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This psalm is ascribed to David. The title in the original, לדוד ledâvid - “by David” or, “of David” - is without anything to designate the occasion on which it was composed, or anything to mark the character of the psalm, as distinguished from others. Occasionally in the titles of the psalms there is a special reference to the circumstances in which the psalm was composed, as in Psalms 3:1-8; Psalms 7:0; Psalms 18:0; Psalms 30:1-12; Psalms 34:0; and, much more frequently, there is something added in the title to distinguish the character of the psalm, either in its own nature, or in its adaptedness to music, as in Psalms 4:1-8; Psalms 5:1-12; Psalms 6:1-10; Psalms 9:0; Psalms 16:1-11; Psalms 22:0. In this case, however, there is nothing in the title that furnishes any information on either of these points.
There is nothing in the psalm itself that will enable us to determine with any accuracy the occasion on which it was written. By some it has been referred to the time of the persecution of David by Saul; by others, to the opposition which he encountered from Ahithophel, or Shimei, or to the ingratitude of Mephibosheth 2 Samuel 16:3; by others it has been referred to the rebellion of Absalom; and others have referred it to the Messiah, as propheticly descriptive of what would occur to him. The psalm can be intelligently interpreted on either of the former suppositions, but there is no evidence that it had any direct reference to the Messiah. The only place in the New Testament in which it could be alleged that any part of it is applied to Christ, is John 15:25, where it is said, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” By those who suppose that the psalm refers to the Messiah, it is said that this is a quotation from Psalms 35:19. But it may be remarked in regard to this:
(a) that the language of the psalm in that verse is different from that used in John, the language of the former being, “Neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause;” and
(b) that the language in John is a much more literal quotation from Psalms 69:4, “They that hate me without a cause,” etc. a psalm which undoubtedly has reference to the Messiah. DeWette supposes that the psalm is not properly ascribed to David, and says that it is not “worthy” of him. He supposes that it was composed after the death of David, by an inferior poet. He furnishes, however, no reason for this opinion, except that which is derived from his own feelings - “nach meinem Gefuhle.” The time and occasion on which the psalm was composed are not, however, of material consequence. As it would be appropriate to any of the occasions above referred to, so it is appropriate to numerous occasions which arise in the history of individuals; and it is, therefore, of so general a character that it may be useful in the church at all times.
What is apparent in the psalm - the central idea, and that which makes it so useful - is, that it was composed with reference to the treatment which the author received from those who had been his professed friends: from those to whom he had shown kindness in their troubles; to whom he had been a friend and a brother, but who had now turned against him. In the time of prosperity they had been his professed friends, and had partaken freely and largely of his hospitality; when they were afflicted he had shown them sympathy and kindness; but when reverses came upon him, they forsook him, and joined with his calumniators, persecutors, and accusers. The psalm, therefore, has a special applicability to trials of that nature. It expresses the feelings and views of the author in regard to his own sorrows, as springing from such ingratitude, and his earnest prayer to God to interpose in his behalf - the rolling of the sorrows of his pained and oppressed heart upon the arm of his unchanging Friend, the mighty and merciful God. As occasions similar to those referred to in the psalm not unfrequently occur in the world, it was important that in the vo ume of inspiration an “example” should be furnished of the manner in which piety is to meet such a form of trial.
The psalm consists of the following parts:
I. The prayer, Psalms 35:1-10. This is
(a) an earnest appeal to God for his interposition, Psalms 35:1-3;
(b) a solemn imprecation of divine vengeance on his enemies, or a prayer that they may receive from the hand of God just retribution for their crimes, Psalms 35:4-8;
(c) the expression of a determined purpose on his part to triumph in God, or to ascribe praise to God for his interposition, Psalms 35:9-10.
II. The description of the character and conduct of his enemies, Psalms 35:11-16. They were:
(a) false witnesses against him, or calumniators, Psalms 35:11;
(b) they had rendered to him evil for good, or had been guilty of base ingratitude, Psalms 35:12;
(c) in their troubles he had been to them as a brother, Psalms 35:13-14; but
(d) they had forgotten all this in his adversity, and had united with the vile and the abandoned - with revellers and drunkards, in pouring contempt on his name, and in reproaching his character, Psalms 35:15-16.
III. An earnest appeal to God, in view of these circumstances, to interpose and deliver him; to show that He was the Patron and Friend of those who were calumniated and injured, Psalms 35:17-28. This appeal is founded on such arguments as the following:
(a) That God seemed now to be looking on, and taking no interest in a righteous cause, or in the cause of one who was oppressed and wronged, Psalms 35:17;
(b) that His interposition would lead the psalmist to render Him praise, Psalms 35:18;
(c) that those who had so much injured and wronged him seemed to enjoy the divine favor, and were at ease, Psalms 35:19-20;
(d) that God had seen all this, and still saw it, and that it became Him to interpose on his behalf, Psalms 35:21-23;
(e) that it was inconsistent for God to suffer the wicked to triumph over the righteous, or that they should be allowed to exult as if they had swallowed them up, Psalms 35:24-26; and
(f) that it was desirable that, under the government of God, they who were truly righteous should receive such tokens of the divine favor and protection that they could rejoice in God, and render Him appropriate praise, Psalms 35:27-28.
Plead my cause, O Lord - The word “plead” means, properly, to argue in support of a claim, or against the claim of another; to urge reasons for or against; to attempt to persuade one by argument or supplication; as, to plead for the life of a criminal, that is, to urge reasons why he should be acquitted or pardoned; and then, to supplicate with earnestness in any way. The original word used here - רוב rûb - means to contend, strive, quarrel; and then, to contend before a judge, to manage or plead a cause. The idea here is, that the psalmist desires that God would undertake his cause against those who had risen up against him, as if it were managed before a tribunal, or before a judge, and God should be the advocate. The same word is used, in another form, in the other member of the sentence - “with them that strive - יריבי yârı̂ybāy - against me.” The idea is, that they were “pleading” against him, or were urging arguments, as it were, before a tribunal or a judge, why he should be condemned. They were his bitter opponents, engaged in bringing all manner of false accusations against him, and seeking his condemnation. The psalmist felt that he could not manage his own cause against them; and he, therefore, pleads with God that He would interpose, and stand up for him.
Fight against them that fight against me - The same idea substantially occurs here as in the former member of the verse. It is a prayer that God would undertake his cause; that He would exert His power against those who were opposed to him.
Take hold of shield and buckler - That is, Arm thyself as if for the contest. It is a prayer, in a new form, that God would interpose, and that he would go forth as a warrior against the enemies of the psalmist. On the word “shield,” see the notes at Psalms 5:12. Compare the notes at Ephesians 6:16. On the word “buckler,” see the notes at Psalms 18:2. These terms are derived from the armor of a warrior, and the prayer here is that God would appear in that character for his defense.
And stand up for my help - As a warrior stands up, or stands firm, to arrest the attack of an enemy.
Draw out also the spear - The word here rendered “draw out” means properly to pour out; to empty; and it is applied to the act of emptying sacks, Genesis 42:35; to emptying bottles, Jeremiah 48:12; to drawing a sword from a sheath, Exodus 15:9; Leviticus 26:33; Ezekiel 5:12. It is applied to a “spear” either as drawing it out of the place where it was kept, or as stretching it out for the purposes of attack. The former probably is the meaning, and the idea is, that David prayed God to “arm himself” - as a warrior does - in order to defend him. The spear was a common weapon in ancient warfare. It was sometimes so short that it could be brandished as a sword in the hand, or hurled at an enemy, 1 Samuel 18:11; 1Sa 19:10; 1 Samuel 20:33; but it was usually made as long as it could be to be handled conveniently. The spear was a weapon of “attack.” The parts of armor referred to in Psalms 35:2 were designed for defense. The idea of the psalmist is that of a warrior prepared alike for attack or defense.
And stop the way against them that persecute me - The words “the way” are not in the original. The word rendered “stop” - סגר sâgar - means properly to shut, to close, as a door or gate, Job 3:10; 1 Samuel 1:5; Genesis 19:6, Genesis 19:10. The idea here, according to the usage of the word, is, Shut or close up the way against those that persecute me. So Gesenius renders it. Grotius, Michaelis, DeWette, and others, however, regard the word as a noun, signifying the same as the Greek - σάγαρις sagaris - a two-edged sword, such as was used by the Scythians, Persians, and Amazons. Herod. vii. 64. See Rosenmuller in loc. It is not so rendered, however, in any of the ancient versions. The Septuagint render it: “And shut up against those that persecute me;” the Vulgate, “Pre-occupy against those that persecute me;” the Aramaic has: “Shut up against those that persecute me.” The correct idea probably is that which is given in the common version. The psalmist prays that God would go forth to meet his enemies; that he would arrest and check them in their march; that he would hedge up their way, and that he would thus prevent them from attacking him.
Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation - Say to “me,” I will save you. That is, Give me some assurance that thou wilt interpose, and that thou wilt guard me from my enemies. Man only wants this assurance to be calm in respect to any danger. When God says to us that he will be our salvation; that he will protect us; that he will deliver us from sin, from danger, from hell, the mind may and will be perfectly calm. To a believer he gives this assurance; to all he is willing to give it. The whole plan of salvation is arranged with a view to furnish such an assurance, and to give a pledge to the soul that God “will” save. Death loses its terrors then; the redeemed man moves on calmly - for in all the future - in all worlds - he has nothing now to fear.
Let them be confounded - That is, Let them, through Thy gracious interposition in my behalf, be so entirely overcome and subdued that they shall be “ashamed” that they ever made the effort to destroy me; let them see so manifestly that God is on my side that they will be covered with confusion for having opposed one who was so entirely the object of the divine protection and care. See Psalms 6:10, note; Psalms 25:2-3, notes. Compare the notes at Job 6:20.
That seek after my soul - My life. That seek to destroy me.
Let them be turned back - In their attempts to pursue me. Do thou interpose and turn them back.
And brought to confusion - Put to shame; or made ashamed - as they are who are disappointed and thwarted in their schemes.
Let them be as chaff before the wind - As chaff is driven away in winnowing grain. See the notes at Psalms 1:4.
And let the angel of the Lord chase them - Drive them away, or scatter them. Angels are often represented in the Scriptures as agents employed by God in bringing punishment on wicked people. See 2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36; 1Ch 21:12, 1 Chronicles 21:30; 2 Samuel 24:16.
Let their way be dark - Margin, as in Hebrew: “darkness.” That is, let them not be able to see where they go; what danger they incur; what is before them. The idea is that of persons who wander in the night, not knowing what is before them, or what danger may be near. The succession of images and figures here is terrific. The representation is that of persons scattered as the chaff is before the wind; pursued by the angel seeking vengeance; and driven along a dark and slippery path, with no guide, and no knowledge as to the precipices which may be before them, or the enemies that may be pressing upon them.
And slippery - Margin, as in Hebrew: “slipperiness.” This is a circumstance which adds increased terror to the image. It is not only a dark road, but a road made slippery by rains; a road where they are in danger every moment of sliding down a precipice where they will be destroyed.
And let the angel of the Lord persecute them - Pursue or follow them. The word “persecute” we use now in the sense of subjecting one to pain, torture, or privation, on account of his religious opinions. This is not the meaning of the word used here. It is simply to “follow” or “pursue.” The image is that of the avenging angel following on, or pursuing them in this dark and slippery way; a flight in a dark and dangerous path, with a destroying angel close in the rear.
For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit - See Psalms 7:15, note; Psalms 9:15, note. This figure is derived from hunting. The idea is that of digging a pit or hole for a wild beast to fall into, with a net so concealed that the animal could not see it, and that might be suddenly drawn over him so as to secure him. The reference here is to plans that are laid to entrap and ruin others: plots that are concocted so as to secure destruction before one is aware. The psalmist says that, in his case, they had done this without “cause,” or without any sufficient reason. He had done them no wrong; he had given them no show of excuse for their conduct.
Which without cause they have digged for my soul - For my life. That is, they have digged a pit into which I might fall, and into which they designed that I should fall, though I have never done anything to give them occasion thus to seek my destruction.
Let destruction come upon him at unawares - Margin, which “he knoweth not of.” So the Hebrew. The meaning is, Let destruction come upon him when he is not looking for it, or expecting it.
And let his net that he hath hid catch himself - See the notes at Psalms 7:15-16. The psalmist prays here that the same thing may occur to his enemy which his enemy had designed for him. It is simply a prayer that they might be treated as they purposed to treat him.
And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord - That is, I shall be joyful, or will rejoice. This is said in anticipation of the interposition of God in destroying his enemies, and in delivering him from danger. It is not joy in the destruction of others; it is joy that he himself would be delivered. Our own deliverance from the hand of our enemies may involve the necessity of their being cut off. What we rejoice in, in such a case, is not their ruin, but our own deliverance; and for this it can never be improper to give thanks. The psalmist says that he would rejoice “in the Lord.” It would not be in his own skill or valor, but in what God had done to save him. See the notes at Psalms 34:2.
It shall rejoice in his salvation - For the salvation or deliverance that he brings to me.
All my bones shall say - A similar expression occurs in Psalms 51:8 : “That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” The “bones” are here put for the frame; the whole man. See the notes at Psalms 32:3. The idea is, that he had been crushed and overborne with trouble and danger, so that his very frame - that which sustained him - had given way. He says now that if God would interpose in the manner which he prays for, he would be relieved of the insupportable burden, and his whole nature would rejoice.
Who is like unto thee - Who can bring deliverance like God. Compare the notes at Isaiah 40:18. “Which deliverest the poor,” etc. Who rescues the poor from the hand of the mighty. That is,
(a) Who is there that would interpose as God does in behalf of the poor and the downtrodden?
(b) Who is there that could save them as He does? In His power, and in His willingness to aid, there is no one like God. The word rendered poor here rather means one who is afflicted, or crushed by trial.
Yea, the poor and the needy - The word here rendered poor is the same as that which occurs in the former member of the sentence. The word rendered “needy” is that which is commonly used to denote the poor in the usual sense of the term - one who is in need. The reference is to David, who was afflicted by persecution, and at the same thee was in want of the comforts of life.
From him that spoileth him - From him that would plunder and rob him.
False witnesses did rise up - Margin, “witnesses of wrong.” The Hebrew is, “witnesses of “violence,”” חמס châmâs. That is, they were persons who, in what they said of me, were guilty of injustice and wrong. Their conduct was injurious to me as an act of “violence” would be.
They laid to my charge - Margin, as in Hebrew: “they asked me.” The word “asked” here seems to be used in the sense of “demand;” that is, they demanded an “answer” to what was said. The usage appears to have been derived from courts, where the forms of trial may have been in the way of question and answer - the mode of accusation having been in the form of “asking” how a thing was, or whether it was so; and the defense being regarded as an “answer” to such an inquiry. Hence, it is synonymous with our expression of laying to the charge of anyone; or of accusing anyone.
Things that I knew not - Of which I had no knowledge; which never came into my mind. What those charges were the psalmist does not specify; but it is not uncommon for a good man to be falsely accused, and we are certain that such things occurred in the life of David.
They rewarded me evil for good - They recompensed, or returned evil instead of good. The manner in which they did it he states in the following verses.
To the spoiling of my soul - Margin, “depriving.” The Hebrew word means “the being forsaken,” or “abandoned.” The idea is, that owing to this conduct he was forsaken or abandoned by all in whom he might have put confidence.
But as for me - The psalmist now contrasts their conduct with his own. He refers to the recollections of his past life, and to the acts of kindness which he had shown to them in thees of trouble, as more deeply marking the evils of their own conduct now.
When they were sick - Compare the notes at Job 30:25. It would seem from this that the persons referred to, who now treated him with so much ingratitude, were those with whom he had been formerly intimately associated, or whom he had regarded as his personal friends, since it cannot be supposed that this deep sympathy would have been shown for those who were altogether strangers to him.
My clothing was sackcloth - Compare the notes at Psalms 30:11. The meaning is, that he showed the deepest sympathy in their distress by putting on the emblems of humiliation or mourning. It was also with reference to prayer in their behalf; and to fasting, that he put on these marks of grief. The idea is, that he did all that was understood to be connected with the deepest humiliation before God, and that would fit the mind for earnest prayer in their behalf. He felt that their restoration to health - that the preservation of their lives - depended on God, and he most earnestly and fervently pleaded in their behalf.
I humbled my soul with fasting - Margin, “afflicted;” so the Hebrew properly means. The word “soul” here is equivalent to “self;” I afflicted myself. He subjected himself to the pains of hunger, that he might be better prepared to offer fervent and acceptable prayer. Among the Hebrews fasting and prayer were much more closely connected than they are with Christians. See Daniel 9:3; Matthew 17:21; Luke 2:37.
And my prayer returned into mine own bosom - DeWette explains this as meaning, “I prayed with my head sunk on my bosom;” that is, with the head bowed down, so that the prayer which went out of Iris lips seemed to return again to his own bosom - that earnest prayer which one offers when the head is bowed with sorrow. A posture somewhat similar to this is referred to in the case of Elijah, 1 Kings 18:42 : “And he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees.” The posture of prayer with the head reclining toward the bosom is common among the Muslims, “Reland” de Religione Mohammetica, p. 87. Jarchi explains this as meaning that he sought the same for those who were now his enemies which he would for himself, or that he desired that that should come into his own bosom which he sought for them. Prof. Alexander supposes that this means, according to a traditional interpretation of the Jews, that he desired that the prayer which he offered might redound to his own advantage: “My prayer shall not be lost, it shall return in blessings to the heart which prompted it.” There can be no reason to doubt that this is true “in fact;” and that prayer offered for others “does” bring back blessings to those who offer it. But to suppose that this was the “motive” in the case is to suppose that the psalmist was wholly selfish, and would take away the very point of his observation about his prayer - that it was dictated by the sincerest love for them and true sympathy for their sufferings. The most simple interpretation, therefore, is that which supposes that the prayer was offered under such a burden of grief on account of their sufferings, that his head sank on his bosom; or, in other words, that the prayer which was offered was such as is presented when the heart is most burdened and most sad.
I behaved myself - Margin, as in Hebrew: “I walked.” The word “walk,” in the Scriptures, is often used to denote a course of conduct; the way in which a man lives and acts: Philippians 3:18; Galatians 2:14; 1Th 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:11. It is not improperly rendered here, “I behaved myself.”
As though he had been my friend or brother - Margin, as in Hebrew: “as a friend, as a brother to me.” This shows that these persons were not his near “relations,” but that they were his intheate friends, or were supposed to be so. He felt and acted toward them as though they had been his nearest relations.
I bowed down heavily - Prof. Alexander renders this, “Squalid I bowed down.” The word rendered “I bowed down” refers to the condition of one who is oppressed with grief, or who sinks under it. All have felt this effect of grief, when the head is bowed; when the frame is bent; when one under the pressure throws himself on a couch or on the ground. The word rendered heavily - קדר qodēr - is derived from a word - קדר qâdar - which means to be turbid or foul, as a torrent: Job 6:16; and then, to mourn, or to go about in filthy garments or sackcloth as mourners: Job 5:11; Jeremiah 14:2; Psalms 38:6; Psalms 42:9; and then, to be of a dirty, dusky color, as the skin is that is scorched by the sun: Job 30:28. It is rendered “black” in Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 8:21; 1 Kings 18:45; Jeremiah 14:2; “blackish,” Job 6:16; “dark,” Joel 2:10; Micah 3:6; Ezekiel 32:7-8; “darkened,” Joel 3:15; “mourn and mourning.” Job 5:11; Job 30:28; Psalms 38:6; Psalms 42:9; Psalms 43:2; Ezekiel 31:15; and “heavily” only in this place. The “idea” here is that of one appearing in the usual aspect and habiliments of mourning. He had a sad countenance; he had put on the garments that were indicative of grief; and thus he “walked about.”
As one that mourneth for his mother - The psalmist here evidently designs to illustrate the depth of his own sorrow by a reference to the deepest kind of grief which we ever experience. The sorrow for a mother is special, and there is no grief which a man feels more deeply or keenly than this. We have but one mother to lose, and thousands of most tender recollections come into the memory when she dies. While she lived we had always one friend to whom we could tell everything - to whom we could communicate all our joys, and of whose sympathy we were certain in all our sorrows, however trivial in their own nature they might be. Whoever might be indifferent to us, whoever might turn away from us in our troubles, whoever might feel that our affairs were not worth regarding, we were sure that she would not be the one; we were always certain that she would feel an interest in whatever concerned us. Even those things which we felt could be scarcely worth a father’s attention we could freely communicate to her, for we were sure there was nothing that pertained to us that was too insignificant for her to regard, and we went and freely told all to her. And then, how much has a mother done for us! All the ideas that we have of tenderness, affection, self-denial, patience, and gentleness, are closely connected with the recollection of a mother, for we have, in our early years, seen more of these tilings in her than in perhaps all other persons together. Though, therefore, we weep when a father dies, and though, in the formation of our character, we may have been more indebted to him than to her, yet our grief for him when he dies is different from that which we feel when a mother dies. We, indeed, reverence and honor and love him, but we are conscious of quite a different feeling from that which we have when a mother is removed by death.
But in mine adversity they rejoiced - Margin, as in Hebrew, “halting.” That is, when reverses and troubles came upon me; when, in my journey of life, I seemed to stumble.
And gathered themselves together - Not to help me, but to oppose me, and to deride me.
Yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me - The word rendered “abjects” - נכים nēkiym - has been very variously rendered. The Septuagint renders it: μάστιγις mastiges, “scourges;” so the Vulgate, “flagella.” Our translators evidently regarded it as meaning the low, the vile, the outcasts of society; but this idea is not necessarily implied in the Hebrew word. The word used here is derived from a verb - נכה nâkâh - which means to smite, to strike, to beat; and it would be correctly rendered in this place, “those smiting,” or “beating:” - “the smiters.” But probably the allusion is to the “tongue” - to those who, as it were, smite or beat with the tongue; that is, who rail or revile: those who are slanderous. Compare Jeremiah 18:18; Gesenius (Lexicon). Others have supposed that it means “lame;” that is, those who limp or halt - meaning that all classes of persons gathered themselves together. But probably the true idea is that which is expressed above, that he was surrounded by slanderers and revilers.
And I knew it not - Hebrew, “I knew not;” that is, I knew nothing of what they accused me of; I was wholly ignorant of the charges brought against me. See the notes at Psalms 35:11.
They did tear me - See the notes at Job 16:9. The idea here is that they “tore” or “rent” with words; or, as we say in English, they “tore him in pieces;” that is, they railed at, or reviled him, tearing his character in pieces.
And ceased not - It was not one act only; it was continuous and unceasing. They did it when alone; and they gathered themselves together to do it; they countenanced and encouraged one another.
With hypocritical mockers in feasts - The word rendered hypocritical here - חנף chânêph - properly means people “profane, impious, abandoned.” It refers to such persons as are commonly found in scenes of revelry. The words rendered “mockers at feasts,” it is scarcely possible to render literally. The word translated, “mockers,” - לעג lâ‛êg - means properly one who stammers, or who speaks a foreign language; then, a jester, mocker, buffoon. The word rendered “feasts” - מעוג mâ‛ôg - means “a cake of bread;” and the whole phrase would denote “cake-jesters;” “table-buffoons” - those, perhaps, who act the part of jesters at the tables of the rich for the sake of good eating. “Gesenius.” - The meaning is, that he was exposed to the ribaldry or jesting of that low class of people; that those with whom he had formerly been on friendly terms, and whom he had admitted to his own table, and for whom he had wept in their troubles, now drew around themselves that low and common class of parasites and buffoons for the purpose of ridiculing or deriding him.
They gnashed upon me with their teeth - The act of gnashing with the teeth is expressive of anger or wrath. See the notes at Job 16:9; compare Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:42, Matthew 13:50; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:28. The meaning here is that they connected the expressions of auger or wrath with those of derision and scorn. The one is commonly not far from the other.
Lord, how long wilt thou look on? - How long wilt thou witness this without interposing to deliver me, and to punish those who treat me thus? God saw it all. He was able to save him that was thus persecuted and opposed. And yet he did not interpose. He seemed to pay no attention to it. He appeared to be indifferent to it. The psalmist, therefore, asks “how long” this was to continue. did not doubt that God would, at some thee, interpose and save him; but what was so mysterious to him was the fact that he looked so calmly on - that he saw it all, and that he did not interpose when he could so easily do it. The same question we may now ask, and may constantly ask, in regard to the wickedness in the world - “and no one can answer it.” No one can tell why God, when he sees the state of things on earth, is so calm (compare the notes at Isaiah 18:4), and apparently so indifferent; why he does not hasten to deliver his people, and to punish the wicked. “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight,” is all the answer that can be given to this inquiry. Yet it should have occurred to the psalmist, and it should be observed now, that the fact that God seems to be indifferent to the state of things, does riot proves that he is indifferent. There is an eternity to come, in which there will be ample thee to adjust human affairs, and to develop fully the divine character and counsels.
Rescue my soul from their destructions - My life from the destruction which they are aiming to accomplish.
My darling - Margin, “my only one.” See the notes at Psalms 22:20. The reference here is to “his own soul” or life. It is the language of tenderness addressed to himself. He had but one soul or life, and that was dear to him, as an only child is dear to its parent.
From the lions - Enemies, described as lions; having the fierceness and savage fury of lions. In Psalms 22:20 it is, “from the power of the dog.” The idea is the same in both places. Compare the notes at Psalms 22:20.
I will give thee thanks ... - That is, When I am delivered I will publicly express my gratitude and joy. Compare Psalms 22:25; Psalms 18:49.
I will praise thee among much people - Margin, “strong.” So the Hebrew. The idea here is, “strong in respect to numbers;” that is, when a large body of people should be assembled together.
Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me - Margin, “falsely.” Literally, “My enemies of falsehood;” that is, who are “falsely” my foes; who have no just cause for being opposed to me. Compare Matthew 5:11. David was conscious that he had done them no wrong, or that he had given no occasion for their conduct toward him, and hence, his prayer is simply a request that justice might be done.
Neither let them wink with the eye - Compare the notes at Job 15:12. See also Proverbs 6:13; Proverbs 10:10. The word rendered “wink” means properly to tear or cut asunder; and then, to cut with the teeth, to bite; and hence, the phrase “to bite the lips,” as an expression of malice, or mischief-making: Proverbs 16:30; and to bite or pinch the eyes, that is, to press the eyelids together in the manner of biting the lips - also a gesture of malice or mischief. So Gesenius, Lexicon. But perhaps the more probable meaning is that of “winking” literally; or giving a significant wink of the eyes as an expression of triumph over anyone. In this sense the term is often used now.
That hate me without a cause - To whom I have given no occasion for opposition. In the case under consideration the psalmist regarded himself as entirely innocent in this respect.
For they speak not peace - They seek a quarrel. They are unwilling to be on good terms with others, or to live in peace with them. The idea is that they were “disposed” or “inclined” to quarrel. Thus we speak now of persons who are “quarrelsome.
They devise deceitful matters - literally, “they think of words of deceit.” That is, they set their hearts on misrepresentation, and they study such misrepresentations as occasions for strife with others. They falsely represent my character; they attribute conduct to me of which I am not guilty; they pervert my words; they state that to be true which never occurred, and thus they attempt to justify their own conduct. Almost all the quarrels in the world, whether pertaining to nations, to neighborhoods, to families, or to individuals, are based on some “misrepresentation” of facts, designed or undesigned, and could have been avoided if men had been willing to look at facts as they are, or perfectly understood each other.
Against them that are quiet in the land - That are disposed to be quiet, or that are inclined to live in peace with those around them. The word rendered “quiet” means literally those who are “timid;” then, those who shrink back, and gather together from fear; then, those in general who are disposed to be peaceful and quiet, or who are indisposed to contention and strife. David implicitly asserts himself to be one of that class; a man who preferred peace to war, and who had no disposition to keep up a strife with his neighbors.
Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me - See the notes at Psalms 22:13.
And said, Aha, aha! - See Psalms 40:15; Psalms 70:3. The language is that which we use when we “detect” another in doing wrong - in doing what he meant to conceal.
Our eye hath seen it - We are not dependent on the reports of others. We have seen it with our own eyes. We have found you out. We cannot be mistaken in regard to it. The reference is to some supposed “detection” of misconduct on the part of David, and the joy and triumph of such a supposed detection.
This thou hast seen, O Lord - Thou hast seen what they have done, as they profess to have seen what I have done Psalms 35:21. Thine eye has been upon all their movements, as they say that theirs has been upon mine. Compare the notes at Psalms 35:17.
Keep not silence - That is, Speak; rebuke them; punish them. God seemed to look on with unconcern. As we express it, he “said nothing.” He appeared to pay no attention to what was done, but suffered them to do as they pleased without interposing to rebuke or check them. Compare the notes at Psalms 28:1.
O Lord, be not far from me - Compare the notes at Psalms 10:1.
Stir up thyself - Arouse thyself as if from sleep. See Psalms 44:23.
And awake to my judgment - To execute judgment for me, or to render me justice. A similar petition (almost in the same words) occurs in Psalms 7:6. See the notes at that passage.
Even unto my cause - In my behalf; or, in the cause which so nearly pertains to me.
Judge me, O Lord my God - Pronounce judgment, or judge between me and my enemies. Compare the notes at Psalms 26:1.
According to thy righteousness - That is, “rightly.” Let there be a righteous judgment. The character of God, or the righteousness of God, is the highest standard of equity and justice, and the psalmist asks that he would manifest his real character as judge in interposing in behalf of an injured and oppressed man, and doing justice to him. When we are right in our own cause we may ask a just God to interpose and determine between us and our enemies according to his own nature. As between ourselves and our fellow-men we may bring our cause with this plea before a righteous God; as between ourselves and God, we can make no appeal to his “justice,” but our only hope is in his “mercy.”
And let them not rejoice over me - Let them not carry out their purposes; let them not be successful, so that they can appeal to the result as if they were right, and thus obtain a triumph over me. Compare Psalms 35:19.
Let them not say in their hearts - Let them not congratulate themselves on the result; let them not feel that they have triumphed; let them not, under thy government, come off victorious in doing wrong.
Ah, so would we have it - Margin, as in Hebrew, “Ah, our soul.” That is, It is just as we thought it was; just as we desired it should be; that is exactly our mind in the case. God has permitted us to triumph, and he has showed that we are right in the matter. He has decided the thing in our favor, and it is just as it should be.
Let them not say, We have swallowed him up - See the notes at Psalms 21:9. The meaning is, We have entirely destroyed him - as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were destroyed by being swallowed up in the earth, Numbers 16:31-35. Compare Lamentations 2:16.
Let them be ashamed ... - See the notes at Psalms 35:4.
That magnify themselves against me - Who seek to exalt themselves over me; to make themselves great by humbling and destroying me. They hope to rise on my ruin.
Let them shout for joy - That is, Let me be delivered; let my friends see that God is on my side, and that they have occasion to rejoice in his merciful interposition in my behalf.
That favor my righteous cause - Margin, as in Hebrew, “my righteousness.” The reference is to those who considered his cause a just one, and who were his friends.
Yea, let them say continually - Let this be a constant subject of grateful reflection - a perpetual source of joy to them - that God has interposed in my behalf, and has shown that my cause was a just one.
Let the Lord be magnified - Be regarded as great, exalted, glorious. Let the effect be to elevate their conceptions of the character of God by the fact that he has thus interposed in a righteous cause, and has shown that he is the friend of the wronged and the oppressed.
Which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant - Who delights to make his friends prosperous and happy, Let them see that this is the character of God, and let them thus be led to rejoice in him evermore.
And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness - That is, I will praise thee as a righteous God.
And of thy praise - Of that which is a ground or reason for praise. I will speak continually of that in God and in his doings which make it proper that he should be praised.
All the day long - Continually; constantly. Every new proof of the kindness of God to him would lead to new acts of praise; and his life, as ours should be, would be a continual expression of thanksgiving.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 35". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany