1. Plead my cause, O Jehovah! with them that plead against me; fight against them who fight against me. 2. Take the shield and the buckler, and rise up for my help. 3. Bring forth the spear, and oppose my persecutors: say unto my soul, "I am thy salvation."
1. Plead my cause, O Jehovah! As the enemies of David not only avowedly sought to take away his life, but also troubled him by calumny and misrepresentation, he pleads for the redress of both these grievances. In the first place, by appealing to God for his aid in defense of his cause, he intimates, that he has to do with wicked and maligning men. In the second place, by urging him to take up arms, he shows that he was grievously oppressed. It was a very dishonorable thing, that this holy man, alike eminent for his beneficence and inoffensiveness towards all men, and who by his courtesy and meekness had merited, both in public and private, the esteem and favor of all, was not permitted to escape the reproach and calumny of wicked men; but it is important for us to know this, and it sets before us a very profitable example. If even David did not escape the malice of wicked men, it ought not to seem wonderful or strange to us, if they blame and bite at us. The injuries they inflict upon us may be grievous and painful, but there is incomparable consolation presented to us in this consideration, that God himself interposes for our protection and defense against false accusations. Though calumniators, then, should arise, and tear us, as it were, to pieces, by falsely charging us with crimes, we need not be disturbed, so long as God undertakes to plead our cause against them. There can be no doubt, that in the second clause of the verse David implores God to resist the armed violence of his enemies. The amount of the whole is, that being falsely accused and cruelly persecuted, and finding no help at the hands of men, the Prophet commits the preservation of his life and his reputation to God.
2. Take the shield. These words certainly cannot be applied, in the strict and proper sense, to God, who has no need of the spear or buckler:for by the breath of his mouth alone, or merely with his nod, he is able to overthrow all his enemies. But although such figures at first sight appear rude, yet the Holy Ghost employs them in accommodation to the weakness of our understanding, for the purpose of impressing more effectually upon our minds the conviction that God is present to aid us. When troubles and dangers arise, when terrors assail us on every side, when even death presents itself to our view, it is difficult to realize the secret and invisible power of God, which is able to deliver us from all anxiety and fear; for our understandings, which are gross and earthly, tend downward to the earth. That our faith, therefore, may ascend by degrees to the heavenly power of God, he is here introduced armed, after the manner of men, with sword and shield. In the same way, also, when he is in another place termed "a man of war," it is doubtless in adaptation to the imperfection of our present state, because our minds, from their limited capacity, could in no other way comprehend the extent of that infinite power, which contains in itself every form of help, and has no need of aid from any other quarter. This, therefore, is a prayer that God, by the exercise of his secret and intrinsic power, would show that he alone is able to encounter the whole strength and forces of the ungodly. Some suppose that the Hebrew word hnu, tsinnah, here used, means a dart, or some other kind of weapon; but as we have already seen, in the fifth psalm, that it properly signifies a buckler, I see no reason why it should be differently interpreted in this place. Nor is there any thing at all inconsistent in connecting here, as is often done in other places, the buckler and the shield.1 If the expression here employed had been designed to signify a dart, or a similar weapon, it would have been more natural to connect it with the spear, of which mention is made in the following verse. David, then, first makes mention of defensive armor, praying that God would sustain and repel the assaults of the enemy. The Hebrew word qyr, rik, which signifies to unsheath, or make bare, I take simply to mean, to draw out, or bring forth. The Hebrew word rwgo, segor, which I have translated to oppose, literally signifies to shut or to close. But as David's meaning is, that God, by setting himself as a wall or rampart, would prevent his enemies from approaching him, it appears to me that I have faithfully translated it. At the same time, if any should prefer the translation to shut, or close the way, or to impede it by some obstacle, the meaning; is substantially the same. The opinion of those who contend that it is a noun,2 is not at all probable.
3. Say to my soul. Some expound these words thus:Declare to me by secret inspiration; and others, Make me to feel indeed that my salvation is in thy hand. In my opinion, David desires to have it thoroughly fixed in his mind, and to be fully persuaded that God is the author of his salvation. This he was unable, from the present aspect of things, to ascertain and determine; for such is the insensibility and dulness of our natures, that God often delivers us whilst we sleep and are ignorant of it. Accordingly, he makes use of a very forcible manner of expression, in praying that God would grant him a lively sense of his favor, so that being armed with this buckler, he might sustain every conflict, and surmount every opposing obstacle; as if he had said, Lord, whatever may arise to discourage me, confirm me in this persuasion, that my salvation is assuredly in thee; and although temptations drive me hither and thither, recall my thoughts to thee in such a manner, as that my hope of salvation may rise superior to all the dangers to which I shall be exposed;3 nay, more, that I may become as infallibly certain as if thou hadst said it, that through thy favor I shall be saved.