Strive thou, O Jehovah, with them that strive with me: Fight thou against them that fight against me.
Take hold of shield and buckler, And stand up for my help.
Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that pursue me:
Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Let them be put to shame and brought to dishonor that seek after my soul:
Let them be turned back and confounded that devise my hurt. Let them be as chaff before the wind, And the angel of Jehovah driving them on. Let their way be dark and slippery, And the angel of Jehovah pursuing them.
For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit;
Without cause have they digged a pit for my soul. Let destruction come upon him unawares;
And let his net that he hath hid catch himself: With destruction let him fall therein. And my soul shall be joyful in Jehovah: It shall rejoice in his salvation.
All my bones shall say, Jehovah, who is like unto thee, Who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, Yea, the poor and the needy from him that robbeth him?
Unrighteous witnesses rise up; They ask me of things that I know not. They reward me evil for good, To the bereaving of my soul.Psalms 35:1-12 ASV
This is one of the so-called imprecatory psalms, of which there are a number of others.
Psalms 36; Psalms 39; Psalms 71; Psalms 109; Psalms 7; Psalms 22; Psalms 31; Psalms 54; Psalms 55; Psalms 56; Psalms 140, etc., Which various interpreters have labeled as imprecatory psalms.
These psalms breathe vengeance upon enemies.
This is just the opposite of the teachings of Jesus Christ, who taught that we should love our enemies and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us.
We believe that such an evaluation of the imprecatory psalms is inaccurate and unjust.
When Christ taught us to pray for our enemies, what did he mean?
Did he mean that we should pray for their success in their evil efforts?
Did he mean that we should pray for them to receive God’s blessing and with Divine favor to such an extent that they would simply forget or neglect their campaign against the faithful followers of God?
To confront such questions is to know the answer.
David is not here pleading for innocent people to be destroyed, but for wicked people to be punished for their evil deeds in order to bring them to repentance and ultimate salvation.
Far from being `harsh and ugly,’ as some thoughtless commentators allege, these prayers may be prayed by any child of God today.”
What possible harm could be done in praying to Almighty God for protection against unprincipled, vicious, and treacherous enemies?
Should we pray that God will be so good to such evildoers that they will receive everything they want, thereby, forgetting or neglecting their campaigns against the faithful?
Could it possibly be a sin for a Christian to pray for justice, as David here did throughout the psalm, and especially in Psalms 35:23?
Back during the days of the war between the United Nations and Iraq; this writer heard a man praying for Saddam Hussein, as follows:
“Oh Lord, bless our enemy Saddam. Touch his evil heart with a ray of eternal truth; open his eyes to the horrible wickedness of his atrocious deeds against his neighbors in Kuwait. Frustrate and confound the counsels upon which he relies; restrain and prevent his purpose of destruction; and further Oh Lord, if it be thy will, purge his soul of unspeakable wickedness; and, when he has been converted to the Gospel of Christ, help us to receive him as a brother and a fellow-heir of eternal life, in the name of Christ. Amen!”
But the extenuating circumstance of their being “ignorant” of their deeds was a vastly different thing from the class of sins which, in our own times, by wicked sons of the devil, are perpetrated against helpless hostages.
Note also that Christ’s prayer from the Cross did not specifically include the judicially hardened religious rulers of Israel, but seems rather to have been on behalf of the soldiers who were merely carrying out the orders of their superiors.
And yet the mercy of God is abundantly clear in the fact that even the “den of thieves” who ran the religious establishment heard the gospel and were given the opportunity of obeying it.
Thus any prayer for vicious enemies that includes this supplication for their salvation partakes, absolutely, of the nature of the true spirit of Our Lord.
Therefore, in the light of these considerations, we shall refrain from all self-righteous judgments about how far the spirit of David fell short of that of the Christ; nor do we feel called upon to `justify’ this psalm, on the basis, that, “God will not NOW excuse some things that he overlooked THEN.”
This writer has failed to find anything here in this psalm that needs “to be excused.”
The organization of Psalms 35 is simple.
A. A prayer that God may arise on David’s behalf and repay those who have wrongfully attacked him (Psalms 35:1-10).
B. His true sympathy for his foes in their previous sorrow is shamefully returned in the form of evil for good (Psalms 35:11-18).
C. Prayer for justice on David’s behalf against false friends who became his enemies (Psalms 35:19-28).
David’s life was the issue in Psalms 35.
His enemies were determined to kill him, in spite of the fact that David had done none of them any wrong whatsoever.
There is a remarkable restraint in the prayer.
He did not pray for the “chaff” to be burned up, which was the usual way of disposing of it, but that it be “driven away.”
He did not pray that his enemies would be killed but that they would fall into the net in a pit they had prepared for him.
There is no prayer here for the slaughter of his foes, but for God to “stop the way of them.”
The self-righteous souls that find so much fault with this prayer are an unqualified mystery to this writer.
John the Baptist referred to certain evil enemies of the Lord in Matthew 3, calling them, “a generation of vipers.” We find no commandment in God’s Word that requires us to pray for the benefit of the `rattlesnakes’ that threaten our lives.
The circumstances under which this psalm seems to have been written appear to be those described in 1 Samuel 24:15ff.
Some scholars suggest the times of Absalom’s rebellion; but the turning against the psalmist of former friends would seem to fit the situation of his flight before Saul far better.
The mention of the angel of Jehovah in Psalms 35:5-6 is of interest because Only here and in the preceding Psalms 34, is this mighty being mentioned in the entire catalogue of the Psalms.