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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Psalm 109:8 or 'An eye for an eye...'

Gandhi (1931)
Those who are avidly quoting Psalm 109:8 with the hopes of disparaging President Obama, might wish to take a good hard look at an underlying message of this Psalm.

The logic that King David (or perhaps a different author) was using to make this case against a faithless (from his perspective) adversary sounds a lot like “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  At best, this is an equation for the lowest common denominator of justice - one that is stripped of all mercy.  At worst, it is a vengeful recipe for disaster.

For those who may be thinking – that’s the Old Testament, the New Testament is completely differrent – please note the direct reference to Psalm 109:8 in Acts 1:20.  Here Luke (or perhaps a different author) is using similar logic to rail against Judas, and is quoting Psalm 109 to support his position.  This all seems a very far cry from “Judge not…” and from “… turn the other cheek.”

This type of merciless thinking (and politics) results in the type of violence that is detailed in both Psalm 109 and Acts 1.  In Psalm 109, the author not only wishes his (and, he assumes, God’s) enemies to be deposed from office - but also fervently prays that they and their families fall prey to shame, sin, condemnation, curses, hunger, poverty, homelessness, extortion, and confusion.  Apparently, the author feels himself to be exempt from this same justice equation, for he seems to wish nothing but God’s mercy for himself.  (If the author was actually King David, then he seems to have forgotten his own formidable sins as he begs:  Help me, O
LORD, my God:  O save me according to thy mercy (Psalm 109:26).  Perhaps the author of Acts 1:18 also felt somehow personally above the law of karma while seeming to almost gloat over Judas’ disembowelment.

Mahatma Gandhi seemed to have a kinder gentler solution for the world’s ills.  He firmly believed that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” – and therefore set about to “love thy enemy” rather than to wish eternal torment on anyone.


Copyright January 6, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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