Psalm 18:11
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Secret place.—Better, veil. Comp. Job 22:14; Lamentations 3:44. A better arrangement of the members of this verse is, He made darkness His veil round about Him; His tent He made of dark waters and black clouds. Literally, darkness of waters and blacknesses of clouds. (Comp. Psalm 97:2; Job 36:29.) In Samuel, instead of “blacknesses” of clouds, the expression used is “bendings,” or “collectings,” and the parallelism is marred by the omission of “his veil.”

Always present to the Hebrew imagination, God is still invisible, veiled by thick clouds, and far withdrawn in His own ineffable brightness.

This verse gives suggestion of that momentary lull so common before the final fury of a storm bursts. In the Hebrew imagery Jehovah stays His winged car, and draws round Him, as if to take up His abode within them, thick curtains of cloud.

“We often see, against some storm,

A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,

The bold winds speechless, and the orb below

As hush as death.”—SHAKSPEARE: Hamlet.

Psalm 18:11. He made darkness his secret place — Or, his hiding place: his covert, says Dr. Waterland; his tent, says Chandler. He covered himself with dark clouds. God is frequently represented as surrounded with clouds, in the sacred writings; this representation is peculiarly proper in this place, as thick, heavy clouds, deeply charged, and with lowering aspects, are always the forerunners and attendants of a tempest, and greatly heighten the horrors of the appearance; and the representation of them, as spreading around the Almighty for his pavilion and tent, is truly poetical and grand. And, as storms and tempests in the air are often instruments of the divine displeasure, they are therefore here selected with great propriety as figures of it; and God, who has the whole artillery of the aerial regions at his command, and holds the reins of whirlwinds in his hand, and directs their impetuous course through the world when and how he pleases, is here fifty represented as employing them against his enemies in the day of battle and war.18:1-19 The first words, I will love thee, O Lord, my strength, are the scope and contents of the psalm. Those that truly love God, may triumph in him as their Rock and Refuge, and may with confidence call upon him. It is good for us to observe all the circumstances of a mercy which magnify the power of God and his goodness to us in it. David was a praying man, and God was found a prayer-hearing God. If we pray as he did, we shall speed as he did. God's manifestation of his presence is very fully described, ver. 7-15. Little appeared of man, but much of God, in these deliverances. It is not possible to apply to the history of the son of Jesse those awful, majestic, and stupendous words which are used through this description of the Divine manifestation. Every part of so solemn a scene of terrors tells us, a greater than David is here. God will not only deliver his people out of their troubles in due time, but he will bear them up under their troubles in the mean time. Can we meditate on ver. 18, without directing one thought to Gethsemane and Calvary? Can we forget that it was in the hour of Christ's deepest calamity, when Judas betrayed, when his friends forsook, when the multitude derided him, and the smiles of his Father's love were withheld, that the powers of darkness prevented him? The sorrows of death surrounded him, in his distress he prayed, Heb 5:7. God made the earth to shake and tremble, and the rocks to cleave, and brought him out, in his resurrection, because he delighted in him and in his undertaking.He made darkness his secret place - Herder has beautifully rendered this verse,

"Now he wrapped himself in darkness;

Clouds on clouds enclosed him round."

The word rendered "secret place" - סתר sêther - means properly a hiding; then something hidden, private, secret. Hence, it means a covering, a veil. Compare Job 22:14; Job 24:15. In Psalm 81:7 it is applied to thunder: "I answered thee in the secret place of thunder;" that is, in the secret place or retreat - the deep, dark cloud, from where the thunder seems to come. Here the meaning seems to be, that God was encompassed with darkness. He had, as it were, wrapped himself in night, and made his abode in the gloom of the storm.

His pavilion - His tent, for so the word means. Compare Psalm 27:5; Psalm 31:20. His abode was in the midst of clouds and waters, or watery clouds.

Round about him - Perhaps a more literal translation would be, "the things round about him - his tent (shelter, or cover) - were the darkness of waters, the clouds of the skies." The idea is that he seemed to be encompassed with watery clouds.

Dark waters - Hebrew, darkness of waters. The allusion is to clouds filled with water; charged with rain.

Thick clouds of the skies - The word rendered skies in this place - שׁחקים shachaqiym - means, in the singular, dust, as being fine; then a cloud, as a cloud of dust; then, in the plural, it is used to denote clouds, Job 38:37; and hence, it is used to denote the region of the clouds; the firmament; the sky; Job 37:18. Perhaps a not-inaccurate rendering here would be, "clouds of clouds;" that is, clouds rolled in with clouds; clouds of one kind rapidly succeeding those of another kind - inrolling and piled on each other. There are four different kinds of clouds; and though we cannot suppose that the distinction was accurately marked in the time of the psalmist, yet to the slightest observation there is a distinction in the clouds, and it is possible that by the use of two terms here, both denoting clouds - one thick and dense, and the other clouds as resembling dust - the psalmist meant to intimate that clouds of all kinds rolled over the firmament, and that these constituted the "pavilion" of God.

11. dark waters—or, clouds heavy with vapor. 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. He made darkness his secret place,.... Which, and the dark waters in the next clause, are the same with the thick clouds in the last, in which Jehovah is represented as wrapping himself, and in which he lies hid as in a secret place; not so as that he cannot see others, as wicked men imagine, Job 22:13; but as that he cannot be beheld by others; the Targum interprets it,

"he caused his Shechinah to dwell in darkness;''

his pavilion round about him were dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies; these were as a tent or tabernacle, in which he dwelt unseen by men; see Job 36:29; all this may design the dark dispensation of the Jews, after their rejection and crucifixion of Christ; when God departed from them, left their house desolate, and them without his presence and protection; when the light of the Gospel was taken away from them, and blindness happened unto them, and they had eyes that they should not see, and were given up to a judicial darkness of mind and hardness of heart; which were some of the dark, deep, and mysterious methods of divine Providence, with respect to which God may be said to be surrounded with darkness, dark waters, and thick clouds; see Romans 11:7.

He made darkness his {h} secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

(h) As a king angry with the people, will not show himself to them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. R.V. He made darkness his hiding-place, his pavilion round about him;

Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.

The darkness of the rain-charged storm-cloud is the tent in which Jehovah shrouds His Majesty. Cp. Job 36:29; Psalm 97:2. The rhythm gains by the omission of his hiding-place, as in 2 Sam.; and the text there may be right in reading gathering of waters for darkness of waters.Verse 11. - He made darkness his secret place; i.e. he hid himself amid clouds and thick darkness. In executing his judgments he did not allow himself to be seen. God's action is always secret and inscrutable. His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. The original runs as follows: "He made darkness his secret place - his pavilion round about him - dark waters, thick clouds of the skies." The whole forms one sentence, "his pavilion" being in apposition with "secret place," and the last clause, "dark waters, thick clouds of the skies," being exegetical of the "darkness" in the first clause. God's "pavilion," or "tent" (סבּה), is mentioned again in Psalm 27:5 and Psalm 31:20. (Heb.: 18:5-7) In these verses David gathers into one collective figure all the fearful dangers to which he had been exposed during his persecution by Saul, together with the marvellous answers and deliverances he experienced, that which is unseen, which stands in the relation to that which is visible of cause and effect, rendering itself visible to him. David here appears as passive throughout; the hand from out of the clouds seizes him and draws him out of mighty waters: while in the second part of the Psalm, in fellowship with God and under His blessing, he comes forward as a free actor.

The description begins in Psalm 18:5 with the danger and the cry for help which is not in vain. The verb אפף according to a tradition not to be doubted (cf. אופן a wheel) signifies to go round, surround, as a poetical synonym of סבב, הקּיף, כּתּר, and not, as one might after the Arabic have thought: to drive, urge. Instead of "the bands of death," the lxx (cf. Acts 2:24) renders it ὠδῖνες (constrictive pains) θανάτου; but Psalm 18:6 favours the meaning bands, cords, cf. Psalm 119:61 (where it is likewise חבלי instead of the הבלי, which one might have expected, Joshua 17:5; Job 36:8), death is therefore represented as a hunter with a cord and net, Psalm 91:3. בליּעל, compounded of בּלי and יעל (from יעל, ועל, root על), signifies unprofitableness, worthlessness, and in fact both deep-rooted moral corruption and also abysmal destruction (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:15, Βελίαρ equals Βελίαλ as a name of Satan and his kingdom). Rivers of destruction are those, whose engulfing floods lead down to the abyss of destruction (Jonah 2:7). Death, Belı̂jáal, and Sheôl are the names of the weird powers, which make use of David's persecutors as their instruments. Futt. in the sense of imperfects alternate with praett. בּעת ( equals Arab. bgt) signifies to come suddenly upon any one (but compare also Arab. b‛ṯ, to startle, excitare, to alarm), and קדּם, to rush upon; the two words are distinguished from one another like ׬berfallen and anfallen. The היכל out of which Jahve hears is His heavenly dwelling-place, which is both palace and temple, inasmuch as He sits enthroned there, being worshipped by blessed spirits. לפניו belongs to ושׁועתי: my cry which is poured forth before Him (as e.g., in Psalm 102:1), for it is tautological if joined with תּבא beside ושׁועתי. Before Jahve's face he made supplication and his prayer urged its way into His ears.

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