Psalm 35
Benson Commentary
A Psalm of David. Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.
Psalm 35:1-3. Plead my cause, O Lord, &c. — Take my part, and maintain my cause against those that contend with me, and have raised war against me; for I am not able to defend myself, and have none else to appear for me. Take hold of shield and buckler — Wherewith to cover and defend me; that is, Be thou my protector, and preserve me under the shield of thy almighty providence. And stand up for my help — Oppose thyself to them, and keep off all their assaults. Draw out also the spear — Thy offensive as well as defensive weapons. Strike them through, as well as defend me. He alludes to the practice of soldiers in battle. Stop the way, &c. — In which they are advancing directly and furiously against me. Let them run upon the spear and the sword, if they continue to pursue me. Say unto my soul — That is, unto me, either, 1st, By thy Spirit assuring me of it; or, 2d, By thy providence effecting it. Confirm my soul in this belief, that thou wilt at last deliver me from this persecution.

Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.
Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
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.
Psalm 35:4. Let them be confounded — That is, frustrated and disappointed in their wicked designs and hopes against me. Or, they shall be disappointed: for this and the following verses, to Psalm 35:9, may be considered as a prediction of the ruin and destruction which were about to come on the enemies of David, and on those of the Messiah and his church. Accordingly, Dr. Waterland renders them all in the future, whereas our translation by putting them in the optative mood, has given them too much the appearance of imprecations, dictated by an implacable and revengeful spirit: Let them be turned back, or, they shall be turned back, that is, stopped, or hindered in their wicked designs, or discomfited and put to flight.

Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the LORD chase them.
Psalm 35:5. Let them be — Or, They shall be; as chaff before the wind — That is, dispersed and chased from place to place, finding rest and safety nowhere. And let the angel of the Lord — Whom God employs to defend his people, and to destroy his enemies; chase them — Drive them forward to their destruction, as chaff is driven by a fierce wind.

Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them.
Psalm 35:6-7. Let their way — By which they flee, being chased, as was now said; be dark and slippery — So as that they can neither discern the right path, nor be able to stand in it, and much less to escape, especially from so swift a pursuer as an angel. For without cause — Out of mere malice, without any injury or provocation on my part; have they hid, &c. — The sundry expressions used in this clause, aggravate their sin, and signify that their persecution of him was not the effect of a sudden passion, but of a deep and habitual hatred and malice, carried on in a constant and continued course, with deliberation, craft, and deceit, and that against David’s soul, or life; for nothing less would satisfy them.

For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.
Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.
Psalm 35:8-10. Let destruction come upon him — Upon each of thine and mine implacable enemies, of whom he had hitherto spoken. Or, rather, by this change of the plural number into the singular, he points at Saul, his chief and most implacable enemy. And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord — In and for his glory and service, which, by these means, will be advanced, and for his favour to me. All my bones shall say — My whole body, with all its members, as well as all the faculties of my soul, shall be affected with a deep sense of thy goodness toward me, and thereby shall set forth thy praise. The expressions are figurative, as where the bones are said to be vexed, and to rejoice, Psalm 6:2; Psalm 51:8, and the loins to bless, Job 31:20.

And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.
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?
False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
Psalm 35:11-12. They laid to my charge things I knew not — They accused me to Saul of treacherous designs against his crown and life, and of other crimes of which I was wholly innocent and ignorant. They rewarded me evil for good — For the good offices which I performed to divers of them when I had favour and power in Saul’s court and camp. To the spoiling of my soul — That is, to the stripping of my person of all my comforts and hopes, and of my life itself. This interpretation of the passage, the reader will observe, is given according to the present translation. But the Hebrew verbs, יקומו, ישׁאלו, ישׁלמו, jeshallemu, jishalu, jekumu, are all in the future tense, and the clauses are more properly rendered, False witnesses will rise up, &c.; They will lay to my charge, &c.; They will reward me, &c., which seems to intimate that the prophet was speaking of what was then future, and in the person of him against whom false witnesses did arise, to whose charge they laid things he knew not, and whom they rewarded evil for good; “who, because our souls were sick, clothed himself with the sackcloth of our flesh; mourning at the very thought that his prayers, in any measure, should return into his own bosom.” See Fenwick.

They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.
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.
Psalm 35:13. When they were sick — Or in any other great misery; my clothing was sackcloth — Which was the habit of mourners. I humbled — Hebrew, I afflicted, my soul with fasting — And with compassion and fervent prayers for them; and, or but, my prayer returned into mine own bosom — My fastings and prayers did them no good, neither abated their malice, nor prevailed with God for them, so far as I desired; but returned to me without success, like a gift sent to an uncivil person, who disdainfully rejects it, and returns it to the giver. But this clause may be rendered, And my prayer in my bosom returned; that is, I daily and frequently repeated my prayers for them, and that not only in public, when I joined with others, but also in secret, between God and my own soul; and that with a sincere and hearty affection. For what is done secretly, and affectionately, is said to be done in the bosom. Others render it, My prayer rested, or, settled in my bosom — That is, “I never was without a prayer for them in my breast.” So Mudge.

I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.
Psalm 35:14. I behaved myself — Hebrew, התהלכתי, hithhalacti, I caused myself to walk, namely, to visit and comfort him; or, I conducted myself toward him, as though he had been my friend, &c. — As if I had been in danger of losing a friend or brother. I bowed down heavily — Went hanging down my head as mourners used to do, Isaiah 58:5; as one that mourneth for his mother — I could not have looked more dejected if I had bewailed the death of the dearest mother.

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:
Psalm 35:15-16. But in mine adversity — Hebrew, בצלעי, betzalgni, in my halting, that is, when I was in great danger of falling into mischief. When I had any sickness or ill success in my affairs, and was almost lost, for such are often said to halt, in the Scripture; they rejoiced and gathered themselves together — These very men (such was their inhumanity!) could not dissemble the joy they conceived when the news was brought of any evil that befell me, but ran to tell one another, and assembled themselves together that they might publicly testify how glad they were to hear it. Yea, the very abjects — Hebrew, נכים, neechim, loripedes, the bow-legged, or, lame. It means, properly, percussi aut læsi pedibus, persons wounded or hurt in their feet. The sense is, vile persons, the very scum of the people, persons so mean that I did not so much as know there were such men in the world, met together to revile me; nay, the cripples, who could not walk without trouble and pain, were as forward as any others to go to these meetings on this occasion. They did tear me — That is, my good name, with scoffs, and calumnies, and reproaches, and curses; and ceased not — Hebrew, ולא דמו, velo damu, were not silent, that is, they acted thus unweariedly and continually; with hypocritical, or profane, mockers — Whose common practice it was to scoff at, and deride, others; in feasts — Hebrew, לעגי מעוג, sanniones placentæ, vel cibi, buffoons, or jesters, for a cake, or morsel of bread; namely, parasites, qui gulæ causa aliis adulantur, says Buxtorf, who flatter others for the sake of their belly. They made themselves buffoons and jesters, and accustomed themselves to mock and deride David, that they might gain admittance to the tables of great men, where they might fill their bellies, which was all that they sought, or got by such conduct. They gnashed upon me with their teeth — They used all expressions of rage and hatred against me, which they did to curry favour with my great and powerful adversaries. The indignities and outrage which the Lord Jesus endured from the Jews seem to be plainly foretold in these two verses. See Mark 14:65.

With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.
Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.
Psalm 35:17-18. Lord, how long wilt thou look on — Like an idle spectator, without affording me any pity or help? Rescue my soul from their destructions — Be pleased, at length, to vindicate my innocence from those who have already despoiled me of my peace and good name; my darling from the lions — Namely, my soul or life, as it is in the former clause. Hebrew, my only one, for I am left alone, and forsaken by my friends, and have none to trust in but thee: (see on Psalm 22:21;) and now they seek, like so many rapacious lions, to devour me. I will give thee thanks in the congregation — When I shall be restored to the liberty of the public assemblies and solemn feasts.

I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.
Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.
Psalm 35:19-21. Neither let them wink with the eye — That is, mock me, or insult over me, as this phrase signifies. For they speak not peace — They are enemies to all peaceable counsels; they breathe out nothing but threatenings and war. They devise deceitful matters — They use, not only open violence, but deceit and subtle artifices; against them that are quiet in the land — Against me and my followers, who desire nothing more than to live quietly and peaceably under Saul’s government. They opened their mouth wide — To pour forth whole floods of scoffs, slanders, and contumelies. Or, to devour me. It is a metaphor taken from wild beasts, when they come within reach of their prey. And said, Aha, Aha! — An expression of joy and triumph. Our eye hath seen it — Namely, what we have long desired and hoped for. Or, as Bishop Patrick paraphrases it, “So, so, we have found him out; his treasonable practices are discovered; we ourselves are eye-witnesses of it.”

For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.
Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.
This thou hast seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.
Psalm 35:22-24. Thou hast seen, O Lord — As they say they have seen, so my comfort is, that thou also hast seen, and dost observe all their plots and threats, and all my distresses and calamities, which I suffer for thy sake. Keep not silence — Or, Be not deaf, namely, to my prayers. Be not far from me — Do not withdraw thy favour and help from me. Awake unto my cause — At last undertake to plead my cause against my adversaries. According to thy righteousness — Whereby thou usest to defend the innocent and punish their oppressors.

Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.
Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.
Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.
Psalm 35:25-27. Let them not say, Ah! so would we have it — Hebrew, Aha, our soul; an expression of mirth, as before, Psalm 35:21, or, Aha, we have our wish, or desire. We have swallowed him up — David is now as low as we could wish him. Let them be brought to confusion together — As they gathered themselves together to deride and reproach me, so do thou gather them together to confound them; or, as יחדו, jachdav, may be rendered, in like manner, that is, one as well as another. Let the proud and great ones of them be disappointed and ashamed, as well as the meanest among them. That magnify themselves against me — That extol themselves, and their power, and look upon me with scorn and contempt. Let them be glad that favour my righteous cause — That wish well to it, although they want either strength or courage to plead it. Let them say, Let the Lord be magnified — That is, exalted and praised for his righteousness, truth, and goodness, manifested in my deliverance. The great design of my enemies is to magnify themselves, Psalm 35:26, but my chief desire is that God should be magnified.

Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.
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.
And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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