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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 28

 

 

Verse 1

PSALM 28

AN ANSWERED PRAYER

Of many excellent titles which have been suggested by writers, we have chosen this one by Kyle Yates.[1]

The organization of the psalm is simple. There are just two divisions: (1) The Prayer (Psalms 28:1-5); and (2) The Answer (Psalms 28:6-9).

The ancient title which has come down to us identifies this as "A Psalm of David"; and Barnes assures us that, "There is no need for doubting the correctness of the inscription."[2]

Delitzsch identified the occasion for this psalm as that of the rebellion of Absalom, calling it, along with Psalms 26,27, "The third psalm belonging to the time of the persecution by Absalom."[3]

Psalms 28:1

"Unto thee, O Jehovah, will I call.

My rock, be not thou deaf unto me;

Lest if thou be silent unto me,

I become like them that go down into the pit."

"My rock, be not thou deaf unto me" (Psalms 28:1). The use of the term `Rock' as a name for God, "Occurs thirty-three times in the Old Testament and is expressive of the support and strength which the Lord supplies for those who seek him."[4]

"Them that go down into the pit" (Psalms 28:1). The word `pit' here, "Is frequently a metaphor for death and is often the equivalent of `Sheol.' "[5] The appearance of this kind of terminology here indicates that David indeed was fearful of losing his life. If Absalom had succeeded in his efforts to wrest the throne of Israel away from his father David, there can be no doubt whatever that David would have been executed.


Verse 2

"Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry unto thee,

When I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.

Draw me not away with the wicked,

And with the workers of iniquity;

That speak peace with their neighbors,

But mischief is in their hearts."

"When I lift up my hands" (Psalms 28:2). "Psalms 28:1-2, here are a prelude to the prayer proper, on the double ground of his helplessness apart from God, and of his lifting up his hands in prayer."[6] David is in such danger that unless God hears him, he will lose his life. "Hands lifted up in prayer can be expressive of prayer in many moods, such as calling down the power of heaven upon others as in Exodus 17:9f."[7] Paul also associated this action with prayer in 1 Timothy 2:8.

"Toward thy holy oracle" (Psalms 28:2). Dummelow identified this as the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.[8] The ASV marginal reading supports this view, offering as an alternative rendition, "Toward the innermost place of thy sanctuary."

"That speak peace with their neighbors" (Psalms 28:3). The wicked appearing in the prayer here are proved to be so by, "The conflict between their public well-wishing and their inner mischief-planning."[9]

"That speak peace" (Psalms 28:3). Leupold suggested that, "This may well refer to the customary Jewish greetings, "As conveyed by the word Shalom, which means `peace.'"[10] Such a view certainly reflects what the conduct of Absalom must have been. He maintained his usual acceptance around David's palace by such friendly greetings at the same time while he was plotting the overthrow of his father the King.


Verse 4

"Give them according to their work, and according to the wickedness of their doings:

Give them after the operation of their hands;

Render to them their desert.

Because they regard not the works of Jehovah,

Nor the operation of his hands,

He will break them down and not build them up."

This is a fourfold plea that God will deal with the wicked as they deserve. The plea is that God will execute justice upon the wicked enemies: (1) according to their work; (2) according to their wickedness; (3) after the operation of their hands; and (4) according to what they deserve. Such could be nothing less than absolute justice. Addis' notion that this was David's prayer, "for vengeance,"[11] misses this point altogether. Kidner properly discerned the genuine import of these words as follows:

"Nothing stings so sharply as injustice, and nothing should; so these verses are not simply vindictive, but they put into words the protest of any healthy conscience against the wrongs of the present order, and the conviction that a day of judgment is a moral necessity."[12]

In the Book of Revelation, the souls of the martyrs are represented as crying to the Lord, "How long, O Master, the Holy and True, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood upon them that dwell upon the earth" (Revelation 6:10). This also, like the passage before us, cannot be considered a sinful cry for personal vengeance, because the `martyrs' in that passage are reckoned among the redeemed. Theirs was a cry for the execution of justice, which is identical with what this passage has. As Rawlinson noted, "David here exhibits a moral nature uncorrupted by contact with the world of his day."[13]

The rewarding of evil men according to their conduct and according to what they deserve is retribution; and Rawlinson commented that, "Nothing satisfies the moral feelings of humanity except exact retribution." The passage here is a prayer for that very thing.

Now and then in the record of sordid human behavior, God has provided examples of retribution against persons of extreme wickedness.

ILLUSTRATION. The gospels carry the story of Herodias' wicked persecution of John the Baptist in which she contrived through her voluptuous dancing daughter Salome to receive "The head of John the Baptist on a platter." Behold the retribution which heaven meted out to Herod Antipas, Herodias and Salome as a direct result of their hell-born actions:

(1) Herod lost his throne. Aretas, whose daughter Herod had divorced in order to marry Herodias,[14] declared war on him and drove him out of his kingdom.

(2) Both Herod and Herodias were banished by the Roman Senate to Lyons for their shameful deeds, "Where they both perished miserably,"[15] in disgrace.

(3) And the dancing girl, Salome? What happened to her? "She died by a remarkable visitation. She fell through some treacherous ice over which she was passing and fell through it in such a manner that her head was caught while the rest of her body sank into the water, with the result that her head was practically severed by the sharp edges of the broken ice."[16] The dancing girl who received the head of John the Baptist yielded up her own head on the cutting edges of the treacherous ice.

One may indeed see the hand of God in such visitations; and the prayer of David here that all wicked men may receive "what they deserve" justifies our expectation that all wickedness shall eventually receive exactly the punishment it deserves, whether in this life or in the world to come. Regarding David's prayer here, "There is no evidence that there is anything of vindictiveness or malice in his prayer. It is a prayer for justice."[17]

"He will break them down and not build them up" (Psalms 28:5). "David, in these lines, is a prophet."[18] The grounds of this fate which God announced through David is listed in the preceding lines, "They regard not the works of Jehovah, nor the operation of his hands." The wicked men in view here appear as unbelievers, "Who have shamefully refused to recognize David as God's anointed, through whom God promised to establish an `eternal kingdom' (2 Samuel 7)."[19] In this light, Absalom and his fellowconspirators were servants of Satan himself, who was determined to prevent any such promise's fulfilment.


Verse 6

"Blessed is Jehovah,

Because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.

Jehovah is my strength and my shield;

My heart hath trusted in him, and I am helped;

Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth;

And with my song will I praise him."

"He hath heard the voice of my supplications" (Psalms 28:6). This man, when he stood praying, believed that he had what he asked, and, so, believing, had it. There was no change in circumstances, but he was changed. Now there was no fear of going down into the pit, and the dread of the evil-doers disappeared.[20]

We may receive Maclaren's comment here as a valid deduction from what Jesus said, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Matthew 21:22).

"I am helped ... will greatly rejoice .., and will praise him" (Psalms 28:7). The expression of such confidence begins with the statement that, "Jehovah is my strength," of which Adam Clarke declared the meaning to be, "I have the fullest persuasion that God hears, will answer, and will save me."[21]


Verse 8

"Jehovah is their strength, and he is a stronghold of salvation to his anointed.

Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance:

Be their shepherd also, and bear them up forever"

"Stronghold ... to his anointed" (Psalms 28:8). Addis stated that "anointed" in this passage may refer, "Either to the king or to the high priests."[22] This is true enough, of course; but as Dahood noted, in this passage, "The reference is to the King."[23]

"Here David builds upon the fact that he is God's anointed, that he is more than a private citizen. As the Lord's anointed (a term that grew into the Messiah), he stood for his people, and God's grace must be meant for them as well as for himself."[24]

Being assured that God has indeed answered his prayer, David here takes courage and asks for the deliverance of all Israel.

"As God's anointed here, David realizes that the fortunes of the people rise and fall with him."[25] From this, there springs at once this fervent prayer for the welfare of all of God's people, even the nation of Israel. The sudden outcropping of the Shepherd metaphor in the last line is another mark of the Davidic authorship.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 28:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-28.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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