Bible Commentaries
Psalms 35

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Verses 1-3


This psalm has the form of a lamentation. It consists of three sections
1. Psalms 35:1-2 Samuel :;
2. Psalms 35:11-Job :;
3. Psalms 35:19-Hosea :.
All three end with an intention to praise the LORD.

The psalm is an urgent plea to God to act in judgment against the apostate, unmerciful persecutors of the righteous one, that is David, and those who are with him. Defamation, cunning, and violence are all used against him. We can best think of Saul and his helpers when we think of the persecutors.

What they did to David will also be the portion of the remnant in the end times. Much of it was also experienced by the Lord Jesus.

Cry to God for Help

For “[a Psalm] of David” (Psalms 35:1) see at Psalm 3:1.

Without introduction, without first seeking God’s attention, David cries out to God in Psalms 35:1-Leviticus :. The need is so great that he has no time to introduce his prayer. It is like someone who is about to drown and therefore cries out: ‘Help, help!’ It is an extended explanation of the statement David made when he had to flee from Saul: “The LORD therefore be judge and decide between you and me; and may He see and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand” (1 Samuel 24:15). The psalm is also closely related to Psalm 34. Only in these two psalms do we find the phrase “the Angel of the LORD” in Psalms (Psalms 34:7; Psalms 35:5-Joshua :).

David asks God to do everything possible to deal with those who oppose him. He cuts to the chase telling God in strong language to use the resources He possesses to come to his aid.

To begin with, he asks God to contend with his persecutors and accusers (Psalms 35:1). As a reason he mentions the fact that they contend with him. The language is both military language and judicial (legal) language (Psalms 35:2-Leviticus :), simultaneously and interchangeably. It is both fighting and disputing.

What the enemies of David want is extremely out of place. Nothing justifies it. He has done nothing for which they should contend with him. God must make that clear to them and therefore He must take up his cause. David asks God to be his Advocate. By doing so, He will let it be known that He is on his side. He will fight those who fight him.

Let God, he says in metaphor, take hold of buckler and shield, i.e. the small and the large shield – these are defensive weapons, sometimes carried by a shield bearer – and rise up to help him (Psalms 35:2). The small shield is the hand shield; the large shield is the shield behind which the person is completely sheltered. God must also take the spear in His hand – this is an offensive weapon to eliminate the enemy – and place Himself between him and his persecutors (Psalms 35:3). “The battle-axe” can also be translated with “to close up the path against”, which means that He blocks the way for his persecutors and they cannot seize him.

In addition to His actions – the weapons speak of God’s willingness to defend David – God must also let him know by His words that He is for him. He must say to his soul: “I am your salvation”, with the emphasis on “I am”. This will be a tremendous encouragement and comfort to him in the great distress in which he finds himself.

Verses 4-10

Demand for Retribution

After what David has said in Psalms 35:1-Leviticus :, God can begin His judgmental work in his favor. He asks God to let those who seek his life be ashamed and dishonored (Psalms 35:4). In the Middle East, it counts heavily when a good name is dishonored. All those people who devise evil against him, God must make them turn back and humiliated. David expresses himself ever more strongly in asking God to deal with his enemies.

God must drive them away (Psalms 35:5) through “the angel of the LORD”, which is the Lord Jesus before He became Man (cf. Psalms 34:7). If He strikes at them, they will drift away like chaff before the wind, becoming untraceable (cf. 2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36). He also asks that their way be “dark and slippery with the angel of the LORD pursuing them” (Psalms 35:6). The way of his persecutors must be dark, so that they do not recognize the way. It must also be slippery so that they immediately slip as soon as they take a step. It is what happened to the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:23-Obadiah :). David knows that his enemies will not even be able to flee from their Persecutor when He has turned the tables.

David’s demand for judgment to come on his enemies is righteous. His enemies want to catch him like a wild animal in a net and in a pit they have hidden from him (Psalms 35:7). But it is “without cause” (cf. Psalms 35:19). This is how the enemies of the Lord Jesus have been toward Him. ‘Without cause’ they persecuted Him, driven by a deep hatred to kill Him. The remnant will also be oppressed “without cause”.

David asks God to cause destruction to come upon the enemy (singular) without his noticing (Psalms 35:8). This enemy in the end times is the antichrist, the future false king (John 5:43), who will persecute the believing remnant to death. He will be caught in his own cunning and put to death. What he has done to others will be done to him (Revelation 13:10).

If God grants his request, his soul will rejoice in Him (Psalms 35:9). He will exult in the salvation God has given. All his bones, from which all strength has vanished, will be revived (Psalms 35:10). In newly gained strength he will cry out, “LORD, who is like You!” These words Israel spoke of God after the great deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 15:11). We also hear them in the words of Isaiah when he speaks of the God of creation (Isaiah 40:25-Ezekiel :) and in the words of Micah when he speaks of God as the Redeemer (Micah 7:18).

David speaks of God in this way because God delivered him, “the afflicted”, “from him who is too strong for him”. David was the subjugated party, but the incomparable LORD came to his aid and delivered him. When the LORD intercedes for him, He will save him, “the afflicted and the needy”, from the power “of him “who robs him”, from the man who takes his possessions from him by force.

Verses 11-16

Evil Repaid for Good

There is no mention of violence in these verses, the second section of this psalm. They are a long complaint dealing with slander, ingratitude, ridicule and hatred. There is no ground for all these forms of enmity. That makes it all unbearable for David. What David says in these verses happened to the Lord Jesus. Malicious witnesses rose up against Him to bring up something on the basis of which His enemies might condemn Him (Psalms 35:11; Matthew 26:59-1 Peter :). And this while He has done nothing evil. On the contrary, He has done only good and nothing else.

David says here “that I do not know”. The Lord Jesus did not say that. He can say, “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?” (John 8:45-1 Corinthians :). He is fully aware that He has done only and nothing but the will of God.

How did the enemies of the Lord Jesus repay Him evil for good (Psalms 35:12). They have wanted to rob Him of life. He, Who “went about doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38), has been portrayed as an evildoer to get Him condemned (Luke 23:1-Exodus :; Luke 23:5Luke 23:10).

And how was David in the midst of His people? He has participated in their suffering in a way that is truly compassionate (Psalms 35:13; cf. Matthew 8:16-Esther :). He did not inquire superficially, with a polite question such as we often ask, in terms of ‘how are you?’ He has outwardly fully and inwardly deeply cared about their suffering and has shown this. He has prayed for them time and again. His sorrow is sincere and deeply felt, as if it were his friend or brother or someone grieving for his mother (Psalms 35:14).

But what did those for whom David had been so good do when he was struggling and stumbling through life (Psalms 35:15)? They gathered around him, not to help him, but to laugh at him. That is also what the enemies of the Lord Jesus did to Him (Matthew 27:27; Luke 23:1). They repaid Him hatred for His love.

The people who, when David was in distress, so gathered around him to mock him, “smiters”. David didn’t know them. “They slandered” or “they tore” him, that is, his reputation, to pieces with their slanders. They did “without ceasing”. David’s enemies did not know how to stop, they just went on and on.

David also knows how they behave when they are among themselves, in their own circle (Psalms 35:16). It is a company of “godless jesters at a feast”. The Hebrew word has the meaning of people who for the sake of a small reward (a cookie) are willing to mock others.

Perhaps we can think of people who sat at Saul’s table and told Saul lies about him (1 Samuel 24:10). These jesters did this to be in Saul’s good graces and to take advantage of him as much as possible (1 Samuel 22:7). Therefore, they “gnashed … their teeth” at him, which means they were plotting evil (Psalms 37:12). They were out to gain. That did not come because David always escaped their hands.

Verses 17-21

Cry for Redemption

How long will the “Lord” – Adonai, Commander, Sovereign Ruler – remain idly “look on” (Psalms 35:17)? When will He take the action for which David has called Him in Psalms 35:1-Leviticus :? While in these psalms a repetition of thoughts occurs each time as a form of poetry, this form of poetry is interrupted by the fact that this question stands alone, without repetition. This emphasizes the distress of the psalmist.

Devastating deeds are being done against His anointed King. He begs God to deliver his soul from them. “My only [life]” means “I have no more”. This is about David’s life, which was the only thing he had left. And even that was threatened by hungry, powerful, life-threatening lions.

David knows that God will stand up for him and deliver him and he intends not to be silent about that (Psalms 35:18). He will give Him thanks for it “in the great congregation”, and “among a mighty throng” he will praise Him. As in Psalm 22, the LORD’s deliverance extends to praise in the assembly (Psalms 22:22), yes, the great assembly (Psalms 22:25), the latter pointing to the fullness of Israel in the realm of peace.

But it is still not that far. The second section of the psalm ends with an intention to sing a song of praise (Psalms 35:18), but the third section (Psalms 35:19-Hosea :) begins with the present condition in which the enemy rejoices over David’s condition. Hence, David again turns to God, this time with two questions (Psalms 35:19). The first is that he asks God to see to it that those who are his enemies for false reasons will not be able to rejoice over him.

The second is that those who hate him “without cause” will not have an opportunity to inform one another of their plans to kill him through sneaky signals of winks. People who send signals by winking are making up falsehoods (Proverbs 16:30). They are not sincere; they will not openly say what they mean (Proverbs 6:12-1 Chronicles :). They share secrets with each other that cannot bear the light of day and are therefore signaled to each other in the dark language of secrecy.

He does know them. These are not people who speak peace (Psalms 35:20). They are not out for peace, but for the extermination of “those who are quiet in the land”. “They devise deceitful words” against them. The “quiet in the land” are those who make up the remnant, who do not impress or emphatically show themselves. They do not step into the foreground and do not assert themselves. They are modest in their behavior and are easy prey for the wicked people.

The wicked people “opened their mouths wide” against God’s anointed king (Psalms 35:21). They put on a big mouth against him and certainly do not hold back in doing so. It is the picture here of a wild animal, a lion, which opens its mouth and threateningly shows its teeth (cf. Psalms 35:17; Psalms 35:25). Out of their mouths come the foulest accusations and curses. With great amusement they claim that they have seen what they accuse him of: “Aha, aha, our eyes have seen it!” Now they can sue and get him convicted. The expression “aha” (cf. Psalms 40:15) means that they are gloating over the psalmist’s misery (cf. Psalms 35:19).

Verses 22-26

Demand to Do Justice

The enemies say in Psalms 35:21 that they have seen “it”, but David says to the LORD, “You have seen it” (Psalms 35:22). And that’s what it’s all about. The LORD does not let Himself be heard, but David knows that He has seen it. He calls on Him to break His silence. He asks the “Lord”, Adonai, not to stay far from him, by which he means that the Lord will come close to him to actually help him (cf. Psa 22: 11).

David calls on God to awaken (literally, to rise up) and wake up (Psalms 35:23; cf. Psalms 44:23). He knows that God has seen everything. But because God does nothing, it seems to David that He is keeping Himself asleep. It is, according to David, high time for God to act to bring justice to His anointed king. He passionately appeals to God, whom he calls “my God and my Lord”, to take his court case. Then He can silence the accusers.

David’s concern is that God is doing him justice according to His, that is God’s, righteousness (Psalms 35:24). Only when God, Whom he emphatically addresses again, this time as “LORD my God”, does justice to him with His righteousness, will any accusation be definitively dismissed. The accusers will have been deprived of the reason to rejoice over him. He will be vindicated and redeemed by God.

They should not even get the inner satisfaction of his condemnation and not be able to say “in their hearts” that they have their way (Psalms 35:25). Nothing must come of their intention to swallow him up (cf. Lamentations 2:16). They must trickle off in shame and humiliated altogether, all those people who rejoice over his calamity (Psalms 35:26). God must clothe them with shame and dishonor (cf. Psalms 35:4), all those people who magnify themselves over to get him out of the way.

Verses 27-28

The LORD Be Magnified

David asked God to justify him to his accusers and make them ashamed. He ends the psalm by asking God for those who find joy in his righteousness (Psalms 35:27). There are those people. They are his faithful followers who favor his vindication and rejoice in it. They suffer with him the reproach that is done to him. For them David asks that God will turn things around for the better so that they will shout for joy and rejoice.

When justice is done to God’s anointed King, which is ultimately the Messiah, God’s people will “say continually, “The LORD be magnified””. God will receive all the glory. God’s delight will be great “in the prosperity of His servant”. Again, this is all about the Lord Jesus. He is the true Servant of God, the Servant of the LORD.

The peace of God’s Servant, the Messiah, is the peace He has wrought through His work on the cross. Through this He enabled peace with God (Romans 5:1; John 14:27). This is the peace that the sinner partakes of when he converts to God and accepts in faith the work of the Lord Jesus as also accomplished for him. The Lord Jesus then gives His own peace, which is the peace of God, to all who, like He has always done, walk their way in trust in God (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7). Then there is a third form of peace. That is the peace that will soon reign everywhere on earth (Isaiah 9:6).

That peace, according to Psalms 35:24, is based on “Your righteousness”, that is God’s righteousness. Now that same righteousness is proclaimed and magnified by David (Psalms 35:28). God’s righteousness guarantees the eternal duration of peace. It is peace as the fruit of righteousness, that is, of God’s righteousness (James 3:18). God judges the enemies of His people and of David and of the true David in justice. After that, there will be peace on earth.

David’s enemies have used their tongues to say wicked things. David will use his tongue to “declare” God’s “righteousness”, God’s “praise all day long” or God’s “praise every day”, that is continuously. Throughout the time of the realm of peace, God will be praised for His righteousness all day long.

The expression ‘justice will prevail’ is then fulfilled in its full sense, for God’s justice, the true justice, has then been manifested. Its result, peace, will then be enjoyed everywhere. This will always be expressed in praise of God by all who enjoy this peace.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 35". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.