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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 35

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


A Psalm of David.

This psalm belongs to David’s earlier life, and suits his condition when Saul had put the priests to death and massacred the inhabitants of Nob, at the instigation of Doeg. The act had cast a gloomy horror over the nation, and had plunged David into the darkness of despair as to any reconciliation with Saul. 1 Samuel 2:0. In many respects this psalm resembles Psalms 34:0, with this difference that confines itself to the subjective sufferings of the author, and breaks forth into seemingly harsh imprecation. In Psalms 35:19 we find a prophetic allusion to Christ. Compare John 15:25. Indeed the whole psalm has a Messianic bearing. On the imprecatory part it must be considered that David speaks and acts from the consciousness of being the anointed king of Israel, and actions are viewed from the standpoint of public law and justice. He is not a simple martyr, where the issue is on doctrine and religious faith, nor is his relation to his enemies that of a private individual. His cause is the cause of the nation and of God, and his pleadings against his enemies do not exceed the justice of human courts, nor the just measure of individual retribution. He commits his cause entirely to God, refraining from all steps toward private revenge. His acts, first and last, towards his enemies are faultless. See on Psalms 109:0. The psalm falls into three strophes, Psalms 35:1-28, each closing with an expression of hope and confidence. The first is an earnest plea for judgment against his enemies; the second, a statement of his own friendly behaviour towards them, which contrasts with the blackness of their ingratitude; the last is a solemn, chastened, and affecting appeal for the interference of divine justice.

Verse 1

1. Plead my cause Hebrew, simply plead. The term is properly forensic, as Job 13:6, but here it means forcible coercion. It variously denotes strife or striving of any kind, but the imagery of Psalms 35:1-3 is wholly martial, showing that things had passed beyond the limits of argument and reason, and nothing would avail but power in the line of judgment. This the psalmist cannot undertake, and appeals the matter directly to God.

Fight A stronger and more specific word than “plead.”

Verse 2

2. Take hold of shield and buckler “Shield” and “buckler” are not synonymous terms. The former was smaller, used mainly for the defence of the head, the latter covered the whole body. To “take hold,” or take strong hold, of these, indicates strength and resolution for the defence.

Verse 3

3. Draw out also the spear To draw out the sword, or the spear, was the immediate signal of battle, as Exodus 15:9, et al.

Stop the way To shut the way, or intercept the enemy, was a military feat.

Them that persecute me Rather, my pursuers. The strong anthropomorphisms of this most graphic passage bring out the earnest soul of David, yet his language is scarcely stronger than that of Luther in the greater of his trials.

Verse 4

4. Hitherto David’s call has been for divine interference, now he prays directly against his enemies.

Confounded… put to shame Two words nearly synonymous, though the latter is more intensive. They denote the utter perplexity and reproach which should follow the defeat of their plans.

Turned back and brought to confusion They shall suddenly retreat in dismay when they see God has arisen in defence of his servant.

Verses 5-6

5, 6. Chaff Emblem of worthlessness. See on Psalms 83:13.

Angel of the Lord The title occurs twice in this verse, and nowhere else in the psalms except Psalms 34:7, where see note. Here it seems to mean any angel specially sent by Jehovah to execute the judgment; or, if Messiah is meant, he, too, executeth judgment. Psalms 2:9-12; John 5:22-27.

Let their way be dark and slippery Literally, darkness and slipperinesses, the abstract for the concrete, and the plural of the last word for intensity.

Persecute Here, as in Psalms 35:3, this word should be translated pursue. The figure is that of pursuing a retreating army in order to make victory complete, and answers to “chase” drive forward in Psalms 35:5. A retreating army, covered with shame, confusion, and disappointment, pursued by the angel of Jehovah through dark and slippery passages, is an object too terrible for calm contemplation. Still it is only what they had meted out to David, and is according to the oldest laws of justice.

Verse 7

7. Without cause Hence the magnitude of their crime.

Net in a pit The figure changes from warlike description to the well known method of catching lions.

Verse 8

8. Destruction… at unawares As to a lion caught in a “net” or “pit.” Quite a family of Hebrew words describe the General idea of defeat, overthrow, or destruction. The temporal sense must be adhered to in this place. David follows the policy of his enemies, and only prays that their evil devices may turn back upon them to their own defeat. The lex talionis the principle of all retributive justice is simply followed out. See Psalms 35:17, and Psalms 63:9

Verses 9-10

9, 10. These verses close the first strophe with promise of joy and praise at the deliverance asked and expected.

All my bones The solid framework of my body shall, with my soul, show forth thy praise.

Verse 11

11. The second division of the psalm opens with unalleviated complaint, in a comparison of his own conduct with that of his enemies.

False witnesses Violent witnesses. They vehemently accuse him. The scene is changed from a battle to a court. Laid to my charge, etc. They made legal inquiry of things of which he was ignorant. Though the tenses are future, the present and the past are evidently intended, and it would seem as a reminiscence of experience while in the court of Saul. Compare with this the trial of Jesus. Such must ever be the method of procedure where the court and the witnesses are pre-determined to reward evil for good, and condemn the accused.

Verse 12

12. Spoiling of my soul Bereaving “my soul.” The word is used only of the bereavement of a mother of her children, or a wild beast of her young.

Verse 13

13. When they were sick It is plain David refers to an actual experience. He had put on sackcloth, fasted and prayed, when those had been “sick” who now rejoiced at his fall.

My prayer returned into mine own bosom As my enemies were not in a moral state to be benefitted by my prayers, the blessings I had invoked upon them returned to me. Compare Matthew 10:13; Luke 10:6

Verse 14

14. Friend… brother… mother The gradations and climax are complete.

I bowed down The natural bodily expression of real sorrow. See Proverbs 12:25.

Verse 15

15. But in mine adversity In my halting, or fall. It is evident that the courtiers of Saul had all along taken part with the king against David, though their conduct to him was not openly rude or hostile until his fall, or the time he was forced to flee from Saul for his life.

They rejoiced, and gathered… together Now their true character appears. They assemble for gratulations and joy. David’s popularity with the people had been an impediment to the ambition of these men; now it seems removed.

Abjects The dregs of the populace, who are always ready to please the party in power. The radical sense of the term nekeem ( abjects) is “smitten-men, men who are brought low or reduced,” (Hengstenberg, Delitzsch,) which suggests the idea of disappointed office-seekers. And

I knew it not Literally, And I knew not. These who now assemble to rejoice at my calamity “I knew not,” being men with whom, on account of their low condition, I could have no intercourse. Compare Job 30:1

Verse 16

16. Hypocritical mockers in feasts Impious table jesters: men whose occupation was to make merriment at feasts buffoons.

They gnashed upon me This was the fittest expression of their empty rage, to which they had been excited by the derision of these jesters.

Verse 17

17. How long wilt thou look on God seemed to “look on” as an indifferent spectator, and the “how long” is the wail of despair, and yet of hope in despair.

My darling from the lions See on Psalms 22:20

Verse 18

18. I will give… thanks This promise of thanksgiving closes the second strophe.

Congregation Septuagint, εκκλησια , the word everywhere translated Church in New Testament. David would honour God before all the devout people.

Much people Before a mighty nation. The nation or people of Israel.

Verse 19

19. Hate me without a cause Quoted by Christ and applied to himself, John 15:25. The closing strophe is more chastened and calm, yet prayer against his enemies prevails. For wink with the eye, as a silent token of agreement, see Proverbs 6:13; Proverbs 10:10

Verse 20

20. Quiet in the land The peaceable, inoffensive ones the pious.

Verse 21

21. Aha, aha An expression of joyful surprise.

Our eye hath seen it “What we could not have believed on the testimony of another our eyes now see.” Alexander. Compare this with the trial of our Lord, and Psalms 22:7; Matthew 27:39

Verse 22

22. This thou hast seen Antithetic to “our eye hath seen it,” just mentioned, and referring to Psalms 35:17

Verse 24

24. According to thy righteousness An appeal to God’s knowledge of the right as to the points at issue with his enemies. Justice, not private victory, is his plea with God.

Verse 26

26. Let them be ashamed In this and the connecting verses of the strophe is given the moral sense of all the imprecations in Psalms 35:4-8

Verse 27

27. That favour Take pleasure in, delight in, not by favouritism, but for righteousness.

My righteous cause Hebrew, my righteousness.

Prosperity of his servant Righteousness could not be otherwise than by defending and delivering the righteous, and this always implies the defeat and punishment of the wicked. The prosperity of David was the essential condition of just administration in the case. If justice is not always promptly executed for the righteous, it has the pledge of eternal Truth that it shall be in the final result, and hence the doctrine which faith accepts, of a future judgment.

The closing verse is an expression of faith in the final result, which should be the theme of continued praise.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 35". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-35.html. 1874-1909.
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