The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 35

Psa 35:1


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: Practically all the allusions to David's enemies suggest the period when he was hunted by Saul. Yet also a number of resemblances in language to Psa 109 -- Absalom's rebellion. Was a Saul psalm expanded in later days as an expression of David's feelings during the Absalom rebellion? Vv 11-15 suggest Ahithophel.

IMPRECATORY PSALM: Ct the repeated imprecations (esp vv 4,5,6,8,26) and the mild spirit displayed by David when he had opportunity to strike against his enemy (1Sa 24; 26). Several possibilities arise:
  1. That David was invoking what he knew, or believed, to be the righteous judgment of God against unjustified hatred.
  2. That the Heb requests: "Let them... let them..." should be read as straight futures: "They shall... they shall...", David knowing that God must inevitably bring retribution against unrighteousness.
  3. The imprecations represent exactly how David felt in resentment at all the hard treatment which came to him. In other words, the psalm is a true record, with inspired accuracy, of how in provocation this saint actually felt -- whether Scripturally justified in so feeling or not. Cp the same feature in the record of Jeremiah's similar reactions in similar circumstances: Jer 20:12; 15:15. (This is perhaps the least likely.)
  4. David was guided to include such verses in his psalm as true expressions, written beforehand, of how his greater Son will one day pronounce judgment against those who have rejected him.
CONTEND, O LORD: "Plead my cause, O Lord" (KJV). Precisely the spirit of 1Sa 24:15 -- David at his best.

Psa 35:2

The LORD as a "man of war" (Exo 15:3; Deu 32:41).

Psa 35:3

The language here is strongly reminiscent of Saul's eager pursuit: 1Sa 23:25,28; 24:15; 26:18.

BRANDISH SPEAR AND JAVELIN: "Stop the way against me" (AV), or as NIV mg. This happened in Exo 14:20, when the pillar of God's glory stood between the camp of Israel and the camp of the Egyptians.

SAY TO MY SOUL: "I AM YOUR SALVATION": The words suggest that David's faith in God did not come easily at this time. The temptation presented to him by his own devoted followers, to take the initiative to be rid of Saul, must have been almost too powerful to resist: 1Sa 24:4; 26:8. 'Let me have a present, personal, infallible, indisputable sense that I am Thine, and that Thou art mine' (CHS).

Psa 35:4

For both circumstances and phrasing, see 1Sa 20:1; 22:23; 23:25.

Psa 35:5

CHAFF: That which is worthless, fit to be burnt or blown away by the "Angel-wind" of God: Psa 1:4; Job 21:18; Isa 5:24; 29:5; Jer 23:28; Hos 13:3; Mat 3:12; Luk 3:17; 1Co 3:12,13.

WITH THE ANGEL OF THE LORD DRIVING THEM AWAY: Even as David was chased. What a ct with Psa 34:7 and background there.

Psa 35:6

"Let them be pursued by fierce enemies along treacherous mountain paths." Quoted by Jeremiah (Jer 23:12). Cp Psa 73:18; Pro 4:19; Isa 59:10; Joh 11:10; 12:35,36.

Psa 35:7

WITHOUT CAUSE: Cp 1Sa 24:11.

PIT: "Shachath" (Psa 9:15; 30:9). The word naturally occurs in connection with digging (either a pit for a trap, or a grave).

Psa 35:8

This v sb introduced with "Saying" -- cp Psa 41:5; 52:6,7; 22:7,8; and 132:11,12.

MAY THEY FALL INTO THE PIT, TO THEIR RUIN: As Jesus was hanged on a tree, so also Judas (Mat 27:5). Pilate too ended his life in suicide. And Herod was banished from his kingdom and died in obscurity in Gaul (or perhaps Spain).

Psa 35:9

"Let it not be thought that the course of wisdom is a joyless burden. Rather, it is the course of the only true joy and freedom from burden. We have seen full-grown, mentally-retarded adults sitting on the floor grinning and slobbering and playing with baby toys. It is a terribly sad and saddening spectacle: a potentially noble and intelligent creature, created in God's image, never developing beyond uncomprehending infancy. Compared to the beauty that might be, this is the spiritual state that might be of all of natural mankind. And merely passing an elementary examination and being baptized does not automatically change it, though such can and should be a tremendous first step in the direction of growth and maturity and nobility and beauty. But it is only a first step. Continuous development must follow" (GVG).

Psa 35:10

MY WHOLE BEING: "All my bones" (AV): Is this a fig way of expressing David's hope that his followers (the "bones" of his body: 2Sa 5:1) would learn from him a milder reaction to the bitter hostility of Saul? (With this cp the obviously figurative use of "bone" in Psa 34:20.)

WHO IS LIKE YOU, O LORD?: This is the name Michael: cp v 5.

YOU RESCUE THE POOR FROM THOSE TOO STRONG FOR THEM: What is "too strong" for the "poor"? Answers: the law (Gal 3:10,13); sin (Rom 5:21); the "world" (Joh 16:33); "self" (Rom 7:24); and death (2Ti 1:10).

Psa 35:11

RUTHLESS WITNESSES: "False witnesses" (AV): 1Sa 24:9; 26:19. Sycophants -- boot-lickers, wishing to be on the side of power, evidently said the things which they knew the king in his jealousy wanted to hear.

RUTHLESS WITNESSES COME FORWARD: Mar 14:57 uses this very phraseology about the trial of Jesus. The vv that follow here add a significant detail to the gospel story: "They rewarded me evil for good" (v 12). These words (along with v 13: "when they were sick") carry the plain implication that those who spoke against Jesus at his trial had actually benefited from his compassionate healing powers. (Ponder, for one example, the poss motives of the lame man healed in Joh 5:11.) Certainly the accusation they made, about the "destruction" of the Temple (Mar 14:58), went back to the very earliest days of the ministry (Joh 2:19). Jesus also seems to have had this "evil for good" in mind in Joh 10:32. (Or, to put the same point the other way round, was Judas the subject of some miraculous healing unrecorded in the Bible?)

Psa 35:12

THEY REPAY ME EVIL FOR GOOD: In spite of his own words, Saul did precisely this: 1Sa 24:8,19.

AND LEAVE MY SOUL FORLORN: LXX: the childlessness of my soul. Cp Isa 53:8: "Who shall declare his generation?"

Psa 35:13

WHEN THEY WERE ILL, I PUT ON SACKCLOTH: Was this some unrecorded illness from which Saul suffered, or is the ref to his mental illness which grew on him over a lengthy period?

WITH FASTING: Or "in the fast", ie the Atonement (Isa 58:5).

MY PRAYERS RETURNED TO ME UNANSWERED: As Jesus foretold also for his disciples: Luk 10:5,6.

Psa 35:14

MY FRIEND OR BROTHER... MY MOTHER: This v suggests the deep and abiding grief of Jesus for the traitor Judas -- a detail not immediate discernible in the gospels alone.

Psa 35:15

ATTACKERS: AV has "abjects": A strange word. RV mg: smiters (with the tongue). Or, if "those smitten" instead, then perhaps the "cripple" Mephibosheth son of Jonathan (2Sa 4:4; 9:1-13; 19:24-30)? Or, in the case of Christ, the two malefactors on the crosses?

Psa 35:16

"With hypocritical mockers in feasts" (AV): Cp Luk 7:39 but see also Luk 13:28,29.

THEY GNASHED THEIR TEETH AT ME: As in Mat 27:39-43; Act 7:54.

Psa 35:17

MY PRECIOUS LIFE: "My darling" (AV): See Psa 22:20 (sw). By modern usage, a strange expression, equivalent to "my very soul". But LXX has "only begotten", which in the NT became a special name for Jesus: Joh 1:14,18; 3:16,18; Heb 11:17; 1Jo 4:9.

Psa 35:18

THE GREAT ASSEMBLY: LXX ekklesia, as also in Psa 40:9,10; 22:25 (cp v 31 there). An impressive prophecy of the outcome of this rejection and suffering.

Psa 35:19

WHO ARE MY ENEMIES WITHOUT CAUSE: Specifically appropriated by Jesus as a prophecy of the willful opposition which was mobilized against himself and which would therefore inevitably go into action against his disciples: Joh 15:20,25; cp Psa 69:4. (The Greek word translated "without a cause" in Joh 15:25 also appears in Rom 3:24: "being justified freely by his grace". As gratuitous as was their hatred for Christ, just so was his love for them!)

Psa 35:20

THEY DO NOT SPEAK PEACEABLY, BUT DEVISE FALSE ACCUSATIONS...: "They seek a quarrel. They are unwilling to be on good terms with others, or to live in peace with them. The idea is that they were 'disposed' or 'inclined' to quarrel. Thus we speak now of persons who are 'quarrelsome.' 'They devise deceitful matters' -- literally, 'they think of words of deceit.' That is, they set their hearts on misrepresentation, and they study such misrepresentations as occasions for strife with others. They falsely represent my character; they attribute conduct to me of which I am not guilty; they pervert my words; they state that to be true which never occurred, and thus they attempt to justify their own conduct. Almost all the quarrels in the world, whether pertaining to nations, to neighbourhoods, to families, or to individuals, are based on some 'misrepresentation' of facts, designed or undesigned, and could have been avoided if men had been willing to look at facts as they are, or perfectly understood each other" (CY).

AGAINST THOSE WHO LIVE QUIETLY IN THE LAND: The word rendered "quietly" means literally those who are "timid"; then, those who shrink back, and gather together from fear; then, those in general who are disposed to be peaceful and quiet, or who are indisposed to contention and strife. David implicitly asserts himself to be one of that class; a man who preferred peace to war, and who had no disposition to keep up a strife with his neighbours.

Psa 35:22

DO NOT BE FAR FROM ME: The answer to this prayer is in Psa 22:24.

Psa 35:24

Vv 24,25: The "shame" experienced by Christ on the cross: Psa 69:6,7,10, 19,20; Isa 50:6; Heb 6:6; 12:2.

Psa 35:26

MAY ALL WHO EXALT THEMSELVES OVER ME BE CLOTHED WITH SHAME AND DISGRACE: Cp v 4. Shame and disgrace take the place of the usual garments for glory and for beauty: "Then the high priest rent his clothes" (Mat 26:65).

Psa 35:27

WHO DELIGHT IN MY VINDICATION: RV mg reads: "they have pleasure in MY righteousness."

MAY THEY ALWAYS SAY: The Heb for "always" is that for the daily sacrifice (cp Psa 34:1). Saints in Christ have no better offering.

Psa 35:28


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