Is God’s wrath quick or slow?

I suddenly noticed this morning how Psalm 2:12 says,

Kiss the son, lest He be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.

Which then got me thinking about Psalm 145:8,

The LORD is gracious and
slow to anger and rich in love.

I’m just figuring out how to bring this apparent quickness/flaring of anger alongside the slowness of anger. In my reflection, I thought that perhaps Psalm 2 is referring more to anger in the final judgement, as previously it gives a warning to rulers after pronouncing the Messiah’s inheritance over the nations in Ps 2:7-11.

Am I right in thinking that the anger referred to in Psalm 2 is more of a final judgement anger - that we don’t know when the judgement will come, it could suddenly “flare up in a moment” whereas the anger referred to in Psalm 145 is more to do with God’s general character?

I’d be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on this :slightly_smiling_face:.


Hi @alison :wave:

Just sharing my thought…

My initial response to seeming Biblical contradictions as this is to search the original language used.

In the KJV, the phrase in question reads…
“when his wrath is kindled but a little.

Above screenshot shows :point_up: the Hebrew word’s alternative translations.

The “adjectives of time” soon and almost, which are nearest in meaning to the phrase “in a moment” in the HCSB

occurred relatively fewer times than the “adjectives of quantity” little, few, small, etc.

I think translating the Hebrew word

as KJV did is much consistent to the Lord’s character as compared to HCSB.

I think I could paraphrase Psa.2:12a, KJV to say
Appease (Kiss) the Son while His anger is still manageable (i.e., just a bit angry), before His wrath explodes and lay His punishment to those who won’t.

Yes, we can say that in a way. But, since the final judgment is final, any attempt to appease Him then will be of no avail. Hence, I think the KJV rendering of this verse is more accurate.

Indeed, God is slow to wrath. But when the cup of His wrath gets full to the brim, not even the deepest cry of remorse can undo His judgment (Heb.12:17, KJV). The merciful and long-suffering God will avenge Himself and His saints of the injustice He and the saints have suffered.

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Thank you, @dennis, for bringing in the Hebrew word study! It’s helpful to know that another dimension of this translation includes quantity (how much) alongside duration (how long). I hadn’t been aware of that angle!

As for the paraphrase,

I think this could be helpful as long as we remember to whom it is being addressed: the nations that set themselves up/ plot against the LORD (and his anointed). We do not worship an angry God, one who needs constant appeasing, but one who does experience anger (…so far as God experiences emotion). I think it’s important to communicate that God cannot be managed/controlled by us, which is the goal of appeasing.

The call here in this psalm is for the ‘heathen’ nations (as well as Israel) to submit to and worship the LORD…a common Old Testament theme. Refusal to do so (and, furthemore, stand in opposition to him) brings judgement/wrath upon those nations and their leaders (as well as Israel). JHWH/the LORD is the true God and is therefore worthy of worship. God’s wrath/judgement will be directed at and felt most keenly by those who (or, perhaps, that which) opposes him. Just think of Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 4 NRSV – humiliated then restored .

To me, the psalmist seems to be giving this warning to the rulers:
You will not win. You plot in vain. Make peace with the LORD (kiss his feet [NRSV]) while you still can, for your time of judgment could come more quickly than you imagine.

If by ‘final judgement’ you mean a judgement that ends the rule of the opposition party, then, perhaps I would say yes. I tend to read Ps. 2 more as a comment on temporal regime change rather than, say, eschatological, end-of-the-word-Final-Judgement.

Moreover, Ps. 145:8-9 NRSV is a psalm of praise attributed to David, who would have experienced the LORD as compassionate, gracious and slow to anger. And, as we know, David also experienced his share of the temporal effects of God’s judgement on him and his house, so he would also know about making peace with God.


Thanks @dennis, what an interesting concept to consider that it may not be referring to the time length/imminence of God’s anger but more the quantity. I hadn’t thought to look at the interlinear on this, so thank you for taking the time to do so for me.

It got me wondering why the multitude of Bible translations do not agree on the meaning of the word. I had a quick comparison of 37 translations, and only 12 that I saw interpret this to have a meaning of quantity rather than time. For my own study, I don’t think this variation greatly impacts how I read the Psalm. After all, it teaches us about the merciful and just God either way. However, I find this sort of thing useful to consider in case other people were to raise as an issue with me.

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@kathleen, thank you for this :slightly_smiling_face:.

Yes of course, very good point. David would have been speaking from personal experience of knowing God’s judgement and restoration. Nebudchudnezzar is also another good example of this. In both cases, we don’t
just read of God’s wrath (soon, a little, or otherwise) because that would be only half the story.

I was listening to a talk the other day about the Psalms which explained the overall shape of them. Being divided into 5 books, Psalms 1 and 2 are considered an introduction to the whole collection, reflecting the macro narrative of man’s failure, impending judgement, God’s continual warnings and promise of salvation to those who believe. Your response reminded me of this and helps place this topic of judgement within the greater picture. As you say,

And verse 12 ends with hope, completing the overall narrative summary that will unfold through the Psalms:

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.


@alison I am reminded as well that Gods wrath is always partnered, tempered with mercy. It is both quick and slow because He knows the truth of every heart.

This passage about the Son is mentioned in Acts 4 attributing it to David, when the Disciples prayed for courage after Peter and John were freed. They believed this passage was fulfilled and took place when all the Leaders were against the Christ.

Jesus Himself talked about calling a multitude of angels but did not.

I feel That Gods wrath is quick, sudden but uses restraint, Psalm 30:5 Many times He could have said enough already and started over, again if we look ahead to Revelation there are a series of judgements not final like the flood. which also gave people plenty of time to repent. His mercy endures forever, renewed every morning. Lam. 3:22-23.

Herod saw and heard quite a bit about Jesus even met Him. yet we know His story of how he died, which was a quick judgement.

Hope this helps a little,