Imprecations in the Psalms: Love for Enemies in Hard Places

Steffen Jenkins


External sale price
Also available from these online sellers

The gap between the New Testament and the Imprecatory Psalms is less than we think. When faced with prayers against enemies in the Psalms, we are too quick to assume that these Old Testament authors were ignorant of some basic New Testament ethics. They are self-righteous, thinking they have earned God’s favor. They don’t know that the wicked can repent and be forgiven. They believe in vengeance and hating their enemies. We assume wrongly. These prayers are far more aware than many modern churchgoers of how deeply our own sin runs, so that even when persecuted, we are not automatically entitled to divine help. Even when we are truly entitled to justice against unrighteous attackers, if God rescues us, that is unmerited grace. Further, the psalms are fully aware that their enemies can repent, and they show mercy to them. The Book of Psalms teaches its readers–individuals and the whole people of God–to desire the repentance, forgiveness, and divine blessing of all nations, even the people’s most vicious enemies.

Listen to Steffen’s interview with GRUK here.  For an additional 40 % discount, head over to GRUK for an exclusive promo code!

Get the kindle version here. Only $10









“There are few ‘eureka’ moments in Psalms studies, but Steffen Jenkins has found one! The problem of retribution, especially the pesky imprecations (‘curses’), has been a sore spot in biblical theology for centuries. . . . Jenkins, powered by a canonical approach, argues that David, in book 5, . . . has become the master teacher of how to pray for Israel and the nations, both objects of Yahweh’s undeserved ‘steadfast love and plenteous redemption.’”

—C. Hassell Bullock,

Wheaton College (IL), emeritus

“With sustained and careful analysis of Psalms 1–3 and the shape of Book 5, Jenkins demonstrates persuasively that the Imprecatory Psalms should not be understood as self-righteous requests for revenge. Rather, they ‘show concern for the welfare of the enemy, including . . . a desire for their repentance and blessing.’ His work also clearly shows how attention to Psalter shape continues to yield illuminating and important results—very impressive!”

—J. Clinton McCann Jr.,

Eden Theological Seminary


“Steffen Jenkins has produced a fresh and stimulating analysis of the Imprecatory Psalms that will greatly aid academics and students for years to come as they explore this difficult portion of the Psalter.”

—Jonathan Gibson,

Westminster Theological Seminary


“I am delighted to commend enthusiastically Steffen Jenkins’s study on the imprecatory psalms. Steffen’s commitment to the absolute trustworthiness of God’s word shines through his insightful and always engaging exposition of this often much abused portion of Scripture. Jenkins writes not only with academic care but also with pastoral sensitivity. I look forward to more coming from his pen (or computer).”

—Ian Hamilton,

Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary


“This study makes an important contribution to the theology and ethics of the calls for divine retribution within the Psalter. It can also serve as an accessible introduction to reading the Psalter as a book and with an awareness of significant links to other parts of the Old Testament. Having studied and lectured on the Psalms for years, I have nevertheless learned much from this work which broadened my perspective on the Psalter, deepened my understanding of individual psalms, and changed my mind on a few issues.”

—Thomas Renz,

Oak Hill Theological College, retired


“Who hasn’t wondered about why the imprecatory psalms are in the Bible? . . . Were the people who prayed them self-righteous or deluded? Were they unaware of the call to love one’s enemies? Did they think they could simply say anything because they were suffering? Did they lack any idea of enemies turning to God? Jenkins shows that the answer to all these questions is no!”

—John Goldingay,

Fuller Seminary, emeritus


“Imprecations in the Psalms have long posed a critical problem in their interpretation. Where the dominant approach in recent decades has been to look behind each individual poem, Steffen Jenkins suggests we look instead at the Psalter, which provides the context for interpretation. He shows that the final form of the Psalter provides the guardrails which guide how we are to read these prayers. This is a crucial work that will need to be considered by all who wrestle with this issue.

—David G Firth,

Trinity College, Bristol


“In line with the righteous man of psalm 1, Steffen Jenkins has clearly spent long hours meditating day and night on the Psalter, and among the fruits of this are a significant number of astute and important observations about the shape of the Psalter. He makes a case that needs to be heard that there are signs of careful arrangement of the Psalter and that this contributes to how we should understand imprecatory psalms. I would be very glad to see his research disseminated more widely.”

—Peter J. Williams,

Tyndale House, Cambridge


Imprecations in the Psalms Webinar

Praying for individual enemies

Praying for individual enemies (Q&A)

Praying for national enemies

Praying for national enemies (Q&A)


Steffen Jenkins

Steffen Jenkins is Lecturer in Greek and Biblical Studies at Union School of Theology. He was previously Tutor in Biblical Languages at Tyndale House, Cambridge, and Associate Minister of Chelmsford Presbyterian Church. Steffen is married to Sally-Ann, and together they have two sons, Ben and Daniel.

No. of Pages:
6.0 in x 9.0 in
Pickwick Publications