God claims to be compassionate, forgiving, and slow to anger. And that’s what other people always say about him in the Bible, too. David repeatedly said God was compassionate and slow to anger. The prophets Joel and Jonah said the same thing, and that he relents from sending calamity. Nahum, too, said God was slow to anger, and Jeremiah described him as long-suffering. And the New Testament says that God is love, and that love is not easily angered.
Here are all the stories in the Bible where God demonstrates how slow he is to anger:
- God wasn’t too hard on Sarah for laughing at his message. (Though he must have done something to make her so afraid to admit she’d done it.)
- God didn’t get angry when Abraham repeatedly challenged God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. He didn’t seem to mind him asking what God would do if there were increasingly small numbers of good people there. (Though Abraham wasn’t confident enough to go all the way down to one good person. And he seemed awfully timid about the whole thing.)
- God cooperated with Gideon when he repeatedly tested God by asking for signs that it was really him. (Though Gideon sure seemed to expect God to be angry.)
- When Job spent most of his story talking about how cruel and unjust God was, God waited a long time before reacting at all. And then he didn’t do anything worse in response than making fun of Job. (Because he had done way more than enough to him already. And God was still intimidating enough that Job ended up declaring himself to be in the wrong, for no logical reason at all.)
That’s about it. If God is really so slow to anger, how can there be so few accounts of him acting that way? And why do the people even in those stories expect him not to be so? Because most of the time, God is not actually slow to anger at all.
Some people said “Does the Lord become impatient?”, apparently implying that they think that’s not the kind of thing he would do. But the prophet Micah didn’t seem to think people should say that, because God does become impatient, very easily.
In the Bible, God is always getting ridiculously angry over the most insignificant things, and killing people before they have a chance to do anything good to redeem themselves. (And often before they even have a chance to actually do anything bad to deserve it.)
Getting angry is not a rare thing for God. He displays his stormy wrath every day. It terrifies and consumes people. He is a jealous and avenging God, who is filled with wrath and vents it against his enemies. His surges of anger may not always last very long, but he gets so angry that the mountains shake and the whole earth trembles. No one can stand before him and endure his wrath.
God pursues people with anger and slays them without pity. His anger reduces people to nothing. It drives him to kill and kill and kill, and then he’s still just as angry. Sometimes the Bible says God will stay angry at his people forever. Even when he sets aside all his wrath, he’s still angry!1
(Keep in mind that God is being “patient” and “merciful” and restraining his anger throughout all of this. So he’s really even angrier than he seems. If he let his true anger show, he would have just killed everybody a long time ago. And the only reason he holds back his wrath at all is that he figures he can get more people to praise him that way, not because he cares about anyone other than himself.)
Job said God does not restrain his anger. God gets angry enough to overturn mountains. God confirmed that Job had spoken the truth about him. Job’s three friends spent that whole story trying to convince Job that God was always perfectly just, but God couldn’t stand such lies, and he got angry at those guys too. He demanded that they make a sacrifice to him, or else God would punish them for defending God.
When Moses’s siblings criticized Moses, God burned with anger, and gave Moses’s sister leprosy.
Solomon says when people fail to keep their vows because they didn’t even mean to make those vows, God gets angry and destroys their work.
God was fiercely angry at Nineveh, and he took vengeance on disobedient nations in anger and wrath.
Jeremiah once said he was full of the wrath of the Lord. And like God, he couldn’t hold it in either. Jeremiah was able to convince God to turn his wrath away from Jeremiah’s enemies… but only because God knew Jeremiah was going to change his mind about that.
Hosea said God had reluctantly given his people a king in his anger, and that he had later taken their king away in his wrath. He reported that Israel had made God bitterly angry, and that God was going to pour out his wrath on Judah’s leaders.
Micah had to bear God’s wrath himself. Daniel begged God to turn away his anger from his people. Habakkuk had heard that God was merciful sometimes, but all he actually saw from him was wrath. God even seemed to get angry at inanimate objects.
To show how God was inclined to treat people, Jesus told a parable portraying him as a king who had a man tortured for a long time, because he was angry at the man for being such a violent, unreasonable hypocrite. Which is, if not entirely unreasonable, pretty violent and hypocritical, considering what a violent, unreasonable hypocrite God is.
Paul claims that the wrath of God is on the Jews (because he thinks they’re so displeasing and hostile and sinful and they silence preachers and murder prophets).
Wrath of mass destruction
God struck his people in anger because he was enraged by their greed. He overwhelmed Judah with war, not because he thought it would get the people to change their ways,2 but just because he felt angry at them. When their land had become a wasteland, Isaiah and Jeremiah thought God was getting to be angry beyond measure. They couldn’t imagine how they could ever be saved from his anger.
Jeremiah said God was angry at his people for roaring at him, so he was going to abandon them to their enemies and lay waste their land. Jeremiah lamented that God had inflicted unparalleled suffering on Judah in his fierce anger.
He said God had hurled his people down, rejected their leaders, tore down their strongholds in his wrath, poured out his fiery wrath on them, abandoned them to their enemies, and slaughtered them without pity on the day of his anger. God gave full vent to his wrath, starving everyone he didn’t kill with the sword, till they had to start eating their own children.
God told Ezekiel he was going to bring an end to the land in an unheard-of disaster when he unleashed his anger. He had tried to change their behavior, but he wasn’t omnipotent enough, which just made him more angry at them. He was going to destroy all their false prophets with a violent storm in his anger.
God said none of the people would be left alive, because his wrath would be on all of them. Ezekiel asked if he was really going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel when he poured out his wrath on Jerusalem, and God replied that he would not spare them. He destroyed the people of Israel in his anger.
Zechariah recounts a time when God got very angry with his people, so he decided to stop listening to them and bring disaster on them and desolate their land and scatter them without mercy.
Jesus told another parable portraying God as an enraged king. This time, the king counterproductively overreacted to some murders by burning down a whole city of his subjects. According to Matthew, anyway. The version of that parable in the gospel of Luke doesn’t even mention any murders. That one says he got angry just because nobody wanted to go to his banquet.
God told his prophets what he was planning to do at the time of the end, which would be the time of wrath. The day of the Lord will be a cruel day of terrible wrath, with enough fierce anger to shake the earth and the heavens.
In the end times, God will come with raging, burning anger and lips full of wrath to totally destroy the nations. He will gather people from all over the world to form massive armies to carry out his wrath and destroy whole countries. He will bring terrible plagues on the world in his wrath to torment everyone and devastate the earth.
God will have people thrown into the winepress of his wrath and trample them in his fury until there’s an enormous flood of blood. On the day of the Lord’s wrath, everyone will suddenly die as the whole earth is consumed by fire. His wrath and fury will be on all people, and he will send them to hell for doing what they were forced to do.
God gets so angry he can’t remember who he was supposed to be angry at
God rarely gets angry at the actual wicked people. Zophar said he does, but God said Zophar did not speak the truth about him.
When God sees people mistreating people in bad situations, he gets so angry that he ends up putting more people in those bad situations.
God got angry at his people for making offerings in the wrong places. When two of Aaron’s sons tried to make an offering to God, God decided they had done it wrong somehow, so he murdered them. And then he threatened to kill Aaron if he dared to mourn for his sons. And maybe the rest of his people too, because he would be angry with them too for some reason.
When just some people rebel, God gets angry with the whole community of Israel. One guy took some plunder for himself when God hadn’t yet said that was allowed. So God got angry at the whole nation and got some of them killed. Then when the people figured out who had angered God, they apparently stoned that guy’s children to death, which turned away God’s anger.
God gave his people into the hands of the merciless Babylonians. In his wrath, he ruined and destroyed his people with famine and the sword of their enemies. Then when he got tired of that, he redirected his wrath toward their enemies. He trampled the nations in his anger till his clothes were covered with blood. He said he would inflict his fiery fury on his foes… and maybe also kill everybody else while he’s at it.
God didn’t think Zedekiah was a very good king, so he fought against him in furious anger, and had his whole city burned down. Then God told Jeremiah he was going to get angry at everyone on earth and kill them, too.
When God was telling Ezekiel about his plans to completely destroy his chosen nation, he said he was also going to slaughter some other nations in his fiery anger while he was at it. When God kills off a nation in his wrath, he doesn’t care how good the parents of the people he’s killing might be. Sometimes his wrath even drives him to slaughter the righteous themselves along with the wicked.
God gets angry over perfectly reasonable actions
God burned with anger against Moses for politely suggesting that Moses wasn’t the best-qualified person for the mission God was sending him on.
When the Israelites complained about the hardships God had needlessly inflicted on them, he got angry and surrounded them with fire. When they didn’t appreciate God bringing them into a desert where they had no water to drink, that made God angry. He was furious when they said they needed food too. And he became exceedingly angry when they complained about his boring food. He gave them something else to eat,3 but he also sent a severe plague and killed some of them in his burning anger.
God warned his people about all the things he might do to them if they didn’t obey all his rules (many of which are pointless or bad rules). For instance, he might get angry and force them to eat their children.
Moses repeatedly had to stop God from angrily overreacting to the point of killing off his entire chosen nation. One time, God was going to pour out his wrath and destroy his people in the wilderness, just because they chose not to follow his rule about taking a day off every week. He decided against killing them all, not because it doesn’t make any sense to punish people for working extra, but just because he thought killing off his people would be bad for his reputation. Then the same thing happened with the next generation.
Another time, when God wanted to kill all his people because a few men had made him angry, Moses convinced him not to. But God still killed those men’s wives and children along with the offending men. Then when some other people dared to complain about people being killed for no reason, God got so angry that he decided again to wipe out the whole nation. And he did kill thousands of them before Moses could stop him.
When the Israelites found out that the land God was giving them was full of big scary people, and they decided they might not want to go there after all, Moses was able to stop God before he could kill them all. But God was still angry enough that he wouldn’t let most of that generation move into the promised land even if they wanted to. He angrily swore that he would never let those people into the land he had promised them. He was angry at them for forty years, till they all died in the wilderness.
Moses wasn’t even part of that rebellion, but God got angry at him and banned him from the land, too. And when some of the tribes later decided to make their home somewhere other than where Moses had in mind, Moses expected God to get even more angry and do that again, or worse.
When the Israelites tried to bring the captured ark of the covenant back from their enemies, God didn’t like the way they were doing it. So he got angry and killed 70 of them. And when somebody tried to protect the ark, that made God angry somehow, so God killed him too.
Psalm 2 implies that God has put whole nations in chains, but doesn’t give any justification for him to have done that. And it says he gets terrifyingly angry when they resist that treatment. It also says he gets angry and destroys people if they don’t want to kiss his son. His wrath can flare up in a moment. So much for being slow to anger.
God inflicted war and captivity on the nation of Judah in his fierce anger, because he thought they had done evil. All they had done was stop giving him offerings (which he doesn’t want anyway), neglect his house (which isn’t really his house anyway), and shut its doors (which is exactly what God wants).
When the people of Judah mocked and scoffed at his prophets, God got angry and got their enemies to destroy their kingdom. If God doesn’t like people making fun of his prophets, maybe he should stop making his prophets act like madmen.
When God was trying to get his people to go live in captivity in Babylon, they decided they’d be better off moving to Egypt instead. But God said if they did, he would pour out his wrath on them. And he would make sure they all died by the sword, famine, and plague.
When some of the exiled Jews were allowed to return from Babylon, Ezra could have gotten the king to send men with them to protect them on the way. But Ezra chose not to do that, because he apparently thought God would get very angry if asked for anyone’s help but God’s. Ezra also expected that God would get angry enough to kill all the Jews if any of them married foreigners.
Jesus, who the Bible says is God, got angry at people for not agreeing with his mistaken ideas about what people were allowed to do on the Sabbath. Someone who doesn’t agree with what God wants people to do (especially if he doesn’t even know what God wants people to do) is obviously not actually God. But according to Jesus, God in his wrath will deny the gift of eternal life to anyone who rejects Jesus.
Paul says people incite God’s wrath when they don’t acknowledge God. That happens because his supposedly clearly seen qualities are actually invisible.
God gets violently angry because of other gods that aren’t even real
God always gets really angry when his people worship other gods. Which is really pretty dumb, for a bunch of reasons. One time, God told Moses he had to kill all their leaders before he would stop being angry. Another time when their idolatry made him jealous and angry over nothing, he wanted to reject them and bring all kinds of disasters on them and let them all die.4
When Aaron made a golden calf, God got angry enough that he could have destroyed all his people. And it wasn’t easy for Moses to convince him not to. And even after God decided he wouldn’t kill them all, God still wasn’t sure he could control himself enough not to kill them all.
Moses claimed that if the people ever followed other gods or made any kind of idol, God would get angry and deprive them of rain and quickly destroy them all. Joshua said the same thing. Moses said God would forsake them and bring many disasters on them because their idols would make him angry. He would punish the land with famine, disease, and burning sulfur in his furious wrath, and he would never forgive them. Moses told the people they should completely destroy any town where people worshipped other gods. That’s what it would take to make God stop being angry.5
When the people did indeed continue worshipping foreign gods after they settled in the promised land, God in his anger repeatedly sent enemies to plunder them and oppress them. And he had been going to make all those big scary native inhabitants go away so his people could live in the land in peace, but then he got angry and decided he wouldn’t do that for them. When they still didn’t stop serving other gods, God got so furious that he rejected Israel “completely” and had them killed with fire and the sword.
God gave his people over to their enemies in his anger and hatred, because his people had worshipped the native gods of the land he gave them, instead of committing genocide like he had told them to.
Solomon knew that God was going to keep getting angry every time anyone sinned, even though there’s no one who doesn’t sin. And when Solomon inevitably sinned (by worshipping other gods), God did indeed get angry at him. Angry enough to make God break his promise to Solomon’s father.
So after Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was demoted to reigning over only the newly independent kingdom of Judah. And all the shrines people were making in that kingdom made God more jealous and angry than ever. God would have destroyed Rehoboam and his whole nation because of that, if Rehoboam hadn’t turned away his anger by agreeing that it would be reasonable for him to do so.
Meanwhile, God let someone unrelated, Jeroboam, take over the rest of Israel. And of course he sinned too, and God got angry at him too. So after Jeroboam died, since God was still angry at him, he chose a new king to massacre Jeroboam’s whole family and to take over Israel. This new king was obviously evil too, and he ended up doing all the same things. So God got angry and got someone to massacre his family, too.
This latest killer reigned for a week and then killed himself. Then the next king of Israel, and his son, and his son too, also did the same things Jeroboam had done, and made God angrier than ever. So God decided to get a new king to massacre that family too. And then God got angry when that king’s son did the same things as Jeroboam, and so did his son… Eventually, God got so angry about his people serving other gods, like Jeroboam had done, that he let the kingdom of Israel be conquered and the people scattered.
The kingdom of Judah, too, made God angry with their idolatry. God got angry at multiple kings of Judah, and he got the kingdom of Israel to defeat them in battle. (And then he got angry at Israel for getting angry and killing the people of Judah.) Manasseh king of Judah made God want to wipe out Jerusalem and hand his remaining people over to their enemies.
“Good” King Josiah said God must be very angry at the whole nation, when Josiah realized they had been failing to obey God’s laws because they had lost the book they were written in. And he was right. God said he was going to bring unrelenting disaster on Judah in his fierce, burning anger, mainly because all their gods made his wrath flare up. He was filled with fury when they enraged him by “prostituting themselves” to other gods. He wouldn’t calm down until his people were destroyed by the sword.
God’s burning anger over his people’s shrines made him want to give away everything they owned and make them into slaves. He said he was going to slay his people in his anger and wrath, filling their cities with dead bodies. God was so unquenchably angry about his people offering cakes to foreign gods that he rejected and abandoned them, and said it was pointless to pray for them anymore.
Even after Josiah got all his subjects to stop angering God, God was still fiercely angry at dead Manasseh. He said he would pour out his wrath on his people till there were dead bodies everywhere. It wouldn’t subside until after he had forced them to eat their families, and until most of them had been killed in various disasters. People thought his wrath would continue forever, and God agreed. So because of his anger, God decided to break his promise to Solomon and put an end to the kingdom of Judah as well as Israel.
God gets angry at people for nothing
God unleashed his unrelenting anger against Job, who had done absolutely nothing wrong.
Before Esau ever did anything wrong, God decided he hated him. And Esau’s descendants were always under his wrath, too.
God approved of everything David ever did. But that didn’t stop him from turning against David in anger and inflicting prolonged, agonizing punishments on him.
Psalm 60 says God rejected and turned against Israel in his anger, but I’m not sure why he was even angry then. It says someone had just killed thousands of Edomites, but it doesn’t look like God was against that. Maybe he just wants people to be afraid of him, because that’s the only way he can get people to praise him.
According to Psalm 89, God promised David that his enemies would not get the better of him, and the wicked would not oppress him, because God would keep his covenant with him forever. But then God got very angry at David for no apparent reason, so he rejected him, renounced his covenant with him, stopped helping him, and decided to help his enemies instead. He let David’s walls and strongholds be destroyed, let his enemies defeat him, and let everyone around plunder him.
David said God was going to crush all the world’s rulers in his wrath. He would make heaps of dead people in their nations. David gave no reason for God to do this, other than that they were somebody’s enemies.
God told Jeremiah he was going to shatter the nation of Elam in his fierce anger, scattering and killing its people. But he gave no reason for doing that. Jeremiah himself was afflicted by God’s relentless wrath, for no apparent reason.
Zephaniah advised people that if they started doing what God wanted, perhaps they would be safe from God’s fierce anger. Or perhaps not.
God complained that no one was shepherding his people. Then he said he was angry at people who were shepherding his people.
Paul absurdly claims that all human authorities are God’s good servants. So any time rulers kill anyone, no matter how unjustified it might seem, that must actually be God using them to bring his wrath on wrongdoers.
God even gets angry at people for doing what he caused them to do
God brought all those plagues on Egypt in his hot anger, wrath, indignation, and hostility, because Pharaoh kept refusing to let his people go… because God kept making him refuse to let his people go. And then God unleashed his burning anger on the Egyptian army, and killed them for doing what God had compelled them to do.
God told Balaam to go with Balak’s men, and then when Balaam went with Balak’s men, God got very angry. He sent an angel to kill Balaam if he didn’t stop doing what God had told him to do.6
After that, the people of Israel and another nation followed the advice of Balaam, who was God’s prophet and could say nothing but what God told him to say. These nations’ obedience made God so angry that he wanted to kill off his own people. And he did send a plague that killed tens of thousands of them. Then he ordered his remaining people to kill the people of the other nation as well.
David said God got so angry that the earth and even the heavens quaked. Why? Apparently because God had forgotten to keep David safe from his enemies.
2 Samuel 24 begins by saying that God’s anger burned against Israel. It doesn’t say they had done anything to provoke such a reaction. God seems to just get angry first, and then afterward, he gets somebody to do something he can claim is wrong, so he’ll have an excuse to kill tens of thousands of those people he was feeling angry at. (Who aren’t even the ones who ended up committing the alleged wrongdoing.)
God got Baasha to destroy the family of Jeroboam. Then he got angry at Baasha for destroying the family of Jeroboam, and decided to have Baasha’s family destroyed too.
God got very angry with the nations he used to punish his own nation, because they were too eager to do what he wanted them to do. God made the Assyrians into the rod of his anger and the club of his wrath, sending them to plunder and kill the people of other nations he was angry at. Then he got angry at the Assyrians for choosing for themselves to do the same thing God had just made them do, and he decided to destroy them instead.
God got the Babylonians, who were another war club of his, to conquer Judah and destroy the temple, and they were happy to do it. Then God got angry at them for destroying his temple, so he got everybody else to attack Babylon and plunder it and set it on fire and completely destroy it and leave it no remnant and make it desolate forever.
Same story with Gog of Magog. God brought Gog to attack Israel, but then God got angry when Gog attacked Israel. So God got Gog’s army to destroy itself while he bombarded it with plague and hail and burning sulfur. And fed them to the wild animals. And set their homeland on fire.
Jesus says people should pray a lot, but even prayer can make God angry.
Paul says the wrath of God is coming on people because of their nature. But if God designed humans, human nature can only be God’s fault.