Psalm 109: Character Interpretation
Man whose teenage daughter has been assaulted
Be not silent, O God of my praise!
Do not be silent, God, for it was the silence that caused this! It was the suffocating, toxic silence that has caused her pain to endure so long, so terribly long…
In cases of abuse and assault, the victim feels a need to desire to keep silent. Here, I tried to weave together the victim’s silence with the speaker’s demand that God not be silent.
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They encircle me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
It began as a whisper, from tongue to ear to tongue to ear. It began as a feather—“Did you hear about Ellie?…Did you hear what happened…?Did you head what he did…?” But feathers are caught by the wind, twisted, distorted, snapped, mangled…unrecognizable. By the time the words reached my ear, they were not from my daughter—my Ellie—and they were not the truth. Because feathers turned to stones, and the stones thrown at me were, “How does it feel to have raised such trash? Did you teach your daughter seduction, or did you in fact force her into it?”
They blame her, God. They have destroyed her with their addictions to gossip; their wicked words are acid on my family’s skin. I cannot stand in this swarm of lies and filth as they reduce my little girl to rumor and scandal!
The speaker’s accusations are directed at different people, as referenced by the pronouns “they” and “he,” respectively. The verses directed at the group—or mob—are verses of blame. I chose a character I felt would have a complex range of emotions, a character that would feel victimized and angry at the same time. I can feel the father here as he hears terrible lies about his “little girl,” as people he has previously trusted turn against him and his family.
6 Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
7 When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
He has committed the gravest of sins. He was the one who pulled his car up next to her, he is the one who opened the driver’s side door, he is the one who walked over to her as if he were innocent because HE had nothing to lose. HE had nothing to fear. He is the one that grabbed her in one fell swoop so she became a mouse in his hawkish talons. He is the one that must come forth guilty!
Were there curses that could describe his crime, they would surely pierce the eardrums of all who hear them. Do not listen to his prayers, o God, for his forked tongue is as false as his faith in You.
I can hear the father cursing, but for a crime this terrible (a crime against his family), even curses cannot fully encapsulate how he feels.
9 May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow!
There exists no family for which this serpent is fit. He has dared to do what he did to my child; he has dared to take the INNOCENCE of a little girl and maul it with his filthy claws! May his children suffer as mine has, may his wife pay the price for standing by his side in trial, for ignoring the truth!!
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
12 Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
These liars—the jurors, the neighbors, the people we thought were friends—surround my family, trapping us in a cage of misinformation. May they know the truth of his ways, so that they NEVER can look at him again, so that they forever ban the combination of rotten syllables that make up his name (but can a creature so awful be named?) from their homes!
13 May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord,
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
The disgustingness that made him do what he did goes deep into his skin, his cells, his DNA. May his family name be forever tarnished, may the parents who raised him truly know what it means to suffer, and may his children who carry his wretched genes forever remember the misdeeds of their father!
15 Let them be before the Lord continually,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
And then, God, may his family burn away to ash to be swallowed by the wind and spat in the ocean…
EXPLANATION OF COMPLAINT
18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
may it soak[d] into his body like water,
like oil into his bones!
19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around him,
like a belt that he puts on every day!
Every night, every black night in his black prison cell, may the maggots seep through the walls and chew at his skin, at his rotting gray skin and the rotting gray blankets that cover him. He will never, never have the blessed privilege of escaping the evils of life with the vacation of sleep, for his misdeeds will chase him through every dream. The memory of what he has committed will be tattooed upon his eyes, his first image when he awakens and his last as his eyelids sink into sleep.
20 May this be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
of those who speak evil against my life!
And everyone who took his side will know how WRONG they were!! They will sing the innocence of my beautiful Ellie, and they will welcome her injured body back into her arms. The community will do what the community has always done: they will heal my little girl’s wounds. They will make her whole again.
PETITION FOR PROTECTION
21 But you, O God my Lord,
deal on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
For the love of Your children, you will deliver this punishment. He may lack remorse, but You God, You never lack love. I cannot punish him, but You can.
And God, deliver my daughter from her suffering. Deliver my family from the pain, from the lies of our neighbors. You are good, God, and only You can lift us from the wreckage.
The petition to God here is twofold: punish the accused, and deliver me. I can hear the father’s desperate plea.
24 My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
How can I eat at a time like this?! How can I nourish my body when my daughter can never nourish hers, when no amount of food can repair what has been broken?! I am a ghost among my neighbors; they shake their heads—in pity or in scorn?—but they walk onward, they live forward. I am a ghost of a father and my daughter is a withering blade of grass…
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!
Bring justice against him, O God, bring justice in the love for Your people! Let all of your misguided children—the liars, the gossipers—know that this justice has been Your deed!
29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!
When they know the truth, and they WILL know the truth, may they bite their tongues for every lie they said against my daughter. May they understand the shame they have brought upon our family with their malicious words, and may they never bring this pain upon another. May THEY feel shame for the months of shame I have felt, for the shame my innocent Ellie still feels!
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 one,
to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.
Through all, my faith endures; God has been and will be at my side. For God is at the side of those who seek God’s hand and help. God will be at my little girl’s side; he will lift her from the slimy pit, and she will once again stand strong!