for the lack of temptation. And the Israelites certainly tempted Moses more than four times in forty years.
Only twice did he fail to "rule" over his anger and both times he was penalized accordingly. The first time, he had to replace the tablets of stone which he had destroyed. The second time however, his violent rage in striking the stone cost him his physical entrance into the "Kingdom".
There is a joke about insanity being inherited, that parents get it from their children.
This appears to be the case with God and anger. Notice that in the accounts of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, even the flood of Noah's time, God never mentions being angry, or wroth, or of having wrath. None of the writers ever describe God as angry. None of those involved ever make reference to God being angry. Regarding the flood, God is described by the words, "repented" (nacham, to sigh, i.e. breathe strongly, by impl. to be sorry) and "grieved" (atsab, to carve, i.e. fabricate or fashion, hence, in a bad sense, to worry, pain, anger). In other words, he "sighed deeply in sorrow" and was "cut to the heart", or "in pain of grief".
For those who died in the flood it might not seem to be of importance whether God killed them in anger or in grief. But for us to properly understand God as a loving Father, it is critically important that we understand that he is not an "angry God" as some envision him. Rather, he is a "father" who must physically intervene at times to achieve what is best for the family in the long run.
God is not described as being angry until he tried to "dwell" among the Israelites. Moses was the meekest man, but God had been patiently dealing with human provocation for over 2,500 years before Moses was born.
† House-cleaning Without Anger
Christ's actions regarding the money-changers and the livestock in the Temple were in response to the disrespect and desecration of his "Father's house" (Jn. 2:13-17). His words were not his own, but were "of the Father" (Jn. 14:10, 24). None of the accounts (Mat. 21:12-13; Mk. 11:15-19; Lk. 19:45-48; Jn. 2:13-17) says anything about Christ being "angry", or "wroth", or "in a snit".
To imagine the scene, tables being turned over, doves let loose from cages, cattle being driven out, it's easy to project the emotion of anger onto Christ but none of the witnesses ever said Christ was angry. In fact, he had taken the time to construct a "scourge" of cords. Cattlemen can tell you that cows don't usually respond quickly to voice commands, non-electric prods or even striking with the hand. But crack even a small whip near them and you can start a stampede. The accounts do not say that Christ used the scourge on the money-changers. That would have been excuse for the Pharisees to arrest him and it isn't mentioned. He was never accused of starting a riot, nor of assault and battery.
In contrast to the Temple incident, Mk. 3:1-6 describes Christ as looking at the Pharisees "with anger" (v.5) "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." Sound familiar? This was the same reason for Moses' anger when he left Pharaoh's court (Ex. 11:8).
How did Christ deal with the anger? He healed a man's withered hand (v. 5). How did the Pharisees respond? In their anger, they began conspiring with the followers of King Herod to murder Christ (v. 6).
Mat. 11:29; 21:4-5; 2 Cor. 10:1 all refer to Christ's "meekness", in other words, his "gentleness", his "resistance to provocation", his lack of anger. Other NT references to anger and wrath, are prophetic of God's wrath (Mat. 3:7, Rev. 14:10, Lk. 21;23), instructive (Jn. 3:36, Mat. 18:34-35), reflect human nature (Mat. 2:16), or describe Satan (Rev. 12:17). However, when Christ returns, he will be more than a little "torqued" (Rev. 6:15-17, "wrath of the Lamb").
We are instructed to put away sin. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:" (Col. 3:5). This is to avoid provoking God to wrath. "For which thing's sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience:" (v. 6). These are sins we previously committed. "In the which you also walked some time when you lived in them." (v. 7).
But wait, there's more. "But now you (must) also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds;" (vs. 8-9).
"And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:" (v. 10).
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you." (v.12)."
The article also discusses questions such as:
Can we be righteously angry over the "sins" of others?
Can we righteously imitate Christ's anger?
It also discusses replacing anger with rejoicing.
We hope this helps you in answering your question.
Mel and Guyna
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QUESTION: That was a very informative answer and I thank you for it.....I have just one more question: Where did you read that God's being angry didnt occur until he tried to dwell with the Israelites. Im sure its true, Id just like to read it myself. Thank you very much.
ANSWER: Hi Pete,
You asked about the first recorded instance of God's anger or wrath.
The first mention of being wroth is God's description of Cain's attitude after his rejection of Cain's improper offering. The first use of the word anger is Rebekah's description of Esau's attitude over the theft of the birthright and blessing (Gen. 27:45). The first use of the word angry is in Deu. 1:37, Moses' description of God's attitude in Num. 20:12. However, in that account, the only anger appears to be that of Moses, not God.
We mention these only to show that the words were in use, at least, from the time of Cain.
The major events from Creation to the Exodus all involve sin: the sins of Adam and Eve, the murder of Abel, the "wickedness" of the world with only one righteous man left alive, the sin of Canaan, Nimrod's building of Babel (urbanization rather than spreading out), the sins of Abram and Sarai, the reluctance of Lot, the destruction of Sodom and the cities of the plain, the sins of Isaac and Rebekah, the sins of Rebekah and Jacob, Jacob's repeated use of deceit, Simeon and Levi's successful plot to murder the Shechemites and take spoils, the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers, and Joseph's deceit in dealing with his brothers in Egypt.
The violent destruction of the world by a flood, and the destruction of the cities by fire and brimstone can be interpreted as demonstrating the wrath of God, but the words, anger, angry, wrath, and wroth are not used anywhere in those accounts. With the flood, it specifically says that God was feeling grief, not anger. It is like the farmer whose pet dog begins killing chickens or repeatedly chasing cattle. Most will hate losing the dog, but will simply put the dog down. [In some cases, retraining does not work.] Criminal rights activists will call that cold-hearted but there comes a point when some individuals and some societies have no redeeming qualities and their only change is toward more evil. Death can be a logical solution, without the presence of anger. If there is no grief, no sense of loss, then that would be cold-heartedness. God takes no pleasure in death (Eze. 18:32, 33:11).
The first reference to God's wrath is in the song of Moses, in praise to God for disposing of Pharaoh. Even then, it appears to be a poetic or literary allusion and not necessarily a reference to emotion. It is something that is "sent forth" and "consumes" the Egyptians (Ex. 15:7).
The first reference to God's anger (one I previously overlooked and I apologize for that) is after Moses' fourth excuse/refusal to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex. 3:11-4:14). Even then, God did not become angry with the first three excuses. Only after Moses' fourth statement, which was a flat-out refusal, did God become angry.
Note that Ex. 3:13 may have been an additional attempt at refusal.
The first use of anger, angry, wrath, and wroth in reference to God:
anger, Num. 11:1 during the second year after leaving Egypt (10:11)
angry, Deu. 1:37, which refers to events in Num. 20:12. The glory of the Lord appeared to Moses and Aaron in the door of the tabernacle (20:6). The tabernacle was in the midst of the camp (2:17).
wrath, Ex. 32; 10-11, at Mt. Sinai. While Moses was in the mountain for forty days, the Israelites, at the base of the mountain, were smelting a gold calf and celebrating like they did in Egypt. God was aware of this, but did not mention it to Moses until the end of the 40 days, at which time he speaks of his wrath, but rather than immediately act on it, he uses it as a test of Moses, offering him the chance to be the sole father of a new nation. Moses passed the test. It is then used to test the Israelites and only the Levites passed, by executing 3,000, who apparently would not stop the orgy even after Moses returned. Moses then offers himself as a sacrifice in place of the people (v. 32, another example of his being a type of the Messiah). Sometime after this, "the Lord plagued the people" (v. 34), for this sin.
wroth, Num. 16:22, Korah's rebellion, in which they were not punished immediately, but on the second day.
With reference to your original question, we still do not see God going from zero to wrath. However, where there have been repeated refusals or sins, there comes a point where God becomes angry. For those who are spiritually immature, it may be a sudden shock, much like the child who refuses to obey a parent and then has a look of shock when the parent suddenly stops pleading or nagging and begins punishing.
When God tried to dwell with humans, even specially selected humans, human sins repeatedly resulted in human deaths and the survivors did not learn enough from it to avoid repeating the mistakes. One reason God has kept his distance from mankind is to avoid having to repeat the effect of the flood, killing all but the "few" (Mat. 7:14, 20:16, 22:14, Rev. 3:4).
Interesting questions. Thanks for submitting them.
We hope this helps in your personal studies.
Mel and Guyna
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QUESTION: Thank you very much for your lengthy and detailed answer - it helped me a lot. Unfortunately I have trouble with thinking of God as an angry God since I was severely abused as a child and am afraid of father figures. But Im getting there. Any other help you could give me would be appreciated. Thank you
Your situation is not unusual in a world full of evil. It is difficult to imagine a loving Father when one has either never known his father, or his father was an abuser.
God's plan was that parents would love their children, stay with each other until death and teach their children love in all relationships, by their own example. Parents are to protect their children, provide for them, teach them, love them, encourage them, prepare them for adulthood, for parenthood, for life. Parents are to challenge their children to do their best, console them through their failures and hurts, make them laugh when they are sad, teach them all of the best virtues, and help them achieve more by helping them to stand on the parents' shoulders to reach their goals. Parents are to also teach personal responsibility, accountability, dependability, honor, how to work hard and work smart, respect of authority, respect for law, and to love God. God's love is reflected in our parent's love when they do these things.
This is what my parents did for me and my siblings. Until I was in high school, I thought all parents were like mine. In our small rural community, I had not been aware of anyone who was divorced or whose parent was a drunk, or whose dad had deserted the family.
Trying to describe a happy family home life to someone who has never had one may be like describing the world of colors to a person born blind, or the world of music and the sounds of nature to a person born deaf.
Hopefully you are neither blind nor deaf, and you can use these analogies to help in understanding what was lacking in your home. If your parent was an abuser, then he was influenced by the evil in his life, either by his own parents or by the people around him, but ultimately, by following his own carnal human nature rather than seeking to imitate Christ.
Professionals say that abusers were often abused as children. It becomes a cycle that continues until someone decides to be different and break the cycle of abuse and start a positive cycle.
In previous decades, for those in unhappy homes, there were positive role models of fathers in fictional TV and Movies. In the 50's, there was "Father Knows Best" and "My Three Sons". In the 60's, there was the Andy Griffith Show. Then the trend started of showing father figures as dumb, clueless, incompetent, mean, or just stupid. A few used a combination of a good dad who was clueless or whose advice was irrelevant.
If you have never heard of them, both types are listed at
Today, after watching modern shows, these seem simplistic, goofy, or just boring, but they did show a strong, loving father figure as a role model.
Another way to understand God as a loving Father is realize that when Christ said, if you have seen me, you have seen my father (Jn. 14:7, 9). People generally associate Christ with love, therefore, we should associate the Father with love to the same extent.
A third way is to look at the creation, including mankind, and what God created for us. Love, a sense of humor, laughter, colors, all the pleasant sounds of nature (wind in the trees, a gentle rain, the songs of birds, waterfalls and babbling brooks), beauty, music, an appreciation of virtues, a sense of justice, challenge, opportunities to grow, to become smarter, to become better. God's love is shown in all these things.
They are easy to overlook because Satan is the prince of this world, for now, and according to Christ, has deceived "the whole world" (except for a few who find the "narrow" way to life.)
Satan uses distraction to deceive, confuse and destroy those who are not seeking God with all their heart and soul.
Paul said, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things." (Phil. 4:8). Not on Satan's distractions.
The battle is not between Satan and God. Satan already lost that battle (Lk. 10:18, Isa. 14:11-14). It is between us and our own carnal human nature which tends to follow Satan's way rather than God's way. It is a battle for the control of our minds. If we can control our thoughts, we can control our words and our actions.
It is not possible without the help of God holy spirit, the spirit of knowledge, of understanding, and of a sound mind. The opposite of a sound mind is a form of insanity. If we are not converted, we suffer a form of insanity.
With the help of God's spirit, we can do all things, including the things that Christ did, according to Christ, who did miracles. The greatest miracle, is to become converted. That requires absolute faith and trust in God at all times, faith that regardless of what happens in the world around us, he will deliver us into his kingdom.
The offer of eternal life in his kingdom is because of the Father's love for us and the love of Jesus. Every thought, word and action that shows love for God and for others reflects God's nature. God is love. "He that loves not knows not God; for God is love." "And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him." (1 Jn. 4:8, 16).
God's love is shown in his every word and action in the Bible, but those who are still spiritual children who still need milk and not meat (1 Cor. 3:2, Heb. 5:12), cannot understand yet, especially if they are being taught by spiritual children or taught by the spiritually blind (Mat. 15:14).
We hope that this helps in some way. If you wish to discuss this further or have other questions, feel free to write anytime.
On personal issues, you may want to mark "yes" on the "private" option.
Mel and Guyna