Questions on Psalm 109


#1

I was on bible gateway and wanted to read a random passage of the bible. I have heard people saying Psalm readings before and the gave me a real boost for the Holy Trinity being there for me.

However I clicked on Psalm 108 randomly, then went ahead to Psalm 109.

Psalm 109 (CEV) - biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+109&version=CEV

Cut his life short
and let someone else
have his job.
9 Make orphans of his children
and a widow of his wife;

10 ** make his children beg for food
and live in the slums.**
11 “Let the people he owes
take everything he owns.
Give it all to strangers.
12** Don’t let anyone be kind to him
or have pity on the children
he leaves behind.**
13 Bring an end to his family,
and from now on let him be
a forgotten man.
14 “Don’t let the Lord forgive
the sins of his parents
and his ancestors.
15 Don’t let the Lord forget
the sins of his family,
or let anyone remember
his family ever lived.
16 He was so cruel to the poor,
homeless, and discouraged
that they died young.
17 “He cursed others.
Now place a curse on him!
He never wished others well.
Wish only trouble for him!
18 He cursed others more often
than he dressed himself.
Let his curses strike him deep,
just as water and olive oil
soak through to our bones.
19 Let his curses surround him,
just like the clothes
he wears each day.”

The man who wrote this says some terrible horrible things he wants done to not only the man (his enemy), (which I could understand) but to his enemy's entire family and ancestors and for God to basically abandoned them forever. Jesus taught us to remember things such as mercy, even mercy for those who are evil, to pray for them is what we are to do. I take great pride out of that way of thinking. However this prayer has a lot of hate and its from the new testament not old, and it troubles me. It has made me question my faith to a certain extent. I just hope I can see the good of this

Anyway, can anyone explain this passage in a Christian way? Or is it a passage that is thought to be a bit that shouldn't be in there or has been tampered with? Or whatever?

Thank you


#2

It makes more sense when you examine the entire Psalm 109. It is not the author who is saying these hateful things. He is quoting his wicked and deceitful accusers.

Let’s take it from the top (and here I use the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, the translation I prefer):

1 Do not be silent, O God of my praise.
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They beset me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me,
even while I make prayer for them.
5 So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.

6 They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand on his right.
7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin.
8 May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
9 May his children be orphans,
and his wife a widow.

and so on. Later he prays that his accusers may suffer the misfortune that they wish upon him:

20 May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
of those who speak evil against my life.

In the context of the Old Testament, this is a just and righteous response. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and so on. However, take another look at verses 4 and 5, and you see that the author loves and prays for his accusers. So this passage is mostly compatible with Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

By the way, the Psalms are from the Old Testament, not the New.

I hope this makes you feel better and strengthens your faith.


#3

[quote="kermit_the_frog, post:1, topic:338309"]
I was on bible gateway and wanted to read a random passage of the bible. I have heard people saying Psalm readings before and the gave me a real boost for the Holy Trinity being there for me.

However I clicked on Psalm 108 randomly, then went ahead to Psalm 109.

[/quote]

I have a little joke: there was a desperate guy who decided to look at his Bible trying to figure out what to do. He randomly opened on a page and read: "And Judas went and hanged himself." That's not exactly what he's looking for, so he flipped to another page. "Go thou and do likewise." The man was frantic. He tried another page: "What thou doest, do quickly."

So here's a lesson. Don't just randomly open the pages of your Bible with a light heart, especially the Old Testament. Else you'd be wading through passages about skin diseases or crushed testicles or fire and brimsone. :p

The man who wrote this says some terrible horrible things he wants done to not only the man (his enemy), (which I could understand) but to his enemy's entire family and ancestors and for God to basically abandoned them forever. Jesus taught us to remember things such as mercy, even mercy for those who are evil, to pray for them is what we are to do. I take great pride out of that way of thinking. However this prayer has a lot of hate and its from the new testament not old, and it troubles me. It has made me question my faith to a certain extent. I just hope I can see the good of this

Anyway, can anyone explain this passage in a Christian way? Or is it a passage that is thought to be a bit that shouldn't be in there or has been tampered with? Or whatever?

Thank you

Just my point of view. The Psalms are brutally honest in that they really reflect genuine human emotions such as sorrow, agony or even anger - something we all feel. What the New Testament gives us is a higher way we should aspire to. That Psalm - and others like it - isn't something that "shouldn't be in there." It should totally be in there, right along with "love your enemies." The Scriptures ain't wishy-washy sentimentalism in book form.

That's a pretty cool thing about the Bible methinks. The way I see it, the Bible is a vast library of ambiguity, unresolved questions, and conflicting viewpoints. If you think that's bad, then I have a question: why would it be 'bad'? Who said that it would be? Who exactly has declared that the Bible should be easy to understand and give out straightforward, black-and-white answers?


#4

Yes thank you very much. I am glad it was old testament, I searched is Psalms old or new testament before this thread and it said I think 4 of the first Psalms books where old testament and book 5 was from the new testament. But I obviously know otherwise now.

Also yes I will take into consideration what to read in future. I am reading the gospels more than other passages, could someone suggest where for me to read next?

Again thank you :smiley:


#5

bible.org/seriespage/psalm-109-prayer-punishment-wicked

This is the bible commentary I listened to before my Original Post. Which is one of the main reason why I started this thread btw. I do not agree with what he said (the bible commentary) and I was concerned that this was the consensus amongst Christians


#6

bible.org is not a Catholic site.

The views expressed on that site may or may not be in agreement with Catholic views.

-Tim-


#7

I looked into this further and see that some confusion is possible since translations vary. The King James Version, for example, omits the phrase “They say.” Compare these two translations:

Psalm 109:6 (New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)
They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand on his right.”

Psalm 109:6 (King James Version)
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.

I am not a bible translation expert, so I cannot explain the difference. Newer translations may be more accurate due to additional scholarly research over the years. I mean “more accurate” in the sense of being more true to the ancient manuscripts, bearing in mind that sometimes several manuscripts exist which do not have identical wording.


#8

I looked at a few videos from bible.org. They teach much error.

I would not go to bible.org for learning the faith.

-Tim-


#9

[quote="Beryllos, post:7, topic:338309"]
I looked into this further and see that some confusion is possible since translations vary. The King James Version, for example, omits the phrase "They say." Compare these two translations:

I am not a bible translation expert, so I cannot explain the difference. Newer translations may be more accurate due to additional scholarly research over the years. I mean "more accurate" in the sense of being more true to the ancient manuscripts, bearing in mind that sometimes several manuscripts exist which do not have identical wording.

[/quote]

Actually, the words "they say" here is only supplied by the NRSV. It isn't found in either the Hebrew or the Septuagint. So I would say that the KJV's translation is more correct. The thing is, the psalmist speaks of his enemies in the plural in 1-5 and 20-31, but in 6-19 uses the singular. So there's two interpretations here: either the psalmist is quoting the curses of his enemies (so the NRSV), or the psalmist himself is cursing his enemies collectively. Which makes it the strongest of the so-called imprecatory psalms (see also Psalms 35, 55, 59, 69, 79, and 137). Personally I'll admit that I find the latter interpretation more convincing.


#10

[quote="patrick457, post:3, topic:338309"]

So here's a lesson. Don't just randomly open the pages of your Bible with a light heart, especially the Old Testament. Else you'd be wading through passages about skin diseases or crushed testicles or fire and brimstone. :p

[/quote]

Keywords: 'light heart'

I have opened the Bible and found exactly what I needed, in passages that I didn't know, in books that I didn't remember (away from the Church for some time). It was very obvious that it was from Him. He has led me to some amazing insights by just 'opening the Bible'. When I do it just to find something to read, that doesn't always happen, but I do enjoy the scripture nonetheless, and always read through it, just in case a nugget of info might strike my heart. Hard to do when I end up in family trees, though! :) Beget, beget, beget!

I also find it is VERY helpful, if you are going in randomly, to read the verses/passages both before and after what you've landed on, whether in an actual Bible or online.

:)


#11

[quote="patrick457, post:9, topic:338309"]
Actually, the words "they say" here is only supplied by the NRSV. It isn't found in either the Hebrew or the Septuagint. So I would say that the KJV's translation is more correct. The thing is, the psalmist speaks of his enemies in the plural in 1-5 and 20-31, but in 6-19 uses the singular. So there's two interpretations here: either the psalmist is quoting the curses of his enemies (so the NRSV), or the psalmist himself is cursing his enemies collectively. Which makes it the strongest of the so-called imprecatory psalms (see also Psalms 35, 55, 59, 69, 79, and 137). Personally I'll admit that I find the latter interpretation more convincing.

[/quote]

Thanks for that analysis.

I too noticed the alternation between plural and singular, and wondered if that implied the retelling of another's words (hence "They say"). Perhaps one could compare it to other passages that switch between third person singular and plural. (I'm not suggesting that you or I undertake such a study, but just saying it might reveal whether, in those days, that language structure denoted who was doing the talking.)


#12

The shift from singular to plural and back again isn’t really unusual for psalms (Psalm 55, another imprecatory psalm, is another example: “I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy (singular), because of the oppression of the wicked (singular). For they (plural) drop trouble upon me, and in anger they (plural) bear a grudge against me,” etc.). Plus, verse 20-21:

Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few;
may another take his office!
May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow!
May his children wander about and beg,
seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
Let them be before the LORD continually,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.
He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!
He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones!
May it be like a garment that he wraps around him,
like a belt that he puts on every day!

May this be the reward (pə‘ullāh, also ‘recompense’) of my accusers from the LORD,
of those who speak evil against my life!

But you, O GOD my Lord,
deal on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.

The emphasis in v. 20 beginning with the emphatic “this” is a summary of the curses anticipating “But you” in 21, addressing God’s part in this cursing. Quotations in the psalms, though not explicitly given, are nevertheless seldom ambiguous and easily discerned by context - which isn’t the case with this particular psalm. Plus, you might notice the usage of the particular phrase “poor and needy:”

(v. 16) For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.

(v. 22) For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.

Assuming that v. 16 is the psalmist’s words, we see him identifying himself as the “poor and needy” whom “he” (his enemy?) is pursuing.


#13

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