Posted on Sep 02, 2020 by Mike LeDuke

The First Angry People

The First Angry People

When was the last time you were angry? Was it sometime today? Maybe sometime in the last hour? Maybe even right now?

Anger is an emotion that is quick to enter into our thinking and our actions. And, we’re so used to it that often we don’t even realize that we’ve given in to it until its much too late — we’ve already lashed out or we have already done something that we would later regret.

Anger is also a very old emotion. In fact, its first appearance in the Bible is in the first family. Just think back through the stories of the first family God created, Adam and Eve and their children, and see if you can remember where anger is first mentioned.

It isn’t actually Adam, nor is it Eve who first becomes angry. Perhaps they did (or more correctly, certainly), but Scripture just doesn’t record it. Instead, the first instance of anger is with one of their sons:

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell (Genesis 4:3-5).

Perhaps you’re aware of how the story goes. This anger didn’t just dissipate. Instead, fueled by his wrath, Cain spent some time in private with his brother and during that time, Cain killed him. The first murder in the Bible was caused by anger.

Now, that’s not to say that anger is equated with murder. Not everyone who becomes angry is a killer. But, perhaps it’s not an accident that the first time that the Bible mentions anger, it doesn’t simply show a lost temper and an apology. Instead, it shows where anger can lead. What’s really intriguing, though, about this first instance is the way that it compares to the second instance of human anger recorded in scripture:

But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away — until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?(Genesis 27:42-45).

See any similarities? Is it a coincidence that the first two instances of human anger in the Bible are connected to murder? What is the implication for our own anger? Does this really mean anything at all, considering that we don’t act on our anger or, at least, act like Cain and Esau?

These next few posts will delve into the Bible’s teaching about anger, seeking to understand what it means to attempt to create God’s character, when Scripture shows clear examples of anger leading to murder, and yet also clear examples of God’s own righteous anger. What should we make of anger? And what should we do with it when it comes and threatens to overwhelm us?

— Jason Hensley