WHAT DOES “CHOLER” MEAN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Our Authorized Version twice contains this word, both of which are in Daniel:
- “And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand” (8:7).
- “And the king of the south shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the north: and he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand” (11:11).
These two passages, if you read them in context, refer to a series of military conquests eventually leading up to the Antichrist. While there is a great deal of symbolism in Daniel, a careful study and comparison of its verses yield this underlying truth: as long as David’s throne is vacant and Israel is scattered amongst the Gentiles, the non-Jewish kings and empires ruling the Middle East will fight and overthrow one another through the centuries until the Son of God and the Son of David, Jesus Christ, finally returns to demolish them all and found His own kingdom in the Earth.
As touching the passage in chapter 8, there is a ram with two horns (verses 3-4). According to verse 20, this represents Media-Persia (ancient Iranians) and its two kings. Daniel also sees a he goat with a great horn (verse 5). Verse 21 says this is the king of Grecia (Greece), and its first king in particular (Alexander the Great). Greek Alexander the Great is “moved with choler against” Media-Persia (verse 7), ultimately conquering and superseding it 331 B.C. Daniel’s prophecy was correct, given some 200 years in advance!
Regarding the verse in chapter 11, in the future, beyond even our time, a “king of the south” (Egypt) will be “moved with choler” to attack a “king of the north” (Syria/Turkey) (verse 11). The king of the south is victorious in this battle. Eventually, north and south fight repeated wars until the Antichrist arises out of the north (verses 15-21, the Antichrist in verse 21).
Let us go back to that idea of “choler.” We know the context is hostility, for it drives these rulers to fight with each other. That context clue should help us to arrive at the correct definition. Indeed, the term is actually taken from the Latin, with late Latin employing it in the sense of anger, hot-temperedness, or easy provocation. The word “irascible” adequately summarizes this temperament or personality.