To Anger is Human

Now let me alone so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, and of you I will make a great nation. -Exodus 32:10

Dear members and friends,

According to an English dictionary, anger is defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” And the word wrath is defined as “extreme anger.” In the Old Testament, there are many places where we find the word “anger.” It is especially troublesome to us when we find that anger or wrath is associated with God as in Exodus 32:10. The Hebrew word for anger is eph, which originated from anaph, meaning to be angry or to breathe heavily. The Hebrew word for wrath is ebrah, which means “overflow, excess, or outburst.” Ebrah originated from eber, which means “region across or beyond.” And eber originated from abar, which means “to pass over, through, or by, pass on.” Unlike English, anger and wrath are not closely related to each other in Hebrew. Anger might have been from their experience of people with strong emotions, who often do the heavy breathing, while wrath is from their experience of flooding, as when strong waters carry things far away and cause destruction. Perhaps this is why the Bible often associates wrath with God more so than anger. However, what is clear is that both anger and wrath in Hebrew originated from human experiences of each other and of nature, meaning it was essentially a human interpretation and explanation of disastrous action or events.  

Swedenborg explains that the essence of God is mercy and goodness itself. Thus, God is incapable of having anger or wrath. Therefore, what appears to be the anger or wrath of God in the Bible is in fact due to the projection of people imagining that God might have the same feelings as they do. However, since God is goodness and mercy itself, when a human mind is filled with selfishness or hatred towards other humans, the person automatically becomes incompatible with God. Consequently, the person moves out of the blissful presence of God. This then causes that person to feel abandoned, which could be interpreted as punishment from an angry God. However, that would be placing human emotions onto God, which is a simple misunderstanding of who God truly is. God is not a human, and thus does not have the same feelings and desires as a human. 

My brothers and sisters in God, let us reflect on the anger and wrath within ourselves. Let us not project our own infirmities and shortcomings on to God, but rise to the presence of God. Indeed, God is love and mercy itself.  

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee