Are the Imprecatory Psalms at Odds With Yeshua’s Command to Love One’s Enemies?

Psalm 58

Psalm 58:1–11, Overview of an imprecatory psalm

Psalm 58 like many of the other imprecatory (from imprecation meaning “a spoken curse”) psalms expresses the extreme and overwhelming frustration, nay, the animus or antipathy that the righteous child of Elohim often viscerally feels toward the wicked evildoers that surround him, and the strong and yearning desire that one has for heaven to render judgment against those who hate all that is good. Is it a bad thing for righteous people to hate wickedness? 

Is it sinful for YHVH’s saints to desire justice from the heavenly courts for the wrongs committed against them by their wicked, evil-doing and God-hating enemies? More importantly, are the imprecatory psalms opposed to Yeshua’s teaching to love one’s enemy? While this may appear to be the case, and many Christian Bible teaches aver this to be so, we will answer these questions, and upon closer examination, see that these imprecatory psalms express some deeper spiritual truths that are consistent with the totality of Scripture and are actually in line with the teachings of Yeshua. In analyzing this subject, we will use Psalm 58 as our launch pad into examining a larger subject suggested by the imprecatory verbiage found in biblical psalmic literature.

At the outset of this discussion, let’s establish one important fact. The author of the fifty-eighth psalm knows a basic Bible truth that is found in both the Old and New Testaments. It is that judgment against one’s enemies is ultimately in the hands of Elohim (Deut 32:35, 43; Ps 94:1–2; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30); it is the Almighty who will arise and tread down and scatter one’s enemies (Ps 60:12; 68:1). In the mean time, however, while waiting for Elohim to act, the earth reels and struggles under the heavy and constant attacks of the wicked, and the psalmist cries out to Elohim to render judgment against the ungodly (Ps 58:6), which Elohim will eventually do. At that time, the righteous will rejoice (Ps 58:10). The time when heaven will balance the scales of justice cannot come soon enough for the oft persecuted and downtrodden saints, for it will be then when YHVH will reward the righteous and judge the wicked when he comes from on high (Ps 58:11). 

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To bless or curse: that is the question

Matthew 5:43–48, Loving one’s enemies vs. the imprecatory psalms of David. In the Davidic psalms, David writes numerous imprecations against his enemies where he implored Elohim to destroy his enemies (e.g. Ps 5:10; 6:10; 7:9; 35:26; 40:14; 55:15; 58:6–8…). How could a man after YHVH’s own heart wish so much ill upon those people intending his harm? How does this comport with Yeshua’s instructions hear to love your enemies and to treat them well? On second look, David’s imprecatory psalms may not be as incongruous with Yeshua’s teachings in his Sermon on the Mount as it may seem. Here are several points to consider in this regard.

All of David’s desires upon his enemies are directed to Elohim in the form of a prayer. As such, he is submitting his wishes to the ultimate will of the just and righteous Judge of the universe to have his way with David’s enemies.

David isn’t expressing his desires upon his enemies to his enemies. Rather, the issue is a matter of prayer, not direct confrontation.

The Bible clearly teaches in countless places that Elohim will bring judgment upon his wicked enemies. That judgment comes in many ways and many time frames. Some judgment is temporal, some is eternal.

The Bible also teaches that Elohim will repay his enemies for the evil they have done. They will reap the consequences of their sinful actions. In fact, Elohim even hates some of his enemies—the workers of iniquity (e.g. Pss 5:5; 11:5).

A case can be made from the Scriptures that the righteous are to hate the things that Elohim hates and love the things that he loves. In one place, David even talks about hating the enemies of Elohim with a perfect hatred (Ps 139:22).

So, in a general sense, the saint is to hate the workers of iniquity, the haters of Elohim and his ways. But it is not the prerogative of the saint to take matters into his own hands to execute judgment against his enemies. Scripture declares that vengeance alone belongs to Elohim, and he will repay (Ps 94:1; Rom 12:9).

Until then, we are to love our enemies when dealing with them face to face as Yeshua instructs here, and we are to even bless them and pray for them. Why is this? Praying for our enemies may or may not change their demeanor toward us or their persecuting us, but it will keep us from walking in unforgiveness, from becoming embittered, vengeful and hateful ourselves. By releasing them to YHVH to do what he will with them in his own time and way, we are freeing ourselves from negativity or the evil darkness that our enemies may unwittingly by trying to impose on us, which will blotch or taint our own soul with spiritual darkness.

There may, however, come a time when our enemies are so cruel, hateful and wicked that it is appropriate to pray an imprecatory prayer against them in the manner of David, who was often fighting for his life at the hand of his enemies. As we read in Ecclesiastes chapter three

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…And a time to heal; A time to break down…A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. (Eccl 3:1, 3, 8).

May YHVH grant us the wisdom through the guidance of his Spirit to know what to do and when at all times.