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Psalms 109:6-15

Context

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!

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.



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