The definition of backbiting is “talking maliciously about someone who is not present.” To backbite is to gossip about someone behind his or her back. Secret slander is the essence of backbiting, and it is strongly condemned in the Bible.
The word backbiting appears in the Bible in the ESV: “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks” (Proverbs 25:23). Malicious talk or gossip is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, listed along with sins like murder and envy (Romans 1:29), things that should not be practiced or approved (verse 32).
Proverbs 25:23, the verse that specifically uses the word backbiting, paints a vivid picture of how people respond to a gossip. Just as a cold north wind brings rain, so a tongue given to backbiting will bring angry looks from the victims of the gossip. In other words, if you want to make people angry, just spread rumors about them secretly. The source of the gossip will eventually be known, and the ones you’ve slandered will not be happy.
Negative or malicious talk may feel good for a moment, while you get something off your chest, but ultimately it does no good and can actually do great harm, even separating close friends (Proverbs 16:28). Backbiting is contrary to love, which is a reconciling force (1 Peter 4:8). Jesus said the peacemakers will be blessed, not the backbiters (Matthew 5:9). God’s children are to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19), and “peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18). There is no place in the Christian life for backbiting.