on Psalms 35 :13
When they were sick - This might refer to the case of Absalom, who was much beloved of his father, and for whose life and prosperity he no doubt often prayed, wept, and fasted.
My prayer returned into mine own bosom - Though from the wayward and profligate life they led, they did not profit by my prayers, yet God did not permit me to pray in vain. They were like alms given to the miserable for God's sake, who takes care to return to the merciful man tenfold into his bosom. The bosom is not only the place where the Asiatics carry their purses, but also where they carry any thing that is given to them.
on Psalms 35 :13
But as for me - The psalmist now contrasts their conduct with his own. He refers to the recollections of his past life, and to the acts of kindness which he had shown to them in thees of trouble, as more deeply marking the evils of their own conduct now.
When they were sick - Compare the notes at Job 30:25. It would seem from this that the persons referred to, who now treated him with so much ingratitude, were those with whom he had been formerly intimately associated, or whom he had regarded as his personal friends, since it cannot be supposed that this deep sympathy would have been shown for those who were altogether strangers to him.
My clothing was sackcloth - Compare the notes at Psalm 30:11. The meaning is, that he showed the deepest sympathy in their distress by putting on the emblems of humiliation or mourning. It was also with reference to prayer in their behalf; and to fasting, that he put on these marks of grief. The idea is, that he did all that was understood to be connected with the deepest humiliation before God, and that would fit the mind for earnest prayer in their behalf. He felt that their restoration to health - that the preservation of their lives - depended on God, and he most earnestly and fervently pleaded in their behalf.
I humbled my soul with fasting - Margin, "afflicted;" so the Hebrew properly means. The word "soul" here is equivalent to "self;" I afflicted myself. He subjected himself to the pains of hunger, that he might be better prepared to offer fervent and acceptable prayer. Among the Hebrews fasting and prayer were much more closely connected than they are with Christians. See Daniel 9:3; Matthew 17:21; Luke 2:37.
And my prayer returned into mine own bosom - DeWette explains this as meaning, "I prayed with my head sunk on my bosom;" that is, with the head bowed down, so that the prayer which went out of Iris lips seemed to return again to his own bosom - that earnest prayer which one offers when the head is bowed with sorrow. A posture somewhat similar to this is referred to in the case of Elijah, 1 Kings 18:42 : "And he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees." The posture of prayer with the head reclining toward the bosom is common among the Muslims, "Reland" de Religione Mohammetica, p. 87. Jarchi explains this as meaning that he sought the same for those who were now his enemies which he would for himself, or that he desired that that should come into his own bosom which he sought for them. Prof. Alexander supposes that this means, according to a traditional interpretation of the Jews, that he desired that the prayer which he offered might redound to his own advantage: "My prayer shall not be lost, it shall return in blessings to the heart which prompted it." There can be no reason to doubt that this is true "in fact;" and that prayer offered for others "does" bring back blessings to those who offer it. But to suppose that this was the "motive" in the case is to suppose that the psalmist was wholly selfish, and would take away the very point of his observation about his prayer - that it was dictated by the sincerest love for them and true sympathy for their sufferings. The most simple interpretation, therefore, is that which supposes that the prayer was offered under such a burden of grief on account of their sufferings, that his head sank on his bosom; or, in other words, that the prayer which was offered was such as is presented when the heart is most burdened and most sad.
on Psalms 35 :13
35:13 Returned - Although my fastings and prayers did them no good.