There is no avoiding the fact that the Old Testament is violent. Take this example from Genesis 4:23.
Lamech said to his wives:
‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’
Here are two more examples from the Psalms:
The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done;
they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked. ~ Ps. 58:10
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock! ~ Ps. 137:9
Psalm 37 seems to read more like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian than it does the Bible. Some may find it hard to accept that words this are in the Bible at all. Reverend Jeremiah Wright found himself under a barrage of criticism for words he uttered in a sermon that were inspired by Psalm 137. Those words led to his disavowal by his former parishioner, President Obama.
The passage from Genesis above and the two Psalms cited along with it are reminders to us that our capacity for violence and our thirst for revenge lie just below the surface of our collective and personal lives. Events like 9/11 and the senseless deaths of innocent people stir up these feelings up. “We know we shouldn’t feel this way but what if we feel this way?”
Branson Parlor offers a suggestion for how we are to both read these texts and deal with our own violent and vengeful impulses. He suggests that we sing them. Read about it in: “Overcoming Lamech: Lament as an Antidote to Violence”.