Psalm 35:4
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.
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(4) Confounded.—Comp. Psalm 35:26.

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.

35:1-10 It is no new thing for the most righteous men, and the most righteous cause, to meet with enemies. This is a fruit of the old enmity in the seed of the serpent against the Seed of the woman. David in his afflictions, Christ in his sufferings, the church under persecution, and the Christian in the hour temptation, all beseech the Almighty to appear in their behalf, and to vindicate their cause. We are apt to justify uneasiness at the injuries men do us, by our never having given them cause to use us so ill; but this should make us easy, for then we may the more expect that God will plead our cause. David prayed to God to manifest himself in his trial. Let me have inward comfort under all outward troubles, to support my soul. If God, by his Spirit, witness to our spirits that he is our salvation, we need desire no more to make us happy. If God is our Friend, no matter who is our enemy. By the Spirit of prophecy, David foretells the just judgments of God that would come upon his enemies for their great wickedness. These are predictions, they look forward, and show the doom of the enemies of Christ and his kingdom. We must not desire or pray for the ruin of any enemies, except our lusts and the evil spirits that would compass our destruction. A traveller benighted in a bad road, is an expressive emblem of a sinner walking in the slippery and dangerous ways of temptation. But David having committed his cause to God, did not doubt of his own deliverance. The bones are the strongest parts of the body. The psalmist here proposes to serve and glorify God with all his strength. If such language may be applied to outward salvation, how much more will it apply to heavenly things in Christ Jesus!Let them be confounded - That is, Let them, through Thy gracious interposition in my behalf, be so entirely overcome and subdued that they shall be "ashamed" that they ever made the effort to destroy me; let them see so manifestly that God is on my side that they will be covered with confusion for having opposed one who was so entirely the object of the divine protection and care. See Psalm 6:10, note; Psalm 25:2-3, notes. Compare the notes at Job 6:20.

That seek after my soul - My life. That seek to destroy me.

Let them be turned back - In their attempts to pursue me. Do thou interpose and turn them back.

And brought to confusion - Put to shame; or made ashamed - as they are who are disappointed and thwarted in their schemes.

4. (Compare Ps 9:17).

devise my hurt—purpose for evil to me.

Confounded, i.e. frustrated in their wicked designs and hopes against me. Concerning this, and the like, and following imprecations, which may seem strange and severe, it must be considered,

1. That they did not proceed from any passionate or revengeful spirit in David towards his enemies, (from which how free he was, appears not only from his own words here, Psalm 35:12-14, but from the whole course of his life, and the frequent instances mentioned in his history of his meek and merciful carriage to his enemies when they were in his power,) but from his zeal for God, and for piety and justice, to which they showed themselves to be constant and implacable adversaries, and by the direction of the prophetical Spirit of God wherewith he was endued, which Spirit did exactly know the condition of his enemies, and that those against whom they are levelled were hardened and incurable.

2. That they contain nothing but a prayer to God, that he would accomplish his own threatenings, and execute his own law of retaliation, of eye for eye, and tooth for tooth, and so bring upon them the evils which they designed against him; which also was of great and good use, both to glorify God’s justice, and to warn and reform other sinners by the terror of their example.

3. That they may be taken only for predictions, as hath been observed before upon the like occasion. Turned back; either,

1. Stopped or hindered in the execution of their wicked design. Or rather,

2. (which is more suitable to the context) discomfited and put to flight, as this phrase is frequently used, as Psalm 9:3 70:2 78:9 Isaiah 42:17 Jeremiah 46:5,21.

Let them be confounded, and put to shame, that seek after my soul,.... This petition, and what follows, which seem to be by way of imprecation, are to be considered as prophecies of what would be, and as expressions of faith that so it should be; and are not to be drawn into examples, and to be imitated by private persons; nor are they contrary to those evangelical rules, which require men to love their enemies, and pray for them; to give place to wrath, and not meditate vengeance, nor take it: and so it was with David's enemies. Saul, who hunted after his soul or life, to take it away, was filled with shame and confusion, when David, having cut off the skirt of his garment, held it up to him; by which he was convinced that his life was in his hands, and he did not take it away, though he was seeking after his: and so it will fare with the enemies of Christ, the Jews; who sought to take away his life and did take it away, when they shall see him come in the clouds of heaven, whom they have pierced; and in like manner will it be with the enemies of all his people, whom nothing will content but their lives, when they shall see the lambs they have worried and butchered on Christ's right hand, and they on the left; and to the sheep said, Come, ye blessed; and to them, Go, ye cursed, Matthew 25:34;

let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt; as Saul did David's, even when he made the most specious show of affection and respect unto him, as well as when he more openly persecuted him; and more than once was he turned back with shame, and departed home; see 1 Samuel 24:22. The Jews, that came to apprehend Christ, together with the Roman soldiers, and who had devised and intended his hurt, went backward, and fell to the ground with shame and confusion, when, having asked them who they sought, and they had replied, told them he was the person; and how often has it been, that when wicked men have devised, deceitful matters against the members of Christ, that their counsel has been carried headlong, they have not been able to perform their enterprises; a hook has been put into their nose, and a bridle in their jaws, and they have been turned back the way they came, with shame and disgrace.

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.
4. Ashamed and dishonoured he they that seek my life;

Turned back and confounded be they that devise my hurt.

For that seek my life (or, soul) cp. 1 Samuel 20:1; &c. Let them be disappointed in their aim, repulsed with ignominy in their attack. Cp. Psalm 35:26; Psalm 40:14; Psalm 6:10.

4–6. Prayer for the repulse and rout of his enemies. No doubt the language might be entirely figurative, but it is more naturally explained if a literal fulfilment was at least a possibility.

Verse 4. - Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul. It appears from this that David's life is being sought, which only happened at two periods in his career:

(1) when he was a fugitive from Saul (1 Samuel 19:15 - 26:4); and

(2) during the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:13 - 18:8).

The psalm therefore belongs to one or other of those periods, most probably to the former (see the introductory paragraph, and note the resemblance between this passage and 1 Samuel 20:1; 1 Samuel 22:23). Let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. Imprecations closely resembling these occur frequently in the Davidical psalms (see ver. 26; Psalm 40:14; Psalm 70:2; Psalm 71:13), and amount to a sort of commonplace, to be used whenever the machinations of his enemies against him are the subject that occupies his thought. Psalm 35:4Throughout the next two strophes follow terrible imprecations. According to Frst and others the relation of בּושׁ and חפר is like that of erblassen, to turn pale (cf. Isaiah 29:22 with Psalm 34:6), and errצthen, to turn red, to blush. בושׁ has, however, no connection with בוץ, nor has חפר, Arab. chfr, chmr, any connection with Arab. hmr, to be red; but, according to its radical notion, בּושׁ means disturbari (vid., Psalm 6:11), and חפר, obtegere, abscondere (vid., Psalm 34:6). יסּגוּ, properly "let them be made to fall back" (cf. e.g., Isaiah 42:17). On the figure on Psalm 35:5 cf. Psalm 83:14. The clauses respecting the Angel of Jahve, Psalm 35:5 and Psalm 35:6, are circumstantial clauses, viz., clauses defining the manner. דּחה (giving, viz., them, the push that shall cause their downfall, equivalent to דּחם or דּחם, Psalm 68:28) is closely connected with the figure in Psalm 35:6, and רדפם, with the figure in Psalm 35:5; consequently it seems as though the original position of these two clauses respecting the Angel of Jahve had been disturbed; just as in Psalm 34, the ע strophe and the פ strophe have changed their original places. It is the Angel, who took off Pharaoh's chariot wheels so that they drave them heavily (Exodus 14:25) that is intended here. The fact that this Angel is concerned here, where the point at issue is whether the kingship of the promise shall be destroyed at its very beginning or not, harmonises with the appearing of the מלאך ה at all critical junctures in the course of the history of redemption. חלקלקּות, loca passim lubrica, is an intensive form of expression for חלקות rof noisserp, Psalm 73:18. Just as דּחה recalls to mind Exodus 15, so רדפם recalls Judges 5. In this latter passage the Angel of Jahve also appears in the midst of the conquerors who are pursuing the smitten foe, incarnate as it were in Deborah.
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