Imprecatory Psalms versus Love your Enemies?

Q. Jesus taught us that we should love and pray for our enemy. Mt 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Why is it that in Ps 109 David curses his enemies before God?

A. Imprecatory psalms and prayers invoking curses on ones’ enemies are a problem to many Bible readers, who find it difficult to reconcile these passages with Jesus’ command to love your enemies. And it’s not just David being vindictive, but involves other people such as prophets as well, who are God’s spokesmen and ought to know better e.g.

Jer 18:21 Therefore, give their children over to famine
And deliver them up to the power of the sword;
And let their wives become childless and widowed.
Let their men also be smitten to death,
Their young men struck down by the sword in battle.

It is especially problematic in view of God saying, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30) What were these people thinking? Don’t they know what God said? Some therefore consider such passages as sub-Christian and shouldn’t be in the Bible. How do we reconcile them as they are indeed part of Scripture?

Rather than consider those who call upon God to judge their enemies as being mean-spirited and beneath what a Christian should do, my opinion is that it is us who are not as close to God as the imprecatory psalmists were, who were more concerned about God’s name being profaned by their enemies than seeking revenge for themselves. David did evil in the sight of the LORD when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:27, 12:9) and when he ordered a census of Israel’s army (1 Chron. 21:7), but God never faulted him for his imprecatory prayers. That should alert the critics that they overlooked something.

The LORD called David a man after His own heart (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). David knew “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully (Ps 24:3-4). He was not afraid to call upon God to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me,” (Ps 139:23-24a). I would not dare to do so unless my heart was totally free from personal motives and 100% pure before God.

And his actions vindicated his thoughts. David had the opportunity to get back at those who wronged him, but he did not take matters into his own hands, instead leaving it to the LORD to exonerate him e.g. sparing Saul’s life twice (1 Sam 24; 1 Sam 26).

My conclusion is that unlike us who often view things through jaundiced eyes tainted by self-interest, David saw things in sharper contrast of right vs. wrong, conformity to God’s character or against it, positive or negative impact on God’s name etc. He therefore called upon God to deal justly with His enemies and give them the punishment they rightly deserved. Notice that in v 6-20 all the righteous judgment are taught elsewhere in the Bible, including doing unto his enemies what they did to him, and David had not gone overboard in retaliation against his enemies. He left the “settling the scores” entirely in God’s hands.

My last comment is that biblical ethics is a progressive revelation. While there is continuity between OT and NT ethics, with the coming of Christ in the age of grace, people receive a fuller understanding of what God requires of us than in OT times. We should therefore not read back NT standards into the OT and expect full compliance.

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Blessing becomes Curse?

Proverbs 27 14 d

Q. What is the meaning of Prov 27:14 “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him”?

A. Blessing is a good thing, but can turn into a curse when it is done:
• with a loud voice i.e. in an inappropriate manner, &
• early in the morning i.e. at the wrong time.

The Amplified Bible expands the verse as:
He who blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him [for it will either be annoying or his purpose will be suspect].
The JFB Commentary has “excessive zeal in praising raises suspicions of selfishness.”

Both the manner and timing of a blessing, not just the content, are important. We need to watch not just what we say, but how and when we say it.

Curse on Rebekah?

Isaac Jacob 4

Q. Jacob said to Rebekah that if Isaac found out he wasn’t Esau, it would bring a curse to him. Rebekah responded that let the curse be on her. Was there ever a curse on Rebekah in the end?

A. Isaac did not curse Jacob, because he himself said, “Cursed be those who curse you” (Gen 27:29), and he knew Jacob shall be blessed (Gen 27:33).

He did not curse Rebekah either, probably because he loved her (Gen 24:67), and likely knew that she was more aligned with God’s choice of the younger than he was, as he favored the older (Gen 25:28).

Her “curse” came in the form that she never saw her favorite son Jacob again. She thought she was sending Jacob away only a short time – a few days with Laban plus the duration for the return trip:
Gen 27:43-45 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there.

In fact Jacob stayed with Laban 20 years – 7 years for Leah, 7 years for Rachael, and 6 years for the sheep and goats:
Gen 31:38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks.

By the time Jacob returned, Rebekah already died. She never got to see him again for her trickery. Sin always pays.

Rebekah’s Trick

Isaac Jacob 5

Q. Rebekah already knew God would bless Jacob and put all his brothers under him. Why wouldn’t she just tell Isaac instead of using a plot to trick him?

A. Rebekah knew Esau would serve Jacob. At that point she did not know what would God bless Jacob with, nor that he will be master of his brothers (Gen 27:29), that knowledge came later, after Isaac blessed Jacob, not before:
Gen 25:23 The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”

Gen 25 did not say whether Rebekah told Isaac what the Lord said to her. I can only assume that she probably did, having received an important revelation from God, but the text did not state that explicitly.

She resorted to a trick because she, like her husband, was playing favorites, and knew that Isaac preferred Esau:
Gen 25:28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Like her mother-in-law Sarai, Rebekah took matters into her own hands, which caused more problems than good:
Gen 16:2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

Scripture is very truthful in recording the strengths and weaknesses of biblical characters. That’s why we believe it is reliable and trustworthy.

Isaac Blessing Esau?

Isaac Esau 2

Q. Why would Isaac bless (predict) Esau to break away from Jacob? Isn’t that cursing Jacob with trouble in the future? Maybe that accounted for all the problems in Middle East today? Why was Jacob rewarded for deceiving Isaac and stealing Esau’s blessing?

A. Isaac blessed Esau because he loved him, even though God already told Rebekah “the older shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23):
Gen 25:28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Despite Isaac’s favoritism, all he could do was to state the negative of Jacob’s blessings for Esau:

Esau: Gen 27:39a Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling,
Isaac: Gen 27:28b And of the fatness of the earth,

Esau: Gen 27:39b And away from the dew of heaven from above.
Isaac: Gen 27:28a Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,

Esau: Gen 27:40a By your sword you shall live, And your brother you shall serve;
Isaac: Gen 27:29a Be master of your brothers,

Esau: Gen 27:40b But it shall come about when you become restless, That you will break his yoke from your neck.
Isaac: Gen 27:29b And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.

The best that Isaac could bless Esau with was that he will break Jacob’s yoke from his neck. I do not consider that as cursing Jacob with trouble in the future, as Isaac himself blessed Jacob with “Cursed be those who curse you,” (Gen 27:29). He knew better than to curse Jacob.

I also don’t think Isaac’s prediction or prophecy caused the problems in the Middle East today. The children, representing two nations and two peoples (Gen 27:23), struggled within Rebekah (Gen 27:22) even before they were born:
Rom 9:11-12 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”

Jacob was not rewarded for deceiving Isaac and stealing Esau’s blessing. He was blessed because of God’s choice, before they were born and had done anything good or bad. God did not explain His choice, just as He did not explain why He allowed Esau (Edom) to break Jacob’s (Israel’s) yoke from his neck. The election was purely His sovereign choice, and He allowed Rebekah’s and Jacob’s deception to offset Isaac’s prejudice to accomplish His purpose. The Bible did not say anything beyond that, and I can go only as far as the Bible revealed.

Did the children of Adam and Eve commit incest?

Cain's wife 2

Q. Did the children of Adam and Eve commit incest?

A. Sometimes I get the question “Who was Cain’s wife?” or “Where did Cain get his wife?” The answer is the same: Cain married either one of his sisters or nieces. So in today’s terms the children of Adam and Eve committed incest, but that was not considered a sin until the Law of Moses came some 2,500 years later. Let me elaborate:

All mankind descended from Adam and Eve. God did not make other men and women beside them:
Gen 3:20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Adam and Eve had other children besides Cain, Abel and Seth:
Gen 5:4 Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.

God commanded Adam and Eve to fill the earth. By extension this applied to their children too, since they could not do this by themselves.
Gen 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, …

Now who were there to be husband and wife to each other? Only brothers and sisters initially, and for the next generation, cousins.
Gen 4:17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, …

Wasn’t that forbidden? Not in the beginning, because at that time there were no one else around! The prohibition came later to protect the human race. Adam and Eve were created perfect, but with the Fall and the curse, the whole creation was subjected to futility and corruption (Rom 8:20-21). Bad mutations developed and the gene pool deteriorated. A child gets his/her genes from both parents. When both parents are blood relatives, defects are amplified, resulting in deformities. That’s why God forbade sexual relations among blood relatives:
Lev 18:6 ‘None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD.

Cain's wife 1

However, that came 2,500 years after Adam and Eve. In the early days, there were little bad mutations and deterioration, demonstrated by the longevity of our first ancestors (Gen 5). With the passage of time, genetic defects accumulated, population increased, and God gave the law to prohibit the practice. So technically the children of Adam and Eve committed incest, but that was permitted in early human history.