Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 35
on the Whole Bible
David, in this psalm, appeals to the righteous Judge of heaven and
earth against his enemies that hated and persecuted him. It is supposed
that Saul and his party are the persons he means, for with them he had
the greatest struggles.
I. He complains to God of the injuries they did him; they strove with
him, fought against him
sought his ruin
accused him falsely
abused him basely
and all his friends
and triumphed over him,,
II. He pleads his own innocency, that he never gave them any
but, on the contrary, had studied to oblige them,
III. He prays to God to protect and deliver him, and appear for him
to comfort him
to be nigh to him and rescue him
to plead his cause
to defeat all the designs of his enemies against him
to disappoint their expectations of his fall
and, lastly, to countenance all his friends, and encourage them (ver. 27.
IV. He prophesies the destruction of his persecutors,
V. He promises himself that he shall yet see better days
and promises God that he will then attend him with his praises,
In singing this psalm, and praying over it, we must take heed of
applying it to any little peevish quarrels and enmities of our own, and
of expressing by it any uncharitable revengeful resentments of injuries
done to us; for Christ has taught us to forgive our enemies and not to
pray against them, but to pray for them, as he did; but,
1. We may comfort ourselves with the testimony of our consciences
concerning our innocency, with reference to those that are any way
injurious to us, and with hopes that God will, in his own way and time,
right us, and, in the mean time, support us.
2. We ought to apply it to the public enemies of Christ and his
kingdom, typified by David and his kingdom, to resent the indignities
done to Christ's honour, to pray to God to plead the just and injured
cause of Christianity and serious godliness, and to believe that God
will, in due time, glorify his own name in the ruin of all the
irreconcilable enemies of his church, that will not repent to give him
|Prayer for Divine Protection.
A psalm of David.
1 Plead my cause, O LORD, with them
that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.
2 Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.
3 Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that
persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
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.
5 Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of
the LORD chase them.
6 Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the
LORD persecute them.
7 For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit,
which without cause they have digged for my soul.
8 Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net
that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let
9 And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in
10 All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which
deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the
poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?
In these verses we have,
I. David's representation of his case to God, setting forth the
restless rage and malice of his persecutors. He was God's servant,
expressly appointed by him to be what he was, followed his guidance,
and aimed at his glory in the way of duty, had lived (as St. Paul
speaks) in all good conscience before God unto this day; and yet
there were those that strove with him, that did their utmost to oppose
his advancement, and made all the interest they could against him; they
fought against him
not only undermined him closely and secretly, but openly avowed their
opposition to him and set themselves to do him all the mischief they
could. They persecuted him with an unwearied enmity, sought after
that is, his life, no less would satisfy their bloody minds; they aimed
to disquiet his spirit and put that into disorder. Nor was it a sudden
passion against him that they harboured, but inveterate malice: They
devised his hurt, laid their heads together, and set their wits
on work, not only to do him a mischief, but to find out ways and means
to ruin him. They treated him, who was the greatest blessing of his
country, as if he had been the curse and plague of it; they hunted him
as a dangerous beast of prey; they digged a pit for him and laid a net
in it, that they might have him at their mercy,
They took a great deal of pains in persecuting him, for they digged a
and very close and crafty they were in carrying on their designs; the
old serpent taught them subtlety: they hid their net from David and his
friends; but in vain, for they could not hide it from God. And,
lastly, he found himself an unequal match for them. His enemy,
especially Saul, was too strong for him
for he had the army at his command, and assumed to himself the sole
power of making laws and giving judgment, attainted and condemned whom
he pleased, carried not a sceptre, but a javelin, in his hand, to cast
at any man that stood in his way; such was the manner of the king, and
all about him were compelled to do as he bade them, right or wrong. The
king's word is a law, and every thing must be carried with a high hand;
he has fields, and vineyards, and preferments, at his disposal,
1 Samuel 22:7.
But David is poor and needy, has nothing to make friends with, and
therefore has none to take his part but men (as we say) of broken
(1 Samuel 22:2);
and therefore no marvel that Saul spoiled him of what little he had got
and the interest he had made. If the kings of the earth set themselves
against the Lord and his anointed, who can contend with them? Note, It
is no new thing for the most righteous men, and the most righteous
cause, to meet with many mighty and malicious enemies: Christ himself
is striven with and fought against, and war is made upon the holy seed;
and we are not to marvel at the matter: it is a fruit of the old enmity
in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman.
II. His appeal to God concerning his integrity and the justice of his
cause. If a fellow-subject had wronged him, he might have appealed to
his prince, as St. Paul did to Cæsar; but, when his prince
wronged him, he appealed to his God, who is prince and Judge of the
kings of the earth: Plead my cause, O Lord!
Note, A righteous cause may, with the greatest satisfaction imaginable,
he laid before a righteous God, and referred to him to give judgment
upon it; for he perfectly knows the merits of it, holds the balance
exactly even, and with him there is no respect of persons. God knew
that they were, without cause, his enemies, and that they had, without
cause, digged pits for him,
Note, It will be a comfort to us, when men do us wrong, if our
consciences can witness for us that we have never done them any. It was
so to St. Paul.
To the Jews have I done no wrong. We are apt to justify our
uneasiness at the injuries men do us by this, That we never gave them
any cause to use us so; whereas this should, more than any thing, make
us easy, for then we may the more confidently expect that God will
plead our cause.
III. His prayer to God to manifest himself both for him and to him, in
1. For him. He prays that God would fight against his enemies,
so as to disable them to hurt him, and defeat their designs against him
that he would take hold of shield and buckler, for the Lord is a
man of war
and that he would stand up for his help
for he had few that would stand up for him, and, if he had ever so
many, they would stand him in no stead without God. He prays that God
would stop their way
that they might not overtake him when he fled from them. This prayer we
may put up against our persecutors, that God would restrain them and
stop their way.
2. To him: "Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation; let me have
inward comfort under all these outward troubles, to support my soul
which they strike at. Let God be my salvation, not only my Saviour out
of my present troubles, but my everlasting bliss. Let me have that
salvation not only which he is the author of, but which consists in his
favour; and let me know my interest in it; let me have the comfortable
assurance of it in my own breast." If God, by his Spirit, witness to
our spirits that he is our salvation, we have enough, we need desire no
more to make us happy; and this is a powerful support when men
persecute us. If God be our friend, no matter who is our enemy.
IV. His prospect of the destruction of his enemies, which he prays for,
not in malice or revenge. We find how patiently he bore Shimei's curses
(so let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him); and we cannot
suppose that he who was so meek in his conversation would give vent to
any intemperate heat or passion in his devotion; but, by the spirit of
prophecy, he foretels the just judgments of God that would come upon
them for their great wickedness, their malice, cruelty, and
perfidiousness, and especially the enmity to the counsels of God, the
interests of religion, and that reformation which they knew David, if
ever he had power in his hand, would be an instrument of. They seemed
to be hardened in their sins, and to be of the number of those who have
sinned unto death and are not to be prayed for,
1 John v. 16.
As for Saul himself, David, it is probable, knew that God had rejected
him and had forbidden Samuel to mourn for him,
1 Samuel 16:1.
And these predictions look further, and read the doom of the enemies of
Christ and his kingdom, as appears by comparing
David here prays,
1. Against his many enemies
Let them be confounded, &c. Or, as Dr. Hammond reads it, They
shall be confounded, they shall be turned back. This may be taken
as a prayer for their repentance, for all penitents are put to shame
for their sins and turned back from them. Or, if they were not brought
to repentance, David prays that they might be defeated and disappointed
in their designs against him and so put to shame. Though they should in
some degree prevail, yet he foresees that it would be to their own ruin
at last: They shall be as chaff before the wind, so unable will
wicked men be to stand before the judgments of God and so certainly
will they be driven away by them,
Their way shall be dark and slippery, darkness and slipperiness
(so the margin reads it); the way of sinners is so, for they walk in
darkness and in continual danger of falling into sin, into hell; and it
will prove so at last, for their foot shall slide in due time,
But this is not the worst of it. Even chaff before the wind may perhaps
be stopped, and find a place of rest, and, though the way be dark and
slippery, it is possible that a man may keep his footing; but it is
here foretold that the angel of the Lord shall chase them
so that they shall find no rest, shall persecute them
so that they cannot possibly escape the pit of destruction. As God's
angels encamp against those that fight against him. They are the
ministers of his justice, as well as of his mercy. Those that make God
their enemy make all the holy angels their enemies.
2. Against his one mighty enemy
Let destruction come upon him. It is probable that he means
Saul, who laid snares for him and aimed at his destruction. David vowed
that his hand should not be upon him; he would not be judge in his own
cause. But, at the same time, he foretold that the Lord would smite
(1 Samuel 26:10),
and here that the net he had hidden should catch himself, and into
that very destruction he should fall. This was remarkably
fulfilled in the ruin of Saul; for he had laid a plot to make David
fall by the hand of the Philistines
(1 Samuel 18:25),
that was the net which he hid for him under pretence of doing him
honour, and in that very net was he himself taken, for he fell by the
hand of the Philistines when his day came to fall.
V. His prospect of his own deliverance, which, having committed his
cause to God, he did not doubt of,
1. He hoped that he should have the comfort of it: "My soul shall be
joyful, not in my own ease and safety, but in the Lord and
in his favour, in his promise and in his salvation according to
the promise." Joy in God and in his salvation is the only true, solid,
satisfying joy. Those whose souls are sorrowful in the Lord, who sow in
tears and sorrow after a godly sort, need not question but that in due
time their souls shall be joyful in the Lord; for gladness is sown for
them, and they shall at last enter into the joy of their Lord.
2. He promised that then God should have the glory of it
All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee?
(1.) He will praise God with the whole man, with all that is within
him, and with all the strength and vigour of his soul, intimated by his
bones, which are within the body and are the strength of it.
(2.) He will praise him as one of peerless and unparalleled perfection.
We cannot express how great and good God is, and therefore must praise
him by acknowledging him to be a non-such. Lord, who is like unto
thee? No such patron of oppressed innocency, no such punisher of
triumphant tyranny. The formation of our bones so wonderfully, so
the serviceableness of our bones, and the preservation of them, and
especially the life which, at the resurrection, shall be breathed upon
the dry bones and make them flourish as a herb, oblige every bone in
our bodies, if it could speak, to say, Lord, who is like unto
thee? and willingly to undergo any services or sufferings for
|Prayer for Deliverance; Sorrowful Complaints.
11 False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things
that I knew not.
12 They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.
13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was
sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned
into mine own bosom.
14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or
brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his
15 But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves
together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against
me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not:
16 With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me
with their teeth.
Two very wicked things David here lays to the charge of his enemies, to
make good his appeal to God against them--perjury and ingratitude.
When Saul would have David attainted of treason, in order to his being
outlawed, perhaps he did it with the formalities of a legal
prosecution, produced witnesses who swore some treasonable words or
overt acts against him, and he being not present to clear himself (or,
if he was, it was all the same), Saul adjudged him a traitor. This he
complains of here as the highest piece of injustice imaginable:
False witnesses did rise up, who would swear anything; they
laid to my charge things that I knew not, nor ever thought of. See
how much the honours, estates, liberties, and lives, even of the best
men, lie at the mercy of the worst, against whose false oaths innocency
itself is no fence; and what reason we have to acknowledge with
thankfulness the hold God has of the consciences even of bad men, to
which it is owing that there is not more mischief done in that way than
is. This instance of the wrong done to David was typical, and had its
accomplishment in the Son of David, against whom false witnesses did
If we be at any time charged with what we are innocent of let us not
think it strange, as though some new thing happened to us; so
persecuted they the prophets, even the great prophet.
II. Ingratitude. Call a man ungrateful and you can call him no worse.
This was the character of David's enemies
They rewarded me evil for good. A great deal of good service he
had done to his king, witness his harp, witness Goliath's sword,
witness the foreskins of the Philistines; and yet his king vowed his
death, and his country was made too hot for him. This is to the
spoiling of his soul; this base unkind usage robs him of his
comfort, and cuts him to the heart, more than anything else. Nay, he
had deserved well not only of the public in general, but of those
particular persons that were now most bitter against him. Probably it
was then well known whom he meant; it may be Saul himself for one, whom
he was sent for to attend upon when he was melancholy and ill, and to
whom he was serviceable to drive away the evil spirit, not with his
harp, but with his prayers; to others of the courtiers, it is likely,
he had shown this respect, while he lived at court, who now were, of
all others, most abusive to him. Herein he was a type of Christ, to
whom this wicked world was very ungrateful.
Many good works have I shown you from my Father; for which of those
do you stone me? David here shows,
1. How tenderly, and with what a cordial affection, he had behaved
towards them in their afflictions
They were sick. Note, Even the palaces and courts of princes are
not exempt from the jurisdiction of death and the visitation of
sickness. Now when these people were sick,
(1.) David mourned for them and sympathized with them in their grief.
They were not related to him; he was under no obligations to them; he
would lose nothing by their death, but perhaps be a gainer by it; and
yet he behaved himself as though they had been his nearest relations,
purely from a principle of compassion and humanity. David was a man of
war, and of a bold stout spirit, and yet was thus susceptible of the
impressions of sympathy, forgot the bravery of the hero, and seemed
wholly made up of love and pity; it was a rare composition of hardiness
and tenderness, courage and compassion, in the same breast. Observe, He
mourned as for a brother or mother, which intimates that it is our
duty, and well becomes us, to lay to heart the sickness, and sorrow,
and death of our near relations. Those that do not are justly
stigmatized as without natural affection.
(2.) He prayed for them. He discovered not only the tender affection of
a man, but the pious affection of a saint. He was concerned for their
precious souls, and, since he helped them with his prayers to God for
mercy and grace; and the prayers of one who had so great an interest in
heaven were of more value than perhaps they knew or considered. With
his prayers he joined humiliation and self-affliction, both in his diet
(he fasted, at least from pleasant bread) and in his dress; he clothed
himself with sackcloth, thus expressing his grief, not only for their
affliction, but for their sin; for this was the guise and practice of a
penitent. We ought to mourn for the sins of those that do not mourn
for them themselves. His fasting also put an edge upon his praying, and
was an expression of the fervour of it; he was so intent in his
devotions that he had no appetite to meat, nor would allow himself time
for eating: "My prayer returned into my own bosom; I had the
comfort of having done my duty, and of having approved myself a loving
neighbour, though I could not thereby win upon them nor make them my
friends." We shall not lose by the good offices we have done to any,
how ungrateful soever they are; for our rejoicing will be this, the
testimony of our conscience.
2. How basely and insolently and with what a brutish enmity, and worse
than brutish, they had behaved towards him
In my adversity they rejoiced. When he fell under the frowns of
Saul, was banished the court, and persecuted as a criminal, they were
pleased, were glad at his calamities, and got together in their drunken
clubs to make themselves and one another merry with the disgrace of
this great favourite. Well, might he call them abjects, for
nothing could be more vile and sordid than to triumph in the fall of a
man of such unstained honour and consummate virtue. But this was not
(1.) They tore him, rent his good name without mercy, said all the ill
they could of him and fastened upon him all the reproach their cursed
wit and malice could reach to.
(2.) They gnashed upon him with their teeth; they never spoke of
him but with the greatest indignation imaginable, as those that would
have eaten him up if they could. David was the fool in the play, and
his disappointment all the table-talk of the hypocritical mockers at
feasts; it was the song of the drunkards. The comedians, who may fitly
be called hypocritical mockers (for which does a hypocrite
signify but a stage-player?) and whose comedies, it is likely, were
acted at feasts and balls, chose David for their subject, bantered and
abused him, while the auditory, in token of their agreement with the
plot, hummed, and gnashed upon him with their teeth. Such has
often been the hard fate of the best of men. The apostles were made a
spectacle to the world. David was looked upon with ill-will for no
other reason than because he was caressed by the people. It is a
vexation of spirit which attends even a right work that for this a
man is envied of his neighbour,
And who can stand before envy?
|Sorrowful Complaints; David's Appeal and Prayer to God.
17 Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their
destructions, my darling from the lions.
18 I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will
praise thee among much people.
19 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over
me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a
20 For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters
against them that are quiet in the land.
21 Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said,
Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.
22 This thou hast seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, be
not far from me.
23 Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my
cause, my God and my Lord.
24 Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness; and
let them not rejoice over me.
25 Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it:
let them not say, We have swallowed him up.
26 Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that
rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and
dishonour that magnify themselves against me.
27 Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my
righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be
magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
28 And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy
praise all the day long.
In these verses, as before,
I. David describes the great injustice, malice, and insolence, of his
persecutors, pleading this with God as a reason why he should protect
him from them and appear against them.
1. They were very unrighteous; they were his enemies wrongfully, for he
never gave them any provocation: They hated him without a cause;
nay, for that for which they ought rather to have loved and honoured
him. This is quoted, with application to Christ, and is said to be
fulfilled in him.
They hated me without cause.
2. They were very rude; they could not find in their hearts to show him
common civility: They speak not peace; if they met him, they had
not the good manners to give him the time of day; like Joseph's
brethren, that could not speak peaceably to him,
3. They were very proud and scornful
They opened their mouth wide against me; they shouted and
huzzaed when they saw his fall; they bawled after him when he was
forced to quit the court, "Aha! aha! this is the day we longed to
4. They were very barbarous and base, for they trampled upon him when
he was down, rejoiced at his hurt, and magnified themselves against
Turba Remi sequitur fortunam, ut semper, et odit damnatos--The Roman
crowd, varying their opinions with every turn of fortune, are sure to
execrate the fallen. Thus, when the Son of David was run upon by
the rulers, the people cried, Crucify him, crucify him.
5. They set themselves against all the sober good people that adhered
They devised deceitful matters, to trepan and ruin those that
were quiet in the land. Note,
(1.) It is the character of the godly in the land that they are the
quiet in the land, that they live in all dutiful subjection to
government and governors, in the Lord, and endeavour, as much as in
them lies, to live peaceably with all men, however they may have been
misrepresented as enemies to Cæsar and hurtful to kings and
provinces. I am for peace,
(2.) Though the people of God are, and study to be, a quiet people, yet
it has been the common practice of their enemies to devise deceitful
matters against them. All the hellish arts of malice and falsehood are
made use of to render them odious or despicable; their words and
actions are misconstrued, even that which they abhor is fathered upon
them, laws are made to ensnare them
&c.), and all to ruin them and root them out. Those that hated David
thought scorn, like Haman, to lay hands on him alone, but contrived to
involve all the religious people of the land in the same ruin with
II. He appeals to God against them, the God to whom vengeance
belongs, appeals to his knowledge
This thou hast seen. They had falsely accused him, but God, who
knows all things, knew that he did not falsely accuse them, nor make
them worse than really they were. They had carried on their plots
against him with a great degree of secresy
"I knew it not, till long after, when they themselves gloried in it;
but thy eye was upon them in their close cabals and thou art a witness
of all they have said and done against me and thy people." He appeals
to God's justice: Awake to my judgment, even to my cause, and
let it have a hearing at thy bar,
"Judge me, O Lord my God! pass sentence upon this appeal,
according to the righteousness of thy nature and government,"
See this explained by Solomon,
1 Kings 7:31,32.
When thou art appealed to, hear in heaven, and judge, by condemning
the wicked and justifying the righteous.
III. He prays earnestly to God to appear graciously for him and his
friends, against his and their enemies, that by his providence the
struggle might issue to the honour and comfort of David and to the
conviction and confusion of his persecutors.
1. He prays that God would act for him, and not stand by as a
"Lord, how long wilt thou look on? How long wilt thou connive at
the wickedness of the wicked? Rescue my soul from the
destructions they are plotting against it; rescue my
darling, my only one, from the lions. My soul is my only
one, and therefore the greater is the shame if I neglect it and the
greater the loss if I lose it: it is my only one, and therefore ought
to be my darling, ought to be carefully protected and provided for. It
is my soul that is in danger; Lord, rescue it. It does, in a peculiar
manner, belong to the Father of spirits, therefore claim thy own; it is
thine, save it. Lord, keep not silence, as if thou didst
consent to what is done against me! Lord, be not far from me
as if I were a stranger that thou wert not concerned for; let not me
beheld afar off, as the proud are."
2. He prays that his enemies might not have cause to rejoice
Let them not rejoice over me (and again,
not so much because it would be a mortification to him to be trampled
upon the abjects, as because it would turn to the dishonour of God and
the reproach of his confidence in God. It would harden the hearts of
his enemies in their wickedness and confirm them in their enmity to
him, and would be a great discouragement to all the pious Jews that
were friends to his righteous cause. He prays that he might never be in
such imminent danger as that they should say in their hearts, Ah! so
would we have it
much more that he might not be reduced to such extremity that they
should say, We have swallowed him up; for then they will reflect
upon God himself. But, on the contrary, that they might be ashamed
and brought to confusion together
he desires that his innocency might be so cleared that they might be
ashamed of the calumnies with which they had loaded him, that his
interest might be so confirmed that they might be ashamed of their
designs against him and their expectations of his ruin, that they might
either be brought to that shame which would be a step towards their
reformation or that that might be their portion which would be their
3. He prays that his friends might have cause to rejoice and give glory
Notwithstanding the arts that were used to blacken David, and make him
odious, and to frighten people from owning him, there were some that
favoured his righteous cause, that knew he was wronged and bore a good
affection to him; and he prays for them,
(1.) That they might rejoice with him in his joys. It is a great
pleasure to all that are good to see an honest man, and an honest
cause, prevail and prosper; and those that heartily espouse the
interests of God's people, and are willing to take their lot with them
even when they are run down and trampled upon, shall in due time shout
for joy and be glad, for the righteous cause will at length be a
(2.) That they might join with him in his praises: Let them say
continually, The Lord be magnified, by us and others, who hath
pleasure in the prosperity of his servant. Note,
[1.] The great God has pleasure in this prosperity of good people, not
only of his family, the church in general, but of every particular
servant in his family. He has pleasure in the prosperity both of their
temporal and of their spiritual affairs, and delights not in their
griefs; for he does not afflict willingly; and we ought therefore to
have pleasure in their prosperity, and not to envy it.
[2.] When God in his providence shows his good-will to the prosperity
of his servants, and the pleasure he takes in it, we ought to
acknowledge it with thankfulness, to his praise, and to say, The
Lord be magnified.
IV. The mercy he hoped to win by prayer he promises to wear with
praise: "I will give thee thanks, as the author of my
and my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness, the justice of
thy judgments and the equity of all thy dispensations;" and this,
1. Publicly, as one that took a pleasure in owning his obligations to
his God, so far was he from being ashamed of them. He will do it in the
great congregation, and among much people, that God might be honoured
and many edified.
2. Constantly. He will speak God's praise every day (so it may
be read) and all the day long; for it is a subject that will
never be exhausted, no, not by the endless praises of saints and