The Imprecatory Psalms Explained | Watch This Episode on YouTube


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The Imprecatory Psalms Explained.

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The Imprecatory Psalms Explained

What are the imprecatory Psalms? How should Christians think about and respond to imprecatory Psalms? Do the imprecatory Psalms reflect the character of God? Can Christians today pray in an imprecatory manner?

This week on the Straight Truth Podcast, Dr. Richard Caldwell and host Dr. Josh Philpot discuss and explain imprecation in the Psalms. Imprecatory Psalms are those in which the psalmist calls down or prays for curses, calamity, destruction, justice, and judgment on his enemies by God. These types of psalms are scattered throughout the Psalter.

Dr. Caldwell says, even though there is this type of category of Psalms, we should not lump them all together. He believes that we need to take each one of them on their own and study them to see what is going on in that particular Psalm. But speaking in general terms, what often is taking place, is someone acting in a representative role. They are not always individualistic in their complaint and calling out to God.

Many times there's a collective complaint expressed within the same Psalm. Psalm 109 provides an example of this where King David expands out the application beyond himself and includes the needy in general. David's prayer is a deep yearning for God to help, but not only for himself. David asks that God would help His people, who also have experienced oppression and persecution. David recognizes God as the source of their deliverance, protection, and righteous judgment.

The Real Hatred That God Has For Sin

Dr. Caldwell also believes these Psalms accomplish our informing of the real hatred that God has for sin. In this way, these Psalms do reflect the character of God because God hates sin. The authors of these Psalms reveal their understanding of the justice of God, His sovereignty, and His judgments. They understand and recognize that vengeance and recompense belong to God (Deuteronomy 32:35). There is a kind of hatred that God knows for sinners, a certain kind of anger that God knows toward those who commit sins. There is a vengeance that God has for sin and sinners.

This vengeance is coming in its final form upon this lost and dying world when Christ returns. Many of these Psalms may be foreshadowing the final judgment. The only rescue from God, His judgment, and vengeance is in Christ. God has mercifully provided through Christ the way to have sins atoned for, answered, and forgiven. These Psalms are very reflective of this in the asking to be rescued, delivered, defended, vindicated, etc. The harsh words used by the psalmists reflect an awareness of God’s righteous justice and His hatred of sin. They see the evildoers, not just as their enemies, but as enemies of God, they, therefore, seek for God’s name to be vindicated. They give voice to the character of God and to the individual reliance upon the faithfulness of God to be the sole defender and rescuer.

Dr. Philpot mentions that many of us not only read the Psalms but sing them as well. There have been several songs written based on particular Psalms. Besides this, we are also taught that we can pray the Psalms. So personally and practically, is there a biblical warrant for Christians to pray in this imprecatory manner?

The Psalms Help Us To Remember

Dr. Caldwell says there can be. He tells us another thing the Psalms help us to remember is the biblical ability to hold in tension all that the Bible teaches us. The Psalmists were not crying out to God in a matter of vindictiveness, nor seeking personal revenge. So then, in our situations, circumstances, or incidents of wrongs or injustice, we need to be able to say, 'this is deserving of the judgment of God', and in some sense long for that judgment. But we must also be desiring the salvation of our enemies. New Testament examples abound in the call to bless those who curse you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

There is a place for believers to cry out for vindication and judgment, along with the desire for God’s name to be vindicated, and the right to be upheld. Yet, there is also this tension of desiring the salvation of our enemies as well. Psalm 83 is a beautiful example of this. Reading Psalm 83, we see a desire for God to act in judgment but also that through that judgment that salvation will come (vs.13-16). Salvation often comes through judgment as men are awakened in it to seek the face of the only God. So then, we can pray with imprecations. However, it should never be in seeking personal revenge nor out of vindictiveness. In this way of praying, we must remember that we are calling evil what it is.

We Were At One Time An Enemy Of God

We are calling on God to act out in His own justice on the evil act or acts, with the desire that He will deal with it specifically in His way and in His time. All the while remembering that we were at one time an enemy of God, but now knowing His mercy, we want others to know His mercy as well. As we pray Psalm 103 for them, we ask the Lord to bless and not curse, and we give thanks and praise to Him from whom all blessings flow.

About The Straight Truth Podcast

The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at

The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo.  The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.

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Season 12 Credits

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