Yesterday I featured a sidebar from John Walton and Andrew Hill’s book Old Testament Today. Today I want to focus on one that addresses the thorny problem of the imprecatory Psalms.
“The sections of psalms in which the psalmist calls down curses on his enemies are labeled imprecatory. Given the command of Jesus to love our enemies, Christians often find these psalms perplexing. We can solve the dilemma by recalling that in the lament psalms (where imprecations occur) the psalmist is pleading with God to bring justice. God’s reputation as a just God is at stake. Justice is only accomplished if the punishment is proportional to the offense. How wicked are the psalmists’ enemies? Would a badly scraped shin or a painful hangnail be sufficient punishment? What about a broken leg or a serious illness? When the psalmist names particular consequences and calls them down on his adversaries, he is communicating to God examples of some of the forms of justice would have to take to measure up to the magnitude of the crimes. In that way it could be compared to an attorney in a liability suit suggesting to the judge and jury that his client ought to be awarded so many millions of dollars as a result of the wanton negligence of the company being sued. The attorney would claim that the court must make an example out of the company so that everyone knows that the justice system is not going to tolerate such negligence. The dollar amount is relative to other liability awards and proportional to the seriousness of the offense.”
“Our response should not be to pray as the psalmists pray but to be as concerned for God’s reputation of justice as they were.” (408)