Does God Get Angry?

Examining the Old Testament of the Bible

Christians absolutely believe something that they consider to be a fact which the Bible never claimed and, in fact, the Bible shows to be incorrect. That is regarding whether God knows what the future will be!

God never CLAIMED to have any specific extreme abilities in the Bible, which is the only source of information we have about Him. From the Bible's DESCRIPTIONS about Him and things He had Done, Christians have ASSUMED that He has certain characteristics. For example, for Got to have Created the entire Universe, and in just Six Days, implies an Omnipotence, at least in terms that we humans could comprehend. But then Christians who read the Bible made an assumption in saying that God is ABSOLUTELY Omnipotent. There is no actual basis upon which to have made such a statement, but all Christians certainly now believe that as though it was an absolute fact.

There seems no doubt that God is "smart" in the extreme, at least by human standards, again, entirely based on the words of the Bible. But again, human readers of the Bible have extended that spectacular intelligence of God into being Omniscience, through a variety of assumptions which have no actual basis. It might be that God is so incredibly knowledgeable and observant that He knows that you killed two mosquitoes on last Thursday. I personally have some doubts regarding whether He actually Cares about such minutiae. But I see no reason to doubt that He COULD if He Wished.

However, Christians have extended that assumed Omniscience with even more assumptions, into an absolute and complete knowledge OF THE FUTURE! THAT seems virtually certain to have been a wrong assumption on the part of readers of the Bible. The Bible never actually CLAIMS any such ability on the part of God, although it DOES (briefly) refer to FUTURE events (in Revelation). The text in Revelation seems to be the entire basis of the claims that God knows the entire future of all humanity and of the Earth itself. But the text of the Bible appears to contain many indications that God did NOT know aspects of near future events! The Old Testament contains many stories where God did not actually know whether Abraham would be willing to kill his own son just because God asked him to do so; where God did not know that some Jewish leader was about to make an important decision that would Anger God; and surprisingly often, the Bible describes events where God appeared to be surprised by various events.

This all seems to conclusively prove that the human ASSUMPTION that God is absolutely Omniscient must not apply to knowing what the future will be! He certainly may be Omniscient by any standards that we humans could comprehend, granted. But Bible texts seem to repeatedly confirm that God did NOT know what even the near future was going to be during some stories. Did God absolutely KNOW that Job would continue to Trust Him, even after so many spectacular adversities that God either Caused or Permitted to damage his life? An interesting question, for sure.

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There is another aspect of this which seems to carry some logic. Say that God already knows EVERY DETAIL regarding every person who will ever live and about how human society will proceed and possibly perish. In that case, exactly what is the point? If He did NOT know how we might act and react to events in the future, then at least we might be providing Him with some sort of entertainment! But if He already knows every future detail, what could we humans possibly represent to Him? Why would He even have any reason to keep us around? Yet, the Old Testament also contains innumerable examples where God certainly went out of His Way to provide advantages to Jews! So He seemed to have some sort of Personal Involvement regarding how it will all turn out! But the combination of these factors seems to indicate that even God does NOT know how the human experiment will eventually turn out!

If you have a pet dog, you probably get some personal enjoyment from that relationship, and we believe that the dog also seems to receive enjoyment from it. Would you keep a dog around if you never actually cared whether the dog got fed or not, or whether it played or whether it ran away? Probably not. Hopefully, we are more important to God than a dog is to a person, but there are elements of a relationship, specifically that BOTH have some INVOLVEMENT in such a relationship and both can hopefully find some enjoyment in the relationship.


The Old Testament contains many examples where God appears to have been SURPRISED at some human reaction, and then that He Reacted on His Own to respond to that disappointment.

In Ezekiel 24:13-14, we have (KJAV)" 13 In thy filthiness [is] lewdness: because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee. 14 I the LORD have spoken" Doesn't that sound like an ANGRY God? One Who has intense emotions? Does it make sense that the Master of the Universe seems to have a temper?

Christianity and Judaism attribute a number of characteristics to God. They seem to comprise two mutually exclusive sets of characteristics! It seems impossible that even God could actually have both sets as absolutely as is believed by all Christians and Jews.

Characteristic Set 1

God is Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent. He knows EVERYTHING, including past, present and future. He can do absolutely anything, as was demonstrated when He Created the Universe and Earth and Mankind in Genesis. His IS everywhere, so there cannot ever be hidden "surprises" waiting for Him.

Implied with this set of characteristics is that He is Logical and Just. His Universe would not be a logical place or even a "fair" place for His created humans without rigidly consistent logic. Examples of violations of that would be if days were of various numbers of hours in length, or if gravity was sometimes twice as strong, or if water was sometimes deadly poisonous, or if you open your front door and sometimes there is empty space there. Obviously, His Just Nature requires that things such as these cannot be permitted to happen.

Characteristic Set 2

In the Old Testament, God regularly got Angry and was often Vengeful, even telling us that "Vengeance is His Alone". (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19 and 44 other Scriptural references). The Bible mentions dozens of instances where God was Angry with humans (Deut. 1:34 and many others).

The Old Testament tells of a number of times when God became Angry at some individual and then "smote" a whole army in retribution. The implication is that those many individuals (soldiers, usually) were NOT guilty of the fault that resulted in their deaths, indicating that they were essentially innocent.

Question

So, here's my question. If God gets Angry and can then sometimes do irrational (OT) retribution due to His Emotional reaction, how could He have made a perfectly logical Universe for us? The question can be phrased in a number of ways. Can God justifiably require US to not lash out in anger when He doesn't seem to have that ability Himself? Is not Anger one of the Seven Cardinal (called Deadly) Sins?

There's a second level of questions that also arise. Since God Knows everything, past, present, and future, how could He have been "surprised" by failings in so many individuals He entrusted, like Adam, and Abraham, and Aaron and David, and many more? And, since He certainly Knew how each of them would act and react, how could it be that He would have an Angry reaction in His disappointment? And in His interactions with Jonah or Job or many others, since He Knew from the start how everything would turn out, doesn't that seem like we would be really "boring" for Him? There was really then no point in the Job story, as God already Knew how it would all turn out, and it was NOT any challenge between Him and Satan after all! Since He already knows our future and how our civilization will end, that would seem to eliminate any "entertainment value" we might have for Him!


If God is really subject to emotional reactions and even outbursts, as is implied by numerous Old Testament stories, how could we truly trust that the Universe is a "perfect" Creation? It would seem that if He became Angry so many times with individual people in the Old Testament, the enormous complexity of Creating the Universe must have been MUCH more stressful for Him. I, personally, once built an entire house by myself, and I must admit that there were occasions when I accidentally smashed my thumb with a hammer or otherwise became emotional and I threw some tool or broke some object in irrational anger. We can never know the answer to this one, but it's interesting to think about. It implies that there is the possibility that the Universe might have (minor?) flaws in it, which would imply that it was NOT Perfect, which would imply that God's Creation was not Perfect. See the problem?

Conclusion???

For myself, I choose to put great reliance on 'Set 1' of the Characteristics mentioned above, BUT with one exception! I choose to believe that God, with His Infinite Knowledge and Ability, made a Perfect Universe, which is perfectly logical and consistent. I believe in His Justice and Fairness and all the other "Good" qualities we associate with Him.

However, from Old Testament evidence, it is hard to see how it could be concluded that God could see future events precisely. As noted above, if He KNEW someone was going to let Him down, how could He then get angry over it happening? And so I accept that God has infinite Wisdom and Knowledge and Ability, but that that does not extend to things which have not yet happened.

As to Anger and Vengeance, I truly cannot see how He could have ever have been surprised or disappointed with any of us, IF He Knows the complete and detailed future. So, even if He is capable of Anger or willing to do Vengeance, I cannot imagine any situation when such needs would arise. Of course, the Old Testament in my Bible clearly tells me of many examples of His Anger and His Vengeance. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to see how all this could be true! But I pretty much choose to downplay (and almost ignore) those Old Testament references to His Emotional reactions, because the God I Respect and Revere and Worship wouldn't have seemingly irrational emotional reactions.

There IS another possible explanation for this, but I do not really like it. Noting that our modern Bibles are TRANSLATIONS of COPIES of COPIES of Scribal Copies of Scribal Copies, at least fifty times over, regarding just the text of the New Testament, AND that around 30,000 partial Manuscripts have been found and compared, and that many thousands of (minor) copying errors have been discovered, we are now pretty sure of the accurate wording of the NEW Testament simply because we have been able to compare all those thousands of Manuscripts of it. Regarding Old Testament exact wording, there is extremely minimal evidence on which to base such confidence! This is mostly due to a Jewish procedure where a Scribe would extremely carefully copy the Bible AND THEN DESTROY THE ORIGINAL! Their reasoning was primarily to make sure that the number of existing copies of the Bible would not grow, where there could ever be controversy regarding which one was correct. When only one copy existed, there was never any other Manuscript to compare it to, and so no possible arguments could ever occur over which one was correct! However, it opens the door to the fact that Scribes are humans and therefore capable of making minor errors! So, in the event that the EXACT wording of the details regarding a truly ancient story where God "became angry" might have then been an embellishment by a Scribe, in emphasizing just how immensely powerful God actually is. See the point? There is no possible way to ever reconstruct the details of what happened that day 3000 or more years ago, when the story says that God got Angry!


The conclusion I come to from this reasoning is that God IS immensely Powerful and Intelligent and Capable, but that He does NOT know what the future holds. In this, I guess I disagree with nearly all modern Churches, which all insist that the EXACT course of the end of humanity on Earth is already absolutely defined. I am hereby ASSUMING that part of our reason for existence is to ENTERTAIN the Lord, and therefore He gets to see some of the outrageous ways that we respond to situations we encounter. And so maybe He really expected Adam and Eve to never eat from the tree of knowledge, and that He was therefore SURPRISED when they did. Or the many other times when the Lord entrusted some Jews with special treatment, only to see them then fail Him.

In fact, I see these recurring lapses of mankind as CAUSING a DECISION in the Lord! In the same way that some Medieval Kings would dress up in peasant's clothing in order to go out among his people to try to learn why they didn't seem to appreciate the many things he tried to do for them, I see the possibility that the Lord may have therefore CHOSEN to "experience an entire human lifetime for Himself". In order to do that, He would therefore have needed to select a woman (Mary) to first have the Baby Jesus (rather than entering human society by an obvious Miracle and therefore making it obvious Who He Was). The Bible even states that He invoked Kenosis (sort of like amnesia) on Himself so that the Baby and Child Jesus would not be deciding to be doing Miracles to cure friends and neighbors or to be entertaining the other children!

With this perspective, then our very self-centered attitude that Jesus ONLY joined human society FOR OUR BENEFIT may not be correct! He may have had an immensely good motivation FOR HIMSELF regarding LEARNING WHY humans had so often failed Him in the past! In addition, by experiencing a TOTALLY NORMAL CHILDHOOD, the Lord might also have gained insights regarding the lives of human children, where He might then be able to benefit them better in the future.

There are MANY other aspects of Christianity and Judaism which seem to fall into excellent compatibility with this perspective!


I like to think that I'm fairly knowledgeable about God and Christianity. But these matters seem clearly far beyond our human understanding. These are simply my personal efforts at applying extremely rigid logic to the facts which we know and the wording of the Bible.

Until I learn otherwise, my personal answer to the question in the title of this essay, would be "No, God does not get Angry", even though He does not always know what the future holds for us. However, I realize that 99.999% of Christians and Jews would disagree with me. I'm willing to accept their position if someone can satisfactorily explain the points made earlier.


This essay was first placed on the Internet in June 2001.

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Pastor Carl Johnson,
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