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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 28

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-9


This short psalm consists of three parts:

(1) a prayer for succour (Psalms 28:1, Psalms 28:2);

(2) a denunciation of the wicked (Psalms 28:3-5); and

(3) a thanksgiving for aid given, or regarded as certain to be given (Psalms 28:6-9).

Metrically, it contains three strophes, corresponding to the three subjects, and respectively of two, three, and four verses, thus gradually increasing in length. There is no reason for doubting the assertion of the title, that it is "a Psalm of David," but we cannot definitely assign it to any particular period of his life. It would suit almost any occasion when he was in danger or difficulty.

Psalms 28:1

Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my Rock; be not silent to me; rather, as in the Revised Version, to thee, O Lord, will I call; my Rock, be not thou deaf unto me. "My Rock" belongs to the second clause. It is with David, in these early psalms, an epitheton usilatum (comp. Psalms 18:2; Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:2, Psalms 31:3; Psalms 40:3; Psalms 61:2; Psalms 62:2, etc.). The Hebrew term used is sometimes tsur, sometimes sela', which call to our minds the two great rook-fortresses of Tyre and Petra. Lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit; i.e. without hope, desperate.

Psalms 28:2

Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee. God is said to hear prayer when he grants it, to be deaf to prayer when he withholds the boon requested. The use of the expressions "voice" and "cry" marks the earnestness of the prayers offered. When I lift up my hands, The usual attitude of a Hebrew in prayer (see Exodus 9:29; Exodus 17:11, Exodus 17:12; 1Ki 8:22, 1 Kings 8:54; Psalms 63:4; Psalms 141:2; Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 3:41). Originally, the idea probably was that the hands should be ready to receive the blessings which God would bestow. But, later on, the lifting up of the hands seems to have been regarded as symbolizing the lifting up of the heart (Lamentations 3:41). Towards thy holy oracle (see the comment on Psalms 5:7).

Psalms 28:3

Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity (comp. Psalms 26:9). The metaphor implied in "draw me not away "is that of a hunter, drawing prey of all kinds to him enclosed within a net. The psalmist prays that he may not share the fate of the workers of iniquity, over whom he seems to see some terrible judgment impending. Which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts. (For extreme instances of this kind of wickedness, see 2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 20:9, 2 Samuel 20:10; and for the wide prevalence of such treacherous dealing, comp. Psa 4:1-8 :20, 21; Jeremiah 9:8.)

Psalms 28:4

Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours. The feeling of righteous indignation, naturally implanted in us, causes us to desire the punishment of the wicked, quite apart from any wrong that they may have done to ourselves (Aristotle, 'Rhet.,' Psalms 2:1, § 3). Give them after the work of their hands: render to them their desert. Nothing satisfies our moral feelings but exact retribution—Εἴκε τάθοι τάκ ἔρεξε, δίκη η ἰθεῖα γένοιτο. David shows in both respects a moral nature uncorrupted by contact with the world of his day.

Psalms 28:5

Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands. They do not note God's providential workings. If they did, they would see that judgment falls upon the wicked, and, seeing this, they would fear and abstain from evil. But they take no notice—God is not in all their thoughts. For this neglect and contempt of him, he shall destroy them, and not build them up.

Psalms 28:6-9

As, midway in Psalms 27:1-14; the tone changed from jubilation to humble entreaty, so, midway in the present psalm, there is a change from plaintive and humble entreaty to rejoicing and thanksgiving. The cause of the change would seem to have been a confident assurance, arising out of the very act of prayer, that the prayer is heard and granted, so that the happy results prayed for are certain to follow. Such an assurance is certainly not attained by all those whose supplications are earnest and devout; but David appears to have enjoyed it not infrequently (see above, Psalms 6:8-10; Psalms 7:17, etc.).

Psalms 28:6

Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications (comp. Psalms 28:2, with which this is, of set purpose, made exactly to correspond).

Psalms 28:7

The Lord is my Strength and my Shield (see Psalms 18:1, Psalms 18:2; Psalms 119:114). My heart trusted in him, and I am helped. As far as feeling goes, David is already "helped." He feels himself delivered out of his peril. Therefore, he says, my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song—literally, out of my song, which is explained to mean "out of my store of song"—will I praise him. He is ready to offer thanksgiving for a mercy not yet received.

Psalms 28:8

The Lord is their Strength; i.e. the Strength, not of himself alone, but of the whole people. The deliverance will be as much for their sake as for his. And he is the saving strength of his anointed—literally, and a Stronghold of salvation to his anointed is HE. The welfare of David and that of the people are bound up together. God strengthens him for their sakes, that he may guide them aright and fight their battles, and give them dominion over their enemies. It was with this object that he chose him out of all Israel, and took him from the sheepfolds, and had him anointed king—that he might "feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance" (Psalms 78:71).

Psalms 28:9

Save thy people, and bless thins inheritance. "In conclusion, the psalmist prays that the Lord would do eternally that which he had done now" (Hengstenberg)—"save" and "bless" his people—keep them from evil, and give them all that is good. Feed them also. As a shepherd does his flock (comp. Psalms 23:1, Psalms 23:2, Isaiah 40:11). And lift them up for ever. Some explain the" lifting up" as carrying in his arms over rough places—a prolongation of the shepherd metaphor (Kay; 'Speaker's Commentary'); but, perhaps, the more ordinary meaning of the Hebrew word—"exalt," "lift up on high," "raise above others"—which is preferred by Bishop Horsley, Rosenmuller, and Hengstenberg, is intended.


Psalms 28:1-9

Providence and prayer.

The contents of this psalm are in some respects similar to the contents of others already noticed. But there is one peculiarity about it to which we here propose to devote special attention. It is seen in the psalmist's prayer against his enemies. On account of such petitions, much reproach has been cast on the Bible itself—as if all the sixty-six books of which the Scriptures are composed were to be held responsible for the prayers and petitions of every Old Testament saint! No such absurdity could have root-hold if the actual state of the case were clearly understood. And we deem it to be of no small importance that where readers of the Bible find special difficulty, expounders thereof should put forth special strength, and by no means pass lightly over such passages, or leave them unaccounted for. This psalm is a reflection of varied scenes which may be witnessed in the world—of the known laws of God's providence, of earnest desires which go up from the hearts of God's people in prayer, and of grateful songs which go forth from their lips in praise. There is no reason for attributing the psalm to any one else than to David. Nor do we know of any times in the ancient history which the psalm more clearly reflects than those of the shepherd-king. Nor is there any Old Testament character who would be so likely to speak and write and pray in the style of the psalm before us. In dealing with it as a unity (which method alone falls in with the plan of this section of the Commentary), we have four lines of thought to unfold.

I. HERE IS A TWOFOLD OUTLOOK. The writer of this psalm was the anointed of the Lord (Psalms 28:8). He was Israel's king; and was withal encompassed by foes. Not only were there those who were the people of God, his inheritance (Psalms 28:9), but there were also those who regarded not God, and who cared not for man (Psalms 28:3, Psalms 28:5). And the time has not come when such a double outlook has ceased. The righteous, the wicked—tares and wheat—both are still on "the field of the world," growing together until the harvest.


1. For the righteous. (Psalms 28:9.) "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance." Put the emphasis on "thy,' "thine;" herein lies the force of the praying one's tender pleading with God "Feed them;" i.e. tend them, rule them; let them find thee all that thou art as their Shepherd. "Lift them up," equivalent to "bear them up," carry them in thine arms (Isaiah 63:9; Isaiah 40:11; Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:11; see Perowne hereon).

2. Against the wicked. (Psalms 28:4. £) It is here that so many have found a difficulty. We acknowledge that there would be a difficulty if these were the words of God to man; but as they are the words of man to God, why should there be any difficulty at all? Is any one bound to defend every word that any saint ever offered in prayer? Surely not. It is, however, only fair to the writer to bear in mind:

(1) That he does not pray against the wicked with personal vindictiveness, but regards them as the enemies of God (Psalms 28:5), and of society likewise (Psalms 28:3).

(2) No saint's prayers ever could go beyond the limits of the inspiration and revelation which were granted to him. No one even now can pray beyond the limits of his own knowledge. In the Old Testament times the all-conquering love of God had not been revealed as it has been to us, and so could not yield fuel for prayer.

(3) That such a prayer as this is an historical representation of the petitions of saints in the psalmist's time, and is no absolute model for our time, with our larger and warmer light-beams from on high. At the same time, we are bound also to remember that we ought not to cherish the like feelings towards the wicked that we do towards the righteous. Yea, if we are righteous, we cannot. And while we plead with God to build up those who are pure and true, we ought to plead with him to frustrate the designs of unreasonable and wicked men, and to arise and vindicate the great cause of righteousness and truth. And this we may do, while leaving it absolutely with God to deal with wicked people as he sees fit. The Judge of all the earth will do right, and we surely can leave the matter there. "Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord." Job's words are better than any prayers for vengeance: " I know that my Vindicator liveth." There let us rest. For we have to recognize—

III. A TWOFOLD ACTION OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. He builds up the righteous, but disconcerts the schemes of the wicked. So the experience of life shows us, and so this psalm indicates.

1. To the righteous. God is

(1) their Strength; £

(2) their Shield;

(3) the Stronghold of salvation for them and for their anointed king.

This may be applied in the highest sense (cf. Romans 8:28; Hebrews 2:10).

2. To the wicked. (Verse 5.) "He shall break them down, and not build them up" (cf. Psalms 18:25, Psalms 18:26; Psalms 37:35; Psalms 73:18-20). God will seem to men according to what they are. If they follow his commandments, peace will attend their steps. If they violate them, all nature will be full of detectives, whips, and stings.


1. Prayer. "Hear … when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle;" £ i.e. towards the "mercy-seat" (verse 2). Although he was not selfish enough to cramp his desires within the limits of his own personal need, yet he was not unnatural enough to leave himself out. In fact, God was so much to him that his very life seemed bound up in God and his loving-kindness; the lack of a message from God to his spirit would almost drive him to despair (verses 1, 2). But, as is so often the case, the very psalms which begin with the deepest sighing end with the most joyous shouting. Hence, following on prayer, there is:

2. Praise. (Verse 6.) The lower God takes us down in the valley of humiliation, the higher will he take us up on the mount of exultation (Isaiah 41:16). And those who spend most time with God in weeping and supplication will have the loudest and sweetest strains to raise over the wonders of delivering grace. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." This is as true of prayer as it is of work.

Note: Making all allowance for the difference of tone in the two dispensations, the Hebrew and the Christian, yet throughout both the same laws hold good.

1. That prayer is one of the forces by means of which God sways the world.

2. That his people have for thousands of years been praying to him to bring in righteousness and to put down wrong of every kind.

3. That it is more certain these prayers will be answered than that the sun will rise to-morrow.

4. And, consequently, it is for men to decide whether to their life there shall attach the privilege of being borne upon the hearts of all God's saints in prayer, or the peril of being surrounded with petitions that they may ultimately be put to shame.—C.


Psalms 28:1-9

Man's cry and God's response.

In this psalm we find—

I. MAN'S CRY TO GOD. (Psalms 28:1-5.) Prayer is an instinct of the heart. Man cries to man. There is a bond of brotherhood between all men. The simple fact that a brother is in need gives him a claim to help. Friend cries to friend. The nearer our relationships, the deeper our obligations. The child cries to its lather. Whatever may be the conduct of others, we are sure that parents will do what they can for their children. With how much more reason and confidence may we cry to God! He is ever near. He is always pitiful. He will surely help all those who cry to him. It is true we may be tried, sorely tried. Distresses may multiply. Our fears may magnify our danger. We may tremble as on the verge of the gulf. But let us not despair. Bartimaeus was not answered at the first, but he cried again. The Syro-Phoenician woman seemed at first to be met with repulse and refusal, but she pleaded the more earnestly. The sisters of Bethany were left for three whole days in their woe; but the Saviour came in his good time, brining light and joy. So let us learn to pray and wait. Daniel took comfort by looking toward Jerusalem; let us look above, to Jesus, "the Author and Finisher of our faith."

II. GOD'S RESPONSE TO MAN'S CRY. (Verses 6-9.) In the deepest sense, God's response to man's cry is Christ. In him God has come to us in human form, brining salvation. Through him God is ever with us, to hear the prayer of the sinner and to satisfy the desires of his saints. When we pray it may be that the answer is delayed. As Joseph spoke roughly to his brethren, though love and kindness were in his heart all the time, so God may seem for a while to close his ear, and suffer us to struggle and cry in vain; but we are sure that his love does not change. He is not like Baal (1 Kings 18:27) or the god of Ekron (2 Kings 1:2). If he delays it is because this is needful. It is part of his discipline; it is necessary for the full accomplishment of his purposes. It may be also that God will answer our prayers in a way different from what we expected. We are weak and ignorant. Our minds are clouded, our hearts are confused. We are harassed and distressed by the things which press most closely upon us. We are not fit judges as to what is best. Let us confide in God. He knows what we are and what we need. His way is always the best way. Paul, hard pressed by the thorn in the flesh, besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from him. But he erred. It had been sent as a preventative, "lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations;" and it had not yet served its full purpose. God did not cause it to depart, but he did what was far better. He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee." And Paul, now better taught, cries, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Baxter's rule is good, "As thou wilt, when thou wilt, and where thou wilt." But many times God is pleased to answer the prayers of his people by granting their requests. We ask light, and he gives light. We seek pardon, and he says, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." We crave help in trouble, and he sends forth his angels for our comfort and deliverance. God's response to our cry calls for thanksgiving. Thus prayer ends in praise (verses 6, 7). There is gratitude for deliverance. Faith is strengthened, hope is revived, and love breaks forth into joyful songs of victory.

"I'll praise my Maker with my breath,
And when my voice is lost in death

Praise shall employ my nobler powers.

My days of praise shall ne'er be past
While life and thought and being last,

And immortality endures."



Psalms 28:1-9

The oppressed righteous king.

It is the king who speaks, whose cause is identical with that of the people. Difference between this and the twenty-sixth psalm. The ground-thought of both is that God will not involve in the same outward fate those who are inwardly different; and that the lot of the wicked cannot be the same as that of the righteous. But there it is the oppressed individual righteous man that speaks; here it is the oppressed righteous king speaking for himself and his people.

I. THE PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE. (Psalms 28:1-3.) Arguments of the psalmist why God should answer him.

1. The certain, firm faithfulness of God. "God was his Rock." God and he were friends, and he could not but listen to the cry of a friend for help. Besides, God has promised to deliver the righteous out of his troubles. We have this assurance in the gospel. "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."

2. If God did not answer him, he would soon be past deliverance. "Like them that go down to the dead." No human help could avail him; no operation of mere natural law. God's arm must interpose for him. All real answers to prayer are supernatural—something above nature—from the realm of spirit.

3. He lifted his hands to the place where God speaks with his people. (See Exodus 25:22.) That is, he puts himself into the divinely appointed way of being heard—praying towards the mercy-seat between the cherubim. Did all he knew and could do for being answered. Have we done that?

4. God was too just to involve him in a common fate with wicked and deceitful men. (Psalms 28:3.) "Draw me not away," etc. That would not be just. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

II. A PRAYER THAT THE WICKED MAY NOT GO UNPUNISHED. (Psalms 28:4, Psalms 28:5.) Particularly his enemies. The prayer might not have been prompted by malignity. For:

1. Their frustration might have been necessary to his deliverance. If so, he was only crying for justice, such as we often invoke upon those guilty of injustice. "Give them according to their deeds," and let them not continue in their unrighteous courses.

2. The prayer is followed by a prophecy of their assured doom. Because they do not study God's righteous judgments, they fall into increasing wickedness, and make sure of being destroyed.


1. The struggles of his soul have brought victory, praise, and joy. (Psalms 28:6-8.)

2. The psalmist prays that the Lord would do eternally that which he had now done. (Psalms 28:9.) Would continue to do for ever the same as he had now done for him and his people.—S.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 28". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/psalms-28.html. 1897.
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