Psalm 55:12
For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
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(12) For.—The ellipse must be supplied from Psalm 55:9, I invoke destruction for, &c

Then I could . . .—Better, then (or else) I might bear it.

Psalm 55:12-14. It was not an enemy — Not an open and professed enemy, or, not an old and inveterate enemy, (as appears from the following description to be his meaning,) that reproached me — That misrepresented me, and my government, as if I either abused my power, or neglected the proper use of it, and who industriously spread other similar accusations to incense the people against me; then I could have borne it — With more patience, because I could have expected nothing better from such persons. Neither was it he that hated me — With a manifest or old hatred; then I would have hid myself from him — I would have stood upon my guard against him; would have concealed my counsels from him, and have prevented or avoided the effects of his hatred. But it was thou mine equal — Not in power and dignity, which could not be; but in reputation for deep wisdom, and thy great influence upon me, and upon all my people; my guide — Whose counsel I highly prized, and constantly followed. The Chaldee paraphrase names Ahithophel as the person here meant, and certainly the description agrees perfectly well to him, whom David had used as his counsellor and friend, and to whom he had committed his most important secrets; and certainly nothing in the plot of the rebels seems to have discouraged David so much as to hear that Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom. We took sweet counsel together — I imparted my secret counsels and designs to him with great delight and satisfaction. And we walked unto the house of God — We agreed no less in exercises of piety than in matters of state and policy; in company — Hebrew, ברגשׁ, beragesh, in, or with, the numerous congregation. The Seventy, however, render it, εν ομονοια, in concord, consort, or union, or with consent, as the ancients in general interpret the word.55:9-15 No wickedness so distresses the believer, as that which he witnesses in those who profess to be of the church of God. Let us not be surprised at the corruptions and disorders of the church on earth, but long to see the New Jerusalem. He complains of one that had been very industrious against him. God often destroys the enemies of the church by dividing them. And an interest divided against itself cannot long stand. The true Christian must expect trials from professed friends, from those with whom he has been united; this will be very painful; but by looking unto Jesus we shall be enabled to bear it. Christ was betrayed by a companion, a disciple, an apostle, who resembled Ahithophel in his crimes and doom. Both were speedily overtaken by Divine vengeance. And this prayer is a prophecy of the utter, the everlasting ruin, of all who oppose and rebel against the Messiah.For it was not an enemy that reproached me - The word "reproached" here refers to slander; calumny; abuse. It is not necessarily implied that it was in his presence, but he was apprized of it. When he says that it is not an enemy that did this, the meaning is that it was not one who had been an avowed and open foe. The severest part of the trial did not arise from the fact that it was done by such an one, for that he could have borne. That which overwhelmed him was the fact that the reproach came from one who had been his friend; or, the reproach which he felt most keenly came from one whom he had regarded as a personal confidant. It is not to be supposed that the psalmist means to say that he was not reproached by his enemies, for the whole structure of the psalm implies that this was so; but his anguish was made complete and unbearable by the discovery that one especially who had been his friend was found among those who reproached and calumniated him. The connection leads us to suppose, if the right view (Introduction) has been taken of the occasion on which the psalm was composed, that the allusion here is to Ahithophel 2 Samuel 15:31; and the particular distress here referred to was that which David experienced on learning that he was among the conspirators. A case of trouble remarkably resembling this is referred to in Psalm 41:9. See the notes at that place.

Then I could have borne it - The affliction would have been such as I could bear. Reproaches from an enemy, being known to be an enemy, we expect; and and we feel them comparatively little. We attribute them to the very fact that such an one is an enemy, and that he feels it necessary to sustain himself by reproaching and calumniating us. We trust also that the world will understand them in that way; and will set them down to the mere fact that he is our enemy. In such a case there is only the testimony against us of one who is avowedly our foe, and who has every inducement to utter malicious words against us in order to sustain his own cause. But the case is different when the accuser and slanderer is one who has been our intimate friend. He is supposed to know all about us. He has been admitted to our counsels. He has known our purposes and plans. He can speak not "slanderously" but "knowingly." It is supposed that he could have no motive to speak ill of us except his own conviction of truth, and that it could be only the strongest conviction of truth - the existence of facts to which not even a friend could close his eyes - that could induce him to abandon us, and hold us up to repreach and scorn. So Ahithophel - the confidential counselor and friend of David - would be supposed to be acquainted with his secret plans and his true character; and hence, reproaches from such a one became unendurable. "Neither was it he that hated me." That avowedly and openly hated me. If that had been the case, I should have expected such usage, and it would not injure me.

That did magnify himself a against me - That is, by asserting that I was a bad man, thus exalting himself in character above me, or claiming that he was more pure than I am. Or, it may mean, that exalted himself above me, or sought to reach the eminence of power in my downfall and ruin.

Then I would have hid myself from him - I should have been like one pursued by an enemy who could hide himself in a cave, or in a fastness, or in the mountains, so as to be safe from his attacks. The arrows of malice would fly harmlessly by me, and I should be safe. Not so, when one reproached me who had been an intimate friend; who had known all about me; and whose statements would be believed.

12-14. This description of treachery does not deny, but aggravates, the injury from enemies.12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:

13 But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.

14 We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.

Psalm 55:12

The reader will do well to observe how accurately the Psalmist described his own Psalm when he said, "I mourn in my complaint," or rather "give loose to my thoughts," for he proceeds from one point of his sorrow to another, wandering on like one in a maze, making few pauses, and giving no distinct intimations that he is changing the subject. Now from the turbulent city his mind turns to the false-hearted councillor. "For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it." It was not an open foe, but a pretended friend; he went over to the other camp and tried to prove the reality of his treachery by calumniating his old friend. None are such real enemies as false friends. Reproaches from those who have been intimate with us, and trusted by us, cut us to the quick; and they are usually so well acquainted with our peculiar weaknesses that they know how to touch us where we are most sensitive, and to speak so as to do us most damage. The slanders of an avowed antagonist are seldom so mean and dastardly as those of a traitor, and the absence of the elements of ingratitude and treachery renders them less hard to bear. We can bear from Shimei what we cannot endure from Ahithophel. "Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him." We can find a hiding-place from open foes, but who can escape from treachery? If our enemies proudly boast over us we nerve our souls for resistance, but when those who pretended to love us leer at us with contempt, whither shall we go? Our blessed Lord had to endure at its worst the deceit and faithlessness of a favoured disciple; let us not marvel when we are called to tread the road which is marked by his pierced feet.

Psalm 55:13

"But it was thou." He sees him. The poetic fury is on him, he sees the traitor as though he stood before him in flesh and blood. He singles him out, he points his finger at him, he challenges him to his face. "But thou." Et tu, Brute? And thou, Ahithophel, art thou here? Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man? "A man mine equal." Treated by me as one of my own rank, never looked upon as an inferior, but as a trusted friend. "My guide," a counsellor so sage that I trusted thine advice and found it prudent to do so. "And mine acquaintance," with whom I was on most intimate terms, who knew me even as I knew him by mutual disclosures of heart. No stranger occasionally conversed with, but a near and dear friend admitted to my secret fellowship. It was fiendish treason for such a one to prove false-hearted. There was no excuse for such villainy. Judas stood very much in this relation to our Lord, he was treated as an equal, trusted as treasurer, and in that capacity often consulted with. He knew the place where the Master was wont to spend his solitude, in fact, he knew all the Master's movements, and yet he betrayed him to his remorseless adversaries. How justly might the Lord have pointed at him and said, "But thou;" but his gentler spirit warned the son of perdition in the mildest manner, and had not Iscariot been tenfold a child of hell he would have relinquished his detestable purpose.

Psalm 55:14

"We took sweet counsel together." It was not merely the counsel which men take together in public or upon common themes, their fellowship had been tender and confidential. The traitor had been treated lovingly and trusted much. Solace, mutual and cheering, had grown out of their intimate communings. There were secrets between them of no common kind. Soul had been in converse with soul, at least on David's part. However feigned might have been the affection of the treacherous one, the betrayed friend had not dealt with him coldly, or guarded his utterance before him. Shame on the wretch who could belie such fellowship and betray such confidence! "And walked unto the house of God in company." Religion had rendered their intercourse sacred, they had mingled their worship, and communed on heavenly themes. If ever any bonds ought to be held inviolable, religious connection should be. There is a measure of impiety, of a detestable sort, in the deceit which debases the union of men who make professions of godliness. Shall the very altar of God be defiled with hypocrisy? Shall the gatherings of the temple be polluted by the presence of treachery? All this was true of Ahithophel, and in a measure of Judas. His union with the Lord was on the score of faith, they were joined in the holiest of enterprises, he had been sent on the most gracious of errands, His co-operation with Jesus to serve his own abominable ends stamped him as the firstborn of hell. Better had it been for him had he never been born. Let all deceitful professors be warned by his doom, for like Ahithophel he went to his own place by his own hand, and retains a horrible pre-eminence in the calendar of notorious crime. Here was one source of heart-break for the Redeemer, and it is shared in by his followers. Of the serpent's brood some vipers still remain, who will sting the hand that cherished them, and sell for silver those who raised them to the position which rendered it possible for them to be so abominably treacherous.

Not an enemy; either,

1. Not an open and professed enemy; or rather,

2. Not an old and inveterate enemy, as may be gathered from the following description.

I could have borne it with more patience, because I could expect nothing else from such persons.

Hated me with a manifest or old hatred.

I would have hid myself from him; I could and should easily have prevented or avoided the effects of his hatred. For it was not an enemy that reproached me,.... An open and avowed one; a Moabite or a Philistine; such an one as Goliath, who cursed him by his gods; but one of his own country, city, court, and family, who pretended to be a friend; his son Absalom, according to Arama: so it was not one of the Scribes and Pharisees, the sworn enemies of Christ, who rejected him as the Messiah, and would not have him to reign over them, that reproached him, but one of his own apostles;

then I could have borne it; reproach from an enemy is to be expected, and may be patiently endured; and, when it is for righteousness' sake, should be accounted an happiness, and rejoiced at; but the reproaches of one that has been thought to be a friend are very cutting, wounding, heartbreaking, and intolerable, Psalm 69:7; the calumnies and reproaches of the Scribes and Pharisees were borne by Christ with great patience, and were answered with great calmness and mildness, Matthew 11:19. Or, "I would have lifted up" (t); that is, my hand, and defended myself; I should have been upon my guard, ready to receive the blow, or to have put it off, or repelled it;

neither was it he that hated me: openly, but secretly in his heart;

that did magnify himself against me; made himself a great man, and set himself at the head of the conspiracy and opposition against him, and spoke great swelling words, in way of raillery and reproach;

then I would have hid myself from him; as David did from Saul, when he became his enemy, 1 Samuel 20:24; and as Christ from the Jews, John 8:59; but as for Judas, he knew the place he resorted to; and therefore easily found him, John 18:2; the sense may be, that he would have shunned his company, refused conversation with him; much less would he have admitted him to his privy councils, by which means he knew all his affairs, and there was no hiding and concealing things from him.


For it was not an {i} enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:

(i) If my open enemy had sought by hurt, I could better have avoided him.

12. Render:

For it is not an enemy that reproacheth me, then I could bear it:

Neither is it one that hated me that hath magnified himself against me, then I would hide myself from him:

But it is thou, a man mine equal,

Mine associate and my familiar friend.

For connects this stanza somewhat loosely with what precedes, giving an additional reason for the prayer of Psalm 55:9 in the false-hearted treachery of one who is conspicuous among them,—apparently the leader of the faction. If an open and acknowledged enemy had flung scorn at him (Psalm 42:10; Psalm 44:16; Psalm 57:3) in the hour of defeat and humiliation, he could bear it as one of the common ills of life (cp. 2 Samuel 16:10 ff): if an old hatred had animated the man who took the lead in procuring his disgrace and degradation, then he might retire into obscurity without repining. But thou! Et tu, Brute! For magnified himself cp. Psalm 35:26, or Psalm 41:9 (see note).

12–14. Foremost among the Psalmist’s enemies is one who had formerly been one of his most intimate and trusted friends. He interrupts the denunciation, which he resumes at Psalm 55:15, to relate what is the bitterest ingredient in his cup of suffering. The burning indignation of the preceding and following verses gives way for a moment to a pathetic tone of sorrowful reproach. There is no need to suppose, with some critics, that these verses are misplaced, and ought to follow or precede Psalm 55:6-8. The sudden transition is most true to nature: Psalm 55:9-11 describe the general situation; then for the moment the thought of the personal injury which constitutes its most poignant bitterness eclipses every other thought; and in Psalm 55:15 indignation against the whole mass of his enemies breaks out again.Verse 12. - For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it. The psalmist passes from the general to the particular - from the great mass of his opponents to one special individual. Even Professor Cheyne allows this, and suggests that we have here Jeremiah inveighing against Pashur. But the general sentiment of commentators has always been that Ahithophel is intended. And, if we allow the psalm to be David's, we can scarcely give any other explanation. Ahithophel was known as "David's counsellor" (2 Samuel 15:12), i.e. his chief adviser, his "grand vizier," his "prime minister? What he counselled was considered as a sort of "oracle of God" (2 Samuel 16:23). His defection was the bitterest drop in the cup of the unhappy king. Anything else he "could have borne;" but this was too much. Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me. It was not one among my professed and open enemies - not one of those whose hatred I had long known and reckoned on. Then I would have hid myself from him. Instead of opening all my heart to him, as I have done to Ahithophel. In this first group sorrow prevails. David spreads forth his deep grief before God, and desires for himself some lonely spot in the wilderness far away from the home or lurking-place of the confederate band of those who are compassing his overthrow. "Veil not Thyself" here, where what is spoken of is something audible, not visible, is equivalent to "veil not Thine ear," Lamentations 3:56, which He designedly does, when the right state of heart leaves the praying one, and consequently that which makes it acceptable and capable of being answered is wanting to the prayer (cf. Isaiah 1:15). שׂיח signifies a shrub (Syriac shucho, Arabic šı̂ḥ), and also reflection and care (Arabic, carefulness, attention; Aramaic, סח, to babble, talk, discourse). The Hiph. חריד, which in Genesis 27:40 signifies to lead a roving life, has in this instance the signification to move one's self backwards and forwards, to be inwardly uneasy; root רד, Arab. rd, to totter, whence râda, jarûda, to run up and down (IV to desire, will); raida, to shake (said of a soft bloated body); radda, to turn (whence taraddud, a moving to and fro, doubting); therefore: I wander hither and thither in my reflecting or meditating, turning restlessly from one thought to another. It is not necessary to read ואחמיה after Psalm 77:4 instead of ועהימה, since the verb הוּם equals המה, Psalm 42:6, 12, is secured by the derivatives. Since these only exhibit הוּם, and not הים (in Arabic used more particularly of the raving of love), ואהימה, as also אריד, is Hiph., and in fact like this latter used with an inward object: I am obliged to raise a tumult or groan, break out into the dull murmuring sounds of pain. The cohortative not unfrequently signifies "I have to" or "I must" of incitements within one's self which are under the control of outward circumstances. In this restless state of mind he finds himself, and he is obliged to break forth into this cry of pain on account of the voice of the foe which he cannot but hear; by reason of the pressure or constraint (עקת) of the evil-doer which he is compelled to feel. The conjecture צעקת (Olshausen and Hupfeld) is superfluous. עקה is a more elegant Aramaizing word instead of צרה.

The second strophe begins with a more precise statement of that which justifies his pain. The Hiph. חמיט signifies here, as in Psalm 140:11 (Chethb), declinare: they cast or roll down evil (calamity) upon him and maliciously lay snares for him בּאף, breathing anger against him who is conscious of having manifested only love towards them. His heart turns about in his body, it writhes (יהיל); cf. on this, Psalm 38:11. Fear and trembling take possession of his inward parts; יבא in the expression יבא בי, as is always the case when followed by a tone syllable, is a so-called נסוג אחור, i.e., it has the tone that has retreated to the penult. (Deuteronomy 1:38; Isaiah 7:24; Isaiah 60:20), although this is only with difficulty discernible in our printed copies, and is therefore (vid., Accentsystem, vi. 2) noted with Mercha. The fut. consec. which follows introduces the heightened state of terror which proceeds from this crowding on of fear and trembling. Moreover, the wish that is thereby urged from him, which David uttered to himself, is introduced in the third strophe by a fut. consec.

(Note: That beautiful old song of the church concerning Jesus has grown out of this strophe: -

Ecquis binas columbinas

Alas dabit animae?

Et in almam crucis palmam

Evolat citissime, etc.)

"Who will give me?" is equivalent to "Oh that I had!" Ges. 136, 1. In ואשׁכּנה is involved the self-satisfying signification of settling down (Ezekiel 31:13), of coming to rest and remaining in a place (2 Samuel 7:10). Without going out of our way, a sense perfectly in accordance with the matter in hand may be obtained for אחישׁה מפלט לי, if אחישׁה is taken not as Kal (Psalm 71:12), but after Isaiah 5:19; Isaiah 60:12, as Hiph.: I would hasten, i.e., quickly find for myself a place which might serve me as a shelter from the raging wind, from the storm. רוּח סעה is equivalent to the Arabic rihin sâijat-in, inasmuch as Arab. s‛â, "to move one's self quickly, to go or run swiftly," can be said both of light (Koran, 66:8) and of water-brooks (vid., Jones, Comm. Poes. Asiat., ed. Lipsiae, p. 358), and also of strong currents of air, of winds, and such like. The correction סערה, proposed by Hupfeld, produces a disfiguring tautology. Among those about David there is a wild movement going on which is specially aimed at his overthrow. From this he would gladly flee and hide himself, like a dove taking refuge in a cleft of the rock from the approaching storm, or from the talons of the bird of prey, fleeing with its noiseless but persevering flight.

(Note: Kimchi observes that the dove, when she becomes tired, draws in one wing and flies with the other, and thus the more surely escapes. Aben-Ezra finds an allusion here to the carrier-pigeon.)

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