Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
An urgent cry for audience (Psalm 28:1-2) is followed by a prayer that the Psalmist may be delivered from sharing the fate of evil-doers and hypocrites, and that they may receive the retribution which is the fitting punishment of their blind disbelief (Psalm 28:3-5). Suddenly the Psalmist breaks into joyous thanksgiving. His prayer is answered, or faith guarantees that it will be answered (Psalm 28:6-7); and the Psalm concludes with an intercession for the people (Psalm 28:8-9).
The Psalm is a companion to Psalms 26. The circumstances are similar, but here the danger is yet more pressing. Cp. Psalm 28:3 with Psalm 26:9-10. The Psalmist is in imminent peril of death. He fears that he may share the fate of the godless. Was there a pestilence raging, which threatened to sweep away righteous and wicked without distinction? There he pleads his own integrity, here the iniquity and the godlessness of the wicked, as the reason for discriminating. Jehovah will manifest His justice alike in sparing the righteous and punishing the wicked.
The Psalm is however commonly thought to have been written by David during his flight from Absalom, Psalm 28:3 then alludes to the character of the treacherous conspirators, and Psalm 28:5 refers to their obstinate refusal to recognise the hand of Jehovah in David’s choice and elevation to the throne; while the concluding prayer is such as the king might well offer for a people torn by intestine quarrels.
A Psalm of David. Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.1. Render with R.V.,
Unto thee, O Lord, will I call;
My rock, be not thou deaf unto me.
He appeals to Jehovah as his rock, the ground of his confidence. See Psalm 18:2 (note), 31.
be not silent unto me] Lit. from me; and similarly in the next line. The rendering be not silent may stand, as in Psalm 35:22; Psalm 39:12; or we may render with R.V., be not thou deaf. The sense is, ‘Turn not away from me as though thou didst not hear, lest if thou turn away in unregarding silence, I become’ &c. like them that go down to the pit] i.e. the dying or the dead. The pit is the grave or Sheol. Cp. Psalm 22:29; Psalm 88:4; Proverbs 1:12. How natural a prayer if people were dying of pestilence all round him! The last line recurs in Psalm 143:7.
1, 2. Introductory appeal for a hearing, emphasising the urgency of the need.
Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.2. The first line recurs in Psalm 31:22.
when I cry] A stronger word than that in Psalm 28:1, meaning to cry for help.
when I lift up my hands] The attitude of prayer (Psalm 63:4; 1 Timothy 2:8), the outward symbol of an uplifted heart (Psalm 25:1).
toward thy holy oracle] Lit., as R.V. marg., toward the innermost place of thy sanctuary, i.e. the most holy place, where the Ark, the symbol of God’s Presence among His people, was. See 1 Kings 6:16 ff; 1 Kings 8:6. The rendering oracle, following Jerome’s oraculum, rests upon a wrong derivation. The word does not in itself denote the place where God answers. It is used elsewhere only in the accounts of the building of the Temple (1 Kings 6-8; 2 Chronicles 3-5). The worshipper naturally turns as he prays towards Jehovah’s dwelling-place in heaven (1 Kings 8:22), or its earthly counterpart (1 Kings 8:30 ff.). Cp. Psalm 5:7.
Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.3. Draw me not away] Cp. Psalm 26:9. But the word here is stronger, suggesting the idea of criminals being dragged off to execution. He prays that he may not share the fate of the wicked in the judgment now being executed.
which speak peace to &c.] Rather, as R.V., with. Double-hearted hypocrites; cp. Psalm 12:2; Jeremiah 9:8; and contrast Psalm 15:2.
3–5. The Psalmist’s prayer that he may be distinguished from the wicked, and that they may be judged as they deserve.
Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert.4. Give them according to their work,
And according to the evil of their doings:
Give them according to the operation of their hands.
This is not a vindictive craving for personal revenge, but a solemn prayer that Jehovah will openly convict false and wicked men by manifesting His righteous judgements upon them, and punishing them as they deserve. See Introd. p. xc.
Give] Of a judicial sentence. Cp. Hosea 9:14; Jeremiah 32:19.
their desert] The word denotes an action either good or bad, and its fitting reward.
Because they regard not the works of the LORD, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up.5. Atheists in practice if not in profession, they deny that Jehovah governs the world, and refuse to discern His working in creation, in providence, and in judgement. Unbelief lies at the root of all their sin. The works of the Lord and the operation of his hands stand in strong contrast to their work and the operation of their hands in Psalm 28:4. Compare the parallels to this and Psalm 28:4 in Isaiah 1:16; Isaiah 3:8-11; Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 5:19; Isaiah 22:11.
he shall destroy them] Better with P.B.V. and R.V., he shall break them down. Cp. Jeremiah 24:6.
Blessed be the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.6, 7. Thanksgiving succeeds to prayer. Are we to suppose that faith realises the answer to its prayer as already granted, and can give thanks accordingly? or that this conclusion was added by the Psalmist subsequently as a grateful memorial of his deliverance? Either alternative is possible; but here and in Psalm 31:21-24 we seem to have a record of actual deliverance, Psalm 6:8 ff. is somewhat different.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.7. my strength] Cp. Exodus 15:2. my shield] See note on Psalm 3:3.
trusted] Better as R.V., hath trusted.
greatly rejoiceth] Exulteth. Cp. Psalm 5:11; 1 Samuel 2:1.
The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.8. their strength] Their must refer to the people. But there is no antecedent for the pronoun, and it is best to follow a few Heb. MSS., the LXX, Vulg., and Syr., in reading, a strength unto his people. Cp. Psalm 29:11.
and he is &c.] R.V., and he is a strong hold of salvation to his anointed. Cp. Psalm 27:1. Salvation is lit. salvations, great and manifold deliverance. Cp. Psalm 18:50; Psalm 20:6.
8, 9. Concluding intercession for the people. Cf. Psalm 3:8.
Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.9. thine inheritance] Israel. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:20.
feed them] Lit. shepherd them. Cp. Psalm 23:1; 2 Samuel 7:7. Govern them in the adaptation of this verse in the Te Deum is from the Vulg. rege.
lift them up] Exalt them; as the word is used in 2 Samuel 5:12. But we should probably render as in R.V., bear them up; either as a shepherd carries his sheep (Isaiah 40:11), continuing the idea of the preceding word; or as a father carries his child, a figure often applied to Jehovah’s care for Israel. See Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 46:3-4; Isaiah 63:9. Cp. too Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11.