What is a provocation? It is an annoyance, a permanent anger. What is it to provoke? It is to enrage, to irritate, to cause wrath. Irritable is the one who gets easily provoked. Is it normal for God to get irritated? We read in the Bible that God is love: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:5 that love does not get provoked. Now, if God is love, and love does not get irritated, God does not get irritated. And if God does not get irritated, he does not get angry, either, for anger is one of the passions of the soul, and God is spirit (John 4:24). And if God, the Father, is not provoked because love is not provoked, and also does not get angry, because love bears all things, suffers all things, and hopes all things (1 Cor. 13:7), it is obvious that God does not get angry or wrathful, for wrath and fury are the provocation taken to the ends of hell; and God, the Father, is not subject to these movements of the inconstant souls of men. If love does not get provoked, whoever gets provoked does not love. On the contrary, though, we read in the Old Testament that god gets easily provoked. The name of this god is Jehovah. If God, the Father, because he is love, is not irritated, and Jehovah gets irritated, Jehovah is not the Father. Let us see what the Scriptures of the Old Testament say about the provocation of Jehovah. Moses registered: “They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger” (Deut. 32:16). Idolatry provokes Jehovah. Jeroboam, the first king of Israel after the division, made two calves of gold. In the Vulgate translation we read that this irritated Jehovah (2 Kings 15:30). Baasha conspired against Jeroboam and killed him, and ruled in his stead, and killed all the descendants of Jeroboam, just as Jehovah had predicted (1 Kings 13:34). After this, though, Baasha practiced the sins of Jeroboam. Then Jehovah said: “Inasmuch as I exalted you from the dust and made you leader over My people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made My people Israel sin, provoking Me to anger with their sins, behold, I will consume Baasha and his house” (1 Kings 16:2-3). The provocation produced hatred and murderous vengeance against the innocents. But love does not get provoked. Baasha died, and his son Elah reigned in his place. Zimri, son of Elah, conspired against him and killed him, and reigned in his place, afterwards. While he was in the throne, he eliminated all the house of Elah, son of Baasha, to placate the wrath of Jehovah. And Jehovah elaborated it carefully, for he sent to death, besides the family, even relatives and friends (1 Kings 16:6-13). But love is kind and is not provoked; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:5-7). And God, the Father, is love (1 John 4:8). But Zimri, used by Jehovah to exterminate the house of Baasha (1 Kings 16:11-12), was also perverted and walked in the ways of Jeroboam. Then Jehovah raised Omri against Zimri, to exterminate his house (1 Kings 16:15-19). Jeroboam provoked Jehovah (1 Kings 15:30). After that, Baasha provoked Jehovah (1 Kings 16:2; 16:13). Then Omri provoked Jehovah (1 Kings 16: 25-26). Ahab, son of Omri, also provoked Jehovah with his sins (1 Kings 16:30-33). In this entire story, all these kings raised up by Jehovah irritated him with their idolatry; and Jehovah allowed them to provoke him, placing himself in the same level as men and their weaknesses. Irritableness is a weakness characteristic of irate men. The Stoicism, philosophic school founded by Zeno in the 4th century BC. had the purpose to make men lord of their own passions, cultivating self control, the movements of the soul, that is, wrath, envy, jealousy, fear, vanity, and pride. Chrisippus, his most important disciple, spread his school and thoughts. Now, if the philosophers of the ancient days could dominate inclinations and uncontrollable impulses, proper of the animal nature of men, through their concepts, it is unconceivable that a being that claims to be the creator God could be touched by the ignoble acts of decadent men. This is incompatible with God’s perfection. What worsens the improper manifestations of this god is the fact that the apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, affirms that love does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own interests, does not get provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered (1 Cor. 13:5). Jehovah, imitating the men of this world, seeks his own interests, gets easily provoked, and takes into account what men does. The psalmist affirms that Jehovah gets angry every day (Ps. 7:11). If Jehovah gets angry every day, everything he does is done with anger. To Israel, he declared: “I gave you a king in My anger, and I took him away in My wrath” (Hos. 13:11). He took Israel from Egypt and led them to the desert. The people felt hungry and asked for bred. Jehovah agreed and sent them manna; then, he sent them meat. As they were eating, Jehovah killed them (Ps. 78:24-31).
Jehovah’s irritability unleashed fury. He declared to Ezekiel: “Then he said to me, Have you seen [this], son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have turned again to provoke me to anger: and behold, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in wrath; my eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ezek. 8:17-18).
The mind of the provoked person broods wrath, and tries to think of something to get rid of the one who irritates him. And the formula, when acted upon, is usually many times worse than the act of provoking. We want to mention the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. These three men gathered 250 men, leaders in the congregation, and attacked Moses. They were brought before the congregation and Moses said: “If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then Jehovah hasn’t sent me. But if Jehovah make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain to them, and they go down alive into Sheol; then you shall understand that these men have despised Jehovah (Num. 16:29-30). Let us look at what Jehovah did, in anger: “And the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who appertained to Korah, and all their goods. So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into Sheol: and the earth closed on them, and they perished from among the assembly” (Num. 16:32-33). Everything that was his included his women, his sons, and children (Num. 16:27).
Next, the fire of Jehovah burned the 250 men, leaders of the congregation (Num. 16:35). Seeing this, the people murmured against Moses, saying: You killed the people of Jehovah. Then Jehovah sent a plague that killed more than 14,700 men of Israel. It would have destroyed all of Israel, if Moses and Aaron had not made holocausts for the people (Num. 16:46-49).
There are two things needing to be marked.
- Moses declared that all this evil did not come from his heart, but from the heart of Jehovah (Num. 16:28).
- Jehovah did not cruelly kill his people because he wished to keep discipline, but because he was provoked and filled with fury. But God the Father is love, and love does not get provoked.
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira