Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The imprecatory Psalms are basically those Psalms which contains the Psalmist's praying curses or judgments upon the wicked enemies of God's elect people. Some scholars divided the Imprecatory Psalms into a major and minor categories. For example, Psalms 69 and 109 would be in the “Major Imprecatory” category while Psalms 5,6,11,12,35,37,40, 52,54,56,58,69,79, 83, 137, 139, and 143 have been designated into the “Minor Precatory” slot.1 Some say that there are only 18 Imprecatory Psalms with other opinions in the scholarly literature.
A problem within the Bible believing community is how to regard these Psalms in light of the New Testament teaching. If 2 Timothy 3:16 which says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,2” is true then how are we to apply the Imprecatory Psalms to our walk with God? How do we do it exactly, in light of Jesus telling us in the Gospel to “forgive our enemies?”

In doing the research for this assignment, I never once found any writer advocating praying the Imprecatory Psalms. In fact, the majority of the paper I read took the position that to pray for God to deal with the enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His people was the wrong thing to do. Their position was generally that in the “dispensation” of the New Testament we have a more progressive revelation (i.e. “Love your enemies) than in the Old Testament. This tends toward an invalid position since even Moses commanded that we should love our enemies and not bear grudges (Lev. 19:18). 
Other “interesting” positions offered in the literature is that we as Christians can't use these Psalms in prayer to seek personal vengance on “the bad guy.” It is a reality that Christians suffer, even today, horrible persecutions and sometimes death for godly righteousness sake. Even so, using these Psalms for revenge is wrong.
Another position is the while the curses are there in Holy Writ they are simply a recording of the sinfulness of the writer. In other words, they were the Psalmist venting rage. This is also wrong since the Pslams, all of them, are written in Scripture as “inspired by the Spirit of God” for our instruction and training in righteousness.
Then there is the Dispensational explanation which is also in error since it would imply inconsistency in God's revelation and Divine directive to walk in His word (see Ps. 119133). I believe also it calls into question 2Tim. 3:16.

A more “reasonable” approach offered in the literature is that Psalms should be read with the thought in mind that much of it is written using hyperbolic language. This is not an entirely problematic position to take. While hyperbole is used in both the New and Old Testaments, I would add that its usage does not detract from a literal interpretation of Scripture. The use of hyperbole, I believe, is always used to communicate a liter intent. An example of this would be the hyperbole used in Ezekiel 26:14: “I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD.” This verse has exaggeration in it to convey the literal intent: A severe judgement and not being turned into a literal bare rock. Jesus used hyperbole to convey what our attitude toward sin in our lives should be when he said in the Gospels that if one of your eyes causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away (Matt. 5:29). Again, hyperbole to convey a literal intent or message.

Another point of view in the literature about the Imprecatory Psalms is that the curses were always made toward a class or group of people and not individuals. Individuals were never targeted. The problem I have with this is what is a group or class of people composed of but that of individuals? Besides, in Psalm 55: 12-15 speaks of “a friend”-singular-being an enemy.

A better and perhaps a more effective approach is to consider the following when praying the Imprecatory Psalms:
    1. We must consider our motives in the light of Scripture. Why are we wanting to pray the Imprecatory Psalms? What's our reason. We should pray the Imprecations if, and only if, our motives is a Biblical hatred sinful injustice. If we do not have as our motives to stop the Evil One who is behind the persecution for righteousness sake, then we should not pray the Imprecations. We must want individual enemies to be pressed down and shaken into crying out to Christ for mercy and not to “even” with our enemies.
    2. Wanting as the ardent desire of your heart that justice be served and realize that it will be done because God is faithful. If you do not see it in this life, you can rest in the hope that it will when an impenitent sinner stands before God. In some countries such as Mexico, the Justice System is so utterly corrupt that criminals are routinely turned loose for “lack of evidence.”
    3. Lastly, if you pray the Imprecatory Psalms, you must have as your ultimate motive the desire that God's name not be taken in vain nor brought into question.

An example of this is a situation in which my wife and are presently in with a woman in our town. She claims to be a Christian and yet participates in seances, tarot card readings, and astral projection. She sees nothing wrong this at all. In fact, when we confronted her she became insanely biligerent and is presently persecuting us through the Gringo community in our small Mexican town. We pray daily for this woman the truths in Psalm 140 with a view to her repentance in our hearts and minds.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imprecatory_Psalms
2 Revised Standard Version

REFERENCE: Examine Yourself