Title: LET HIM BE ACCURSED
(To the chief Musician, a Psalm of David.)
Theme: Messianic―the Humiliation of Christ
- KJV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
- “Special Notes” and “Scriptures” are at the end of the psalm.
This is a Messianic psalm written by David to the chief Musician. It pictures the humiliation of Christ and is an *imprecatory psalm. It has been called a Judas Iscariot psalm because Simon Peter quoted from this psalm in reference to Judas: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his *bishoprick let another take” (Acts 1:20).
You cannot find anything more dreadful than this imprecatory prayer, which was applied to Judas. As far as I know, no one is defending Judas Iscariot. The Word of God is very clear on the subject―Judas was a guilty man, and he was a lost man. This psalm makes the condition of being lost frightening. It is a terrible thing to be lost. In fact the Lord Jesus said, “. . . but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24). The Lord Jesus made it very clear that the condition of the lost is a terrible thing. In John 3:36, where He gave that wonderful invitation, He also gave the other side of it; He contrasted light and darkness: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” I don’t know how you could make that verse any stronger. The teaching that somehow or other folks who are lost are going to have a second chance, and that there is a larger hope, and that God may have another way, is completely foreign to the Word of God, which says that the wrath of God resides on the person who has not trusted Christ. Jesus Christ endured God’s wrath for us on the cross. He did it for us, and our only way of salvation is to trust Him. If we do not, God’s wrath will be upon us.
It is true that some interpreters regard the curses as prophetic of the certain doom of all wicked people. It is suggested that the psalm is not personal, but national, and is quite in keeping with Israel’s position. After all, didn’t God promise to curse those who cursed Abraham and his seed? The sentence of the Law was, “as he hath done, so shall it be done to him” (Leviticus 24:19).
We are reminded too that the Old Testament does not differentiate between the sinner and his sin as does the New Testament. To include a man’s family in his judgment was part of the Decalog (Ten Commandments) and was based on the fact that the Mosaic Law viewed the family as the basic unit of society. We are told that the psalmist cursed like this because he did not know that God had appointed a day in which He would judge the world, and therefore the Old Testament saints expected payback in this life, for any wrongdoing.
This psalm probably belongs to the period when David was forced to flee from Absalom. It is not likely that David would curse his beloved (though wicked) son, nor that Absalom, abandoned as he was, would curse his father. But two other men might well have voiced the terrible curses found in the psalm. One was Shimai, who cursed David as he made his woeful way from Jerusalem. The other man was Ahithophel, David’s favorite counselor and one-time best friend, the brains behind the Absalom conspiracy.
*A “bishopric” is an overseership, and Simon Peter held an election to choose a man to take the place of Judas.
* Imprecatory Psalms, contained within the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible, are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one's enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.
Commentary: Psalm 109:1-31 (KJV)
(109:1) Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
David was puzzled because God was holding His peace when a vehement attack was being made on his anointed. It caused him to urge God to speak out. But, as desperate as his situation was, David had not lost his sense of balance. He could still call God the God of his praise or “the God whom I praise.” It is wonderful to be able to praise God in the midst of life’s adversities. David had learned a lesson that most people never learn, even in our marvelous age of grace―he had learned to praise God no matter what.
(109:2) For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
(109:3) They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
David doesn’t waste any time laying out his case before God. His enemies have been busy implanting lies and deceit in the minds of the people of God, spouting hatred toward him. David has attempted to initiate friendship, but to no avail. He has given his enemies no cause to attack him, yet they do. Throughout it all, he continues to be a man of prayer.
The Hebrew word for “the wicked” denotes the rebellious and lawless. The lying propaganda of David’s enemies was being spread throughout the land. The twentieth century has brought lying propaganda to a fine art, but our age doesn’t have a monopoly on such psychological warfare. Shimei, with his own personal vindictiveness, was no doubt a little more frenzied and foolhardy than most when he went out of his way to hurl his curses into David’s face, but probably the whole country was inundated with false stories about David. Much of the propaganda undoubtedly stemmed from the fertile but soured mind of Ahithophel. “I was cursed,” David says, ‘without a cause;’ without any just provocation given them by me.”
(109:4) For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.
(109:5) And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
David could think back to the love he had personally shown the people who were now lambasting his memory and name. Nothing is worse than when someone we have trusted, loved, helped, and honored turns against us. To be stabbed in the back by a trusted friend is the hardest and most painful betrayal. So David thought.
(Ps.109:4) “But I give myself unto prayer” means, for my part I pray for them or I am a man of prayer. As opposed to the sentiments of 109:6-19, this verse breathes the spirit of Christ on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:43-48). In spite of all he can do, the psalmist finds his good returned by evil, and his love repaid with hatred (109:5).
Then In the face of terrible, outward circumstance, David exercised faith.
(109:6) Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
[Now notice how this psalm describes Judas Iscariot in verses 6-9. The curse that begins in verse 6 is not really David’s, but the curse of his enemies. The more we examine the curse the more likely such an interpretation seems. The passage breathes a spirit alien to David, who had a forgiving spirit. It is more likely that this is the language of David’s foes rather than the language of one of God’s choicest saints. The long curse is in two parts; pt. #1 is vs. 6-15, pt. #2 is vs. 16-19.]
The reviler [the one giving voice to the curse] hoped that David would fall under the power of an evil man and that Satan himself would have access to him: “Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.” What could be better than for a wicked man to begin by wishing that the adversary himself, Satan in person, might be permitted to take his place at David’s right hand [The place occupied by a trusted advisor.]? Imagine the dreadful state of a man forced to live in constant company with the prince of darkness, to have Satan seeking his destruction at every step, always at hand to whisper dreadful things into his ear, personally opposing every spiritual aspiration, every attempt to please God.
“And let Satan stand at his right hand” means either, (1) to vex and molest him and hinder him in all his affairs, for the right hand is the great instrument of action. Or rather, (2) to accuse him, for this was the place and posture of accusers in the Jewish courts. And as for his condemnation, which is the consequence of this accusation that follows in the next verses.
This verse has been interpreted different ways. The NIV interprets the Hebrew as: “Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand.” But another equally valid translation is: “Appoint the evil one to oppose him. Let Satan stand beside him” (GWT). David clearly desires for his most outspoken critic to be confronted by a powerful accuser of his own.
David wishes the worst on the person who has caused him so much suffering and grief, and he uses strong words to express his feelings (109:7-15). David also includes why he is so intent on seeing this person suffer. He explains his reasoning in verses 16-20. This person is an evil man who takes advantage of the weak and helpless. He never blesses people but is always quick to curse. Cursing others is his nature―not just an outer covering like clothing but steeped into his flesh and bones. So David prays that the man’s heartless mentality be strapped around him forever, like a belt.
Satan is our adversary [The Hebrew literally reads, “Let a satan stand at his right hand.]. Since Satan literally means “adversary,” many recent versions translate the term “accuser,” as perverse accuser or adversary. It is, of course, Satan’s function to lead astray, and to be an accuser (Rev. 12:10) and adversary (1 Pet. 5:8) to the people of God. Think of him paying constant attention to a single person, setting aside all his other despicable affairs to torment one lonely individual. Think, too, of this person, not only in constant battle with Satan, but also enslaved by a wicked man, one of Satan’s human agents on this sin-cursed planet. What could be worse than this opening statement, a baleful wish for the spiritual renown of David? With all his faults and failings, sins and shortcomings, David was nevertheless one of God’s beloved.
“A wicked man” describes one who is either some wicked tyrant, which may rule him with rigor and cruelty, or someone sent by Satan.
(109:7a) When he shall be judged, let him be condemned:
The reviler prayed, “When he shall be judged, let him be condemned”; that is, “let him be judged without mercy.” David was a just man. He had done his best to see that all people in his realm were treated equally. David had sought out Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul and, instead of having him executed for fear that he would become a threat to the throne, he brought him to Jerusalem to show him “the kindness of God.” David’s tender conscience led him to break-off his vendetta against the malicious Nabal at the urgent pleading of Abigail. It was David who, when told that story of injustice by Nathan, swore that the rich man who stole the poor man’s lamb should pay back fourfold, and, moreover, forfeit his life, and it was David who just as quickly acknowledged his guilt in bitter tears when the point of the parable was made clear.
This bitter reviler hoped that David would become the victim of social injustice. The only man in all Israel who might have had grounds for such a curse was Ahithophel, once David’s friend, now Absalom’s most astute adviser―and the outraged grandfather of Bathsheba.
(109:7b) and let his prayer become sin.
“And let his prayer become sin,” he said. It is usual to minimize this part of the curse. This tirade voices the hope that when David appeals to God for reparation, God will not only refuse to listen to the petition, not only refuse to help the petitioner, but will actually count the prayer itself as an additional aggravation of his sin.
What could be worse than to find out that one’s prayers to God have actually become sin? Such was this malignant man’s wish for David. And similar statements were being coined and passed for verbal currency in Israel to slander David and justify the takeover of his throne.
(109:8) Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
*(109:9) Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
The reviler hoped to see David broken. “Let his days be few . . .” That is, let his life come to a premature end. That is what Absalom was planning for his father and what Ahithophel was advising.
The reviler hoped also to see David a beggar: “and let another take his office.” With the Absalom rebellion in full force, this curse was already an accomplished fact. But as long as David was alive and surrounded by his personal bodyguard―those “mighty men,” headed by tough old Joab―there was still a chance that David might make a comeback.
The prayer that David might forever be a beggar, stripped of his office, was a hopeless curse, of course. The holy anointing oil had been poured on David’s head, and no Shimei or Ahithophel or even Absalom was going to change that.
Then, too, the reviler hoped to see David buried: “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” Ahithophel wanted two things: revenge for the murder of Uriah, which is why he advised immediate action to insure David’s death, and revenge for the seduction of Bathsheba, which is why he urged Absalom to seduce David’s concubines.
No matter how we look at it, it is a frightful curse―to wish ill on a man’s wife and children. What a revelation of the depths of Satan in a human soul.
*This indicates that Judas was married and had children.
(109:10) Let his children be continually *vagabonds, *and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their *desolate places.
(109:11) Let the extortioner [reviler, the person or persons speaking the curse] catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
Here David’s enemy(s) says that he wants to see his family destitute and his fortune devoured. The word “catch” is graphic, suggesting the crafty schemes of an unscrupulous creditor who is plotting to get hold of someone’s property.
It is bad enough when an unsuspecting person falls into the hands of a financial scoundrel. How much worse is it to pray that such a thing will happen, to watch eagerly for it to happen, to rub one’s hands together with glee at the sign of a man’s widow and children being driven out into the street?
*Vagabonds have no certain place of abode, which is a grievous curse in itself (Gen 4:12:14.)
*And beg; this increases their misery.
*Desolate places means the places they fled to out of fear and shame, and because they did not dare to show their faces to other men.
(109:12) Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.
Here we can see the depths of wickedness of which a human heart is capable: to call down a curse on orphans. If this curse was authored by Ahithophel it is no wonder he went out and hanged himself when he discovered he had lost credit at court and that David’s ultimate triumph was assured.
The most pitiful sight on earth is the sight of a destitute orphan. To curse an orphan betrays a heart and exposes a soul set on fire by hell.
So, it is not David’s soul that is exposed by this curse. It is the soul of an enemy in the followers of Absalom. That Absalom could countenance such a man in his court speaks volumes about his own spiritual condition. Certainly Absalom never sat at David’s feet and learned, even in the years he was David’s friend,
(109:13) Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
The reviler wanted to see the extinction of David’s entire house by invoking a curse of the Mosaic Law. In that law, God had warned He would visit the iniquities of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hated Him. The Hebrew with his strong sense of the family unit, expected to live on in his descendents. To have his genealogy “blotted out” was the most terrible calamity that could happen to anyone in the ancient East. To pray for such a thing to happen was, in the thinking of a Hebrew, to invoke a curse of fearful magnitude.
(109:14) Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Now, he called down a perpetual blight on David’s pedigree. He wanted to go back and rake-up the sins of the past, dredge up the sins of David’s forbearers and have them perpetually remembered. Is there any bottom to the depths of degradation in this man’s soul? Not content with an all-round curse on David, he wanted to go back through David’s family tree, and curse Jesse and Boaz and all the others in his long and honored line.
He then called down a perpetual blot on David’s parent: “and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.” We do not know who David’s mother was. We know he cared for her, because when Saul’s spite against him was reaching its crescendo, David had escorted both his father and mother to Moab to be out of harm’s way. It must have hurt David dearly to hear that this enemy was calling down such an embarrassment on his mother. But worse was yet to come.
(109:15) Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The reviler wanted David’s family not only to be extinguished on the earth; he wanted the memory of that family to be obliterated forever. He appealed to the Lord to do precisely that. He began his curse by calling on Satan; he ended it by calling on the Lord.
(109:16) Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
Except in the matter of Uriah, no more merciful man than David ever lived in those rough and tumble Old Testament times. Even after the horrendous crimes of Absalom, David was willing to forgive. He was willing to forgive foul-mouthed Shimei.
But propaganda cares very little about truth. This ancient propaganda accused David of having very little pity for the destitute and the despairing. He says that David was addicted to cruelty and cursing.
(109:17) As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
(109:18) 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.
(109:19) Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
The reviler claimed that cursing was one of David’s bad habits and that he cursed as naturally as he put on his clothes. Therefore let it cling to him.
And his accuser begs the Lord to strike down our psalmist by turning the curse back upon him (109:17, 18), thus causing the dissolution of his soul! So the accusers long for the decision which our psalmist now awaits at the sanctuary―GUILTY! (109:7). If such guilt is proved, then the other horrors mentioned will naturally follow, for the dissolution of soul he would have perpetrated upon another will come back in terrible destructive power upon himself.
David prayed that none of the blessings of life would come to his enemy. Even more, he asked that his enemy’s parents’ sins would never be forgiven. [This must have been a very wicked family.] This would mean perpetual judgment on the family until it died out (Ex. 20:5; 34:7). Peter quoted verses 8 and 69:25 in Acts 1:20 when the church elected a new apostle to replace Judas. In verses 16-20, David focused on his enemy’s sins of omission. He did not show kindness to the poor, and he did not seek to be a blessing to others (Ex. 22:22-24).
(109:20) Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul.
[From here to the end of the psalm David offers a threefold prayer in light of this fearful curse which he has recorded. It is natural for him to begin by seeking justice from the Lord for what was said.]
David does not have the Christian spirit. How could he, living a thousand years before the Christian era? But he is careful in what he says. He doesn’t answer a curse with a curse. Rather he refers the whole matter to the Lord.
When Moses was maligned, his habit was to fall on his face before the Lord, leaving his accusers face to face with God. David did the same. He simply tells the Lord that this is a case for the exercise of His justice.
(109:21) But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
David looks away from the heartlessness of his enemies to the goodness of God and pleads for God’s intervention in his defense; he appeals to God by two of His names: Jehovah, the God of Promise; and Adonai (Sovereign Lord), the God of Power. He appeals to Him on the grounds that He is both willing and able to save him.
As a faithful son of the covenant, David had the right to ask God for the help he needed. His desire was that God might be glorified by showing mercy to His servant (109:21, 27). He wanted God to do some wonderful thing that only He could do, and this would tell his enemies that Jehovah was fighting David’s battles.
“For thy name's sake”! ―What an exquisite prayer! It is better to let God do for you than for you to do for yourself (Ps 119:124; Jer. 14:7). God’s mercy is indeed good.
“Thy mercy is good,” i.e., gracious, and ready to do good to all, but especially to those that love and fear thee. As sin is said to be sinful (Rom. 7:13), so God’s mercy may be said to be merciful.
(109:22) For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
(109:23) I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust.
(109:24) My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
(109:25) I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they *shaked their heads.
David reminds the Lord of his sorrow, his sickness, and his scorners. “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” The rebellion of Absalom broke David’s heart. We only have to listen to the cry of desolation that burst from David’s soul when he heard the news that Absalom as dead. Was there ever such a cry of anguish?
David pours out his own condition to God. He is poor, needy, and heartsick. He has fasted until he became physically weak, and he is still an object of ridicule to his many accusers (109:21-25). Yet he continues to count on God to deliver him and leave his enemies in shame and disgrace. God will help the needy and David is determined to continue to praise and honor Him (109:26-31).
In this psalm, David says, “I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust (109:23). My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness (109:24). We know from several of the psalms that, after his sin with Bathsheba, David was afflicted with a dreadful sickness. He says here, he totally lost his appetite. Thus it was a frail and feeble David who headed for the hills with his life in peril.
Even those who still might have been loyal to him in heart looked on this tottering old man in astonishment. This was not the David they had known. That David could fight giants. One can imagine with what malicious delight a man like Shimei would look at the weakened king. So David prays, “Lord, remember my condition.”
*Shaked their heads is a gesture of contempt and scorn (Job 16:4).
(109:26) Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
(109:27) That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
The situation in the early days of the Absalom rebellion was desperate. “The conspiracy was strong,” the historian says. Absalom had most of the nation with him, the armed forces (except for David’s old guard), and the cleverest man in the kingdom as his counselor.
Victory therefore for David would have to come from God, and David put all his hope in God. He looked to God to vindicate his assurance.
(109:28) Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.
(109:29) Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
(109:30) I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
(109:31) For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.
David wants his assailants vanquished for two reasons: First, in order to have the proof he desires, he makes a request of God― “. . . Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame . . .” And so they were. We can still see Shimei cowering before David as he returned at last in triumph to Jerusalem. We can still see the monument built for Absalom at which every wayfarer threw a stone in contempt.
David wanted this victory, not so much that he can tower over his foes, but that his faith might be vindicated, that he might have this additional proof that the Lord his God was a God to be trusted at all times―even in the most desperate times.
David wanted the assailants vanquished for a second reason: that the Lord might have the praise he deserved. “I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude” (109:30).
“For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul” (109:31). The curse began with the desire that Satan would stand at the right hand of David. David, who has just described himself as poor and needy, wants it to be evident to all that God Himself has been standing at his right hand.
Friend, our God graciously takes his place at the right hand of all those who acknowledge their deep and desperate need of Him.
David asked the Lord to send him a blessing every time his enemy cursed him and to bring shame to the enemy but joy to His servant. Finally, David promised to praise the Lord and give glory to Him when all these trials were ended, and He did. After David had been made king over all Israel, he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and sought to honor the Lord (2 Sam. 5:6). God did help David, in His own time and His own way, and He will do the same for us.