Psalm 35:19-23

19. Let not those who are my enemies wrongfully rejoice over me; neither let those who hate me without a cause wink with the eye. 20. For they speak not peace;1 but devise deceitful words upon the clefts of the earth. 21. They have opened their mouth against me: they have said, Aha! aha! our eye hath seen it.2 22. O Jehovah! thou hast also seen it: keep not silence: O Lord! be not far from me. 23. Stir up thyself, and awake for my judgment, O my God! even for my cause, O my Lord!


19. Let not those who are my enemies wrongfully rejoice over me. Because David's enemies already exulted in the hope of seeing his overthrow and destruction, he prays that God would not suffer them to realize a desire so wicked. In order to render God favorable to his cause, he again protests that they hated him without any fault or occasion on his part, and that it was their own malice which urged them to such cruelty against him; for in order to secure the help of God, it is necessary to come before him with the testimony of a good conscience.

The Hebrew word rqs, sheker, which we have rendered wrongfully, is by some translated deceitfully, as if David meant that his enemies lay in wait for him. But this is to reason with too much subtilty. Besides, the repetition which immediately follows shows that he complains of their wilful hatred, inasmuch as of their own accord, and from deliberate design, they persecuted a man who had given them no cause of offense, but was their friend and benefactor. The Hebrew word Prq, karats, here signifies to wink with the eyes askance in mockery, as in Psalm 22:8, it denotes, to wag the head, and to shoot out the lip.

In the following verse, that he may cherish still greater confidence in God, David again declares, that he has to do with enemies of an irreconcilable character, and who are fully bent upon cruelty. Of this we ought to be firmly persuaded, that the more grievously we are oppressed, so much the more certainly ought we to expect deliverance. He therefore says, that they speak of nothing but of tumults and slaughter. The meaning of the latter clause is somewhat obscure, arising from the ambiguous signification of the word egr, rige. As the word from which it is derived sometimes signifies to cut, and sometimes to rest, or to be quiet and peaceable, there are some who translate it the meek and peaceable of the earth:others translate it, with the tranquil and easy of the earth; meaning by this, those who live in the midst of riches and abundance, in the enjoyment of undisturbed repose. Both these seem to me to be forced interpretations. Others, too, though not more correctly, expound the word in caves or secret places, in order that, as they say, the wicked and deceitful counsels of such persons may not come to light. But it may be very appropriately rendered, the clefts of the earth, and by this metaphor are meant the miserable and afflicted, who are, as it were, broken and maimed. David, therefore, declares that as soon as his enemies see any opening, that is to say, some calamity befall him, they instantly put forth all their efforts to accomplish his destruction. Those who, in the time of his prosperity and power, never dared even to utter a word against him, began now, when they saw that his influence was feeble, to plot his ruin, just as we know that the wicked are for the most part persons of a servile and cowardly disposition, and assume not the tone of insolence save when an advantageous opportunity presents itself, as when the good and simple are in adversity. To the same purpose he represents them in the next verse, as crying out with open mouth, Aha! aha! and clapping their hands for joy that they saw David overcome, and, as it were, laid prostrate in the dust, a spectacle in which they took great delight.

22. O Jehovah! thou hast also seen it. There is in these words an implied contrast between the view which God is here represented as taking, and the sight at which, as we are told in the preceding verse, the ungodly rejoiced. The import of David's language is, You have rejoiced exceedingly at the sight of my miseries; but God also sees and takes notice of the cruelty and malice of those who feel a pleasure and gratification in seeing others afflicted and in trouble. David, however, in thus speaking, stays not to reason with his enemies, but rather addresses himself directly to God, and sets his providence as a rampart of defense in opposition to all the assaults of those who sought to shake his confidence, and who caused him much trouble. And certainly, if we would fortify ourselves against the scoffing and derision of our enemies, the best means which we can employ for this end is to overlook them, and to elevate our thoughts to God, and in the confidence of his fatherly care over us, to entreat him to show, in very deed, that our troubles are not unknown to him; yea, that the more he sees the wicked eagerly watching every opportunity to accomplish our ruin, he would the more speedily come to our aid. This David expresses by these various forms of expression -- Keep not silence, be not far from me, stir up thyself, awake for my judgment. He might justly make use of such expressions, seeing he was already fully persuaded that God regards the poor and afflicted, and marks all the wrongs which are done to them. If, therefore, we would frame our requests aright, a clear conviction and persuasion of the providence of God must first shine into our hearts; nor is it necessary only that this should precede, in point of order, all our desires; it must also restrain and govern them.

1 "C'est, ne tienent propos d'amis." -- Note, Fr. marg. "That is, their discourse is not that of friends."

2 "C'est, ce que nous desirions." -- Note, Fr. marg. "That is, that which we desire." French and Skinner read, "Aha! aha! our eye seeth!" "that is," they observe, "beholds our enemy in the fallen condition in which we desire to see him. See verse 25, compare Psalm 92:11."