Psalm 109: Expletive Deleted!

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Why do we say that someone who peppers his speech with swear words has a “colorful” language? I think their language is drab and dull. Not only does it show a lack of vocabulary, it shows a lack of imagination. Now if you are looking for colorful curses, you need look no further than Hebrew Scripture

The Old Testament is well known for its powerful curses. “May God do thus and so” to me or my enemies (1 Sam. 3:17, 14:14, Ruth 1:17) is heard frequently. It may not be specific about what “thus and so” is, but it’s clearly pretty terrible, even worse than death. Better to leave it to imagination. (For more information on this phrase go to http://www.jstor.org/stable/42614493?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents )

One particular scourge that I’ve been reflecting on over the past few months is hemorrhoids. In the first book of Samuel, the Philistines take the Ark of the Covenant from the Hebrews. God is angry and afflicts them with emerods or hemorrhoids. (1 Sam. 5:9-12) When I first heard about this, I thought, big deal, but since the hemorrhoids I received at the birth of my children have been plaguing me for the past year, I am much more sympathetic to the plight of the Philistines. When they went to their priests asking how to relieve their pain, the priests told them to return the Ark of the Covenant along with five gold hemorrhoids, thereby turning their curse into a source of wealth for the Hebrews.

Psalm 109 is the lament of an angry person. He has been betrayed, “They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, even as I make prayer for them. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.” (3-5)

While he doesn’t bring down the curse of hemorrhoids, he has some pretty strong words for his betrayers. He is specific about what he wants God to do to those who have been lying about him. He includes an extensive and colorful description of the punishment they deserve. It isn’t enough that they be punished, the punishment must extend to their children. “May his days be few; may another seize his goods! May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. May his children wander about and beg, may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit.” (8-10) “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.” (12-14)

As he behaved to others, so let him be treated. “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 which he wraps round him, like a belt with which he daily girds himself.” (18-19) His curses are a coat he wears!

In that he did not care for the poor and needy, he deserves such treatment. “For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted to their death.” (16)

The writer of this psalm is one of these poor and needy ones. “”For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me.” (22) And so he calls upon God with confidence, “For he (God) stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who condemn him to death.” (31)

While we may not want to emulate the anger of the writer, I’m impressed by the strength of his words. Strong emotions warrant strong words.

So the next time you feel like cursing, why not try, “May God inflict you with hemorrhoids in this generation and the next!” or more simply, “May God do thus and so to you!”

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