PSALM 35







                                       Frederic Clarke Putnam, M.Div.

                                   Biblical Theological Seminary, 1978













                                                    A THESIS

                                       Submitted to the Faculty of

                                     Biblical Theological Seminary

                             in partial fulfillment of the requirements

                                               for the degree of

                              MASTER OF SACRED THEOLOGY

                                    Hatfield, Pennsylvania, 19440

                                                    May, 1980






         Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt and proofed by Dr. Perry Phillips,
                               Gordon College, MA April, 2007.
                                      TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS                                                                                               iv


INTRODUCTION                                                                                                              1


I. CLASSIFICATION OF THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS                                           3



            Introduction                                                                                                         10

            Imprecation as Quotation                                                                                   10

            Imprecation as Prophecy                                                                                    10

            Imprecation as Moral Indignation                                                                      12

            Imprecation as Cultural Phenomena                                                                  14

            Imprecation as Philosophy                                                                                 19

            Imprecation as Zeal                                                                                             20

            Imprecation as Ethics of the Consummation                                                    22


III. A STUDY OF PSALM 35                                                                                         27

            The Basis for the Selection of a Text                                                                27

            Introduction to Psalm 35                                                                                    28

            A Literal Translation of Psalm 35                                                                     30

            Exegesis of Psalm 35                                                                                         32

                        Strophe I: Verses 1-10                                                                           32

                        Strophe II: Verses 11-18                                                                        45

                        Strophe III: Verses 19-28                                                                       61

            Evidences of Trial in Psalm 35                                                                          81

            Conclusion                                                                                                           85

            New Testament Considerations                                                                         86


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION                                                                    90


APPENDIX                                                                                                                      92


BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                           105

















                                   LIST OF TABLES


1. Form-critical Analysis

            1-A. Form-critical Analysis of Psalms Identified

                        as Imprecatory                                                                                   97

            1-B. Form--critical Analysis of Selected Psalms                         101

2. Legal Vocabulary in Psalm 35                                                                             103

3. Interrelationship of the Parties in Psalm 35                                                      104




            Although the final responsibility rests upon the author, without

the help and succour of many people this thesis would not have been pos-

sible. The library staff of Biblical Theological Seminary was most

patient with my long-term borrowing of books for research; the staff of

Tenth Presbyterian Church has graciously tolerated my constant presence

for study, writing and typing; Richard C. Wolfe, J.D. deciphered and

transcribed the manuscript (sic!) into typed form; my professors at Bi-

blical Seminary who have taught me to desire the proper understanding of

the Word of God and the true knowledge of its Author; my advisor, Mr.

Thomas V. Taylor, who allowed me to go my own way in study and guided in

the most gracious way possible; the other members of my advisory commit-

tee--Mr. James C. Pakala, who helped with the format of footnotes and

bibliographical entries and made many helpful suggestions concerning the

body and message of the thesis, and Dr. Robert C. Newman, whose comments

and corrections were an invaluable aid in eliminating errors in the text.

Special mention must also be made of my family: my daughter, Kiersten,

copied and collated the final copies and was understanding of my absence

and pre-occupation; my wife, Emilie, has been my constant support, help

and encouragment in ways innumerable for these many busy months. Above

all, my Lord, Jesus Christ, has strengthened me and given me the perse-

verance necessary to bring this work to completion. To Him be the praise!





            This thesis seeks to answer the question: How can the psalmist

curse his enemies and still claim to be righteous? At times one verse

contains both a prayer for their destruction and an assertion of his own

righteousness (or at least of his innocence). On what basis does the

psalmist write these words? This thesis, by the approach described

below, will arrive at a suggested answer for these questions.

            It does not attempt to answer the questions of Edwards, Hammond,

or Vos.1 Neither is the larger question of the presence of the impreca-

tory psalms in Scripture addressed.2 The question of this thesis was

answered on the basis of one particular text, and extrapolation of the


            1B.B. Edwards, "The Imprecations in the Scriptures," Bibliotheca

Sacra 1 (February 1844): 97-110. Edwards shows that the presence of im-

precations does not negate the doctrine of divine inspiration. Joseph

Hammond, "The Vindictive Psalms Vindicated," The Expositor, series 1, 3

(1876): 27-47, 101-118, 188-203, 402-471. Hammond demonstrates that the

imprecations are comminations (statements of belief), not curses, and

pose not ethical problem for the Christian. J.G. Vos, "The Ethical

Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms," Westminster Theological Journal 4

(May 1942): 123-138. Vos discusses the ethical implications of the im-

precations for Christians and their use by the Church.

            2 There may be only a fine semantic difference between the problem

of the presence of the imprecatory psalms in Scripture and the question

of the psalmist's profession of righteousness in the face of his curses.

In both cases the presence of the curse raises the question. Therefore,

although it is necessary to examine some of the proposed answers to the

question of the presence of the imprecatory psalms in order to recognize

"what has gone before," this thesis will address the problem as it is

stated in the paragraph above. A section dealing briefly with the

question of the Christian's use of the imprecatory psalms (and of impre-

cations in general) will be found in the section entitled "New Testament

Considerations," pp. 86-89, below.




proposed solution to every curse in either the Psalter or all of the

Bible was not considered.


            After a brief introduction to the genre of the individual lament

and a statement of the problem in terms of a suggested sub-genre (the

imprecatory lament) various attempted solutions are discussed.1

            Psalm 35 is the passage chosen for exegesis and the results of

that exegesis were then compared with certain New Testament considera-

tions because of the apparent contradiction between them. The question

of the Christian use of these psalms was considered briefly and these

conclusions were drawn together to make application to and, hopefully,

give understanding to the Church of Jesus Christ our Lord.


            lIt will be noticed that although many of the approaches examined

quote from and allude to the psalms and even refer to them, this writer

did not read one book or article approaching the question from an exege-

tical base. The only exception to this is a paper: Thomas V. Taylor,

"A Short Study in the Problem of Psalm 109." (Elkins Park, Pa.: Taylor

Press, n.d.).





Form-critical analysis of the psalms  of lament

            It is "by now a dictum of psalter studies that an investigation

of literary patterns is basic to programs in these studies."1 Thus does

J.W. Wevers begin his "Study of the Form Criticism of Individual Complaint

Psalms" in which he analyzes the general form-critical approach to the

individual psalms of lament. In seeking to discover, therefore, whether

or not a class of psalms could be called "imprecatory psalms," we shall

use this approach also, especially since most of the psalms traditionally

called imprecatory are also commonly called laments (by followers of

Gunkel as well as by others).2

            Wevers has analyzed the individual complaint (lament) psalm into

five components.3 These are: (1) the invocation of the divine name--both

Myhilox< or hvAhy; are used, the determining factor is direct address;4

(2) the complaint--the reason compelling the psalmist to approach God in


            1J.H. Wevers, "A Study of the Form Criticism of Traditional Com-

plaint Psalms," Vetus Testamentum 6 (1956): 80.

            2John H. Walton, Chronological Charts of the Old Testament,

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1978), p. 73. Cf. Ian Ross

McKenzie Parsons, "Evil Speaking in the Psalms of Lament" (unpublished

Ph.D. dissertation, Drew University, 1971).

            3Wevers, "A Study," pp. 80f. The components are his but the

examples are my own, selected intentionally as explained below.

            4Psalms 35.1, 17, 22(twice), 23, 24; 55.1, 9; 58.6 (twice); 59.1, 5, 11;

69.1, 16, 29; 83.1(twice), 13; 109.1, 26;  137.7.



this way;1 (3) the prayer--that which the psalmist wants the Lord to do

to his enemy, which may or may not have motivations (reasons why the Lord

should answer his prayer) and is in either the imperative or the jussive

mood;2 (4) either an expression of certainty--the psalmist is now sure

that the Lord has heard his cry--or a vow of that which the psalmist will

do in thanksgiving for God's gracious intervention (these complete his

analysis, since both may be present in the same psalm).3 It is worth

noting that the order of the elements in several of the psalms approxi-

mates the order given by Wevers.

            Brueggeman's analysis differs only slightly:4 (1) the address,

which establishes the covenantal context of the psalmist's relationship

with God and therefore his "right to expect action from God;"5 (2) the

complaint or lament, which is the psalmist's "expression of anguish or

betrayal by God or others;"6 (3) the petition, in which the psalmist

"requests a solution" from God to the problem; (4) motivations, which are


            1Psalms 35.1a, 3a, 4, 7, 11, 12, 15-16, 17b-c; 55.3, 10-11; 58.2-5;

59.1-4, 6-7; 69.4, 7-9; 83.2-8; 109.2-5; 137.7b.

            2Psalms 35.4-6, 8, 19, 25-26; 55.9a,15; 58.6-8; 59.11b-13a; 69.22-28;

83.9-16a,17; 109.6-15,19-20; 137.8-9.

            3Psalms 35.9-10; 55.16b, 17b-18a, 23; 59.10; 69.32-36; 109.31.

            4Walter Brueggemann, "From Hurt to Joy, From Death to Life,"

Interpretation 28 (January 1974): 6-8. Both the form-critical analysis

and the examples are his, although some examples could be added from the

psalms examined above.

            5Psalms 4.1; 5.1; 12.1; 16.1; 17.1.

            6Psalms 6.2; 13.3; 22.14-15; 38.5-6; 39.4ff; 41.11; 48.11.



reasons why God should answer his prayer;1 (5) the last component of the

lament has three elements: the "assurance of having been heard,"2 the

"singing of praise and expressions of thanksgiving in the congregation

because the situation has been transformed,"3 and the "paying of promised

vows."4 A brief examination of the psalms considered by Wevers's ana-

lysis (e.g., Psalms 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 83, 109, 137) shows that these

same elements are also present in them.

            R.E. Murphy, S.J. has outlined Claus Westermann's approach to the

structure of the individual lament psalms.5 This form-criticism by

Westermann yields seven parts of the individual lament:

                        Address and introductory cry

                        Complaint (of the form: "my enemies...I/")

                        Confidence motif

                        Plea ("Hear my prayer/save me")

                        Reasons to induce God to act

                        Vows to praise

                        Motif of certainty of hearing (which blends into factual

                                    praise in pleas that are answered).6

            From the comparison of these three examples with the contents of


            1Brueggemann "From Hurt," pp. 6-8 lists seven basic motivations:

appeal to God's reputation (Ps 13.14; 25.11; 57.5); appeal to past action

with which He should now be consistent (Ps 22.4f; 143.5); the guilt of

the speaker (Ps 25.11; 38.18); the innocence of the speaker (Ps 26.3-7;

35.7; 69.7); a promise of praise (Ps 6.5; 22.22); the helplessness of the

speaker (Ps 25.16; 55.18; 69.17; 142.4,6); the trust of the speaker in

the Lord (Ps 17.8f; 22.9f; 43.2; 57.1; 71.6).

            2Psalms 13.5f; 17.15; 28.6; 69.33.

            3Psalms 7.17; 16.9-11; 22.22-31; 35.27f.

            4Psalms 26.12; 54.6f; 56.12f.

            5Roland E. Murphy, "A New Classification of Literary Forms in the

Psalms," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 21 (1959): 87.



of the Psalter, many psalms are to be classified as individual laments.

Mowinckel claims that many psalms which use the "I-form" are to be under-

stood as communal laments in which the king, as representative of the

nation, would pray for the nation rather than as an individual praying

for his own needs.1 Gunkel and Soggin2 agree that there is no reason

other than compelling contextual evidence3 to read the "I-psalms" as

communal rather than individual.

            From these analyses and Gunkel's statement, it is clear that

the psalms generally classified as imprecatory may also be called indi-

vidual laments or complaint psalms. This is demonstrated by a comparison

of the psalms most commonly advanced as imprecatory with these patterns

adduced by form criticism.

            Fifty-two psalms are commonly listed as either imprecatory or

psalms which contain imprecations.4 Eight of these are mentioned four


            1Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 vols.,

trans. D.R. Ap-Thomas (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 2:39.

            2Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, trans.

T.M. Horner (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), p. 15; J. Alberto

Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament, in Old Testament Library

(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 373.

            3Gunkel, The Psalms, p. 33.

            4The following statistics reflect a comparison of lists of psalms

labelled imprecatory either in part in whole. These lists are found in:

Hammond,"The Vindictive Psalms," p. 238; Meredith G. Kline, The Structure

of Biblical Authority, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co.,

1975), p. 161; Chester K. Lehman, Biblical Theology, Vol. I: Old Testa-

ment (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1971), p. 439; Chalmers Martin,

"Imprecations in the Psalms," in Classical Evangelical Essays on Old 

Testament Interpretation, ed. Walter C. Kaiser (Grand Rapids: Baker Book

House, 1976), pp. 113ff; Charles F. Kent and Frank K. Sanders, ed., The 

Messages of the Bible, 12 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,

1904). Vol. 5: The Messages of the Psalmists, by John Edgar McFadyen,

p. 178; R.H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York:

Harper & Brothers, 1948), p. 638; Vos,"The Ethical Problem," p. 123;

"The Imprecatory Psalms," Presbyterian Quarterly Review 9 (April 1861):


times or more:1 Psalms 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 83, 109 and 137. These psalms

(with the possible exception of Psalm 137), because of their relatively

close adherence to the form-critical analysis of the individual lament,

as well as the common element of the severity of their imprecations, can

be considered a class of psalm literature--the sub-genre of the impreca-

tory laments.

            Both Martin and Mennenga say that we should speak only of "the

imprecations in the psalms"2 because they are so scattered in nature

(even throughout the entire Bible), but in order to consider the question

of this thesis a particular group of psalms is necessary (and easier) to

work with instead of a mass of unconnected verses.3

            The line of demarcation between these psalms and other psalms

with some or most of these elements, however, is the relative severity

of the imprecations contained within these eight psalms.4 We will thus

consider them a sub-type of the larger type of laments.


p. 575. Also: H. Osgood, "Dashing the Little Ones Against the Rock,"

Princeton Theological Review 1 (July 1903): 213; Edward A. Park, "The

Imprecatory Psalms Viewed in Light of the Southern Rebellion,"

Bibliotheca Sacra 19 (January 1862): 165.

            1Four times among these ten authors who come from extremely

diverse theological backgrounds.

            2Martin, "Imprecations," p. 113. Cf. Mennenga, "The Ethical

Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms," Th.M. thesis (Westminster Theological

Seminary, 1959), p. 4.

            3Table One shows the consistent adherence of these psalms to this

form-critical pattern.

            4Admittedly a subjective criterion, but there is a vast difference

between, e.g., Psalm 5.10 and 35.1-8 or between Psalm 10.12-15 and

55.5,15. This consideration and their common classification as impreca-

tory psalms help to decide the members of this sub-genre.


Definition of the imprecatory laments

            What, then, is the definition of an imprecatory lament? Wevers

tells us that there are three types of complaint psalms: (1) the psalmist

finds himself falsely accused and is thus protesting his innocence; (2)

the psalmist is seeking to cause the curses or actions of his enemies to

fall upon their own heads; (3) the psalmist is sick with an illness from

his enemies by means of magical curses or from the Lord as punishment

for his sin.1 Westermann says that the basic attitudes of man to God

must be the determining factor because they reflect the sitz im leben of

the psalm.2 Oehler says that these psalms relate to "the contradiction

existing between the moral worth of an individual and his external cir-

cumstances."3 Park defines them as those psalms which "contain a wish

or even willingness that moral agents be chastised or punished; and also

those which express gratitude for the past afflictive event, or even

submission to it."4 These definitions, however, all erect boundaries

that are too broad to refer only, or even principally, to our group of

psalms. On the basis of their general form and of their content within

that general form, we define them as laments (of the individual) which

contain within them imprecations of extraordinary degree--the destruc-

tion or annihilation of the enemies of the psalmist, as well as his own


            1Wevers, "A Study," p. 88.

            2Murphy, "A New Classification," p. 87.

            3Gustave Friedrich Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, rev.

ed., trans. George E. Day (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company,

n.d.), p. 558. This, however, could encompass all laments.

            4Park, "The Imprecatory Psalms," p. 165.


(possibly tacit) claim to a right standing before God.1


The problem of the imprecatory laments

            The problem that becomes apparent upon even a casual reading of

these psalms is the paradox between the curses rained down on the enemies

by the psalmist and his constant claim of righteousness, innocence, or

both.2 This is the problem which this thesis addresses: How can the

psalmist curse his enemies and still claim to be righteous? It is

obvious that the psalmist does this--what is his basis for doing it?

In order to answer this question Psalm 35 will be exegeted, which

exegesis constitutes the third chapter of this thesis.


            1This is a working definition and is open to change and revision

if that should prove necessary.

            2Cf. Psalm 35, imprecations: vv 4-6, 8, 19, 25-26; protestation of

innocence: vv 7aa, ba, 11-14, 27ab. Psalm 55, imprecations: vv 9a, 15; pro-

testation of innocence: vv 14, 20a, 22b. Psalm 58, imprecations: vv

protestation of innocence: v 10a(?). Psalm 59, imprecations: vv 11b-13a;

protestation of innocence: vv 3c,4aa. Psalm 69, imprecations: vv 22-28;

protestation of innocence: v 4. Psalm 109, imprecations: vv 6-15,

19-20; protestation of innocence: 2b, 3bb, 4aa, 4b.


                                  IMPRECATORY PSALMS



            There are as many different approaches to the problem of the

presence of the imprecatory psalms in the Bible as there are writers on

the subject. We will consider seven basic varieties of approaches which

have been or are being currently suggested by various writers.1


Imprecation as quotation

            Two older authors argue against this interpretation, which says

that the imprecations in the psalms are quotations by the psalmist of

the curses of his enemies against him.2 Hammond claims that Psalm

69.27-28 is a "probable quote because of verse twenty-six,"3 but this is

not necessary, and is only an isolated case. It seems that McFadyen is

correct when he says that this approach only serves to illustrate the

lengths gone to reach a desired conclusion.4 At any rate, this view is

not held as a viable option today.


Imprecation as prophecy

            A more common view of the imprecations is that they consist of


            lIt will be noted that several names arise under different

theories. Few men attempted to use only one theory to explain the pre-

sence of the imprecations. Most depended upon several in various com-

binations, perhaps realizing the truth of Eccl. 4.12b.

            2Hammond, "The Vindictive Psalms," p. 28; McFadyen, The Messages,

5: 176.

            3Hammond, ibid.                   
            4McFadyen, The Messages, 5: 176.




prophecy, not petition. Thus the moral problem disappears because the

psalmist only predicts the result of his enemies' sins against him; he

does not seek it. All of the Old Testament literary prophets do this

without hesitation and are not questioned. If this is the case in these

psalms, the imprecations become a moral force for good--a warning to sin-

ners to compel their repentance. Thus Oehler says that in the impreca-

tory psalms "the judgment of God is simply announced,"1  and DeWitt that

David here acts as a prophet--all men characterized by these sins must

and will be judged.2 Although he claims that there is "no reason for

the passion of the Psalmist here," McFadyen states that the ambiguity of

the Hebrew imperfect tense "allows them to be interpreted as predic-

tions,"3 and Davies says that the "imperfect is used in several of the

passages, and they cannot be made optatives without violence to the

text." Davies also says that they are not "wishes or prayers that such

calamities should overtake their enemies" (Cf. Psalm 137.8,9; Isaiah


            There are several problems with this view. First, even if they

are interpreted as predictions, most of the imprecations are not expli-

cable in this way because they consist of  "actual 'proper' prayers


            1Oehler, Theology, p. 558.

            2John DeWitt, The Psalms: A New Translation with Introductory 

Essay and Notes (New York: Anson D.F. Randolph, 1891), p. xvi. That

this is an historic view of the Christian Church can be seen in that

Augustine saw some of them as "prophecies or predictions of doom, not

prayer or petition for that doom." Philip Schaff, gen. ed., Nicene and 

Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 14 vols. (New York: Chris-

tian Literature Company, 1888), Vol. 3: Expositions of the Book of 

Psalms, by Augustine, p. 308.

            3McFadyen, Messages, p. 176.

            4W.W. Davies, "The Imprecatory Psalms," The Old and New Testa-

ment Student 14 (March 1892): 155.


addressed to God." Therefore this explanation is “contrary to the lan-

guage of the psalms themselves.”1 Second, even if certain passages are

rendered by the future, others, in the imperative, remain.2 Driver says

that the jussive is used "to express an entreaty or request. . . and in

particular blessings or imprecations,"3 and Gesenius adds that the opta-

tive is (commonly) a combination of the jussive with        .4  For these

reasons this explanation is rejected as inadequate. A more accurate

approach of this type is found in Delitzsch's commentary on the Psalms.

He explains that condemnation for eternity reflects the prophetic spirit5

which is (in the instance of Psalm 109) the Old Testament type being

raised beyond David to New Testament fulfillment in Judas Iscariot.6

Even if this were appropriate at some points it does not do justice to

the nature of the imprecations, because not every imprecation can be so



Imprecation as moral indignation

            This approach is a combination of two--the imprecations as moral

indignation and as personal desires for vindication. These both arise

from a certain perception of human nature and so are grouped together.


            1Vos, "The Ethical Problem," p. 126.

            2Edwards, "The Imprecations," p. 100 (e.g., Ps. 5.10; 9.21; 17.13;

55.9; 59.13; 69.23 as listed in Mennega, "The Ethical Problem," p. 30).

            3S.R. Driver, A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew, 2nd

ed. (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1881), p. 65.

            4Kautzsch, E., ed., Gesenius's Hebrew Grammar, 2nd ed., trans.

A.E. Cowley (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1910), p. 321.

            5Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 3 vols.,

(New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1867), 1:75.

            6Ibid., 3:177.


DeWitt expresses this viewpoint well, if somewhat wryly by saying, "If

the critics of the imprecations would have enemies like David, they might

not be so hard on him."1 Mickelsen calls the imprecations:

                        ...poetic expressions of individuals who were in-

                        censed at the tyranny of evil, yet whose attitude

                        towards retribution is so colored by their sense

                        of being wronged or of the blasphemy committed

                        that they speak out in language far removed from

                        the teaching that one should leave judgment to

                        God, or from Jesus' statements on the treatment

                        of enemies.2

C.S. Lewis's approach to the imprecations falls into this category--he

saw that "the reaction of the Psalmist to injury, though profoundly

natural, is profoundly wrong,"3 and thought that they arise from a con-

fusion on the part of the psalmist between his desire for justice and

desire for revenge.4 Hammond's comment on this approach--that its pro-

ponents tell us that the inspiration of these verses is limited to their

having been recorded in Scripture5--is also reflected in Lewis when he

tells us that we must not think that "because it comes in the Bible, all

this vindictive hatred must somehow be good and pious."6

            As Vos points out, the major problem with this approach is that

it teaches against the plenary inspiration of Scripture--it acknowledges


            1DeWitt, The Psalms, p. xi. Cf. W.O.E. Oesterley, The Psalms  

(London: S.P.C.K., 1953), p. 461: "His physical suffering excuses (to

some extent) the severity of these imprecations."

            2A. Berkeley Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible (Grand Rapids:

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), p. 643.

            3C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (London: Geoffrey Bles,

1958), p. 26

            4Ibid., p. 18.

            5Hammond, "The Vindictive Psalms," p. 38.

            6Lewis, Reflections, p. 22.


inspired recording of words, but not the inspiration of the thoughts and

emotions of the writers.1 This also makes the imprecations "totally the

product of human experience and feeling, not of divine inspiration."2

Another variety of this approach is that of Edwards, who says

that the emotions of indignation, compassion for the injured, and a

growing desire for justice arise in all men when they witness gross sin.3

These combine to cause men to seek the good of society in the destruc-

tion of the sinner.4 That this principle is one implanted within us by

our Creator is obvious because it is common to all men.5  Being implan-

ted, therefore, it is "as valid as any emotion we may have."6

            A criticism of Edwards's theory is that there is little place

for the dynamic presence of God. Neither is there any attempt to find a

resolution to this problem by means of exegesis; he bases his argument

on experience which he then universalizes.7 For these reasons this ap-

proach is inadequate.


Imprecation as cultural phenomena

            There are three aspects of this approach: the imprecations as

magical curses, as examples of sub-Christian morality, as Oriental hyper-



            1Vos, "The Ethical Problem," p. 128.

            2Ibid., p. 129.

            3Edwards, "The Imprecations," pp. 103f.

            4Ibid., pp. 105f.                                  5Ibid., p. 108.


            7That this universalization is a weak prop for his argument can

be seen in the reactions of men to any morally evil situation. Some men

are not indignant, some men are indignant but powerless (either inter-

nally or externally) to act, and some men fit his experience.


Imprecation as magical curse. Both Gunkel and Mowinckel claimed

that the imprecations in the psalms developed out of the pagan curses and

magical formulae of the countries around them.1 C.F. Kent says that the

imprecatory psalms are a survival of the ancient belief that a curse had

a certain potency in itself,2 and Oesterly tries to have it both ways by

saying that imprecations show the religious superstition of the day, but

that Psalm 109 is an example of a magical, and not religious, curse and

is therefore full of "exaggerated vindictiveness."3  The curses are an

attempt by the psalmist to "boomerang" the effect of something (the curse

of his enemies) instigated against him, thereby changing their thrust from

vengeance to escape and preservation.4

            As Robinson notes, however, the word "cursed" (rUrxA) does not

occur in the Psalter, and Pfeiffer says that there is "no reason" to

assume sorcerers using spells to attack the psalmist.5 When this theory

is compared with the warnings of Deuteronomy 18.9-13 and the time of

the composition of most of the imprecatory psalms (the early monarchy,

when true religion was strongest in Israel), an explanation more consis-

tent with the Scriptural evidence is necessary. When it is seen that


            1Mennega, "The Ethical Problem," pp. 9, 11.

            2Charles Foster Kent, The Student's Old Testament, 6 vols. (New

York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914). Vol. 5: The Songs, Hymns, and 

Prayers of the Old Testament, p. 238.

            3Oesterly, The Psalms, p. 460, cf. p. 457.

            4Theodore H. Robinson, The Poetry of the Old Testament (London:

Gerald Duckworth, 1969), pp. 139ff. Cf. also J. Pedersen, Israel: Its 

Life and Culture, 2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1926),

pp. 449ff for an excellent discussion of "curse" in the ancient Near East.

            5Robinson, The Poetry, pp. 139ff; Pfeiffer, Introduction, p. 639.


they are outpourings of the hearts of men to the true God, this explana-

tion totally loses its force--they knew that He was not one who could be

coerced by formula or incantation.

            Imprecation as sub-Christian morality. The second of these cul-

tural explanations sees the imprecations as pre-Christian and therefore

"sub-standard" morally. Oesterly says that Psalm 35, for example, shows

an underdeveloped view of God--a low religious standard, although he

notes that the psalmist calls on God rather than on his army or friends

for vengeance.3 The main thrust of this approach is true--that the Old

Testament is of a different time, far removed "temporally and spiritually

from the sphere of the New Testament."4 This is underscored by the

statement that "these imprecations. . . cannot be satisfactorily inter-

preted without grasping the idea that revelation has been gradual and

progressive...and therefore. . . the standard of morality has been gradually

but constantly advanced.”5    Being part of the Old Testament, they "should
be interpreted in accordance with this part of the Bible." The Old

Testament law ordered retribution, so they should not surprise us.6

The most ardent proponent of this type of approach, Rudolf

Kittel, says that these psalms are inferior things belonging to the


            1R.H. Pfeiffer, Introduction, p. 639.

            2Lehman, Old Testament, 1:440.

            3Oesterly, The Psalms, p. 218.

            4DeWitt, The Psalms, p. x.

            5Davies, "The Imprecatory Psalms," p. 158.

            6Lehman, Old Testament, p. 439.


past--to a primitive stage in the evolution of religious knowledge.1 It

is an offense against the Bible, he says, when their expressions are con-

doned,2 and “it is wrong to expect Christian religious and moral perfec-

tions from Israelites.”3

            As Edwards says, however, we cannot destroy the unity of the two

testaments because God is the author of them both. The imprecations

cannot, therefore, be reflections of mere pre-Christian morality now

abrogated by the teachings of the New Testament.4 We also must recognize

that the psalmists cannot be excused because they were not Christians.5

This view is a direct reflection of the evolutionary theory of the growth

of the Israelite religion as outlined by Julius Wellhausen: Judaism

underwent religious evolution; her sacred writings underwent the same

evolution; the imprecatory psalms are one example of this evolution in

the area of morality. This view, like the last, is insufficient because

of its theological base and lack of exegetical evidence.6

            Imprecation as Oriental hyperbole. The third cultural explana-


            1Rudolf Kittel, The Scientific Study of the Old Testament,

trans. J.D. Hughes (New York: Putnam's Sons, 1910), p. 143.

            2Ibid., p. 195.

            3Ibid., p. 285.

            4Edwards, "The Imprecations," p. 101.

            5Lewis, Reflections, p. 26 (cf. Lev. 19.17-18; Ex. 23.4-5;

Pr. 24.17).

            6Although some say that the standard of morality is higher in the

New Testament than in the Old, it is not true that the absolute stan-

dards of morality change. God is the Law-giver and He does not change.

His Law, therefore, although revealed in different ways at different

times, is absolute and non-evolutionary in either form or substance.


tion says that the imprecations are the product of the "intense hyber-

bolic nature of the Semites."1 Because “feeling of any kind was scarcely

thought of as genuine unless it was expressed exaggeratedly,”2 and since

this feeling was being expressed poetically,3 it is only natural to find

such shocking expressions as these in the Old Testament. This approach

says, in essence, that the imprecations are not as bad as they sound,

but they are writings of men who would get tired and then "explode from

exasperated exhaustion."4

            This puts the psalmist on a level slightly lower than any person

who is grumpy or edgy from too little sleep. It also overlooks the

literary nature of these compositions which were written, not in the

heat of anger of the moment, but after careful thought and reflection.5

It is also a rewording of the position of imprecation as moral indigna-

tion and is therefore subject to some of the same criticisms.


            1R.K. Gottwald, A Light to the Nations (New York: Harper and

Bros., 1959), p. 513. Cf. also "The Imprecatory Psalms," Presbyterian

Quarterly Review 9 (April 1861): 586.

            2DeWitt, The Psalms, p. xi.

            3J. Barton Payne, Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids:

Zondervan Publishing Company, 1962), p. 202.

            4Gottwald, A Light, p. 513.

            5That these psalms were probably not written at the time of the

events which they describe can be seen from the inscriptions of Psalms

56-60 (for example). It is doubtful that David would have been able to

feign the madness described in 1 Samuel 21.13-15 and write Psalm 56 at

the same time (cf Ps 56.1). It is possible that he wrote Psalm 57 while

hiding in the cave from Saul (cf Ps 57.1). David did not stay at his

house when he learned of the plot to murder him (cf Ps 58.1). Psalm 60

was probably not written during the campaign against the Arameans. This

is not meant to suggest when these psalms were written, but only to de-

monstrate that it is not possible to assign their composition to the time

of the events which they (albeit poetically) describe.


Imprecation as philosophy

            This approach to the imprecations attempts to explain the ethical

problem by saying that the imprecations are not directed toward any real

person. There are two varieties of this approach.

            The first variety is that of most of the Church Fathers, who saw

the enemies against whom the imprecations were written as either the

enemies of the psalmist or our own spiritual enemies.1 We are to under-

stand them as personifications of demonic powers, lusts, or temptations

which would ensnare us or conquer us to pull us from God. The psalmist

is not morally questionable because every Christian is to hate sin and

pray for its destruction. In Psalm 109.6 there is a clear demarcation

between the human and the demonic, and when Psalm 109.8-9 is coupled with

Acts 1.20 a personal being (Judas Iscariot) is clearly in view.2

            The second variety of this approach is that which says that

these psalms represent a philosophical wrestling with the problem of evil

in the world (Cf. the book of Job). Because they saw suffering and mis-

fortune as visible signs of the wrath of God, the psalmists knew that the

righteous should prosper and the wicked perish.3 Whereas Psalm 1

describes the "traditional view,"4 the imprecations are the philosophical

quests for the reason for the apparent contradiction.5 This view falls


            1Hammond, "The Vindictive Psalms," p. 35.

            2Vos, "The Ethical Problem," p. 127.

            3W.O.E. Oesterly, A Fresh Approach to the Psalms (London: Ivor

Nicholson and Watson, Ltd., 1937), p. 239.


            5Hammond, "The Vindictive Psalms," p. 186; Oesterly, A Fresh Ap-

proach, p. 241.


short of the needed explanation for the same reasons as the view of the

Fathers. These psalms do not seem to be the philosophical discussion of

an abstract topic. They are the agonized cries of men living in these

circumstances with enemies and haters seeking to slander their reputa-.

tion and destroy their honor or even their lives.

            We sense the close relationship between this approach and the

next when we consider that the next step in this philosophical process

would probably be for the psalmist to call upon God to exercise His rule

and judgment to destroy the wicked exactly as is happening here in the

imprecatory psalms. The reason that this approach is separated from the

following is that the following sees the enemies as personal agents

whereas this approach does not.


Imprecation as zeal

            The righteousness of God was an axiomatic truth which the psalm-

ists took for granted.1 The imprecatory psalms are to be seen as ex-

pressions of longing of Old Testament saints for the vindication of God's

righteousness.2 The demand for retribution was, therefore, a means of

ensuring the truth of their world view--that God "indeed worked in the

trials of men to punish the wicked and restore the righteous."3 The

psalmists demanded retribution in the present4 because they had no doc-

trine of a future life and consequently no concept of the final judgment.


            1Oesterly, A Fresh Approach, p. 223.

            2Martin, "Imprecations," p. 121.

            3Walter Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, vol. 1, trans.

J.A. Baker (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), p. 180.

            4 R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids:

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969), p. 1000.


This is seen in Israel's laws, which were based on a system of temporal

rewards and punishments--the highest (most severe) penalty being death.1

The convergence of these factors--the righteousness of God, the impossi-

bility of an ultimate judgment after death, the failure of events to

"harmonize with the postulate of the doctrine of retribution" (i.e., that

God would punish the wicked and prosper the righteous)2--leads to the

conclusion that the Jews were "bound to pray for those specific temporal

punishments which were the sanctions of the Old Testament law."3

            Every Jew saw this as a moral obligation because if the wicked

were to defeat God's people, God Himself is defeated.4 The psalmists are

seeking the honor of God's kingdom5 and the vindication of His name in

the sight of the peoples and the nations. The imprecations are the cries

of the psalmists for God to vindicate His nature and name, which vindi-

cation "may involve as a corollary the vindication of the individual


            This approach has much that is commendable--among other things it

recognizes the enemies as personal agents, it deals directly with the

moral problem and works it out to a straightforward solution. Yet, if it

is correct, does it not make the psalms containing imprecations--or at


            1Hammond, "The Vindictive Psalms," pp. 112ff. (Contrast this with

the promise of "length of days" as reward for obedience and righteous-

ness. E.g., Dt. 30.20; Ps. 21.4; Pr. 3.2). Cf. also Lehman, Old Tes-

tament, p. 439.

            2Oehler, Theology, p. 556.

            3Hammond, "The Vindictive Psalms," p. 198.

            4McFadyen, The Messages, p. 178.

            5Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:418.

            6Payne, Theology, p. 202.


least the imprecations themselves--inapplicable for the Christian?

Having the doctrine of final judgment, of ultimate retribution or reward,

as well as the example and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, can we

any longer consider them to be “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting

and training in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3.16b)? Does this not ulti-

mately yield to the approach which says that the imprecations are the

result of a sub-Christian morality--that we, with the more refined

teachings of the New Testament, can ignore these verses as inapplicable

to us today? For these reasons this view is deficient in its explanation

of the imprecations in the psalms.


Imprecation as ethics of the consummation

            Within this final and major approach are included three views of

the imprecatory psalms which, considered as aspects of one approach, are

complementary rather than contradictory or conflicting.

            Imprecation as identification. The first of these is closely

related to the last view examined (imprecation as zeal). David, being

conscious of his identity as the chosen (anointed) of God, saw that sin

perpetrated against him was done against Christ as well.1 Because he

thought of himself as being "in Christ," David cried out for vengeance as

the souls in Revelation cry out for vengeance.2 David, seeing himself as

representing Christ, counted his enemies as God's enemies;3 thus the


            1Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:177.

            2Cornelius Van Til, "Christian Theistic Ethics," (Class syllabus,

Westminster Theological Seminary, 1952), p. 85. "They love what Christ

loves and hate what Christ hates."

            3”The Imprecatory Psalms,” pp. 577ff. This conclusion is based

on the following points: (1) mingling of piety with maledictions, (2)

the psalmist usually refers to the wicked in general, not as personal

enemies (e.g., the honor of God and the good of men is sought, not personal


imprecatory psalms express the “awful conditions and deserved rewards of

the incorrigible enemies of Christ and His Kingdom.”1 The psalmist may

be seen, therefore, as a type of Christ, "imprecating the impenitent

from among his enemies."2

            Imprecation as representation. This identity carries over into

a larger sphere when David is seen, not only as a private person, but,

because he is the king of the earthly visible aspect of the Kingdom of

God, as the representative of God's people.3 The psalmist identifies his

enemies with the enemies of God. As such he identifies the course of

Israel with the course of the side of righteousness and justice, as sym-

bolic of the great unending conflict.4 This is an important step be-

cause the psalmist can now call on God to do that which He has promised

to do concerning sin.5 That this is true can be seen by the many impre-

cations which can also be found as statements of fact in other psalms.6


revenge), (3) David had authority and power over his enemies (Cf. 1 Sa.

24.1-7; 26.6-12)--he was king, (4) several of these psalms are Messianic,

thus David is speaking about Christ, (5) cf. the imprecations of Jeremiah

(18.21ff) and Paul (2 Ti., 4.14).

            1A. C. Douglass, "The Ethics of the Psalms," in The Psalms in Wor-

ship, ed. John McNaugher (Pittsburgh: The United Presbyterian Board of

Publication, 1907), p. 283.

            2Moira Dearnley, "Expressions That Seem Contrary to Christ,"

Theology 73 (April 1970): 164. As Davies, "The Imprecatory Psalms," p.

156, "These prayers for judgment upon enemies are in entire harmony with

Ps. 2.9."

            3Martin, "Imprecations," p. 124.

            4Lehman, Old Testament, p. 439.

            5Howard Osgood, "Dashing the Little Ones," p. 37. He notes that

this is not inconsistent with God's character because of such references

as Isaiah 11.4; Matthew 24.41; Galatians 5.12; Hebrews 10.28ff.

            6Martin, “Imprecations,” p. 189. (Cf. Ps. 35.5 with Ps. 1.4;
Ps. 58.6 with Ps. 3.7; Ps. 35.8 with Ps. 9.15p  Ps. 35.26 with Ps. 6.10). Cf.
also Mennega, "The Ethical Problem," pp. 64ff, 70ff, 75ff.


The people pray, in times of trouble, that God will accomplish His vows

of protection. Thus, the psalmist is not initiating a curse, but merely

praying for the fulfillment of a promise.1 The imprecations are "govern-

mental psalms; staid, regular, reverential invocations upon the Monarch

to wield his own scepter."2

            Thus we see that identification with Christ can lead to impreca-

tion as can the identification of one's enemies with the enemies of God.

Ultimately, however, this explanation is victim to the same criticism as

the approach above entitled "imprecation as zeal." There is posited a

gap between the testaments which is unable to be bridged.

            Imprecation as Kingdom ethics. After examining this view we will

see why the two aspects of imprecation as identification are to be con-

sidered parts of this final approach.

            Intrusion ethics are the "anticipation in the present age of the

ultimate realities of the consummation in the age to come."3 This is to

say that at various times it has been not only proper, but morally neces-

sary to use a "pattern of conduct which conforms to the ethics of the

consummation." We are confronted with such an occasion in the impreca-

tory psalms.4

            Kline's view seems to flow directly from the theistic ethics of


            1Mennega, "The Ethical Problem," pp. 63, 66.

            2James A. Reed, "The Imprecatory Psalms," in The Psalms in Wor-

ship, ed. John McNaugher (Pittsburgh: The United Presbyterian Board of

Publication, 1907), p. 319.

            3Kline, The Structure, p. 160.

            4Ibid., pp. 162ff. Some other examples of "intrusion ethics"

listed by Kline are: the annihilation of the Canaanites, Rahab's lie,

the Hebrew midwives (Ex. 1), and Samuel's deception of Saul.


Cornelius Van Til, so a brief presentation of his thought concerning the

biblical summum bonum is appropriate here.

            (1) The ethical ideal is an absolute.

            (2) The kingdom of God--the ethical ideal is a gift of God.

            (3) Destroying the works of the evil one is an important

                  part of attaining the summum bonum (kingdom of God).

            (4) Because the evil one's works continue until the consum-

                  mation, the ideal or absolute summum bonum will never

                  be reached on earth.1

The important portion of this analysis is (3) Part of the ethical

ideal of man is destroying the works of the evil one, which is the nega-

tive but unavoidable task of every Christian.2 Seen in this light, even

the Lord's Prayer seeks the destruction of the wicked when we pray "Thy

kingdom come" because His kingdom cannot come without the destruction of

the works and systems of the kingdom of Satan.3 Delitzsch states even

more strongly that because we desire the advance of the kingdom of God we

can desire the destruction of those who oppose it.4 The psalmists, thus,

pray for that which they know will be true at the consummation.

            This view has the force of its several parts because it is pre-

cisely the identification of his enemies with the enemies of God and His

kingdom that allows the psalmist to pray as he does in this consummatory

manner. These psalms become the product of a special revelation to their

authors who thereby knew that it was proper for them to pray as it may

not be proper for us as Christians to pray.


            1Van Til, "Ethics," pp. 73ff.

            2Ibid., p. 82. We begin by destroying evil within ourselves

(i.e., sanctification), then within the theocracy, then within the

world; p. 86.

            3Vos, "The Ethical Problem," p. 138.

            4Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:74.


            Therein lies the major problem with this approach to the impreca-

tions: Can something be wrong and yet right? Do ethical standards given

as absolutes change because revelation progresses? How are we to tell

what is intrusion ethics and what is not? Is there any authority for

this interpretation or is it a pattern to be fitted to whatever we can-

not explain? It seems that these questions show up the inadequacies of

this view.

            Having examined these basic approaches to the ethical problem of

the imprecatory psalms, we turn to the burden of this thesis which is

inextricably bound up with this whole question. The means by which

righteousness and imprecation are compatible are at the same time the

means by which the ethical problem of the psalms is answered. Rather

than base our discussion on purely (or mainly) philosophical and theolo-

gical considerations, we will examine the texts of a psalm in which the

crux of this problem is most clearly seen. In order to do this we will

briefly examine the Psalter form-critically in order to select those

psalms which are in the sub-genre with which we are concerned and then

exegete particular passages as appropriate.

                            III. A STUDY OF PSALM 35

                      The Basis For The Selection of a Text


The Reason for Selecting a Text

            In order to approach this "problem of the imprecatory laments"

exegetically, it is necessary to select a particular passage on which to

center the study. Psalm 35 has been selected for three reasons: (1) it

is an imprecatory lament, (2) it is a crux passage for this question,

(3) it is the clearest example of the proposed solution.


Psalm 35: An Imprecatory Lament

            That Psalm 35 is an example of the sub-genre of the imprecatory

lament is seen from a brief form-critical analysis of its components.

Psalm 35 contains every element of a lament as advanced by various men

except the certainty of hearing (which may be present implicitly).

            The vocative is used by the psalmist in verses 1, 22, and 24 with

hvAhy;, in verses 17, 22, 23 with ynadoxE and in verses 23 and 24 with

Myhilox<;. The complaint is developed elaborately (vv. lab-b, 3ab, 4ab, 4bb,

7, 11-12, 15-16, 17bb, 19, 21, 25-26) as is the prayer (vv. 4-6, 8, 19, 25-26).

The confidence motif (vv. 9-10), vow to praise (v. 18), paying of pro-

mised vows (vv. 17-18; cf. Ps. 22.20-22) and singing of praise in the

congregation (vv. 27-28) are also present. The special distinguishing

feature of the imprecatory laments--the protestation of innocence--is in

Psalm 35 also (vv. 7aa, ba, 11-14, 27ab). On the basis of these particulars

this Psalm is an imprecatory lament. That the imprecations are unusually

severe can be seen by a brief reading of verses 4-6, 19, 24b-26.



Psalm 35: A Crux Passage

            Psalm 35 is a crux passage for this question for several reasons.

It is an imprecatory lament. It contains fearful imprecations (e.g., the

opposition of the angel of the Lord, destruction, shame, humiliation and

dishonor). His own innocence and righteousness are consistently main-

tained by the psalmist (vv. 7,19,27a). For these Psalm 35 has been cho-

sen for exegesis to answer the burden of this thesis.

Psalm 35: Clear to Unclear

            A generally accepted principle of hermeneutics is that our under-

standing of the clear passages of Scripture is to be the basis on which

we interpret the unclear passages. As will be shown below, Psalm 35 is a

clear passage with regard to this question. On the basis of our under-

standing of its truths we can interpret some other Scriptures related to

the problem of the imprecatory laments.

            For These three reasons Psalm 35 has been selected as the text

for exegesis after consideration of some introductory matters and will be

the basis of the proposed solution to the question of this thesis.


                                  Introduction to Psalm 35

Authorship of Psalm 35

            In order to understand the psalm, it is helpful to be able to

identify the author of the psalm. Psalm 35 is one of 122 psalms with

titles indicating authorship (Ps. 35.1—dvidAl;. The answer to the ques-

tion of authorship depends therefore on the view taken regarding the

psalm titles. This writer accepts the titles of the psalms as part of

the original text,1 and therefore inspired. The author of Psalm 35 is

            1 This is discussed briefly in an Appendix at the end of this thesis.


David, and it is within the range and experience of his life that we may

try to discover its setting.


Setting of Psalm 35

            It is often alleged, by those who accept Davidic authorship of

this psalm, that David was referring to 1 Samuel 24.15-16 when he wrote

Psalm 35.1 This is based on the similarity of language between the two

passages.2 The content of the psalm is also said to suit David's experi-

ence at the time. Doeg and others of Saul's servants were certainly men

of low enough moral character to slander David for their own advancement.3

The contents of Psalm 35 could also reflect David's situation in

2 Samuel 16ff--the revolt of Absalom his son. Ahithophel, David's chief

advisor (2 Sam. 15.12) joined the revolt, as did many men of the nation

(2 Sam. 15.10-13). David was betrayed by those whom he had befriended.

            Since there is no clear statement in either the title4 or the

body of the psalm, the assignment of a specific historical context to it

is not possible. It was definitely written by David at or about one of

several periods of persecution which he endured. Probably it was written

during Saul's persecution of David, but we cannot be dogmatic. Although

we will mention David as the author, therefore, reference to either a

particular historical situation or person(s) will not be made.


            1J.J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zonder-

van Publishing Company, 1976), p. 301; Joseph Addison Alexander, The 

Psalms Translated and Explained (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977),

p. 149; Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:416.

            2Cf. FpawA with the Lord as subject (1 Sam. 24.16; Ps. 35.24),

with the lord as subject (2 Sam. 24.16; Ps. 35.1), ybiyri used of David

(1 Sam. 24.16; Ps. 35.23).

            3Cf. 1 Sam. 21.7-22.19.

            4As there is in, e.g., Pss. 51, 52, 54, 56, 57.

                           A Literal Translation of Psalm 35

1  Belonging to David, as author:

    Contend, O Lord, with my contenders;

    Fight with my fighters.

2  Seize a shield and a large shield

    And standup in my help.

3  And draw out a spear

    And stop up (the way) against my pursuers;

     Say to my soul, "Your salvation am I."

4  Let them be ashamed and humiliated--the ones seeking my soul;

    Let them move away behind and be abashed--those desiring my hurt.

5  Let them be as chaff before the wind,

    And the angel of the Lord thrusting (them);

6  Let their path be dark and slippery,

    And the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

7  For without cause they hid for me (in) a pit their net;

    Without cause they dug for my soul.

8  Let destruction come upon him unawares;

    And his net which he hid, let it capture him:

    With destruction let him fall into it.

9  And my soul will rejoice in the Lord,

    And it will exult in His salvation:

10 All my bones shall say, "Lord, who is like You,

    Who delivers the afflicted from the one who is stronger than him,

    And the afflicted and the needy from him who tears him away?"


11 Malicious witnesses shall rise;

     That which I do not know they ask me.

12 They repay me evil after good;

     Desolation (is) for my soul.

13 And I? In their sickness my clothing (was) sackcloth;

      I bowed down my soul with fasting;

     And my prayer--it returned unto my bosom.

14 Like a neighbor, like a brother to me I went about;

     As a mourner for a mother--dressed in black I was bowed down.

15 But at my Stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves together;

     Smiters gathered themselves together against me and I did not know;

     They tore and were not silent

16 With godless mockers (for) a cake; gnashing against me their teeth.

17 Lord! How long will You watch?

     Cause my soul to turn back from their ravages;

     From lions my only one.

18 I will praise You in a great congregation;

     With a mighty people I will praise You.



19 Do not let my false haters rejoice at me;

    My haters without cause--do not let them wink an eye

20 Because they do not speak peace

     And against restful ones of a land words of deceit they conspire.

21 And they made their mouths large against me:

    They said, "Aha! Aha! Our eyes have seen!"

22 You have seen it, Lord, do not be dumb;

     Lord, do not be far from me.

23 Rouse Yourself and awake for my judgment;

     My God and my Lord (Master) for my lawsuit.

24 Judge me according to Your righteousness, O Lord my God,

     And do not let them rejoice at me.

25 Do not let them say in their hearts, "Aha! Our soul!"

      Do not let them say, "We have swallowed him up!"

26 Let them be ashamed and abashed altogether--the ones seeking my evil;

     Let them be clothed (with) shame and ignominy--the ones who are making

            themselves great against me.

27 Let them give a ringing cry and rejoice--who delight (in) my


     And let them say continually, "The Lord be exalted (Who) delights (in)

            the peace of His servant."

28 And my tongue shall meditate aloud on Thy righteousness;

     All the day it shall praise You.


                                Exegesis of Psalm 35

Strophe I: Verses 1 - 10

Verses 1-3

            1          Belonging to David, as author:

                        Contend, O Lord, with my contenders;

                        Fight with my fighters.

            2          Seize a shield and a large shield

                        And stand up in my help.

            3          And draw out a spear

                        And stop up (the way) against my pursuers;

                        Say to my soul, "Your salvation am I."


            In verse one of Psalm 35, David calls upon the Lord to strive or

contend with his contenders.1 The verb byri is commonly used of a court

process,2 and here the Lord is summoned as David's vindicator in court.

byri is used as a noun for a lawsuit or court contention3 and as a verb

of the contention or conducting of a legal case.4 Since this is the first

word of the psalm it is a clue to the character and theme of the psalm

as a whole. David is going to set forth his lament (and its imprecations)

under the poetic imagery of a court of law.  MHal;, is qal in a verb which

is usually niphal, perhaps to express the simplicity of the psalmist's

basic request. In both clauses the meaning is not affected if we take txe


            1Wevers, "A Study," p. 87, suggests that the invocation of the

divine name guarantees the effectiveness of the prayer (Cf. vv. 9,10, but

particularly 1,22,24).

            2C.A. and E.G. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on 

the Book of Psalms, in International Critical Commentary (London: T. & T.

Clark, 1907-07), p. 302. Cf. Perowne, Psalms, p. 307. Their interpre-

tation that this is a decision by force of arms is based on the military

terminology in vv. 1-3. It does not, however, seem to take the context

of the entire psalm into account.

            3Cf. Ex. 23.2, 3, 6; 2 Sam. 15.2, 4; Ho. 4.1; Mi. 6.2.

            4Cf. Is. 3.13; 57.16; Ps. 103.9; Am. 7.4.




as either the sign of the accusative1 or the preposition.2 The sense of

the verse is an application of the lex talionis (repayment in accord with

their sins). David uses byri in parallel with MHalA and the picture of

the warrior-hero to emphasize the ferocity of the struggle, not to change

the image of the psalm.3

            The weaponry of the Lord as heroic warrior4 is described as only

David, the great warrior-king of Israel, could describe it. He asks the

Lord first to defend him. Both the NgemA (a small shield for the cavalry)

and hn.Aci (a large shield for the infantry) were primarily defensive wea-

pons.5 Since they both were shields used by different branches of the

military, it is obvious that David is not picturing an ordinary warrior.

He is using this hyperbole to emphasize his need for total protection.

Having armed himself, the Lord is to stand up for David's help.

This use of the beth essentiae6 is referring to the Lord's appearance


            1Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:419. The Septuagint (LXX), by not trans-

lating it, seems to understand this as the sign of the accusative.

            2Perowne, Psalms, p. 307; Cf. Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver,

and Charles Augustus Briggs, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old 

Testament, s.v. “txe.” It is "often with verbs of fighting, striving, con-

tending" as a preposition (Gn. 14.2, 8; Nu. 20.13; Is. 45.9a; Pr. 23.11).

This resolves the alleged "conflicting metaphors" advanced to

deny the identification of this psalm as a lawsuit. Cf. Herbert Leupold,

An Exposition of the Psalms (Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1959), p. 285;

A.F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, 3 vols., The Cambridge Bible for

Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: The University Press, 1903), p. 176; J.W.

McKay and J.W. Rogerson, Psalms 1-50, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on

the New English Bible (New York: Cambridge Press, 1977), pp. 160f.

            4Cf. Ex. 15.3; Dt. 32.41; Ps. 24.9.

            5John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 5 vols., trans.

J. Andersen (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963),

1:576n. Cf. 1:64 for offensive qualities of

            6Delitzsch, Psalms, 1;420.


"in the capacity" of my help.1 The Lord is thus more than David's

helper; He is David's help.

            Having described the strength and surety of his defenses, David

now calls for primarily offensive weapons. The Lord is to draw his spear

and close up the path of pursuit against his pursuers. Since rUgs; is

qal imperative of RgasA ("close, shut up") we supply the word "path" or

"way" as its object2 and txraq;li is used as preposition ("toward,

against").3 This interpretation is supported by the LXX which reads

su<gkleison e]c e]nanti<aj . . . Su<gkleison, aorist imperative of suglkei<w,

means "to close up, hem in, surround or imprison." The passages where it

has this meaning are battle contexts in the Old Testament, so we see that

David employs vocabulary that matches the seriousness of his situation.

The pursuit is to be stopped. David is defended against injury by the

shields of the Lord, but defense alone is not enough.

            The second half of verse three is a plea for assurance. David

again uses the imperative to explain that which he desires from the Lord,

only this is a personal request following the military images in the

beginning. The Lord has already been called David's help; now he wants

reassurance that He is his salvation as well.4 This is simply a guaran-

tee that help will be effectual.


            1Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 379.

            2This is a simple ellipse of the object of the imperative. Cf.

Perowne, Psalms, p. 307.

            3Cf. 2 Sa. 10.9,10,17; Nu. 21.23; Jg. 7.24; 20.31.

            4rwayA need not imply spiritual salvation, although the assurance

 of one may be assign of the other (i.e., having confidence in the Lord

that He will indeed deliver one from danger may be a sign of true faith

in the heart of an individual).


Verses 4-8

            4          Let them be ashamed and humiliated--the ones seeking my soul;

                        Let them move away behind and be abashed--those desiring my hurt.

            5          Let them be as chaff before the wind,

                        And the angel of the Lord thrusting (them);

            6          Let, their path be dark and slippery,

                        And the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

            7          For without cause they hid for me (in) a pit their net;

                        Without cause they dug for my soul.

            8          Let destruction come upon him unawares;

                        And his net which he hid, let it capture him:

                        With destruction let him fall into it.

            In these verses David calls for judgment upon his enemies in the

form of the lex talionis and protests his own innocence. Although he has

asked for action on the Lord's part, verse four is the first indication

of the effect that he wants the Lord's intervention to have on his ene-

mies. They are to be ashamed (Uwboye), humiliated (Uml;KAyi), turned back

(tHaxa Ugsoyi) and abashed (yrip;H;ya). This upheaval is the first of a

series of imprecations in this psalm.1  wOB has the concept, not of the

emotion of shames, but more of the fact of shame. Shame is the overthrow

of one's position, place, pride or plans so that all of one's former ad-

vantages are annulled. He prays this prayer, according to Seebass, "not

out of revenge. . ." but that the falsehood with which his enemies view his

relationship to God may be manifest in their own lives and that their

lives may be bereft of that relationship.2 He again asks that they be

repaid in kind for their treatment of him. In spite of the seriousness

of these desires they are less severe than the desires of his enemies to

slander and confuse him. His enemies are seeking his soul (ywip;na) and

this verse, as a synthetic parallelism, goes on to explain that the

            1Cf. vv. 5-6,8,19-21, 24b-26.

            2Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, revised ed., s.v.

"wOB," by Horst Seebass (Hereafter TDOT).


seeking for his soul entailed at least the thinking of evil thoughts

about him. His prayer for their defeat, therefore, is a prayer for phy-

sical (rgos;, v. 3) and mental (v. 4) defeat. He is still remaining with-

in the bounds of the lex talionis.

            In verse five David's imprecation turns to the essence of his

enemies' being—their dObKA. Although dObKA does not appear in this

verse, the concept of a man's glory, honor or weight (all possible trans-

lations of dObKA) being removed so that he becomes light is a familiar

one (Cf. Ps. 1.4).1 Their dismay and defeat outlined in verse four is

intensified in verse five.

            Now, for the second time, the phrase hvAhy; j`xal;ma appears. Who is

this person, mentioned twice in this psalm? j`xal;ma shares with the Greek

a@ggeloj (used here in the LXX) the primary meaning of messenger,2 which

is extended when referring to the super-human messengers of God--the an-

gels--3 and even to the special angel known as "the angel of the Lord."4


            1Although I disagree with Pedersen's view of the imprecation as

magic formulae, his point that the curse "eats away at the dObKA the

soul of one who was honored" is valid. Pedersen, Israel, 2:452. To be-

come like chaff is to have no weight or metaphorically, no honor or glory

of one's own. Cf. Ps. 1 where the wicked, as chaff, have no place in

the judgment.

            2Cf. Gn. 32.4; Dt. 2.26; Jg. 6.35; Is. 14.32.

            3Cf. Gn. 19.1,15; 32.2; 2 Sa. 14.17,20; Ps. 91.11; 103.20.

            4Since this phrase is used to refer to what are commonly regarded

as pre-incarnate appearances of our Lord Jesus, it is important to under-

stand the meaning of the phrase in these verses. Briggs, Commentary, p.

303, sees this as an angel of the Lord and specifically states that this

is "not the theophanic angel of the ancient tradition. . . but the angel

whom Yahweh had given charge over Israel." Perowne, Psalms, p. 302, thinks

that no particular angel is in view, but Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:421,

says that this is the angel "who took off Pharaoh's chariot wheels so

that they drove them heavily." The evidence of Scripture favors under-

standing this as an angel of the Lord because we do not see the angel of

the Lord elsewhere being the agent of personal revenge. For these reasons

this angel is any one of his host whom God might choose.



Although some think the figure of hH,Do inappropriate and feel

that verses 5b and 6b should be transposed to better suit the meaning,1

this is not necessary for a clear and proper understanding of the text.2

As the wind pushes chaff, so they are to be pushed and thrust by the

angel of the Lord. (Although we will continue to refer to the angel of the

Lord, this is the angel referred to in this psalm; the term is not being

used in its technical sense.)

            Verse six intensifies the horror of their plight, both by grammar

and language. As Calvin notes, David expresses

                        . . . his prayer of verse five more clearly in verse

                        six, praying that the angel of the Lord would drive

                        them through dark and slippery places, so that reason

                        and understanding might fail them, and that they not

                        know whither to go, nor what to become, nor have

                        even time given them to draw their breath.3

David intensiies his prayer of verse five as well--thrusting or pushing

is a single acition, but pursuit (JdarA) is a continual action which has

an end in view beyond itself.4 David thus emphasizes by the use of JdarA  

and the intensive form tOqla q;laHE (for tOqlAHE)5 the precarious nature of

their position, which is his desire for them. Not only are they to be

pursued along a slippery path but the way is to be in darkness as well.

David again uses a noun to emphasize the concrete nature of the disaster


            1Briggs, Commentary, pp. 303f; Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 421;

Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 178.

            2Even a translation so free with the text as the New English 

Bible does not change the order of this text.

            3Calvin, Commentary, 1:578.

            4I.e., the pursuit is the emphasized part of the action, but the

end of the chase, the final battle or stand-off, is also in view.

            5Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:421.


which he desires for them.1 This is the darkness of the ninth plague of

Egypt (Ex. 10.21-23), the destruction or complete covering of all light,

which is used here perhaps symbolically of confusion--lack of guidance or

direction. David has called upon the Lord to judge his enemies with in-

creasing severity in these verses and now turns to plead his own cause

before the Lord--asserting his innocence and the causeless antagonism

of his foes.

            Verses 7 - 8 contain the first lament section of this psalm.2

Twice in verse seven David claims that everything done to him was Mn.AHi,

or without cause or reason. He had done nothing to deserve their actions

toward him either in his actions or his words. They were acting out of

self-motivated spite and malice, not legal retaliation for wrongs done

(Contrast this with David's own prayer of verse one.).      yKi at the

beginning of this verse tells us that it contains the reason for his im-

precations; this is the first set of accusations as he bears testimony

against his foes.

            He tells the Lord that they had hidden3 a pit of their net (or

with their net or for their net), and were seeking after his soul (or

life). There is no need to transpose tHawa to the following line4 because

the net could be hidden within the pit, or used with it in some way to


            1See j`tefAwuy;, v. 3b, above.

            2Verses 1-3 are an implicit lament (see ybayriy;, etc., as repre-

senting his foes and their antagonism), but these verses are true laments.

            3For the ability of the Hebrew perfect to be represented by

English perfect or pluperfect see Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 125n.

            4Contra: Briggs, Commentary, p. 304; Delitzsch, Psalms, 1.422;

Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 178; Perowne, Psalms, p. 308 (As Perowne notes,

the versions support the Masoretic Text).


snare or entrap him; it could even be a net-pit, as Leupold suggests.1

Verse 7b is parallel with 7a in that it explains the trap as one which

will aid the search for David's soul. rpaHAcan have the meaning "to

search for" and is used this way in terms of military spies searching out

the land,2 as well as of an eagle's search for food.3 His foes are

searching for his soul (ywip;nal;) and using every means possible (Cf. the

pit and the net) to find and trap him. This again, as in verses 1-3,

indicates the danger in which David portrays himself and is not neces-

sarily a literal picture. Verse seven, therefore, describes the means by

which the enemis hope to accomplish their evil ends, the gratuitous

nature of their hate, and David's own claim of righteousness.

            Verse eight concludes the first set of imprecations with the wish

for destruction and one-for-one recompense for their traps for David.

That hxAUw is a stronger word than "confusion"4 can be seen from some of

its other uses in the Old Testament. Isaiah 47.11 seems to be related to

this verse5 and uses three words in a synthetic parallelism that builds

throughout the verse from hfArA (evil, calamity) and hvAho (ruin, disaster)

to hxAUw, showing the suddenness and terrible nature of the destruction

which was to be wreaked upon Babylon. Zephaniah 1.15 is another verse

with several words paralleling hxAUw. Speaking of the great day of the

Lord, Zephaniah calls it a day of hbAb;f, (wrath, fury), of hrAcA (distress,

travail) and hqAUcm; (straits, stress), of hxAUw (used here) and hxAUwm;


            1Leupold, An Exposition, p. 291. His next statement, that tHawa  

is to be understood as the object of rpaHA in line 7b is not necessary.

            2Cf. Dt. 1.22; Jos. 2.2,3.                   3Cf. Jb. 39.29.

            4Calvin, Commentary, 1:580.

            5Briggs, Commentary, p. 304 calls this a "condensation."


(destruction, desolation). To say that hxAvw means only "confusion" is

euphemism.1 David is praying for the death of his enemies.2 This desire,

without the New Testament knowledge of the after-life, is the ultimate

judgment upon any man. David asks that this destruction come upon his

enemies without their knowledge (fdAye-xlo is an adverbial phrase, with an

ellipsis of rw,xE).3

            David then asks for the just recompense of his enemies' sins--

that which they were trying to do to him should be done to them. The

net which they had concealed in verse seven will capture them. Here is

another word reminiscent of David's warfaring background. dkalA is used

of something captured in war (often a town or city).4 It is used five

times of entrapping men.5 This helps to see the weight of the word; this

is a violent capture which David seeks, not a slight discomfiture.

            The last phrase of this verse again voices the same desire, but

from a different point of view. In verse 8a was destruction coming upon

David's foes. Here they are to fall into it--they are the active agents

instead of the destruction. There is some question regarding the cor-

rectness of this text. Kittel suggests that hxUw should read rHAOw.Ba.6

giving the enemies something into which to fall and using both images of


            1For further examples, cf. Is. 10.3; Pr. 1.27; 3.25.

            2hxAOw is also used to describe the resultant waste or ruins from

such destruction in Job 30.3,14; 38.27. This is the judgment for which

David prays.

            3Perowne, Psalms, p. 308.

            4Cf. Dt. 2.35; 3.4; Jos. 11.12,17; Jg. 1.8,12,18; 7.24.

            5Jer. 5.26; 18.22; Ps. 35.8; Jb. 5.13.

            6Rudolf Kittel, ed., Biblia Hebraica, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart:

Wurtemburgische Bibelanstalt, 1937), p. 1003n.



verse seven. What did David mean in this phrase?

            Delitzsch sees this as an example of the basic meaning of hxAOw

as the loud noise or rumbling with which the wicked will fall into his

pit.1 Some say this is another instance of the recurring error of these

verses2 (This conclusion is hardly necessary, however.). The desire to

reorganize the text should be restrained unless there is no possible

interpretation of the passage which makes sense. In this phrase there is

such an interpretation. If we understand the net to be somehow used in

conjunction with the pit, the verse could be translated:

                        Let destruction come upon him unawares;3

                        And his net which he hid, let it capture him:

                        With destruction let him fall into it.

David's foe is captured by falling into his net to his own destruction.

David's desire is the destruction or incapacitation of his foes.

            The translation given above raises another question about verse

eight: Why is there a change from the plural (enemies) of the first seven

verses to the singular of verse eight? This may be understood as either

a collective treatment of the group4 or the individualization of each of

his foes5 without affecting the meaning of the text, but, in keeping with

the plurals in the rest of the psalm, it is probably a collective plural.

As he began verse one with the lex talionis, so David ends verse eight.


            1Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:422.

            2Briggs, Commentary, p. 304; Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 178; Perowne,

Psalms, p. 308. The alleged error is the mis-positioning of tH,w,.

            3Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 490.

            4Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:422.

            5Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 178.



Verses 9-10

            9  And my soul will rejoice in the Lord,

                And it will exult in His salvation:

            10 All my bones shall say, "Lord, who is like You,

                 Who delivers the afflicted from the one who is stronger

                        than him,

                 And the afflicted and the needy from him who tears him away?"


            Until verse nine there is little of positive note in this psalm.

With the exception of verse 3b David has been accusing his adversaries,

pleading his own innocence and calling for the execution of righteousness.

In verse nine, however, the mood of the psalm lifts and we find David

rejoicing in the Person of God--in both Who He is and what He does. What

caused this dramatic change in David's outlook and language?

            One theory seeks to explain this phenomenon by naturalistic means

by saying that the imprecations are actually part of a cursing ritual in

the temple which, after the petitioner had made his desire for vengeance

known to the priest, was followed by a sign or statement that guaranteed

the petitioner his desire.1 Thus reassured, he could rejoice and praise

the Lord for answering his prayer(s).

            There is, however, another explanation which is in accord with

the Scriptural evidence. David has nowhere expressed doubt concerning

the Lord's ability to answer his prayers, and this outburst of praise in

verses 9 and 10 is the expression of his confidence in the Lord. What is

implicit in verses 1 - 8 is explicit in verses 9 and 10. The Lord will

hear him; He will answer his prayers.

            In verse 9a David says that his soul will rejoice in the Lord and

in 10a that all of his bones will confess the awesome majesty and might


            1 Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 vols., trans. D.M.G.

Stalker (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 1:401f, Cf. discussion on

verses 27-28, below.


of the Lord. His entire body and soul are united in praising his God.1

The object of his soul's rejoicing is the Lord. His soul will rejoice

hv;hyBa, and by this phrase David says that he is not only praising the

Lord, but he is realizing the content and cause of his joy as the Lord's

Person. His soul not only rejoices in the Lord as Lord; it also rejoices

in Him as his Saviour or Rescuer. The Lord is the one who will accom-

plish the deliverance and rescue of David. He tells us not only His name

but His role or mission as well. David makes clear that he has entrusted

the situation to the Lord and expects Him to care for him regardless of

the eventual outcome.

            Every bone is continually asking the rhetorical question, “Lord,

who is like You?"2 He gives no answer since he knows that none is needed,

for there is no one like the Lord. This question echoes that of Moses in

Exodus 15.11 which is answered earlier in that book as well as through-

out the Old Testament.3 The action of this divine Deliverer in verse 10b

is a continual action as indicated by the participle (lycima) which empha-

sizes the continual aspect of the action without specifically tying it to

one time-place event. It is clear from the context of the psalm and the

wording of this verse that David considers himself one of the afflicted,

one of the needy who will be rescued by the Lord. This is perhaps a fur-

ther implicit claim to innocence on David's part--he is afflicted, not an


            1Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, 6

vols. (New York: Fleming H. Revell, n.d.). Vol. 3: Job to Song of Solomon,

p. 361. wp,n, here is to be understood as "soul" not "life." It is used

in synthetic parallelism with Mc,f, as metonomy for the entirety of David's


            2The imperfect emphasizes the continual, ongoing nature of this


            3Cf. Ex. 8.10; 9.14; Dt. 33.26; Is. 46.9; Jer. 10.6,7; Ps. 86.8.


afflictor; he is needy, not one of those who have everything in their own

strength. David's neediness arises out of his trust in the Lord. He was

not needy in the sense of monetary poverty, but he was needy in his depen-

dence upon the Lord as his defender instead of depending upon his own

strength or friends to deliver him. The fact that the Lord accomplishes

this deliverance shows that He is unique--that there is no other god who

will act on behalf of those who cannot repay him in some way. He rescues

the poor and oppressed from those who would tear away from them the last

of their belongings.

            David concludes the first strophe of this psalm with praise to

the Lord, proclaiming his confidence in both the Lord's answer to his

prayer and the reason for that confidence. David has proclaimed his own

innocence and endangered state since verse seven. Since the Lord deli-

vers the afflicted and needy from the strong who would plunder them com-

pletely, and David considers that to be his situation, David is confident

that he will be delivered. The consideration of God's attributes and His

actions together strengthens David in his time of need.


Strophe II: Verses 11 - 18

            In this section of the psalm David strengthens his argument that

the actions of his enemies are truly Mn.AHi (v. 7). He does this by con-

trasting their unrighteousness (vv. 11-12, 15-16) with his concern for

them and his conduct toward them (vv. 13-14). There is no imprecation in

this strophe because the emphasis has been changed from that of the first

strophe.  In the first David made his initial plea for aid as well as his

initial lament. He was not emphasizing his own position, but was

sketching the entire scope of his situation, both his predicament and

the hoped-for deliverance. In the second strophe, however, David empha-

sizes his righteousness and the forensic climate in order that his prayer

will be seen as more reasonable than it might at first appear.

Verses 11-12

            11 Malicious witnesses shall rise;

                 That which I do not know they ask me.

            12 They repay me evil after good;

                 Desolation (is) for my soul.

            With NUmUqy;,1 David uses the imperfect to describe a condition

that was both present and had already existed for a period of time.2 He

emphasizes the desperateness of his circumstances and the determination

of his foes.  MUq is the same verb as was used in verse 2b in his call

to the Lord to arise for his help.

            Who are the rq,w, ydeyfe? They are witnesses of some kind because

dyfe is a word commonly used for "witness" in a court of law.3 This is


            1The peragogic nun, commonly used for emphasis, is probably used

here to avoid an hiatus before the f. Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 128.

            2Calvin, Commentary, 1:583; Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 423.

            3dyfe used of witness giving testimony in a court of law in

Nu. 5.13; Jos. 24.22; 1 Sa 12.5 (cf. rq,w, dyfe in Ex. 23.1; Dt. 19.16ff.).


the second occurrence of specifically legal terminology in Psalm 35 (Cf.

on byri, v. 1, above). Are these persons who rise up witnesses of vio-

lencel or are they violent (i.e., malicious) witnesses?2 The question

asks whether the construct noun is modified by the following word or not.

When we consider other places where this phrase is used, it seems clear

that these witnesses are "false" or "malicious" witnesses (i.e., their

violence is in their hearts). In Exodus 23.1 Moses forbids the Israelites

to be partners with a wicked man (fwArA-Mfi) and thereby become smAHA dfe.

Deuteronomy 19.16ff. points out the difference between these men and

those who are usually called false witnesses. If the smAHA dyfe is found to

be rq,w,-dfe, having accused his brother, he is to be killed in order to

purge the evil from the midst of the people.  smAHA-ydefE thus emphasizes

the intent and motivation, whereas rq,w, dfe3 emphasizes the nature of the

testimony being offered.4

            Therefore David's foes were either accusing him directly or were

paying others to accuse him falsely. They were probably doing the

accusing themselves because it would be difficult to ascribe true malice

to mercenaries, whereas from what he has said so far in this psalm his

foes were working and conspiring against him.5 That they were malicious


            1Briggs, Commentary, p. 305; Calvin, Commentary, 1:582n, quoting

Horsley; Leupold, An Exposition, p. 288.

            2Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 423; Henry, Commentary, 3:362; Kirkpatrick,

Psalms, p. 179; Perowne, Psalms, p. 303.

            3See commentary on verse 20, below.

            4Dt. 19.16ff is one of several dealing with the nature of testi-

mony given in a court of law. It closes with a recapitulation of the

lex talionis.

            5The LXX refers to them as ma<rturej a@dikoi. This emphasizes their

personal nature rather than the nature of their testimony.


witnesses would only lead us to suspect that their testimony would be

false--a conclusion borne out by Deuteronomy 19.16ff.

            These malicious witnesses were not only rising up but were also

seeking information which David did not--could not--have. Since he was

innocent, he had no way of answering their charges or their questions.

Yet they continued to press him for an explanation of the actions which

they were (albeit falsely) ascribing to him. By xlo with the perfect David

categorically denies any knowledge of the accusations1 and confesses his

ignorance before he tells us what they were doing. lxawA here simply de-

scribes their actions. David says that they are inquiring of him with no

modifiers concerning the nature of their inquiry--he has described the

nature of their attitude toward him in the first half of the verse.

            The imperfect of MlawA as of NUmUqy; in verse eleven, describes a

present state as well as a continual action in the past. Although more

familiar as "complete, whole, healthy" MlawA, here in piel, has the sense

of "repaying something." David's cry is that he did good (hbAOF) but that

his foes repaid him--not in kind--but with evil (hfArA).2 The good David

had done for his enemies was physical good; bounty, good things, pros-

perity are all implied by hbAOF. Their response to this was anything but

equally gracious. Instead, they had been and still were causing David

injury (not necessarily physically) and doing wrong to him. All of this

is contained in the direct contrast between hfArA and hbOF.


            1A denial emphasized by the accents. The merekha, as the major

conjunctive accent for the books tmx, binds rw,xE with yTifd;dayA xlo and the

rebhia mugras separates this phrase from yniUlxaw;yi.

            2This use of MlawA is also seen Gn. 44.4 and Ps. 38.21. The

general thought expressed here can be seen in Ps. 109.5 where ylAfa MyWi is

used, rather than Ml.ewi. This action is condemned in Jer. 18.20.



            Describing his own state, David then says that all that is left

to him in this life is bereavement. Used only thrice in the Hebrew Bible,

lOkw; signifies a deep personal loss. In Isaiah 47.8, 9 lOkw; is twice

used in conjunction with Nmol;xa (widowhood) as part of a judgment being

prophesied against Babylon. Isaiah says that these two things will come

upon her suddenly and in one day, a prophecy realized in her destruction

in 539 B.C.1 The verb to which this noun is related (lkawA) means to be

bereaved, and from several occurrences we can understand David's meaning.

Israel (Jacob) uses lkowA in Genesis 43.14 to express the fate which will

come upon him if Benjamin does not return from Egypt ("If I am bereaved,

I am bereaved."). This is the loss of only some of his children (two of

twelve) but they were his sons by his favorite wife. In 1 Samuel 15.33

Samuel uses lkowA when he described the state of Agag's mother immediately

before killing him. There are other uses of lkowA as wel1,2 but the most

explicit example is Deuteronomy 32.25 where the Lord, warning Israel

through Moses of their fate if they choose to disobey and go their own

way, says that the young man, the virgin, the nursing infant and the man

with gray hair will all be killed by the sword and terror. "The sword

shall bereave" (br,H,-lK,waT;) and the result of that bereavement will be

the death of some from every portion of society. David is expressing his

intense isolation and sorrow. No one is left to whom he can turn.3


            1J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia  of Biblical Prophecy (New York:

Harper and Row, 1973), p. 301; Jack Finegan, Light From the  Ancient Past,

2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 1:229f.

            2Cf. Ex. 23.26; 2 Ki. 2.19, 21; Ezk. 14.15; 36.14.

            3Understanding wp,n,, as metonymy for the person, not just the non-

material part of David's being. Briggs, Commentary, p. 304.


            In these two verses David further describes his situation both

positively (that which his enemies do to him) and negatively (his lack of

aid or comfort). He is laying the foundation for verses 13 and 14, where

he describes clearly the fact of his own righteous and irreproachable

behaviour, especially in the light of his enemies' conduct toward him.


Verses 13-14

            13 And I? In their sickness my clothing (was) sackcloth;

                 I bowed down my soul with fasting;

                 And my prayer--it returned unto my bosom.

            14 Like a neighbor, like a brother to me I went about;

                 As a mourner for a mother--dressed in black I was bowed down.

            By beginning the verse with the copula and pronoun David empha-

sizes his personal conduct1 as the subject of these verses and contrasts

himself with his detractors.2 The waw may be rendered "and" in spite of

the contrast in content between this verse and the preceding. It is as

if he does not know how to express himself. He says, "And I in their

weakness. . ." and goes from their state to his own actions as if overcome

by emotion because of the anomaly between his behavior and theirs. The

degree of their sickness is not plainly stated. hlAHA can be weakness, as

used to describe Samson after his hair had been cut,3 or sickness that is

near death (e.g., Hezekiah's condition).4 The severity of David's

response--dressing in sackcloth and ashes and interceding for them--indi-

cates that they may have been seriously ill, even near death. If this is

David's meaning, which it seems to be, he emphasizes the efficacy of his

prayers for them, because their lives were spared5 due at least in part


            1Briggs, Commentary, p. 305.         2Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:423. 

            3Judges 16.7,11,17.                           42 Kings 20.10; Isaiah 38.1.

            5That these are the same persons is shown by the pronominal



to his prayers; their healing may be seen as a sign of his righteousness.

            David does not merely express his sympathy for their situation,

however. He changed his lifestyle to bring it into conformity with the

demands of the moment. His clothing was made of sackcloth, he fasted, he

prayed most earnestly, he acted as one who mourned after his own neighbor

or brother. By describing this behavior David asserts not only his out-

ward, visible innocence and the innocence of his motivations, but his

positive and visible acts of mercy as well. He realized that the action

was proof of his heart.

            Sackcloth was a sign of repentance or sorrow,1 showing his iden-

tification with them in their distress.2 He afflicted his soul by

fasting,3 which is a sign of either mourning4 or of dedication to the

occasion at hand.5 David fasts in order that he might better pray for

his foes in their illness. What is more precious to a man than his sto-

mach?6 What better way to demonstrate his sincerity toward them?

            David advances as another sign of his sincerity and righteousness

bUwTA yqiyHe-lf ytilA.pit;U--a clause that has caused much discussion and has

produced two main points of view. The first of these suggests that David

is to be pictured with his chin sunk upon his breast as he prays, and the


            1McKay, Psalms 1-50, p. 162.

            2Cf. Job 2.12 where Job's three friends tore their robes as a

sign of their sorrow and desire to identify with him in his distress.

            3ywip;na is, therefore, his entire being, since the non-material

part of his person would not be affected by fasting.

            41 Sam. 31.13; 2 Sam. 1.12.

            5Cf. Lv. 16.29, 31; 23.27 (wp,n, + hnAfA which does not use MOc,

which is not commonly used until 1 Sam. (Cf. Jg, 20.26).

            6Rom. 16.18; Php. 3.19; Eph. 5.29a.


clause illustrates David's physical posture.1  The second suggestion

emphasizes the concept of return (bUw) into David's bosom, saying either

that David's prayer will be without effect on them and will be turned

to his benefit2 or that he is so honest that he could pray that prayer

for himself.3

            The LXX and David's use of these two verses to emphasize his

righteous behaviour together point to Perowne's suggestion as the proper

interpretation of this clause. David's motives, thoughts, intents of his

heart all work together to produce a prayer so honest and righteous that

he would that others had prayed it for him.

            The figurative use of j`lahA in the hithpael to suggest "living"

or "manner of living" emphasizes David's exemplary conduct4 while they

were sick and miserable. David tells the Lord that he had behaved toward

them as he would have toward his own brother or his own friend in similar

circumstances. The athnah here is for a dramatic pause--the ascending

nature of the relationships cited5 (from friend to brother to mother)

shows the depth of his emotions toward his foes. How far need a man go

to assert his innocence? David claims that he would be no more solici-

tous of his own mother than he was of these, his persecutors. His

mourning at their sorry state was like the mourning of one who had lost


            1Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:424; Calvin, Commentary, 1:585 also allows

this interpretation.

            2Cf. LXX (a]postrafh<tw). Alexander, Psalms, pp. 151f; Kirkpatrick,

Psalms, p. 180.

            3Perowne, Psalms, p. 304.                           4Cf. j`lahA Psalm 1.1.

            5Alexander, Psalms, p. 152.



his mother.1 He wants no doubt concerning his sincerity of motives and


            Again stressing the continual nature of his actions2 by using the

qal participle, David says that he was bowed down because he was in

mourning, or in other words, dressed darkly. He went about softly,

quietly, as one troubled by pain or sorrow.3 David has illustrated his

two-fold use of Mn.A.Hi in verse seven in these two verses and now turns to

contrast the conduct of his enemies in his misfortune with his conduct in

their misfortune.


Verses 15-16

            15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves


                 Smiters gathered themselves together against me and I did

                        not know;

                 They tore and were not silent.

            16 With godless mockers (for) a cake; gnashing against me with

                        their teeth.

            How do David's enemies respond to his calamities? In these two

verses he shows that their attitudes are none other than those which

their actions and attitudes discussed earlier in the psalm would lead one

to expect. They rejoice in his misfortune, they are continually gather-

ing together against him (even those whom he does not know), and they

refuse to give him any peace in which to collect his thoughts or muster


            1lbexa as the construct state with an objective genitive (cf. Gn.

27.41; Dt. 34:8); Delitzsch, Psalms, 1.425; Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 271.

            2David emphasizes his righteousness by describing the continual

oppression of his foes (cf. the imperfect tense in vv. 11,12) and his

own consistent and continual goodness.

            3Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 425.


his defense. He is without rest and weary which may contritute to the

images that he uses in these verses.

            David's description shifts to a different scene. He is now the

one in distress, the one “in   flac,.”1 He uses stumbling or limping as a

symbol for distress and trouble. Bildad, in Job 18.12 uses this image

to describe the ever-present danger of disaster being prepared to take

advantage of any slipping (flacA) of a man's foot. So it is with David.

His foes rejoice when he slips or has a problem or trial. They gather

together in their joy and laugh and taunt David.2 Having done this they

again gather together. This time perhaps a different group of people is

involved--the smitten ones of low social estate,3 the disreputable and

base persons of society.4 These smitten ones are those who, because of

their low social standing, were unknown to David5 (thus ytif;dayA-xlo). He

did not know them, yet they too were gathering together, not to rejoice

over his calamities, but because they were against David's person (ylafA).

Perhaps these were more active in seeking trouble for him. Not content

to merely sit and watch, they had gathered behind his back and would soon

move openly against him.

            At the end of verse fifteen David further describes their actions

against him. Their attack was so constant that it seemed to him that

they were never quiet. These men, like wild beasts tearing their prey

(fraqA; cf. Hosea 13.8), were continually bringing false and unjust


            1Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:425.

            2The combination of galgal and ‘ole weyored with UHm;WA and UpsAxIn,v;,

respectively, emphasizes the combination of these two verbal concepts.

            3Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:425f.                         4Calvin, Commentary, 1:587.

            5Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:426.


accusations against David. These tearings are a vivid picture of the

false charges which David was forced to face. Not only were they tearing

at him, they were not ceasing from their antagonism (UmDA-xlo). David was

being overwhelmed by their hatred and feels that he has no oppurtunity

to attempt an answer to their attacks.

            Verse sixteen gives no sign of hope for his situation. The pro-

fane godless ones are among his opponents and they are the type of per-

sons who mock someone else for a piece of cake.1  These men therefore

have no moral standards which would cause them to hold back or cease

their mockery. They are an excellent example of the description "whose

god is their belly." They are men from whom David can hope for no mercy.

            Their mocking, however, did not cease with mere words, but

increased in intensity until they were gnashing their teeth at David

(Omyne.wi ylafA qroHA).2 This expression is used in the Old Testament to de-

scribe the intensity of one person's hatred toward another.3 David uses

this infinitive absolute as one of attendant circumstance, paralleling

and defining more closely UfrqA of verse fifteen, above.4 His enemies

are acting exactly in accord with their character. As wild beasts tear

at their prey with their teeth, so do they show their desire to do so by


            1Alexander, Psalms, p. 152; Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:426; Leupold,

An Exposition, p. 288. These are men who mock their master's enemies

in return for his favor. That gOfmA a "cake" can be demonstrated from

1 Kings 17.12. The LXX reveals the idiomatic nature of this expression

by translating 1 Kings 17.12 with e]gkrufi<aj (a loaf baked in ashes, or a

cake), whereas here they use mukth<rismoj (mockery, scorn).

            2Briggs, Commentary, p. 307.

            3Cf. Ps. 37.12; 112.10; Lam. 2.16.

            4Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 341.


gnashing their teeth at him. That he feels the personal force of their

hatred is seen both by the use of lfa ( stronger word meaning "against"

than B;) and by its position in this phrase.   lfa's two original meanings

were "upon" (e]pi<) and "over" (u[pe<r) and the derived meaning "against"

carries the picture of a warrior or an agressor standing in or struggling

to attain a position of superiority over his opponent.1 David, thinking

of the wild beast standing over its prey ready to devour it, or of the

soldier, standing over his fallen foe ready to dispatch him, pictures in

carefully chosen language the desperation of his plight. He writes, in

a word-for-word translation, "to gnash against me his (their) teeth."

By putting himself in the middle of this construction rather than saying

ylafA Mh,yn.ewi qroHA he emphasizes again his hopeless state.

            In these two verses David has illustrated the implacable hatred

of his enemies and the hopelessness of his own situation. His flow of

thought throughout this passage (vv. 11-16) has been to show his own

righteous conduct and attitudes in the light of his opponents' sinfulness.

The structure of these six verses further illustrates this by his careful

use of a chiastic pattern whereby his righteous deeds are centered

between two sections recording their sins. The progression is not so

much logical as didactic--David is teaching by structure. These verses

could be diagrammed:

            A         11 Their false accusations

            B         12 Their shameful conduct

                        C         13 ("But I. . .") David's righteous conduct

                        C         14 David's righteous conduct, personalized

            B         15a-b ("But at. . .") Their shameful conduct

            A         15b-16 Their False Accusations

This device heightens the contrast between David and his enemies. He also


            1Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 383.


contrasts the two lifestyles by putting in expressions and words that are

antithetical to each other (e.g., at their sickness he was solicitous of

God for their health, but as soon as he slipped they were attacking and

deriding him; he fasted but they feasted on payment received for mocking

him; he acted toward them as if they were his own kin, but they mocked

him without knowing him; the honesty and fervency of his prayer contras-

ted with their lack of any thought of God). From this bleak outlook on

events, David again (Cf. vv. 4-8) turns to the Lord with a petition and

ends the strophe with a promise of praise to the Lord for the deliverance

that will come.

Verses 17-18

            17 Lord! How long will You watch?

                 Cause my soul to turn back from their ravages;

                 From lions my only one.

            18 I will praise You in a great congregation;

                 With a mighty people I will praise you.

            David begins with the vocative, calling upon the Lord. This is

the first time that he has called God ynAdoxE in this psalm and he repeats

it later in verses 22b and 23b. NOdxE (ynAdoxE) emphasizes the superior

position of the one addressed. Sarah called Abraham her lord (Gn. 18.12).

Eissfeldt's suggestion that the yodh be understood as a pronominal affor-

mative and that the qames shows a plural of majesty, resulting in the

meaning "Lord of all" for ynAdoxE, is true in essence.1 David, recognizing

his helpless position, calls on the One Who is superior to every circum-

stance and able to help. His question is a cry of anguish: "How long will

you watch?" hmAKa is a combination of the preposition K; with hmA, the

interrogative. Literally meaning "the like of what?" the resultant


            1TDOT, revised ed., s.v. "NOdxE ynAdoxE," by Otto Eissfeldt, p. 69.


meanings "how much?" "how many?"1 become "how long?" when joined to the

infinitive verb. Since the imperfect implies unfinished or incomplete

action, David is asking the Lord, "How long are You going to keep standing

by, looking on?" We do not interpret this, however, as a cry of frustra-

tion but as a desire for the justice of God.2 David's meaning was not

simply to ask about the length of time during which the Lord would

observe, but to ask how long would the Lord wait before intervening on

his behalf, as the rest of verse seventeen shows.

            He changes the nature of his prayer (from vv. 4-8) in language

although its subject is still the same. Here is no recrimination, no

protestation of innocence. He is concerned for his life and asks the

Lord to cause his soul to return (i.e., be rescued). He is not speaking

only of his soul, however (Cf. on v. 4, above), for his soul here is syn-

doche for his entire person. David's request for rescue is not aimless

because he refers back to verse eight where he asked that devastations

come upon them because of their sin. He now asks for deliverance from

the destruction that they have planned for him.

            The ywip;na that David wants delivered from them is his soul, as

the synthetic parallelism indicates. He refers back to verses 15 and 16,

picking up the image of the wild beasts. These enemies of his were like

young lions (MyriypiK;)--strong, bold, eager to kill, with no respect for

man. David describes his soul as his precious one because he recognizes

its importance. He has nothing else to lose--if he loses it everything

else is gone--so he calls it "precious." It is not precious to his adver-

saries, but it is important to him. Having unburdened his soul with this

cry for help, David turns to vow his praise in the midst of the nation.


            1BDB, s.v. "hm."                     2Cf. Rev. 6.10.


            Verse eighteen is a reprise and expansion of verses 9 and 10. In

those verses the whole person of David, represented by his soul and bones,

was rejoicing and exulting in the Person and salvation of the Lord.

Here nothing is mentioned as the cause for thanksgiving; he simply states

his intention to thank and praise the Lord publicly (MUcfA MfaB; brA lhAqAB;).

The imperfect verbs reveal his intention and the nouns the circumstances

under which he will perform it.

            If j~d;Ox be understood as the imperfect of hdAyA, it is a predic-

tion of what David will do after his rescue. It would then emphasize

David's faith that the Lord will deliver him and bring him through his

trials safely. If, on the other hand, it be seen as cohortative, David

is lay stress on his personal determination underlying his action.1 The

answer to this question is found in the form j~l,l;haxE because the dagesh

is gone from the first l, as it is in the cohortative.2 Since these two

verbs are parallel in usage it is reasonable to assume that their forms

are parallel as wel1.3 David is stating his determination to praise the

Lord. His ability to state this comes from his certainty that the Lord

will not stand by as a spectator looking on, but will involve Himself on

David's side and intervene effectually on his behalf.

            His confession (hdAyA) will center on the Person of the Lord. He

will be confessing the great deeds of the Lord on his behalf and will

praise Him (llahA) for them. He again positions the words to emphasize


            1Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 319. LXX, reading e]comologh<somai, does

not help here, because the Greek future can be either, though it tends to

parallel the Hebrew imperfect of intent.

            2BDB, s.v. "

            3Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:427. He states that j~d;Ox is cohortative

without giving any reasons. Perhaps his thinking is reflected in this



his point--the first word in the verse (j~d;Ox) and the last (j~l,l;haxE)

show that his actions are his main concern, not the location.

            That David expected to be in the company of the Lord's people

again cannot be doubted. Verses 11 and 12, 15 and 16 picture him sur-

rounded by his enemies, but he draws a sharp contrast with that situation

in verse eighteen. He will be in the great congregation (brA lhAqA),

presumably people who will either serve as witnesses to his confession

of praise or who will join him in praise, or both. lhAqA usually refers

to a group gathered together1 for a specific purpose.2 David, aware of

the significance of his anointment by Samuel,3 anticipated the day when

he would be able to convocate the people of Israel in a ceremony of

thanksgiving and praise to the Lord for his deliverance out of the hands

of his enemies. MUcfA does not only mean "mighty" in the sense of

"powerful," because, as Delitzsch says, it "always refers, according to

the context, to strength of numbers or to strength of power."4 Since it

is parallel with brA it is a picture of a numberless multitude.5

            In this strophe David again asserts his innocence. He does not

use Mn.AHi as in verse seven, for his aim is different from the first

strophe. There he is content to protest his innocence, but here he uses

his good works as proofs of his righteousness. As was his intent, this


            1See LXX e]kklhsi<a pollh<--the "great called-out group" which was

called out for a purpose:

            2E.g., for war (Nu. 22.4; Jg. 21.5,8), for religious ceremonies

(Dt. 5.19; Jos. 2.16; Jer. 44.15). It can also refer to general gather-

ings (Gn. 35.11; Nu. 27.4; Pr. 21.16).

            31 Sam. 16.13.

            4Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:427; Calvin, Commentary, 1:590f.

            5BDB, s.v. "MUcfA."  In every occurrence of MUcfA, with this

meaning, it is parallel with brA.



intensifies the picture of his innocence and righteousness against his

enemies' sinfulness. He is thus increasingly confident in the Lord's

deliverance of him and anticipates the ceremony of praise at his vindi-

cation. David now returns, in the final strophe, to the ungodliness of

of his enemies and assertions of his own righteousness, but the tone of

these verses is more sedate and controlled than in the beginning of the

psalm. Even his prayers change somewhat in emphasis as he calls for the

Lord's condemnation and judgment upon his enemies.


Strophe III: Verses 19 - 28

Verses 19-21

            19 Do not let my false haters rejoice at me;

                 My haters without cause--do not let them wink an eye

            20 Because they do not speak peace

                 And against restful ones of a land words of deceit they


            21 And they made their mouths large against me:

                 They said, "Aha! Aha! Our eyes have seen!"

            lfa with the jussive, often used for negative wishes or impreca-

tions,1 here expresses David's strong desire that his enemies not be

allowed to rejoice over him. Widespread debate on the meaning of byexo

has not brought agreement on its meaning--if anything, it has splintered

what agreement there may have been.2 Ringgren says in summarizing

Widengren's thought:

            On the basis of his comparisons of the Old Testament

            psalms with the Akkadian psalms of lament, Widengren

            emphasizes that the same expressions can be used dif-

            ferently in different contexts, and that stereotyped

            phrases by no means justify a uniform explanation of

            the enemies; rather, in each individual case, one

            must make his investigation on the basis of other

            criteria in order to determine those to whom the ex-

            pressions refer.3

David here refers to his personal enemies and says that they are his ene-

mies rq,w,, usually translated "wrongfully."4  rq,w, is used elsewhere in


            1Kautzsch, Grammar, pp. 321f.

            2TDOT, revised ed., s.v. " byx," by Helmer Ringgren.

            3Ibid., p. 218.

            4Calvin, Commentary, 1:592; Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 181. John T.

Willis, ed., The Living Word Commentary on the Old Testament (Austin:

Sweet Publishing Company, 1980). Vol. 10: Psalms, by Arthur L. Ash and

Clyde M. Miller. They suggest "treacherous (lying) foes" (p. 130). Cf.

on rq,w,, p. 46, above.


the Old Testament to refer to witnesses in a court situation who are

giving false testimony in order to cause a false judgment against the

accused.1 Its primary meaning is deception or falsehood and by using it

in parallel with Mn.AHi (cf. v. 7, above), he is emphasizing his claim of

verse eleven. His enemies pretend to have a reason for hating him. This

excuse is a falsehood, a lie, and reveals both their hatred of him and

the lack of any restraint upon their behaviour. Any testimony they may

give against him is not likely to be trustworthy.

            His enemies are not only ybay;xo, however.   byaxA is a passive verb

usually meaning "be hostile to,"2 but they go beyond being his enemies

and actively hate him (yxan;W), seeking ways to effectively employ (or

deploy) that hatred against him. They hated him gratuitously (Mn.AHi), for

no reason (Cf. v. 7, above).

            The force of lxa carries over to the second half of the verse.

The verb may be read as if it were Ucr;q;yi-lfa and the same urgency given

to its interpretation as we saw above. CraqA refers to the compression of

something; it can be rendered "to pinch," or "to nip." When referring to

the eyes it means to compress the eyelids or "wink" and always bears a

negative connotation.3 David asks the Lord to prevent their joy at his

misfortune and their evil plans.

            As in verse seven, so in verse twenty. David is careful to give

a reason for his request. He explains their conduct so that their


            1BDB, s.v. "rq,w,." rq,w, as a substantive is used of "injurious

falsehood, in testimony, especially in courts" (cf. Ex. 20.16; 23.1; Dt.

19.16-19; Ps. 27.12; Pr. 6.19; 14.5; 25.18; 12.17; 19.5, 9).

            2Only in Exodus 23.22 and 1 Sa. 18.29 does byaxA have an active

meaning (i.e., "act as an enemy"). All of its other occurrences are sub-

stantival uses of the participle.

            3Cf. Pr. 6.13 (cf. vv. 12-15); 10.10; 16.30.


judgment might be seen as just. He is trapped by their carefully

planned testimony against him, and realizes the futility of seeking jus-

tice from a human judge.

            They do not speak peace which is a major complaint of David.1

Verses 11, 15, and 16 tell what they do speak and David emphasizes the

continual nature of their refusal to speak peace with the imperfect. By

this he means that they had not (in the past), they were not (in the

present) and they would not (in the future) speak peace. This was a

pervasive part of their personalities. David understands this to be

important because of Psalm 34.11-14, especially verse 14b.2 Far from

pursuing peace, these men will not even discuss it, although they would

profess to seek peace if asked.3

            Instead of seeking or speaking peace they think and plan

treachery against those who are causing no trouble, and are the last

ones who should be regarded as worthy of persecution. David uses the

plural Cr,x,-yfeg;ri, but primarily considers his own plight (perhaps as the

archetype). He may be widening the scope of the byexo to show that they

not only plot against him but also against anyone who is in their path.

The Cr,x,-yfeg;ri are those who live in the land of Israel and are quiet,

peaceful folk. The verb related to this adjective is used of a sword

resting in its sheath4 and suggests pastoral life in its law-abiding

extreme. These are the intended victims of David's enemies.


            1The  ole weyoredh breaks the verse here and shows that this is

a major complaint of David by separating it from the next phrase.

            2Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 181.

            3Briggs, Commentary, p. 308.                     4Cf. Jer, 47.6.


            The paragogic nun with NUbwoHEya emphasizes the plotting

nature of their opposition to David. These enemies commune together

to plot1 the destruction of the righteous. He again is pointing to this

as a characteristic of their lives (cf. verse four, above). Now,

instead of fra, however, they are planning deceit and treachery


            hmAr;mi is used in parallel construction with rq,w, in Amos 8.5

to describe false balances used in trade. The scale would thus say

that the customer owed more than the actual cost in order to create

greater profits for the merchant.2 The more common meaning however is

treachery, and the question becomes one of identification based on the

meaning of yreb;Di.  rbADA has a wider scope of interpretation than its

basic meaning "word, speech" signifies. Like lo<goj, rbADA can mean

word, but also it means thing, matter or affair. It is used in legal

cases to name either the trespass under investigation or the legal case

and process of investigation itself.3

            Because of the legal terminology in this psalm and the

parallelism in thought between verses 20b and 11 (the speaking of lies

and false testimonies against David) tOmr;mi yreb;Di are "words of

treachery or guile,"4 i.e., false testimony, accusations and slander5


            1For other examples of this use of bwaHA (normally "think/

regard") see Gen. 50.20; Zech. 7.10, 8.17; Ps. 140.3. See BDB, s.v.

bwaHA for further examples.

            2See also Hos. 12.8; Mic. 6.11; Prov. 11.1, 20.23.

            3For examples of rbADA as the trespass (or accusation) being

investigated see Jg. 6.29, 13:1, 25.12, 21; Neh. 2.19, 13.17; Ex. 1.18;

Dt. 13.15 (14), 17.4. For examples of rbADA as the legal case itself see

Ex. 18.16, 22, 26; Dt. 1.17, 19.15; Is. 29.21. For further discussion

of its use in legal terminology see TDOT, s.v. ''rbADA," by W.H. Schmidt.

            4Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 181.                       5Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:428.


prepared against David and the godly in the land.

            Verse twenty-one describes the results of their secret

consultations. bHarA (bHorA) is used generally to describe the state

of something as large or great or to speak of something as becoming

large or great.1 Here it describes the mouths of David's enemies.

They open their mouths wide2 against (lfa) David. This is a picture

of their eagerness to testify against him as well as a gesture of

contempt for his person.3 They are prepared to bear against David

the false testimonies which they prepared and rehearsed for this time.

            What is their testimony? It is ambiguous and therefore un-

answerable, humanly speaking. They say (Urm;xA), “HxAh, HxAh,.”

This word meaning "aha!" is always introduced by rmaxA and so is an

actual spoken expression; indicating joy or satisfaction, it can have

either a negative or positive connotation.4 David's enemies thus

express their joy at his misfortunes (cf. verse fifteen, above). They

confess further that their eyes have seen (Unneyfe htAxErA), but they do

not tell what they have seen. They may have seen the fall of their


            1The second is the more common meaning (Gen. 26.22; 2 Sam. 22.

37; Ps. 4.2).

            2See Ps. 81.11, where Israel is instructed to open her mouth as

a baby bird would for food.

            3Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 181; Murphy, Psalms, p. 234.

            4HxAh, has a negative connotation when, as here, it is used

of the joy of enemies in the trials and downfall of the righteous (see

Ezek. 25.3, 26.2, 36.2; Ps. 35.21,25, 40.16(15), 70.4(3)). Each of 

these references shows someone's joy at another's expense. It is used

positively in Is. 44.16. The man feels relief because of his fire. It

is true relief even though the passage teaches him that this is the only

benefit which he will receive from his idol.


prey--David--as he finally lost his coveted position.1 Or this may

be their means of expressing their false testimony against David.2

They were trying to frighten him with vague and false accusations.

If this is the case hxAh, may be seen as joy that they can finally

accuse him of wrong. The LXX uses  ]Eu?ge eu#ge which supports the

second view.  ]Eu?ge, an interjection meaning well! good! expresses

the same delight and approbation found in the Hebrew HxAh,. A great

joy for David's enemies would be his downfall or its beginnings.

The opportunity to give false testimony contributing to that fall would

probably, in their cases, give greater joy. These were not far-off

observers watching and hearing about events in David's life by means

of messengers. These were personal, spiteful, vindictive enemies who,

from their description in the rest of the psalm would like nothing

better than to do the treason themselves.

            They are rejoicing that they can bear testimony against him

that will bring him down and cause him to fall. David now pleads with

the Lord, using a two-fold request. He asks for God's intervention for

him (vv. 22-24) and against his foes (vv. 25-26), and anticipates joy

at his vindication (27-28).


Verses 22 - 24a

            22 You have seen it, Lord, do not be dumb;

                 Lord, do not be far from me.

            23 Rouse Yourself and awake for my judgment;

                 My God and my Lord (Master) for my Lawsuit.

            24 Judge me according to Your righteousness, O Lord my God


            1So Calvin, Commentary, 1:593; Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:428;

Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 182.

            2Allowing for Briggs's pluralizing of the psalm, this is his




            David cries out to the Lord that He has seen it (htAyxirA) and

that God sees truly is the idea behind David's words. The Lord has

seen the truth of what happened or had been done to David, therefore

David summons Him as a true witness to counteract these false

witnesses.1 David's cry, therefore, is that the Lord be not silent.

He uses lxa with the jussive of wreHA to signal his desire and concern

that the Lord not be silent.2 David thus seeks the active participation

of God as a witness--hearing his cry and speaking for him. David,

realizing that his only hope comes from the Lord, calls upon Him by his

covenant name, hvAhy;,3 to intervene in his case (see below).

            Having said this, he immediately uses another name for God

( ynAdoxE, cf. v.17, above) to stress his realization of God's

sufficiency and authority. This combination of names shows David's

insight into the divine nature. God is personal, covenantal, and thus,

personally concerned for and interested in men to whom He has extended

His covenant-mercies. His personal nature, however, does not imply any

limitations on His ability to know (to see--hxArA) all things and thus

to be a true witness in David's, or any, situation.

            David's fourth request in this strophe is another use of lxa

            1ytiyxirA is used in this legal sense in Lamentations 3.59f.

            2The expressions wraH;T<-lxa could also be translated "do not be

deaf," because of the ambiguity of the verb wraHA.  wraHA can mean

both "be deaf" (cf. Mic. 7.16; (wreHe as adjective, "deaf" in Ex. 4.11;

Is. 29.18; Ps. 38.14) and "be dumb/silent" (especially of the silence

of God to men's prayers--in qal (BDB, s.v. "wraHA"). See Ps. 39.13(12);

50.3; 83.2; 109.1). Ps. 50.3 specifically asks God to act as judge;

Ps. 83.2 and 109.1 are the beginning of imprecatory laments (God

summoned for judgment); Ps. 35.13(12) is a cry that God be merciful to

the psalmist. Gen. 34.5; Prov. 11.12; Ps. 32.3 shows that wraHA can

also refer to the silence of men.

            3This is a hvhy section of the psalter, but this does not

negate the emphasis arising from David's choice of the divine name.


with the jussive. This time he repeats lxa,1 perhaps for added force.

His plea is that he not be abandoned by the Lord.  qHarA means "become

far" or "be distant," but it connotes neglect or abandonment in several

passages and this is David's fear here.2 He cries out requesting that he

be not abandoned to the mercy of his enemies (or their lack of it).

David desires the close presence of the Lord for several reasons in addi-

tion to His testimony, which are given in the next verse.

            In verse twenty-three David uses two imperatives. He is not com-

manding or ordering God to act, but uses the imperative to emphasize the

strength of his request.3 Here dUf is used in synonymous parallelism

with Cyqi ("awake, break off from sleep"). An imperative depending (with

waw copulative) upon a preceding imperative shows a definite progression

of thought. The first imperative states a condition and the second a

consequence dependent upon the fulfillment of that condition.4 David's

request is that the Lord will bestir Himself to action and, having done

this, that he will be awake to defend David. As noted above, David 's

not viewing the Lord as actually asleep. He is saying that he feels as

if the Lord were asleep because of the seriousness of his situation and

the lack of apparent action by the Lord on his behalf. What is it that

David wants from the Lord? What is that for which he calls so strongly?


            1Cf. on v. 19, above.

            2Cf. Ps. 22.12,20; 38.22; 71.12; Jb. 30.10; Pr. 19.7. In Psalm

38.22 it is parallel with bzafA:--to "forsake, abandon." LXX has a]posto<shj,

imperative of a]fi<sthmi, "shrink, leave, depart."

            3BDB, s.v. "rUf." "Rouse from sleep" in Zch. 4.1 and Ps. 7.20

is not common for the hiphil of rUf;

            4Kautzsch, Grammar, pp. 324ff.


            David asks the Lord to rouse Himself, to stir to activity for

His judgment, His FPAw;mi. Here, as in many other occurrences, FPAw;mi refers

to judgment in the sense of the "act of deciding a case" or the due pro-

cess of a court of law.1 This use of FPAw;mi is another indication that

this psalm is a poetic description of a lawsuit.2

            The divine name Myhilox< occurs only fifteen times in the first

book of the Psalter (Psalms 1-42).3  Myhilox<, the name of God used in

Genesis 1 to emphasize His power and strength, is used by David as the

One capable of counterstanding his opponents. ynAdoxE is used here, as in

verse seventeen above, to denote God's authority.4 He calls on God as

the powerful and authoritative One, to intervene in his lawsuit (byri).

            Used for the third time in Psalm 35, byri is literally a strife

or dispute. It is especially used of a dispute which is a controversy

or case at law.5 David calls for God's intervention in this lawsuit

which has been brought against him. This is not a literal lawsuit.


            1Cf. Ex. 28.15, 29-30; Dt. 1.17 (1.9-17); 1 Ki. 3.28; Pr. 16.33.

            2FPAw;mi is used with various meanings in Scripture. Among them

are: (a) the act of deciding a case (Dt. 1.17; Ec. 11.9; 12.14; Is. 3.14),

(b) a case presented for judgment (Is. 50.8; 2 Sa. 15.4; 1 Ki. 3.11),

(c) execution of judgment (Dt. 32.41; Is. 26.8-9; Zp. 3.15; Ps. 97.8),

(d) a legal requirement (1 Sa. 8.9,11; 10.25; Jer. 8.7; Is. 58.2).

            3Jehovah, on the other hand, occurs 272 times. Joseph Francis

Thrupp, An Introduction to the Study and Use of the Psalms, 2 vols.,

second ed. (London: Macmillan, 1879), 1:33a. His figures do not reflect

divine names used with sufformatives, as this is here.

            4Clarence E. Mason, "Names of God," in Doctrine Syllabi (Phila-

delphia: Philadelphia College of Bible, 1970), pp. 3f.

            5Cf. Ex. 23.2-3; Dt. 21.5; 25.1; 2 Sa. 15.2,4 (cases of byri of

men); Jer. 25.31; 50.34; Lam. 3.58; Hos. 4.1; Mic. 6.2 (cases of the

Lord's byri against His people).


David is writing poetry and a characteristic of poetry is figurative lan-

guage. David is describing his situation as a trial where he is being

sued for crimes which he did not commit and of which he is ignorant (Cf.

on v. 11b, above).

            Now, having called God to action and explained the nature of the

requested intervention, David makes the ultimate request that will either

totally exonerate him or condemn him. He again uses the imperative to

make his request known to God, showing his awareness of the solemnity of

the request.    David calls God Myhilox< hvAhy; (Jehovah, my God). Jehovah, as

the name of God personally associated with His covenant people Israel

(and thus with His anointed king, David) and Elohim as the strong and

powerful One. By combining these two concepts in this divine epithet,

David calls upon the covenant-Lord of Israel, who had given the Law to

Moses, and who was powerful to do whatever is necessary to enact to assure

righteousness at his trial.

            David summons this One to judge him. FpawA, the verb related to

FPAw;mi (Cf. v. 22, above), signifies the execution of judgment--the deci-

sion of the judge concerning the guilt or innocence of the accused.1

David asks the Lord to act as his Judge--to make that decision. He asks

that this judgment be made on the basis of the absolute righteousness

(qydicA) of God. qydicA is a quality of God that is ascribed to a man when

he has been vindicated by God (Cf. v. 27, below) and is one of the quali-

ties required of a judge.2 David is saying to God that He is qualified


            1FpAwA has this meaning in Gn. 18.25; Is. 33.22; Ps. 82.1;

Jg. 11.27; 1 Sa. 24.13; Ps. 9.5.

            2It is used of a man who has been vindicated by the Lord in

Is. 53.11; 60.21; Ps. 33.1 and as a quality required of a judge in

Dt. 1.16; 16.18; Ezk. 23.45; Ps. 7.12; 58.2.


to act as his Judge because He is qd,c, Himself and because any judgment

so rendered will be in perfect accord with the righteousness of the Lord.

David knows that he is not perfectly righteous. He also knows that he is

innocent as accused. He is asking God, then, to judge him with the

righteousness that will result in the absolute vindication of the

righteous and the eternal condemnation of the wicked.1

Verses 24b-26

            (24)And do not let them rejoice at me.

            25 Do not let them say in their hearts, "Aha! Our soul!"

                 Do not let them say, "We have swallowed him up!"

            26 Let them be ashamed and abashed altogether--the ones

                        seeking my evil;

                 Let them be clothed (with) shame and ignominy--the ones

                        who are making themselves great against me.

            Antithetically parallel to the first half of the verse, 24b uses

lxa with the jussive to express a negative desire of David (the first of

three such desires). He requests that his enemies not be allowed to

rejoice over him (i.e., over his disgrace for which they long). They had

already rejoiced at his troubles (vv. 15-16) and they were rejoicing at

his troubles (v. 26). David asks for respite from their persecution; by

putting this in antithesis with his request for judgment, he suggests

that such behaviour is not in accord with the righteousness of God.

            With two more negative commands David requests that which he does

not want his enemies to do, then (in v. 26) he describes the end that he

desires for them. There are two things which he does not want them to

say. He does not want them to speak in their heart (collective use of

the singular) because he knows that if they do not speak in their heart


            1 Cf. Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 156 on Psalm 31.1; Calvin, Commen-

tary, 1:594.


they will never say it aloud.1 David asks that they not be able to see

their desire accomplished against him. They have no reason for thus

speaking in their heart. The lack of such speaking is, therefore, a sign

to David and to all around him of his vindication from their charges.

            Unwep;na HxAh, is that which he does not want them to say. HxAh, is

an interjection of joy (often unrighteous, cf. v. 20, above) at David's

misfortune.  wp,n, is used here of the seat of the emotions and passions,2

the source and breeding ground of ideas, desires and plans (which are the

implementation of desires and ideas). Here it means "our desire" and is

a statement of their confidence in the accomplishment of their plots,

traps and schemes against David's life (vv. 1,3-4,7).

            What is their desire? It is expressed by UhUnfElabi ("We have swal-

lowed him up!"). flaBA originally had the concept of swallowing a tasty

morsel before someone else could get to it.3 When applied to men, how-

ever, it connotes the destruction or downfall of a person, especially in

the intensive stems (here it is piel).4 Depending on the context it can

have in view either the process of being destroyed "or the end result of

this process."5 Here, due to the nature of the context and the expres-

sion of his foes' glee, it is clear that the final result is in view.

David does not want this rejoicing because their failure to rejoice will

mean that he has been vindicated. David knows that their desire is his

downfall and complete ruin and prays that it not be realized.


            1Cf. Pr. 4.23; Mt. 12.34; Lk. 6.45.              2BDB, s.v. “wp,n,."

            3TDOT, s.v. " flB," by J. Schupphaus, p. 137.

            4Ibid., p. 138.                                                 5Ibid


            He turns for the final time to positive requests1 on behalf of

his enemies in verse twenty-six. He requests again that they be ashamed

(Cf. v. 4, above) and abashed (rpeHA). Every qal use of rpahA is parallel

with wOB in the Old Testament;2 there does not seem to be any difference

in meaning between them. David uses both terms to intensify his prayer

for their shaming.  vDAH;ya states his desire that this happen to all of

them together at the same time. Apparent from this word is the great

number of David's enemies3--he has not been speaking of a few foes, but

of a host of opponents desiring to see his end.4

            The phrase ytfArA yHemeW; combines several of the expressions already

used by David to describe his enemies. In verse four they conspired to

do evil against him (ytifArA) and they rejoiced over his stumbling in verse

fifteen (UHm;WA). David, in requesting the Lord's intervention in verse

twenty-four, foresaw their rejoicing as a sign of his condemnation and

prayed that it might not happen (yli UHm;W;yi lxav;). He combines these

thoughts carefully to identify the specific people who should be ashamed.

            wbelA portrays the effect of the shame for which he prayed in

verse twenty-six. Shame is an invisible quality or emotion, but be prays

that it be made visible. Seebass's understanding of wOB would thus be

vindicated.5 David's enemies are reduced from their self-exalted station


            1Positive ("Let them be. . . ") versus negative ("Let them not. . . ").

            2Cf. Jb. 6.20; Ps. 34.6 (opposite rhAnA); 35.4, 26; 40.15 (=70.3);

71.24; 83.18; Pr. 13.5; 19.26; Is. 1.29; 24:23; Jer. 15.9; 50.12; Mi. 3.7.

            3Calvin, Commentary, 1:595. Cf. 1 Sa. 31.6; Is. 18.6; 40.5.

            4The close conjunction of these desires in David's mind is shown

by the use 'azla over Uwbye, tying it to the following thought, and

the ’azla over vDAH;ya, connecting it with the second phrase.

            5TDOT, s.v. "wOB;" cf. v. 4, above.


in life, their duplicity is revealed and David is exonerated. They are

to be so completely covered with shame that it will be as a garment to

them. Their clothing, their finery, their persons will be swallowed up

with shame. They are not only to be covered with shame. They are also

to be clothed with ignominy (from MlakA “be humiliated”) and reproach--

the active counterpart to their shame.

            The objects of David's prayer are the ones who made themselves

great against David (ylAfA MyliyDig;ma.ha). They had sought to exalt themselves

at his expense. By this and the preceding epithet David presses his

argument: No man has the right to exalt himself against another, especial-

ly when they do it at his expense--when he is trodden or stumbling (v. 15).

In these verses is contained the culmination of David's cry for

the intervention of the Lord's Person in his predicament. David has

called on the Lord to judge, and then asked Him to prevent the sinful joy

of his enemies and to cause them just retribution according to the lex

talionis. He now, in the final verses of Psalm 35, promises the continu-

al praise and worship of his heart and lips to the Lord, showing his

assurance in the faithfulness of the Lord to intervene and then exonerate

him from the false accusations against him.

Verses 27-28

            27 Let them give a ringing cry and rejoice--who delight (in)

                        my righteousness;

                 And let them say continually, "The Lord be exalted (Who)

                        delights (in) the peace of His servant."

            28 And my tongue shall meditate aloud on Thy righteousness;

                 All the day it shall praise You.

            The last two verses of Psalm 35 constitute the final praise sec-

tion of the psalm (cf. vv. 9-10, 18, above). Their presence here

illustrates Murphy's observation that in contrast to the Babylonian psalms,


where praise precedes prayer as if to gain the request by flattery, the

Israelites followed their pleas with praise because of their assurance

that God hears the prayer.1 The question most naturally asked concerns

the source of this change of mind, attitude and expression. Von Rad felt

that this change was due to the priest's pronouncing a blessing of

assurance upon the supplicant.2 Having made his prayer in front of the

Tabernacle, the petitioner is assured of the Lord's hearing and answering

their prayer.3 Wevers rejects a "psychological" explanation for the

change "from earnest complaint to joyous certainty" because these psalms

were cultic in origin (therefore part of public liturgy) and such a psy-

chological explanation could only properly apply to private prayer.4

Because David was the psalmist and the presence of the Holy Spirit was

within him, the change is explicable: David was completely free from

any of their accusations; he has called upon God to judge him and to

exonerate him before his enemies; he knows his own innocence and their

guilt. On the basis of the absolute righteousness of the Lord David can

be confident of his vindication.

            These verses are an excellent example of what Oehler calls the

psalmist's tendency to come to conclusions that are personal and subjec-

tive, rather than dogmatic (i.e., doctrinal).5 At the same time, however,

apart from the knowledge of the doctrine of God as qydicA and His ways,


            1Murphy, "A New Classification," p. 86n.

            2von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:401. Also Claus Westermann,

The Psalms: Structure, Content & Message, trans. Ralph D. Gehrke (Minnea-

polis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1980), pp. 55-56. He uses the examples

of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 and Hezekiah in Isaiah 38 as illustrations.

            3von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:402.

            4Wevers, "A Study," p. 81.                            5Oehler, Theology, p. 559.


David could not arrive at such a conclusion.

            The substance of these two verses is universal rejoicing--of both

the righteous (v. 27) and David (v. 28). The righteous (    yqid;ci ycepeHE)

are those who delight in the righteousness of David--who are glad and

rejoice in his vindication (qydicA).1 They are said to do three things.

They will give a ringing cry (Un.royA; which in qal primarily signifies a

cry of joy and exultation).2 Here, as in several other occurences it is

used in synonymous parallelism with HmaWA,3 "to rejoice (Cf. vv. 15, 24,

above); thus their loud cries are of joy and confidence. They also say

continually (dymiTA) "The Lord be exalted. . ."4 The first activities cen-

ter on David's vindication as it relates to him (yqid;ci ycePeHE); the

third centers on the Person of the Lord and His glorification. Weiser

notes that:

            . . . in the Old Testament hymns the glorification of 

            Yahweh as Judge occurs more frequently than the ideas

            of Yahweh as Creator or King, which are occasionally

            associated with it . . . 5


            1 qydica connotes (besides the righteousness noted above, v. 24)

the innocence of man from a specific offense (2 Ki. 10.9; 1 Sa. 24.18),

his vindication by the Lord (Ps. 33.1), or the state of righteousness

more familiar to readers of the New Testament (LXX reads dikaiosu<nh) as

in Gn. 7.1; 18.23ff; Hab. 2.4; Mal. 3.18. David is not claiming absolute

righteousness for himself--he knows that is not true. He is anticipating

the Lord's pronunciation of innocence concerning the slander of his

enemies (cf. v. 24, above).

            2Especially in the prophets (12 of 19 qal occurences are pro-

phetic, 10 in Isaiah alone) NnarA emphasizes the joyful shouts of the

people because the Lord is now present (Is. 12.16; Zch. 2.14(10); Zph.

3.14); because of His Person and majesty (Is. 61.7; 35.6; 42.11; 24.14);

because He had cleared the judgments against them (Zph. 3.14); because

of the regathering of the nation Israel (Jer. 31.7).

            3Cf. Zph. 3.14; Zch. 2.14; Pr. 29.6; Is. 65.14.

            4Artur Weiser, Commentary on the Psalms, Old Testament Library

(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 64.


This appears to be the case here. David's vindication is a cause for

joy and gladness, but the continual activity for which it calls is the

glorification of God.

            ldaGA speaks of the "greatness of dimension and size."' The Lord

is not thought of as finite--the reference is rather to the dimension

of His glory. The Lord, hvAhy;, is the One Who is magnified. The One

called as Judge in verse twenty-four is the covenant-keeping God of

Israel. The basis for this praise and confession is found at the end of

the verse: The One Who is God is constantly delighting Himself in the

peace of His servant.

            CpEHA refers to desiring, with the implication of satisfaction in

the object, therefore both desire and delight are included in its meaning

here.2 God desires the peace (or prosperity, or health) of his servant.

It will therefore come to pass and He will delight in that prosperity

while His servant is blessed by it. Both the Lord and the righteous

delight in the same thing, i.e., David's vindicated righteousness and

consequent peace. The joy of men is all the greater because by His vin-

dication of David He has vindicated their faith in His righteousness.

            The last verse of the psalm describes David's future actions on

the basis of the results of this trial.3 David promises that his tongue

will speak the righteousness of the Lord.   hgAhA is of uncertain meaning


            1TDOT, s.v. “ldaGA ,” by R. Mosis, p. 392.

            2Alexander, Psalms, p, 155.

            3For the basis upon which Psalm 35 is referred to as a trial, see

"Evidences of Trial in Psalm 35," below; Table Two, "Legal Terminology in

Psalm 35;" Table Three, "Interrelationship of Characters in Psalm 35;" as

well as comments throughout the "Exegisis of Psalm 35," above.


due to its wide range of usage.1 As in Psalm 63.6-7 the verbs lle.hi and Nne.ri

are used in synthetic parallelism, it may be that meditation is

expressed in a song of praise.2 Because of its synthetic (climactic)

parallelism with similar verbs here (Cf. v. 27--. . . rmaxA . . . HmaWA . . . (31)

it probably has the same meaning. David, having meditated upon the

righteousness and justice of God, vows to praise Him continually


            The righteousness of the Lord is that righteousness on the basis

of which David was acquitted, and the result of his proclaiming it will

be the praise of God continually from that day on.

            Three times David has described the person of his enemies.

Three times he has called for the intervention of God on his behalf.

Three times he has described the judgment which he desired to be meted

out against them. Here for the third and final time he expresses his

freedom from guilt and the sin(s) of which he was accused by lifting his

voice confidently in the assurance that the Lord would judge him to be

innocent of the charges.

            The judgments which he has prayed upon his foes are terrible.

David claims to be righteous even in the midst of these judgments. This

is not due to myopia on David's part. He knew the law and its


            1TDOT, s.v. "hgAhA," by A. Negoita and H. Ringgren, pp. 321ff.

Negoita lists four general meanings for hgAhA: (1) to utter inarticulate

sounds (Is. 31.4; Jb. 31.2), (2) to mutter or whisper (Is. 8.19), (3) to

speak (Ps. 37.30; Jb. 27.4), (4) to speak in a particular way (Is. 16.7;

Ezk. 2.10).

            2Ibid., p. 323.

            3It is important to note that David in no way suggests joy or

celebration because of the judgments upon his enemies. He instead turns

his face to the Lord and refrains from the malicious gloating which all

too easily might have been his response.


requirements and this psalm reflects that legal framework. His claim to

righteousness is based on adherence to the law, which adherence is vin-

dicated by his righteous Judge. There is, therefore, no incompatibility

between the two--his imprecations are the outworking of his righteousness.






                         Evidences of Trial in Psalm 35


Legal Vocabulary in Psalm 35

            Throughout the exegesis of Psalm 35 David's use of forensic lan-

guage has been noted. In this section these uses are collated so that

they may be seen together, demonstrating that Psalm 35 portrays a trial

scene, a lawsuit in progress, against David by his enemies. With this in

mind, the imprecations are explained in the conclusion, below.

            The first word (hbAyri), as Perowne states, "is properly used of

a court of justice."1 Since it is "properly" so used, why change its

meaning here?2 The bariy; are those bringing David to court. As seen

above,3 verses 4-8 are an application of the lex talionis to David's situ-

ation.  Mn.AHi(v. 7), though not legal terminology, certainly portrays

David's protestation of innocence. The first strophe (vv. 1-10), there-

fore, is concerned with justice upon his enemies. That the particular

justice sought is not undeserved is demonstrated below.

            In the second strophe (vv. 11-18) the number of allusions in-

creases. In verse eleven false witnesses were shown to be witnesses in

a court of law by comparison with Deuteronomy 19.16-19.4  lxAwA may

refer to the legal process of questioning the witness or defendant. A

common meaning is to ask for something rather than about something, but

its second (listed) meaning is "to ask" or "to inquire," or, as Gesenius,


            1Perowne, Psalms, p. 307. Cf. on v. 23, below. For examples of

byri meaning "to conduct a lawsuit" see Is. 3.13; 59.16; Ps. 103.9;

Am. 7.4; Jb. 10.2; Is. 27.8; 1 Sa. 24.15; Mic. 7.9; Jer. 50.34; 51.36;

La. 3.59.

            2Cf. p. 32, footnotes 3 and 4.

            3Cf. "Exegesis of Psalm 35," verses 4-8, above (pp. 35-41).

            4Cf. "Exegesis of Psalm 35," verses 11-12, above (pp. 45-49).



"to interrogate."1 The second strophe thus centers on the nature of the

testimony being given against David and the truth regarding his conduct

toward them.

            David’s emphasis changes in the third strophe (vv. 19-28)—his

language is taken from neither the battlefield nor the experience of the

past, but centers upon the court in session.  rq,w, (v. 19) refers to the

false pretences which his foes are using against him. They are using

them both as false testimony in the court2 and as their excuse for hating

him. They also devise words of deceit (tOmr;mi yreb;di, v. 20) to be used

as testimony against David.3  htAyxirA (v. 22) is used only six times in

exactly this form in the Bible,4 and has certain legal overtones from

those verses.

            FPAw;mi (v. 23) is undeniably a term from the law court, as is

at the end of the verse. The Lord is asked to "judge" David (ynFep;wA)

according to His righteousness (j~q;d;ci) which speaks of the justness of

both judges Ezk. 23.45; Pr. 29.2) and the law by which they judge

(Dt. 4.8).


            1Gesenius's Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, s.v.

"lxawA." It is so used in Job 40.7 of the Lord asking Job and commanding

him to answer; in Haggai 2.11 the prophet is commanded to ask the priests

for an interpretation of the law.

            2BDB, s.v. "rq,w,," and exegesis on verse 19, above (pp. 61-62).

            3Cf. "Exegesis of Psalm 35," verse 20, above (pp. 61-64).

            4Nu. 27.13--part of Moses' judgment is that he only see the

Promised Land; 2 Sa. 18.21--Joab orders the Cushite to report to David

the death of Absalom (the Cushite thus becoming a witness to his death);

Ps. 10.14--the Lord is invoked to destroy the wicked because He had seen

their impenitence and atheism; Ps. 35.20--the Lord is not to be silent,

nor far, but to awake and judge David; La. 3.59,60--the Lord is called

upon to judge Jeremiah's case because He has seen the plottings of his

foes. While not a technical legal term, htAyxirA has strong legal overtones.


In verse twenty-seven yqiydici refers to David's vindication before

the Lord as Judge, and the Lord, magnified as Judge, receives the praise

of His servant for His qydicA (v. 28).

            That this psalm is the description of a court scene should now

be clear. Ringgren states that "reference is made to a lawsuit" in this

psalm1 on the basis of only a few of the above references; surely this

is a valid coiclusion on the evidence cited above.

            The language is not more explicit because David is writing

poetry, not a prose account of his life. He uses imagery and figures

of speech to describe his enemies, their plans and testimony against

him, and his own desires against them. This does not mean that David

is saying these imprecations in a fit of temper. David truly desired

the destruction of his enemies and a brief examination of Deuteronomy

19.16-19 will explain his reasons.


Deuteronomy 19.16-19

            This is the main passage in the Mosaic law concerning the nature

of testimony in a court of law. After forbidding a negative decision on

the testimony of only one witness (v. 15) Moses deals with the possibi-

lity of a malicious witness (smAHA-dfe). If a man who is a malicious wit-

ness rises up against someone a definite procedure was to be followed.

The accused and accuser were to stand before the Lord. This

location could have been at the Tabernacle, but it certainly was a public

place for a public trial. They were to stand there before whatever

priests and judges were over Israel in that day. These judges2 would


            1TDOT, s.v. “byaxA," by Ringgren, p. 217.

            2These judges were probably the leaders of the system of judges

which Jethro had helped Moses to install (Dt. 1.9-18; Ex. 18), rather


inquire diligently (bFeyhe Uwr;dA) and, upon discovery of the duplicity of

the rq,w,-dfe (as his designation became), would mete out to him the punish-

ment which he (the false witness) had hoped to visit upon his opponent

(the innocent defendant). There was to be no mercy (j~n,yfe SOHtA-xlo);

the lex talionis ends this account. This was the law of the Lord.

            Two chapters earlier (Dt. 17.18-20) the king was to write a copy

of the law and read it all the days of his life. If any king did this

at any time during Israel's history, it would have been David. He would

know this law concerning false testimony. From David and Solomon we

learn that Israel's king was her highest court of appeal during the

monarchy.1 David could not go to a higher authority for his judgment.

Even if he were not yet the king, he soon would be and, in either situ-

ation, he could not judge his own case. David therefore asks the Lord

to judge.

            Knowing his innocence and the false hearts and desires of his

foes, he asked that this law be carried out. They had desired his

destruction--he prayed for theirs (vv. 1-8). They desired to rejoice

over him and to see him swallowed up--David sought to rejoice in the

Lord and their downfall and shame (v. 26). He does not, however, press

the law to its fullest possible extent. He only desires to delight in

the Lord's righteousness, not in their destruction. David is exonerated

from any personal revenge or malice--he seeks the careful legal ful-

fillment of the Law of God. He is asking the Lord to do--not what He had

said He would do--what He had said should be done.


than the judges of the book of Judges. Judges during the monarchy were

under the direct control of the king (cf. 1 Ch. 26.29).

            1Cf. 1 Ki. 3.9, 16-28; 2 Sa. 15.2-4, 6.


            Psalm 35 is a poetic description of David's situation wherein,

using the figure of a lawsuit and trial,1 David portrays the slander of

his enemies against his innocence. His enemies desire his downfall and

ruin and he sees no way of appeal except to the righteousness of the Lord

on the basis of the Mosaic Law. Basing his prayer on the principles of

Deuteronomy 19.16-21, he asks for the righteous Judge to judge righteous-

ly. We see, therefore, that David's prayers, rather than negating his

claims to righteousness, show his concern for the honorable keeping of

the Law and the doing of God's good pleasure.


            1Several respected commentators differ with this interpretation.

Leupold (Psalms, p. 285) says that this cannot be understood as lawsuit

because "the first figure used is taken literally without further proof

for this approach; all the rest are allowed to remain as figures."

McKay (Psalms 1-50, pp. 160f) alleges "conflicting metaphors" which deny

the interpretation of this thesis. Kirkpatrick (Psalms, p. 176) says

that the psalmist drops the figure of a lawsuit for that of the battle-

field. It is the contention of this thesis that these statements miss

the image of the psalm as a whole and do not, therefore, do it proper
















                         New Testament Considerations

The Problem

            Can Christians pray the imprecatory laments? How do David's

prayers relate to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ who said "But I

tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6.27f

NIV)? We will answer the second question first to gain more light for

the first. An examination of these verses and Psalm 35 will show that

David's words are not antithetical to the commands of Christ, but that,

inspired by the same Holy Spirit, they speak and write in harmony with

that Spirit.


A Resolution

            Jesus' words encompass a four-fold command: love, do good, bless,

and pray. These constitute a four step program of response to the hatred

of one's foes.1 Love (a]ga<ph, here the imperative from a]gapa<w) is the

preliminary requirement because apart from it all would be a meaningless

waste of energy2 David says that he acted toward these opponents with

increasing love--first as his friend, then his brother and finally as

his own mother (v. 14). Each of these relationships would be impossible

to emulate without some degree of love--even if the friend is only a

neighbor (fare; LXX—plhsi<on). David fulfilled the first command--to

love his enemies.


            1I am indebted for the following analysis to a paper by Thomas

V. Taylor, A Short Study in the Problem of Psalm 109 (Elkins Park: Taylor

Press, n.d.).

            21 Cor. 13.1-3.


            To do good (kalw?j poiei?te) is to actively seek to improve the

welfare of the other. In verse 12 David laments that his enemies repaid

him evil for good (hbAOF tHaTa hfArA; Lxx—ponhra> a]nti> kalw?n), thus im-

plying that he did good to them and for them.1 To bless (eu]logei?te) con-

notes calling down the gracious power of God on someone's behalf. This

relates closely to prayer (proseu<xesqe) on behalf of our enemies. David

states that he has done this in a specific situation (v. 13) on their

behalf. Is it a coincidence that David has thus fulfilled every part of

the law of love which Jesus taught? Were it not for the fact of the

verbal inspiration of the Scriptures we would be forced to this conclu-

sion. We can, however, confidently say that the same Holy Spirit who

recorded Christ's words directed David's life and the writing of this


            David's claim to righteousness, up to this point, is still justi-

fied. How are we to rectify his imprecations with this statement?

David, having followed the outline of Christ, realizes that the hatred

of his enemies is maintaining its intensity, and is not diminishing. He

therefore prays that the Lord will fulfill His desire upon them as is

revealed in Scripture--"a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for

a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot." Just so will the Lord

Christ say in that day, "Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal

fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."2

            David illustrates the consistency of God's dealings with men

throughout history. This psalm is an example of how godly men obey

their Lord in all things.


            1Cf. "Exegesis of Psalm 35," verses 11-12, above (pp. 45-49).

            2This enables us to understand Christ's use of Ps. 35.19 (cf Ps.

69.4) in reference to Himself.


The Christian and Imprecation

            Having said this, may the Christian pray the imprecatory psalms?

If they show the harmony and continuity of God's revelation are we to

pray them as David wrote them? "The imprecation of a calamity upon

another would seem to be wholly adverse to the spirit of the New Testa-

ment."1 Does this mean that Christian should not utter the imprecations,

but skip over them in reading the psalms, or should one heed Darton when

he says that if we are to use the psalms at all, we must use them in

their entirety or else we will not understand the individual psalm?2

            We have seen David's problem and his response to it. His Christ-

like responselto the allegations of his enemies is finalized in the im-

precations; He has done everything that he should, and he then commits

them to the will and judgment of God. Whatever should come upon them

would. The Christian is free (is obligated) to follow the steps outlined

by Jesus and has the responsibility to turn such persons over to the hand

and will of God (2 Timothy 4.14), whatever that action may bring forth.

            May Christians pray them? We cannot use them for personal vin-

dication but we may and should use them as warnings of God's judgment.3

We may and should use them in worship because:

                        their effect is to restrain us from sin, to make

                        us love and value justice, to lead us to commit

                        vengeance into the hands of the Lord,...and to


            1Edwards, "The Imprecations," p. 99.

            2G.C.1Darton, "The New Abuse of the Psalter," Theology 73

(January 1970): 26.

            3Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, The Tyndale Old Testament Commen-

taries (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), p. 32.


                        show us that God is to be praised for His

                        justice as well as His mercy.1

We can read them with thanksgiving that our God is the Judge of all the

Earth and our hope is in our vindication at His tribunal.


            1J. H. Webster, "The Imprecatory Psalms," in The  Psalms in Wor-

ship, ed. John McNaugher (Pittsburgh: The United Presbyterian Board of

Publications, 1907), p. 309.



                           SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION


            The burden of this thesis has been the interrelationship between

the righteousness of the psalmist and his imprecations against his ene-

mies. The genre of the lament has been examined briefly, and the exis-

tence of a sub-genre (the imprecatory lament) has been suggested from a

form-critical analysis of the Psalter.

            Psalm 35 was selected as the passage to be exegeted because of

its nature as a crux passage regarding this question. A literal-

grammatical exegesis of this psalm demonstrated it to be a poetic descrip-

tion of David's situation using the imagery of a lawsuit. David, as the

the psalmist, was seen praying for the fulfillment of the Law of Moses

with regard to false witnesses. His righteousness was not mitigated be-

cause he was praying for the working out of God's perfect will, not for

personal vengeance.

            The New Testament passage Luke 6.27f, as the locus classicus

of Jesus' teaching concerning enemies and abuse, was then studied. David

was shown to be in complete accord with the teaching of the Lord in this

situation. Christians, however, are urged not to pray the imprecations

in these psalms for vengeance, but rather to learn from them the conse-

quences of rejecting the Truth and protection of accepting it.



            David's righteousness is thus maintained in the midst of these

prayers because he was innocent of the charges brought against him and




was praying only for the fulfillment of the Law and justice of God.1


            1The question which naturally arises concerning the universal

applicability of this proposed solution to all of the imprecations in

the psalms and the rest of the Scriptures is not answered in this thesis.

This solution does not apply necessarily to other imprecations. This is

not to say that it does not apply to other passages. What this thesis

does demonstrate is that it is not proper to seek justification for the

imprecations only by a philosophical argument which then extends over the

complete corpus of imprecatory passages en masse. They must be exegeted

within the context of their particular psalms, prophecies or writings.

We leave this as a challenge to others to seek solutions to the other

instances--to come to a solution for each passage on its own merits, not

on the merits or exegesis of another.

                                          Appendix One

                                 The Titles of the Psalms


            Attitudes toward the psalm titles range from that of the New

English Bible which says "they are almost certainly not original"1 and

therefore omits them from the text, to Sampey, who says, "The inscriptions

cannot always be relied upon,"2 to Clarence Mason who writes that the

titles are "part of the inspired text"3 (emphasis his). If we accept the

third position, authorship and the historical background of some of the

psalms are no longer questions--the answers are in the titles. Is this

a reasonable conclusion? There are two basic lines of evidence which

show that it is.4


Antiquity of the Psalm Titles

            To demonstrate the existence of psalm titles in antiquity, four

periods of their use are briefly noted: the second, seventh, eighth and

tenth centuries B.C.

            The Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX),

was translated in the third and second centuries B.C. Thirty-two psalm


            1The New English Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971),

p. xviii.

            2The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, s.v., "Book of

Psalms," by John R. Sampey, p. 2487.

            3Clarence E. Mason, Jr., "Old Testament Poetic Books," in Bible

Syllabi (Philadelphia: Philadelphia College of Bible, 1970), p. 28.

            4William Harding, Old Testament Poets, unpublished class lecture

(Hatfield: Biblical Theological Seminary, 1977). The following discussion

is based upon this material.




titles were added to the psalter. Since, as far as we know, there

were no titles for them to have copied and since they added titles

to the text they may have been copying the then-current procedure

of using psalm titles. This does not prove that psalm titles

were in use at that time. It only shows that the translators

felt the need for a certain level of conformity within the psalter.

They added titles, thus, to give the book greater regularity.1

            The prophet Habakkuk gives evidence of the use of psalm

titles in the seventh century B.C. Written shortly before the

Assyrian conquest of Israel, Habakkuk 3 is a psalm with a super-

scription (3.1) and subscription (3.19b). hlApiT; (3. 1) is used

to designate five psalms (see Ps. 17.1; 86.1; 90.1; 102.1; 142.1)

and the l auctoris2 describes Habakkuk as the author. This lamedh

is typical of most of the psalms with titles. tOnyog;wi is a word

of uncertain meaning,3 but it too is found in Psalm 7.1 (its only

other occurrence in the MT). The subscription of Habakkuk's psalm

contains a word used in fifty-five psalms—Hacenam;la, meaning “to the

overseer." Psalm titles were therefore in use in the seventh

century B.C.

            In Isaiah 38, a psalm of Hezekiah shows that they were also

in use in the eighth century B.C. Entitled (v.9) a UhyAqiz;hil; bTAk;mi

or "a writing of Hezekiah," and subscripted hvAhy; tybe-lfa, this


            1Their addition of Ps. 151 to the Masoretic Text (MT)

should show the need for caution.

            2Kautzsch, Grammar, p. 420. See also BDB s.v. “l”.

            3See the LXX which renders it with ya<lmoj in Ps. 7.1 but w[dh< in

Hab. 3.1.


shows the use of psalm titles in the eighth century B.C.

            2 Samuel has two examples of psalm titles which may indicate

their use in the tenth century B.C.1 The psalm beginning in 2

Samuel 22.1-2a2 has an historical prologue,3 and is called a song

(hrAywi).4 2 Sam. 23.1-7 is also a psalm, and is entitled "The

last words of David."5 This too is a psalm with a title, proving

that during the tenth century B.C. titles may have been commonly

used with psalms.

            Psalm titles were in use at the appropriate times so that

they could have been part of the original Hebrew text.



Historical-Textual Evidence

            The oldest complete MS of the Hebrew Bible (Leningrad Codex

B19) is dated A.D. 1008-1009. In this codex the psalm titles

appear as an integral part of the text of each psalm with which

they occur.6

            A psalter manuscript found in Cave 4 at Qumran, dated in the

second century B.C. also has the titles of the psalms as an integral

part of the Hebrew text. Psalms 1-69 are in basically the same order


            1The events certainly take place during the tenth century B.C.,

but the books of Samuel may not have been finally compiled for another

generation or more after the events which they describe.

            2See Psalm 18. Therefore, this is definitely a psalm.

            3See Psalms 18, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63, 142.

            4This term is used in Ps. 46.1 and 28 other times in psalter.

            5MyniroHExah dvidA yreb;di hl,xev;

            6See Kittel, ed., Biblia Hebraica, pp. 978-1100 for an

example of this.


as in today's Bibles1 and again show the antiquity of their presence

in the text. Another scroll discovered at Qumran in Cave 11 was dated

to the early first century A.D. Many of the psalms from 118-150 are

contained in it and verse one is legible in seventeen of them (the

absence of psalm and verses is due to the deteriorated condition of

the MS, which has many lacunae). In psalms with lacunae, these are

approximately the correct size for the insertion of the missing words.

Only one of these seventeen has a title unknown to the MT (Ps. 144.1 dvdl

is omitted with no gap). Psalm 130.1 also adds the word ynvdx to

the title. The titles are otherwise nearly identical to the MT.

These scrolls are further proof of the presence of the titles in

the text in antiquity.



The LXX Translation

            The LXX was mentioned above as evidence for the presence of

psalm titles in the second century B.C. The translation of psalm

titles in the LXX shows that they were at least present at that time.

It also is a strong argument for the antiquity of the titles because

of the way in which many of them were mistranslated.

            That many of the psalm titles were mistranslated2 suggests

that the psalm titles were old enough for their meanings to have been

forgotten by the second century B.C. This would require a gap of at


            1Ps. 32 is omitted; Ps. 71 is inserted following Ps. 38.

            2E.g., LXX translates by eij to te<loj (Ps. 4.1; 5.1; 6.1).


least several centuries.1




            These evidences are not advanced as proof of the originality

of the psalm titles. Apart from the recovery of the autographs

no such absolute proof is possible. They do combine to yield a

high degree of probability that the psalm titles are original,

authentic and inspired.

            The burden of proof, however, does not rest upon those

seeking to demonstrate their inspiration, but upon those who

would deny it. The titles of the psalms, in all of our MSS,

reveal a high degree of stability and regularity. They present

themselves as a part of the text (in the original language). Until

they are proven otherwise, they should be accepted as such and

their accuracy and validity recognized.


            1Derek Kidner (Psalms 1-72, pp. 32f) says that the New

Testament recognizes the psalm titles as authoritative (see Mark 12.

35ff; Acts 2.29ff, 34ff, 13.35ff), but this is not conclusive.

These references are too general to be asserted as proof of


                                  TABLE 1-A

1Westermann was the only author advocating this element of an imprecatory psalm (lament).

2Brueggeman was the only author advocating this element of an imprecatory psalm (lament).

3Park was the only author calling this an imprecatory psalm (in part or in whole).

4Pfeiffer is the only author calling this an imprecatory psalm (in part or in whole).

5( ) around a verse number indicates that the presence of an element in that psalm is questionable.




1. Certain psalms conform to the general pattern elicited by form-criticism.

2. Many psalms do not conform to this pattern. One or two vocabulary words or verses have affinities with the pattern, but this does not justify their inclusion in the category of imprecatory psalms.

3. Several psalms conform closely to that pattern and are more carefully examined in Table 1-B, below.


                                              TABLE 1-B



Number            35                     55                     58                     59                     69         109

Appeals            1,17,                 1-2a,                 6                      1,4b                  1a         1, 26

for Help            22,24                16a,17a

Impreca-           4-6,8,                9a,15                6-8                   11b-13a            22-28    6-15

tions                 19,25-                                                                                                   19-20


Prayers             17,                    6-8                                           1-2                   1,          21, 26

                        23-24                                                                                        14-18   

Accusa-            1,3a,                 3c,c,                 2-5                   2-4a                  4,          2-5

tions                 4a, 7,                9b-11                                                                20-21    16-18

                        11-12                18b-21





Incen-               18,27                                        11                     13b-c                6-9       2b, 3b

tives                                                                                                                             4a, 4b

Promises           18, 28               23c                                           16-17                30-31    30        


Protesta-           7a,b,                 (22b)                (10a)                3c,4a                4          2b, 3b

tions of             11-14,                                                                                                   4a, 4b

Innocence         19, 20b

Certainty           (9-10)               16b,17b                         10                     32-33    (30)

of                                             18a,                                                                              31

Hearing                                                23a-b

Witnesses         17a,                  9b                                             4b                     (5),

                        22a                                                                                           19

            These psalms were selected out of the larger list (Table 1-A)

because of their high degree of conformity to the general elements of

Table 1-A, above. The names of several of the elements have been

changed because it is felt that these (suggested) names reflect the na-

ture of those elements more accurately than do the names in Table 1-A.

            These name changes are the following: (1) "Address" was changed

to "Appeals for Help," because not every vocative is a cry for help;

some are only a cry for hearing--the Lord is requested to listen to the

voice of the psalmist. (2) "Lament/Complaint" was changed to "Accusa-

tions," because not every complaint is an accusation. (3) "Prayer/Plea"

was changed to either "Imprecation" or "Prayers:" because (a) "Impreca-

tion" because some prayers are requests for judgment upon the psalmist's

foes; (b) "Prayers" because some prayers are requests for deliverance

without reference to the desired effect upon his foes. (4) The element

of "Witnesses" was added because this is an important part of these

psalms, especially Psalm 35, as seen in the body of this thesis. (5)

The element of “Protestation of Innocence” was added for the same reason.



            Only one of these psalms lacks more than one element (Psalm

58), two lack one element (Psalms 55 and 109), and three have all nine

elements. There may be other psalms which correspond with this analysis

to some degree, but these are most generally accepted as imprecatory.

Because they are also all classified as laments, these psalms are sug-

gested for the sub-genre of imprecatory lament.

                                        TABLE 2

                 LEGAL VOCABULARY IN PSALM 35

Hebrew            Location in                   Basic                            Passages for

Vocabulary       Psalm 35                      Meaning(s)                   Comparison

rbADA        20                                1. dispute, legal 1. Ex 18.16,22,26;

                                                                  case.                          Dt 1.17; 19.15;

                                                                                                    Is 29.21.

                                                            2. trespass,                   2. Jg 6.29; 8.1;

                                                                dispute.                        25.12,21; Ne 2.19;

                                                                                                    13.17; Ex 1.18; Dt

                                                                                                    13.15; 17.4.

FPAw;mi       23                                1. judgment (the            1. Dt 1.17; Ec 11.9;

                                                                 act of deci-               12.14; Is 3.14.

                                                                 ding a case)

                                                            2. a case pre-               2. Is 50.8; 2 Sa

                                                                sented for                     15.4; 1 Ki 3.11.


                                                            3. execution of              3. Dt 32.41; Is 26.8;

                                                                 judgment.                    Zp 3.15; Ps 97.8.

dfe         11                                a witness; a per-           Nu 5.13; Jos 24.22;

                                                            son giving tes-               I Sa 12.5 (cf. under

                                                            timony.                     ).

qydicA       24, 27                          1. righteousness,           1. Is 53.11; 60.21;

                                                            having been                      Ps 33.1.

                                                            vindicated by


                                                            2. a quality re-              2. Ps 7.12; 58.2;

                                                            quired of a                        Ezk 23.45; Dt

                                                            judge.                               1.16; 16.18.

htAyxirA 22                                            "you have seen it"          Lam 3.59,60.

byri         1, 23                            1. (n) lawsuit,                1. Ex 23.2,3,6; 2 Sa

                                                            court conten-                15.2,4; Ho 4.1;

                                                            tion.                              Mi 6.2.

                                                            2. (v) to contend,          2. Is 3.13; 57.16;

                                                            conduct a                         Ps 103.9; Am 7.4.

                                                            legal case.

FpawA        24                                to judge, govern.           Ge 18.25; Is 33.22;

                                                                                                Ps 82.1; Jg 11.27;

                                                                                                1 Sa 24.13; Ps 9.5.

rq,w,        19                                false; malicious  Ex 23.1; Dt 1916ff;

                                                            (used of wit-                 Ps 27.12.



                                                  TABLE 3

                                   INTERRELATIONSHIP OF THE

                                          PARTIES IN PSALM 35


                                                 The LORD God

                                             bears                         bears

                                         witness                              witness

                                     against                                        on behalf of


                             David's foes                    U                             David

                                accuse David--->      D <------- defends himself

                                (no defense)--->        G <------- accuses his foes


                             GUILTY <--------------S------------------> RIGHTEOUS

            There are three parties involved in the lawsuit of Psalm 35.

They are David, his foes or enemies and the Lord. The interrelationship

of these three parties makes clear the setting and content of Psalm 35.

            David. As the defendant, David protests his innocence (vv. 7,

11-14,19,27). As the unjustly accused one, he asks for the fulfillment of

the Mosaic Law upon the false witnesses. Needing defense he asks God to

judge between himself and the enemies.

            As the witness against his enemies' slander, David bears testi-

mony concerning their lives and wards (vv. 4-7,11-12,15-16, 20-21). He

reveals their duplicity and asks for their judgment.

            David's enemies. The witnesses for the prosecution, they bear

testimony (albeit false) against David (vv. 11-12, 20-21) and seek his

downfall (vv. 7,19,25-26). David's counter-testimony is ignored--they,

like the Sanhedrin of the Apostles' day could not answer because the

testimony was true.

            The Lord. The Lord is summoned by David to act as the Judge (vv.

1,23-24). David knows that He is Qd,c, Fpewo. In spite of his innocence

David realizes that he needs a truly righteous judge to exonerate him

because their plots against him are thorough (vv. 4b,20).

            He also requests the Lord's presence as a witness who has seen

the truth. He knows of God's omniscience and that His testimony will be

complete and true, including his (David's) innocence and their (David's

enemies') guilt. David will entrust his cause to the One who knows truly

and both bears testimony to that knowledge and acts in accord with it.




Texts and Versions


Aland, Kurt, et al., ed. The Greek New Testament. 3rd ed. New York:

            United Bible Societies, 1975.


Kittel, Rufolf, ed. Biblia Hebraica. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Wurttembergische

            Bibelanstalt, 1937.


The Lockman Foundation. New American Standard Bible. Carol Stream:

            Creation House, Inc., 1971.


The New English Bible with the Apocrypha. New York: Oxford University

            Press, 1971.


The New International Version of the Holy Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan

            Bible Publishers, 1978.


The New Scofield Reference Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.


Rahlfs, Alfred, ed. Septuaginta. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Wurttembergische

            Bibelanstalt, 1935.


Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1935.


Language Aids
Arndt, William Frederick, and Danker, Frederick Wilbur. A  Greek-English 

            Lexicon of the New Testament. 2nd ed.


Brown, Francis; Driver, Samuel Rolles; and Briggs, Charles Augustus, eds.

            A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. “llahA,”

            wdaHA,” “bwaHA,” “hmA,” “wp,n,,” “dUf,” “MUcfA,” “rq,w,.”


Driver, Samuel Rolles. A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew. 2nd

            ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1881.


Einspahr, Bruce, ed. Index to Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.

            Chicago: Moody Press, 1976.


Hatch, Edwin and Redpath, Henry A. A Concordance to the Septuagint and

            the Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament. Graz: Akademische

            Druck-U. Verlagsanstalt, 1954.


Kautzsch, E. Gesenius's Hebrew Grammar. 2nd ed. Translated by A.E. Cowley.

            Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910.


Liddell, Henry G. and Scott, Robert, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon. 2 vols.

            2nd ed. Revised by Henry S. Jones and Roderick McKenzie, Oxford:

            Clarendon Press, 1948.           105



Mandelkern, Solomon, ed. Veteris Testamenti Concordantiae Hebraicae atque 

            Chaldaicae. 2 vols. Tel Aviv: Schocken Publishing House, Ltd.,


Strong, James, ed. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids: Associ-

            ated Publishers and Authors, Inc., n.d.

Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. S.v. "hgAhA," by A. Negoita

            and Helmer Ringgren.

________. Revised ed.S.v. "NOdx," by Otto Eissfeldt; "byaxA," by Helmer

            Ringgren; "wOB," by Horst Seebass; "flaBA," by J. Schupphaus;

            "ldaGA," by R. Mosis, Jan Bergmann and Helmer Ringgren.

Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux, ed. Gesenius's Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon.

            London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.

Introductory Materials


Old Testament Introductions

Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody

            Press, 1968.

Eissfeldt, Otto. The Old Testament: An Introduction. Translated by Peter

            R. Ackroyd. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Fohrer, G. Introduction to the Old Testament. Nashville: Abingdon Press,


Harrison, R.K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: William

            B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969.

Kittel, Rudolf. The Scientific Study of the Old Testament. Translated

            by J.C. Hughes. New York: Putnam's Sons, 1910.

Mason, Clarence E., ed. Bible syllabi. Philadelphia: Philadelphia College

            of Bible, 1970.

Pfeiffer, R.H. Introduction to the Old Testament. New York: Harper and

            Bros., 1948.

Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks. 2nd ed. New York: Harper and

            Row, 1970.

Soggin, J. Alberto. Introduction to the Old Testament. Old Testament

            Library. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976.



Introductions to the Psalms

Barth, C. Introduction to the Psalms. Translated by R.A. Wilson. New York:

            Scribner's, 1966.


Clines, D.J.A. "Psalm Research Since 1955: I. The Psalms and the Cult,"

            The Tyndale Bulletin 18 (1967): 103-126.

_________. "Psalm Research Since 1955: II. The Literary Genres," The

            Tyndale Bulletin 20 (1969): 105-125.

Drijvers, P. The Psalms: Their Structure and Meaning. New York: Herder

            and Herder, 1965.

Gunkel, Hermann. The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction. Translated by

            Thomas M. Horner. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967.

Johnson, A.R. "The Psalms." in The Old Testament and Modern Study. Edited

            by H.H. Rowley. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.

Kent, Charles F. and Sanders, Frank K., ed. The Messages of the Bible,

            12 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904. Vol. 5: The  

            Messages of the Psalmists, by John Edgar McFadyen.

Lewis, C.S. Reflections on the Psalms. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1958.

Mowinckel, Sigmund O.P. "Notes on the Psalms." Studia Theologica 13

            (1959): 134-165.

___________. The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 vols. Translated by D.R.

            Ap-Thomas. New York: Abingdon Press, 1962.

Murphy, Roland E. "A New Classification of Literary Forms in the Psalms."

            Catholic Biblical Quarterly 21 (1959): 83-87.

Oesterley, W.O.E. A Fresh Approach to the Psalms. New York: Charles

            Scribner's Sons, 1937.

Peters, John P. The Psalms as Liturgies. New York: MacMillan Co., 1922.

Robinson, Theodore H. The Poetry of the Old Testament. London: Gerald

            Duckworth and Co., Ltd., 1969.

Sandmel, S., ed. Introduction to the Psalms: Old Testament Issues. London:

            S.C.M., 1969.

Stensvaag, J.M. "Recent Approaches to the Psalms." Lutheran Quarterly 9

            (August 1957): 195-212.

The Student's Old Testament, 6 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,

            1914. Vol. 5: The Songs, Hymns and Prayers of the Old Testament,

            by Charles Foster Kent.

Thrupp, Joseph Francis. An Introduction to the Study and Use of the 

            Psalms. 2 vols. 2nd ed. London: MacMillan and Co., 1879.

Walker, R.H. The Modern Message of the Psalms. New York: Abingdon Press,



Westermann, Claus. The Psalms: Structure, Content & Message. Translated

            by Ralph D. Gehrke. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1980.

Wilson, R.D. "The Headings of the Psalms, Pt. I." Princeton Theological 

            Review 24 (January 1926): 1-37.

__________. "The Headings of the Psalms, Pt. II." Princeton Theological 

            Review 24 (July 1926): 353-395.



Eichrodt, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament, 2 vols. Translated by

            J.A. Baker. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961 and 1967.

Lehman, Chester K. Biblical Theology, 2 vols. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald

            Press, 1971. Vol. 1: Old Testament.

Mason, Clarence E., ed. Doctrine syllabi. Philadelphia: Philadelphia

            College of Bible, 1970.

Oehler, Gustave Friedrich. Theology of the Old Testament. Revised ed.

            Translated by George E. Day. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing

            Co., 1962.

Payne, J. Barton. Theology of the Older Testament. Grand Rapids: Zonder-

            van Publishing Co., 1962.

von Rad, Gerhard. Old Testament Theology, 2 vols. Translated by D.M.G.

            Stalker. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1962 and 1965.


Historical Surveys

Finegan, Jack. Light From the Ancient Past, 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton

            University Press, 1974.

Gottwald, R.K. A Light to the Nations. New York: Harper and Bros., 1959.


Pedersen, J. Israel: Its Life and Culture, 2 vols. London: Oxford Univer-

            sity Press, 1926.



Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. S.v. "Book of Psalms," by John

            Richard Sampey.

The New Bible Dictionary. S.v. "Book of Psalms," by J.G.S.S. Thomson.

Payne, J. Barton. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. New York: Harper and

            Row, Publishers, 1973.


Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. S.v. "Book of Psalms," by

            J. Barton Payne; "Imprecatory Psalms," by Steven Barabas.



Berkhof, Louis. Principles of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker

            Book House, 1971.

Fairbairn, Patrick. The Typology of Scripture, 2 vols. Grand Rapids:

            Zondervan Publishing Company, 1900.

Mickelsen, A. Berkeley. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B.

            Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963.

Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Bible Interpretation. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids:

            Baker Book House, 1970.



Buber, Martin. Right and Wrong. London: S.C.M., 1952.

Douglass, A.C. "The Ethics of the Psalms." in The Psalms in Worship.

            Edited by John McNaugher. Pittsburgh: The United Presbyterian

            Board of Publications, 1907.

Greene, William Brenton. "The Ethics of the Old Testament." in Classical 

            Evangelical Essays on Old Testament Interpretation. Edited by

            Walter C. Kaiser. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976.

Van Til, Cornelius. Christian Theistic Ethics. Class syllabus, Westmin-

            ster Theological Seminary, 1952.


Commentaries on the Psalms

Alexander, J.A. The Psalms, 2 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,


Anderson, Arnold A. "The Book of Psalms." in The New Century Bible. New

            York: Oliphants, 1972.

Barnes, Albert. Notes on the Old Testament. Edited by Robert Frew. Psalms,

            3 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970.

Binnie, William. The Psalms. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1886.

__________. The Psalms: Their History, Teaching and Use. London: Nelson and

            Sons, 1870.

de Boer, P.A.H., ed. Studies on Psalms. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1963.



Briggs, C.A. and Briggs, E.G. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the 

            Book of Psalms. The International Critical Commentary. London:

            T. & T. Clark, 1906-7.

Brown, David; Fausset, A.R.; and Jamieson, Robert, ed. A Commentary 

            Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old and New Testa-

            ments, 6 vols. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,

            1967. Vol. 3: Job - Isaiah.

Brown, Raymond E.; Fitzwater, Joseph A.; Murphy, Roland E., ed. The

            Jerome Bible Commentary. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,


Buttrick, George et al., ed. The Expositor's Bible, 12 vols. Nashville:

            Abingdon Press, 1955. Vol. 4: The Book of Psalms, by Frank H.


Buttrick, George A., ed. The Interpreter's Bible, 12 vols. New York:

            Abingdon Press, 1955. Vol. 4: The Book of Psalms, by Edwin M.

            Poteat and William R. Taylor.

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 5 vols. Translated by

            James Anderson. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,


Clarke, Adam. The Holy Bible: The Old Testament, 6 vols. 2nd ed. New

            York: Carlton and Porter, n.d. Vol. 3: Job - Song of Solomon.

Cohen, A. The Psalms. The Soncino Books of the Bible. London: Soncino

            Press, 1950.

Cook, F.C. The Holy Bible. 10 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,

            1903. Vol. 4: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of 


Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 3 vols. New York:

            Funk and Wagnalls, 1867.

DeWitt, John. The Psalms: A New Translation with Introductory Essay and 

            Notes. New York: Anson D.F. Randolph and Co., 1891.

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. S.v. "Book of Psalms," by

            J. Hempel.

Hengstenberg, E.W. Commentary on the Psalms. Translated by P. Fairbairn

            and J. Thomson. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1846.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1 - 72. The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.

            London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973.

Kirkpatrick, A.F. The Book of Psalms. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and

            Colleges. Cambridge: University Press, 1903.

Leslie, E.A. The Psalms. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1949.


Leupold, Herbert C. An Exposition  of the Psalms. Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg

            Press, 1959.

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            tary. Edited by D. Guthrie et al. Grand Rapids: William B.

            Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970.

McKay, J.W. and Rogerson J.W. Psalms 1 - 50. The Cambridge Bible Commen-

            tary on the New English Bible. New York: Cambridge University

            Press, 1977.

Murphy, James G. Psalms. Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers,


Nicoll, W. Robertson, ed. The Expositor's Bible, 6 vols. Grand Rapids:

            William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1940. "The Psalms," by

            Alexander MacLaren.

Oesterley, W.O.E. The Psalms. London: S.P.C.K., 1953.

Perowne, J.J. Stewart. The Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids: Zondervan

            Publishing House, 1976.

Schaff, Philip, gen. ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of  the Christian 

            Church, series 1, 14 vols. New York: Christian Literature Co.,

            1888. Vol. 3: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, by Augustine.

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Treasury of David, 7 vols. London: Funk and

            Wagnall, 1892.

Terrien, S. The Psalms and Their Meaning for Today. New York: Bobbs-

            Merrill Co., 1952.

Walker, R.H. The Modern Message of the Psalms. New York: Abingdon, 1838.

Weiser, Artur. The Psalms. Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westmin-

            ster Press, 1959.

Willis, John T., ed. The Living Word Commentary on the Old  Testament,

            series in process. Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1980.

            Vol. 10: Psalms, by Anthony L. Ashe and Clyde M. Miller.


Studies of Imprecation

Brueggemann, Walter. "From Hurt to Joy, From Death to Life." Interpreta-

            tion 28 (January 1974): 3-19.

Darton, G.C. "The New Abuse of the Psalter." Theology 73 (January 1970):


Davies, W.W. "The Imprecatory Psalms." The Old and New Testament Student

            14 (March 1892): 154-159.


Dearnley, Moira. "Expressions that Seem Contrary to Christ." Theology 73

            (April 1970): 161-165.

Edwards, B.B. "The Imprecations in the Scriptures." Bibliotheca Sacra 1

            (February 1844): 97-110.

Hammond, Joseph. "The Vindictive Psalms Vindicated." The Expositor. First

            series, 3 (1876): 27-47, 101-118, 188-203, 402-471.

"The Imprecatory Psalms." Presbyterian Quarterly Review 9 (April 1861):


Kline, Meredith G. The Structure of Biblical Authority. 2nd ed. Grand

            Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975.

Martin, Chalmers. "Imprecations in the Psalms." in Classical Evangelical 

            Essays on Old Testament Interpretation. Edited by Walter C.

            Kaiser. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976.

Mennega, Harry. "The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms." Th. M.

            thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1959.

Osgood, H. "Dashing the Little Ones Against the Rock." Princeton Theo-

            logical Review 1 (July 1903): 23-37.

Park, Edward A. "The Imprecatory Psalms Viewed in Light of the Southern

            Rebellion." Bibliotheca Sacra 19 (January 1862): 165-210.

Parsons, Ian Ross McKenzie. "Evil Speakings in the Psalms of Lament."

            Ph.D. dissertation, Drew University, 1969.

Reed, James A. "The Imprecatory Psalms." in The Psalms in Worship. Edited

            by John McNaugher. Pittsburgh: The United Presbyterian Board of

            Publication, 1907.

Taylor, Thomas V. "A Short Study in the Problem of Psalm 109." Elkins

            Park: Taylor Press, n.d.

Vos, J. G. "The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms." Westminster 

            Theological Journal 4 (May 1942): 123-138.

Webster, J.H. "The Imprecatory Psalms." in The Psalms in Worship. Edited

            by John McNaugher. Pittsburgh: The United Presbyterian Board of

            Publication, 1907.

Westermann, Claus. "The Role of the Lament in the Theology of the Old

            Testament." Interpretation 28 (January 1974): 20-38.

Wevers, J.W. "A Study of the Form-Criticism of Traditional Complaint

            Psalms." Vetus Testamentum 6 (1956): 80-96.


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