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Imprecatory Psalms

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Imprecatory Psalms are those which contain appeals to God to pour out His wrath upon the Psalmist’s enemies. They are psalms containing passages seeking the hurt of someone else. 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). Further reflection, however, will reveal that this is not the case. The liberal or modernist view is that the imprecatory Psalms are merely the uninspired words of the authors. No vengeance of God is to be assumed in these cases; rather, it is the vengeance of the fallible writers. Such a theory, of course, is unacceptable to those who hold to the Biblical teaching of divine inspiration. “All Scripture,” both the Old as well as the New Testament writings, says Paul, “is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Then too, in 2 Samuel 23:1-2, we read that “the sweet Psalmist of Israel” spoke by the “Spirit of the LORD…His word was on my tongue.” Further, the Psalms of imprecation are quoted in the New Testament by Christ and others as fully inspired (John 2:17; 15:25; Acts 1:20; Romans 11:9-10; 15:3). The Dispensationalist view avers that these Psalms are to be understood in light of the inferior ethical concepts of the Old Testament, which was a dispensation of law. This is now an outmoded ethical system. Therefore, the Psalms in which we find the invoking of justice, calamity, or curse, have no place in the New Testament era of grace. However, to simply relegate prayers of imprecation to the Old Testament will not do. The New Testament also contains such prayers. In Matthew 23, for example, Jesus pronounces imprecatory “woes” on the scribes and Pharisees. In Galatians 1:8-9 and 5:12, we read of Paul “anathematizing” anyone who preaches “any other gospel” besides the apostolic Gospel. In Revelation 6:10, the martyred saints cry...

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