Psalm 35 has no description except that is was written by David. This is a prayer for vindication on those who were attacking David. The mention of “young lions” in Psalm 35:17 may indicate a connection to Psalm 34:10, as that word occurs only six times in the psalms (only four attributed to David) 1, and may reference enemies who were literally younger than David (as when Absalom overthrew David) or the ferocity younger lions have more than older ones, as shown in the vicious attacks Saul made against him. 2
The tenor of this psalm may be troubling to those who believe that Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) means that God’s people should have no animosity against their attackers. On the contrary, it was well-established in God’s law that his people should know that he is their avenger and protector (see Psalm 34). In Deuteronomy 32:35 God stated, “I will get revenge and pay them back” (see also Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).
This psalm reveals a fundamental difference between human revenge and divine justice, however. Although he clearly and repeatedly prayed for their destruction (even in many imaginative ways, Psalm 35:2-6), David gave two reasons that God should act on his behalf against them. First, David, asked for vindication because he was not the attacker. Instead, he had been a good friend to those who had turned against him. “When they were sick” he fasted and prayed for them as if they were family (which they may have been, Psalm 35:13-14). He claimed that their evil was repayment for good that he had done for them (Psalm 35:7, 12).
Secondly, and most importantly, he wanted justice because he had remained faithful to God. He thought that, if God did not act, God’s name and reputation as the protector of his people would be dishonored (Psalm 35:1, 27). On the other hand, if God would act, he would show himself to be faithful, and David would be able to use that victory to lead others to worship and celebrate God as well (Psalm 35:9-10, 18, 27-28).
God has promised judgment on those who stand against him and his people (especially Israel, Genesis 12:3), and David was well within his rights to ask God to step in and fulfill that promise rather than taking it into his own hands (cf. Revelation 6:9-11).