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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 35

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book PsalmsScott on the Psalms

Verses 1-28

Psalms 35:1-28.

V. 1-3. This psalm, we are sufficiently informed by the matter of it, was penned by ’ David, when he was fiercely persecuted by Saul ; whoso forces, which were unjustly raised against him, he beseeches the Lord to dissipate ; and especially to stop the ’ mouth of his false accusers, such as Doeg and the Ziphites.’ Bp. Patrick.

So long as Saul was enemy to ’ David, all that had any authority under him, to flatter ’ their king, (as is the course of the world,) did also most cruelly persecute David.’ (Notes, 1 Samuel 22:1-23; 1 Samuel 23:1-29 :) It is likewise evident, that the Psalmist was led by the Holy Spirit, to speak of his own case in language, which was more emphatically applicable to the divine Saviour, and to his sufferings. ’ Albeit God can with his breath destroy all his enemies ; yet the Holy Ghost attributeth unto him these outward weapons, to assure of his present power. Draw out the spear, &c. (3)Notes, Exodus 15:3. Numbers 22:23-27. Joshua 5:13-15. Say, &c.] ’Assure me against ’ these temptations, that thou art the author of my salvation.

V 4- 9. All the verbs, in these verses, in the original, are in the future as a prediction; though they stand in most translations and paraphrases, ancient and modern, in the imperative as an imprecation. No doubt, there are many instances, in which such denunciations stand in the form of petitions ; and, considered as the language of inspired men, respecting the inveterate enemies of God, and Christ, and religion, no reasonable objection can be made against them. It is not however desirable, to understand any passages in this sense, which more obviously express one of more general application. The verses under consideration are simply a prediction, that David’s enemies would, by their unprovoked, assiduous, and crafty devices to take away his life, bring on themselves the deepest infamy, along with unexpected and inevitable ruin ; and that his trials would terminate in thanksgiving and rejoicing. (Notes, 25- 28. Psalms 5:10-11.) As light chaff cannot resist the force of the wind, so the Psalmist persecutors would not be able to withstand the power and justice of God ; whose angel encamped around the righteous to protect them, and would drive their dismayed and bewildered assailants headlong into the pit of destruction. (Notes, Psalms 1:4-6. Psalms 34:7 - Exodus 14:19-25.) One in particular, (probably Saul,) would perish in that very destruction, which he had, without any cause, nay contrary to his deserts, intended for David. (Notes, 11, 12. John 15:22-25.) He took counsel to take off David in battle against the Philistines, and he himself died in battle against them ; which made way for the Psalmist’s complete deliverance. (Note, Psalms 7:14-16.) In like manner, Ahithophel and Absalom brought ruin on themselves by their counsel against David ; (Notes, 2 Samuel 15:31; 2 Samuel 16:20-23; 2 Samuel 17:1-23; 2 Samuel 18:9-14 ;) and so did Judas, and the Jewish rulers, and the nation, by opposing Christ ; of whom David, in this psalm especially, seems to have spoken, as a type or representative. Indeed, the whole Scripture predicts the final ruin of all the impenitent enemies of God and religion, and that of Satan, their great leader : (Notes, Revelation 19:17-21; Revelation 20:1-3; Revelation 20:7-10:) and the intercession of Christ, the prayers of his church, and the ministration of angels, while they tend to complete the salvation and joy of his people, concur in accomplishing the prophecies which foretell the destruction of his enemies. ’ A traveller, benighted in a bad road, is an expressive emblem of a sinner walking in the slippery and dangerous ways of temptation ; . . .whilst an ’ enemy is in pursuit of him, whom he can neither resist ’ nor avoid." Bp. Home.

V. 10. The Psalmist frequently complains, under his trials and chastisements, of broken bones, and that his bones waxed old, (Marg. Ref. s,) because his whole frame was sensibly affected. In like manner he considers himself, in body as well as in soul, so revived by his deliverance, that every bone would concur in admiring his Deliverer and his unrivalled excellence.- Christ was raised from the dead, and not one of his bones was broken ; every member of his mystical body shall be forthcoming at the general resurrection ; and every believer now has, and shall then have, cause to praise the Lord for taking care of his soul and body, in every part, and in all respects. (Notes, Psalms 22:16-18. Psalms 34:19-20.) Saul was too power-ful for David in 1 is poor and destitute condition ; Christ was made poor and a man of sorrows, and had no armed force to oppose to the power of the Jews and Romans ; and Satan and other enemies are too strong for the afflicted and humble believer.

V. 11, 12. The very persons, whom David had befriended when he was in prosperity, after lie had been proscribed by Saul, bare cruel witness against him, and demanded that punishment should be inflicted on him for alleged acts of treason, of which he had not the least consciousness. This was far more emphatically accomplished in the great Antitype. ’Marg. Rej.)

V. 13, 14. The Psalmist next contrasts his conduct in respect of his persecutors, with that towards him of the very persons to whom he had rendered the most important services. The nature of fasting, as an occasional voluntary act of self-abasement, submission to God under adverse dispensations, sorrow for sin as the cause of sufferings, and self-discipline in order to self-government, is illustrated by the expression, " I humbled," or afflicted, or chastened, -’ myself with fasting." (Notes, Leviticus 16:29-31. Matthew 9:14-15. P. O. 9- 17.) The conduct of the Psalmist’s foes shewed, as he feared, that his prayers for them had not been answered ; but he was satisfied that at length they would return into his own bosom. The original is future; " shall return : " and as David was still conflicting with trials, and anticipating deliverance, the future best suits his case. He thus mourned over the afflictions of Saul and of Israel, with fasting and prayer : and Christ wept over Jerusalem, and fasted, prayed, and suffered for sinners, as for a friend, a brother, or a parent ; and he prayed for his crucifiers, when about to expire amidst their cruelty and contempt ! (Notes, Matthew 4:1-2. Luke 19:41-44; Luke 23:32-38.)

V. 15, 16. When David was persecuted by Saul, or when he made any false step, as they supposed, (marg.) those who had before envied him rejoiced ; the most abject persons, from whom he had least expected it, or who were too obscure to be known by him, conspired to do him mischief; his name was torn with incessant reproaches and false accusations j he was their sport at feasts ; whilst those, who flattered others in order to be feasted by them, or who were maintained by diverting the company, and personating and turning to ridicule the character of their neighbours, made him their constant subject ; yet their contempt was united with most cruel and desperate rage. All this was far more emphatically true of Christ, and the treatment with which he met from the hypocritical Jews, and from the most abject persons, not excepting the crucified malefactors who reviled him on the cross. (Notes, Isaiah 53:2-3. Matthew 26:63-68; Matthew 27:27-31; Matthew 27:39-41.)

The hypocritical priests, and scribes, who mocked Jesus, were at the same time keeping the feast of unleavened bread.

V. 17- 19. (Notes, Psalms 22:7-24.) The exact agreement of the language used in these verses, with that of the passage referred to, favours the opinion that this psalm also is t direct prophecy of the Messiah. The Psalmist, however, seems evidently to have spoken of his own concerns, though carried beyond himself by the Spirit of prophecy, to use language, applicable to far more important transactions.

V. 20. ’ They are men of a turbulent spirit, that give not their sovereign peaceable counsels, but devise false ’ stories, to incense him against those that would gladly ’ serve God quietly, under his government, without doing ’ the least harm to any body.’ Bp. Patrick.

David would have lived quietly under the government of Saul : our Lord did not aim at temporal sovereignty ; . . .nor did the primitive Christians desire to intermeddle with the politics of the world : yet all were betrayed, mocked, and persecuted, as rebels, and usurpers, and the pests of society." Bp. Home.

V. 21, 22. They ’ boldly accuse me as a traitor, . . .saying, So, so, we have found him out ; his treasonable practices are discovered, we ourselves are eye-witnesses of it.’ Bp. Patrick. The appeal of David to God, the ever present of conduct and the prayer grounded on it, have a peculiar energy, when viewed in connexion with the preceding verse.

(Notes, Psalms 40:13-17. Matthew 26:63-68.)

V. 23. Marg. Ref. Notes, Psalms 7:6-11. Psalms 44:23-26. Is. 51. 9 -11 .

V. 24- 28. These verses may be thus rendered " Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness, " and let them not rejoice over me. Let them not say in " their hearts, So would we have it : " (it is as our souls desired :) " Let them not say, we have swallowed him up. " They shall be ashamed and confounded together, who rejoice in my shame. They shall be clothed with shame and dishonour, that magnify themselves against me. " They will shout for joy and be glad, that favour my righteous cause, The twenty-eighth verse is rendered in the future tense, and the two preceding verses might, with equal propriety, and perhaps with more energy, be translated in the same manner. The clamours against David, as cursing his enemies, when considered as an objection to the Scriptures, is indeed irrational ; for it assumes the point in question, and determines that he spake in his own spirit, and not " as moved by the Holy Spirit; " yet it is not desirable to give needless occasion even to irrational and impious objections. (Marg. Ref.) How applicable is the whole passage to the Saviour’s sufferings and triumphs, and to the consequences of them ! (Notes, Psalms 41:4-8; Psalms 56:1-2.)


The believer is admitted into a covenant of friendship with his God : and they who strive with him, fight against his omnipotent Ally; whose presence and assistance will more effectually defend his servants, and annoy their persecutors, than the most powerful hosts of well-armed valiant men. If he say to each of our souls, " I am thy " Salvation ; " if he shew us, that our sins are pardoned and subdued, we have nothing to fear ; but may confidently predict the confusion and ruin of every seducer or persecutor, who seeks to destroy our lives or souls, or in any way to do us hurt. We must not desire the ruin of any enemies, except our lusts, and those evil spirits who would compass our destruction : yet we ought fervently and constantly to pray for the desolation of all the inveterate enemies of Christ our anointed King. Assuredly, they will at length be thrown as chaff into the fire; yea, driven in a dark and slippery path, by the angels of God into the bottomless pit : and their crafty and unwearied enmity, against the holy Jesus and his harmless followers, will involve them in unexpected and inevitable misery. Let then the persecuted and afflicted believer rejoice in the salvation of the Lord. His preservation is insured by the Saviour’s resurrection and exaltation ; who will shortly " change " our vile bodies, and make them like his own glorious " body," by his almighty power: then all our bones shall, as it were, praise our Deliverer, who hath rescued us poor and needy sinners from sin, Satan, and death ; enemies far too strong for us. While in faith we anticipate this glorious event of our trials, let us prepare for the cross in this world. When we consider the ingratitude, contempt, and hatred, with which the holy Jesus was treated, in return for his unspeakable love ; when we remember how the multitudes, who had witnessed, or even shared, his benign miracles, rejoiced in his adversity ; how the very abjects, collected round his cross, insulted him, and gnashed their teeth at him ; and how the scribes and Pharisees treated his sacred person with blasphemous ridicule and mockery ; even while they were hypocritically observing the feast of the passover, as if zealous for the honour of God and religion : when we meditate on these scenes, we shall not " marvel if the world hate us ; " if we be despised, abused, reviled, falsely accused, and treated with indignity and ingratitude, by those whom we have most loved, and could not have suspected ; and who even profess to serve God. Let us then learn to possess our souls in patience and meekness ; like the Saviour, let us persevere in praying for our enemies, and attempting to do them good : and acting towards them with compassion and affection, in hopes of " overcoming evil with good." If this have not the desired effect, our prayer will bring down blessings on our own souls ; and if that mind were in us which was in him, we could not but be grieved to think of the tremendous ruin, that hangs over the heads of our impenitent injurers. He, who has exalted the once-suffering Redeemer, will in due time appear for all his people : the roaring lion shall not destroy their souls, which they have entrusted to the hands of their Surety; they are one with him, arid precious in his sight, and shall be rescued from every peril and destruction ; that with him they may give thanks in the great congregation above. Let us then give ourselves unto prayer, and study to be quiet in the land, however injured or deceived. Thus our enemies shall never triumph in our destruction ; and their rejoicing over our temporal calamities shall be short-lived, as was that of the Jewish rulers over the crucified Redeemer. But let us chiefly fear lest they should rejoice at beholding us betrayed into sin, and disgracing our profession. This would please them more, than seeing us cast into a fiery furnace ; and they would exclaim, " Alia, aha, our eye hath seen it, " so would we have it ! " Then indeed those, who hate us without cause, would wink with their eyes, encouraging each other’s blasphemies ; and open wide their mouths to proclaim our infamy, to the reproach of our religion. This the Lord knows, and as his glory is concerned, let us call upon him, in treating him not to be far from us ; but constantly to uphold us, that Satan and his servants may not thus magnify themselves against us. In all things let us act conscientiously, and leave our cause with God. And whilst we expect to see the opposers of Christ " clothed " with shame and dishonour ; " let us pray that all who favour his righteous cause may rejoice, and be continually praising God : and let us remember, that he has pleasure in the prosperity of all his servants ; that we may be speaking of his righteousness and praise all the day long.

Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 35". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tsp/psalms-35.html. 1804.
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