(22) Let their table (set) before them become a trap, and (let) their prosperity (become) a snare. (23) Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and make their loins shake continually. (24) Pour out your indignation upon them. Let your burning anger overtake them. (25) May their encampment be desolate. Let no one dwell in their tents, (26) for they persecuted the one whom you have smitten, and they talk about the pain of those you have wounded. (27) Add to their guilt even more guilt. May they have no acquittal from you. (28) May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed among the righteous.
In these seven verses eleven imperatival verbs are used, jussives and imperatives translated by “let” or “may,” as David cries out for God’s vindication against his enemies. While there are no word repetitions to note, there is a probable play on words. In Hebrew, the terms for “table” (shalchan) and “prosperity” (shalom) sound alike (vs. 22).
In addition, there are striking parallelisms in each verse: “trap...snare” (vs. 22), “eyes darkened...loins shaking” (vs. 23), “indignation...burning anger” (vs. 24), “encampment...tents” (vs. 25), “smitten...wounded” (vs. 26), “guilt...no acquittal” (vs. 27), and, finally, “blotted out...not listed” (vs. 28).
I. Petitioning God for retribution in this life (22-25)
II. Why? They persecuted the one you have smitten. (26)
III. Petitioning God for retribution in the life to come (27 & 28)
Those who persecute God’s suffering servant(s) rightfully deserve his retributive justice both now and forever.
This passage contains some of the harshest language to be found in the psalter. Beginning with repeated requests for his enemies’ temporal destruction (vss. 22-25), the psalmist brings his imprecations to a climax with calls for their eternal damnation (vss. 27 & 28). In essence, he is asking God to show no mercy to his enemies for their treatment of his suffering servant (vs. 26). Is such a vindictive spirit appropriate here or anywhere in Scripture for that matter?
Clearly it is appropriate, otherwise these expressions would never have found their way onto this passage. Jesus while hanging on the cross prayed very graciously, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). Yet, he also spoke much harsher words to his disciples earlier: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk. 17:1 & 2).
God’s retributive justice awaits those who deliberately set themselves against his plans and purposes by rejecting, ridiculing, and mistreating the one whom he sent to redeem the world. Those who have suffered along with their Savior will likewise be vindicated, and those who have caused that suffering will be banished from his presence. This is not something in which we should delight apart from the fact that justice will be done. The one who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Dt. 32:35), will make all things right. In this great truth we can and should rejoice.