major themes of Deuteronomy 11–30.4 I refer to this as “retribution theology.” Psalms 14 and 53 are almost identical and add wisdom theology, respectively, to Books 1 and 2, while Psalm 19B contains several Torah keywords—following the creation meditation of 19A—that also appear in the longest Torah-wisdom Psalm 119. 50 Day, "The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics," 174-5. Is it okay to take communion at home outside the church? When interpreting Psalm 109, Herbert Lockyer argues that the curses should not be viewed as imprecations but predictions of the wicked.25 This view implies that the psalmists were more than poets; they were also prophets. Thirdly, when we pray the imprecatory psalms, we do not expect that God will send “the hornet” to exterminate ISIS as … The Psalter is a reflection of the spiritual and emotional life of believers. 59 Sigmund Mowinckel. 23 The New Testament exhorts believers to love their enemies, but the psalmists hate their enemies and their sin instead of distinguishing the sinner from sin.24, Some scholars see the psalmic imprecations as prophetic predictions, thus implying that these are divine announcements and not personal sentiments. Ph.D. "90 These terms are commonly used in a dispensationalist hermeneutic where discontinuity between the Old and New Testament is emphasised.91 The Old Covenant, depicted in the Hebrew Bible, functioned within a specific dispensation centred around national Israel. The answer to the question what moved the psalmists to pray for vengeance, is thus not a very simple question to answer. 51 Day, "The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics," 178-9. [ Links ], Zenger, Erich. Therefore, from the New Testament perspective, the psalmist's enemies in imprecatory psalms are Christ's enemies.92. Translated by Linda M. Maloney. 33 Luc, "Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms," 400-5. 10 Alex T. Luc, "Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms," JETS 42 (1999): 395-96. Indeed, the implication is that, in its appropriate place, such utterances are commendable (cf. Take Psalm 137:9: “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the… So, You Want To Downplay Doctrine? Psalms, Theology of. In many instances, the imprecatory element is but a minor element, embodied in a single line or a single verse.6 Martin argues that it is more accurate to speak of "imprecations in the psalms" rather than of "imprecatory psalms. 29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either,”. Since the covenant involves promises and warnings which will be fulfilled through future blessings and curses, this view is similar to that of prophetic revelation (see section D.2). Luc suggests the imprecations in the Psalms should be interpreted as prophetic judgments against the wicked. The fact that these imprecations may also reflect lament, petition, and desires before God, does not negate the imprecatory character of a psalm. Scholars seem to be guided by their hermeneutical premises about the continuity and discontinuity of the testaments when they reflect on the motivations behind the imprecatory psalms. "73 The same is true of the psalmic imprecations. Westminster Theological Journal 4 (1942):123-38. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1958. D THE BASIS OF IMPRECATORY PRAYERS IN THE PSALMS. More, they are “God-breathed and…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17). Alex Luc mentions that the prophetic role of the psalmists is recognised by the New Testament (e.g. Instead, Paul exhorts believers saying, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not" (Rom 12:14). In John 15:25, Jesus quotes Psalm 35:19 and 69:4. Psalms are independent literary units that have grown out of, and speak to, a wide range of individual and communal human experience. London: Oxford, 1853. Ps 58:11 cf. "45, Allan Harman also argues that the imprecations in the psalms are Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenant curses that have been included in the in Psalter (i.e. David, as Peter informed his audience on the day of Pentecost, was a prophet. Augustine. Word Biblical Commentary 19. 88 Peels, Shadow Sides: the Revelation of God in the Old Testament, 104. 89 Laney, "A Fresh Look at the Imprecatory Psalms," 42-4. Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes. They call down curses on their foes and look forward to their destruction. The Reformed Theological Review 54 (1995): 65-72. 2 Some psalms "contain extremely harsh judgments upon the enemies of the psalmists." Deliver my soul from the wicked with Your sword, 14 From men with Your hand, O LORD, From men of the world, whose portion is in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your treasure; They are satisfied with children, And leave their abundance to their babes. ONE EMINENTLY TROUBLESOME PORTION of the Scriptures is the so-called "imprecatory psalms." He served as a missionary in Latin America and has taught courses in theology both there and in the United States. The authors of the imprecatory psalms were victims of violence, so this study looks to contemporary victims of violence for their interpretation and application of these psalms. Finally, I include five sermons which can help congregations understand the theology and value of the imprecatory psalms. AHN, J. 93 See Vos, "The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms," 136-138; Lensch, "Prayers of Praise and of Imprecation in the Psalms," 19-20; Beisner, Psalms of Promise, 178; Peels, Shadow Sides: the Revelation of God in the Old Testament, 101103. They were regarded as God's enemies and of his cause on earth.55. He argues that all these similarities show that psalmists were prophets and they had a prophetic role. We greatly appreciate your consideration! He also mentions that the Christian's prayer should be "informed and shaped by God's objective Word and by an enlightened desire to seek His kingdom and His righteousness."81. Because the character of God does not change, this also applies to his ethical standards. Christopher Lensch argues that there is no conflict between the ethic of the Old Testament and the ethic of the New Testament. There are royal psalms, Zion psalms, and wisdom psalms. The imprecatory psalms also challenge the reader to identify with the oppressed and suffering, even though he, himself, may be quite comfortable. “Psalms of anger” or “psalms of wrath” may be a better description, but the term imprecatory is standard in psalms studies. Psalms are independent literary units that have grown out of, and speak to, a wide range of individual and communal human experience. "Imprecations in the Psalms." 7 & 11-12) and curses (vv. 20 For they speak against You wickedly, and Your enemies take Your name in vain. "44 Since the psalmist was Abraham's posterity he had the right to pray curses on Israel's enemies. Toggle navigation. We’re going to pray for their repentance and life in the gospel. What is the New Testament? 21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? Such psalms naturally evoke a … We'd love to keep you up to date with what is happening at CARM. Israel in exile: the history and literature of the sixth century BC.E. Secondly, there are similar words and concepts in both passages (e.g. There is a wide range of views regarding the basis of imprecatory psalms. 40 Luc, "Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms," 403-5. God is the one who is called upon and he is the one who executes vengeance; (b) these appeals are based on covenant promises (e.g. The curses in the psalms are only relevant as far as they were prophecies which were fulfilled in the life of the Messiah. 5; 11; 17; 35; 55; 59; 69; 109; 137; 140).4 Whiles commenting on imprecatory prayer, Brandford Yeboah, stated that imprecatory prayer springs from the Old Testament curse theology that reflects the holiness of God and His faithfulness to His covenant promises. "53, Chalmers Martin argues that the imprecations in the Psalms are not longings for vengeance but express the longing of Old Testament saints for the vindication of God's righteousness. Understanding the Psalms of Divine Wrath. This portion of Psalm 137 is one of various “imprecatory psalms” (Pss. Worshipper invokes God's wrath and judgement against God's enemies. [ Links ], Laney, Carl J. Nairobi: Word Alive Publishers, 2006. As part of my doctoral studies on suffering for righteousness in the book of Psalms (before I had to abandon them because of health issues), I had to wrestle through what biblical scholars call "The Imprecatory Psalms." Chapter 5: The Theology of the Imprecatory Psalms (pp. A list of the imprecatory Psalms are 5, 17, 28, 35, 40, 55, 59, 70, 71, 79, 80, 94, 129, 137, 139, 140. The first and last of these reasons are the least plausible as a basis for biblical imprecations. These sermons offer application for how to pray imprecatory prayers that are faithful to biblical theology. Here, I have employed Groome's programme for practical theology in order to articulate the contemporary status of the imprecatory psalms in church life, as well as the influences that shape the current practice. 17 Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50. Ph.D. "30, Chalmer Martin, although he entertains a covenantal approach (see section D.2), also calls the psalms lyric poems composed under the influence of the Spirit of inspiration, which are part of God's revelation of himself. the songbook of Israel) since some of the imprecatory psalms reflect covenant theology and structure.46 He uses Psalms 5 and 109 to illustrate his point. [ Links ], Simango, Daniel. They invite us to pray on behalf of others, as they evoke in us an awareness of the wickedness that is in the world. Within a paradigm that recognises the Psalter as part of authoritative divine revelation, the psalms are seen as guidelines for behaviour. We are now in an era of the common curse (sin and death) and common grace (God’s gracious providence in restraining the effects of the curse). The latter are the underlying reasons, the rationale or motivation behind the genre. 8 Erich Zenger, A God of Vengeance? They invite us to pray on behalf of others, as they evoke in us an awareness of the wickedness that is in the world. An overview of the study of imprecatory Psalms: reformed and evangelical approaches to the interpretation of imprecatory Psalms  Simango, Daniel ; Krüger, P. Paul ( The Old Testament Society of Southern Africa (OTSSA) , 2016 ) "The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms." Ps 58:6-7; 109:16; cf. 1:8-9 and Acts 8:20). Matt 11:20-24; 23:13-39; Day acknowledges that these examples are not identical to imprecations, but the cry of "woe" in the Ancient Near East bore a measure of semantic overlap);84 (d) Scripture also records a situation in heaven, where there is no sin, but God's people cry out for vengeance and are comforted by the assurance of its near enactment (Rev 6:9-11). Theology and Ethics. Harman is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Australia ( and Laney is the interim pastor at Proebstel Church in Vancouver ( Day mentions the following psalms as imprecatory psalms: Psalms 7, 35, 52, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 94, 109, 129, 137 and 140. These psalms express the desire for God's vengeance to fall on His (and His people’s) enemies and include … "3, Scholars are divided on whether the term "imprecatory psalms" is an appropriate or accurate description of psalms containing imprecations. (Procedure at the end of this article) Though it... “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. Words were thought to have effectuating power. 68 Laney, "A Fresh Look at the Imprecatory Psalms," 41-42. by Matt Slick | Jun 13, 2016 | Questions, The Bible. John Day acknowledges the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12:2-3) as the basis of the imprecations in the Psalms, but argues that the psalmic imprecations also "root their theology of cursing, of crying out for God's vengeance, in the Torah, principally in the promise of divine vengeance expressed in the Song of Moses in Deut 32:1-43. 1978. 81 Lensch, "Prayers of Praise and of Imprecation in the Psalms," 20. Resources and reflections on theology and ethics . Wenham, Psalms as Torah, 177–78. Peels argues that imprecatory prayers are still heard in situations of emergency, even though times have changed. Old Testament Essays, 4(3):381-396. Day, “The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics,” 168. G. "The Inauguration of the Law of Christ with the Gospel of Christ: A Dispensational View." The characterising element of imprecatory psalms is a cry for divine vengeance, an appeal to God to pour out his wrath onthe psalmist’s enemies. 92 Luc, "Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms," 409. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978. 5 See Chalmers Martin, "Imprecations in the Psalms," in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, ed. Scholars, therefore, revert to theories informed by hermeneutical premises about the continuity and discontinuity of the testaments to answer the question about the basis of the imprecations. There are various opinions with regards to the number of imprecatory psalms. Reflections on the Psalms. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42 (1999): 395-410. The article argues that reformed and evangelical scholars' interpretations of imprecation Psalms are largely led by their presuppositions about the relation between the Old and New Testament. Pages 605-746 in Africa Bible Commentary. These two concerns are also echoed in the prophetic books and the Pentateuch. Not all imprecatory psalms are completely filled with maledictions. 7 Chalmers Martin, "Imprecations in the Psalms," 113. The imprecations were appropriate for Old Testament believers, therefore they are also appropriate for New Testament believers. 85 Hendrik G. L. Peels, Shadow Sides: the Revelation of God in the Old Testament (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003), 100. Notice the negativity and judgment advocated upon evildoers. Joel R Beeke, Dr Michael S Horton, Richard B Gaffin Jr, Greg Gilbert. [ Links ], Luc, Alex. As Vos observes, the view that the imprecations are objurgations of evil spirits seems to be an attempt to find an easy way out by boldly explaining away the clear statements of Scripture.61 This view negates the setting in real life of the Psalms since it is perfectly obvious that the enemies of the psalmists were wicked men who slandered and did the suppliants harm. 32:35; Ps. 5 of Expositor's Bible Commentary. Bibliotheca Sacra 159 (2002): 166-86. 171-168. 90 Luc, "Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms," 408-9. 183. [ Links ], Delitzsch, Franz. Is it true and is it biblical? 1 Chr 22:8; 28:6) and "the hand of the Lord was upon me" (1 Chr 28:19). 84 Day, "The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics." diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 2001. Messianic Psalms. 1–29). You hate all who do iniquity.” Topic: Imprecatory Psalms Thread Prompt: After reading John Day’s Article on the Imprecatory Psalms (access the PDF link below), you must develop answers to the prompts below (minimum 400 words). As modern interpreters, we cannot question the authors themselves about their motivations. Ps 41:9 in John 13:18 and Matt 26:23-24; Ps 35:19 in John 15:25).29 Franz Delitzsch interprets the imprecations in Psalm 109 as foretelling the future being a "mirror of warning to the enemies and persecutors of Christ and His Church. The Psalms in Israel's Worship. 35 Raymond Jacques Tournay, Seeing and Hearing God with the Psalms: Prophetic Liturgy of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Sheffield: JSOT, 1991), 31-2. 13 Daniel Simango, "An Exegetical Study of Imprecatory Psalms in the Old Testament" (PhD. The imprecatory Psalms, he points out, are prayers, calling upon God to remedy those injustices which neither we as individuals, nor the state, are competent to remedy. He argues that Ps 58 alludes to Deut 32:21-43 in three ways. 12:19); (2) the principle that God’s righteousness demands judgment on the wicked (Pss. This article looks at some interpretive issues regarding the so-called imprecatory psalms, focusing on the debate within reformed and evangelical circles. [ Links ], Lockyer, Herbert. 38 Luc, "Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms," 400-2. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. "22 William Holladay echoes the same point when he argues that the imprecations display "a very different spirit" to the teaching of the New Testament. A common source used by Matthew and Luke. Retrouvez War Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms et des millions de livres en stock sur The Book of Psalms is a sizable collection of musical poems and prayers of diverse authorship and form. Translated by H. M. Wilkins. An Overview of the Study of Imprecatory Psalms: Reformed and Evangelical Approaches to the Interpretation of Imprecatory Psalms. Geerhardus Vos says that it is right for saints to pray imprecatory prayers because these prayers, like the psalmic imprecations, are an appeal to the justice of God.75 However, he cautions Christians not to offer petitions to God for the physical death of their enemies because they do not know which wicked persons, in the secret counsel of God, are reprobates and which are included in the election by grace.76 Believers may pray for severe temporal judgments upon the enemies of God, but they must leave to God the application or outworking of such petitions. 5:7; 59:10, 16–17); and (4) the principle of prayer that believers trust God with all their thoughts and desires.”1Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England, Steve Bond, E. Ray Clendenen, Trent C. Butler, and Bill Latta, eds. [ Links ], Longman, Tremper. Beisner is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church ( and Peels is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in the Netherlands ( He also points out that blessings and curses are important features of Psalm 109. Encountering the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 228. Various solutions are offered by commentators to the questions why psalmists appealed to God to pour out his wrath on their enemies: Through the ages, there has been a popular belief that words as such can cause harm to those against whom the words are directed. Interact with specific details and issues raised in the assigned article as you answer each of the prompts. Thus, examining Psalms 69, 109, and 137 as exemplars of imprecatory psalms, we will ask whether the view of God’s justice in these psalms is aligned to the view of God’s two-sided justice that encompasses the whole Psalter. Luc also points out that David uses prophetic language similar to that of many prophets. The dividing line between evangelical and reformed scholars who favour a prophetic interpretation of the imprecatory psalms (section D, subsection 2) and those who favour a covenantal interpretation largely corresponds to the dividing line between scholars who insist that these psalms do not offer ethical guidelines to the New Testament believer (subsection 1) and those who do see an abiding ethic in these psalms (subsection 2). [ Links ], Lensch, Christopher K. "Prayers of Praise and of Imprecation in the Psalms." Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 41. Sheffield: JSOT, 1991. These prayers (in time of emergency) are prayers led by the Holy Spirit aimed at the enemies of God.88, 3 Relevance of Imprecatory prayers: Conclusion. Another line of thought is that the covenant underpins these psalmic curses. 2 Imprecatory prayers are relevant to New Testament believers. The flat earth model theory has gained traction in recent years. Not all imprecatory psalms are completely filled with maledictions. Biblical basis of the imprecatory Psalms : special attention to Psalms 109 and 35. [ Links ], Bullock, Hassel C. Encountering the Book of Psalms. 7, 12, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139). This explains why imprecatory prayers are less common in the New Testament in comparison to the Old Testament. Lists of such psalms vary, with some including 10 or 14 psalms. An Exegetical Study of Imprecatory Psalms in the Old Testament Bibliography 287 BIBLIOGRAPHY ALBERTZ, R. 2003. An overview of the study of imprecatory Psalms: reformed and evangelical approaches to the interpretation of imprecatory Psalms  Simango, Daniel ; Krüger, P. Paul ( The Old Testament Society of Southern Africa (OTSSA) , 2016 ) Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996. Some contain elements of imprecation and other material such as blessings, appeal, adoration, worship, and more. The New Testament interprets some of the imprecatory psalms of David as descriptions of the life of Christ or as prayers of Christ (e.g. Before discussing views on the basis of imprecatory psalms (section D) and their applicability in the light of the New Testament (section E), two introductory questions are raised regarding the definition of these psalms (section B) and their scope (section C). "82 He argues that it is right for Christians to cry out for divine vengeance and violence because of the following reasons: 83 (a) vengeance appealed for is not personally enacted. 2008. 11 Willem A. VanGemeren, "Psalms," vol. The cries for justice in the imprecatory psalms should be regarded in the light of Christ's role as redeemer and final judge. These issues were not directly the object of this article, but in the discussion these aspects did emerge as determinators for conflicting claims regarding the imprecatory psalms. Sigmund Mowinckel interprets the imprecations in the Psalms are curses uttered against evil or demonic powers "which manifests themselves in illness and all kinds of evil"59. 66 Day, "The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics," 166. ONE EMINENTLY TROUBLESOME PORTION of the Scriptures is the so-called "imprecatory psalms." Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. Explain the concept of imprecation in the New Testament and in a general biblical theology. Skip to content. It is the idea that the earth is a flat, circular... by Matt Slick | Apr 9, 2020 | Questions, The Bible. 74 Luc, "Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms," 409. Old Testament use of Psalms . [ Links ], Article submitted: 29/04/2016 Accepted: 22/06/2016. 5 May all who hate Zion, Psalm 139:19-22, ” 19 O that You would slay the wicked, O God. A. Motyer, they are “Psalms containing passages seeking the hurt of someone else.”(3) At first glance, such “prayers of destruction” may appear to be out of accord with the Christian’s responsibility to love his enemies (Matthew 5:44).