Summary: Temper or anger is an universal human experience. Everybody feels anger from time to time though we may express it differently. It is important to understand our anger, realize what causes it, and how to control it.


PROVERBS 14: 17; 29-30

There are many passages in Proverbs that depict a hot temper. They teach what a hot tempered person is likely to do and how we should relate to him or her. Rash outburst and action are said to bring unpleasant results. Thus great stress is placed upon controlling ones emotions, especially anger.

Temper or anger is an universal human experience. Everybody feels anger from time to time though we may express it differently [through shouting, intimidating, insensitivity, frustration, irritability, annoyance, blowing off steam, fretting, quitting, back-bitting, depression, etc.]. It's an intense reaction to life. It is important to understand our anger, realize what causes it, and how to control it.

So let's look through seven lessons taught in Proverbs concerning our temper.


"A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated."

The emphasis is on the result of a lost temper. A man who allows his anger to run unchecked will not act in a wise thought out manner. "Flying off the handle"—not controlling one's temper—causes a person to do and say things, which he may later regret and be unable to undo. The Hebrew word temper is colorful. It comes from the noun meaning "nostrils" implying the flaring of the nostrils in anger. It has been rightly said that when your temper boils over, you usually end up in hot water. We have seen it over and over again in our lives. We must learn to control our anger before it grows from a weakness into a person who deceitfully schemes.


"He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. (30) A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones."

This Proverb contrasts the slow to anger (or patient -16:32; 19:11) with the quick tempered (or impatient). The question we are to ask is what does anger do to objectivity? Anger obscures the facts and makes us subjective and emotional. To see calmly is to see clearly or with understanding.

The quick-tempered or impatient man who loses control of his temper exalts folly. Exalts focuses on what one promotes or what one causes to publicly occur. What publically occurs with quick anger is folly. [The Hebrew word "exalts or displays" (rûm) means "to exalt or lift up for show."] The short tempered person demonstrates public actions that result from unleashed passion and not understanding.

["Quick tempered" or "hasty of spirit," translates kitsar ruach which literally means "short of breath/wind." Ruach is used in reference to the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2) throughout the Old Testament. The connection is clear. He that is short of the Spirit, he that operates under his own power will continually be vulnerable to frustration and wrath. The person filled with the Spirit, on the other hand, will exhibit the fruit of the spirit—characterized by peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, and self control (Galatians 5:22, 23). [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary: Vol. 2. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006, S. 219.]

Proverbs 14:30 contrasts a tranquil heart with passion. The even disposition of a tranquil heart begets physical health. Controlling one's temper keeps mind and body functioning well. Anger consumes and eats one up causing rottenness to the bones. Anger and hatred only destroy the one who is angry. It may be directed toward others but its ill effects return to the one angry. When the kettle boils over, it overflows its own sides. Actions flowing from an uncontrolled temper are neither wise nor healthy.


"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention."

The man mentioned here is hot-tempered or literally "a man of heat" or one who blows up (like Mt. Vesuvius). The contrast is not between opinion but between two kinds of people one hot-tempered the other slow to anger. Quarrels depend more on people than on subject matter. Think over the ridiculous or trivial matter over which people argue. Think of how tempers flare during rush-hour traffic. Are they flaring over some great issue?

In contrast to the anger man is the slow to anger (Jas. 1:19) one. In his presence quarrels die. Contention cannot exist without someone feeding the flame. The word pacifies is in the Hebrew causative indicating that a man under control can cause the dissipation of dispute.

There is a similar thought in Proverbs 29:22. "An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression." The effects of a volatile temper warn against losing control of oneself. An angry . . . hot-tempered person causes strife (26:21; 30:33) and commits many sins, perhaps including cursing or insulting others, misusing God's name, being rude, lacking kindness, being cruel, rebellious, or proud. [Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy; The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983, S. 968]

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