Oh, for a Long Nose!

Jeff Munroe

READ : Proverbs 14

One who is quick-tempered acts foolishly. Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding. (vv. 17, 29)

The Hebrew word for anger is the same as the word for nose. In verse 17, the phrase quick-tempered could also be translated short-nosed: the short-nosed act foolishly. In verse 29 the words slow to anger could be translated long-nosed: the long-nosed have great understanding. There is even a play on the anger/nose words in Proverbs 30:33: “as pressing the nose produces blood, so pressing anger produces strife.”

Bill Hybels points out the difference between a toddler’s temper tantrum and a grown man’s. We are amused by a toddler’s, we are afraid of a man’s. In the United States we use the words angry and mad interchangeably. The British have got us here—they’ve kept the meaning of mad as “insane.” In the British sense, we can affirm that an adult who has lost his temper is indeed quite mad. Uncontrolled anger is madness.

Anger is meant to warn us that something is wrong, that we perceive some sort of injustice happening. Unchecked anger is a self-destroying emotion. Frederick Buechner puts it along these lines: “there’s nothing like smacking your lips in anger . . . except the chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”


Lord, let us be long-nosed, slow-to-anger people.