Psalm 109

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Psalm 109
"Song of the Slandered"
Luttrell Psalter (1320–1340) showing Psaume (Psalm) 109
Other name
TextA psalm of David
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 109 is a psalm in the Book of Psalms. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 108 in a slightly different numbering system. It is noted for containing some of the most severe curses in the Bible, such as verses 12 and 13. It has traditionally been called the "Judas Psalm"[1] or "Iscariot Psalm" for an interpretation relating verse 8 to Judas Iscariot's punishment as noted in the New Testament.[2]


The New Oxford Annotated Bible titles this psalm "Prayer for deliverance from enemies", as one of the Imprecatory Psalms against deceitful foes.[3] It starts with the psalmist's plea in verses 1–5, followed by an extensive imprecation (verses 6–19, concluded or summed up in verse 20).[4] The renewed pleading at verse 21 is made with appeals on the grounds of Yahweh's steadfast love, the details of the psalmist's own misery, and the request for vengeance to the enemies, but the lament ends with the vow to offer praise, which is so common in this type of psalm (verses 30–31).[4] In verses 8–14 the curse by the psalmist 'extends through three generations': on the person (verse 8), on the person's children (verses 9–13), and on the person's parents (verse 14).[3] The change from plural enemies (verses 2–5) to a singular individual (verses 6–19) parallels to Psalm 55.[5]


Verse 8[edit]

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.[6]

The Apostle Peter quoted verse 8 of Psalm 109 ("Let another take his office") before the apostles elected the replacement for Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:16-20.

In the United States, 109:8 "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership" has been used by a number of fundamentalist preachers who use the imprecatory psalm as an imprecatory prayer. Pastor Greg Dixon of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple had invoked it,[7] which had been condemned by others.[8] In 2009, the media reported more widely on its usage in reference to President Barack Obama,[9] by those such as Pastor Wiley Drake.[10] In January 2010, a Florida Sheriff's deputy was suspended for highlighting the passage in another deputy's bible and adding the note "The Obama Prayer" beside it.[11] In January 2012, Kansas Speaker of the House Michael O'Neal sent an email quoting verse 8 to his Republican colleagues that stated, "At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!"[12] On June 10, 2016, Georgia Senator David Perdue quotes the verse, referencing Obama, at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference.[13]

By the late summer of 2017, bumper stickers could be seen asking people to pray for US President Donald Trump with the same attribution.[14]

Verse 12[edit]

Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.[15]
  • "Let there be none to extend mercy unto him" or "Let him have none to continue lovingkindness to him as represented in his children"; nor "anyone have pity" on his orphaned children.[16] The phrase "to extend mercy" is translated from Hebrew: משך חסד‎, mō-šêḵ chā-seḏ, which can also mean "to draw out mercy" in the sense of "causing it to continue and last" (cf. Psalm 36:11; Jeremiah 31:3)[17]

Verse 13[edit]

Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.[18]
  • "Let his posterity be cut off": or "may his sons die childless" (cf. Psalm 37:28, 37:38; Job 18:13-21).[16]
  • "In the generation following their name be blotted out": or "in the next generation their name be removed from the registry of the citizens" (cf. Psalm 69:28).[16] The extinction of a family (name) was considered the most extreme calamity for the Israelites.[16]

In Judaism[edit]

Psalm 109 is recited on the day of Parshat Zachor.[19]

Modern literature[edit]

Psalm 109 was used by Thomas Hardy in his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. Michael Henchard, the protagonist of the novel, is drinking with the choir after practice when he sees his rival, Donald Farfrae, whom he hates. He later persuades the choir to sing Psalm 109. The choir master remarks of this psalm that, "Twasn't made for singing. We chose it once when the gypsy stole the parson's mare, thinking to please him, but parson were quite upset. Whatever Servant David were thinking about when he made a Psalm that nobody can sing without disgracing himself, I can't fathom."[20]

Some verses of the same psalm figure prominently in M. R. James's supernatural story "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral" (1910), which recounts the guilt-ridden life and dismal death of Archdeacon John Haynes.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stanford, Peter (2016). "Chapter 8: Bags of Money: Judas and the Original Merchant-Bankers". Judas: The Most Hated Name In History. Catapult. ISBN 9781619027503.
  2. ^ Willmington, H. L. (1981). Willmington's Guide to the Bible (reprint ed.). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. pp. 126. ISBN 9780842388047.
  3. ^ a b Coogan 2007, p. 873 Hebrew Bible.
  4. ^ a b Rodd 2007, p. 396.
  5. ^ Motyer 1994, p. 559.
  6. ^ Psalm 109:8 KJV
  7. ^ Warren, Ellen (June 7, 1986). "Fundamentalist preachers pray for death of foes". Spokesman-Review Spokane Chronicle. A5.
  8. ^ Ide, Arthur Frederick (1986). Evangelical Terrorism: Censorship, Falwell, Robertson & the Seamy Side of Christian Fundamentalism. Scholars Books. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-938659-01-3.
  9. ^ Samuelson, Tracey D. (November 16, 2009). "Biblical anti-Obama slogan: Use of Psalm 109:8 funny or sinister?". Christian Science Monitor.
  10. ^ Norman, Tony (November 20, 2009). "Obama-haters are perverting Christianity". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  11. ^ Devin Dwyer (2010-01-04). "109th Psalm 'Obama Prayer': Threat or Free Speech?". ABC News.
  12. ^ Scott Rothschild (2012-01-03). "Statehouse Live: Speaker O'Neal forwards anti-Obama email". Lawrence Journal-World.
  13. ^ "Sen. David Perdue tells faith event: Pray Obama's 'days are few'". UPI. June 10, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  14. ^ See, e.g., "Pray for Trump". Appellate Squawk. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  15. ^ Psalm 109:12 KJV
  16. ^ a b c d Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. Books IV and V: Psalms XC-CL. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 657. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  17. ^ Keil, Carl Friedrich; Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Old Testament (1857-1878). Psalm 109. Accessed 24 February 2019.
  18. ^ Psalm 109:13 KJV
  19. ^ The Artscroll Tehillim. p. 329.
  20. ^ Aschkenasy, Nehama (1983). "Biblical Substructures in the Tragic Form Hardy, "The Mayor of Casterbridge" Agnon, "And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight"". Modern Language Studies. 13 (1): 103. doi:10.2307/3194323. JSTOR 3194323.
  21. ^ M. R. James, "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral," in Collected Ghost Stories, ed. Darryl Jones (Oxford UP, 2011), pp. 165–78.


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