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Verse 12

For it was not an enemy that reproached me - The word “reproached” here refers to slander; calumny; abuse. It is not necessarily implied that it was in his presence, but he was apprized of it. When he says that it is not an enemy that did this, the meaning is that it was not one who had been an avowed and open foe. The severest part of the trial did not arise from the fact that it was done by such an one, for that he could have borne. That which overwhelmed him was the fact that the reproach came from one who had been his friend; or, the reproach which he felt most keenly came from one whom he had regarded as a personal confidant. It is not to be supposed that the psalmist means to say that he was not reproached by his enemies, for the whole structure of the psalm implies that this was so; but his anguish was made complete and unbearable by the discovery that one especially who had been his friend was found among those who reproached and calumniated him. The connection leads us to suppose, if the right view (Introduction) has been taken of the occasion on which the psalm was composed, that the allusion here is to Ahithophel 2 Samuel 15:31; and the particular distress here referred to was that which David experienced on learning that he was among the conspirators. A case of trouble remarkably resembling this is referred to in Psalms 41:9. See the notes at that place.

Then I could have borne it - The affliction would have been such as I could bear. Reproaches from an enemy, being known to be an enemy, we expect; and and we feel them comparatively little. We attribute them to the very fact that such an one is an enemy, and that he feels it necessary to sustain himself by reproaching and calumniating us. We trust also that the world will understand them in that way; and will set them down to the mere fact that he is our enemy. In such a case there is only the testimony against us of one who is avowedly our foe, and who has every inducement to utter malicious words against us in order to sustain his own cause. But the case is different when the accuser and slanderer is one who has been our intimate friend. He is supposed to know all about us. He has been admitted to our counsels. He has known our purposes and plans. He can speak not “slanderously” but “knowingly.” It is supposed that he could have no motive to speak ill of us except his own conviction of truth, and that it could be only the strongest conviction of truth - the existence of facts to which not even a friend could close his eyes - that could induce him to abandon us, and hold us up to repreach and scorn. So Ahithophel - the confidential counselor and friend of David - would be supposed to be acquainted with his secret plans and his true character; and hence, reproaches from such a one became unendurable. “Neither was it he that hated me.” That avowedly and openly hated me. If that had been the case, I should have expected such usage, and it would not injure me.

That did magnify himself a against me - That is, by asserting that I was a bad man, thus exalting himself in character above me, or claiming that he was more pure than I am. Or, it may mean, that exalted himself above me, or sought to reach the eminence of power in my downfall and ruin.

Then I would have hid myself from him - I should have been like one pursued by an enemy who could hide himself in a cave, or in a fastness, or in the mountains, so as to be safe from his attacks. The arrows of malice would fly harmlessly by me, and I should be safe. Not so, when one reproached me who had been an intimate friend; who had known all about me; and whose statements would be believed.

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