Religious Studies Sample Paper on the IMPRECATORY PSALMS

THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS

Imprecatory psalms are biblical readings that are in form of prayer songs offered against enemies. Imprecatory psalms are prayers against evil that invoke curses upon offenders.[1] The most distinctive element within imprecatory psalms is that the prayer songs are petitions for the death and destruction of an enemy. In other words, causing harm to a fellow Christian and being rendered an enemy is an issue of judgment and moral sensitivity, which can only be described under the biblical context, and even though God remains the judge in this case, the fate of offenders is not yet understood.[2] According to the understanding of the biblical teachings, more so relating our thoughts to the teachings of the New Testament, Christians should not use the imprecatory psalms as a model in their prayers.

Following the teachings of imprecatory psalms, there are significant contradictions between the Old Testament and the New Testament on the views about forgiveness and the life Christians share with their enemies.[3] In Psalms 5:4, we read about God who does not take pleasure against evil and with God, the wicked, the arrogant and liars cannot dwell. As illustrated within this prayer song, God takes no chance with wickedness and His stance is righteousness.[4] The prayer subjects wrongdoers to spiritual persecution and intolerance. On the same account, in Psalms 70:2 we read a prayer about shame and confusion to be bestowed upon those who seek the lives of others and complete rejection of those who rejoice when others are in pain. Psalms 70:2 is an illustration of the life we live with others and the response Christians give when faced with life challenges. In psalms 140:1 and 4, we read a prayer about protection against evil men and against the hands of oppressors. All these biblical readings portray human beings as vengefulness, driven by self-fulfillment and ready to make enemies go through pain and persecution in order to remain strong in faith.[5] The fact that imprecatory psalms were written by people who were under the inspirations of the Holy Spirit makes us doubtful if God is such vengeful to curse the enemies of his people.

In the Old Testament, (genesis 12:3), God made a promise to Abraham, “I will curse those who curse you and bless those who bless you and through your descendants, a great nation will emerge”. This is a promise that God made against the enemies of Abraham and his descendants, which directly links to the songs of prayers in psalms. Could it be that God can protect His people to an extent of causing harm to others? The promise made to Abraham in genesis 15:13 and 14 is fulfilled in exodus with streams of plague in Egypt. The fight between Pharaoh and the descendants of Abraham is a complete show of vengeance against Christian enemies which ends in death.[6] In one way, the Old Testament scriptures support the view of non-tolerance and destruction to those who create or cause harm to others. The prayers offered against enemies as presented in Psalms rightfully describe the position of Christian teachings according to the Old Testament.

However, a different version of belief is given in the New Testament by Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus were based on restoration and prayers for forgiveness rather than persecution. In Mathews 5:44, Jesus taught about forgiveness stating that one should learn to love his or her enemies and pray for them. The teachings of Jesus were specific and elaborate and never touched on prayers against prosecutors or the wicked. In the early chapters of the New Testament, Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and the mentioning of enemies in the Lord’s Prayer was symbolic to Christian teaching , “forgive us ours sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Jesus gave a new version of the life Christians live with their enemies and maintained that instead of praying for persecution, one should pray for forgiveness. This links to the general understanding of sin and that everyone has sinned and gone against the will of God. If everyone would pray for persecution, then no single person would escape the wrath of God.

The kind of prayer one offers to God in one way determines the fate of the enemy. God listens to prayers of the oppressed and He never forsakes His people. The biblical interpretation of imprecatory Psalms shows that prayer is the only weapon Christians can use to fight against their oppressors.[7] Within such prayers, God makes the final decision whether to prosecute or to give a second chance. We should also understand that the evil mentioned in songs of prayers is the main cause of human failure and therefore by praying against evil, Christians need protection from temptation and any act of revenge, which is also against biblical teachings.[8] According to the biblical weekly post, the fight against evil is a spiritual fight and the only way to fight against Satan and his agents is through imprecatory prayers.

Bibliography

Byassee, Jason. 2007. Praise seeking understanding: reading the Psalms with Augustine. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub.

Whybray, Roger N. 1996. Reading the psalms as a book. Sheffield: Sheffield Acad. Press.

Lewis, C. S. 1958. Reflections on the Psalms. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10736845.

Knight, G. A. F. 1982. Psalms. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.

Cameron, Bruce A., and Martin Luther. 2007. Reading the Psalms with Luther: the Psalter for individual & family devotions. St. Louis, Mo: Concordia Pub. House.


[1] Byassee, Jason. Praise seeking understanding: reading the Psalms with Augustine. (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub, press, 2007) p 49.

[2] ibid

[3] Cameron, Bruce A., and Martin Luther. Reading the Psalms with Luther: the Psalter for individual & family devotions. (St. Louis, Mo: Concordia Pub. House, 2007) p. 30-39.

[4] Whybray, Roger N. Reading the psalms as a book. (Sheffield: Sheffield Acad. Press, 1996) p 28-34.

[5] Whybray, Roger N. Reading the psalms as a book. (Sheffield: Sheffield Acad. Press, 1996) p 28-34.

[6] Knight, G. A. F. 1982. Psalms. (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1982) p 56.

[7] Lewis, C. S. 1958. Reflections on the Psalms. (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, 1985) p. 73. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10736845.

[8] Lewis, C. S. 1958. Reflections on the Psalms. (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, 1985) p. 73. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10736845.