Psalm 28:3-5

3. Draw me not away with wicked men, nor with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace to their neighbors, while malice is in their hearts. 4. Give them according to their works, and according to the wickedness of their doings; give them according to the work of their hands; render them their reward. 5. Because they regard not the doings of Jehovah, neither the work of his hands, let him destroy them, and not build them up.


3. Draw me not away with wicked men. The meaning is, that in circumstances so dissimilar, God should not mingle the righteous with the wicked in the same indiscriminate destruction.1 Undoubtedly, too, in speaking of his enemies, he indirectly asserts his own integrity. But he did not pray in this manner, because he thought that God was indiscriminately and unreasonably angry with men; he reasons rather from the nature of God, that he ought to cherish good hope, because it was God's prerogative to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, and to give every one his due reward. By the workers of iniquity, he means man wholly addicted to wickedness. The children of God sometimes fall, commit errors, and act amiss in one way or other, but they take no pleasure in their evil doings; the fear of God, on the contrary, stirs them up to repentance. David afterwards defines and enlarges upon the wickedness of those whom he describes; for, under pretense of friendship they perfidiously deceived good men, professing one thing with their tongue, while they entertained a very different thing in their hearts. Open depravity is easier to be borne with than this craftiness of the fox, when persons put on fair appearances in order to find opportunity of doing mischief.2 This truth, accordingly, admonishes us that those are most detestable in God's sight, who attack the simple and unwary with fair speeches as with poison.

4. Give them according to their works. Having thus requested God to have a regard to his innocence, the Psalmist thunders forth a curse against his enemies. And the accumulation of words shows that he had groaned long and grievously under the burden before he broke forth to desire such vengeance. He intimates that the wicked of whom he speaks had transgressed not once, nor for a short time, nor in one way, but that they had proceeded so far in their constant evil doings, that their audacity was no longer to be endured. We know how troublesome and grievous a temptation it is to see the ungodly proceeding without measure or end, as if God connived at their wickedness. David, therefore, wearied as it were with continual forbearing, and fainting under the burden, implores God, at length, to restrain the wantonness of his enemies, who of late ceased not to heap wickedness upon wickedness. Thus we perceive that there is nothing superfluous in this verse, when to works he adds the wickedness of their doings, and the work of their hands, and thrice petitions that they may receive the reward which they have deserved. Add to this, that he at the same time bears testimony to his own faith, to which boasting hypocrites often compel the children of God, while by their deceit and cavils, they impose upon the judgments of the world. We see how men who are distinguished for wickedness, not content with impunity themselves, cannot abstain from oppressing the innocent by false accusations, just as the wolf, desirous of making a prey3 of the lambs, according to the common proverb, accused them of troubling the water. David is therefore compelled by this exigency to call upon God for protection. Here again occurs the difficult question about praying for vengeance, which, however, I shall despatch in few words, as I have discussed it elsewhere. In the first place, then, it is unquestionable, that if the flesh move us to seek revenge, the desire is wicked in the Sight of God. He not only forbids us to imprecate evil upon our enemies in revenge for private injuries, but it cannot be otherwise than that all those desires which spring from hatred must be disordered. David's example, therefore, must not be alleged by those who are driven by their own intemperate passion to seek vengeance. The holy prophet is not inflamed here by his own private sorrow to devote his enemies to destruction; but laying aside the desire of the flesh, he gives judgment concerning the matter itself. Before a man can, therefore, denounce vengeance against the wicked, he must first shake himself free from all improper feelings in his own mind. In the second place, prudence must be exercised, that the heinousness of the evils which offend us drive us not to intemperate zeal, which happened even to Christ's disciples, when they desired that fire might be brought from heaven to consume those who refused to entertain their Master, (Luke 9:54.) They pretended, it is true, to act according to the example of Elias; but Christ severely rebuked them, and told them that they knew not by what spirit they were actuated. In particular, we must observe this general rule, that we cordially desire and labor for the welfare of the whole human race. Thus it will come to pass, that we shall not only give way to the exercise of God's mercy, but shall also wish the conversion of those who seem obstinately to rush upon their own destruction. In short, David, being free from every evil passion, and likewise endued with the spirit of discretion and judgment, pleads here not so much his own cause as the cause of God. And by this prayer, he farther reminds both himself and the faithful, that although the wicked may give themselves loose reins in the commission of every species of vice with impunity for a time, they must at length stand before the judgment-seat of God.

5. Because they regard not the doings of Jehovah. In this verse he lays open the root of impiety, declaring that the ungodly are so bold to do mischief, because, while they are thus indulging their hatred, and perpetrating every species of wickedness, they think that they have nothing to do with God. And when conscience stings them, they soothe themselves with false hopes, and at last stubbornly harden themselves into insensibility. First, being intoxicated with prosperity, they flatter themselves that God is their friend, while he has no regard for those good men who are overwhelmed with so many afflictions; and, next, they persuade themselves that the world is governed by chance, thus blinding themselves in the midst of the clear light of day. In this manner, David's adversaries, willingly ignorant that God had appointed him to be king, emboldened themselves to persecute him. He therefore complains of their gross ignorance of this, just as Isaiah (Isaiah 5:20) brings the same complaint, in general terms, against all the ungodly of his days. This doctrine, then, has a twofold use. First, it is no small consolation to the children of God to be persuaded, while they are unrighteously vexed, that by the providence of God they are thus profitably exercised to patience; and that while the affairs of this world are all in a state of disturbance and confusion, God nevertheless sits supreme in heaven conducting and governing all things.4 In the second place, this is a very proper curb to subdue the passions of our flesh, that we may not, like the Andabates,5 contend in the dark, and with shut eyes, as if God saw not and cared not about what is done here below. Let us, therefore, learn carefully to consider that the judgments which God executes are just so many proofs of his righteousness in governing mankind, and that although all things should be huddled together in confusion, the eye of faith should be directed to heaven, to consider God's secret judgments. And as God never ceases, even in the midst of the greatest darkness, to give some tokens of his providence, it is inexcusable indolence not to attend to them. This perverseness the prophet aggravates, by repeating again, the works of God's hands. He thus intimates, that the ungodly, by recklessly pursuing their course, trample under foot whatever of God's works they may meet with to check their madness.

Let him destroy them, and not build them up. Some are of opinion that the first part of this verse is the nominative in the room of a substantive to the verbs in the last clause; as if David had said, This brutal madness shall destroy them; but the name of God should rather be supplied, and then the context will run excellently. As the verbs, however, in the Hebrew are in the future tense6 the sentence may be explained as meaning that David now assures himself of the destruction of the reprobates for which he had lately prayed. I do not reject this interpretation; but, in my opinion, the words are just a continuance of his petitions. In this way, he prays that the wicked may be overthrown, so as not to rise again, or recover their former state. The expression, Let him destroy them, and not build them up, is a common figure of speech among the Hebrews, according to what Malachi says concerning Edom, "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, They shall build, but I shall throw down," (Malachi 1:4.) Lest we should be struck, therefore, with an incurable plague, let us learn to awake our minds to the consideration of God's works, that we may be taught to fear him, to persevere in patience, and to advance in godliness.

1 The verb Ksm, mashak, here rendered draw, "signifies," as Hammond observes, "both to draw and apprehend," and may "be best rendered here, Seize not on me, as he that seizeth on any to carry or drag him to execution. The Septuagint, after having literally rendered the Hebrew by Mh< sunelku>sh|v thn yuch>n mou, draw not my soul together with, etc., adds Ki>an mh< sunapole>sh|v me etc., and destroy me not together with, etc. Calvin here evidently takes the same view; though he does not express it in the form of criticism.

2 "Que ceste finesse de renard, quand on use de beaux semblans pour avoir occasion de nuire." -- Fr.

3 "Voulant devorer les agneaux." -- Fr.

4 "Conduisant et gouvernant toutes choses." -- Fr.

5 "C'estoyent certains peuples ou escrimeurs qui souloyent ainsi comme etre. Voyez les Chiliades d'Erasme." -- Note, Fr. marg. "These were certain people or fencers, who were wont to fight in this manner. See the Chiliades of Erasmus."

6 "He will destroy them, and not build them up."