What about Imprecatory Psalms?

Imprecatory Psalms refer to Psalms of curses. These Psalms try to invoke God to destroy one’s enemies or rain calamity on them. An example of this we find in Psalm 137;


Psalm 137:1-8 (NKJV)

1 By the rivers of Babylon,

There we sat down, yea, we wept

When we remembered Zion.

2 We hung our harps

Upon the willows in the midst of it.

3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,

And those who plundered us requested mirth,

Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song

In a foreign land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

Let my right hand forget its skill!

6 If I do not remember you,

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—

If I do not exalt Jerusalem

Above my chief joy.

7 Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom

The day of Jerusalem,

Who said, “RAZE it, RAZE it,

To its very foundation!”

8 O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,

Happy the one who REPAYS YOU as you have served us!

9 Happy the one who TAKES and DASHES

Your LITTLE ONES against the rock! 



This records Israel cursing their human enemies — the Babylonians —  that their little ones would be dashed against rocks!


David was also fond of using imprecatory Psalms;


Psalm 69:22-29 (NKJV)

22 Let their table become a snare before them,

And their well-being a trap.

23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see;

And make their loins shake continually.

24 Pour out Your indignation upon them,

And let Your wrathful anger take hold of them.

25 Let their dwelling place be desolate;

Let no one live in their tents.

26 For they persecute the ones You have struck,

And talk of the grief of those You have wounded.

27 Add iniquity to their iniquity,

And let them not come into Your righteousness.

28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living,

And not be written with the righteous.

29 But I AM POOR and sorrowful;

Let Your salvation, O God, SET ME up on high. 


Here, he curses his enemies but asks for good for himself. (The whole chapter is replete with curses!)


You would also find the 109th Psalm as imprecatory:


Psalm 109:8-13 (NKJV)

8 Let his days be few,

And let another take his office.

9 Let his children be fatherless,

And his wife a widow.

10 Let his children continually be vagabonds, and beg;

Let them seek their bread also from their desolate places.

11 Let the creditor seize all that he has,

And let strangers plunder his labor.

12 Let there be none to extend mercy to him,

Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children.

13 Let his posterity be cut off,

And in the generation following let their name be blotted out.


“His” there referring to David’s enemy. (Other imprecatory Psalms include Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 79, 83, 94, 137, 139 and 143). Then imprecations appear also in the Books of Hosea, Micah and Jeremiah.


The question now is: should Christians use these Psalms on their “enemies”?


Note first of all, that not EVERYTHING written in the Bible were written for you to copy. Some things were written to show you what you SHOULD NOT do (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). Imprecatory Psalms are one of such!


David and the Jews didn’t know better as they wrote/prayed these Psalms. They wrote and spoke based on the knowledge they had back then and the emotions they felt (anger). They didn’t know understand CLEARLY what it meant to walk in love, forgive one’s enemies. They didn’t know that the devil was the real enemy. The devil was rarely known in the Old Testament. In fact, he appears in just three books IN THE ENTIRE OLD TESTAMENT (in the Books of Job, chapters 1&2, 1 Chronicles 21:1 and Zechariah 3). And even with that, the Jews believed that Satan was God’s agent, doing His bidding. He veiled himself in the Old Testament and did evil things in the guise that it was GOD doing those things. (Get the sermon “Unmasking God” for clearer understanding on this).


So the Jews were wrong to pray curses on those who wronged them! They didn’t know who their real enemies were (satan and his hosts). So they prayed and spoke based on that knowledge.


But we know better, we are aware who our enemies really are! Our enemies are not physical! There is THE enemy and he is spiritual:


Luke 10:17-20 (NKJV)

17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”

18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of THE ENEMY, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”


Here, Jesus mentions “THE enemy.” In context of verse 18, that refers to Satan. He also further explains in vs. 20 “the spirits.” So the enemy is Satan, and by extension, his demon spirits. The word “enemy” here is “echthros” in the Greek. It refers to a hostile person, one who is openly hateful and bent on inflicting harm.


Jesus uses that word again in Matthew 13:25


Matthew 13:25-27, 39 (NKJV)

25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 39 THE ENEMY who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 


Observe the definite article “THE.” That is, you can point to THE enemy — there is just one (the devil, and by extension, the spirits he commands). Any human being who acts as our enemy is merely under his influence, but such human is not the real problem. So our fellow humans CAN be hostile toward us but we are not to see THEM as the issue.


And this is why in the New Testament, you observe that some portions were quoted from these Imprecatory Psalms by our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostle Paul, but they deliberately left out the “curses” part:


For example, Jesus in John 15:25 quotes from the 69th Psalm;


John 15:25 (NKJV)

25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause


He is quoting Psalm 69:4, but He doesn’t add verses 22-28 which invoke curses.


Same with Paul in Romans 11:9


Romans 11:9 (NKJV)

9 And David says:

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,

A stumbling block and a recompense to them.

10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see,

And bow down their back always.” 


Paul is quoting from Psalm 69:22-23. Interestingly, he turns the text around here and uses it on the Jews themselves! The Gospel is a stumbling block to the Jews because their eyes have been darkened from understanding it. He doesn’t use it as a curse but to describe Israel’s state in unbelief.


Then in Romans 15:3


Romans 15:3 (NKJV)

3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”


Here, Paul quotes Psalm 69:9 as a Prophecy concerning Jesus.


Nowhere did the writers of the New Testament rehash the Imprecatory Psalms on their “enemies.” They rather user them as prophecies concerning certain individuals/personalities. We must learn from this too. When it comes to those who wrong us, the admonition is always “bless hose who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).


(For a detailed study on this subject, get the sermon “Coals of Fire: How to pay back your enemies” by Pastor Josh Banks)


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2021.


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