As in the previous verse, here the point is made by using two negative illustrations, and then producing an even worse case. The first line sets up the second by describing the overwhelming nature of “wrath” and “anger.” It is both “fierce” and a “flood.” The former word has the connotation of cruelty. Unrestrained anger can become almost un-human, forgetting the basic decency that comes with being stamped in the image of God. Similarly, the latter word pictures a raging torrent, swollen by melting snow in the mountains or a heavy downpour in the plains. Moving along in a wall of water, it takes with it everything in its path: trees, homes, wildlife, man. As with the flood, anger may appear irresistible and overwhelming.
“But,” worse than this is the power of “jealousy.” The word can describe both a healthy and righteous zeal and an unrighteous, all-consuming jealousy. Here, the latter is in view. It eats one away from the inside (“rottenness to the bones,” Proverbs 14.30) as well as consuming one’s relationships like a cancer (Proverbs 6.32-35). It is what led Cain to murder Abel (1 John 3.12). So prevalent is it that it required a special provision in the Mosaic Law (Numbers 5.14). It led to our Lord’s death (Matthew 27.18). So powerful is the grip of jealousy that it can only be likened to the strength of death itself (Song of Solomon 8.6).
The jealousy here is not from lack of possessions (wishing you had what someone else has) but from an over-possessiveness (unhealthy dominance of what one does have). It consumes the emotions, blinds the mind to reason, seizes the will, and dominates the soul. The power of jealousy is, here, highlighted by the rare use of a rhetorical question.
From: Proverbs by John A. Kitchen; A Mentor Commentary series (Fearn: Mentor, 2006), p. 605. Comment on Proverbs 27.4.