3. O Jehovah, my God, if I have done this thing, if there be iniquity in my hands:4 If I have rewarded evil to him that was at peace with me, and have not delivered him that persecuted me without cause:5. Let the enemy pursue my soul and take it; and let him throw down my life to the ground,1 and hold down2 my glory in the dust. Selah.
3. O Jehovah my God. Here David, to induce God to show him favour, protests that he is molested unjustly, and without being guilty of any crime. To give his protestation the greater weight, he uses an imprecation. If he has done any wrong, he declares his readiness to bear the blame; yea, he offers to endure the severest punishment, if he is not altogether innocent of the crime of which all men thought him almost convicted. And by entreating God to succour him upon no other condition than this, that his integrity should upon trial be found to be untarnished, he teaches us, by his example, that as often as we have recourse to God, we must make it our first care to be well assured in our own consciences with respect to the righteousness of our cause; for we do him great wrong if we wish to engage him as the advocate and defender of a bad cause. The pronoun this shows that he speaks of a thing which was generally known; whence we may conclude, that the slander which had been raised by Cush was spread far and wide. And as David was condemned, by the false reports and unrighteous judgments which men advanced against him, and saw no remedy on earth, he betakes himself to the judgment-seat of God, and contents himself with maintaining his innocence before the heavenly Judge; an example which all the godly should imitate, in order that, in opposition to the slanderous reports which are spread against them, they may rest satisfied with the judgment of God alone. He next declares more distinctly, that he had committed no crime. And in the fourth verse, he mentions two particulars in self-vindication; first, That he had done no wrong to any one; and, secondly, That he had rather endeavoured to do good to his enemies, by whom notwithstanding he had been injured without any just cause. I, therefore, explain the fourth verse thus: If I have wronged any man that was at peace with me, and have not rather succoured the unworthy, who persecuted me without a cause, etc. Since David was hated of almost all men, as if ambition to reign had impelled him perfidiously to rise up in rebellion against Saul, and to lay snares for the monarch to whom he was bound by the oath of allegiances3 in the first part of the verse, he clears himself of such a foul slander. The reason, perhaps, why he calls Saul him that was at peace with him is, that on account of his royal dignity his person ought to be sacred, and secure from danger,4 so that it should be unlawful to make any hostile attempt against him. This phrase, however, may be understood generally, as if he had said, No one who has meekly restrained himself from injuring me, and has conducted himself kindly towards me, can with truth complain that I have ever injured him in a single instance. And yet it was the general persuasion, that David, in the midst of peace, had stirred up great confusion, and caused war. From this it is just so much the more manifest, that David, provided he enjoyed the approbation of God, was contented with the consolation arising from this, though he should have comfort from no other source.
In the second clause of the fourth verse, he proceeds farther, and states, that he had been a friend, not only to the good, but also to the bad, and had not only restrained himself from all revenge, but had even succoured his enemies, by whom he had been deeply and cruelly injured. It would certainly not be very illustrious virtue to love the good and peaceable, unless there were joined to this self-government and gentleness in patiently bearing with the bad. But when a man not only keeps himself from revenging the injuries which he has received, but endeavours to overcome evil by doing good, he manifests one of the graces of a renewed and sanctified nature, and in this way proves himself to be one of the children of God; for such meekness proceeds only from the Spirit of adoption. With respect to the words:as the Hebrew word Ulx chalats, which I have translated to delivers signifies to divide and to separate, some, to prevent the necessity of supplying any word to make out the sense,5 thus explain the passage, If I have withdrawn myself from my persecutors, in order not to succour them. The other interpretation, however, according to which the verb is rendered to deliver or rescue from danger, is more generally received; because the phrase, to separate or set aside, is applied to those things which we wish to place in safety. And thus the negative word not must be supplied, an omission which we will find not unfrequently occurring in The Psalms.
5. Let mine enemy pursue. It is a striking proof of the great confidence which David had in his own integrity, when he is willing to endure any kind of punishment, however dreadful, provided he should be found guilty of any crime. If we could bring a good conscience like this before God, his hand would be more quickly stretched forth to afford us immediate assistance. But as it often happens that those who molest us have been provoked by us, or that we burn with the desire of revenge when offended, we are unworthy of receiving succour from God; yea, our own impatience shuts the gate against our prayers. In the first place, David is prepared to be given over to the will of his enemies, that they may seize his life, and throw it down to the ground; and then to be publicly exhibited as an object of their mockery, so that, even after he is dead, he may lie under eternal disgrace. Some think that the dwbk kebod, which we have translated glory, is here to be taken for life, and thus there will be three words, soul, life, glory, signifying the same thing. But it appears to me, that the meaning of the passage will be fuller if we refer the word glory to his memory, or his good name, as if he had said, Let my enemy not only destroy me, but, after having put me to death, let him speak of me in the most reproachful terms, so that my name may be buried in mire or filth.