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Psalms 109:6-20

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109:6 1 Appoint an evil man to testify against him! 2 

May an accuser stand 3  at his right side!

109:7 When he is judged, he will be found 4  guilty! 5 

Then his prayer will be regarded as sinful.

109:8 May his days be few! 6 

May another take his job! 7 

109:9 May his children 8  be fatherless,

and his wife a widow!

109:10 May his children 9  roam around begging,

asking for handouts as they leave their ruined home! 10 

109:11 May the creditor seize 11  all he owns!

May strangers loot his property! 12 

109:12 May no one show him kindness! 13 

May no one have compassion 14  on his fatherless children!

109:13 May his descendants 15  be cut off! 16 

May the memory of them be wiped out by the time the next generation arrives! 17 

109:14 May his ancestors’ 18  sins be remembered by the Lord!

May his mother’s sin not be forgotten! 19 

109:15 May the Lord be constantly aware of them, 20 

and cut off the memory of his children 21  from the earth!

109:16 For he never bothered to show kindness; 22 

he harassed the oppressed and needy,

and killed the disheartened. 23 

109:17 He loved to curse 24  others, so those curses have come upon him. 25 

He had no desire to bless anyone, so he has experienced no blessings. 26 

109:18 He made cursing a way of life, 27 

so curses poured into his stomach like water

and seeped into his bones like oil. 28 

109:19 May a curse attach itself to him, like a garment one puts on, 29 

or a belt 30  one wears continually!

109:20 May the Lord repay my accusers in this way, 31 

those who say evil things about 32  me! 33 

1 sn In vv. 6-19 the psalmist calls on God to judge his enemies severely. Some attribute this curse-list to the psalmist’s enemies rather than the psalmist. In this case one should paraphrase v. 6: “They say about me, ‘Appoint an evil man, etc.’” Those supporting this line of interpretation point out that vv. 2-5 and 20 refer to the enemies’ attack on the psalmist being a verbal one. Furthermore in vv. 1-5, 20 the psalmist speaks of his enemies in the plural, while vv. 6-19 refer to an individual. This use of the singular in vv. 6-19 could be readily explained if this is the psalmist’s enemies’ curse on him. However, it is much more natural to understand vv. 6-19 as the psalmist’s prayer against his enemies. There is no introductory quotation formula in v. 6 to indicate that the psalmist is quoting anyone, and the statement “may the Lord repay my accusers in this way” in v. 20 most naturally appears to be a fitting conclusion to the prayer in vv. 6-19. But what about the use of the singular in vv. 6-19? Often in the psalms the psalmist will describe his enemies as a group, but then speak of them as an individual as well, as if viewing his adversaries collectively as one powerful foe. See, for example, Ps 7, where the psalmist uses both the plural (vv. 1, 6) and the singular (vv. 2, 4-5) in referring to enemies. Perhaps by using the singular in such cases, the psalmist wants to single out each enemy for individual attention, or perhaps he has one especially hostile enemy in mind who epitomizes the opposition of the whole group. This may well be the case in Ps 109. Perhaps we should understand the singular throughout vv. 6-19 in the sense of “each and every one.” For a lengthy and well-reasoned defense of the opposite view – that vv. 6-19 are a quotation of what the enemies said about the psalmist – see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC), 72-73.

2 tn Heb “appoint against him an evil [man].”

3 tn The prefixed verbal form is taken as a jussive here (note the imperative in the preceding line).

4 tn The prefixed verbal form could be taken as a jussive, but the use of the imperfect form in the following line suggests that v. 7 anticipates the outcome of the accusation envisioned in v. 6.

5 tn Heb “he will go out [as] a criminal” (that is, guilty).

6 tn The prefixed verbal forms (except those with vav [ו] consecutive) in vv. 8-20 are taken as jussives of prayer. Note the distinct jussive forms used in vv. 12-13, 15, 19.

7 tn The Hebrew noun פְּקֻדָּה (pÿquddah) can mean “charge” or “office,” though BDB 824 s.v. suggests that here it refers to his possessions.

8 tn Or “sons.”

9 tn Or “sons.”

10 tn Heb “and roaming, may his children roam and beg, and seek from their ruins.” Some, following the LXX, emend the term וְדָרְשׁוּ (vÿdoreshu, “and seek”) to יְגֹרְשׁוּ (yÿgoreshu; a Pual jussive, “may they be driven away” [see Job 30:5; cf. NIV, NRSV]), but דָּרַשׁ (darash) nicely parallels שִׁאֵלוּ (shielu, “and beg”) in the preceding line.

11 tn Heb “lay snares for” (see Ps 38:12).

12 tn Heb “the product of his labor.”

13 tn Heb “may there not be for him one who extends loyal love.”

14 tn Perhaps this refers to being generous (see Ps 37:21).

15 tn Or “offspring.”

16 sn On the expression cut off see Ps 37:28.

17 tn Heb “in another generation may their name be wiped out.”

18 tn Or “fathers’ sins.”

19 tn Heb “not be wiped out.”

sn According to ancient Israelite theology and its doctrine of corporate solidarity and responsibility, children could be and often were punished for the sins of their parents. For a discussion of this issue see J. Kaminsky, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup). (Kaminsky, however, does not deal with Ps 109.)

20 tn Heb “may they [that is, the sins mentioned in v. 14] be before the Lord continually.”

21 tn Heb “their memory.” The plural pronominal suffix probably refers back to the children mentioned in v. 13, and for clarity this has been specified in the translation.

22 tn Heb “he did not remember to do loyal love.”

23 tn Heb “and he chased an oppressed and needy man, and one timid of heart to put [him] to death.”

24 sn A curse in OT times consists of a formal appeal to God to bring judgment down upon another. Curses were sometimes justified (such as the one spoken by the psalmist here in vv. 6-19), but when they were not, the one pronouncing the curse was in danger of bringing the anticipated judgment down upon himself.

25 tn Heb “and he loved a curse and it came [upon] him.” A reference to the evil man experiencing a curse seems premature here, for the psalmist is asking God to bring judgment on his enemies. For this reason some (cf. NIV, NRSV) prefer to repoint the vav (ו) on “it came” as conjunctive and translate the verb as a jussive of prayer (“may it come upon him!”). The prefixed form with vav consecutive in the next line is emended in the same way and translated, “may it be far from him.” However, the psalmist may be indicating that the evil man’s lifestyle has already begun to yield its destructive fruit.

26 tn Heb “and he did not delight in a blessing and it is far from him.”

27 tn Heb “he put on a curse as [if it were] his garment.”

28 tn Heb “and it came like water into his inner being, and like oil into his bones.” This may refer to this individual’s appetite for cursing. For him cursing was as refreshing as drinking water or massaging oneself with oil. Another option is that the destructive effects of a curse are in view. In this case a destructive curse invades his very being, like water or oil. Some who interpret the verse this way prefer to repoint the vav (ו) on “it came” to a conjunctive vav and interpret the prefixed verb as a jussive, “may it come!”

29 tn Heb “may it be for him like a garment one puts on.”

30 tn The Hebrew noun מֵזַח (mezakh, “belt; waistband”) occurs only here in the OT. The form apparently occurs in Isa 23:10 as well, but an emendation is necessary there.

31 tn Heb “[may] this [be] the repayment to my accusers from the Lord.”

32 tn Or “against.”

33 tn The Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “being; soul”) with a pronominal suffix is often equivalent to a pronoun, especially in poetry (see BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 4.a).



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