Vol. 3, No. 7
According to the heading of this Psalm, David is the composer of it, and there is not real hard evidence to set aside this conclusion.
David portrays a person crying out for divine aid against a gang of merciless enemies who were attempting to bring about his destruction through false accusations and treacherous slander.
The history of the life of the great King David qualified him to paint this word picture of a betrayed person who was godly in his life, because of the many confrontations that David had with various enemies while he lived on earth.
This psalmist speaks of many enemies because he uses the plural number, and yet his focus is upon a single person.
In describing this foremost enemy, David, no doubt, draws upon his own experiences with Saul, who pursued him to kill him, with Ahithophel, who betrayed him, (2 Samuel 15) and Shemei, who cursed him when he was fleeing from Jerusalem during the rebellion of Absalom.
When one begins to interpret this psalm, there are two fundamental questions which face him.
Who is the person who cries out to God for relief from attack?
Who is the terrible enemy who is attacking him?
There does not seem to be much within the Psalm itself to answer these two questions.
Ordinarily, one would speculate that David, the author of the Psalm, was speaking of his own plight, or a former plight, but that would only be a speculation.
The distinguished Apostle Peter shed some very important light on the second question, listed above, and this also illuminates the answer to question number one.
In Acts 1:15-26, when Peter was leading the disciples in the choosing of a person to take the place of Judas Iscariot, who by transgression fell, he proclaimed that what they were doing was to fulfill prophecy.
He said, Acts 1:16, "Men brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus..."
Then Peter quoted one line from Psalm 69 and one from Psalm 109. Psalm 69:25, Peter quoted as follows: "Let his habitation be desolate and let no man dwell therein."
From Psalm 109:8, Peter added, "and his office let another take."
So, from this New Testament interpretation we learn that the Persecutor, in the Psalm, is Judas Iscariot, and the one being persecuted is the suffering Messiah.
So, David is not gratifying his own desire for revenge upon Ahithophel, or any other person who had sinned against him, but is serving in his prophetic office to foretell the judgment of God that would fall on the enemies of Christ, including Judas.
In Prophecy David is asking for the righteous judgment of God to fall upon those who opposed and betrayed Jesus Christ.
There are other reasons for assigning a Messianic interpretation to this Psalm, which are:
The Psalm contains certain pronouncements against people that could not be justified as coming from the mouth of a mere man (David). Only God, or his Son would have the right to make such auspicious pronouncements.
Secondly, throughout the whole Psalm the person who is praying to God contends that he is totally innocent of any wrong-doing in his life. This certainly could not represent David, who did much wrong in his life, but it could represent the Messiah who was tempted in all points, even as we are, and yet never sinned. (Hebrews 4:15)
David was a prophet (Acts 2:30). Because of this his psalms are frequently quoted by the writers of the New Testament as being Messianic predictions of the life of the Christ.
The early church Fathers saw this Psalm as a word picture of the sufferings of Jesus the Christ.
One cannot deny that the Psalm is Messianic unless he wants to question the legitimacy of a Spirit-inspired Apostle's interpretation of the Old Testament.
The one verse which is cited in the New Testament, from this Psalm, sets forth a valid clue as to the true meaning of the whole Psalm, which meaning may have been hidden to David himself in light of Peter's statement in 1 Peter 1:10-11.
THE STRUCTURE OF PSALM 109.
The layout of the Psalm is very simple and easy to understand.
In verses one through five the Messiah petitions God for help, as is the case also in verses 20-31.
In verses 6-19, this cry is interrupted by the pronouncement of divine judgment upon those who made the Messiah the object of their bitterness and hatred.
Let us look now at the predicament of the Messiah in verses 1-5.
The Messiah entreats God to hinder those who are his persecutors by withholding his peace, or by remaining silent.
In these verses God is the object of the praise of the Messiah who has never been forsaken by God in times past.
In these verses the silence of God stands in conspicuous contrast to the clamor of the Messiah's noisy enemies.
His enemies are scheming to ruin the Messiah with unfounded charges against him which are "supported" by the perjury of false witnesses.
Like a pack of wild dogs, these vicious enemies fight against him without a cause.
By way of contrast, the Messiah points out that he loved mankind, even his enemies, and had come to do them good.
But these foes had laid evil upon him, and returned evil for the good and the love which he had, and had done for them.
THE JUDGE (JEHOVAH) PRONOUNCES SENTENCE UPON THE MESSIAH'S ENEMIES. (VERSES 6 - 19)
In this portion of the Psalm we have some of the strongest imprecations which are found anywhere in the book of Psalms. (Scholars are divided upon whether or not these are really imprecations, or simple predictions of what would come to pass with regard to the enemies of our Lord.)
In these verses there is nothing to indicate that the prayer is being continued, and so it is agreed that this is Jehovah's response to the request of Jesus in verses 1-5.
In addition to this, there seems to be a change in speakers between verses 5 and 6, and the second speaker continues down to verse 19.
So, these verses are best regarded as God's answer to the prayer of the Messiah, rather than a part of the prayer itself. God responds to the prayer by:
Pronouncing doom upon all the enemies of Christ.
This is exactly the way Peter interpreted the passage when he declared to the disciples that the Holy Spirit had spoken this a long time ago by the mouth of David concerning Judas, that another should take his place of leadership (bishopric). (See: Acts 1:15-27.)
It is also noteworthy that the Psalmist shifts from the plural reference to the enemies of Christ to singular references in verses 6 - 20. There is one distinctive enemy of the Messiah which is exclusively set out for the condemnation of God, and the Psalmist sets forth ten particulars of that judgment. They are:
The adversary of Jesus would come under the influence of Satan (v. 6).
John, declared that the devil entered into the heart of Judas in John 13:27, so Satan was able to urge him on in his crime against the Son of God.
The betrayer will be condemned in the judgment, and even his prayer will be considered sin in the sight of God. (v. 7)
His prayer will be a sin in the sight of God because he did not have a penitent heart. (Matthew 27:5)
The life of the adversary would come to a precipitate end, that is, his days would be few. (v. 8a)
The office (work) would be taken by another person. (v. 8b)
Peter quoted this clause in Acts 1:20 with reference to Judas Iscariot, and he is the man who repaid love with treachery.
We must remember that, according to Peter, it was the Holy Spirit who spoke by the mouth of David, and so for those of us who believe in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures there can be no doubt of apostolic interpretation.
Due to the death of the betrayer of the Messiah, his children (the betrayer's) would suffer because they would be fatherless, and his wife would become a widow. (v.9)
These family members would become vagabonds (wandering beggars), and search for bread in desolate places, that is, where there was no bread. (v.10)
In those days, any time a father in a family died there was suffering on the part of his widow and dependent children, so, God is not placing a special suffering on the family of Judas (who are never mentioned in the New Testament) but he is simply saying what would happen to them as a result of their father's foolish sin. The innocent do not suffer for the guilty. (Ezekiel 18:20)
The creditors of the adversary of the Lord would take all he had worked for. (v.11)
No one would extend their pity and compassion to the family of the one who betrayed the Lord. (v.12)
His sons would die without producing families, and eventually the family name would be extinguished from the genealogies. (The sons of this man would not have received such a fate if they had not been of the same spirit and nature as their father.)
God would remember the sins of the ancestors of this man, and bring them to bear upon him. (vv.14-15)
This terrible sentence upon the betrayer of Christ is both just and deserved, and the Judge (Jehovah) states his reasons for the sentence in verses 16-17. The reasons are:
The betrayer showed no mercy to the One who was poor, needy, and broken-hearted (Christ).
The sentence is justified because the betrayer (Judas) consciously and intentionally chose to do wrong because he loved cursing, or bringing disaster upon other people.
God closes by saying that this one is to be clothed with cursing, that is, that the curse would be worn by him like a robe and a girdle.
The curse was to enter his body like water, and like oil in his bones, that is, it would bring the greatest retribution that is possible on the earth, death by suicide.
THE PRAYER OF THE MESSIAH IS RESUMED IN VERSES 20 - 31.
The Messiah had heard the curse pronounced upon the betrayer, and he agrees that it is just, and then bravely announced, in verse 20, that such an end will come to all his adversaries.
Next the Messiah lists the bases upon which he begs for the help of God. These are eight in number and are as follows:
He asks God to act for his name sake, meaning because his name is Yahweh 'Adonay, which means "the Lord God." (v 21)
God is to act in his own best interest when he acts on behalf of the agonizing Messiah.
He asks to act because he has abundant mercy. (v. 2)
He asks God to act because of his own pitiful condition, that is, because he is helpless in the flesh to resist his powerful enemies.
He asks God to help because inwardly he suffers spiritual agony, and this is reflected in the words, ". . . . My heart is wounded within me." (v. 22)
He asks God to act in helping him because he is looking at impending death. (v. 23)
Without the help of God, he is as powerless as locusts which are driven by the wind. (v. 23)
He asks God to help him because he has no appetite for food, and like a man who is mourning he has stopped using oil to soothe his skin in a harsh climate. (v. 24)
He needs the help of God because he has become the object of reproach, in that when his enemies behold him they do so with a gesture of contempt, that is, the shaking of their heads. (v. 26)
The prayer of the Messiah intensifies in the closing verses of this Psalm. We see this in that:
Once again he pleads for the deliverance of God because it would show the mercy of God. (v. 26)
Because it would show the power of God. (v. 27)
In verse 28, the Messiah prays that the evil plans of his enemies might fail.
He prays for God to override their cursing of him with blessing for him.
He prays for God to make the moment of the triumph of his enemies be turned to shame.
He prays for God to let his Servant (the Messiah) know the joy that comes from a victorious deliverance from his enemies.
The Messiah's prayer ends on a note of confidence.
He is confident that his enemies will be clothed with shame, and their secret plots will be turned to confusion. (v. 29)
His praise of Jehovah will continue among the multitude. (The word multitude may refer to the angels.) (v. 30)
The Messiah knows that the Father stands at his right hand to aid him against those who condemn him to death. (v. 31)
These last two verses have the reverberations of the resurrection in them.
This prophecy is certainly strengthening to the soul in that hundreds of years before the event David prophesied of what would come to pass regarding Judas, and other enemies of Christ, and that they would ultimately come to complete failure while the Messiah would ultimately triumph over all his enemies.
This passage helps us to more fully understand the words of Jesus in Mark 14:21, when he said, "The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born."
[Editor's Note: Messianic Prophecies Outlined by D. Gene West is available for sale in reproducible and paperback formats. Reproducible format is represented in four volumes in 3-ring binders for easy reproduction and shelf storage ($10 each + S&H). The oversized, complete in one volume paperback format (8 1/2 X 11) consists of 342 pages ($14.95 + S&H). Each format contains one introductory chapter to Messianic prophecy and 75 Messianic prophecies. This is a reference work as well as a classbook for the serious student who is not afraid of tedious investigation of the subject. Contact [email protected] for further information and to obtain this excellent book.]