WRATH: khemah, feminine noun (Strong’s 2534).
Sounds like: khay’maw
As we learned last week, in the Hebrew Bible there are numerous Hebrew words that represent anger. Besides khemah there is also kharah (Strong’s 2734, 2740), anaph (Strong’s 599), za’am/za’aph (Strong’s 2195, 2196, 2197, 2198), ka’as (Strong’s 3707, 3708), ehv’rah (Strong’s 5678), qetseph (Strong’s 7110) to name a few.
Khemah is often translated as wrath and it often paints a picture of God that we have a hard time dealing with.
A quick overview of lasts week’s word for “anger” (which you can read here) shows us that it was a long way into the Bible before God got angry, and even then His reaction to His anger was as passive as possible. Moses repeatedly refused God’s commission for him to be a spokesperson and it made God’s nose burn hot (which was a common Hebrew idiom for “anger”). But even though God was frustrated to the point of anger, He merely pivoted his plan and had Aaron become the spokesperson to the people. Moses would intercede between God and Aaron. YHWH didn’t force His plan onto Moses, He just adjusted the plan and moved forward. There was no revenge and no punishment.
So yes, God gets angry when we refuse to go along with His plans for our lives but He doesn’t strike us down, He just finds a new way to bring us to the point of His purpose.
The other two triggers for YHWH’s anger were injustice and idolatry, and these things received a very different reaction from God.
When He saw His people suffer at the hands of other humans, God got angry. He expected more from His image bearers. He expected them to help the needy, the widows, the orphans and the exiles. When they decided to exploit and oppress the vulnerable, God sometimes gave back to the people what they gave out (see Exodus 22:21-24).
But what appeared to make YHWH most angry was idolatry. When His people turned to the gods of the nations and turned their backs on Him and broke the Covenant partnership they had together, it angered God to no end. He was their Creator and they rejected Him. They had a marriage Covenant but they wanted a divorce. YHWH offered life, and they turned to the gods that clung to death. And so God gave them what they wanted. They wanted death and they would taste it.
Wrath seems like a stronger word than anger, even though they mean the same thing. But wrath gives a sense that there is a punishment associated with it. In the Bible, God’s wrath was often paired with idolatry and it came with consequences.
Leviticus 26:23-33, 36-39
[YHWH:] “And if by these things [plague & wild animals] you do not learn your lesson regarding Me, but you show hostility toward Me, then I in turn will show hostility toward you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send a plague among you, so that you will be handed over to the enemy. When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied.
Yet, if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful [ba-kh’mat בַּחֲמַת] hostility against you, and I for My part will punish you seven times for your sins. Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons, and you will eat the flesh of your daughters. I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and pile your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul will loathe you. I will turn your cities into ruins as well and make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas. And I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled at it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations, and I will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become ruins…
…As for those among you who are left, I will also bring despair into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a scattered leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. They will then stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing; and you will have no strength to stand before your enemies. Instead, you will perish among the nations, and your enemies’ land will consume you. So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their wrongdoing in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the wrongdoing of their forefathers they will rot away with them.”
This is the kind of stuff we don’t like to read about… God loathing us, tearing down the homes of His people, executing vengeance, putting despair in their hearts, causing His people to fall and perish… How could this punishing God be the same as Yeshua (Jesus), the one who laid down His life in submission for us?
YHWH put it plainly: you act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful [ba-kh’mat בַּחֲמַת] hostility against you. But here’s the thing, no matter how angry YHWH got, He always offered a way out:
[YHWH:] “But if they confess their wrongdoing and the wrongdoing of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart is humbled so that they then make amends for their wrongdoing, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. For the land will be abandoned by them, and will restore its Sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their wrongdoing, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul loathed My statutes. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so loathe them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am YHWH their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their God. I am YHWH.’”
No matter how angry He was, He would not break His covenant with them and He would not destroy them. BUT, if they made the first move and broke the covenant, He would respect their wishes and remove His presence from them. They would no longer be under the protective hand of YHWH. They would face death on their own and they would suffer under the weight of their own decision.
Drinking the Cup of God’s Wrath
The prophet Jeremiah lived during the time of the Babylonian invasion. He spoke of how far astray God’s people had wandered away from their Creator. They worshipped the gods of their neighbours and even sacrificed their children to the god Molech. They had strayed so far from the path that led to YHWH that they had reversed their course and were headed straight to death.
With idol worship and allegiance, they opened the doors of Jerusalem to Babylon and they opened the doors to God’s anger:
“Behold, the tempest of YHWH! Wrath [khemah חֵמָה֙] has gone forth, a sweeping tempest; it will whirl upon the head of the wicked.
The fierce anger [the hot nose : kha’rown af חֲרֹון֙ אַף] of YHWH will not turn back until He has performed and accomplished the intent of His heart.
In the latter days you will understand this.”
What was the intent of God heart? He wanted to reconcile with His people and bring us back to Him. And He would accomplish His plan, but not without some terrible growing pains first.
They were destined to fall under Babylon’s sword because they had rejected YHWH. They rejected YHWH so He respected their choice and lifted His protective hand that had once covered them with great affection. This rejection meant that they would feel the full strength of God’s power against His enemies, because they had sided with His enemies. Jeremiah described it as drinking God’s wrath:
“For this is what YHWH, the God of Israel, says to me: “Take this cup of the wine of wrath [et kows ha-yayin ha-khemah הַחֵמָ֛ה] from My hand and give it to all the nations to whom I send you, to drink from it. Then they will drink and loudly vomit and act insanely because of the sword that I am going to send among them.”
This was an apt metaphor to use. The Hebrew people had turned to the gods of the nations and lifted up drink offerings to them:
“And the Chaldeans [aka Babylonians] who are fighting against this city will enter and set this city on fire and burn it, with the houses where people have offered incense to Baal on their roofs and poured out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke Me to anger [ha-k’iseni הַכְעִסֵֽנִי].”
They offered drinks to the gods of the nations, and so YHWH would offer a drink to them:
“For this is what YHWH, the God of Israel says concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah which have been torn down to make a defense against the assault ramps and the sword: ‘While they are coming to fight the Chaldeans and to fill their houses with the bodies of people whom I have struck down in My anger [v-appi בְאַפִּ֖י] and My wrath [u-va-kha’mati וּבַחֲמָתִ֑י], and I have hidden My face from this city because of all their wickedness: Behold, I am going to bring to it healing and a remedy, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth. And I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and will rebuild them as they were at first. And I will cleanse them from all their wrongdoing by which they have sinned against Me, and I will forgive all their wrongdoings by which they have sinned against Me and revolted against Me. It will be to Me a name of joy, praise, and glory before all the nations of the earth, which will hear of all the good that I do for them, and they will be frightened and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.’”
There was hope to be had! Israel would drink the cup (be handed over to the enemies) but God would provide a remedy, a healing, a rebuilding, a cleansing, a restoration, and a forgiveness.
The Servant will Drink the Wrath
There’s an interesting story in the book of Genesis about a servant cupbearer. Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt and he was jailed with Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. They had dreams during their captivity and Joseph, who was known for his dream interpretations, had a message for the cupbearer:
So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, saying to him, “In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me; and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes. Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.”
Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand as in your former practice when you were his cupbearer.
The cupbearer would be raised-up and redeemed in three days. In many ways, this comes across as a nod to Yeshua (Jesus), the one who would bear the cup, rise up after three days and resume His office.
God had a plan from the beginning, and His default has never been wrath or anger. He is a good and loving God who wants to protect and nourish His people. He wants to bring peace to all the earth:
[YHWH:] “A vineyard of beauty, sing of it!
I, YHWH, am its keeper; I water it every moment. So that no one will damage it, I guard it night and day.
I have no wrath [khemah חֵמָ֖ה].
Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle, then I would step on them, I would burn them completely.
Or let him rely on My protection, let him make peace with Me, let him make peace with Me.”
If YHWH has no wrath, then He’s only giving back the wrath He receives. If someone threw thorns at Him, He would simply burn them up because He could not ingest the wrath, so He had to destroy it. If we throw wrath at Him, He will either destroy it, or send the wrath back. He cannot take it; He cannot consume it or be affected by it. But YHWH had to find a way to consume the wrath for His people. As the Creator God, He could not do it because He cannot be destroyed, but if He placed Himself in the form of a human, He could accomplish the task.
Redirecting the wrath onto those who doled it out was not helpful in bringing the people back to God’s presence, and God knew it. He had a plan to save and redeem His people. He would send a suffering servant who would take the wrath upon Himself; an anointed One who would ingest the wrath of God on behalf of the ones who rejected Him.
Isaiah 42:1-4, 25
[YHWH:] “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out nor raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street.
A bent reed He will not break off and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice on the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”
…So He poured out on him the heat of His anger [khemah appoh חֵמָ֣ה אַפֹּ֔ו] and the fierceness of battle; and it set him aflame all around, yet he did not recognize it; and it burned him, but he paid no attention.
YHWH had great compassion for His people, but they had fallen so far away that He had to send someone to them to walk amongst them and bring healing. YHWH would send His anointed Servant to bring Salvation:
“For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come.
I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath [wa-kha’mati וַחֲמָתִ֖י] upheld Me.
I trampled down the peoples in My anger [b-appi בְּאַפִּ֔י] and made them drunk with My wrath [ba-kha’mati בַּחֲמָתִ֑י], and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.
I will make mention of the mercies of YHWH, and the praises of YHWH, according to all that YHWH has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His mercies. For He said, “Certainly they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.”
So He became their Saviour.
In all their distress He was distressed, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
There was no one on earth who could bring salvation, so God would step up and use His own arm to save the people. He became our Saviour because the intent of God’s heart was to set us free and bring us home, back to His Presence. But we couldn’t be in His Presence while we were imprisoned in sin:
Isaiah 51:14-18, 21-22
“The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. For I am YHWH your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar (YHWH of armies is His name). And I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”
Pull yourself up! Pull yourself up! Arise, Jerusalem! You who have drunk from YHWH’s hand the cup of His anger [et kows kha’matow אֶת־כֹּ֣וס חֲמָתֹ֑ו]; the chalice of staggering you have drunk to the dregs. There is no one to guide her among all the sons to whom she has given birth, nor is there anyone to take her by the hand among all the sons she has raised…
…Therefore, listen to this, you afflicted, who are drunk, but not with wine: This is what your Lord, YHWH, your God who contends for His people says:
‘Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering,
the chalice of My anger [kows kha’mati כֹּ֣וס חֲמָתִ֔י]. You will never drink it again!”
Yeshua took the cup out of our hands and drank it down to the dregs. We would never have to drink the wrath of God again. God would no longer give back to us what we gave to Him. With Yeshua’s sacrifice, when we throw disdain in the face of YHWH, we will not receive it back because Yeshua swallowed it up. He took our wrath and our sins and drank them up so we wouldn’t taste them.
Drinking at the Cross: it is Finished!
Yeshua knew His fate. He would drink the Cup of God’s Wrath on our behalf:
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you desire?”
She said to Him, “Say that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine shall sit, one at Your right, and one at Your left.”
But Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”
They said to Him, “We are able.”
He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit at My right and at My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”
John and James, the sons of Zebedee were not the ones sentenced to drink the cup, but even with Yeshua’s saving grace, they were not immune to the wrath of humanity. They would both be killed for their loyalty to Yeshua, the only blameless human and the drinker of God’s wrath:.
For this is what YHWH says: “Behold, those who were not sentenced to drink the cup will certainly drink it, so are you the one who will be held completely blameless? You will not be held blameless, but you will certainly drink it.”
Yeshua was the blameless human, the only one capable of drinking death and rising out of it. Still, this was not a cup that Yeshua wanted to ingest. In fact, He prayed for YHWH to take it from Him:
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink from it, Your will be done.”
And it was God’s will for Yeshua to drink it down… the cup of wrath had to be consumed by the Son of God because we cannot bear the full weight of it. The only way to rescue us was to die for us… and to swallow down the death that we all deserve.
God put Himself into the form of a human to bear upon Himself what every human deserves: retribution.
As for drinking the Cup of God’s wrath, Yeshua literally lived out the metaphor:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture would be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Yeshua literally drank the cup of bitterness and proclaimed the accomplishment He set out to do was complete. He received the wrath intended for us and laid down His life so we could live:
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10a
For God has not destined us for wrath [Greek: orgen], but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.
This was YHWH’s merciful gift to us… He would swallow the wrath that we deserved but could not consume, because it would kill us and that was never God’s plan. We were destined to live and live abundantly. Only by God’s sacrificial love could that be accomplished, and it was… at a tragic, beautiful, terrible price. But according to YHWH it was a price well worth it because YOU are His treasured child! Yeshua died in order that you could live, so live well and be free!
Next week: Revisiting KING