Imprecatory Psalms

This entry is part 394 of 423 in the series Inquiring Minds

What type of psalm is an imprecatory psalm?

Imprecatory Psalms may be one of the toughest things we as Christians read in the Psalms. Used often by King David, these are curses against his enemies. They can be seen in the larger picture of his life. Some examples of imprecatory Psalms are Psalms 5, 17, 28, 35, 40, 55, 59, 70, 71, 79, 80, 94, 129, 137, 139, and 140.

Because the Bible tells us to love our enemies and pray for them, it’s hard for us to read these Psalms and find a way to apply them as Christians. We need to remember that King David was often either on the run from his enemies or warring against them.

It’s not that this excuses the nature of these Psalms, but it does give us insight into why he would even write them. David often did not have the luxury of being so kind to his enemies as a king. His enemies may have also been enemies of the state of Israel.

It must be noted that there are almost no imprecatory Psalms that are entirely full of cursing one’s enemies. Most of the time it is only a section of a Psalm in which David does this. If you read the whole Psalm through, you’ll often find that it is only part of his running conversation with God.

He is in the habit of reacting to his enemies through curses first and then turning it over to God halfway through the Psalm. By the time the Psalm is done, David has come to terms with allowing God to avenge him.

This is the part that we as Christians can apply to ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with being genuine before God and cursing your enemies before the Lord. He already knows how you feel about that person in that moment.

When we must be careful of is to not allow our momentary anger to become our only response to our enemies who offend us. We must learn to be genuine before the Lord but to turn it over to him as David did in the imprecatory Psalms.

Once we do this, we can learn to pray for our enemies. And when you are praying for someone, you can’t be angry with them. When you pray intercessory prayer for another individual, you are praying for their betterment.

So while we may begin in the same place David is in the imprecatory Psalms with anger toward her enemies and asking God to smite them, we must do as David did and move into a conversation with God about how we can understand these enemies and love them as Jesus teaches. Then we can pray for them and see them the way God sees them.

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