Bible Commentaries
Psalms 35

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.

The starting-point of the psalm appears in 1 Samuel 24:15: David, after sparing Saul in Engedi, says, "The Lord be judge between me and thee ... and plead my cause" (cf. Psalms 35:1). The antitypical David, in John 13:25, appropriates Psalms 35:19. He alone could plead perfect righteousness, love, meekness, and prayerfulness in His distress through the monstrous ingratitude of His foes. For a striking coincidence between Psalms 34:1-22 and Psalms 35:1-28, cf. Ps. 34:37 with Psalms 35:5-6) Complaint, prayer, and promise of thanksgiving occurs in each of the three strophes of the psalm, Psalms 35:1-28. Throughout He appeals from the malice of His foes to the retributive justice of God to vindicate His cause. Plead ... strive with me - rather, as the Hebrew ( riybaah (H7378) ... yªriybay (H3401)) is the same, 'plead my cause ... with them that plead with me.' Thus, the retributive justice of God is marked, which pays men in their own coin, and punishes men in kind. They plead with me as if they had justice on their side; But do thou plead with them, and show them by the issue, that the right is on my side. So the enemies of Messiah, the Antitype, proceeded against Him by a judicial process (Isaiah 53:8).

Fight ... As "plead" implies a contest of right, so "fight," a contest of might. The Hebrew ( lªcham (H3898)) for "fight" is literally to eat or consume (cf. Numbers 24:8).

Verse 2

Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.

Shield and buckler. The Hebrew means 'the small shield' [ maageen (H4043)] and the 'large shield' respectively [ tsinaah (H6793)] (cf. Psalms 5:12, note; 1 Kings 10:16-17). God promises, in Deuteronomy 32:41-42, that 'if He whet His glittering sword, and His hand take hold on judgment, He will render vengeance to His enemies.'

Stand up for mine help - `as mine help.' In this verse he sails on God to take hold of defensive weapons, to shield, not God, but the petitioner. In Psalms 35:3 offensive weapons also.

Verse 3

Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

Draw out also the spear - namely, from thy armoury.

And stop (the way) - interpose thyself, between me and my persecutors; literally, 'set a barrier' against them. David, as a warrior, uses martial images.

My soul (or life), I am thy salvation - not merely my Saviour, but my salvation, embodying in thyself all salvation. Contrast Acts 16:30, "What must I do to be saved?" Make me, by actual deliverance of my endangered soul, to feet that thou hast spoken the word which works its own effect, "I am thy salvation." The realized "salvation," not an audible saying, is what he prays for from God.

Verse 4

Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.

Let them ... - repeated at the close Psalms 35:26.

Verse 5

Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the LORD chase them.

Let them be as chaff - (Psalms 1:4.)

Angel ... The same Divine Angel who "encampeth round about them that fear Him" (Psalms 34:7). For "chase" translate (docheh) 'pushing' them, so as to full never to rise (Psalms 36:12; Psalms 118:13); or so as to have no resting-place, whereas the chaff at last rests on something to which it adheres.

Verse 6

Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them.

Way be dark and slippery. image from one upon a dark and slippery path, which retards his flight, and makes his destruction inevitable.

Let the angel ... - "the angel of the Lord," the Divine Word, who saves His people, pursues with vengeance His and their adversaries.

Verse 7

For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.

They hid for me their net in a pit. Their having laid for the petitioner a pit-net, justifies the prayer, and ensures its fulfillment, that they should be caught in their own trap (Psalms 35:8). The pit-net was a pit covered over by the hunter with a net and with twigs, to ensure the fall and capture of a wild beast.

Verse 8

Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.

Let destruction ... unawares - even as he had tried to take by surprise and to destroy the righteous. The ungodly is put before us as an ideal person in the singular, the representative of all the God-opposed ones of every age. This anti-Christian faction has some particular individuals who more especially embody its ungodliness, as Haman, who sought to destroy all the Jews; Antiochus Epiphanes, the fanatical persecutor in Old Testament times; Judas, "the son of perdition;" and above all, Antichrist of the latter days, who is also called (2 Thessalonians 2:3) "the son of perdition.

And let ... himself - Psalms 35:7, first clause.

Into that ... - (Psalms 36:12)

Verse 9

And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.

My soul shall be joyful. In anticipation of the gracious answer to his prayer, and in order to give additional weight to his entreaty, he vows a soul-felt thanksgiving to the Lord.

It shall rejoice in his salvation - whenever Yahweh shall have said to my soul, in accordance with my prayer (Psalms 35:3), "I am thy salvation."

Verse 10

All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?

All my bones ... - `my whole body,' preserved by thy goodness (cf. Psalms 34:20), as distinguished from "my soul" (Psalms 35:9), shall break forth into praises of thee (Psalms 51:8). "Who is like unto thee?" was the language of Israel's thanksgiving after the deliverance at the Red Sea (Exodus 15:11).

Verse 11

False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.

The second strophe, in which the sufferer complains of the malice of his enemies (Psalms 35:11-16), in order to move the compassion of God to interpose in his behalf; in which event, as before, he vows thanksgiving, with the additional feature that it is in the great congregation (Psalms 35:18).

False witnesses ... they laid to my charge ... The chief and antitypical reference is to the Messiah. The Hebrew ( yish'aaluwniy (H7592)) for "they laid to my charge," etc., is, they ENQUIRED of me about what I know not of; so the enemies of Christ tried by questioning to get from him some ground of accusation: the chief priests (Mark 14:55-61), the Pharisees (12:13; 11:53-54), Herod (Luke 23:9), the high priest (John 18:19), Pilate (John 18:33).

Verse 12

They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.

They ... the spoiling of my soul - literally, '(to) the bereavement of my soul;' they bereaved me of all the consolations and necessaries whereby life is sustained; I have been left as one alone in the world, bereft of everything.

Verse 13

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.

When they were sick ... I humbled - `afflicted' (cf. Isaiah 58:3-6). As if their sickness was my own, I chastened my spirit with outward exercises of penitence. Times of sickness should be times of humiliation for sin, which is the original cause of all sickness. None ever realized this perfect union with the sufferings and sins of man as did Jesus, who "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17). He especially returned good for evil, weeping over the city, which was about to be His murderer, and praying for them who did the awful deed (Luke 19:41-44; Luke 13:34); whereas His enemies 'rewarded Him evil for good' (John 10:32; John 15:25).

My prayer returned bosom Since my compassion can be of no avail to my enemies through their wicked My prayer returned ... bosom. Since my compassion can be of no avail to my enemies, through their wicked perversity, at least it shall be of avail to me with God, who shall be stirred up thereby to interpose in my behalf (Muis). (Isaiah 49:4-5.) My prayers and fastings returned to me without having any effect in melting them, like a present sent to an ungrateful person, which, instead of receiving it with gratitude, he sends back to the giver (Hammond). The fold of the garment, at the 'bosom' or lap, was used as the receptacle for any gift or payment (cf. Isaiah 65:6-7, "I will measure their work into their bosom;" Jeremiah 32:18; Psalms 79:12; Ecclesiastes 7:9). The phrase is best illustrated by Matthew 10:13; Luke 10:6, after directing the disciples in their mission to pray on entering a house, "Peace be to this house," Jesus adds, "if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again."

Verse 14

I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.

I behaved myself - literally, 'I walked,' or 'went along.'

As though ... or brother. Compare David's lamentation for his enemy, Saul, when slain (2 Samuel 1:17-27).

I bowed down heavily - Hebrew, 'in unsightly appearance;' i:e., with all the outward marks of mourning black and soiled clothing, ashes, unwashed face, etc.

Verse 15

But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not:

In mine adversity they rejoiced - literally, 'in my halting' (Psalms 38:17); i:e., in my bodily weakness. In their sickness He made their pain His pain; but now in His sickness they make His pain their joy.

The abjects gathered ... and I knew it not - they flock together in crowds to insult the lonely and afflicted one. So at the crucifixion of Christ. Hengstenberg translates, 'the abjects whom I knew not'-literally, 'the smitten men,' those who, from their low condition were not among my recognized acquaintances (Job 30:1-14). But the sufferer had treated these, his persecutors, not only as persons whom He knew, but as though they were His 'friends and brothers' (Psalms 35:14). I therefore prefer, 'And I knew not' why 'they gathered themselves together against me.' I was conscious of no cause for their deadly hatred; nay, I knew I had given them every cause for the contrary feeling. Thus, this clause "I knew not," answers to Psalms 35:11, "things that I knew not," and Psalms 35:19 'without cause;' also Psalms 35:7.

They did tear me. The image is from the tearing of a garment. I therefore prefer the Septuagint and Vulgate rendering for "abjects" [ neekiym (H5222), mastiges, flagella], 'the scourges,' or 'smiters,' which translation accords best with the verb 'tear.' Compare Jeremiah 18:18; Job 5:2, 'the scourge of the tongue.'

Verse 16

With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.

With hypocritical mockers in feasts - rather, 'with hypocritical (or profane) mockers for a cake' [ maa`owg (H4580)]; such as sell their tongue to raillery for the sake of a paltry 'cake' (not a dainty cake, but the ordinary ashes-baked cake of bread used in the East), ingratiating themselves with some leader of the persecution by ribald scoffs at the godly sufferer. It is not refined wit that is meant, but bitter scoffs of the lowest, hounded on by the master from whom they receive their morsel.

They gnashed ... - with vehement fury (Psalms 37:12; Acts 7:54).

Verse 17

Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.

Lord, how long wilt thou look on? - without interposing for me.

Rescue ... destructions - or 'desolations.' His soul is in a mournful, dangerous place, surrounded by their devastations (Hengstenberg).

My darling from the lions - (note, Psalms 22:20.) My soul, of unique preciousness, rescue thou from lion-like adversaries (Psalms 22:21; Psalms 10:9).

Verse 18

I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.

I will give thee thanks. This promised thanks, giving at the close of the middle strophe answers to the similar one at the close of the first strophe (Psalms 35:9-10). The distinction is, that the thanksgiving there is that of the soul apart and individually; whereas here it is "in the great congregation ... among much people."

Verse 19

Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.

Here begins the third strophe: prayer founded on the representations just made (Psalms 35:19-28).

Let not them ... wrongfully - or 'falsely,' with lying accusations.

Neither let them wink ... hate me without a cause - let them not evince their joy at my hurt by winking at one another with the eye. It is striking that the same Greek word [ doorean (G1432)] is used in John 15:25 ("they hated me without a cause") of men's hatred of Christ, as is used in Romans 3:24 of His free love to them ("being justified freely by His grace"). As gratuitous as was their hatred, so gratuitous was His love. He had given men every cause to love, yet they hated Him. They had given Him every cause to hate, yet He loved them.

Verse 20

For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.

Speak not peace - as my peaceable attitude toward them and all men would have dictated as right. This verse, 20, and 21, give the reason for the prayer in Psalms 35:19, 'Let them not rejoice over me,' for their whole spirit is perverse and malicious.

Verse 21

Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.

Our eye hath seen it - namely, the destruction of the godly sufferer, which we long desired to see (Psalms 35:25).

Verse 22

This thou hast seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.

This thou hast seen, O Lord - (Psalms 10:14; Exodus 3:7.) Yahweh's seeing it stands in beautiful contrast to their boast (Psalms 35:21), "our eye hath seen it."

Keep not silence - refuse not to answer my prayer (Psalms 27:1).

Be not far from me - i:e., from helping me (Psalms 10:1).

Verse 23

Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.

Awake ... - awake to vindicate my right and plead my cause (Psalms 9:4; Psalms 18:2).

Verse 24

Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.

Let ... - (Psalms 35:19.)

Verse 25

Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.

Ah! so would we have it - literally, 'Ah! our soul;' i:e., 'our wish,' on which we have set our whole soul (Proverbs 13:4), is realized.

Verse 26

Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.

Clothed with shame - (Psalms 109:18; Psalms 109:29.)

Verse 27

Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

Let them shout for joy ... my righteous cause - or 'that wish my justification' (literally, 'righteousness'). 'Wish my justification' stands in contrast to "rejoice at mine hurt" (Psalms 35:26). Give thou them occasion for joyful thanksgivings by justifying me.

Let the Lord be magnified ... prosperity of his servant - literally, 'the peace (the fruit of the previous justification, Romans 5:1) of His servant.' The conferring of justification and peace on him will, according to his plea, call forth praises of God on the part of his fellow-believers, whose cause is identified with his.

Verse 28

And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.

Thy righteousness - which is the ground of 'my righteousness,' or justification (Psalms 35:27). The Lord's inherent and infinite righteousness is magnified by His people's justification on the ground of His righteousness imputed to them (Isaiah 42:21; Isaiah 45:24-25).

And of thy praise all the day long. In this third promise of thanksgiving, as distinguished from the former two (Psalms 35:9; Psalms 35:18), there is the additional element of continuous and unceasing praise.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 35". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.