The Imprecatory Psalms

“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.”

1 Cor. 16:22

“Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.  For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.”

Ps. 79:6-7

“So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.  Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Lord.”

Ps. 83:15-16

 

 

The imprecatory Psalms are Psalms which call down God’s curses (imprecations) upon His enemies, including Ps. 7, 9, 35, 39, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 94, 109, 129, 137, 140, etc.  

Should we pray the imprecatory Psalms and sing them?  Find out the will of God by searching the Scriptures…

 

Order of Contents

Start Here  (3)
Articles  (9)
Dissertations  (2)
Book  (1)
Not Recommended: Watts
How do I Start Singing the Imprecatory Psalms, like Jesus did?

 

 

Start Here

Chapter

Binnie, William – ‘The Imprecatory Psalms’  Buy  1886 18 pages  from his The Psalms, Their History, Teachings and Use, p. 280 ff.

This is hands-down, the best short treatment of the Imprecatory Psalms.  Pure gold.  Binnie was a professor in the Free Church of Scotland.

Short Book

Bonhoeffer, Deitrich – Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible  Buy  88 pp.

This short book is worth its weight in gold.  Bonhoeffer (1906-45) was a German, Lutheran pastor that resisted the Nazis in WWII (praying the imprecatory Psalms against them), and was put to death in a concentration camp.   Bonhoeffer’s neo-Orthodoxy is not clearly discernible in this work.

Book

Adams, James – War Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms  Buy  1991  126 pp.

This is the best book on the subject.  The author is to be distinguished from Jay Adams.

 

 

Articles

Bushell, Michael – ‘The Imprecatory Psalms’  13 pp.  being part of ch. 2 of The Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody (3rd ed., 1999), pp. 32-45

Crampton, Gary – ‘What about the Imprecatory Psalms?’  22 paragraphs in ‘The Trinity Review’

Dick, James – “The ‘Imprecatory’ Psalms”  1902  10 pp.  in Psalm Singer’s Conference, held in Belfast… 1902, pp. 87-96

Martin, Chalmers – ‘Imprecations in the Psalms’  Princeton Theological Review 1 (1903): 537-53  This work was reprinted in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, ed. Kaiser, 1972 

Osgood, Howard – ‘Dashing the Little Ones Against the Rock’  Princeton Theological Review 1 (1903): 23-37

Osgood (1831-1911) was a baptist pastor.  ‘As an Old Testament scholar he was strongly conservative, and a firm ally of Professor William Henry Green [who was a conservative Old Testament scholar at Old Princeton]…’ – ‘The Late Professor Howard Osgood’

Reed, James – ‘The Imprecatory Psalms’  1907  11 pp.  in The Psalms in Worship, A Series of Convention Papers Bearing upon the Place of the Psalms in the Worship of the Church, pp. 310-320

Vos, Johannes – ‘The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms’  Westminster Theological Journal (May, 1942): 123-128

Webster, J.H. – ‘The Imprecatory Psalms’  1907  12 pp.  in The Psalms in Worship, A Series of Convention Papers Bearing upon the Place of the Psalms in the Worship of the Church, pp. 297-309

Williams, Benjamin – ‘A Dissertation on Scripture Imprecations’  1881  47 pp.  at the beginning of The Book of Psalmsas Translated, Paraphrased or Imitated by some of the most Eminent Poets… to which is prefixed A Dissertation of Scripture Imprecations, with the View of Vindicating the Sacred Writers in General, and the Psalmists in Particular, against the… charge of indulging and countenancing a malevolent spirit  Buy  1881

 

 

Dissertations

Bernarino, Nomreiano C. – “A Reconsideration of ‘Imprecations’ in the Psalms”  Th.M. thesis, Calvin Theological Seminary, 1986

Mennega, Harry – ‘The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms’  Master’s Thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1959

 

 

Book  (see also the 2 books in under the ‘Start Here’ section)

Bertram, R.A. – The Imprecatory Psalms, Six Lectures

**  “Contains some very sensible remarks upon a subject which no doubt bewilders certain of the weaker sort.” – Spurgeon

 

 

Not Recommended

The one who did more than any to popularize the notion that the imprecations of the Psalms are sub-Christian and are not to be sung, turning the churches away from the predominate singing of the original inspired Psalms in the regular worship of the churches, replacing them with uninspired, man-made composures, was Isaac Watts (1674-1748).  See The History of Psalm Singing.  

For a thorough, Biblical refutation of Watt’s arguments, see The Singing of Psalms.  Here is Watts’ proto-Dispensationalism:

Isaac Watts  1719

Preface to The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and Applied to the Christian State and Worship   Here is the 1st edition

the Royal Psalmist here expresses his own concerns in words exactly suited to his own thoughts, agreeable to his own personal character, and in the language of his own religion…  But when we sing the same lines, we express nothing but the character, the concerns, and the religion of the Jewish King, while our own circumstances and our own religion (which are so widely different from his) have little to do in the sacred Song…

There are several Songs of this Royal Author that seem improper for any person besides himself…  much less are they all proper for a Christian Church: Yet the way of a close translation of this whole Book of Hebrew Psalms for English psalmody has generally obtained among us.

I come therefore to the third thing I proposed, and that is to explain my own design; which in short is this; (viz.) To accommodate the Book of Psalms to Christian Worship: and in order to this ’tis necessary to divest David and Asaph, &c. of every other character but that of a Psalmist and a saint, and to make them always speak the common sense and language of a Christian.

Attempting the Word with this view I have entirely omitted several whole Psalms, and large pieces of many others…  that in words prepared for public worship and for the lips of multitudes, there might not be a syllable offensive to sincere Christians whose judgments may differ in the lesser matters of religion.

Where the Psalmist uses sharp invectives against his personal enemies, I have endeavored to turn the edge of them against our spiritual adversaries, sin, Satan, and temptation

Why must I join with David in his legal or prophetic language to curse my enemies, when my Savior in his sermons has taught me to love and bless them?  Why may not a Christian omit all those passages of the Jewish Psalmist that tend to fill the mind with overwhelming sorrows, despairing thoughts, or bitter personal resentments, none of which are well suited to the Spirit of Christianity, which is a dispensation of hope and joy and love?  

What need is there that I should wrap up the shining honors of my Redeemer in the dark and shadowy language of a religion that is now forever abolished…  And what fault can there be in enlarging a little on the more useful subjects in the style of the Gospel, where the Psalm gives any occasion, since the whole religion of the Jews is censured often in the New Testament as a defective and imperfect thing?

I am not so vain as to expect that the few short hints I have mentioned in that Preface or in this should be sufficient to justify my performances in the judgment of all Men, nor to convince and satisfy those who have long maintained different sentiments.

 

 

How do I Start Singing the Imprecatory Psalms, like Jesus did?

All you need to start singing all of the psalms (an online psalter and some familiar tunes you already know, like ‘Amazing Grace’), are here:

Familiar Tunes for Singing Psalms

Here are some of the imprecatory psalms: Ps. 7, 9, 35, 39, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 94, 109, 129, 137, 140, etc.  

Pray for God’s Name to be sanctified in this earth; pray for his will to be done on earth as it is done in Heaven.  Not sure who to pray these nuclear imprecatory Psalms against?  Try Isis.

“The Lord tries the righteous: but the wicked and him that loves violence, His soul hates.” – Ps. 11:5

 

 

 

“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still…  Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”

Rev. 22:11-12

“But Peter said unto him, ‘Thy money perish with thee…'”

Acts 8:20

“They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.  But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting…  I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.  But in mine adversity they rejoiced…  they did tear me, and ceased not…

Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me…  Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt…”

Ps. 35:12-15, 24-26

 

 

 

Related Pages

The Singing of Psalms

Familiar Tunes for Singing Psalms

The History of Psalm Singing

The Westminster Assembly and Psalm Singing

The Puritans and Psalm Singing

Prayer

Amen after prayers

 Commentaries on the Psalms

Commentaries on Individual Psalms

Psalters Online