The Psalmist uses an impassionate approach to God. The ESV (English Standard Version) calls it a “cry.” The Psalmist says, “Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to you.” One commentary explains, “His situation was one of deep distress, and the earnestness of his entreaty indicates how fully he would rely upon the Lord for a just solution. He is not directing mere words to the Lord, but a sighing or “groaning” (Revised Standard Version), a “meditation,” “the murmur of my soul” (Moffatt), an agonized cry. This is no casual prayer! It is an impassioned appeal for justice, and as such it is addressed to God as King; that is, as the all-wise and righteous ruler to whom judgment belongs.”[1] It describes the cry of a soul in great turmoil. The same Hebrew word is used in Psalm 39, verse 3, to describe the internal passion associated with the plea. It says, “My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.”

Some translations turn the phrase “King and God” around to say, “My God and my King.” I think that was done so that no one would think the singer was talking about both the King and God. The text seems clear that there is only one person who is appealed to in the Psalm who was both God and King. God’s reign has long been mentioned in the Bible, as far back as Exodus 15:18, when Mariam sings her song of deliverance through the waters of the Red Sea. She sings, “Our God will reign forever and ever.” So, Craigie says, “It was to God that the psalmist turned in prayer, not to a human king, for God was the absolute Lord and the only one who could answer prayer.”[2]

There are quite a few Imprecatory Psalms in the Psalter. I don’t always trust Wikipedia, but they define these psalms well and identify which ones qualify for this category. It says that imprecatory psalms “Invoke judgment, calamity or curses upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.” The article goes on to say, “Major imprecatory Psalms include Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, while Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 57, 59, 59, 79, 83, 94, 137, 139 and 143 are also considered imprecatory. As an example, Psalm 69:24 states toward God, “Pour out Your indignation on them, and let Your burning anger overtake them.” Craigie says they are “expressions of vindictiveness.” C. S. Lewis didn’t like them either and said they are breaths of “refined malice,” He thought they bordered on being “devilish.” William Holladay says they display “a very different spirit” to the teaching of the New Testament. But I believe this approach misses the phrase we see in this verse where the psalmist emphasizes, “for I pray to you.” He is not getting revenge. He’s not striking out against his enemies. Instead, he is entrusting them to God.  God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 32:35 that he would execute vengeance when appropriate at the right time. That verse says, “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip.” Paul quotes this verse interpreting for Christians. He says in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Sometimes our hearts “burn” for justice and, at times, even vengeance. This seems to be the basis of David’s impassioned plea in Psalm 5. But he is giving it to God. We see several examples of David demonstrating this trait in his own life with his enemies.

[1] Tesh, S. Edward, and Walter D. Zorn. 1999. Psalms. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press.

[2] Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1–50. Vol. 19. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.