Appeal for Help against Injustice
1 Of David.
Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive against me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Grasp your shield and buckler
and spring to my aid.
3 Brandish your spear and battle-ax
against those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,[b]
“I am your salvation.”
4 May those who seek my life
suffer shame and disgrace.
May those who plan my downfall
be forced to retreat in disgrace.
5 May they be like chaff flying in the wind,[c]
with the angel of the Lord scattering them.
6 May their way be shadowy and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord in pursuit.
7 Without cause they laid a net to trap me;
without cause they dug a pit to ensnare me.
8 May ruin come upon them unawares;
may the net they laid entrap them;
may they topple into the pit they dug.
9 Then my soul[d] will rejoice in the Lord
and exult in his salvation.
10 My whole being[e] will say,
“O Lord, who is there like you?
You deliver those who are weak
from those who are too strong for them,
and you protect the poor and needy
from those who seek to exploit them.”
11 False witnesses step forward
and question me about things I do not know.
12 They give me back evil in place of good
and leave my soul in sorrow.
13 Yet, when they were ill, I put on sackcloth[f]
and afflicted myself with fasting,
while I poured forth prayers from my heart.
14 I went about as though in grief,
as though for a friend or brother.
I bowed down in sorrow
as though lamenting for a mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they rejoiced and came together;
they came together and struck me unawares.
They slandered me without letup.
16 They mocked me with ever increasing fury
as they gnashed their teeth at me.
17 How long,[g] O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from these ravening beasts;
preserve my precious life from these lions.
18 I will offer you thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise you amid the vast throng.
19 Do not allow my treacherous enemies
to gloat over me;
do not permit those who hate me without reason[h]
to wink their eyes at me.
20 [i]For they do not speak words of peace,
but they contrive deceitful words
to lead astray the peaceful in the land.
21 They open wide their mouths shouting, “Aha! Aha!
We have seen it with our own eyes.”
22 You have seen, O Lord; do not be silent.
O Lord, do not be far from me.
23 Awaken and be diligent in my defense;
come to my aid, my God and my Lord.
24 [j]Defend me, O Lord, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and do not let them gloat over me.
25 Do not let them think,
“Aha! This is just what we wanted.”
Do not let them say,
“We have swallowed him up.”
26 Let all those who rejoice at my downfall
be put to shame and dismayed.
Let those who rise up arrogantly against me
be covered with shame and dishonor.
27 But let those who desire my vindication
shout for joy and be glad.
Let them cry out continually,
“Exalted be the Lord
who delights to see his servant in peace.”
28 Then my tongue shall proclaim your righteousness
and sing your praise all the day long.
- Psalm 35:1 This is one of the so-called imprecatory (or cursing) psalms that call upon God to mete out justice to enemies (see vv. 24-26; Pss 3:8; 5:11; 6:10; 18:14-16; 28:4f; 31:18f; 37:2, 9-10, 15, 20, 35f; 40:15f; 54:7; 55:10, 16, 24; 58:8-12; 63:10-12; 64:8-10; 69:23-29; 71:13; 79:6, 12; 83:10-19; 129:5-8; 137:8-9; 139:19-22; 140:10-12; 141:10; 143:12). In their thirst for justice, the authors of these psalms use hyperbole (or overstatement) in order to move others to oppose sin and evil (see also note on Ps 5:11). In three successive waves, the frantic and indignant cry of the persecuted righteous man rises toward God; and three successive times the suppliant rediscovers hope. He is a man overwhelmed by the underhanded wickedness, betrayal, and calumnies of friends as well as the dark designs of adversaries. It reminds us once again of the evils suffered by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 20:10-13), and we cannot refrain from thinking of the trial of Jesus before a tribunal bent on sending him to his death (Mt 26:57ff).
Christians are aware that the world continues to pursue Christ in the person of his disciples (see Mt 5:11; 10:17f; Jn 15:18-25), unjustly directing accusations and persecutions against them. Hence, the prayer formulated in this psalm must spring forth from the lips and hearts of the disciples united with their Master.
- Psalm 35:3 Soul: see note on Ps 6:4.
- Psalm 35:5 Like chaff flying in the wind: i.e., easily carried away. Angel of the Lord: see note on Ps 34:8.
- Psalm 35:9 Soul: see note on Ps 6:4.
- Psalm 35:10 My whole being: literally, “all my bones.” Poor and needy: see notes on Pss 22:27; 34:7.
- Psalm 35:13 Sackcloth: a symbol of mourning. Fasting: an act of mourning (see Ps 69:10). Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.
- Psalm 35:17 How long . . . ?: see note on Ps 6:4. Lions: a metaphor for enemies.
- Psalm 35:19 Treacherous enemies . . . those who hate me without reason: cited in Jn 15:25, since this psalm as well as Ps 69 was regarded by the New Testament authors as foreshadowing the Passion of Christ.
- Psalm 35:20 The enemies of the psalmist assail him and wrongly accuse him of some crime (see v. 11). These verses and verse 25 recall Ps 40:16; Lam 2:16; Ezek 25:3; 26:2; Hab 1:13.
- Psalm 35:24 See introduction above and note on Ps 5:11.