The Bible says a lot of odd things. I have been fascinated by these odd things ever since I was a child. Partly for my own edification, partly out of curiosity, and partly out of humor I am going to post a short series of entries exploring some strange things that the Bible says. I will use the following format in all posts:
- SAY WHAT?!? – the odd thing that the Bible says and where it says it.
- What? – Ideas for what it means and how it has been interpreted
- Now What? – What might we do with this passage as believers today?
I pray this little experiment in humor and holy scripture is a blessing to you. May you laugh and love more because of it. Amen.
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock! (Psalm 137:9 NRSV)
6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
7 Let them vanish like water that runs away;
like grass let them be trodden down and wither.
8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime;
like the untimely birth that never sees the sun.
9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
10 The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done;
they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked. (Psalm 58:6-10 NRSV)
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies. (Psalm 139:19-22 NRSV)
Did you even know that those verses were in the Bible?!? I didn’t! At least not until a few years ago.
When I first learned these verses I was (naturally) horrified! So the question then is “what then should we do?!?” (Acts 2:37)
These vicious prayers are called “imprecatory psalms.” The imprecatory psalms are psalms about cursing.
The speaker of each of these psalms call upon God to bring calamity and cursing to enemies. The examples above are some of the more extreme examples. Especially Psalm 137:9!! But really we are only scratching the surface here. There are many more imprecatory psalms. Here is a list I found from an article online that has many of the imprecatory prayers found in the Old Testament.
C. S. Lewis claimed that these prayers were “sub-christian.” Many ignore them or are so repulsed by them that they deny any faith in a God who would inspire such hatred and violence. Again, our question is “what then should we do?!?” (Acts 2:37)
Don’t stop reading at this point, but I think these psalms can be a blessing to us and can even be a model for us to imitate. I know. Bear with me here.
Notice that these psalmists are not taking matters into their own hands. They are asking God to do something. It is ok to express to God our frustrations – even our deeply disturbing frustrations. It is not ok to hurt someone else, but it may be ok to ask God to. It sounds violent – and it is – but it is also an act of simple trust. We trust God enough to tell him what is really down in our hearts: violence, hatred, and evil. By being that vulnerable with God he can take our anger and frustration and replace it with love.
As one of my teachers used to say (see article linked below): “Don’t get even, get mad!” Take your frustrations to God in all of their brutal honesty. Don’t fantasize the perfect revenge scenario. Ask God to make it happen, but also be willing and open to see what he may do to your heart through the process.