Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Cry for Help and Thanksgiving, in a Time of Rebellion
To Psa 26:1-12 and Psa 27:1-14 a third Psalm is here added, belonging to the time of the persecution by Absolom. In this Psalm, also, the drawing towards the sanctuary of God cannot be lost sight of; and in addition thereto we have the intercession of the anointed one, when personally imperilled, on behalf of the people who are equally in need of help, - an intercession which can only be rightly estimated in connection with the circumstances of that time. Like Psa 27:1-14 this, its neighbour, also divides into two parts; these parts, however, though their lines are of a different order, nevertheless bear a similar poetic impress. Both are composed of verses consisting of two and three lines. There are many points of contact between this Psalm and Psa 27:1-14; e.g., in the epithet applied to God, מעוז; but compare also Psa 28:3 with Psa 26:9; Psa 28:2 with Psa 31:23; Psa 28:9 with Psa 29:11. The echoes of this Psalm in Isaiah are very many, and also in Jeremiah.
This first half of the Psalm (Psa 28:1) is supplicatory. The preposition מן in connection with the verbs חרשׁ, to be deaf, dumb, and חשׁה, to keep silence, is a pregnant form of expression denoting an aversion or turning away which does not deign to give the suppliant an answer. Jahve is his צוּר, his ground of confidence; but if He continues thus to keep silence, then he who confides in Him will become like those who are going down (Psa 22:30), or are gone down (Isa 14:19) to the pit. The participle of the past answers better to the situation of one already on the brink of the abyss. In the double sentence with פּן, the chief accent falls upon the second clause, for which the first only paratactically opens up the way (cf. Isa 5:4; Isa 12:1); in Latin it would be ne, te mihi non respondente, similis fiam. Olshausen, and Baur with him, believes that because ונמשׁלתּי has not the accent on the ultima as being perf. consec., it must be interpreted according to the accentuation thus, "in order that Thou mayst no longer keep silence, whilst I am already become like..." But this ought to be ואני נמשׁל, or at least נמשׁלתּי ואני. And if ונמשלתי were to be taken as a real perfect, it would then rather have to be rendered "and I should then be like." But, notwithstanding ונמשׁלתּי is Milel, it is still perf. consecuticum ("and I am become like"); for if, in a sentence of more than one member following upon פן, the fut., as is usually the case (vid., on Psa 38:17), goes over into the perf., then the latter, in most instances, has the tone of the perf. consec. (Deu 4:19, Jdg 18:25, Pro 5:9-12, Mal 4:6), but not always. The penultima-accentuation is necessarily retained in connection with the two great pausal accents, Silluk and Athnach, Deu 8:12; Pro 30:9; in this passage in connection with Rebia mugrash, just as we may say, in general, the perf. consec. sometimes retains its penultima-accentuation in connection with distinctives instead of being accented on the ultima; e.g., in connection with Rebia mugrash, Pro 30:9; with Rebia, Pro 19:14 (cf. Pro 30:9 with Eze 14:17); with Zakeph. Sa1 29:8; and even with Tiphcha Obad. Oba 1:10, Joe 3:21. The national grammarians are ignorant of any law on this subject.
(Note: Aben-Ezra (Moznajim 36b) explains the perfect accented on the penult. in Pro 30:9 from the conformity of sound, and Kimchi (Michlol 6b) simply records the phenomenon.)
The point towards which the psalmist stretches forth his hands in prayer is Jahve's holy דּביר. Such is the word (after the form בּריח, כּליא, עטין) used only in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, with the exception of this passage, to denote the Holy of Holies, not as being χρηματιστήριον (Aquila and Symmachus), or λαλητήριον, oraculum (Jerome), as it were, Jahve's audience chamber (Hengstenberg) - a meaning that is not in accordance with the formation of the word, - but as the hinder part of the tent, from דּבר, Arabic dabara, to be behind, whence dubr (Talmudic דּוּבר), that which is behind (opp. kubl. kibal, that which is in the front), cf. Jesurun p. 87f. In Psa 28:3, Psa 28:4 the prayer is expanded. משׁך (instead of which we find אסף in Psa 26:9), to draw any one down forcibly to destruction, or to drag him to the place of judgment, Eze 32:20, cf. Psa 10:8; Job 24:22. The delineation of the ungodly David borrows from his actual foes, Should he succumb to them, then his fate would be like that which awaits them, to whom he is conscious that he is radically unlike. He therefore prays that God's recompensing justice may anticipate him, i.e., that He may requite them according to their desert, before he succumbs, to whom they have feigned שׁלום, a good understanding, or being on good terms, whereas they cherished in their heart the רעה that is now unmasked (cf. Jer 9:7). נתן, used of an official adjudication, as in Hos 9:14; Jer 32:19. The epanaphora of תּן־להם is like Psa 27:14.
(Note: This repetition, at the end, of a significant word that has been used at the beginning of a verse, is a favourite custom of Isaiah's (Comment. S. 387; transl. ii. 134).)
The phrase השׁיב גּמוּל (שׁלּם), which occurs frequently in the prophets, signifies to recompense or repay to any one his accomplishing, his manifestation, that is to say, what he has done and merited; the thoughts and expression call to mind more particularly Isa 3:8-11; Isa 1:16. The right to pray for recompense (vengeance) is grounded, in Psa 28:5, upon their blindness to God's just and merciful rule as it is to be seen in human history (cf. Isa 5:12; Isa 22:11). The contrast of בּנה and חרס, to pull down (with a personal object, as in Exo 15:7), is like Jeremiah's style (Psa 42:10, cf. 1:10; Psa 18:9, and frequently, Sir. 49:7). In Psa 28:5, the prominent thought in David's mind is, that they shamefully fail to recognise how gloriously and graciously God has again and again acknowledged him as His anointed one. He has (2 Sam 7) received the promise, that God would build him a house, i.e., grant perpetual continuance to his kingship. The Absolomites are in the act of rebellion against this divine appointment. Hence they shall experience the very reverse of the divine promise given to David: Jahve will pull them down and not build them up, He will destroy, at its very commencement, this dynasty set up in opposition to God.
The first half of the Psalm prayed for deliverance and for judgment; this second half gives thanks for both. If the poet wrote the Psalm at one sitting then at this point the certainty of being answered dawns upon him. But it is even possible that he added this second part later on, as a memorial of the answer he experienced to his prayer (Hitzig, Ewald). It sounds, at all events, like the record of something that has actually taken place. Jahve is his defence and shield. The conjoined perfects in Psa 28:7 denote that which is closely united in actual realisation; and in the fut. consec., as is frequently the case, e.g., in Job 14:2, the historical signification retreats into the background before the more essential idea of that which has been produced. In משּׁירי, the song is conceived as the spring whence the הודות bubble forth; and instead of אודנּוּ we have the more impressive form אהודנּוּ, as in Ps 45:18; Psa 116:6; Sa1 17:47, the syncope being omitted. From suffering (Leid) springs song (Lied), and from song springs the praise (Lob) of Him, who has "turned" the suffering, just as it is attuned in Psa 28:6 and Psa 28:8.
(Note: There is a play of words and an alliteration in this sentence which we cannot fully reproduce in the English. - Tr.)
The αὐτοί, who are intended by למו in Psa 28:8, are those of Israel, as in Psa 12:8; Isa 33:2 (Hitzig). The lxx (κραταίωμα τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ) reads לעמּו, as in Psa 29:11, which is approved by Bצttcher, Olshausen and Hupfeld; but למו yields a similar sense. First of all David thinks of the people, then of himself; for his private character retreats behind his official, by virtue of which he is the head of Israel. For this very reason his deliverance is the deliverance of Israel, to whom, so far as they have become unfaithful to His anointed, Jahve has not requited this faithlessness, and to whom, so far as they have remained true to him, He has rewarded this fidelity. Jahve is a עז a si evhaJ to them, inasmuch as He preserves them by His might from the destruction into which they would have precipitated themselves, or into which others would have precipitated them; and He is the מעוז ישׁוּעות of His anointed inasmuch as He surrounds him as an inaccessible place of refuge which secures to him salvation in all its fulness instead of the destruction anticipated. Israel's salvation and blessing were at stake; but Israel is in fact God's people and God's inheritance - may He, then, work salvation for them in every future need and bless them. Apostatised from David, it was a flock in the hands of the hireling - may He ever take the place of shepherd to them and carry them in His arms through the destruction. The נשּׂאם coupled with וּרעם (thus it is to be pointed according to Ben-Asher) calls to mind Deu 1:31, "Jahve carried Israel as a man doth carry his son," and Exo 19:4; Deu 32:11, "as on eagles' wings." The Piel, as in Isa 63:9, is used of carrying the weak, whom one lifts up and thus removes out of its helplessness and danger. Psa 3:1-8 closes just in the same way with an intercession; and the close of Psa 29:1-11 is similar, but promissory, and consequently it is placed next to Psa 28:1-9.