But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom (Psa. 35:13).

Often in scripture we read of those who were clothed in sackcloth, humbling themselves before God so that their prayers would be heard.  The city of Nineveh not only clothed the people in sackcloth, but also the animals to show their contrite hearts (Jonah 3:8).

If David’s prayer in Psalm 35:1-28 were for Absalom and the traitors that conspired with him to remove David from the throne, then it has heavy implications.  If it were for King Saul or some other enemy, we can only imagine its depth of meaning.

David contrasts the enemy’s conduct with his own. He talks of his past life, and about the acts of kindness which he had shown in times of trouble, as more deeply marking the evils of their own conduct now.  David begs the Lord to plead his cause and to fight against them that fight him.  He says, “Stand for me! Confuse the enemy! Blow them away like chaff!”  He even begs the Lord to make their way dark and slippery and to dig a pit for their feet.  David has given up on saving their souls though he apparently has tried many times in the past.  These are men (or women) who are bound to David by the bands and ties of physical life—people he knows well.

David is brought low because of the false witnesses who have laid things to his charge that he never dreamed of.  Yet those same people had been the object of his fasting and prayers in other days.  When they had been in distress, he had put on sackcloth and afflicted his soul for their sakes.  He had humbled himself before God to beg for their health or their position before the Almighty.  Surely in times past he had prayed for Absalom as he watched the turn of his character or as he had witnessed his misconduct.  More than anything, he would have wanted his own son to be righteous before God, but now with the insurrection, he sees there is no hope for his soul or the ones with him.  David knows that Absalom and his companions hate him without a cause.

David’s final thoughts regarding the actions of his enemies as they compare to his own are that he wishes the Lord would clothe them with shame and dishonor because they have returned evil for his good.  Our own hearts need to be humble to the point we would be willing to clothe ourselves in sackcloth to pray for our enemies even if they do not respond well.  They will be clothed in shame if they spurn our efforts at peace.

Will our clothing be sackcloth or shame (Job 8:22Psa. 109:29Psa. 132:18)?  Will we humble ourselves before the Almighty or will we proudly go our thankless way and return evil for the good others do for us?


  1. Using the Bible Encyclopedia found here: (, give a definition of sackcloth and tell why was it worn?
  2. Sackcloth has always carried with it the idea one of the Christian virtues. With what virtue should we be clothed (1 Pet. 5:5)?
  3. How serious is the sin of ingratitude ( 1:21,241 Tim. 3:2-5)?
  4. Under the Law of Moses, men were commanded to give an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Is it right today to take vengeance or to pray for the destruction of our enemies ( 5:38-42Rom 12:19)?
  5. How many good deeds had David done for King Saul?
  6. How did Saul react?
  7. What good had David done for his son Absalom?
  8. How did Absalom respond?
  9. What is the higher law for Christians today (Luke 6:35)?
  10. King Ahab was one of the worst kings in the history of Israel. Why did God postpone His judgment against Ahab and give him another chance to live after he had determined to destroy him and his descendants (1 Kings 21:21-29)?

-Beth Johnson

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