Psalm 35:13
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into my own bosom.
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(13)And my prayer returned into mine own bosom.—This has been most variously explained. The context evidently implies something done for the benefit of the whilome friends for whom, in their sickness, the poet had worn sackcloth, and had fasted and adopted all the other signs of mourning. We must therefore set aside (1) the idea of fruitless prayer, in spite of the analogy of Matthew 10:13, Luke 10:6. (2) The notion that the answer to the prayer came back to the psalmist himself, instead of to those for whom it was offered, must also be set aside. And (3) we must reject the notion of secret, i.e., silent prayer, in spite of Proverbs 17:23; Proverbs 21:14, since all the “outward and visible” signs of mourning are indicated, and the very object was to show sympathy and interest.

There remains (1) the literal, and my prayer turned upon my bosom, referring to the posture described in Psalm 35:14. (Comp. 1Kings 18:42, where, however, there is no express mention of prayer.) The words were, as it were, muttered into his bosom. This is the view of Ewald and Delitzsch, but seems prosaic. (2)The far more probable meaning, my prayer came back again and again to my bosom, i.e., was repeated over and over again; just as we say, “the thought recurred to my mind.” (Comp. the common phrase for thoughts coming upon the heart, Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 7:31, etc.) The Hebrew verb has this frequentative sense in one of its conjugations.

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.35:11-16 Call a man ungrateful, and you can call him no worse: this was the character of David's enemies. Herein he was a type of Christ. David shows how tenderly he had behaved towards them in afflictions. We ought to mourn for the sins of those who do not mourn for themselves. We shall not lose by the good offices we do to any, how ungrateful soever they may be. Let us learn to possess our souls in patience and meekness like David, or rather after Christ's example.But as for me - The psalmist now contrasts their conduct with his own. He refers to the recollections of his past life, and to the acts of kindness which he had shown to them in thees of trouble, as more deeply marking the evils of their own conduct now.

When they were sick - Compare the notes at Job 30:25. It would seem from this that the persons referred to, who now treated him with so much ingratitude, were those with whom he had been formerly intimately associated, or whom he had regarded as his personal friends, since it cannot be supposed that this deep sympathy would have been shown for those who were altogether strangers to him.

My clothing was sackcloth - Compare the notes at Psalm 30:11. The meaning is, that he showed the deepest sympathy in their distress by putting on the emblems of humiliation or mourning. It was also with reference to prayer in their behalf; and to fasting, that he put on these marks of grief. The idea is, that he did all that was understood to be connected with the deepest humiliation before God, and that would fit the mind for earnest prayer in their behalf. He felt that their restoration to health - that the preservation of their lives - depended on God, and he most earnestly and fervently pleaded in their behalf.

I humbled my soul with fasting - Margin, "afflicted;" so the Hebrew properly means. The word "soul" here is equivalent to "self;" I afflicted myself. He subjected himself to the pains of hunger, that he might be better prepared to offer fervent and acceptable prayer. Among the Hebrews fasting and prayer were much more closely connected than they are with Christians. See Daniel 9:3; Matthew 17:21; Luke 2:37.

And my prayer returned into mine own bosom - DeWette explains this as meaning, "I prayed with my head sunk on my bosom;" that is, with the head bowed down, so that the prayer which went out of Iris lips seemed to return again to his own bosom - that earnest prayer which one offers when the head is bowed with sorrow. A posture somewhat similar to this is referred to in the case of Elijah, 1 Kings 18:42 : "And he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees." The posture of prayer with the head reclining toward the bosom is common among the Muslims, "Reland" de Religione Mohammetica, p. 87. Jarchi explains this as meaning that he sought the same for those who were now his enemies which he would for himself, or that he desired that that should come into his own bosom which he sought for them. Prof. Alexander supposes that this means, according to a traditional interpretation of the Jews, that he desired that the prayer which he offered might redound to his own advantage: "My prayer shall not be lost, it shall return in blessings to the heart which prompted it." There can be no reason to doubt that this is true "in fact;" and that prayer offered for others "does" bring back blessings to those who offer it. But to suppose that this was the "motive" in the case is to suppose that the psalmist was wholly selfish, and would take away the very point of his observation about his prayer - that it was dictated by the sincerest love for them and true sympathy for their sufferings. The most simple interpretation, therefore, is that which supposes that the prayer was offered under such a burden of grief on account of their sufferings, that his head sank on his bosom; or, in other words, that the prayer which was offered was such as is presented when the heart is most burdened and most sad.

13. prayer … bosom—may denote either the posture—the head bowed—(compare 1Ki 18:42)—or, that the prayer was in secret. Some think there is a reference to the result—the prayer would benefit him if not them. Sick; or in any other great misery.

Sackcloth; which was the habit of mourners, Genesis 37:34 Matthew 11:21 Revelation 11:3.

I humbled my soul, Heb. I afflicted my soul, (of which phrase see Leviticus 16:29,31 23:27,32, &c.,) partly with fasting, and partly with compassion and fervent prayers for them. And my prayer returned into mine own bosom: according to this translation the sense may be this, and, or but, or although 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,

1. This is not true, that his prayers returned empty to him, and did them no good, for they prevailed with God for their recovery, as appears by the following verses.

2. This doth not seem to suit well with the context; for both in the foregoing and following words he is only describing what he did for them, and not what the effects of it were, which he describes in the succeeding verses. Others therefore render the words otherwise; either,

1. Thus, and my prayer in my bosom returned, i.e. I did daily and frequently repeat my prayers for them, and that not only in public, when I joined with others in a fast-day appointed for them, which might be done in policy or for ostentation; 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, Numbers 11:12 Psalm 89:50 Proverbs 21:14, although indeed there is in those places another proposition; which may possibly alter the case. Or,

2. (which seems the truest sense) And as for my prayer, (to wit, which I joined with my fasting on their behalf,) let it return (nothing being more frequent than for future verbs to be put imperatively)

into my own bosom; i.e. if any shall think or say that my fasting for them was but counterfeit or politic, and that I did not pray for them, but rather against them, as I do in this Psalm, and that under all this show I secretly wished their death or destruction; my earnest desire is, that the all-seeing and heart-searching God would grant unto me, when I come into their circumstances, the same things which I begged for them, whether good or evil. And this sense agrees with the common use of this phrase in Scripture, where whatsoever is repaid to any man is said to be rendered into his bosom, as Psalm 79:2 Isaiah 65:6,7 Jer 32:18 Luke 6:38, as elsewhere it is said to return upon his head. But as for me, when they were sick,.... Or under any disorder or distress of body or mind, when any misfortune or infirmity attended them; meaning Saul and his courtiers, before David was persecuted by them;

my clothing was sackcloth; that is, he was grieved, and mourned for them, it being usual to put on sackcloth in time of mourning; see Genesis 37:34;

I humbled my soul with fasting; on the account of them, giving up himself to prayer for them, as follows:

and my prayer returned into mine own bosom; that is, he prayed privately and heartily for them, as for himself; he was constant in it, his heart was in it, and he took delight in it, and he was heard and answered; unless the sense should be, that his prayer was slighted by them, and so returned back to himself, as a present despised is returned; but however it was not without its effect, the good for which he prayed for them was returned by the Lord unto him.

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and {l} my prayer returned into mine own bosom.

(l) I prayed for them with inward affection, as I would have done for myself: or, I declared my affection with bowing down my head.

13. The ‘good’ he had done to them. His sympathy when they were in trouble was no mere formality. He prayed for their recovery, humbling himself before God with mourning and fasting (Psalm 69:10-11; 2 Samuel 12:16; Joel 2:12), that their sin might be forgiven and their sickness removed.

humbled] R.V., afflicted. It is the technical term for fasting in the Law. See Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 16:31; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 23:32; Numbers 29:7; Isaiah 58:3; Isaiah 58:5.

and my prayer returned into mine own bosom] An obscure phrase; not to be explained of the attitude of earnest prayer with head bent down on the bosom so that the prayer which came from his heart seemed to return thither again (1 Kings 18:42 does not justify this explanation): nor again, that his prayer returned to him without effecting its object (Matthew 10:13), for there would be no point in his prayer being unanswered: but rather, my prayer shall return into mine own bosom. They have recompensed him evil for good; but his prayer will not be unrewarded. As the causeless curse returns with interest into the bosom whence it issues (Psalm 79:12), so the prayer at least brings back a blessing to its offerer (Jeremiah 18:20).Verse 13. - But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth. It is suggested that David had acted thus, especially in the case of Saul, when he was first afflicted with his terrible malady (1 Samuel 16:14-23; 1 Samuel 18:10); but he appears to speak of his habitual practice, whenever any of his friends were sick. (On the putting on of sackcloth as a sign of grief, see Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31; 2 Samuel 21:10; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30; 2 Kings 19:1; Esther 4:1; Job 16:15; Psalm 69:11; Psalm 69:11, etc.) I humbled my soul with fasting. Another customary indication of grief (see Psalm 69:10; Psalm 109:24; Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 22:16; 1 Kings 21:27; Nehemiah 1:4, etc.). And my prayer returned into mine own bosom (comp. Matthew 10:13). Prayers for others, if prevented by their unworthiness from benefiting them, are yet not altogether void and vain. They bring a blessing to the man that offers them. Psalm 35:7 also needs re-organising, just as in Psalm 35:5. the original positions of דחה and רדפס are exchanged. שׁחת רשׁתּם would be a pit deceptively covered over with a net concealed below; but, as even some of the older critics have felt, שׁחת is without doubt to be brought down from Psalm 35:7 into Psalm 35:7: without cause, i.e., without any provocation on my part, have they secretly laid their net for me (as in Psalm 9:16; Psalm 31:5), without cause have they digged a pit for my soul. In Psalm 35:8 the foes are treated of collectively. לא ידע is a negative circumstantial clause (Ew. 341, b): improviso, as in Proverbs 5:6; Isaiah 47:11 extrem. Instead of תּלכּדנּוּ the expression is תּלכּדוּ, as in Hosea 8:3; the sharper form is better adapted to depict the suddenness and certainty of the capture. According to Hupfeld, the verb שׁאה signifies a wild, dreary, confused noise or crash, then devastation and destruction, a transition of meaning which - as follows from שׁואה (cf. תּהוּ) as a name of the desolate steppe, from שׁוא, a waste, emptiness, and from other indications - is solely brought about by transferring the idea of a desolate confusion of tones to a desolate confusion of things, without any intermediate notion of the crashing in of ruins. But it may be asked whether the reverse is not rather the case, viz., that the signification of a waste, desert, emptiness or void is the primary one, and the meaning that has reference to sound (cf. Arab. hwâ, to gape, be empty; to drive along, fall down headlong, then also: to make a dull sound as of something falling, just like rumor from ruere, fragor (from frangi) the derived one. Both etymology (cf. תּהה, whence תּהוּ) and the preponderance of other meanings, favour this latter view. Here the two significations are found side by side, inasmuch as שׁואה in the first instance means a waste equals devastation, desolation, and in the second a waste equals a heavy, dull sound, a rumbling (δουπεῖν). In the Syriac version it is rendered: "into the pit which he has digged let him fall," as though it were שׁחת in the second instance instead of שׁואה; and from his Hupfeld, with J. H. Michaelis, Stier, and others, is of opinion, that it must be rendered: "into the destruction which he himself has prepared let him fall." But this quam ipse paravit is not found in the text, and to mould the text accordingly would be a very arbitrary proceeding.
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