Psalms 107- 159
To the master of music: A Psalm for David
Do not be silent, God of my praise-song!
For malicious and lying mouths are opened against me
Attacking me with deceitful tongues.
They surround me with syllables of hate
They fight against me for no fault of mine.
For my love they oppose me,
But I continue to pray.
They give me back evil for good
And hate for love:
“Appoint someone evil as his opponent;
An accuser to take him to court;
When he goes to judgement let him be guilty
Then his praying will be seen as sinful.
May his days be brief
And another man bag his riches;
May his offspring be orphans
And his wife a widow;
May his children be vagabond beggars
Seeking help from their ruined home;
May the creditor grab all his goods
And strangers loot his labour:
May no one continue kindness towards him,
Nor anyone favour his fatherless children;
May his children be chopped down,
And their name wiped from the next generation;
May his fathers’ guilt not be forgotten by Yahweh
And his mother’s wrongdoing be remembered;
May Yahweh keep these constantly in mind,
And may this family’s memory be cut from the land.
Because he neglected acts of kindness,
But hounded the humble and wretched,
And was brutal to the broken-hearted.
As he loved to curse may curses come upon him,
As he did not delight in blessing, may it keep its distance from him;
As he wore cursing like a coat
May it wash into his bowels like water
And into his bones like oil;
May it be like a cloak that covers him
Or a belt which he buckles on daily!”
May the wages my accusers get from Yahweh,
Those who slander my soul, be this:
You, Yahweh my Lord,
Act on my behalf for your honour’s sake;
Because your lovingkindness is good, deliver me.
For I am an oppressed and needy person
And my heart is wounded within me.
I am gone like like a shadow at evening,
I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are feeble through fasting
And my flesh has no fat at all.
I have become the butt of their jokes,
They shake their heads when they see me.
Give me your help, Yahweh my God,
Liberate me in your lovingkindness.
Make them sure that this is your deed,
That you, Yahweh, have done it.
Let them curse, if only you will bless!
When they attack, they will be ashamed
But your slave will smile.
My opponents will be dressed in disgrace
Covered in their own confusion like a cloak.
With lavish praise of Yahweh on my lips
I will give him thanks in the Gathering
Because he takes the part of the poor
To save them from those who condemn their souls.
Traditional interpretation sees this psalm as an extended curse by the psalmist against his enemies; I see it as quoting at length the curses against him by his enemies. After all the psalmist is complaining about verbal attacks; it seems natural for him to quote them. They are abusive and humiliating words. So we can see his opponents as early internet trolls.
It is not an idle comparison: both are devoted to social destruction by the use of common forms of denigration; and the resultant distress, which includes self- starvation, is seen in both ancient and modern victims. The psalm understands the abusers as killers who are trying to destroy their victim. Maybe our society should take it as seriously.
The power of a curse to destroy life was taken for granted by the psalmist and his society: hate speech could only happen with community approval or at least, permission, and was therefore devastating. The same is true of internet trolling: it is permitted by public media, and therefore carries more weight.
The psalm refers the bullying to God, who takes the side of the poor and oppressed. God’s rescue is not described but is assumed to be decisive. Confidence in a God of justice restores the victim’s humanity.