The Imprecatory Psalms of the Old Testament
Imprecatory Psalms, contained within the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (תנ"ך), are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one's enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God. Major Imprecatory Psalms include Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, while Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 83, 137, 139, and 143 are also considered imprecatory. As a sample, Psalm 69:24 states toward God, "Pour out Your indignation on them, and let Your burning anger overtake them" and Psalm 137:9, which declares "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." [Wikipedia]
The New Testament contains passages that quote Imprecatory Psalms. Jesus of Nazareth is shown quoting from them in John 15:25, and John 2:17, while Paul the Apostle quotes from Psalm 69 in the Epistle to the Romans 11:9-10 and 15:3. [ Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imprecatory_Psalms ]
Imprecations, though, are much less appropriate after the time of Christ than before. It was the Christ who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us ( Matthew 5: 43-48).
Imprecations elsewhere in the Bible. [resume Wikipedia]
The Old Testament is not alone in containing imprecations:
- Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
- Matthew 26:23-24 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
- 1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
- Galatians 1:8-9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
- Galatians 5:12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
- 2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
- Revelation 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? [end Wikipedia]
These may be imprecations, but they are not imprecatory psalms. Imprecations are much less appropriate after the time of Christ than before. It was the Christ who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us ( Matthew 5: 43-48). Most of the imprecatory material listed above from the New Testament is simply a statement of fact--fact about how God, not man, will avenge the unrighteous acts imposed upon God's people. Even 2 Timothy 4: 14, the most direct of the imprecatory statements of the New Testament, can be taken as a statement of fact.
The modern-day Christian is held to a higher standard of agape'.
Rom 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Rom 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Rom 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rom 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Rom 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Rom 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Rom 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
Rom 12:20 To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."
Rom 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. " ESV.
Today's Christian should not pray that clamity, misfortune, and destruction upon his enemies. He can pray that his enemies see the other side of the story, or that they turn away from carrying out evil upon him. In praying for those who are in government, he can pray for leaders to do what is best for the people (I Timothy 2: 1-4). God sees the injustices that happen in the world, and He will take those that are guilty to task when the books are opened at the judgement (Revelation 20: 11-15).
Click on the doorway to return to the Sermons index file.