Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This psalm gives no distinct indication of its authorship or date of composition. The writer appears to be in a critical condition of health (Psalm 28:1), and fears death as a mark of Divine punishment, involving him, though innocent, with the wicked. If the psalm is the product of one pen and time, and is really the expression of individual feeling, the writer was a king (Psalm 28:8). But the last two verses seem, both in rhythm and tone, to be from another hand, and to be the expression of national, not individual, confidence and hope. In the first seven verses the parallelism is hardly marked at all.
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) My rock.—Heb., tsûr, from a root implying “bind together” (Deuteronomy 14:25), not necessarily therefore with sense of height, but with that of strength and solidity. Thus Tyre (or Tsûr) is built on a broad shelf of rock. We see from Deuteronomy 32:30-31; 1Samuel 2:2, that “rock” was a common metaphor for a tutelary deity, and it is adopted frequently for Jehovah in the Psalms and poetical books. Sometimes in the Authorised Version it is rendered “strong” (Psalm 60:9; Psalm 71:3; see margin). The LXX. (followed by Vulg.) here, as generally, apparently through timidity, suppresses the metaphor, and renders “my God.” In the song of Moses in Deuteronomy, the metaphor occurs nine times, and Stanley thinks it was derived from the granite peaks of Sinai (Jewish Church, p. 195).
Be not silent to me.—Vulg. and margin, rightly, “from me.” The word rendered “silent” appears, like κωφὸς in Greek, to have the double meaning of deaf and dumb, and is apparently from an analogous derivation. (See Gesenius, Lex., sub voce.) Hence we might render, “turn not a deaf ear to me,” or “turn not from me in silence.”
Them that go down into the pit—i.e., the dead, or those just about to die (Psalm 30:3). In Psalm 88:4, the expression is parallel to “My life draweth nigh unto the grave;” pit (bôr) is either the sepulchre (as Isaiah 14:19), or the world of the dead (Psalm 88:4). The two significations pass one into the other. This expression suggests that the psalmist was on a bed of sickness.
Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.(2) Lift up my hands.—For interesting illustrations of this Oriental custom see Exodus 9:29; 1Kings 8:22, &c. Compare the well-known line:—
“If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer.”
TENNYSON: Morte d’Arthur.
Holy oracle.—Better, the shrine of thy sanctuary (see margin)—i.e., the holy of holies, the adytum, or inner recess of the Temple in which the ark was placed, as we see from 1Kings 6:19-22. The Hebrew word, which is of doubtful derivation, is, with the exception of this place, only found in Kings and Chronicles. The margin, “the oracle of thy sanctuary,” is a better rendering than the text.
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.—Better, Drag me not. In Ezekiel 32:18 seq., we have a magnificent vision of judgment, in which the wicked nations are represented as being dragged to death and destruction. In the person of the poet, Israel prays not to be involved in such a punishment. The words “which speak peace “may refer to some overture of alliance from such, or it may be generally those who “hide hatred with lying lips” (Proverbs 10:18).
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 deeds.—The justice of the lex talionis was deeply impressed on the mind of Israel, and we need not wonder to find its enforcement made the subject of prayer. A general notice of the imprecations of the Psalms will be found in the General Introduction (VI.). Here it is enough to remark that there is no indication of personal animosity or vindictiveness. The poet, even if expressing his own feelings, was identified with devout Israel, to whom it was natural not only to expect from Jehovah the manifestation of judgment which could alone remove the conditions that were so unfavourable to the true religion, but also to pray that He would at the same time vindicate Himself and justify those faithful to Him. (Comp. for the general thought Isaiah 3:8-11.) In the actual course of God’s providence, the retribution is often very accurately apportioned to the evil deed, and the Bible contains many strong instances—e.g., that of Adonibezek (Judges 1:5; Judges 1:7).
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) The works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands—i.e., His strict and even-handed justice, which the wicked forget or, deceived by appearances (Isaiah 5:19), ignore. For the contrast between “build up” and “pull down,” compare Jeremiah 42:10. This verse is in that prophet’s style (Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 18:9).
Blessed be the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.(6) This burst of thanksgiving, breaking in on the poet’s prayer, has led to the supposition that an interval elapsed between the composition of the former part of the psalm and this verse, and that the writer takes up his pen to record the answer his supplications have received. Others regard the psalm as composed by the union of two distinct pieces. Others again treat Psalm 28:6 as an interpolation. It certainly seems discordant with the rhythm as well as with the sense of the rest.
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) Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth.—Better, danceth for joy, as in the Prayer Book. Another possible translation is, “And when I have been helped my heart will dance for joy.”
With my song.—Literally, from my song, but the reading is doubtful. The LXX. have “my flesh has flourished,” which is probably correct.
The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.(8) Their strength—i.e., the strength of His people, who are throughout in the poet’s thought, even if it is the individual and not the community that speaks. The LXX. and Vulg. read (comp. Psalm 29:11) “to his people.”
Saving strength.—Better, stronghold of salvation. (See margin.)
Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.(9) Feed . . . lift them up.—These words suggest comparison with Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 63:9. The incorporation of this petition in the Te Deum is one of those interesting facts that link the Christian worship with the Jewish.