In Ephesians 4:26, Paul quotes Psalm 4:4. He tells his readers to “be angry and sin not.” Paul also adds the idea of bedtime and sleep when he adds, “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Psalm 4:4 begins with the exact phrase and encourages the readers to think and reflect in the privacy of their beds on this. Psalm 4:4 says, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds and be silent.” David is addressing his enemies as he did in verses 2 and 3. David has expressed his conviction regarding God’s divine calling as Israel’s King. He was “set apart” in Verse 3 for his role as King. But David had alienated himself from his son Absalom.  Amnon, Absalom’s half-brother, had raped his sister Tamar and David, their father, did nothing about it. Absalom took matters into his own hands and murdered Amnon in defense of his sister. David banished Absalom for some time before he was persuaded to renew his relationship and welcome Absalom back into the family. But Absalom never got over his anger toward his father. He plotted revenge that led to the attempt to overthrow David. It’s as if David is giving his son Absalom advice in this verse.

He recognizes Absalom’s anger and acknowledges its cause when he says, “be angry.” But the anger must not show itself in revenge. So he adds, “sin not.” David had set the example in many ways of being attacked by those against him and entrusting them to God. When Saul attacked David, he refused to respond in anger and revenge. When Shimei cursed David as he fled Jerusalem from his son, Absalom, he refused to allow Shimei’s execution but entrusted him into God’s care. Take your anger to God and express it to Him. We see many Psalms where David asks God to retaliate against his enemies rather than taking justice into his own hands. David tells Absalom to let his anger out but let it out in prayer to God. He should trust God. All vengeance belongs to Him. Learning to express one’s anger in prayer is cathartic and opens the door to true worship once again. Calvin suggests that the call to “be angry and sin not” is what David spoke to himself. He writes, “He teaches us that men, instead of wickedly pouring forth their anger against their neighbors, have rather just cause to be angry with themselves, in order that, by this means, they may abstain from sin. And, therefore, he commands them rather fret inwardly and be angry with themselves.”[1] This does not fit the narrative or the grammar.

During the day and ordinary course of life, situations arise in which we are moved to anger or strong passions. In the fray of day-to-day life, we often act impetuously and do and say things we’re sorry for. David advised his son and us to refrain from acting impetuously and give the situation some time. Prayer and personal reflection are good practices when alone and away from the fray. “They were to restrain their wrath by meditation and be still, lest it should burst forth beyond its just limits and become sin. Perowne: ‘Let the still hours of the night bring calmer and wiser thoughts with them.’”[2]

[1] Calvin, John, and James Anderson. 2010. Commentary on the Book of Psalms. Vol. 1. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Lange, John Peter, Philip Schaff, Carl Bernhard Moll, Charles A. Briggs, John Forsyth, James B. Hammond, J. Frederick McCurdy, and Thomas J. Conant. 2008. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Psalms. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.