Bible Commentaries
Psalms 35

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-28

Psalms 35:0

A Psalm of David

1          Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me:

Fight against them that fight against me.

2     Take hold of shield and buckler,

And stand up for mine help.

3     Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me;

Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

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.

5     Let them be as chaff before the the wind:

And let the angel of the Lord chase them.

6     Let their way be dark and slippery:

And let the angel of the Lord persecute them.

7     For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit,

Which without cause they have digged for my soul.

8     Let destruction come upon him at unawares;

And let the net that he hath hid catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.

9     And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord.

It shall rejoice in his salvation.

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?

11     False witnesses did rise up;

They laid to my charge things that I knew not.

12     They rewarded me evil for good

To the spoiling of my soul.

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.

14     I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother.

I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.

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:

16     With hypocritical mockers in feasts,

They gnashed upon me with their teeth.

17     Lord, how long wilt thou look on?

Rescue my soul from their destructions,
My darling from the lions.

18     I will give thee thanks in the great congregation:

I will praise thee among much people.

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.

20     For they speak not peace:

But they devise deceitful matters against them, that are quiet in the land.

21     Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me,

And said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.

22     This thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence:

O Lord, be not far from me.

23     Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment,

Even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.

24     Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness;

And let them not rejoice over me.

25     Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it!

Let them not say, We have swallowed him up.

26     Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together

That rejoice in mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
That magnify themselves against me.

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.

28     And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness

And of thy praise all the day long.


Its Contents and Composition—This Psalm is not so much a lamentation, which repeats the same phrases prolixly and to excess (De Wette, Hupfeld), as a rythmical and agitated prayer. The same three thoughts recur in the three chief divisions (Psalms 35:1-28), but always with different forms, references and figures. These are 1) the prayer that Jehovah will interfere without delay for the protection of His servant, that his righteous cause may be carried out and his enemies ruined; 2) the description of the wickedness and unthankfulness of these enemies, which have previously received sympathy and tokens of love from him whom they now persecute without cause; and 3) the vow of thankfulness, which the delivered man will offer as an expression of his entire resignation to the Lord, publicly in the congregation and to their edification. The movement of these thoughts around in a circle corresponds throughout with the deeply felt experiences of a heart, which is shaken to its foundation by bitter experiences, which have been so contrary to all his expectations. His heart can become master of its own emotions only gradually, and indeed only by urgently clinging to God. This, as well as the manner of expression, which is picturesque, in part drastic, and corresponds closely with his experiences even to the tone of the language, is opposed to the idea that the author speaks from the person of the righteous as such (Hengst.) The citation of Psalms 35:19 in the mouth of Jesus (John 15:25), which may be derived from Psalms 69:4, as well, does not demand either this supposition, or the Messianic interpretation of the ancient church, or the typical interpretation in the narrow sense, but is founded upon the general relation of the sufferings of Jesus to every undeserved suffering at the hands of wicked and unthankful men. This is only strengthened and brought into narrower historical connection by maintaining its composition by David, which has nothing against it. For the correspondences with Jeremiah 18:19; Jeremiah 23:12 : Lamentations 2:16, upon which Hitzig lays so much stress, do not lead to the priority of the prophet Jeremiah, since the opening strophe of the Psalm uses the language of a man of war. In the life of David the most suitable time for the composition of this Psalm is found in the time of his persecution by Saul, and it is most nearly related to Psalms 40, 69. It seems to be a lyrical carrying out of the words used by David 1 Samuel 24:16, and owes its place in the collection of Psalms, probably to the circumstance that the Maleach Jehovah is mentioned here in the singular, as in the preceding Psalm.

Str. I. Psa 35:1. Fight them that fight me, make war upon them that make war upon me.—The expression רִיב leads at first to the idea of litigation, but this when carried out brings about directly warlike complications. The את is not the preposition with, but the sign of the accusative.9 If the fundamental meaning of לחם were vorare (most interpreters), yet it does not follow that war among the Hebrews was once connected with devouring men (Daumer der Feuer und Molochdienst der alten Hebr. § 242). We might think of a figure of the entire annihilation of the enemy as it is used Numbers 24:8. We may likewise, however, according to the derivation from the Arabic, get the meaning of a dense throng, a large crowd, and tumult (Delitzsch).

Psalms 35:2. Target and shield.—The figures displace one another, and thus, with the strong anthropomorphic description of the Divine interference, lead away from the form to the subject. This is shown clearly by the mention of the two shields, never used by a warrior at the same time, the smaller one to protect the head (1 Kings 10:16), and the larger to protect the entire body.10

Psalms 35:3. Stop (the way.)—This may be designated by a military technical term (Hengst.), although we do not think exactly of the circle which was formed by the light armed in retiring from their adversaries after throwing the spear (Schegg). At any rate סִגֹר was taken as an imperative by all ancient translations. Most interpreters supply, at least in thought, viam, with the translation interclude. Hitzig compares the Æthiopic and Arabic in favor of the meaning; advance rapidly, haste. The explanation of the word of the battle-axe of upper Asia, particularly of the Scythians (Kimchi, Hupf., et al), to which Greek writers give the name of σάγαοις, whilst in other respects acceptable, has particularly against it the fact that the substantive סְגוּר occurs in Hosea 13:8, Job 28:15, in an entirely different meaning (Geier).

Str. II. [Psalms 35:4. Confounded,—disgraced,—blush,—Hupfeld: “The usual formula for the frustration and failure of the hopes and undertakings of the wicked: heaped up to strengthen the sense as Psalms 35:26; Psalms 6:10; Psalms 40:14, etc., but connected by the retreat back, that is be beaten back, (vid.Psalms 6:10) with the preceding figure of hostile attack, and thus to be taken here in this particular sense.”—C. A. B]

Psalms 35:5. As chaff before the wind. [Comp Psalms 1:4; Psalms 18:42; Psalms 83:13].—Jehovah’s angel—Hitzig remarks correctly, that Jehovah (Psalms 104:4,) makes the winds his angels, but here in reality the angel takes the place of the wind in the comparison, and the angel is designated as the ἐνέργεια of the flight. From this we conclude, that the angel is not figurative, or a collective, but is to be taken individually and properly, which is confirmed by the parallel Psalms 35:6, as well as the similarity with Exodus 14:25; Judges 5:25. “That this angel here takes part, when the question is whether the kingdom of the promise shall be destroyed in its origin or not, agrees with the appearance of the Maleach Jehovah in the fundamental period of the history of redemption” (Delitzsch). If now this angel is a mediator of Divine help for the servants of God, he is an angel of judgment for their enemies. Calvin, it is true, takes the expression here as in the previous Psalm, as collective, but makes the remark which brings forward the correct thought, that the angels could not protect and save, unless they on the other side could at the same time prevent and punish Accordingly if this is true, without doubt, then every prayer for the Divine interference for deliverance from the power of wicked enemies, implicitly contains the prayer for a Divine punishment of these enemies. In most cases this reverse side of the prayer for deliverance either does not come to consciousness, or takes the form of a petition for one’s own deliverance, whilst the treatment of the enemy is left to the estimation of God. It may, however, happen that the servant of God, as he is obligated to proclaim the Divine judgment, may thus feel justified in the prayer for its execution, that is, when he has to do with the affairs of God’s kingdom and the decision of affairs in the history of redemption, and the petitioner regards himself as executingthe Divine will. The highest stage of perfection then renders possible, in looking at the fulfilment of

the Divine plan of the world, still further intercession for the forgiveness of guilt, (Luke 23:34 sq.; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:15), and the limitation of the punishment to temporal ruin (Galatians 1:9; Galatians 5:12; 2 Timothy 4:14), and in the sense of evangelical chastisement (1 Peter 4:6; 1 Corinthians 5:5). The Old Testament has not gone as far as this, although the duty of love to the enemy is most distinctly commanded and recognized (Exodus 23:4; Leviticus 19:18; Job 31:29; Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 24:17; Proverbs 25:21). But we must not say that David acted selfishly and revengefully, and that his thankfulness Psalms 35:9 sq. even has a trace of joy in the misfortunes of his enemies. His thankfulness refers expressly to the help he has received, and it is designated as a rejoicing in the Lord.

[Psalms 35:6. Alexander: “Dark and slippery, literally darkness and smoothness, an emphatic substitute of the abstract for the concrete. The fearful image thus suggested of men driven, like chaff before the wind, along a dark and slippery path, is rendered more terrible by the additional idea of their being hotly pursued by the destroying angel. The construction of the last clause, both in this verse and the one before it, is; (let) the angel of Jehovah (be) pursuing them.”—C. A. B.]

Str. III. Psa 35:7. For without cause they have hid for me their net, without cause digged a pit for my soul.—The reading שַׁחת רִשְׁתָם is scarcely tenable. For “the pit of their net” or “their net-pit” might actually mean a pit provided with a snare, which was covered with boughs or earth; but the connection of these words, partly with one another, partly with the verb “hide,” is unheard of, and the figurative reference of pit to ruin, as if the reference could be to the net of destruction (Luther, von Meyer), is therefore to be rejected, because pernicies laquei (after the Sept. διαφθορὰ παγίδος) notwithstanding Grotius, can no more stand for laqueus exitialis than the destruction of their net can mean: their destructive net. Since now to “hide nets” and “dig pits” are usual figures of hostile waylaying, the removal of שׁחת from the first line to the second, proposed by Houbigant and best advocated by Hitzig and Hupfeld, is the more to be approved as the verb “dig” would otherwise lack its usual object.

Psalms 35:8. Let destruction come upon him unawares.—It is uncertain whether שׁוֹאָה means the disordered confusion of things or of tunes, in its origin and in this passage. Most interpreters take it in the former sense=fall, ruin, devastatio, and remind us of the parallels in Psalms 34:21; Psalms 36:12. Venema, Hitzig and Ewald take it in the latter sense as, roar, noise, the latter thinking particularly of a storm. Delitzsch takes Psalms 35:8 a in the former and Psalms 35:8 c in the latter meaning, which Calvin (cum tumultu = horrore) changes without authority from an objective event to a subjective experience. Kurtz combines both meanings in Psalms 35:8 a: crashing fall. The Syriac translates “in the pit” as if it had read שּׁחח. But since it adds “which he dug,” we are to suppose rather a paraphrastic explanation than another reading. A like explanation is given by Seb. Schmidt, J. H. Mich., Stier, Hupf with the translation in vastationem (quam mihi paravit) in eandem incidat. Olshausen thinks of a marginal gloss which has come into the text. And the manner of expression of Psalms 35:8 c is certainly striking in its relation to Psalms 35:8 a, yet it is not to be designated as a corruption, with any certainty.—The singular suffix=“him” does not necessarily designate a particular person, as, for example, Ahithophel, Shimei, Mephibosheth (Ruding.), nor properly the ideally wicked (Hengst.), but is used as an individual (Hupf.) for the class, and thus for every individual (Hitzig) of the enemies conceived as one body (Delitzsch).—The idea of sudden and unavoidable is expressed in Hebrew by the asyndetical, “he knows not” as Isaiah 47:11; Proverbs 5:6.

Psalms 35:10. All my bones.—This does not mean the innermost being (Hengst.), but the body as the complement of the soul mentioned in Psalms 35:9 (Aben Ezra), at the same time it contains a prayer and hope that the Lord will preserve all his bones (Psalms 34:20), will keep him unharmed (Stier).—[Jehovah, who is like Thee.—Delitzsch: “This exclamation is from Exodus 15:11, it demands emphatic expression, it serves not for closer connection, but for rendering more decidedly prominent.”—C. A. B.]

[Str IV. Psalms 35:11. Unjust witnesses rise up, they question me of what I am unconscious—This is a figure of persecution and especially slander, derived from the complaints and questionings of a criminal process (De Wette, Hupfeld). They demand of him the admission of things of which he is unconscious, and which are contrary to his course of conduct (Delitzsch). Ewald renders “cruel witnesses,” without sufficient reason, and is followed by Alexander, Perowne, et al. but the translation given above is that of De Wette, Hupfeld, Delitzsch, Moll, et al., and is better.

Psalms 35:12. My soul is bereaved.—Perowne: “I am alone in the world. I, who have ever sought to help the friendless and comfort the afflicted, and who prayed so earnestly for others, am forsaken of all.”11—C. A. B.]

Str. V. Psalms 35:13. And my prayer—into mine own bosom it returned.—The context shows, that this is not of the recompense of the intercession, whether in a sarcastic sense, comp. Psalms 35:12 (Hupf.), or as an optative (Sept., Jerome, Isaki, Flamin., Sachs).12 No more is it of its failure, since, on account of the ungodliness of those who were prayed for, it returned empty (Riehm,13 after an explanation proposed by Calvin). Usage does not allow us to think of a repeated or an ardent prayer from the heart, or for something lying upon the heart (Aben Ezra, Luther, Geier, et al.), or a silent prayer of the heart (Calvin); but it allows the expression to be understood with reference to the being bowed down, mentioned in the next verse, of a prayer flowing back into the bosom, because it was spoken with the head bowed down. Yet this does not need for an explanation, that the bowed posture of prayer should be brought into consideration (most recent interpreters), which is customary among the Mohamedans (Reland, de relig. Moham. p. 87), but is not mentioned among the Hebrews, and has no suitable parallel in 1 Kings 18:42. It is “the natural expression in the body, of the being bowed down in oneself in sorrow and pain” (Clauss).14

[Psalms 35:14. As a mourner for a mother, squalid I bowed down.—Alexander: “He not only mourned in their calamity, but with the deepest grief, as for a friend, a brother, or a parent, which terms are so arranged as to produce a beautiful and striking climax.—The verb in the first clause corresponds very nearly to the familiar English phrase went on, in the sense of lived or habitually acted.—The Hebrew word קֹדֵר means squalid, dirty, in allusion to the ancient oriental practice of neglecting the appearance, and even covering the dress and person with dust and ashes, as a token of extreme grief. The bowing down is also to be taken as a part of the same usage.”—C. A. B.]

Str VI. Psalms 35:15. Smiting, and I know it not.—According to that which is supplied the latter clause may be taken = unawares, as Psalms 35:8, comp. Job 9:5; Jeremiah 14:18, unexpectedly (Stier, Hupf., Hitzig), or innocently, comp. ver 11b (most interpreters), or whom I do not know (Hengst., Delitzsch). Much more difficult is the preceding word נֵכִים, which is suspicious in form and obscure in sense. Yet it is not allowable on this account to change the word into נֵכְרִים=strangers in the sense of foreigners (Olsh.), so long as there is the least possibility of an explanation. The word is hardly a substantive, although it is thus taken by the Sept. and Vulg. and translated: “scourges;” and Hitzig, by means of the Arabic, formerly brought out the meaning of fools. Hitzig now changes the reading into כַמַּיִם=as water. The word inclines to the substantive, only as a participle from a root which means smiting. According to its form it might have a passive meaning (Job 30:8), thus: beaten. But the context shows that there can no more be a reference to the afflicted, in the sense of worn out (Holländ. and Berleberg. Bibel), than of smitten in spirit. For the latter would lead not to the idea of blindly raging, but either to that of the mad or disordered spirit, or that of simple fools, or weak in spirit, or to that of deeply troubled (Isaiah 16:7). We must accordingly think of the afflicted in the sense of outcasts (Kimchi, Calv., Grot.), or knaves (Mendelssohn), or men reduced in circumstances (Hengst.), vulgar men, of the dregs of the people (Delitzsch). But this meaning is artificial in its origin rather than proved from the language of the text. Still less can we with Luther translate limping, since the additional “on the feet,” which decides the meaning in 2 Samuel 4:4, is missing here, not to mention the fact that this reference, whether in scorn (Piscator, et al.), or as applied to the two-faced hypocrite (Luther’s gloss), is inapplicable here. On this account the word may perhaps be taken as active, notwithstanding its unusual form (Symmach., Jerome), unless we should change it into מַכּים; yet it cannot be explained of smiting with the tongue, of pettifogging (Chald., Gesen., Stier), for this very specific addition made in Jeremiah 18:18, is not made here. We must stand by the idea of violent acts (Hupf). To this the קרע in the following line of the verse may be referred (Hengst., Hupf.), which has elsewhere the meaning of tearing open the mouth in scorn and laughter (Kimchi, Vatabl., Schmidt, et al.), or that of slander (Aben Ezra, Delitzsch), as a tearing down with words (Stier).

Psalms 35:16. In the most wicked stammering of distorted things.—The fundamental meaning of חָנֵף is impure, defiled, hence in a religious reference, the profane, so that in the Syriac and Æthiop. the corresponding word is likewise applied to the heathen and heretics (comp. Gesen. Thesaurus). The translation: hypocrites (ancient interpreters, after the Vulg. and the Rabbins) is therefore incorrect. The preposition בְּ expresses not communion with (Stier), but denotes the characteristic or the condition. The connection with what follows is such that we may either connect the superlative with the following genit partit. (Delitzsch, Stier, Böttcher), or suppose independent designations, subordinate to one another (Hitzig). The former is to be preferred, because לַעֲגֵי, which only occurs besides in Isaiah 28:11, and indeed of stammering of the lips with reference to the unintelligible language of the foreigner, is apparently a plural of a nom. abstr., not of an adjective. The sense leads not to speaking wit and scoffings, but to expressions which sound to the Psalmist as perverse, as foreign and unintelligible. It is not necessary here to think of a real foreigner, or heathen barbarians, with whom his enemies had confederated, or after whose example they acted (Hupfeld, with wicked stammering of gibberish). It designates very appropriately the furious speech of bitter enemies. That this is at the same time unjust, is expressed by the following obscure and disputed word, which according to the context is to be most properly derived from עוג in the meaning, gained through the Arabic, of crooked, distorted, but is not to be regarded as foreign, unintelligible language (Hupf.), or as the words of scorn (Hitzig), but as those of slander (Ewald). Thus all ancient translators have thought of a word like the previous one (Sept.), or related to it (Chald.) Symmach. has at once: ἐν ὑποκρίσει, ῥήμασι πεπλασμένοις, Jerome: in simulations verborumfictorum. Similarly Kimchi. Isaki was the first to understand עגָה=מעוג, as 1 Kings 17:13, of the flat bread of the Hebrews, which was baked in the ashes, and to refer the expression to the fawning flatterers, which as favorites of Saul, or in order to obtain food and drink from Saul, and to please him, made sport and witticisms respecting David. Such parasites would then be designated here as outcasts who mocked for bread (Hengst.), or as cake-mockers (De Wette, Delitzsch). At any rate this is better than the interpretation which regards these wicked persons as making mockery as indifferently or as willingly as they would eat a piece of bread or cake (Aben Ezra). But this whole explanation is very uncertain, because bread has this name only on account of its circular form, which has then given rise to the reference to prating around the table (Böttcher), or to mockery in the circle = in turn (Köster).

[Str. VII. Psalms 35:17-18. For the meaning of how long, vid.Psalms 13:1.—From young lions my only one, or solitary one. Comp. Psalms 22:20-21. For the vows of thanksgiving comp. Psalms 22:22; Psalms 22:25.—C. A. B.]

Str. VIII. [Psalms 35:19. Wink with the eye.—Hupfeld: “This is often in the Proverbs a gesture of agreement between confederates, and of cunning, as Proverbs 10:10, with ב, Proverbs 6:13, for which likewise the verb עצה is used with עין, Proverbs 16:30=to close the eyes, and parallel with it, to press the lips together in the same sense.”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 35:20. Against the quiet in the land.—The construction is like Isaiah 23:8, and the meaning is derived from Isa. 18:12 and Jeremiah 6:16, where the nom. abstr. can only have the sense of “quiet.” Thus it is very properly taken by Luther. after Syr. and Chald. The Rabbins on the other hand explain it as cleaving the earth=hiding-place, which is followed in part by Calvin in his translation super scissuras terræ, or they understand the word of fat, rich, and take עַל=with. Clauss translates: “for the stirring up of the land.” The attempts of the Roman Catholic interpreters with the words of the Vulgate, in iracundia terræ loquentes dolos cogitabant, are very artificial. Now it is said to mean a wrath that has worn away (Allioli), then a wrath of a carnal-minded heart (Bellarmin), then wrath=pain and earth=men (Agellius), yes, even terræ is taken as a dative and is made to mean “to the earth”=with itself (Calmet), then the wrath of the earth = common vulgar wrath (Schegg). Jerome has in rapina terræ after Symmach. The other Greek translations differ from one another here. Even in the Sept. there is uncertainty. Whilst Cod. Alex. reads: ἐπ’ ὀργὴν γῆς λαλοῦντες, in the Cod. Vatic. there is. ἐπ’ ὀργῇ δόλους διελογίζοντο. The ancient Psalteries follow the latter reading: super iram dolose cogitabant.

[Psalms 35:21. Comp. Psalms 22:7 for the first clause. Alexander: “The Hebrew interjection in the last clause (חֶאָה) seems to be a natural express on of joyful surprise. Their success was almost too great to be real, yet attested by their senses. The verse ends with a kind of aposiopesis: ‘our own eyes have seen’—what we could not have believed on the report of another, to wit, the gratification of our warmest wishes Vid. below, Psalms 35:25.”—C. A. B.]

[Str. IX. Psalms 35:22-24. Thou hast seen.—Antithesis to Psalms 35:21, and referring back to Psalms 35:17.—Be not silent.—Comp. Psalms 28:1.—Be not far.—Comp. Psalms 22:11; Psalms 22:19; Psalms 38:21; Psalms 71:12.—Arouse Thyself and awake.—Comp. Psalms 7:6; Psalms 44:23.—C. A. B.]

[Str. X. Ver 25. Aha, our desire—נפשׁ used by metonymy for desire, and is parallel with swallow up, and refers to the greediness of devouring and the desire to destroy. Comp. Psalms 17:9; Psalms 27:12.

Psalms 35:26. Put on shame.—Hupfeld: “Variation of the previous clause. This is a usual figure of attributes as well as events. Comp. Psalms 104:1-2; Psalms 109:29; Psalms 132:18; Job 8:22.”—C. A. B.]

Str. XI. Psalms 35:27. Great is Jehovah.—Hitzig connects the always [A. V. continually] with that which is said, whilst he, with Hupfeld, Delitzsch, et al., regard it as optative. Let Jehovah be great, or be magnified. [So A. V., and this is better, though the view of Hitzig is to be rejected.—C. A. B.]


1. The prayer for Divine interposition for the defence and deliverance of the person and right of a servant of God, may be so closely connected with zeal for the cause and glory of God, that it cannot be stated with any certainty, what in the prayer is in the interest of the service, and what belongs to personal excitement. But it may be very easily seen that such a zeal, even in its utmost strength and its more particular form, has nothing in common with personal revenge, but the inflamed heart and importunity of language. For when the heart is not kindled in sinful passion, but in the fiery wrath of a holy love, it will disclose this internal heat likewise in fiery words; but the breath, which moves and directs this flame, is not the whirlwind of human rage, but the Spirit of God, who makes the servant of God an instrument of the righteousness of God, as well in punishing as in blessing. He, therefore, who would earnestly carry out the Divine will in the world, and who experiences pain, indignation and wrath on account of the opposition of the ungodly, with regard to its power and punishableness, as strongly and deeply as he feels the certainty of his own readiness to the will of God, will not forbear, under suitable circumstances, to implore the execution of the Divine judgment in the punishment of the ungodly, as well as in the deliverance of the innocent and the righteous. Comp. Exeget. and Crit. on Psalms 35:5

2. Prayers of this kind may in the life of a man like David appear as necessary, and be recognized as justifiable. For David was without doubt made, by Divine election and calling, a bearer of the historical revelation of redemption, was designated by the anointing ordered of God as the royal vessel and the historical type of the royal majesty of the Messiah, and was preserved and kept in this position and purpose by Divine guidance. His experience and his actions are thus in the closest and most personal relation with the history of the kingdom of God in Israel, so that his enemies appear as the enemies of God. Therefore David may in his prayers, in all earnestness appeal to his just cause and the good pleasure and interest of God in his person, may claim with confidence the righteousness of God, and reckon upon the shame and ruin of his enemies, with as much confidence as he is sure of his own deliverance and preservation, by faith in the Divine faithfulness and truth. He is from this point of view the type of the innocent, suffering, righteous servant of Jehovah, whilst from the other side, he is likewise a sinful man. Therefore he partly seeks his own salvation in the grace of the merciful God alone, partly he has to take good care, in his description of the unrighteousness, wickedness, and ungodliness of his enemies, and in appealing to the Divine righteousness, that he is not carried too far, in his mixing his own carnal nature therewith, and that he does not transgress the legal stand-point of the Old Testament. So much the more then let every man who is not in a similar historical position, calling, and situation, take care of calling down the Divine retributive justice. “The same zeal for the glory of God, which in the Old Testament regarded judgment and revenge on the despisers of God as necessary to atone for the crimen læsæ majestatis, must in the New Testament, where the grace of God stands pre-eminent in the foreground of consciousness, think first whether there is not perhaps a door of grace still open for such wicked ones; and therefore the prayer for mercy must prevail over the prayer for just judgment” (Kurtz).

3. If a man can with a good conscience appeal to his own innocent, benevolent, loving behaviour towards his adversaries, as abundantly shown to them in former times, and yet in remembering this in times of suffering and persecution through the wickedness and unthankfulness of those to whom he had done good, is yet not misled to revengefulness of mind, or driven to deeds of retaliation, but gives the retributive judgment into the hands of God, he will be preserved in the strongest way from transgressing his privileges, and misusing his rights, by the firm view of the earnest and difficult duties; which are laid upon the servant of God with respect to the glory of God and the good of the congregation. He who does this, will not only oppose the false love of the world with true love, but will overcome the sinful hate of the world by holy wrath, and in both ways, help to break the power of the adversaries of God in the world.


He who would have God for his helper against his enemies, must see to it that he himself has God for his friend, and that he serves Him properly in the congregation.—A servant of God has not only to work for the glory of God, but likewise to suffer, but by both he edifies the congregation.—The righteousness of God is a two-edged sword for the protection of the pious and the ruin of the ungodly.—Prayer is likewise a weapon. He who uses it should see to it that he carries it properly.—A man is not ruined by his enemies, but by his unrighteousness and his impenitence.Good deeds are often rewarded in the world with ingratitude, but the payment does not fail.—Prayer for retributive judgment has its proper place, but does not suit every time, and is not becoming to everybody.—That armed enemies are opposed by an armed God, brings terror among the ungodly, fleeing to their own ruin, but consolation, help, and joy to the afflicted pious.—The end of the wicked is their ruin in their own nets, but they are driven by the angel of the Lord.—As the sorrows of the pious are undeserved, so the Divine judgment comes upon the ungodly unexpectedly.—As God delivers the entire man, so the entire man is to thank Him.—Wicked enemies, false witnesses, and unjust judges, can bring an innocent man into great danger and severe sorrow of heart; but God is not only our Avenger, but likewise the Deliverer of those who trust in Him.—What happens to thee in secret from the goodness of God, should be thankfully proclaimed in the congregation.—As the goodness of God towards us has no end, so the praise of God should never cease in the congregation.—Wilt thou learn to know thy heart, prove thy experiences, when thou perceivest that it fares badly with thine enemies?

Starke: Since the enemies of a child of God are at the same time enemies of God, he may be comforted by the sure assistance, protection, and judgment of God.—An entire host of angels must protect the pious, a single one, however, is used to ruin an entire troop of the ungodly.—The honor of God does not permit that He should not avenge the innocent on those who have slandered them.—A pious man lives, as it were, among robbers, who desire to rob his soul, but he relies in comfort on the Divine promise to be his deliverer.—A carnal mind makes men wicked hypocrites and enemies of God.—Cruel men carry in human form the character of wild beasts, and show themselves to be such by their works.—If God looks long upon the enemies, He does it, not that He has pleasure in our persecution, but He has pleasure in our patience.—God’s presence, the testimony of a good conscience and confident trust in God can give sufficient and strong consolation in all persecutions.—The greatest power of faith consists in properly appropriating and applying to one’s self the word: my God.—The best description of believers is that they have all their delight in the righteousness of Jesus.—The final end of our redemption consists not in good days and pleasure, but in spreading abroad the glory and majesty of God in the whole world.

Osiander: The praise of the grace and righteousness of God will remain and endure till the day of judgment. For the Gospel will never be entirely quenched in the Church of God, although it shines more dimly at times, and then again more brightly.—Selnekker: The world is ungrateful, but generally rewards good finally with evil. Accept it and fear God. The disciple is not to be better than his master. We do not crave anything better of the world, it remains as it is.—Menzel: God is patient with the sighs of the afflicted Christian.—Renschel: The fruit of sin is shame and disgrace before God and men.—God’s is the vengeance.—Frisch: The armor of God is protection to the pious, defiance to the ungodly.—On earth the cross is regarded as a disgrace, but before God and in heaven it is all honor and glory. Our faith and hope see this, and patience quietly waits the issue.—Arndt: The life of an ungodly man is a constant combat; God has a defence and weapons with which to protect us.—The comfort of the persecuted is the presence of God, the cause of God, the righteousness of God.—Francke: Lord, who is like Thee? This should always be the field-badge of spiritual knighthood.—Tholuck: Whilst thousands who make these prayers care for nothing more than assistance, David in the Spirit is delighted in the moment when all his bones being pervaded with thankfulness, he will give the glory to God, and confess that no other help can be compared with His help.—Stiller: God has no pleasure in the wickedness of men, but He often makes use of such briars in order to train and prove His children.—Diedrich: He who communes with God is likewise true at heart, and makes all the troubles of his neighbors his own, although he cannot himself be comforted by their love in return.

[Matth. Henry: It will be a comfort to us, when men do us wrong, if our consciences can witness for us that we have never done them any.—If God be our friend, no matter who is our enemy.—We shall not lose by the good offices we have done to any, how ungrateful soever they are, for our rejoicing will be this, the testimony of our conscience.—Though the people of God are and study to be a quiet people, yet it has been the common practice of their enemies to devise deceitful matters against them.—Barnes: 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.—Spurgeon. What a glorious idea is this of Jehovah blocking the way of persecutors, holding them at the pike’s end, and giving time for the hunted saint to elude pursuit.—One word from the Lord quiets all our fears.—Prayer heard should always suggest praise. It were well if we were more demonstrative in our holy rejoicings. We rob God by suppressing grateful emotions.—God is the champion, the true Knight-errant of all oppressed ones.—Prayer is never lost; if it bless not those for whom intercession is made, it shall bless the intercessor. Clouds do not always descend in showers upon the same spot from which the vapors ascended, but they come down somewhere; and even so do supplications in some place or other yield their showers of mercy.—Praise—personal praise, public praise, perpetual praise—should be the daily revenue of the King of heaven.—To cause hatred is the mark of the wicked, to suffer it causelessly is the lot of the righteous.—Malice has but one eye; it is blind to all virtue in its enemy. Eyes can generally see what hearts wish.—C. A. B.]


[9][It is better to translate by strive which retains the original meaning and yet may likewise refer to warlike strife.—C. A. B.]

[10][Perowne: “An amplification of the figure occurring already in the Pentateuch where God is spoken of as a man of war, Exodus 15:3; Deuteronomy 32:41. The bold anthropomorphic working out of the figure is, however, remarkable. It shows the earnest desire in the Poet’s mind to realize the fact that God not only taught his fingers to fight, but mixed in the battle, fighting as it were by his side and assuring him of victory.”—C. A. B.]

[11][Delitzsch refers to the real bereavement of David in the time of his persecution by Saul. His parents had been obliged to flee to Moab. Michal had been torn from him, Jonathan withdrawn, all those at the court of Saul, who had previously sought his favor and friendship as the favorite of the king, were now his enemies.—C. A. B.]

[12][Perowne: “The prayer I offered for them is a prayer I might have offered for myself. So true a prayer was it, so full of love, that I could wish nothing more than that the blessings I asked for them should be vouchsafed to me. This agrees with what follows, ‘As though for my friend or my brother,’ etc.“—C. A. B.]

[13][Riehm refers to Matthew 10:13; Luke 10:6; and refers to the custom of carrying valuables in the bosom (likewise of taking to the bosom what is returned to one).—C. A. B.]

[14][This does not seem to give a very clear sense. The context is in favor of heartfelt prayer. And though usage does not allow a direct reference to repeated prayer or praying from the heart, yet the return of the prayer to the bosom may very well be in order to remain there in the bosom as the abiding possession of the soul. The figure of the bosom as the place for the valuable and beloved thing is in favor of this. (Psalms 89:50; Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 40:11). Thus is prefer the explanation of Aben Ezra, Luther, Calvin, et al.—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 35". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.