A violent passion aroused by some wrong experienced; vengeance is sought upon the one who committed or caused it. It includes every degree, from displeasure and indignation at unworthy acts to wrath and fury. The Hebrew terms are ḥaron af, literally, "the burning of the nose"—that is, "the kindling of anger"; 'ebrah, "a boiling over"; rogez, "anger"; ka'as, "chagrin"; ḳeẓef, "provocation"; ḥemah, "wrath"; za'af, "rage"; while za'am, though translated in the A. V. "indignation," implies rather an outpouring of fury. Anger, therefore, is an element of punitive or vindictive justice in man, which, anthropopathically, is applied also to God.—Anger of God. —Biblical View:
One of the most essential doctrines of the Bible, and hence also of Judaism, is God's holiness. God is not an intellectual abstraction, nor is He conceived as a being indifferent to the doings of man; and His pure and lofty nature resents most energetically anything wrong and impure in the moral world: "O Lord, my God, mine Holy One . . . Thou art of eyes too pure to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Hab. i. 12, 13 Heb.). "The man of unclean lips can not bear the sight of His holiness (see Isa. vi. 5). "The sinners in Zion are afraid . . . Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?" (Isa. xxxiii. 14). "Evil shall not dwell with thee; scoffers [A. V. "the foolish"] shall not stand in thy sight" (Ps. v. 4, 5). "He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight" (Ps. ci. 7). An evil tongue and evil actions "provoke the eyes of his glory" (Isa. iii. 8). "For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God" (Deut. iv. 24). His anger is kindled not only by idolatry (Deut. vi. 15, ix. 19, xxix. 17; II Kings, xvii. 18, and elsewhere), by rebellion (Num. xi. 1), ingratitude (Num. xi. 10), disregard of things holy (Num. xvii. 13, xvi. 4, 7; Lev. x. 6; Num. xxv. 3; II Sam. vi. 7; Isa. v. 25). and disobedience (Ex. iv. 14), but also by the oppression of the poor (Ex. xxii. 23; Isa. ix. 16, x. 4).
The divine Anger kindled becomes "a fire which shall burn unto the lowest nether world and consume the earth with her increase and set on fire the foundations of the mountains" (Deut. xxxii. 22; compare Jer. xv. 14, xvii. 4; Ps. xxi. 10, lxxviii. 21). "Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth and blazed up [A. V. "was kindled"] in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem; so that they became waste and desolate as they are at this day" (Jer. xliv. 6; compare also Isa. xlii. 25, and Ps. lxxix. 5). Especially forcible is the description of God's avenging wrath in Nahum, i. 6, where the physical and moral forces combine to make the prophet exclaim: "Who can stand before his wrath [A. V. "indignation"]? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him." At times the divine Anger is sent forth as an elementary force to work destruction on individuals or nations (Ex. xv. 7; Ps. lxxviii. 49; Job, xx. 23; Isa. xxx. 30); or God (like the goddess of destiny) offers a wine-cup of foaming wrath to the nations to drink of and become mad (Jer. xxv. 15 et seq.). "God as a righteous judge is wroth every day" (Ps. vii. 12, Heb.; A. V. translates this differently); and He has certain set days for the outbursts of His Anger (Isa. xiii. 13; Zeph. i. 15, 18, ii. 2, 3; Ezek. vii. 19; Lam. i. 12, ii. 1, 21, 22; Prov. xi. 4; Job, xx. 28). Hence the day of wrath corresponds to the Day of Judgment or doomsday (Zeph. i. 15, ii. 2, iii. 8 and elsewhere).Principles of Application.
But whether directed against natural powers (Ps. xviii. 9, 16; compare, however, Hab. iii. 8), against individuals (II Sam. vi. 7), against Israel (Deut. xxix. 27, Jer. xxv. 37 et seq), or the nations (Isa. lxiii. 3, 6; Jer. x. 25; Ezek. xxxvi. 5); whether it inflicts immediate death (Num. xi. 33, Ps. lxxviii. 38), or uses the foe as a rod ("O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger," Isa. x. 5), God's anger is never the outburst of a mere capricious passion,but is a necessary element of His moral order. "Fury is not in me" (Isa. xxvii. 4). It is réstrained and controlled by divine mercy, the correlate attribute of justice. As Hosea, xi. 8, 9 says: "Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together; I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger." "Full of compassion . . . he many a time turned away his anger and did not stir up all his wrath" (Ps. lxxviii. 38). God is also "long-suffering" (erek appayim) and "slow to anger" (Ex. xxxiv. 6; Nahum, i. 3). "Though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me" (Isa. xii. 1). "In wrath thou rememberest mercy" (Hab. iii. 2, Heb.). "I will not contend forever, neither will I always be wroth" (Isa. lvii. 16). "In my wrath I smote thee but in my favor have I had mercy on thee" (Isa. lx. 10).
Anger at sin (the outflow of middat ha-din = justice) and compassion upon the sinner (the outflow of middat ha-raḥamim = mercy) while they are merely human conceptions of God, are inseparable from God's manifestations as the righteous ruler of the world. Without the former there would be no fear of God or obedience to His law (Ex. xx. 20; Deut. xi. 16, 17; Josh. xxiv. 19, 20); without the latter, no repentance or return of the sinner to the path of life (Micah, vii. 18; Jonah, iii. 9; Ezek. xviii. 23). Great calamities that befell the land under Herod were ascribed to the "anger of God" (Josephus, "Ant." xv. 9, § 1).Rabbinical Sayings. —In Rabbinical Literature:
God's Anger is often made the subject of discussion. God said to Moses: "Let my face of wrath pass by and I will give thee ease" (Ex. xxxiii. 14, Heb.). Is there wrath before God? Yes, "God is angry every day" (Ps. vii. 12, Heb.)—that is, for a brief moment imperceptible to any creature: "For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life" (Ps. xxx. 6), or, again, "Hide thyself for a little moment until the wrath [A. V. "indignation"] is passed" (Isa. xxvi. 20). Balaam alone was able to select the right moment for his curses; and he would have annihilated the people of Israel, had not God withheld His anger at the critical moment; "How shall I curse if God doth not curse? or how shall I pour out wrath if the Lord doth not pour out wrath?" (Num. xxiii. 8, Heb.). This withholding of wrath by God is the "righteousness" or mercies spoken of in Micah, vi. 5. Joshua b. Levi, knowing the time most favorable to cursing to be the early morning, wanted to use it against some troublesome heretic in his neighborhood. But as he slept on beyond the appointed hour, he took this as a hint that heaven was against such practises (Ber. 7a; 'Ab. Zarah, 4b). Rabbi Meir says: "When the heathen kings rise in the morning and prostrate themselves before the sun, this is the time when God is angry" (Ber. 7a). "As long as there are wicked men in the world, so long is there wrath in the world" (Sanh. xi., last Mishnah, pp. 111b, 113b). "Every hypocrite brings wrath into the world" (Soṭah, 41a; Job, xxxvi. 13, "The hypocrites in heart heap up wrath"). "God's indignation is roused when the Shekinah in the house of worship has to wait for the number of ten to begin the regular service" (R. Johanan, Ber. 6b). If one verse reads, "God is wrathful every day" (Ps. vii. 12, Heb.) and another, "Who can tarry before his wrath" (Nahum, i. 6, Heb.), the one refers to the judgment of the community, the other to that of the individual ('Ab Zarah, 4a). If one Biblical passage reads, "Fury is not in me" (Isa. xxvii. 4), and another, "The Lord revengeth and is furious" (Nahum, i. 2), the one refers to Israel, the other to the heathen nations. This is explained later with reference to Amos, iii 2, Heb. The transgressions of Israel are punished in this world, while those of the heathen accumulate and are punished in the next ('Ab. Zarah, 4a; compare Shab. 30b). Similarly (Ps. lxxvi. 11, Heb., A. V. 10), "The wrath of man shall praise thee, the remainder of thy wrath shalt thou restrain," is thus explained in Yer. Ma'as. iii. 51a: "The divine wrath expended upon the righteous in this world conduces to praise; while the wrath is all reserved for the wicked in the next." In Midr. Teh. the wrath is referred to Israel in this world and to the heathen nations on the Day of Judgment in the next (Midr. Teh., ed. Buber, 342).The Day of Wrath.
"The day of wrath" (Zeph. i. 15) is understood by the rabbis (B. B. 10a, 116a; Shab. 118a; 'Ab. Zarah, 18b) to refer to the Judgment of Gehenna; likewise, "the day that shall burn as an oven" (Mal. iii. 9; see Sanh. 110b; 'Ab. Zarah, 4a; Gen. R. vi., xxi., xxvi., xlviii., and elsewhere). So is the "day of vengeance" (Deut. xxxii. 35, Samaritan text) understood to be the great Judgment Day in Targ. Yer. and Sifre Deut. 325 (see Geiger, "Urschrift," p. 247; "Jüd. Zeit." ix. 92; Driver's "Commentary on Deuteronomy," pp. 374 et seq.). This idea of a day of wrath reserved for the wicked (referred to frequently in the "Sibyllines," ii. 170 and Fragment, ii. 38, iii. 556-561, 810, iv. 159 et seq., v. 358; in Book of Enoch, ed. Dillmann, xcl. 7-9; and also in the Ḥasidic, II. Macc. vii. 30-38, but not in Ecclus. [Sirach], v. 7) finds its emphatic utterance in the New Testament: "O generation of hypocrites [A.V., "vipers"], who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (John the Baptist, in Matt. iii. 7); Paul, in Rom. ii. 5: "Thou treasurest up wrath against the day of wrath" (compare ib. i. 18, V. 9); xii. 19: "Avenge not yourselves, but give place unto the [divine] wrath; as it is written. To me belongeth vengeance" (Deut. xxxii. 35); "The wrath of God cometh upon the sons of disobedience" (Eph. v. 6; compare I Thess. i. 10; Col. iii. 6; Rev. vi. 17, xix. 15; John, iii. 36; Sanday, "Epistle to the Romans," p. 41; and Hastings, "Dict. Bible," s.v. "Anger").Tempered by Mercy.
Still, God's anger is ever tempered with mercy, as is evident from Hosea, i. 6: "I will not have mercy and yet I will forgive them" (Pes. 87b; A. V., differently). "The great power of God consists in his constraining his anger and being long-suffering even toward the wicked" (Yoma, 69b). "He is long-suffering inasmuch as he sends his anger and wrath far away from his presence, so as to grant the people time for repentance; like a king who has two harsh and fiery legions, which he sends into different countries lest their zeal and eagerness to punish might interfere with the pacification of his subjects" (Yer. Ta'anit, ii. 65b.). "What is the meaning of 'the Lord spake unto Moses face to face'?" (Ex. xxxiii. 11). He said to him: "When thy face shows anger, I shall appease thee, and if I show a face of anger, thou mayest appease me" (Ex. R. xlv.). "So did Ishmael ben Elisha pray upon entering the Holy of Holies with the holy incense, and, seeing Akatriel, the head of the archangels, seated upon the throne of the Most High—who addressed him in the name of God, 'Bless me, my son!'—'May it be thy will that thy mercy prevail over thine anger and thy mercy be uppermost among thy attributes, so that thou mayest deal with thy children after the measure of loving-kindness and go beyond that of strict justice!'" Another version is: God Himself prays: "May my mercy prevail upon mine anger and my mercy be uppermost among mine attributes, so that I may deal with my children after the measure of loving-kindness and go beyond that of strict justice!" (Ber. 7a).
A "philosopher" () asked R. Gamaliel: "Since your God is 'a consuming fire,' why does he take vengeance upon the idolaters and not upon the idols themselves?" And he answered: "Suppose a king has a disrespectful son, who gave his dog the name of his father and swore by that name, shall the father vent his anger upon the dog or upon his irreverent son?" It is the idolater, not the irresponsible idol, that excites God's anger ('Ab. Zarah, 54b).
Maimonides, in "Moreh," i. 36, declares that wherever Anger is applied to God in the Bible, it has reference to idolatrous practises, the idolater being the hater of the Lord. (As to the inaccuracy of this statement, see the commentaries; but as to its general meaning, compare Ab. R. N. xvi.: "Love all fellow creatures, but hate those that are haters of God"; also Pes. 113b.)Anger in Man:
If this be the outburst of a holy indignation at the sight of wrong done, it is
Anger is condemned in stronger terms in apocryphal and rabbinical literature (Ecclus. i. 22): "A furious man can not be justified; for the sway of his fury shall be his destruction." In the Testaments of the Patriarchs almost the whole Testament of Dan (chaps. i.-vi.) dwells on anger (Dan having been one of those reported to his father by Joseph as having eaten forbidden meat; see Geiger, "Jüd. Zeit." vii. 131):
"One of the spirits of Belial wrought with me, saying: Take this sword and with it slay Joseph. . . . This is the spirit of anger that counseled me that even as a leopard rendeth a kid, so should I rend Joseph. . . . There is blindness in anger, my children, and no wrathful man regardeth any person with truth, for though it be a father or a mother, he treats them as enemies; though he be a brother, he knoweth him not; though he be a prophet, he disobeyeth him; though a righteous man, he regardeth him not; a friend he doth not acknowledge. For the spirit of anger encompasseth him with the nets of deceit, and through lying darkeneth his mind and giveth him a vision of his own making; it affecteth his eye with hatred of the heart and giveth him another heart against his brother. My children, mischievous is anger; it changeth the body of the angry man into another, and over his soul it getteth the mastery. . . . He who is wrathful, if he be a mighty man, hath a treble power in his anger; yea, even though he be weak, yet hath he two-fold of that which is his by nature; for wrath aideth much in mischief. . . . Therefore when any man speaketh against you, be not moved unto anger. . . . Depart from wrath. . . . Cast away wrath and lying, and love truth and longsuffering."
"Be not prone to anger, for anger leadeth to murder; nor a zealot (ζηλώτης), nor contentious, nor quick-tempered; for murder also is the outcome of these" (Didache, iii. 2); compare "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matt. v. 22). "Be slow to wrath (βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήυ), for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James, i. 19, 20). A very similar expression occurs in Ab. v. 11 (Ḳasheh lik'os): "There are four dispositions; (1) He who is easily provoked and easily pacified—his gain is cancelled by his loss; (2) He who is hard to provoke and hard to pacify—his loss is canceled by his gain; (3) The one who is hard to provoke ( ) and easily pacified is a Ḥasid; (4) He who is easily provoked and hard to pacify is wicked."
One of the especial virtues practised by the Ḥasidim (Essenes) was to restrain anger and to show a mild temper (see Josephus, "B. J." ii. 8, § 6; Philo, "On the Virtuous Being Free," xii.). Thus Eliezer b. Hyrcanus taught, Ab. ii. 14: "Be not easily provoked (compare Hillel's saying, "The irritable man can not teach," Ab. ii. 4). Likewise, the moral teachings at the end of Paul's epistles: "Now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice," etc. (Col. iii. 8; compare Gal. v. 26, Eph. vi. 4). Especially significant is Eph. iv. 26: "Be ye angry and sin not; let not the sun go down on your wrath"—a teaching shown by Resch ("Agrapha," pp. 110, 210), to be taken from some "Scripture" based upon Ps. iv. 4 (compare Ber. 19a): "If one of the wise have committed a sin at night, be sure that he has repented (upon his bed) and bear him no grudge the following day" (Baraita de-R Ishmael; compare Ber. 19a). "God loves him who never gets angry" (Pes. 113b). "The mysterious name of 'Forty-two' is entrusted only to him who is retiringly chaste () and who never gets angry" (Ḳid. 71a). To R. Judah, brother of Sela the Ḥasid, Elijah the prophet said: "Do not get angry and you will not sin" (Ber. 29b). A man who gets angry, if he be one of the wise, his wisdom departs from him: for Moses in his anger forgot the law; and Eleazar, his nephew, had to declare it (Num. xxxi. 21). If he be a prophet, the spirit of prophecy forsakes him; for Elisha in his anger had to invoke the musician's aid to call back the spirit that had left him (II Kings, iii. 14, 15). Nay, if heaven assigned a high rank to him, it will be taken away; for of Eliab, the brother of David, God said, "I have refused him" (I Sam. xvi. 7)—the reason for which is afterward given in I Sam. xvii. 28: "Eliab's anger was kindled against David" (Pes. 66b).
"A man who gets angry will be overcome by the powers of Gehenna, and his body by ailments of the belly," according to Eccl. xi. 10, and Deut. xxviii. 65. "He despiseth the Shekinah as it is written: 'The wicked in the height of his wrath will not seek God; God is not in his thoughts' (Ps. x. 4, Heb.). "He forgets his learning and grows foolish; nay, his sins will be more numerous than his meritorious acts" (Ned. 22a, b). "He who in his wrath tears his goods or garments is like a worshiper of idols, for it is written: 'There shall no strange god be in thee' (Ps. lxxxi. 10 [A. V. 9]): this is the evil spirit that enters man through anger" (Shab. 105b).
"In three things a man is tested: in his cup (bekoso), his purse (bekiso), and his anger (beka'aso)" ('Er. 65b). The verse, "All the days of the afflicted are evil" (Prov. xv. 15), refers to the quick-tempered (B. B. 145b). "His life is no life" (Pes. 113b); "his anger is the only profit he has" (Ḳid. 41a, Eccl. R. to vii. 9). "By what virtue didst thou merit a long life?" was the question put to Ze'ira or to Adda b. Ahabah; and the answer was: "I never excited anger in my household" (Ta'anit, 20b); "every irritable man is a fool" (Koh. R. to xi. 10).Righteous Anger.
Still there is also a righteous Anger. The verse, "Better is anger than laughter" (Eccl. vii. 3), is explained in Koh. R. ad loc.; better would have been the Anger which David should have displayed toward Amnon and Adonijah than the laughter ofjustice over their fall as described in II Sam. xiii. 33, I Kings, i. 6. If the learned man becomes angry, it is the zeal for the Law that makes him so; for "Is not my word like a fire, saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer. xxiii. 29, Heb.). Nevertheless the scholar should also accustom himself to mildness of temper (Ta'anit, 4a). In a public address Rabbi Jose once said: "Father Elijah was quick-tempered"; whereupon the prophet failed to appear to him for three days. On the following day, Rabbi Jose inquired of Elijah why he was absent. "Because you called me quick-tempered," was the answer. "Thou hast only corroborated my opinion of thee," said R. Jose (Sanh. 113a, b).