Do not be silent, O God of my praise.
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They beset me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me,
even while I make prayer for them.[a]
5 So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
6 They say,[b] “Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand on his right.
7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin.
8 May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
9 May his children be orphans,
and his wife a widow.
10 May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of[c] the ruins they inhabit.
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.
12 May there be no one to do him a kindness,
nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.
13 May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation.
14 May the iniquity of his father[d] be remembered before the Lord,
and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15 Let them be before the Lord continually,
and may his[e] memory be cut off from the earth.
16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted to their death.
17 He loved to curse; let curses come on him.
He did not like blessing; may it be far from him.
18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat,
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones.
19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself,
like a belt that he wears every day.”
20 May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
of those who speak evil against my life.
21 But you, O Lord my Lord,
act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is pierced within me.
23 I am gone like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.
26 Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
27 Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it.
28 Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame;[f] may your servant be glad.
29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save them from those who would condemn them to death.
The Georgia senator invokes a psalm calling down divine wrath on an enemy—but insists he meant no harm.
Senator David Perdue appeared to break the rule Friday morning. In his remarks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, Betsy Woodruff reported, the freshman Georgia Republican encouraged attendees to pray for President Obama. According to Perdue’s office, he said:
I think we’re called to pray for our country, for our leaders, and yes, even our president. In his role as president I think we should pray for Barack Obama. But I think we need to be very specific about how we pray. We should pray like Psalms 109:8 says. It says, “Let his days be few, and let another have his office.”
As many people quickly pointed out, the quotation is not exactly a benign plea for a new president in its original context. Here’s a chunk of the psalm:
8. Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
9. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
10. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
11. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.
12. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.
13. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
That’s pretty ugly stuff. As frightening as the imprecation is in its original Old Testament version—its really masterful, bitter language—it takes on an even more chilling aspect in Christian theology. In the New Testatment book of Acts, Peter quotes the psalm as foretelling the ruin of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus.
Perdue didn’t make this up. In fact, this verse—sometimes labeled “the Obama Prayer”—has been circulating for years among conservatives. Gawker’s John Cook noted the prevalence of the reference on internet message boards and in CafePress t-shirts and bumperstickers back in November 2009. Other cases have popped up over the years, from the Manatee County, Florida, sheriff’s office to the Kansas House, where the speaker forwarded an email involving the psalm.
.. In a statement, Perdue’s office clarified, “He in no way wishes harm to our president and everyone in the room understood that,” and accused the media of “pushing a narrative to create controversy.”
One of the more peculiar things about Perdue’s unwise remark is that it spotlights the persistence of the “Obama prayer” joke. Obama’s days in office are constitutionally numbered, and the end of his term is known. Moreover, it doesn’t seem as though the prayers did much good for Obama’s opponents in the first term; he was handily reelected in 2012. Perhaps intervening in elections by striking politicians dead isn’t how God works.