Militaristic Metaphors in the Psalms


Psalm 24 is one of the few called Invitatory Psalms used to begin the recitation of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours according to monastic tradition.

It has a militaristic ring to it: “Who is the king of glory?  The Lord, the mighty,, the valiant. The Lord , the valiant in war. Who is he, the king of glory? He, the Lord of armies, he is the king of glory.  

It was the Lord of armies and military force, in fact at times even the extermination of enemies which won the settlement of the land of Canaan for the twelve tribes of Israel/Jacob.  For the chosen people war was not only acceptable, it often seems it was God driven.

The Book of Psalms has frequently been described as the Prayer Book of the Church. There are, of course many poignant and grace filled psalms such as the cry for help from the abyss of suffering: “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord, Lord hear my prayer….”.

And perhaps Psalm 23 is one that’s most familiar, that revives the drooping spirit.  “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose

But one of the commonest themes, is the request of the Lord to take up arms against “my enemy.”

I think we are being called to solve our problems not by militaristic might and call to arms.    This cry to destroy our enemies is a visceral one and it somehow needs to be sublimated into a loving and peaceful response.

Peter Monty, SJ is Chaplain for the Deaf in Ottawa.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:30h, 14 September Reply

    Thank you Peter!

  • Henry Mandamin
    Posted at 08:40h, 18 September Reply

    I just learn something,,thank you

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