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Psalm 35

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Rescue From Enemies The Lord the Avenger of His People Prayer for Deliverance From Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer For Help Prayer of the Virtuous in Persecution
MT Intro
"A Psalm of David."
       
35:1-8  35:1-3 35:1-3 35:1-3 35:1-3
  35:4-8 35:4-6 35:4-6 35:4
        35:5-6
    35:7-8 35:7-8 35:7-8
35:9-16 35:9-10 35:9-10 35:9-10 35:9-10
  35:11-14 35:11-12 35:11-14 35:11-12
    35:13-14   35:13-14
  35:15-16 35:15-16 35:15-16 35:15-16
35:17-21 35:17-18 35:17-18 35:17-18 35:17-18
  35:19-21 35:19-21 35:19 35:19
      35:20-25 35:20-21
35:22-26 35:22-25 35:22-25   35:22-24
        35:25-26
  35:26 35:26 35:26  
35:27-28 35:27-28 35:27-28 35:27-28 35:27
        35:28

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is dominated by

1. prayer requests (8 imperatives) for YHWH's help against enemies

2. jussives (23) describing what the psalmist hopes will happen to those who are

a. his enemies

b. his supporters

 

B. In many of the Psalms it is difficult to identify who the adversaries are. In this Psalm (i.e., 35:12-14) it is obvious they were close covenant acquaintances. This made the pain of the betrayal all the more intense! However, verses 1-8 seem to imply a military opponent.

 

C. Psalm 34 and Psalm 35 are the only Psalms where "the angel of YHWH" is mentioned. This is possibly why they were placed next to each other. The Psalms were selected, edited, and compiled by unknown people in an unknown process. By faith we believe they were led by the Spirit.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 35:1-8
 1Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
 Fight against those who fight against me.
 2Take hold of buckler and shield
 And rise up for my help.
 3Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me;
 Say to my soul, "I am your salvation."
 4Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life;
 Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me.
 5Let them be like chaff before the wind,
 With the angel of the Lord driving them on.
 6Let their way be dark and slippery,
 With the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
 7For without cause they hid their net for me;
 Without cause they dug a pit for my soul.
 8Let destruction come upon him unawares,
 And let the net which he hid catch himself;
 Into that very destruction let him fall.

35:1-8 This strophe starts out with several prayer requests (imperatives) in verses 1-3.

1. contend — BDB 936, KB 1224, Qal imperative, the noun occurs in the second phrase (BDB 937)

2. fight — BDB 535, KB 526, Qal imperative, the Qal participle occurs in the second phrase

3. take hold — BDB 304, KB 302, Hiphil imperative (lit. "seize")

4. rise up — BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative

5. draw — BDB 937, KB 1227, Hiphil imperative, cf. Exod. 15:9

6. MT has "close up" — BDB 688, KB 742, Qal imperative (NKJV, LXX, NIV) but the same consonants can mean "battle axes" (Herodotus, NASB, NRSV, NJB, JPSOA). The UBS Text Project gives the imperative an "A" rating. The Hebrew consonants can be translated "battle axe," "javelin," "pike"; it is found only here in the OT. One wonders who the psalmist is referring to as his adversaries.

a. military combatants, Ps. 35:1-3, 4-6

b. legal foes, Ps. 35:11

c. close friends, Ps. 35:12-14

7. say — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperative. Notice how personal this phrase is. The psalmist wants YHWH to affirm that He is his only deliverance, cf. Ps. 62:2; 89:26. If there is to be salvation/deliverance, it will come from the covenant God, YHWH!

 

Beginning at Ps. 35:4-8 the psalmist asks YHWH to

1. let those be ashamed — BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:4; Ps. 40:14; 70:2; 83:17

2. let those be dishonored — BDB 483, KB 480, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:4

3. let those be turned back — BDB 690, KB 744, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:4

4. let those be humiliated — BDB 344, KB 340, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:4

5. let them be like chaff before the wind — BDB 224, KB 243, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:5; Job 21:18; Ps. 1:4

6. let their way be dark and slippery — BDB 224, KB 243, Qal jussive, Ps. 35:6

7. let destruction come upon him unawares — BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:8

8. let the net which he hid catch himself — BDB 539, KB 530, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:8 (typical biblical role reversal; cf. Ps. 9:15; 31:4; 140:5; 142:3)

9. let him fall on him by means of his own evil plans — BDB 656, KB 709, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:8

 

These enemies are characterized as

1. who seek my life — BDB 134, KB 153, Piel participle, Ps. 35:4

2. who devise evil against me — BDB 362, KB 359, Qal participle, Ps. 35:4

3. who without cause they hid their net for me — BDB 380, KB 377, Qal perfect, Ps. 35:7

4. who without cause they dug a pit for my soul — BDB 343, KB 340, Qal perfect, Ps. 35:7 (notice this is repeated for emphasis)

 

35:2 "buckler and shield" These (BDB 857, KB 1037 and BDB 171, KB 545) were types of shields. BDB identifies "buckler" (BDB 857) as a large, full body shield but does not give the size of the other one. It is assumed that both were carried into battle by soldiers (and/or their armor bearers). Therefore, one was for spears and arrows (full body) and one for hand to hand fighting (smaller, BDB171; NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 846).

35:3 "pursue me" This term (BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal active participle) is often used in the Psalms of aggressive adversaries (cf. Ps. 7:1,5; 31:15; 71:11; 109:16; 119:84,86). It can be

1. a military pursuit

2. a hunting pursuit

3. a metaphor of aggressive opposition

 

35:5-6 "the angel of the Lord" The angels were agents of protection in Ps. 34:7, but here agents of judgment. Some would say the Bible, being an ancient, pre-scientific book, is superstitious about the unseen, unexplained. It is surely true that there is mystery here, but if one holds to the Bible being the unique revelation of the one true God, then he/she must accept its worldview, which includes the interconnection between the visible and invisible world. Exactly how, when, where, who is connected to this interconnection is uncertain.

It is often difficult to know the difference between the literary use (used for effect) and literal use (i.e., angelic intervention or activity). There are two cliches here—everything has an angelic component versus nothing has an angelic component. We live by faith and biblical revelation. Differing personalities migrate to one side or the other.

Life is often "dark" and "slippery" (cf. Ps. 73:18), but for those who trust YHWH, He walks through the valley(s) of deep darkness with them (cf. Ps. 23:4; 107:14). Life is often described in the figurative language of a walk or a journey. A straight, level, smooth road is imagery of a good life, while dark, slippery obstacles in the road or an unlevel road is imagery of a problem.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD at Ps. 34:7.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 35:9-16
 9And my soul shall rejoice in the Lord;
 It shall exult in His salvation.
 10All my bones will say, "Lord, who is like You,
 Who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him,
 And the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?"
 11Malicious witnesses rise up;
 They ask me of things that I do not know.
 12They repay me evil for good,
 To the bereavement of my soul.
 13But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth;
 I humbled my soul with fasting,
 And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.
 14I went about as though it were my friend or brother;
 I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.
 15But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves together;
 The smiters whom I did not know gathered together against me,
 They slandered me without ceasing.
 16Like godless jesters at a feast,
 They gnashed at me with their teeth.

35:9-16 This strophe affirms YHWH's deliverance.

1. my soul shall rejoice in the Lord — BDB 162, KB 189, Qal imperfect

2. it shall exult in His salvation — BDB 965, KB 1314, Qal imperfect

3. all his bones (i.e., his soul, cf. Ps. 51:8) will say — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperfect (i.e., the terms "soul," nephesh [BDB 659], and "bones" are idioms for the whole person, cf. Ps. 6:2)

a. who is like You, cf. Exod. 15:11; Ps. 86:8, Micah 7:18; see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7

b. who delivers the afflicted

At this point (35:11) the psalmist begins to describe his adversaries.

1. malicious witnesses — BDB 729 construct BDB 329, Ps. 35:11

2. who asks him things he does not know, Ps. 35:11 (the setting is a court scene and the false witnesses are asking about things the psalmist did not do)

3. who repay evil for good, Ps. 35:12, cf. Ps. 38:20; 109:5 (reversal, cf. Ps. 35:13-14)

4. who rejoiced at his stumbling, Ps. 35:15

5. who gathered together to slander him, Ps. 35:15

6. who gnashed their teeth at him, Ps. 35:15, cf. Ps. 37:12; 112:10; Job 16:9; Lam. 2:16; Matt. 8:12; 25:30; Luke 13:28

In Ps. 35:14 and 15 the psalmist describes what he did for those who persecuted him

1. when they were sick, he wore sackcloth on their behalf (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES at Ps. 30:11)

2. he humbled himself, fasted, and prayed on their behalf

3. he mourned for them (as for a close friend or brother)

4. he mourned for them (as for his own mother)

There is a visible contrast between how the faithful follower acts and the faithless ones act! Our relationship with God is clearly seen in how we treat others.

35:12b The MT has "bereavement" (BDB 1013) from loss of children which is a terrible sorrow. The NEB suggests an emendation, "they seek for my life"; REB, "lying in wait to take my life."

As is so often true, modern readers do not fully understand the poetry of an ANE culture. However, though there are rare words and uncertain imagery, the overall thrust is understandable from context, especially parallelism.

35:13b

NASB, LXX"and my prayer kept returning to my bosom"
JPSOA"may what I prayed for happen to me"
NRSV, TEV"I prayed with a bowed head on my bosom"
NJB"praying ever anew in my heart"

The MT is uncertain. So the translations suggest

1. the psalmist's prayers and actions for his enemies in Ps. 35:13-14 return to his benefit, not theirs (cf. Matt. 10:13; Luke 10:6)

2. the phrase refers to his body's position in prayer

3. the phrase refers to repeated prayer

 

35:15

NASB, NRSV,
NJB, JPSOA,
NRSV, REB"stumbling"
NKJV, TEV"adversity"
NEB"ruffians"

The MT has "at my stumbling" (BDB 854, cf. Ps. 38:17; Job 18:12). The UBS Text Project gives the MT a "C" rating (considerable doubt). It suggests "limping ones," denoting a hurt psalmist (p. 220). The UBS Handbook (p. 335) suggests the psalmist was limping like a wounded animal. If so the "gathered together" could be like a pack of dogs.

35:16

NASB"like godless jesters at a feast"
NKJV"with ungodly mockers at feasts"
NRSV"they impiously mock more and more"
TEV"like those who would mock a cripple"
NJB"if I fall they surround me"
REB"when I slipped, they mocked at me"
JPSOA"with impious, mocking grimace"

The MT has "like the profanest of mockers of a cake," which obviously does not make sense. So English translations have tried to find a parallel between verse 15 and verse 16, but it is all conjecture. The AB (p. 214) suggests an emendation that results in "my encircling mockers."

The MT is not the first or oldest Hebrew manuscript.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 35:17-21
 17Lord, how long will You look on?
 Rescue my soul from their ravages,
 My only life from the lions.
 18I will give You thanks in the great congregation;
 I will praise You among a mighty throng.
 19Do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me;
 Nor let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously.
 20For they do not speak peace,
 But they devise deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land.
 21They opened their mouth wide against me;
 They said, "Aha, aha, our eyes have seen it!"

35:17-21 Unlike the previous strophe, this one starts out asking YHWH why and then a prayer for action.

1. how long will You not act — BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperfect (same sentiment as Ps. 13:1-2; 22:1-2; Hab. 1:2-4; YHWH does not respond as the psalmist thinks He should)

2. rescue (lit. "bring back") my soul — BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil imperative

Verse 18 describes what the psalmist will do if YHWH rescues him.

1. I will give You thanks in the great congregation (temple gathering, cf. Ps. 22:25; 40:9,10) — BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

2. I will praise You among the mighty throng (synonymous parallelism with #1) — BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

Verse 19 returns to the "let those. . ." pattern of Ps. 35:5-8.

1. do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me — BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. neither let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously — BDB 902, KB 1147, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Pro. 6:12-14; 10:10

Ps. 35:20-21 gives the reasons why YHWH should act against his adversaries.

1. they do not speak peace

2. they devise deceitful words

3. they opened their mouth wide against me

4. they say, "Aha, aha, our eyes have seen it"

 

35:14 Jesus quotes part of this verse in John 15:25 as referring to Him in a typological sense.

35:17 "lions" See note at Psalm 34:10.

35:20 "those who are quiet in the land" This phrase is unique. From its parallel it seems to refer to people who do not cause trouble but seek peace.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 35:22-26
 22You have seen it, O Lord, do not keep silent;
 O Lord, do not be far from me.
 23Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right
 And to my cause, my God and my Lord.
 24Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness,
 And do not let them rejoice over me.
 25Do not let them say in their heart, " Aha, our desire!"
 Do not let them say, "We have swallowed him up!"
 26Let those be ashamed and humiliated altogether who rejoice at my distress;
 Let those be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves over me.

35:22-26 The psalmist appeals to YHWH's knowledge of the situation (cf. Ps. 10:14; 32:8; 33:18; 34:15; Exod. 3:7). In light of His knowledge of the enemies' attack, please

1. do not keep silent — BDB 361, KB 357, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 28:1; 39:12; 83:1; 109:1; also note Hab. 1:13

2. do not be far from me — BDB 934, KB 1221, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 10:1; 22:11; 38:21; 71:12

These jussives are followed by three specific prayer requests (imperatives) for court justice (i.e., "right," "cause").

1. stir up Yourself — BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 7:6; 44:23; 59:4; 80:2

2. awake — BDB 884, KB 1098, Hiphil imperative

3. judge — BDB 1047, KB 1622, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 26:1; 43:1; 139:1,23; notice the judgment is "according to Your righteousness" (cf. Ps. 31:1c; Romans 4-6; Galatians 3)

In the following verses (35:24b-26) there is another series of six Qal imperfects used in a jussive sense.

1. do not let them rejoice over me — BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:24

2. do not let them say in their hearts, "Aha, our desire!" — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:25

3. do not let them say, "We have swallowed him up!" — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:25

4. let them be ashamed — BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:26

5. let them be humiliated — BDB 344, KB 340, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:26

6. let those be clothed with shame and dishonor — BDB 344, KB 340, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:26

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 35:27-28
 27Let them shout for joy and rejoice, who favor my vindication;
 And let them say continually, "The Lord be magnified,
 Who delights in the prosperity of His servant."
 28And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness
 And Your praise all day long.

35:27-28 Again there is a series of four Qal imperfects used in a jussive sense.

1. let them who favor my vindication (cf. Ps. 35:24a) shout for joy — BDB 943, KB 1247, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:27

2. let them rejoice (parallel to #1) — BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:27

3. let them say continuously — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:27

4. let the Lord be magnified — BDB 152, KB 178, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, Ps. 35:27

 

35:28 The tongue of the faithless spreads lies, rumors, and bitterness but the tongue of the faithful follower tells of

1. the righteousness of YHWH, cf. Ps. 51:14; 71:15,24

2. His praise

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How does this Psalm use the imagery of YHWH as warrior?

2. List the things that the psalmist asks YHWH to do to his enemies in verses 4-8 and again in verses 24b-26.

3. What doctrine does the phrase "who is like You" (Ps. 35:10) imply?

4. Why does the psalmist feel betrayed by his acquaintances? (cf. Ps. 35:13-14)

5. What do the words, "Aha, aha" (cf. Ps. 35:21,25) imply?

6. List the good things the psalmist asks for his supporters in Ps. 35:27.