Question: Does the Oath of Vengeance have any biblical precedent?

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Question: Does the Oath of Vengeance have any biblical precedent?

Christians who take comfort in the Book of Psalms find additional biblical precedent for turning their vengeance over to the Lord

The imprecatory or “cursing” psalms provide a parallel, although the graphic explicitness of them is not present in the Oath of Vengeance. The cursing psalms are nothing less than prayers for extreme forms of Divine vengeance. Examples include:

Psalms 109:8-19 prays:

8 Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

9 Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

10 Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.

12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.

13 Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

15 Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

16 Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.

17 As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.

18 As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.

19 Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.

Psalms 69:22-25 prays:

22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.

23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.

24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.

25 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.

Psalms 58:6-8 prays:

6 Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD.

7 Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces.

8 As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.

Psalms 83:13-17 prays:

13 O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind.

14 As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;

15 So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.

16 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD.

17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:

Questions are begged concerning whether such wishes/prayers are appropriate from us today considering that we live under a New Testament forgiveness paradigm

Note that Psalm 69 was invoked by both Peter and Paul in the New Testament (Acts 1:15-20, Romans 11:9-10). The scriptures also provide examples of the Lord's vengeance subsequent to the atonement of Christ (Luke 11:49-51, Revelation 16:4-7). Examples are also present in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 9:5-11). Philip Yancey, author of "The Bible Jesus Read" explores the paradox and concludes that the seemingly diabolical language uttered in the cursing psalms is a form of "spiritual therapy", still appropriate for us to observe/practice today. He reasons:

If a person wrongs me unjustly, I have several options. I can seek personal revenge, a response condemned by the Bible. I can deny or suppress my feelings of hurt and anger. Or I can take those feelings to God, entrusting God with the task of ‘retributive justice’. The cursing psalms are vivid examples of that last option. ‘It is mine to avenge: I will repay,’ says the Lord – prayers like the cursing psalms place vengeance in the proper hands. Significantly, the cursing psalms express their outrage to God, not to the enemy.

Yancey continues:

What is a vengeful curse when spoken about someone is a plea of helpless dependence when spoken directly to God.

He adds:

Sometimes I find that in the process of expression, I grow in compassion. God’s Spirit speaks to me of my own selfishness, my judgmental spirit, my own flaws that others have treated with grace and forgiveness, my pridefully limited viewpoint.

He concludes that in praying so emotively:

I may well find that my vindictive feelings need God’s correction—but only by taking those feelings to God will I have the opportunity for correction and healing.[1]

Notes

  1. Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1999), 133–139.