Proverbs 16:14

ESV A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it.
NIV A king's wrath is a messenger of death, but the wise will appease it.
NASB The fury of a king is like messengers of death; But a wise person will appease it.
CSB A king's fury is a messenger of death, but a wise person appeases it.
NLT The anger of the king is a deadly threat; the wise will try to appease it.
KJV The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.

What does Proverbs 16:14 mean?

In ancient times, kings often had absolute, unlimited authority. Even those with limitations (Daniel 6:12–14) controlled the lives of their subjects with far more power than almost any modern world leader. Decisions of life or death were theirs to make. Solomon wisely notes here a principle echoed in an English proverb: "don't poke the bear." The English statement, as well as Solomon's proverb, points out the foolishness of unnecessarily provoking a powerful enemy. A king's anger might not be reasonable, or fair, but a wise person recognizes the benefit of avoiding it. The same wisdom would apply, today, in any circumstance involving authority. Until or unless there is no choice (Acts 5:29), it's preferable to keep peace with those in charge. Solomon touches on how to handle the predicament of a king's rage in Ecclesiastes: "If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest" (Ecclesiastes 10:4).

When Saul was king, he was irrationally angry and ordered that David should be assassinated (1 Samuel 19:1). However, Saul's son Jonathan warned David. He placated his father's wrath by reminding him how David risked his life to fight Goliath and save Israel (1 Samuel 19:4–5). Jonathan's attempt to calm Saul's anger worked. The same passage says, "Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan. Saul swore, 'As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death'" (1 Samuel 19:6).
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