Psalm Psnippets 11: Violent Irony

“The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.”

Psalm 11:5-6

One of the reasons I love reading pre-modern texts, especially the psalms, is that they are usually drenched in irony. Above is a great example of that, of something that I couldn’t say with a straight face: God hates violent people so much that I’m going to ask him to be violent against them.

This is weird, and we should acknowledge that. At the same time, it clearly distinguishes between God’s ‘violence’ and ours in a way which we would do well to pay attention to.

A human violence is one which violates the just created order – one which oppresses people, which ‘destroys the foundations’ and shoots arrows in the dark.

God’s violence, on the other hand, is one which searches and which judges. He sets up the right order again and protects the innocent from oppression.

This distinction isn’t the entire answer and it doesn’t make excuses for odd language in the Psalm. But it does help to say that God’s actions and ours are not in the same category, even if they both are superficially ‘violent.’


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A comms professional in DC, I hope to not lose my soul and keep thinking about interesting books here.

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