Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The psalmist, in great straits, prays for his personal safety, Psa 35:1-3; and for the confusion of his enemies, Psa 35:4-8; expresses has confidence in God, Psa 35:9, Psa 35:10; mentions his kindness to those who had rewarded him evil for his good, Psa 35:11-16; appeals to God against them, Psa 35:17-26; prays for those who befriended him; and praises God for his goodness, Psa 35:27, Psa 35:28.
There is nothing in the title worthy of remark. The Psalm is simply attributed to David, and was most probably of his composing; and refers to the time of his persecution by Saui and his courtiers. The Syriac says it was composed when the Idumeans attacked David. The Arabic says it is a prophecy concerning the incarnation, and concerning the things practiced against Jeremiah by the people. Some think that our Lord's sufferings are particularly pointed out here; and Bishop Horsley thinks that Psa 35:11-16 apply more literally and exactly to Christ than to any other whomsoever.
Plead my cause, O Lord - Literally, Contend, Lord, with then that contend with me. The word is often used in a forensic or law sense.
Take hold of shield and buckler - Let them be discomfited in battle who are striving to destroy my life. It is by the shield and buckler of others, not any of his own that God overthrows the enemies of his people. This is spoken merely after the manner of men.
Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation - Give me an assurance that thou wilt defend both body and soul against my adversaries.
Let then be confounded - Let none of their projects or devices against me succeed. Blast all their designs.
The imprecations in these verses against enemies are all legitimate. They are not against the souls or eternal welfare of those sinners, but against their schemes and plans for destroying the life of an innocent man; and the holiest Christian may offer up such prayers against his adversaries. If a man aim a blow at another with a design to take away his life, and the blow would infallibly be mortal if it took place, and the person about to be slain see that by breaking the arm of his adversary he may prevent his own death, and thus save his enemy from actual murder; it is his duty to prevent this double evil by breaking the arm of the blood-thirsty man. It is on this principle that David prays against his adversaries in the first eight verses of this Psalm.
Let the angel of the Lord chase them - By angel we may either understand one of those spirits, whether good or bad, commonly thus denominated, or any thing used by God himself as the instrument of their confusion.
Let their way be dark - Let them lose their way, be entangled in morasses and thickets, and be confounded in all their attempts to injure me. All these phrases are military; and relate to ambushes, hidden snares, forced marches in order to surprise, and stratagems of different kinds.
For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit - The word שחת shachath, a pit, belongs to the second member of this verse, and the whole should be read thus: For without a cause they have hidden for me their net, without a cause they have digged a pit for my life. They have used every degree and species of cunning and deceit to ruin me.
Let his net that he hath hid - See the notes on Psa 7:15, Psa 7:16.
My soul - My life, thus saved: -
Shall be joyful in the Lord - I am so circumstanced at present as to be in the utmost danger of being destroyed by my foes; if I escape, it must be by the strong arm of the Lord; and to him shall the glory be given.
All my bones shall say - My life being preserved, all the members of my body shall magnify thy saving mercy.
Deliverest the poor - This is a general maxim: God is peculiarly mindful of the poor. Where secular advantages are withheld, there is the more need for spiritual help. God considers this, and his kind providence works accordingly.
False witnesses did rise up - There is no doubt that several of this kind were found to depose against the life of David; and we know that the wicked Jews employed such against the life of Christ. See Mat 26:59, Mat 26:60.
They laid to my charge things that I knew not - They produced the most unfounded charges; things of which I had never before heard.
To the spoiling of my soul - To destroy my life; so נפש nephesh should be translated in a multitude of places, where our translators have used the word soul.
When they were sick - This might refer to the case of Absalom, who was much beloved of his father, and for whose life and prosperity he no doubt often prayed, wept, and fasted.
My prayer returned into mine own bosom - Though from the wayward and profligate life they led, they did not profit by my prayers, yet God did not permit me to pray in vain. They were like alms given to the miserable for God's sake, who takes care to return to the merciful man tenfold into his bosom. The bosom is not only the place where the Asiatics carry their purses, but also where they carry any thing that is given to them.
Mourneth for his mother - כאבל אם caabel em, as a mourning mother. How expressive is this word!
But in mine adversity they reioiced - How David was mocked and insulted in the case of Absalom's rebellion by Shimei and others, is well known.
The abjects - נכים nechim, the smiters, probably hired assassins. They were everywhere lying in wait, to take away my life.
With hypocritical mockers in feasts - These verses seem to be prophetic of the treatment of Christ. They did tear me, and I knew it not. They blindfolded and buffeted him; they placed him in such circumstances as not to be able to discern who insulted him, except by a supernatural knowledge. With hypocritical mockers in feasts may also relate prophetically to our Lord's sufferings. Herod clothed him in a purple robe, put a reed in his hand for a scepter, bowed the knee before him, and set him at naught. Here their hypocritical conduct (pretending one thing while they meant another) was manifest, and possibly; this occurred at one of Herod's feasts.
My darling - יחידתי yechidathi, my only one, Psa 22:20. My united one, or He that is alone. Perhaps this may relate to Christ. See the note on Psa 22:20.
I will give thee thanks in the great congregation - I hope to be able to attend at the tabernacle with thy followers, and there publicly express my gratitude for the deliverance thou hast given me.
That are mine enemies - Saul and his courtiers.
They opened their mouth wide - Gaped upon me to express their contempt.
And said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it - They said, האח האח heach, heach, the last syllable in each word being a protracted strongly guttural sound, marking insult and triumph at the same time. It is the word which we translate Ah, Psa 35:25.
This thou hast seen - I have no need to adduce evidences of these wrongs; thou, to whom I appeal, hast seen them. Therefore,
Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment - I have delivered my cause into thy hand, and appeal to thee as my Judge; and by thy decision I am most willing to abide.
Judge me, O Lord my God - The manner of his appeal shows the strong confidence he had in his own innocence.
Swallowed him up - בלענוהו billaanuhu, we have gulped him down.
Let them be ashamed - This may be a prophetic declaration against Saul and his courtiers. They were ashamed, confounded, clothed with shame, and dishonored. All these took place in Saul's last battle with the Philistines, where he lost his crown and his life, and came to a most dishonorable end.
Let them shout for joy and be glad - While my enemies are confounded, let my friends exult in the Lord; and let them all praise him for his marvellous kindness to me.
And my tongue shall speak - I, who am chiefly concerned, and who have received most, am under the greatest obligation; and it will require the constant gratitude and obedience of my whole life to discharge the mighty debt I owe.