And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul:
Verse 1. - David spake. The introduction was probably written by the prophet who compiled the Books of Samuel. The scribe who collected the Book of Psalms would be a priest, and he has repeated it with one or two additions, the most important of which is that the psalm was written "by David the servant of Jehovah." This title; meaning the minister or vicegerent of Jehovah, is one so high that it would certainly not have been given to David in his lifetime; nor was it even until Moses was dead that he was honoured with this rank (Deuteronomy 34:5). But what was David's right to this title, which put him on a level with Moses? It was this: In adding to the sacrificial ritual enacted by Moses a daily service in the temple of sacred minstrelsy and songs, David was acting with higher powers than were ever exercised by any other person. For though, as we have seen, Samuel was the originator of these services in his schools, yet. there is a wide difference between private and public services; and David made his anthems part of the national liturgy. But it would only be when the halo of long use had gathered round his holy psalmody that David would be placed on in equality with Moses, and his authority a institute a new ritual for the nation be recognized.
And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
Verses 2-4. -
Jehovah is my Cliff and my Stronghold and my Deliverer:
The God of my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My Shield and the Horn of my salvation,
My Fastness and my Place of refuge:
My Saviour: thou savest me from violence.
I call upon Jehovah, the praised One,
And I am saved from my enemies." The Syriac in ver. 2 inserts, "Fervently do I love thee, Jehovah my Strength;" but it probably only borrows the words from Psalm 18:1. For we may well believe that it was at a later period of his life, after deeper and more heart searching trials, that David thus felt his love to Jehovah only strengthened and made more necessary to him by the loss of his earthly happiness. In ver. 3, The God of my rock is changed in Psalm 18:2 into "My God my Rock" (Authorized Version, "strength") - probably an intentional alteration, as being far less rugged and startling than this bold metaphor of the Deity being his rock's God. In the original the words present each its distinct idea. Thus in ver. 2 the rock is a high cliff or precipice. It is the word sela, which gave its name to the crag city of Idumea. Fortress really means a rock, difficult of access, and forming a secure retreat. It is entirely a natural formation, and not a building. In ver. 3 rock is a vast mountainous mass (Job 18:4), and, as it suggests the ideas of grandeur and immovable might, it is often used for God's glory as being the Strength and Protection of his people (Deuteronomy 32:15, 31; Isaiah 30:29, margin). Next follow two ordinary metaphors, the shield for defence, and the horn for attack; after which David, who had so often sought safety among the cliffs and fastnesses of the mountains, returns to the same circle of thoughts, and calls God his High Tower, the word signifying, not a building, but a height, a lofty natural stronghold; and finally his Refuge, a place of safe retreat among the mountains. This and the rest of the verse are omitted in Psalm 18:2. In ver. 4 the words are as literally translated above, and signify, "Whenever call, I am saved." In all times of difficulty, prayer brings immediate deliverance.
The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.
I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid;
Verses 5-7. -
"For the breakers of death surrounded me;
Torrents of wickedness [Hebrew, 'of Belial'] terrified me;
Cords of Sheol surrounded me;
Snares of death came suddenly upon me.
In my distress I cried unto Jehovah,
And to my God I cried.
And he heard my voice out of his palace,
And my cry was in his ears." Instead of breakers - waves dashing violently on rocks - Psalm 18:4 has "cords of death;" translated "sorrow" in the Authorized Version. But "cords of death" mean the fatal snares of the hunter, and are not in keeping with "torrents of wickedness." "Belial," literally, "worthlessness," is by many supposed, from the context to mean herd "destruction," that is, physical instead of moral wickedness. So in Nahum 1:11 "a counsellor of Belial" means a ruinous, destructive counsellor. Sheol is the world of the departed, and is equivalent to "death." Cried is the same verb twice used. In Psalm 18:6 it is altered, in the former part of the verse unto "I called" - a change probably suggested by the more fastidious taste of a later age. For temple we should translate palace, or heavenly temple. It is not the temple in Jerusalem, which was not yet built, but God's heavenly dwelling, that is meant. Instead of the terse ellipse, "And my cry in his ears," the full but heavy phrase, "My cry before him came into his ears," is substituted in Psalm 18:6.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me;
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth.
Verses 8-10. -
"And the earth quaked and trembled;
The foundations of the heavens shook,
And quaked because he was wroth.
A smoke went up in his nostril,
And fire out of his mouth devoured;
Red hot cinders burned from him.
And he bowed the heavens and came down,
And darkness was under his feet." In describing the manifestation of God for his deliverance, David bore in mind and repeated the description of God's descent to earth given in Exodus 19:16, 18. But the poetic vigour of David's imagination intensities the imagery, and makes it more grand and startling. Not merely is there the earthquake and the volcano and the storm cloud, but the dim form of the Almighty is present, with the smoke of just anger at unrighteousness ascending from his nostrils, and the lightnings flashing forth to execute his wrath. But David certainly intended that these metaphors should remain ideal; and it was quite unnecessary for the Targum carefully to eliminate all such expressions as seem to give the Almighty bureau shape. In so doing it merely changes poetry into prose. But even more dull and commonplace is the explanation given by some modern commentators, that all that is meant is that David was once saved by a thunderstorm from some danger or other. Really this glorious imagery, taken from all that is grandest on earth, is intended to magnify to us the spiritual conception of God's justice coming forth to visit the earth and do right and equity. In ver. 8 for "the foundations of the heavens," we find in Psalm 18:7 "the foundations of the hills." The former is the grander metaphor, and signifies the mighty mountain ranges, like those of Lebanon, on which the skies seem to rest. The smoke signifies hailstorms and, perhaps, also the rain driven in wreaths along the ground by the wind. Red hot cinders burned from him describes the flashing lightnings that were shot forth like the coals from the refiner's furnace when heated to the full. It is to be regretted that the Revised Version retains the bathos of the old rendering, that God's fiery breath set coals on fire.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind.
Verses 11-13. -
"And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly;
And he was seen upon the wings of the wind.
And he made darkness booths round about him;
Gathering of waters, thickenings of clouds.
Out of the brightness before him
Coals of fire burned." In 2 Samuel 6:2 Jehovah is described as sitting upon the cherubim; his presence there, called by the rabbins his Shechinah, that is, dwelling, being indicated by a cloud of light. In this psalm the cherub is his chariot, on which he rides forth to judgment. He was seen. There can be little doubt that the right reading is preserved in Psalm 18:10, where we find a verb signifying the swooping down of a bird of prey upon its quarry (Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 48:40). The two words differ only in the substitution of r for d, and these letters are so similar in Hebrew that they are constantly interchanged. Booths; made of branches of trees, and forming a temporary abode. So the dark storm clouds are gathered round the Almighty to veil his awful form from sight as he goes forth for judgment. Gathering of waters; probably the right reading, instead of which in the psalm we find "dark waters." The gathering of waters would describe the massing of the rain clouds. The difference here also consists only in one letter. Out of the brightness, which closely surrounds the Deity in the midst of the black mass of the tempest, the lightning flashes forth. This brightness is the Shechinah (see above), to which St. Paul also refers where he says that God's dwelling is in "the unapproachable light" (1 Timothy 6:16).
And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies.
Through the brightness before him were coals of fire kindled.
The LORD thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice.
Verses 14-16. -
"Jehovah thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered his voice.
And he sent forth arrows, and scattered them [the evil doers];
Lightning, and terrified them.
And the sea beds became visible,
The foundations of the world were laid bare,
At the rebuke of Jehovah,
By the breath of the wind of his nostril." Terrified. The verb signifies" to strike with sodden terror and alarm" (see Exodus 14:24; Joshua 10:10). It describes here the panic caused by the lightning, and by the violent throes of nature, so powerfully described in ver. 16. Laid bare. This is the meaning of the word "discovered" in the Authorized Version. When the version was made, it was equivalent to "uncovered," but has now changed its signification.
And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them.
And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.
He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters;
Verses 17-20. -
"He stretched forth his hand from on high; he took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From them that hated me; for they were too mighty for me.
For they attacked me in the day of my misfortune.
But Jehovah became my Staff,
And he brought me forth into a wide place
He delivered me, because he had pleasure in me." In the midst of this fearful convulsion of nature, while all around are stricken with panic, David sees a hand stretched out from above, ready to deliver him from the overwhelming flood of hatred and peril. Attacked me. The word does not signify "to prevent," or" anticipate," but "to assail" So in ver. 6, "The snares of death assailed me;" and in Isaiah 37:33, "The King of Assyria shall not attack this city with shield." It is the same verb in all these places. Staff; in the Authorized Version, "stay." But it means something to lean upon, and is rightly translated "staff" in Psalm 23:4. A wide place; in opposition to the straits of affliction. He had pleasure in me. In 2 Samuel 15:26 this confidence is gone, and David doubts whether the favour of Jehovah had not been forfeited by him.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
Verses 21-25. -
"Jehovah hath requited me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of Jehovah,
And sinned not so as to depart from my God.
For all his judgments have been kept in sight,
And from his statutes I have not departed.
I was also perfect towards him,
And was on my guard against my sin.
Therefore hath Jehovah recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in his eyesight." It is impossible to suppose that these verses could have been written after David's fall. For while be acknowledges in them a tendency to sin, he affirms that he had been on his guard against it, and that he had ever kept God's statutes present before his view. However complete may be the penitent's recovery, yet can he never again be "perfect," the word applied to an animal without blemish, and therefore fit for sacrifice. The crime remains a blemish, even though the intense sorrow for the sin may make it the means of even attaining to a higher stage of spirituality and devotion. In ver. 22 the words literally are, "I have not sinned away from God," sin necessarily removing the sinner away from that nearness to God which is the privilege of the saint.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his judgments were before me: and as for his statutes, I did not depart from them.
I was also upright before him, and have kept myself from mine iniquity.
Therefore the LORD hath recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in his eye sight.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful, and with the upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright.
Verses 26-28. -
"With the pious man thou wilt show thyself pious;
With the perfect man thou wilt show thyself perfect;
With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure;
And with the crooked thou wilt show thyself perverse.
And the afflicted people thou wilt save;
And thine eyes are upon the haughty, to bring them down." Having affirmed his integrity, and that God therefore had pleasure in him and rewarded him, David now asserts that this is the unfailing rule of God's dealings with men. The general current of their lives is so ordered as to be in harmony with their characters. It is not by luck or good fortune that prosperity attends the righteous, nor is it by chance that things go awry with the fraudulent, but it is by the law of God's providence. Pious. The Hebrew word means "pious" in the original sense of the word, which includes kindness to men as well as love to God. Perverse. In the Authorized Version "unsavoury." Really it is the same word as that used in Psalm 18:26, and signifies "thou wilt make thyself twisted," only the form is archaic, as is the case with some other words here. Experience confirms the psalmist's verdict. For constantly a strange perversity of fortune and an untowardness of events are the lot of those whose hearts are crooked. Afflicted. The word in the original includes the idea of humility, and so leads naturally on to the thought of the abasement of the proud. In the psalm the somewhat harsh expression used here has been softened into the more easy phrase, "The haughty eyes thou wilt bring down."
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavoury.
And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.
For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness.
Verses 29-31. -
"For thou, Jehovah, art my Lamp;
And Jehovah will make my darkness light.
For by thee do I run upon a troop;
In my God I leap over a wall.
God - his way is perfect;
The word of Jehovah is purified.
He is a Shield to all that trust in him." Lamp. The lamp burning in the house is the proof of life and activity present there; and thus the extinguishing of the lamp means ruin and desolation (Job 21:17). So David is called "the lamp of Israel" (2 Samuel 21:17), because the active life of the nation centred in him. In a still higher sense the life and being of his people centres in God, and without him the soul is waste and void, like the universe before God said, "Let there be light." I run. To the warrior in old time speed was as important as strength, and thus Homer constantly calls Achilles "fleet of foot." It was his fleetness which gave Asahel a high place among the mighties (2 Samuel 2:18), and to this quality David now refers. The troop signifies a light armed band of marauders, whom with God's aid David could overtake, and stop in their course of rapine. The wall means fortifications like those of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:7). Sieges were tedious affairs in old time, but David had captured that city with a rapidity so great that the metaphor in the text is most appropriate. Purified; or, refined. This does not mean that it is proved by experience and found true, but that it is absolutely good and perfect like refined gold (see Psalm 12:6).
For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.
For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?
Verses 32-34. -
"For who is God, save Jehovah?
And who is a rock, save our God?
God is my strong Fortress,
And he guideth the perfect in his way.
He maketh my feet like the hinds,
And upon my high places he cloth set me." God; Hebrew, El; the Mighty One, used several times in this psalm. In the second clause the word is Elohim, the ordinary name of God. The psalmist's question is a strong assertion that Jehovah alone is God, and that he alone is a Rock of safety for his people. He guideth, etc. In Psalm 18:32 "He maketh my way perfect," like his own. The phrase here is probably that which David wrote, as being less usual, and it signifies that God will direct the upright man in his good way. Hinds. David's feet are swift as hinds, an animal famous for its speed and sureness of foot. My high places. The tops of the mountains are the favourite resort of the antelope (2 Samuel 1:18); and so with David, the possession of such rocky citadels as Bozez and Seneh (1 Samuel 14:4) made him master of the whole country.
God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet: and setteth me upon my high places.
He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
Verses 35-37. -
"He teaeheth my hands to war;
And mine arms can bend a bow of bronze.
And thou hast given me thy saving shield;
And thy hearing of me hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me;
And my feet have not slipped." Bow of bronze. In Job 20:24 we also read of bows made of this metal, or compound of metals, which was a far more ancient material for weapons than steel. The bending of such a bow was proof of great strength, and the last artifice of Penelope, to save herself from the suitors, was to promise her hand to the man who could bend Ulysses' bow. Thy hearing of me; in Psalm 18:35, and Authorized Version and Revised Version here, "thy gentleness." The words in the Hebrew are very nearly alike, but the Septuagint notices the difference, and translates "hearing" in this place, but "chastisement" in the psalm. The Vulgate has "gentleness" or "mildness" here, and "discipline" in the psalm. The Syriac alone has "discipline" in both places. My feet; literally, ankle bones, the weakness of which causes men to totter.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip.
I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them.
Verses 38-40. -
"I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them;
Neither did I turn again until I had consumed them.
And I have consumed them, and smitten them through, and they arose not;
Yea, they fell under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle;
Thou hast made them that rose against me to bow under me." In the Psalms, for destroyed we find "overtaken," and the second "I have consumed them" is omitted. This exultation of David at the result of his wars is in accordance with the harsh treatment inflicted by him upon the vanquished. His enemies were God's enemies, whom he must consume. The "new commandment" of Christianity forbids and condemns this delight in conquest. Vers. 41-43. -
"And mine enemies thou hast made to turn upon me their back,
Even those that hate me; and have utterly destroyed them.
They looked, but there was none to save,
Even to Jehovah, but he answered them not.
And I beat them small as the dust of the earth;
As the mire of the streets I stamped upon them, I trode them down." Those that hate me. The sentence is to be completed from the previous clause, "my haters" and "my enemies" being equivalent. There are several small variations between the text here and in Psalm 18, such as "they cried" for they looked; and "I emptied them out" for I stamped upon them, the difference in both cases consisting in a single letter.
And I have consumed them, and wounded them, that they could not arise: yea, they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up against me hast thou subdued under me.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me.
They looked, but there was none to save; even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth, I did stamp them as the mire of the street, and did spread them abroad.
Thou also hast delivered me from the strivings of my people, thou hast kept me to be head of the heathen: a people which I knew not shall serve me.
Verses 44-46. -
"And thou hast delivered me from the strivings of my people;
Thou hast protected me that I might be head of the nations.
A people whom! knew not have become my servants;
Children of strangers have submitted themselves to me;
At the hearing of the ear they obeyed me.
The children of the strangers faded away;
They fled trembling out of their fastnesses." People, in the singular, means the Jewish people as opposed to the nations, that is, the heathen world. The strivings here referred to are the long dissensions which followed Ishbosheth's death, and delayed for many the appointment of David as king of Israel. He now feels that the watchful which had protected him during that dangerous period had a higher purpose than the union of the twelve tribes under one head. He was to be the founder also of that empire over the nations which symbolized the gift of the heathen world to Christ. And this empire had been extended to people previously unknown to David. Such might be the case with Hadarezer, King of Zobah, but it more especially referred to Toi, and the Hittite kingdom of Hamath (2 Samuel 8:9). It was not from force of arms, but from the hearing of the ear, that is, from the wide extended fame of David's conquests, that Toi sent ambassadors to offer allegiance and presents. They fled trembling. This is certainly the sense in Psalm 18:45, where, however, there is a transposition of letters. Probably it is the sense here. But if we might go to the cognate languages for an explanation of a rare word, it would mean "came limping out of their fastnesses," as men worn out with fatigue and exhaustion.
Strangers shall submit themselves unto me: as soon as they hear, they shall be obedient unto me.
Strangers shall fade away, and they shall be afraid out of their close places.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.
Verses 47-49. -
"Jehovah liveth; and blessed be my Rock,
And exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation,
Even the God that giveth me avengements,
And bringeth down peoples under me.
And bringeth me forth from my enemies.
Yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me;
From the violent man thou deliverest me." In Psalm 18:46 we find simply "the God of my salvation." Perhaps there seemed to the compiler to be some confusion in calling Jehovah, first David's Rock, and then the God of his rock (but see note on ver. 3). Avengements, in the plural. In the Law the sanctions were chiefly temporal, and therefore the saints of old watched anxiously for, and were strengthened by observing, the constantly recurring proofs of God's righteous government of men. Peoples, in the plural; heathen nations. The violent man may especially be Saul, as is supposed in the title prefixed to this song in the Book of Psalms. There probably it is general, and includes all who were bitter in their hostility to David.
It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me,
And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name.
Verses 50, 51. -
"Therefore will I praise thee among the nations,
And to thy Name will I sing.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king,
And showeth grace to his messiah -
To David, and to his seed forever." Great deliverance; literally, he maketh great the salvation of his king; that is, he rescueth him marvellously again and again. The K'ri substitutes tower, but it has no support either from the versions or from Psalm 18, though admitted into the Authorized Version. The difference between the two words "making great" and "tower" is, in the Hebrew, trifling. To his messiah. This mercy was shown to David as the anointed theocratic king, whose rule was the symbol of that of Christ.
He is the tower of salvation for his king: and sheweth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore.