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What Is Bitterness? (Isaiah 38:17)

Introductory Thoughts

A good Bible student often incorporates many of the same tactics as a good detective. Defining Bible words involves such a task. No single verse specifically defines the word bitterness. Yet, a careful study of a few verses will help to bring the pieces together and to provide understanding. According to Isaiah, bitterness and peace are at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum (Isaiah 38:17). Proverbs associates the word bitter directly to the word sharp (Proverbs 5:4). And, lastly, the word bitter is connected to the word affliction (2 Kings 14:26, Lamentations 1:4). Using these scriptural clues, a good student will understand bitterness to be a sharp affliction. Additionally, consider the connection between the words bitter and bite, making bitterness a sharp affliction with bite. Bitterness always begins on the inside of an individual and, as we will learn, eventually works its way to the outside for others to see.

Devotional Thoughts

  • (For children): When others do or say something unkind to us, God wants us to make up with them. When we stay angry day after day, we will end up doing something for which we will be sorry and God calls this bitterness. Ephesians 4:26-27 is a good rule to follow.
  • (For everyone): Do you ever notice anger building up on the inside? What is it that makes you so angry? Does it cause you to be rude to those around you? This anger is very likely connected to bitterness.
  • Are you bitter? Can you remember a time when that feeling did not exist? What do you think brought this bitterness into your life? Are you willing to turn this over to the Lord and let Him remove the bitterness from your heart and life?

Prayer Thoughts

  • Ask the Lord to remove the bitterness in your heart.
  • Ask God to help you recognize bitterness when it rears its ugly head.


Come, O Thou All-Victorious Lord