Why does David use gruesome imagery about God's vengeance in passages like Pslam 58:10 or Psalm 68:23?
Why do you think David uses gruesome imagery for righteous victors over wicked foes in the following verses? Psalm 58:10 “The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.”Psalm 68:23 “that you may plunge your feet in the blood of your foes, while the tongues of your dogs have their share.” Thanks!
This is a good question. A couple of thoughts come to mind. First, we should keep in mind the personality of David. When God uses a human being to write part of his inspired word, the human personality does not simply disappear. Solomon’s personality has a significant effect on what he wrote, as did the personality of Paul and other Bible writers. I would argue that, of all the Bible writers, the one whose personality comes through most strongly is David. He was an extremely emotional and passionate person. His passionate personality is a significant part of the explanation for what might be seen as over-the-top language in passages such as Psalm 58:10 and Psalm 68:23. He often made exxagerated hyperbolic statements because of his emotions. He said, “Against you, you only have I sinned.” (Ps 51). We know that this is not literally true, but David is pouring out his emotions.
A second thought is that David reflects the heart of God here. We in the Western world are familiar and comfortable with the idea that the God of the universe is a loving, compassionate and patient God. We have no problem accepting a personal and gracious God. We should bear in mind that for the ancients, this was not an assumption at all. A capricious and vengeful God was a very familiar concept to the ancients. I am not saying that the God of the Bible is petty or capricious, but what I am saying is that David’s view of God and his wrath and judgment would have been much less shocking to the ancients than to us.
My point is that in our Western culture, we are comfortable with the love of God, but not at all comfortable with his justice and his vengeance on those who refuse his love. David was much more comfortable with God’s judgment than you or I are likely to be. God’s justice is as intense and unrelenting as his love. David is expressing the heart of God in these passages. In Romans 12:19 we are told by God, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ says the Lord. God will take out vengeance on those who refuse his love and spit in his face, rejecting the death of Jesus. Like I said, God’s justice is as intense as his love. David is comfortable with this, as seen by the passages you quote. Other passages in the New Testament which come to mind in this connection are Rev 11:17-18 and Rev 16:5-6. In these passages we see people calling for God to carry out his vengeance on those who killed the saints. I cannot relate to this desire for God’s vengeance. However, I believe that when we get to heaven we will understand and accept God’s justice and his vengeance on those who reject him. Like you, I am not completely comfortable with statements of David, such as Ps 58:10 and Ps 68:23, but this is as much about me as David. In my cultural background, I am more comfortable with God’s love than his anger, but I believe that in heaven we will be able to agree with David.