Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.THE ARGUMENT
This Psalm, with some few and small variations, is written 2 Samuel 22. It was composed by David towards the end of his reign and life upon the occasion here mentioned.
The servant of the Lord; who esteemeth it a greater honour to be thy servant, than to be king of Israel, and who doth entirely devote himself to thy service and glory.
In the day that the Lord delivered him, i.e. after the death of Saul, and the conquest of all his succeeding enemies, and his own firm establishment in his kingdom.
David professeth his love to God, Psalm 18:1, and his confidence in his attributes, Psalm 18:2. He praises God for deliverance out of trouble, Psalm 18:3-5. His experience of God’s hearing him in an awful manner, Psalm 18:6-31. He acknowledgeth God’s help against his enemies, Psalm 18:32-50.
Most affectionately and with my whole soul; as the Hebrew word signifies. I can return thee no better thing for all thy favours than my love and heart, which I pray thee to accept. By loving him he understands not only his inward affection, but also all the outward expressions and testimonies of it, praising, and glorifying, and serving of him.
O Lord, my strength; from whom alone I have received all my strength, and success, and settlement, and in whom alone I trust, as it follows, Psalm 18:2.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.My rock; to which I flee for refuge, as the Israelites did to their rocks. See Judges 6:2 1 Samuel 13:6.
The horn; by which I have both defended myself, and subdued mine enemies. It is a metaphor from those beasts whose strength lies in their horns. The horn is oft put for power, as Psalm 92:10 Amos 6:13, and elsewhere.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.Or, I did call—and was saved. For the future tense is commonly used for that which is past. And this seems best to agree with the whole context, which is to praise God for mercies already received.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.The sorrows of death, i.e. dangerous and deadly troubles. Or, the bands or cords of death, which had almost seized me, and was putting its bands upon me. Compare Psalm 73:4.
The floods of ungodly men; their great multitudes, and strength, and violent assaults, breaking in upon me like a flood.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.Of hell; or, of the grave, which brought me to the brink of the grave.
Prevented me; had almost taken hold of me, ere I was aware of my danger.
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.Out of his temple; either, 1. Out of his sanctuary; whence he promised to hear and answer the prayers of his people, which are either made there or directed thither. Or,
2. Out of his heavenly habitation, which is oft called his temple: See Poole "Psalm 11:4".
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.Then God appeared on my behalf in a miraculous and glorious manner, and with the great terror and confusion of all mine enemies, which is here compared to an earthquake. The earthquake was so deep and violent, that it overthrew whole mountains by the roots; whereby he designs his lofty and potent enemies; such being oft compared to mountains, as Psalm 46:2,3 144:5 Isaiah 41:15, &c.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.Smoke out of his nostrils; as is usual in persons transported with great anger and rage. He manifestd his great displeasure against my adversaries.
Coals were kindled by it; which notes the fervency, constancy, and efficacy of his anger.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.He bowed the heavens, by producing thick and dark clouds, by which the heavens seem to come down to the earth.
Came down; not by change of place, but by the manifestation of his presence and power on my behalf.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.Upon a cherub; or, upon the cherubims, by an enallage of number; that is, upon the angels, who are so called, Genesis 3:24 Hebrews 9:5, who are also called God’s chariots, Psalm 68:17, upon which he is said to sit and ride; all which is not to be understood grossly, but only to note God’s using of the ministry of angels in raising such storms and tempests as are here described.
Upon the wings of the wind; as swiftly as the wind. He came to my rescue with all speed.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.His secret place; or, his hiding-place; i.e. he covered himself with dark clouds, from hence he secretly shot at his enemies, as it follows.
Dark waters, i.e. watery vapours and thick clouds, as the next words expound these.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.At his glorious and powerful appearance
his thick clouds passed away, i.e. vanished, (as this word is oft taken, as Psalm 90:5,6 Isa 29:5 Habakkuk 3:10) being dissolved into showers of hail-stones, &c.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.The Lord also thundered, to wit, against my adversaries. Thunder is a sign of God’s anger, 1 Samuel 2:10 7:10.
His voice, i.e. thunder, oft so called. The same thing expressed in other words.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.His arrows, to wit, lightnings, as it is explained in the next clause.
Scattered them, to wit, mine enemies; which is sufficiently understood from Psalm 18:3,17, and from the whole context.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.By mighty and terrible earthquakes, which overturned the earth, and made its lower parts uppermost and visible.
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.He sent angels, or assistance otherwise.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.From them that wanted neither malice nor power.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.They were too cunning for me, and had almost surprised me; but they could not prevent thee.
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.He brought me forth out of my straits and difficulties, out of the little caves in which I was shut up and imprisoned.
Into a large place; into a state of freedom, and plenty, and comfort.
Because he delighted in me, or loved me, or had a good will to me, as this phrase commonly signifies; whereby he ascribes all his mercies and blessings to God’s good pleasure and free grace, as the first spring of them; which he thought fit to premise, lest the following expressions should seem to favour of boasting of his own merits, which he oft disclaims.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.As I had a just cause, and made it my care and business to deal righteously with God, and with Saul, and all others; so God (who hath engaged himself by his promise to suceour and reward them that are such) was graciously pleased to own me, and to plead my cause against my unrighteous enemies. And because I would not deliver myself from straits and miseries by unrighteous means, namely, by killing Saul, as I was advised to do, God was pleased to deliver me in a more honourable and effectual manner.
The cleanness of my hands, i.e. the innocency of my actions and carriage towards Saul, from whose blood I kept my hands pure.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.I have observed and obeyed his precepts, and made mine own will, and passions, and interest stoop to them. And I have not knowingly and wilfully forsaken God, and broken his laws, as wicked men do; which he adds by way of correction and explication, lest the former or following clauses should be interpreted as a profession of such a perfect and sinless righteousness, whereby he might in strict justice be justified by and before God, which he elsewhere utterly disowns, Psalm 130:3 143:2, and which David, especially towards the end of his days, (when this Psalm was composed, as the title shows,) could not pretend to without great arrogancy and falsehood, as having been guilty of those great sins of murder and adultery, and many other errors, as he confesseth, Psalm 19:12, and oft elsewhere.
For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.Before me, i.e. before the eyes of my mind; I diligently studied and considered them, that I might govern my whole life by them.
From me, i.e. out of my view, as ungodly men do; who like not to retain God nor his word in their hearts or thoughts.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.I did not pretend religion before men for my own ends, but did approve my heart and ways to the all-seeing God.
And I kept myself from mine iniquity, i e. from that sin which I was most inclined or tempted to; either,
1. From my hereditary and natural corruption, so far that it should not have dominion over me, nor break forth into any presumptuous or scandalous sins. Or rather,
2. From the sin of killing Saul, which might be called his sin, because this might seem most agreeable and desirable to him, both as a man and as a soldier, and as anointed to be king, as being a likely way both to revenge, and to preserve, and to advance himself; to which also he might seem to be both invited by the fair opportunity which Providence had put into his hand, 1 Samuel 24:4 26:8, and necessitated by Saul’s implacable malice, and his own perpetual and extreme dangers and distresses; and to which he was so strongly tempted by his own followers, in the place now quoted.
Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.No text from Poole on this verse.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;Upright, or sincere, to wit, in performing what thou hast promised to such persons, this being a great part or act of sincerity, when one’s deeds and words, or professions, agree together; as, on the contrary, for those that deal hypocritically and wickedly with thee, thou wilt make them to know thy breach of promise, as it is expressed, Numbers 14:34. The sense of the verse is, Thou metest to every one the same measure which he meteth out to others, and givest to him the fruit of his own doings, and therefore thou wilt perform mercy and truth to those who are merciful and true to others, as through thy mercy I have been.
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.Pure; free from the least mixture or appearance of unrighteousness, or unfaithfulness, or unkindness; or simply and sincerely, such as thou usest and hast promised to be to them that are such; for
purity is oft put for sincerity.
Froward, or perverse, i.e. thou wilt cross him, and walk contrary to him, as thou hast threatened, Leviticus 26:23,24. See also Proverbs 3:34. Man’s perverseness here is moral and sinful, but God’s perverseness is judicial and penal.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.The afflicted people; such as I and my poor followers were.
High looks, i.e. proud persons, who discover the pride of their hearts by their haughty looks and carriages, Psalm 101:5 Proverbs 6:17, such as mine enemies were.
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.Or, thou dost light, or hast lighted, my candle, i.e. given me safety, and comfort, and prosperity, and glory, and posterity also; all which are oft signified by a candle or a light, as Esther 8:16 Job 21:17 29:3 Psalm 97:11 132:17, &c.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.By thee I have broken through the armed troops of mine enemies. I have sealed the walls of their strongest cities and castles, and so taken them.
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.His way is perfect; his counsel and providence, though it may sometimes be dark and hard to be understood, yet is always wise and just, and every way perfect or unbeareable.
The word of the Lord is tried; the truth of God’s promises is certain, and approved by innuerable experiences, and mine among the rest.
For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?It must needs be as I have said, because our Lord is the only God, and therefore there is none, neither God nor creature, that can hinder him from accomplishing his own word and work, or from defending those that trust him: he is unchangeable and invincible. Or this is an amplification, As God is what I have now described him to be, so he only is such, and there is no other God or Rock in which they may safely trust.
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.That girdeth me with strength; that gives me strength both of mind and body for battle. It is a metaphor taken either from a military girdle, or from a common girdle, wherewith their loose garments were girt about them, whereby they were rendered fitter for any action.
Perfect, i.e. perfectly plain and smooth, and clear from impediments, as pioneers use to prepare the way for the march of an army. He guided me in all my counsels and enterprises, so that I neither miss my way, nor stumble in it, nor come short of my end.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.Like hinds’ feet, i.e. most swift and nimble. As he made me wise in counsel and contrivance, (which he elsewhere saith,) so he made me speedy and expeditious in the execution; which are the two great excellencies of a captain. He gave me great agility, either to flee and escape from mine enemies, when prudence required it; or to pursue them, when I saw occasion.
Setteth me, Heb. maketh me to stand, i.e. either he placeth me in safe and strong places, out of the reach of mine enemies; or he confirms and establisheth me in that high and honourable estate into which he hath advanced me, and gives me wisdom to improve my victories.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.To him I owe all that military skill, or strength, or cou rage which I have. My strength is sufficient, not only to bend
a bow of steel, but to break it.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.The shield of thy salvation; thy safeguard and protection, which hath been to me like a shield to defend me.
Holden me up; kept me from falling into those snares and mischiefs which mine enemies designed, and I feared.
Thy gentleness, or
meekness, as this word signifies, Numbers 12:3 Psalm 10:17 45:4 Zephaniah 2:3, i.e. thy clemency, whereby thou hast pardoned my sins, which might otherwise have undone me, and mitigated thy corrections which I have deserved; thy grace and benignity, which thou hast freely showed to me and for me.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.Thou hast enlarged my steps; which before were straitened and confined to a little compass, and entangled with the narrowness and difficulty of the way. Thou hast set my feet in a large room, Psalm 31:8 118:5, i.e. thou hast brought me out of all my straits and difficulties into a state of freedom and safety.
Slip, or stumble, as they are apt to do in narrow and uneven ways.
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.No text from Poole on this verse.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.i.e. Cast down to the ground, so as I may tread upon their necks, after the manner of conquerors, Deu 33:29 Joshua 10:24.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.He repeats what he had said Psalm 18:32, lest he should seem to arrogate to himself his great achievements and victories mentioned Psalm 18:37,38, and that he might give God the whole praise and glory of them.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.Either,
1. That I might smite or behead them. Or,
2. That I might put my yoke upon their necks, or bring them into subjection. Or rather thus, Thou hast made them turn their backs to me, i.e. flee away from me; for so this very phrase is used and rendered, Exodus 23:27 Joshua 7:8,12, and elsewhere. So far are they mistaken, that say this Hebrew word oreph is only used for the neck, and not for the back. That I might destroy them; that I might have opportunity to destroy them.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.He speaks of his Israelitish enemies, who in their distresses prayed to God for help against him.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.Or, rid them away, as dirt is usually swept or carried out of houses or streets. Or, tread them down, or bruise them, as men do dirt when they walk in the streets.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.From the strivings of the people; from contentions, and seditions, and tumults of my own people under Saul, and Ish-bosheth, and Absalom.
The head of the heathen; of the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Syrians, and others.
Whom I have not known; whom I had no acquaintance with, nor relation to, no, not by thy promise or grant; even barbarous and remote nations.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.As soon as they hear of me; either,
1. At the fame of my name and victorious arms. Or,
2. At the first tidings of my coming towards them. Or rather,
3. As soon as they understand my will and pleasure, they shall instantly comply with it.
Submit themselves unto me, Heb. shall lie unto me, i.e. shall submit themselves to me not willingly and cheerfullly, as they will pretend, but only out of fear, and by constraint; by which it appears that this is spoken with reference to David, and not (as some would have it) to Christ, because Christ’s people are a willing people, Psalm 110:3, and those whom he conquers do freely obey him.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.Shall fade away, i.e. shall wither and decay in their hopes and strength.
Be afraid, i.e. shall come trembling; one verb being put for two, as Psalm 22:21, thou hast heard me, i.e. having delivered me; and Psalm 42:1, panteth, i.e. panting hasteneth; and in many other places.
Out of their close places; out of their strong holds, where they shall lurk and keep themselves for fear of me, and whence they dare not stir without trembling. Or, for (as the particle mere is oft used)
their close places, i.e. lest I should assault and take them.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.He and he only is the true living God, and he hath manifested himself to be for my comfort, and for the confusion of mine enemies, when other gods are dead and impotent idols. Or, Let the Lord live. So it is a joyful and thankful acclamation, spoken after the manner of earthly princes.
Blessed be my rock; let him have all blessing and praise, for he is worthy of it.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.That avengeth me; that executed vengeance both by me against malicious enemies, and for me against Saul, of whom I would not avenge myself.
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.Above those that rise up against me; above their malice and power.
From the violent man; from Saul, whom for honour’s sake he forbears to mention.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.Among the heathen; or, among the Gentiles or nations; i.e. either,
1. In the great congregations, consisting df the Israelites of all tribes; of whom this very word is used, Joshua 3:17 4:1 Ezekiel 2:3, and elsewhere, as hath been noted before. Or,
2. In the presence of those Gentiles, who resorted to Jerusalem in great numbers, or before others of them, who are either subject to me, or confederate with me, as I have occasion of speaking or writing to any of them. But this was but an uncertain and inconsiderable business. And therefore David is here transported beyond himself, even to his seed for ever, as it is expressed Psalm 18:50, and speaks this in special relation to Christ, who was to be his Seed, and of whom he was an eminent type, and by whom alone this was done to any purpose. And therefore this is justly applied to him, and to his preaching to and calling of the Gentiles, Romans 15:9.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.To his king; to the king whom God himself chose, and anointed, or constituted.
To his seed; to all his posterity, and especially to the Messias, who is called David’s Seed, Acts 13:23 Romans 1:3; and his Son, Psalm 89:27 90:1, compared with Matthew 22:42; and the Seed by way of eminency, Galatians 3:16; and God’s Anointed and King, Psalm 2:2.