Prayer for Help Against Unjust Enemies
*Oppose, O LORD, those who oppose me;
war upon those who make war upon me.
2Take up the shield and buckler;
rise up in my defense.
3Brandish lance and battle-ax
against my pursuers.
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation.”
4Let those who seek my life
be put to shame and disgrace.
Let those who plot evil against mea
be turned back and confounded.
5Make them like chaff before the wind,b
with the angel of the LORD driving them on.
6Make their way slippery and dark,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.
7Without cause they set their snare for me;
without cause they dug a pit for me.
8Let ruin overtake them unawares;
let the snare they have set catch them;
let them fall into the pit they have dug.c
9Then I will rejoice in the LORD,
exult in God’s salvation.
10My very bones shall say,
“O LORD, who is like you,d
Who rescue the afflicted from the powerful,
the afflicted and needy from the despoiler?”
11Malicious witnesses rise up,
accuse me of things I do not know.
12They repay me evil for good;
my soul is desolate.e
13*Yet I, when they were ill, put on sackcloth,
afflicted myself with fasting,
sobbed my prayers upon my bosom.
14I went about in grief as for my brother,
bent in mourning as for my mother.
15Yet when I stumbled they gathered with glee,
gathered against me and I did not know it.
They slandered me without ceasing;
16without respect they mocked me,
gnashed their teeth against me.
17O Lord, how long will you look on?
Restore my soul from their destruction,
my very life from lions!f
18Then I will thank you in the great assembly;
I will praise you before the mighty throng.g
19Do not let lying foes rejoice over me,
my undeserved enemies wink knowingly.h
20They speak no words of peace,
but against the quiet in the land
they fashion deceitful speech.i
21They open wide their mouths against me.
They say, “Aha! Good!
Our eyes have seen it!”j
22You see this, LORD; do not be silent;k
Lord, do not withdraw from me.
23Awake, be vigilant in my defense,
in my cause, my God and my Lord.
24Defend me because you are just, LORD;
my God, do not let them rejoice over me.
25Do not let them say in their hearts,
“Aha! Our soul!”*
Do not let them say,
“We have devoured that one!”
26Put to shame and confound
all who relish my misfortune.
Clothe with shame and disgrace
those who lord it over me.
27But let those who favor my just cause
shout for joy and be glad.
May they ever say, “Exalted be the LORD
who delights in the peace of his loyal servant.”
28Then my tongue shall recount your justice,
declare your praise, all the day long.l
* [Psalm 35] A lament of a person betrayed by friends. The psalmist prays that the evildoers be publicly exposed as unjust (Ps 35:1–8), and gives thanks in anticipation of vindication (Ps 35:9–10). Old friends are the enemies (Ps 35:11–16). May their punishment come quickly (Ps 35:17–21)! The last part (Ps 35:22–26) echoes the opening in praying for the destruction of the psalmist’s persecutors. The Psalm may appear vindictive, but one must keep in mind that the psalmist is praying for public redress now of a public injustice. There is at this time no belief in an afterlife in which justice will be redressed.
* [35:1–6] The mixture of judicial, martial, and hunting images shows that the language is figurative. The actual injustice is false accusation of serious crimes (Ps 35:11, 15, 20–21). The psalmist seeks lost honor through a trial before God.
* [35:25] Aha! Our soul!: an ancient idiomatic expression meaning that we have attained what we wanted.