A wise man does not participate in backbiting or gossip. It is a very destructive thing when we do. Therefore a wise man does everything he can to make it very clear that he will not participate in it. That is what God wants to give us wisdom about in today's proverb of the day.
This particular proverb creates a problem for us - in that in Israel the north wind does not bring rain. It is the southeastern winds that do that task. Some think that because of this that this proverb may be one Solomon learned from Egypt, because that particular area does have rain originate out of the north wind. Regardless of which geographic region this proverb originated, the fact is that when the wind blew from the north in this region, it brought with it clouds and rain. The one thing that is accepted by just about every commentator is that this cloudiness and stormy weather promised by the north wind is compared to the stormy, angry countenance that should be given to someone who is about to begin gossiping about someone else.
The phrase, "a backbiting tongue" comes from the Hebrew word "seter" which means a covering or a secret hiding place. The idea it brings with it is that of secrecy. The problem with this word is that the one speaking is wanting secrecy only from one person - the one about whom he is talking. He is more than willing to talk about them - he just is not willing to talk TO them. This is the problem with gossip and backbiting (or secret talking). The one doint it is usually unwilling to make his complaint public where the other person can either answer or repent and initiate change.
No such grace is extended to the focus of the gossip. The desire is not to help them - or to see them delivered from some sin or fault. The desire is to destroy the person. They are denigrated in the eyes of others. Since this is done behind their back - there is no way they can change. On top of all this - the people who hear about the gossiped-one's faults - are usually being turned against him. Thus the one who is the subject of the gossip is doubly damaged. First he is not being confronted about whatever sin led to the gossip - and second, he is being isolated by the gossip. In the end he or she is hated and shunned - which is what the gossip had as their goal in the first place. Most gossip is either started or continued due to a bitterness or lack of forgiveness of the one about whom they are gossipping. That is why this is such a wicked sin.
How do you stop a gossip from pouring their poison into your soul? This passage tells you how. Just like a cold north wind brought clouds and rain into the area from which this proverb arose, so also an angry countenance brings a stop to the gossip and backbiting. This is not a brief glance, or a telling look. The word here in the Hebrew is "zaam" and it means to be indignant and enraged. The root word literally means to "foam at the mouth." So this is no quick glance - it is a look that says, "Stop this now!" That is how to do it. There is no real gracious way to deal with a gossip - except to be indignant that they would include you in their wicked work. That is accomplished by giving them a very angry look that says in effect, "Not with me, bro!"
A wise man is a peacemaker - not a gossip. His desire is healing and grace - not to gather a group against someone with whom he has a gripe. Such things are to be dealt with face to face with the one with whom you have the problem. Oh, how much would be healed in the church this way. Oh, the damage that would be prevented by walking in such grace and loving truth with each other. But because such wisdom is ignored, relationships are destroyed, friendships and ended, and even churches are split. That is why whenever gossip comes to knock at the door of your soul, you should answer with an angry, enraged countenance that says, "No way! Don't bring that junk in here!"