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The Wrath (ὀργή) of God
General James Green
Averting / Mitigating WRATH
F HEILER’S DAS GEBET (1920, p. 87) speaks of prayer for an averting or mitigation of WRATH is addressed to the mercy of Yahweh. While it is true that prayers can be offered up by others to avert God’s impending WRATH, other times their prayers are in vain. I know the Bible gives examples, “When the children of Israel cried (prayed) unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel,” (Judges 3:9, etc.) The REASON for the CRY was that God turned Israel’s enemies loose against them because of their laxness toward Him. The book of Judges contains both gladness and sadness. Israel’s deliverance did not last long before they fell back into sin. So, history is repeated!
Moses Questions God
In Exodus 32:11, “Moses besought the LORD… ‘Why doth Thy WRATH wax hot (fire) against thy people, which Thou brought forth out of the land of Egypt?...’” In v. 12 he asks God to “turn from Thy fierce WRATH, and repent of this evil (‘ra’) against Thy people”; it says in v. 14 that “The LORD repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people.” There are times when men can make intercession on the behalf of sinning peoples and God will hearken; other times He will not!
Now, dear ones, take note of what Moses says in v. 31: “And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, ‘Oh, this people (the same people in v. 11) have SINNED a GREAT SIN, and have made them gods of gold.’” Moses again pleaded with God (v. 32) to forgive Israel’s SIN, this time He did not heed Moses’ prayer, but eventually “plagued the people, because they made the (golden) calf…” (v. 35).
The story continued with SINNING, rebellious Israel (see Num. 11:1 where “the LORD’S anger was kindled and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them…”). Check out Num. 14:11-13 where God speaks to Moses about His sinning people. In v. 12 God was so MAD that He said, “I will smite them with the pestilence, and DISINHERIT them…” Hearing this, Moses pled with God (vv. 13-19), God once again hearkened to Moses and pardoned them (v. 20).
Moses, in Deut. 9, is recalling what he and God had said and done in years past. He recalls their sinfulness and his fear of God’s anger to destroy the people (v. 19). He recalls to this sinful people in v. 26 that he prayed for them and God turned aside (but not all the way, for many died at the hand of the LORD in the wilderness).
Psalms 106 recalls all these events, verse 40 states, “…the WRATH of the LORD kindled against His people, insomuch that He ABHORRED His own inheritance” (see how Amos prays for backsliding Israel, 7:2, 5 and in v. 6 the LORD repented; see how Jeremiah prays for Judah in 14:7-9; see how the LORD responds: “…therefore the LORD doth NOT ACCEPT them; He will now remember their iniquities, and visit their sins” (v. 10). Verse 11 goes on to say “Then the LORD said, ‘Pray NOT for this people for their GOOD…I will consume them by the sword…famine… pestilence” (v. 12). Over in cpt. 18 Jeremiah beseeches God, “Give heed to me, O LORD, and harken to the voice of them that contend with me” (v. 19). He goes on to say, “Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away Thy WRATH from them” (v. 20). Verse 21, Jeremiah realizes that backslid Israel isn’t going to change their ways, so he prays a prayer of revenge (v. 21-23). So, here we are ➝ 2012/2013. We have prayed thousands of prayers for this nation (literally!), we have fasted for this nation/individuals, dozens and dozens of times (literally), we have preached, pled, begged for people to return unto the LORD (literally) NOW we pray not for America’s good (only for the small remnant) any more!
To Pray or Not to Pray?
THERE IS A TIME and season for everything. We’re in a season that God is giving out what men/women have earned. Their sins have stacked up unto Heaven, their sins are many, they will NOW REAP what they have sown. Intercession is needed but even this comes to an end when individuals/nations REFUSE to change. We are in a season when God will not heed to intercession. He will execute His FURY. God told Jeremiah (who was a weeping prophet!) “Therefore PRAY NOT thou for this people (Israel), neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to ME: for I will NOT HEAR THEE” (Jer. 7:16). Read why God was wroth (vv. 17-18 = worship of other gods—hello USA!!).
Will Not HEAR!
THIS IS WHERE America is NOW! God told Jeremiah that He sent prophets unto His sinning people (7:25), “Yet they HEARKENED NOT unto Me, nor inclined their ear, but HARDENED their neck (or will): they did worse THAN their fathers” (v. 26). God continues, “Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they WILL NOT HARKEN to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they WILL NOT ANSWER thee” (v. 27). Read the rest of this chapter to see what happens.
WHEN HE HAS HAD ENOUGH, WATCH OUT ! See what He does to this apostate, rebellious, sin-loving, “pink” perverted, sick nation that loves to LIE and shed blood…all this will (is) come back upon her (USA). When He reaches the FURY stage—and He has!—nothing can avert His WRATH, and it is exercised relentlessly and irresistibly (see Ez. 8:18; 14:14, these texts give us insight to His out-workings). Read Ezek. 9:1-11, which is His out-workings of 8:18. Is this what you want America?
Put TO DEATH!
IN NUMBERS 25 (vv. 1-5) we find Moses, the prophet of God, slaying those apostate Israelites who, “turned aside” to the worship of Ba’al Pe’or—their heads were to be displayed (v. 4) in the sun, “…that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.” I’ll tell you one thing, if this practice was done today, 90 percent of the Church would be beheaded!
And catch this one in 25:6-11, where Phinehas set an example, “and took a javelin in his hand (v. 7); And he went after the man of Israel (v. 6) into the tent, and thrust both of them (the Midianitish woman whom he was having sex with) through…the belly” (v. 8). Verse 9 gives the number at 24,000 who died of plague for committing WHOREDOMS (v. 1). And we can guess how many would die this way in today’s WHORISH Church, can’t we? Where, O, where are the men of God today that will judge the Church?...to point out their SIN?
Why, MOST are committing gross Sin themselves. If men would even preach Hell (as of, say, 40 years ago!) and the WRATH of God, perhaps God’s WRATH (now falling) could/would be averted. Many “sinning saints” and “Hell-bound sinners” could/would turn from the Broadway (that leads to destruction), get saved, and get on the straight and narrow (that leads to eternal life), (see Jer. 4:4, 8; 36:7; Dan. 9:16; Matt. 7:13 speaks of the two ways).
SOME THINK THAT GOD WILL always be tolerant of their sins. We hear it all the time, from, especially, preachers. Well, I got some BAD NEWS for both you and them: “God is jealous (in a righteous sense), and the LORD REVENGETH; the LORD REVENGETH, and is FURIOUS; the LORD will take VENGEANCE on His adversaries, and He RESERVETH WRATH for His enemies” (Nahum 1:2). Note the following verse: “The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm…He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, drieth up all the rivers…the mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before His 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” (vv. 2-7).
Verse 7 is our “HOPE” verse: “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.” Following this “hope” verse, WRATH continues, “But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue His enemies.”
Nahum the prophet spoke against the Gentile city of Nineveh—you see, God is WRATHFUL against those who do not know or serve Him, how much more for those who do know Him, but have turned aside (like America?).
“The indissoluble link between the proclamation of God’s WRATH and the whole message of the OT…the WRATH of God is the onslaught of the Holy God asserting and establishing His absolute claim of dominion. If, linguistically, the Holiness of God is comparatively seldom brought into direct combination with His WRATH” (Ps. 78:38-41). (Cr.-kö., 810; holiness stands opposed to WRATH in Hosea 11:9.)
THE REASON the Word of God is constantly presenting in expressions and metaphors which are related to those of theophany (see Ps. 18; Ezek. 19; Isa. 30; Hab. 3 etc.), is for the readers to group the meanings better.
His WRATH, fury, indignation are presented (to understand), not as the work of an objective power of fate, but as that of a personal subjective will—“fate” has no part in God’s Will, for when He plans something, He executes it.
Listen, God acts/reacts (in time) to our acts/reactions. God can either be our WRATHFUL judge, or our attorney that defends and vindicates us.
Men of old, covenant men, were aware of the irrationality, incalculability and subjectivity of the Divine WRATH, in relation to the LORD’S justice. Not so today. We have a “DUMBED-DOWN” Church that is Biblically illiterate, spiritually bankrupt !
Ps. 77:8, 9 asks: “Is His mercy clean gone for ever? doth His promise fail for evermore?” (v. 8). The psalmist was aware of both WRATH and mercy. “Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” (v. 9). Habakkuk 3:2 = “…in WRATH remember mercy.”
WRATH is the reverse side of His love, with which it is very closely associated in the concept of His zeal, (see Ps. 69:9 which reads: “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up…” Ps. 119:139; Isa. 9:7; 37:32; Ezek. 5:13; Joshua 2:17 and Ps. 69:9 state the same; see also zealous/zealously).
“Zeal” burns like “jealousy.” when the Word speaks of God being jealous over His people, two things can be said:
1—His jealousy burns. This finds expression in WRATH (Deut. 32:20; Ps. 78:58; 79:5), and it CAST OUT Israel, the whorish unfaithful wife (see Ezek. 16:23 for good examples);
2—His jealousy denotes His “zeal” for His people, in which He interposes Himself as a “loving husband” when Israel is threatened by hostile nations (as in Isa. 42; 59; 63), and “zealously” in His “WRATH” destroys nations, but brings salvation to His own people (Zech. 1; 8; Nah. 1).
America used to be on God’s “zealous” side, but not any longer. She, like adulterous ancient Israel (and modern Israel!) has provoked God to be zealous to CAST her OUT!! God’s mercy (for the bigger part) has been lifted from America—mark how fast this nation is going down, down, down, down.
WE’VE BEEN LOOKING at the many Hebrew words for WRATH, anger, fury, indignation etc. Now, I want to look at how the OT Greek uses certain words, especially ὀργή and θυμός. The first is mentioned over 200 times (WRATH), the second also is mentioned 200 times. The LXX θυμός is used so often for God’s WRATH, and is synonymous with ὀργή; in profane Gk., the word does not denote God’s WRATH.
θυμός denotes the “emotion,” ὀργή its manifestation and expression, θυμός the WRATH which “boils up,” ὀργή the WRATH which “breaks forth.” The same two words are used for the WRATH of man.
In Deut. 9:19 we find both of these Gk. words together: “For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you…” (ὀργήν / θυμόν) in Hebrew we find their counterparts. In parallelism the two terms are used interchangeably in half-verses according to the laws of Hebrew poetry: “I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in My WRATH” (Hosea 13:11, see also 34:2; Ezek. 7:5; 22:31; Prov. 15:1 = “A soft answer turneth away WRATH: but grievous words stir up anger.”) There are dozens of verses I could quote, look them up for yourselves.
Quite astonishing is, in accordance with the Hebrew original, the number of expressions with ὀργή or θυμός—they are almost complete equivalents. The Scriptural constructions with Gk./Heb. terms is considerable; some occur only once though. But, one has to beware, there is a surprising alteration between the words in the LXX MSS than in the Heb. MSS; scholars don’t know why (see Isa. 10:4; Jer. 10:25; Lam. 4:11; 2 Chron. 29:8 etc.). Actually, the LXX reads a bit longer as a whole.
Apocrypha / Pseudepigrapha
IN LATER JUDAISM, post-canonical Jewish literature continues with this idea of the WRATH of God as found in the OT era. According to Professor Erik Sjöberg (Sweden) and Professor Gustov Stählin (Mainz), in the Heb. originals [Jesus Sirach and The Damascus Document, a Hebrew work discovered in 1910 (partly admonitory and partly legal— Halacha—in content)] the words for “WRATH” (of God) are — Sir. 5:6; Damasc. 1:21 (1:17) etc.; — Sir. 16:6, 11; 36:6; Dam. 2:5 [2:4]; — Sir. 5:7; 39:23; and — Sir. 5:6. In the Gk. text, the WRATH of God is usually denoted by ὀργή and derivatives (as already stated), such as: ὀργίζομαι (Ps. Sol. 7:5; Gk. En. 18:16; Gr. Bar. 4:8; 9:7; Apc. Mos. 8, 16, 18, 21); ἀποργίζομαι (2 Macc. 5:17); ἐποργίζομαι (2 Macc. 7, 33); παροργίζω (Jdt. 8:14; 11:11; Test. L. 3:10 etc.); παροργισμός (Ps. Sol. 8:9); διοργίζομαι (3 Macc. 3:1; 4:13). Also, there are no essential differences in the meaning between these Greek derivatives and another equivalent for the same Hebrew words—θυμός [see R. Smend, Gr.-syr.-hbr. Index zur Weisheit d. Jesus Sirach (1907), s.v. ὀργή and θυμός ].
As already stated, ὀργή denotes the effects of God’s “anger” in the judgment which smites men, i.e., God’s “WRATHFUL judgment,” e.g., when His “great WRATH” in the apocalypse of Moses 14 is explained to be the DEATH which rules over the whole human race, or when in Vita Adea et Evae, 49 (Latin work from the Jewish-Christian group of writings on Adam, see Schurer, III, 396, ed. W. Meyer, 1878), it refers to the disasters of “fire” and “flood” which come on the posterity of Adam and Eve.
Also, as already stated beforehand, God’s WRATH is personified in different ways, “being sent,” “going forth,” “bringing.”
In some texts I’ve found out that these personifications serve to detach the “reactions of anger” from God Himself (the Spirit of His anger; the angel of destruction). ὀργή can also be the occasion as well as the effect of WRATH (see Sir. 16:8; 25:22).
THIS THEODICY concept bothers a lot of people (God’s anger/goodness, bad/good existing together). Again, we find in Sir. 5:6 and 16:11 links “WRATH” and “mercy” as a unity in tension in the nature of God. I personally have no problem with theodicy.
Look at it this way, God’s WRATH can be regarded as an outworking of His chiding mercy and love. Most Christians can’t grasp this though. They think that God’s love/mercy is to last forever, even when they commit gross sins (which MOST DO!). This view can be found in 2 Macc. 5:17, 20; 7:33; Wisdom 11:9; 16:5; 18:20-25 (see also Psalms of Solomon (Pharisaic collection of the 1st cent. BC, consisting of 18 songs, ed. O. Gebhardt, 1895).
God is balanced: His restraint of “anger” (see Sir. 7:16 where we find μνήσθητι ὅτι ὀργή οὐ χρονε) is also a sign of the LORD’S patience, longsuffering (see S. Bar. 59:6; also Rom. 9:22 = “What if God, willing to shew His WRATH, and to make His power known, endured with much LONGSUFFERING the vessels of WRATH fitted to destruction.” ) What exactly does that mean? For sure v. 22 is obscure; there’s no certainty as to how we might interpret it.
Paul, in v. 23, then speaks of “vessels of mercy.” Does Paul mean, “because He desired” or “although He desired”? Many good scholars adopt the second (e.g., Moffatt, Goodspeed, Sanday, Headlam, Krik, and Dodd are the commentators). It’s put this way: “God, although His righteous anger might naturally lead to His making His power known, has, through His kindness (or mercy), delayed and borne with those who had become objects that deserved His WRATH.” (I first heard this text preached in a tiny Kentucky town in 1973.) The motive of God’s delay and patience was in order to make known the riches of His glory for the “vessels of mercy.” (Sounds interesting, but I myself am not too sure what Rom. 9:22-23 meant!)
I Do Know This…
GOD’S DIVINE WRATH kindled by the SINS of the transgressors can certainly be viewed as in full accord with His righteousness. In fact, sinning necessitates judgment—avoid it and we’ve got what we’ve got today—ONE HELL of a REBELLIOUS, PRIDEFUL, MURDEROUS nation. So, have we really gained anything by allowing sin/sinners to go unjudged?, uncorrected? NO! In 4 Macc. 4:21; 9:32 it (“kindled WRATH”) can be called a function of the “divine Righteousness.”
Professor Sjöberg and Stählin both agree that only for apocalyptists does God’s righteousness and mercy exclude the work of His WRATH. They cite 4 Esdras (Jewish apocalypse which originated at the end of the 1st cent. A.D.), whose view of God is that He is controlled by passionate righteousness on the one side and unlimited mercy on the other (8:30); this, along with the ἄγνοια of the masses who are like cattle, and universal sinfulness, seems to make “anger” pointless and unjust (8:34 and 35). A note here: 4 Esr. 4:29 is not relevant on whether one prefers the reading “comminatio” or “indignatio,” because what is meant is the LORD’S working in cosmic catastrophes (there is no suggestion that these are a form of God’s WRATHFUL judgment; but we do know certain Biblical texts make it very plain they are, as already studied).
So, the question of the LORD’S righteousness also lies behind the Apocalypse of Abraham: Why is God angry at the evil which He Himself has subordinated to His own counsel? We’ll cover a bit of this when we get into the NT tension between WRATH and righteousness.
After studying many views, from many scholars, and from the Bible itself (in prep. for this article (or articles), I’ve come to the realization that I don’t know WHY God does certain things...WHY He allows evil/bad things to happen to good people...and good things to happen to evil/bad people.
Historical / Eschatological
HIS WRATH BREAKS FORTH in 2 phases as my subtitle states: Historical/Eschatological, (we’re still under Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in later Judaism). There is so much to dig out, so many books to consult. One thing is sure though, there are written accounts out there. WRATH befalls individuals; the first victim of God’s WRATH (besides the “driving out” of Adam/Eve from the Garden in Gen.) was Cain, the murderer of his brother [Gen. 4; see also Sibyllines (Oracles in 14 books!! collected in the 5th or 6th cent. AD for the propagation of Judaism or Christianity, composed at various periods; ref. = Sib. 3, 309). Apoc. Moses 3 speaks of the Cain/Abel thing and Adam/Eve; Rev. of Moses 8f; Vita Adae et Evae 3, 34—all these speak of individuals under God’s WRATH.
Now we proceed to individual groups and nations, which the OT lists many; Wisdom 1:1; Damasc. 1:21; 5:16, 17; 8:13. Israel, of course, is the main object or selected target for God’s WRATH because of her adultery/idolatry/bloodshed etc. (see Apc. Abr. passim; while His WRATH remains on Gentile nations/groups (Wis. 19:1), it is limited to Israel. The reason being is to get backsliding Israel to return to her husband—God—the goal is conversion, which we’ve already seen this in the OT. (see also Gr. En. 5:9; S. Bar. 64:4 and esp. Jub. 15:34), which even speaks of an “eternal WRATH” on Israel.
SUCH AS CREATURES, plants/trees, moon, stars, the devil (see Vit. Ad 15; Jub. 3:23; etc.) are objects of God’s WRATH. Even Jesus CURSED the fig tree!
All historical WRATH points forward to eschatological; all historical periods of WRATH (Sir. 44:17; Damasc. 1:5) are types of the “day of WRATH” (e.g. Jub. 24:28; 30; 36:10; Sir. 36:8; 39:28 etc.). In Wisdom 5:22 there is here described a remarkable “arming” of the “WRATHFUL God.” Again, in Sir. 48:10 we find ὀργή and θυμός together.
What we find in all this is the question of how God’s WRATH can be overcome and averted. We find various suggestions, e.g., “prayer” (Apc. Abr. 20); “worship” (Slov. En. 18:8A; cf. Wis. 18:20), “righteousness” (Sir. 44:7), “substitutionary intercession” of Moses/Elijah (Wis. 18:21; Sir. 48:10), “vicarious suffering” (2 Macc. 7:38). “WRATH of the elements” (Sir. 39:28), “God’s own saving advocacy” (Wis. 16:5; Nu. 21). Well, our NT plainly tells us to REPENT (which means to turn “from” sin and turn “to” God/Jesus…and live righteously!).
So far we’ve learned this: if sin is in the world, so, too, is Divine WRATH.
Both Philo and Josephus wrote of God’s WRATH and man’s WRATH. Philo sees the outworking of God’s WRATH in earthly events (Vit. Mos., I, 6 = bad harvests in Egypt) and human destiny (Som., II. 179).
As distinct from Philo, Josephus is highly influenced by the OT/Rabbinism. B. Brüne’s Flavius Josephus (1913) is a good book to catch his views (pp. 151-153). In Josephus’ Ant., 15, 243; 15, 299 he uses ὀργή for both Divine and human anger/WRATH. He takes the Gk. ὀργή θεο from the OT—where it is connected with transgression and violation of the Law—and uses it in Ant. 11, 141; 11, 127; and 15, 376: according to a popular view, the house of Herod was under the DIVINE WRATH.
WRATH OF GOD #4