Aug 1, 2012

Imprecations in the Psalms

One of the more difficult issues in the study of the Psalms are the imprecations that are occur in various psalms (e.g., Pss 5:10; 10:15; 28:4; 31:17­–18; 35:4–6, 8, 26; 40:14–15; 69:22–28; 70:2–3; 71:13; 109:6–20, 29; 139:19–22; 140:9–10). Although I prefer to think of psalms with imprecations rather than imprecatory psalms, one still has to wrestle with how these imprecations can fit within a Christian ethic. How does the invoking of evil or misfortune upon someone or something fit within a  context in which believers are called upon to bless and not curse and to love and not hate one’s enemies? A number of answers could be given, but I think Gordon Wenham provides a helpful perspective in  noting that, “These appeals for divine intervention, often called ‘imprecatory psalms,’ are much more than curses parading as prayers. They are undergirded by the conviction that God is both sovereign and just, indeed that he cares about the injustice suffered by the poor and downtrodden. The psalmists cry out that God will treat the wrongdoers as they have treated others. In situations  where faith in God’s goodness seems to be disproved, the psalmist reassert that faith and place their trust in God to vindicate them rather than take revenge themselves."


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