Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
David's Hymnic Retrospect of a Life Crowned with Many Mercies
Next to a תּפּלּה of David comes a שׁירה (nom. unitatis from שׁיר), which is in many ways both in words and thoughts (Symbolae p. 49) interwoven with the former. It is the longest of all the hymnic Psalms, and bears the inscription: To the Precentor, by the servant of Jahve, by David, who spake unto Jahve the words of this song in the day that Jahve had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies and out of the hand of Saûl: then he said. The original inscription of the Psalm in the primary collection was probably only לדוד למנצח לעבד ה, like the inscription of Psalm 36:1-12. The rest of the inscription resembles the language with which songs of this class are wont to be introduced in their connection in the historical narrative, Exodus 15:1; Numbers 21:17, and more especially Deuteronomy 31:30. And the Psalm before us is found again in 2 Samuel 22, introduced by words, the manifestly unaccidental agreement of which with the inscription in the Psalter, is explained by its having been incorporated in one of the histories from which the Books of Samuel are extracted, - probably the Annals (Dibre ha-Jamim) of David. From this source the writer of the Books of Samuel has taken the Psalm, together with that introduction; and from this source also springs the historical portion of the inscription in the Psalter, which is connected with the preceding by אשׁר.
David may have styled himself in the inscription עבד ה, just as the apostles call themselves δοῦλοι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. He also in other instances, in prayer, calls himself "the servant of Jahve," Psalm 19:12, Psalm 19:14; Psalm 144:10; 2 Samuel 7:20, as every Israelite might do; but David, who is the first after Moses and Joshua to bear this designation or by-name, could to so in an especial sense. For he, with whom the kingship of promise began, marks an epoch in his service of the work of God no less than did Moses, through whose mediation Israel received the Law, and Joshua, through whose instrumentality they obtained the Land of promise.
The terminology of psalm-poesy does not include the word שׁירה, but only שׁיר. This at once shows that the historical portion of the inscription comes from some other source. בּיום is followed, not by the infin. הצּיל: on the day of deliverance, but by the more exactly plusquamperf. הצּיל: on the day (בּיום equals at the time, as in Genesis 2:4, and frequently) when he had delivered - a genitival (Ges. 116, 3) relative clause, like Psalm 138:3; Exodus 6:28; Numbers 3:1, cf. Psalm 56:10. מיּד alternates with מכּף in this text without any other design than that of varying the expression. The deliverance out of the hand of Saul is made specially prominent, because the most prominent portion of the Psalm, Psalm 18:5, treats of it. The danger in which David the was placed, was of the most personal, the most perilous, and the most protracted kind. This prominence was of great service to the collector, because the preceding Psalm bears the features of this time, the lamentations over which are heard there and further back, and now all find expression in this more extended song of praise.
Only a fondness for doubt can lead any one to doubt the Davidic origin of this Psalm, attested as it is in two works, which are independent of one another. The twofold testimony of tradition is supported by the fact that the Psalm contains nothing that militates against David being the author; even the mention of his own name at the close, is not against it (cf. 1 Kings 2:45). We have before us an Israelitish counterpart to the cuneiform monumental inscriptions, in which the kings of worldly monarchies recapitulate the deeds they have done by the help of their gods. The speaker is a king; the author of the Books of Samuel found the song already in existence as a Davidic song; the difference of his text from that which lies before us in the Psalter, shows that at that time it had been transmitted from some earlier period; writers of the later time of the kings here and there use language which is borrowed from it or are echoes of it (comp. Proverbs 30:5 with Psalm 18:31; Habakkuk 3:19 with Psalm 18:34); it bears throughout the mark of the classic age of the language and poetry, and "if it be not David's, it must have been written in his name and by some one imbued with his spirit, and who could have been this contemporary poet and twin-genius?" (Hitzig). All this irresistibly points us to David himself, to whom really belong also all the other songs in the Second Book of Samuel, which are introduced as Davidic (over Saul and Jonathan, over Abner, etc.). This, the greatest of all, springs entirely from the new self-consciousness to which he was raised by the promises recorded in 2 Samuel 7; and towards the end, it closes with express retrospective reference to these promises; for David's certainty of the everlasting duration of his house, and God's covenant of mercy with his house, rests upon the announcement made by Nathan.
The Psalm divides into two halves; for the strain of praise begins anew with Psalm 18:32, after having run its first course and come to a beautiful close in Psalm 18:31. The two halves are also distinct in respect of their artificial form. The strophe schema of the first is: 6. 8. 8. 6. 8 (not 9). 8. 8. 8. 7. The mixture of six and eight line strophes is symmetrical, and the seven of the last strophe is nothing strange. The mixture in the second half on the contrary is varied. The art of the strophe system appears here, as is also seen in other instances in the Psalms, to be relaxed; and the striving after form at the commencement has given way to the pressure and crowding of the thoughts.
The traditional mode of writing out this Psalm, as also the Cantica, 2 Samuel 22 and Judges 5, is "a half-brick upon a brick, and a brick upon a half-brick" (אירח על גבי לבנה ולבנה על גבי אריח): i.e., one line consisting of two, and one of three parts of a verse, and the line consisting of the three parts has only one word on the right and on the left; the whole consequently forms three columns. On the other hand, the song in Deuteronomy 32 (as also Joshua 12:9., Esther 9:7-10) is to be written "a half-brick upon a half-brick and a brick upon a brick," i.e., in only two columns, cf. infra p. 168.
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.(Heb.: 18:2-4) The poet opens with a number of endearing names for God, in which he gratefully comprehends the results of long and varied experience. So far as regards the parallelism of the members, a monostich forms the beginning of this Psalm, as in Psalm 16:1-11; Psalm 23:1-6; Psalm 25 and many others. Nevertheless the matter assumes a somewhat different aspect, if Psalm 18:3 is not, with Maurer, Hengstenberg and Hupfeld, taken as two predicate clauses (Jahve is..., my God is...), but as a simple vocative-a rendering which alone corresponds to the intensity with which this greatest of the Davidic hymns opens-God being invoked by ה, ה, אלי, and each of these names being followed by a predicative expansion of itself, which increases in fulness of tone and emphasis. The ארחמך (with ā, according to Ew. ֗251, b), which carries the three series of the names of God, makes up in depth of meaning what is wanting in compass. Elsewhere we find only the Piel רחם of tender sympathising love, but here the Kal is used as an Aramaism. Hence the Jalkut on this passages explains it by רחמאי יתך "I love thee," or ardent, heartfelt love and attachment. The primary signification of softness (root רח, Arab. rḥ, rch, to be soft, lax, loose), whence רחם, uterus, is transferred in both cases to tenderness of feeling or sentiment. The most general predicate חזפי (from חזק according to a similar inflexion to אמר, בּסר, עמק, plur. עמקי Proverbs 9:18) is followed by those which describe Jahve as a protector and deliverer in persecution on the one hand, and on the other as a defender and the giver of victory in battle. They are all typical names symbolising what Jahve is in Himself; hence instead of וּמפלּטי it would perhaps have been more correct to point וּמפלטי (and my refuge). God had already called Himself a shield to Abram, Genesis 15:1; and He is called צוּר (cf. אבן Genesis 49:24) in the great Mosaic song, Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:37 (the latter verse is distinctly echoed here).
סלע from סלע, Arab. sl‛, findere, means properly a cleft in a rock (Arabic סלע,
(Note: Neshwn defines thus: Arab. 'l-sal‛ is a cutting in a mountain after the manner of a gorge; and Jkt, who cites a number of places that are so called: a wide plain (Arab. fḍ') enclosed by steep rocks, which is reached through a narrow pass (Arab. ša‛b), but can only be descended on foot. Accordingly, in סלעי the idea of a safe (and comfortable) hiding-place preponderates; in צוּרי that of firm ground and inaccessibility. The one figure calls to mind the (well-watered) Edomitish סלע surrounded with precipitous rocks, Isaiah 16:1; Isaiah 42:11, the Πέτρα described by Strabo, xvi. 4, 21; the other calls to mind the Phoenician rocky island צור, Ṣûr (Tyre), the refuge in the sea.))
then a cleft rock, and צוּר, like the Arabic sachr, a great and hard mass of rock (Aramaic טוּר, a mountain). The figures of the מצוּדה (מצודה, מצד) and the משׂגּב are related; the former signifies properly specula, a watch-tower,
(Note: In Arabic maṣâdun signifies (1) a high hill (a signification that is wanting in Freytag), (2) the summit of a mountain, and according to the original lexicons it belongs to the root Arab. maṣada, which in outward appearance is supported by the synonymous forms Arab. maṣadun and maṣdun, as also by their plurals Arab. amṣidatun and muṣdânun, wince these can only be properly formed from those singulars on the assumption of the m being part of the root. Nevertheless, since the meanings of Arab. maṣada all distinctly point to its being formed from the root Arab. mṣ contained in the reduplicated stem Arab. maṣṣa, to suck, but the meanings of Arab. maṣâdun, maṣsadun, and maṣdun do not admit of their being referred to it, and moreover there are instances in which original nn. loci from vv. med. Arab. w and y admit of the prefixed m being treated as the first radical through forgetfulness or disregard of their derivation, and with the retention of its from secondary roots (as Arab. makana, madana, maṣṣara), it is highly probable that in maṣâd, maṣad and maṣd we have an original מצד, מצודה, מצוּדה. These Hebrew words, however, are to be referred to a צוּד in the signification to look out, therefore properly specula. - Fleischer.)
and the latter, a steep height. The horn, which is an ancient figure of victorious and defiant power in Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Samuel 2:1, is found here applied to Jahve Himself: "horn of my salvation" is that which interposes on the side of my feebleness, conquers, and saves me. All these epithets applied to God are the fruits of the affliction out of which David's song has sprung, viz., his persecution by Saul, when, in a country abounding in rugged rocks and deficient in forest, he betook himself to the rocks for safety, and the mountains served him as his fortresses. In the shelter which the mountains, by their natural conformations, afforded him at that time, and in the fortunate accidents, which sometimes brought him deliverance when in extreme peril, David recognises only marvellous phenomena of which Jahve Himself was to him the final cause. The confession of the God tried and known in many ways is continued in Psalm 18:5 by a general expression of his experience. מהלּל is a predicate accusative to יהוה: As one praised (worthy to be praised) do I call upon Jahve, - a rendering that is better suited to the following clause, which expresses confidence in the answer coinciding with the invocation, which is to be thought of as a cry for help, than Olshausen's, "Worthy of praise, do I cry, is Jahve," though this latter certainly is possible so far as the style is concerned (vid., on Isaiah 45:24, cf. also Genesis 3:3; Micah 2:6). The proof of this fact, viz., that calling upon Him who is worthy to be praised, who, as the history of Israel shows, is able and willing to help, is immediately followed by actual help, as events that are coincident, forms the further matter of the Psalm.
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.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.(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.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
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.
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.(Heb.: 18:8-10) As these verses go on to describe, the being heard became manifest in the form of deliverance. All nature stands to man in a sympathetic relationship, sharing his curse and blessing, his destruction and glory, and to God is a (so to speak) synergetic relationship, furnishing the harbingers and instruments of His mighty deeds. Accordingly in this instance Jahve's interposition on behalf of David is accompanied by terrible manifestations in nature. Like the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, Psalm 68; Psalm 77, and the giving of the Law on Sinai, Exodus 19, and like the final appearing of Jahve and of Jesus Christ according to the words of prophet and apostle (Habakkuk 3; 2 Thessalonians 1:7.), the appearing of Jahve for the help of David has also extraordinary natural phenomena in its train. It is true we find no express record of any incident in David's life of the kind recorded in 1 Samuel 7:10, but it must be come real experience which David here idealises (i.e., seizes at its very roots, and generalises and works up into a grand majestic picture of his miraculous deliverance). Amidst earthquake, a black thunderstorm gathers, the charging of which is heralded by the lightning's flash, and its thick clouds descend nearer and nearer to the earth. The aorists in Psalm 18:8 introduce the event, for the introduction of which, from Psalm 18:4 onwards, the way has been prepared and towards which all is directed. The inward excitement of the Judge, who appears to His servant for his deliverance, sets the earth in violent oscillation. The foundations of the mountains (Isaiah 24:18) are that upon which they are supported beneath and within, as it were, the pillars which support the vast mass. געשׁ (rhyming with רעשׁ) is followed by the Hithpa. of the same verb: the first impulse having been given they, viz., the earth and the pillars of the mountains, continue to shake of themselves. These convulsions occur, because "it is kindled with respect to God;" it is unnecessary to supply אפּו, חרה לו is a synonym of חם לו. When God is wrath, according to Old Testament conception, the power of wrath which is present in Him is kindled and blazes up and breaks forth. The panting of rage may accordingly also be called the smoke of the fire of wrath (Psalm 74:1; Psalm 80:5). The smoking is as the breathing out of the fire, and the vehement hot breath which is inhaled and exhaled through the nose of one who is angry (cf. Job 41:12), is like smoke rising from the internal fire of anger. The fire of anger itself "devours out of the mouth," i.e., flames forth out of the mouth, consuming whatever it lays hold of-in men in the form of angry words, with God in the fiery forces of nature, which are of a like kind with, and subservient to, His anger, and more especially in the lightning's flash. It is the lightning chiefly, that is compared here to the blazing up of burning coals. The power of wrath in God, becoming manifest in action, breaks forth into a glow, and before it entirely discharges its fire, it gives warning of action like the lightning's flash heralding the outburst of the storm. Thus enraged and breathing forth His wrath, Jahve bowed the heavens, i.e., caused them to bend towards the earth, and came down, and darkness of clouds (ערפל similar in meaning to ὄρφνη, cf. ἔρεβος) was under His feet: black, low-hanging clouds announced the coming of Him who in His wrath was already on His way downwards towards the earth.
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: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.(Heb.: 18:11-13) The storm, announcing the approaching outburst of the thunderstorm, was also the forerunner of the Avenger and Deliverer. If we compare Psalm 18:11 with Psalm 104:3, it is natural to regard כּרוּב as a transposition of רכוּב (a chariot, Ew. 153, a). But assuming a relationship between the biblical Cherub and (according to Ctesias) the Indo-Persian griffin, the word (from the Zend grab, garew, garefsh, to seize) signifies a creature seizing and holding irrecoverably fast whatever it seizes upon; perhaps in Semitic language the strong creature, from כּרב equals Arab. krb, torquere, constringere, whence mukrab, tight, strong). It is a passive form like גּבוּל, יסד, לבוּשׁ. The cherubim are mentioned in Genesis 3:24 as the guards of Paradise (this alone is enough to refute the interpretation recently revived in the Evang. Kirchen-Zeit., 1866, No. 46, that they are a symbol of the unity of the living One, כרוב equals כּרוב "like a multitude!"), and elsewhere, as it were, as the living mighty rampart and vehicle of the approach of the inaccessible majesty of God; and they are not merely in general the medium of God's personal presence in the world, but more especially of the present of God as turning the fiery side of His doxa towards the world. As in the Prometheus of Aeschylus, Oceanus comes flying τὸν πτερυγωκῆ τόνδ ̓ οἰωνόν γνώμῃ στομίων ἄτερ εὐθύνων, so in the present passage Jahve rides upon the cherub, of which the heathenish griffin is a distortion; or, if by a comparison of passages like Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 66:15, we understand David according to Ezekiel, He rides upon the cherub as upon His living throne-chariot (מרכּבה). The throne floats upon the cherubim, and this cherub-throne flies upon the wings of the wind; or, as we can also say: the cherub is the celestial spirit working in this vehicle formed of the spirit-like elements. The Manager of the chariot is Himself hidden behind the thick thunder-clouds. ישׁת is an aorist without the consecutive ו (cf. יך Hosea 6:1). חשׁך is the accusative of the object to it; and the accusative of the predicate is doubled: His covering, His pavilion round about Him. In Job 36:29 also the thunder-clouds are called God's סכּה, and also in Psalm 97:2 they are סביביו, concealing Him on all sides and announcing only His presence when He is wroth. In Psalm 18:12 the accusative of the object, חשׁך, is expanded into "darkness of waters," i.e., swelling with waters
(Note: Rab Dimi, B. Taanth 10a, for the elucidation of the passage quotes a Palestine proverb: נהור ענני זעירין מוהי חשׁוך ענני סגיין מוהי i.e., if the clouds are transparent they will yield but little water, if they are dark they will yield a quantity.)
and billows of thick vapour, thick, and therefore dark, masses (עב in its primary meaning of denseness, or a thicket, Exodus 19:9, cf. Jeremiah 4:29) of שׁחקים, which is here a poetical name for fleecy clouds. The dispersion and discharge, according to Psalm 18:13, proceeded from נגהּ גגדּו. Such is the expression for the doxa of God as being a mirroring forth of His nature, as it were, over against Him, as being therefore His brightness, or the reflection of His glory. The doxa is fire and light. On this occasion the forces of wrath issue from it, and therefore it is the fiery forces: heavy and destructive hail (cf. Exodus 9:23., Isaiah 30:30) and fiery glowing coals, i.e., flashing and kindling lightning. The object עביו stands first, because the idea of clouds, behind which, according to Psalm 18:11, the doxa in concealed, is prominently connected with the doxa. It might be rendered: before His brightness His clouds turn into hail..., a rendering which would be more in accordance with the structure of the stichs, and is possible according to Ges. 138, rem. 2. Nevertheless, in connection with the combination of עבר with clouds, the idea of breaking through (Lamentations 3:44) is very natural. If עביו is removed, then עברו signifies "thence came forth hail..." But the mention of the clouds as the medium, is both natural and appropriate.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.(Heb.: 18:14-16) Amidst thunder, Jahve hurled lightnings as arrows upon David's enemies, and the breath of His anger laid bare the beds of the flood to the very centre of the earth, in order to rescue the sunken one. Thunder is the rumble of God, and as it were the hollow murmur of His mouth, Job 37:2. עליון, the Most High, is the name of God as the inapproachable Judge, who governs all things. The third line of Psalm 18:14 is erroneously repeated from the preceding strophe. It cannot be supported on grammatical grounds by Exodus 9:23, since קול נתן, edere vocem, has a different meaning from the נתן קלת, dare tonitrua, of that passage. The symmetry of the strophe structure is also against it; and it is wanting both in 2 Sam. nd in the lxx. רב, which, as the opposite of מעט Nehemiah 2:12; Isaiah 10:7, means adverbially "in abundance," is the parallel to ויּשׁלח. It is generally taken, after the analogy of Genesis 49:23, in the sense of בּרק, Psalm 144:6 : רב in pause equals רב (the ō passing over into the broader like עז instead of עז in Genesis 49:3) equals רבב, cognate with רבה, רמה; but the forms סב, סבּוּ, here, and in every other instance, have but a very questionable existence, as e.g., רב, Isaiah 54:13, is more probably an adjective than the third person praet. (cf. Bttcher, Neue Aehrenlese No. 635, 1066). The suffixes ēm do not refer to the arrows, i.e., lightnings, but to David's foes. המם means both to put in commotion and to destroy by confounding, Exodus 14:24; Exodus 23:27. In addition to the thunder, the voice of Jahve, comes the stormwind, which is the snorting of the breath of His nostrils. This makes the channels of the waters visible and lays bare the foundations of the earth. אפיק (collateral form to אפק) is the bed of the river and then the river or brook itself, a continendo aquas (Ges.), and exactly like the Arabic mesı̂k, mesâk, mesek (from Arab. msk, the VI form of which, tamâsaka, corresponds to התאפּק), means a place that does not admit of the water soaking in, but on account of the firmness of the soil preserves it standing or flowing. What are here meant are the water-courses or river beds that hold the water. It is only needful for Jahve to threaten (epitiman Matthew 8:26) and the floods, in which he, whose rescue is undertaken here, is sunk, flee (Psalm 104:7) and dry up (Psalm 106:9, Nahum 1:4). But he is already half engulfed in the abyss of Hades, hence not merely the bed of the flood is opened up, but the earth is rent to its very centre. From the language being here so thoroughly allegorical, it is clear that we were quite correct in interpreting the description as ideal. He, who is nearly overpowered by his foes, is represented as one engulfed in deep waters and almost drowning.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
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.
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.(Heb.: 18:17-20) Then Jahve stretches out His hand from above into the deep chasm and draws up the sinking one. The verb שׁלח occurs also in prose (2 Samuel 6:6) without יד (Psalm 57:4, cf. on the other hand the borrowed passage, Psalm 144:7) in the signification to reach (after anything). The verb משׁה, however, is only found in one other instance, viz., Exodus 2:10, as the root (transferred from the Egyptian into the Hebrew) of the name of Moses, and even Luther saw in it an historical allusion, "He hath made a Moses of me," He hath drawn me out of great (many) waters, which had well nigh swallowed me up, as He did Moses out of the waters of the Nile, in which he would have perished. This figurative language is followed, in Psalm 18:18, by its interpretation, just as in Psalm 144:7 the "great waters" are explained by מיּד בּני נכר, which, however, is not suitable here, or at least is too limited.
With Psalm 18:17 the hymn has reached the climax of epic description, from which it now descends in a tone that becomes more and more lyrical. In the combination איבי עז, עז is not an adverbial accusative, but an adjective, like רוּחך טובה Psalm 143:10, and ὁ ἀνὴρ ἀγαθός (Hebrerbrief S. 353). כּי introduces the reason for the interposition of the divine omnipotence, viz., the superior strength of the foe and the weakness of the oppressed one. On the day of his איד, i.e., (vid., on Psalm 31:12) his load or calamity, when he was altogether a homeless and almost defenceless fugitive, they came upon him (קדּם Psalm 17:13), cutting off all possible means of delivering himself, but Jahve became the fugitive's staff (Psalm 23:4) upon which he leaned and kept himself erect. By the hand of God, out of straits and difficulties he reached a broad place, out of the dungeon of oppression to freedom, for Jahve had delighted in him, he was His chosen and beloved one. חפץ has the accent on the penult here, and Metheg as a sign of the lengthening (העמדה) beside the ē, that it may not be read ĕ.
The following strophe tells the reason of his pleasing God and of His not allowing him to perish. This כּי חפץ בּי (for He delighted in me) now becomes the primary thought of the song.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which 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.(Heb.: 18:21-24) On גּמל (like שׁלּם with the accusative not merely of the thing, but also of the person, e.g., 1 Samuel 24:18), εὐ or κακῶς πράττειν τινά, vid., on Psalm 7:5. שׁמר, to observe equals to keep, is used in the same way in Job 22:15. רשׁע מן is a pregnant expression of the malitiosa desertio. "From God's side," i.e., in His judgment, would be contrary to the general usage of the language (for the מן in Job 4:17 has a different meaning) and would be but a chilling addition. On the poetical form מנּי, in pause מנּי, vid., Ew. 263, b. The fut. in Psalm 18:23, close after the substantival clause Psalm 18:23, is not intended of the habit in the past, but at the present time: he has not wickedly forsaken God, but (כּי equals imo, sed) always has God's commandments present before him as his rule of conduct, and has not put them far away out of his sight, in order to be able to sin with less compunction; and thus then (fut. consec.) in relation (עם, as in Deuteronomy 18:13, cf. 2 Samuel 23:5) to God he was תמים, with his whole soul undividedly devoted to Him, and he guarded himself against his iniquity (עון, from עוה, Arab. 'wâ, to twist, pervert, cf. Arab. gwâ, of error, delusion, self-enlightenment), i.e., not: against acquiescence in his in-dwelling sin, but: against iniquity becoming in any way his own; מעוני equivalent to מעותי (Daniel 9:5), cf. מחיּי equals than that I should live, Jonah 4:8. In this strophe, this Psalm strikes a cord that harmonises with Psalm 17:1-15, after which it is therefore placed. We may compare David's own testimony concerning himself in 1 Samuel 26:23., the testimony of God in 1 Kings 14:8, and the testimony of history in 1 Kings 15:5; 1 Kings 11:4.
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 I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.(Heb.: 18:25-28) What was said in Psalm 18:21 is again expressed here as a result of the foregoing, and substantiated in Psalm 18:26, Psalm 18:27. חסיד is a friend of God and man, just as pius is used of behaviour to men as well as towards God. גּבר תמים the man (construct of גּבר) of moral and religious completeness (integri equals integritatis, cf. Psalm 15:2), i.e., of undivided devotion to God. נבר (instead of which we find בּר לבב elsewhere, Psalm 24:4; Psalm 73:1) not one who is purified, but, in accordance with the reflexive primary meaning of Niph., one who is purifying himself, ἁγνίζων ἑαυτόν, 1 John 3:3. עקּשׁ (the opposite of ישׂר) one who is morally distorted, perverse. Freely formed Hithpaels are used with these attributive words to give expression to the corresponding self-manifestation: התחסּד, התּמּם (Ges. 54, 2, b), התבּרר, and התפּתּל (to show one's self נפתּל or פּתלתּל). The fervent love of the godly man God requites with confiding love, the entire submission of the upright with a full measure of grace, the endeavour after purity by an unbeclouded charity (cf. Psalm 73:1), moral perverseness by paradoxical judgments, giving the perverse over to his perverseness (Romans 1:28) and leading him by strange ways to final condemnation (Isaiah 29:14, cf. Leviticus 26:23.). The truth, which is here enunciated, is not that the conception which man forms of God is the reflected image of his own mind and heart, but that God's conduct to man is the reflection of the relation in which man has placed himself to God; cf. 1 Samuel 2:30; 1 Samuel 15:23. This universal truth is illustrated and substantiated in Psalm 18:28. The people who are bowed down by affliction experience God's condescension, to their salvation; and their haughty oppressors, god's exaltation, to their humiliation. Lofty, proud eyes are among the seven things that Jahve hateth, according to Proverbs 6:17. The judgment of God compels them to humble themselves with shame, Isaiah 2:11.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.(Heb.: 18:29-31) The confirmation of what has been asserted is continued by David's application of it to himself. Hitzig translates the futures in Psalm 18:29. as imperfects; but the sequence of the tenses, which would bring this rendering with it, is in this instance interrupted, as it has been even in Psalm 18:28, by כּי. The lamp, נר (contracted from nawer), is an image of life, which as it were burns on and on, including the idea of prosperity and high rank; in the form ניר (from niwr, nijr) it is the usual figurative word for the continuance of the house of David, 1 Kings 11:36, and frequently. David's life and dominion, as the covenant king, is the lamp which God's favour has lighted for the well-being of Israel, and His power will not allow this lamp (2 Samuel 21:17) to be quenched. The darkness which breaks in upon David and his house is always lighted up again by Jahve. For His strength is mighty in the weak; in, with, and by Him he can do all things. The fut. ארץ may be all the more surely derived from רצץ ( equals ארץ), inasmuch as this verb has the changeable u in the future also in Isaiah 42:4; Ecclesiastes 12:6. The text of 2 Samuel 22, however, certainly seems to put "rushing upon" in the stead of "breaking down." With Psalm 18:31 the first half of the hymn closes epiphonematically. האל is a nom. absol., like hatsuwr, Deuteronomy 32:4. This old Mosaic utterance is re-echoed here, as in 2 Samuel 7:22, in the mouth of David. The article of האל points to God as being manifest in past history. His way is faultless and blameless. His word is צרוּפה, not slaggy ore, but purified solid gold, Psalm 12:7. Whoever retreats into Him, the God of the promise, is shielded from every danger. Proverbs 30:5 is borrowed from this passage.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and 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 those that trust in him.
For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?(Heb.: 18:32-35) The grateful description of the tokens of favour he has experienced takes a new flight, and is continued in the second half of the Psalm in a more varied and less artificial mixture of the strophes. What is said in Psalm 18:31 of the way and word of Jahve and of Jahve Himself, is confirmed in Psalm 18:32 by the fact that He alone is אלוהּ, a divine being to be reverenced, and He alone is צוּר, a rock, i.e., a ground of confidence that cannot be shaken. What is said in Psalm 18:31 consequently can be said only of Him. מבּלעדי and זוּלתי alternate; the former (with a negative intensive מן) signifies "without reference to" and then absolutely "without" or besides, and the latter (with ı̂ as a connecting vowel, which elsewhere has also the function of a suffix), from זוּלת (זוּלה), "exception." The verses immediately following are attached descriptively to אלהינוּ, our God (i.e., the God of Israel), the God, who girded me with strength; and accordingly (fut. consec.) made my way תמים, "perfect," i.e., absolutely smooth, free from stumblings and errors, leading straight forward to a divine goal. The idea is no other than that in Psalm 18:31, cf. Job 22:3, except that the freedom from error here is intended to be understood in accordance with its reference to the way of a man, of a king, and of a warrior; cf. moreover, the other text. The verb שׁוּה signifies, like Arab. swwâ, to make equal (aequare), to arrange, to set right; the dependent passage Habakkuk 3:19 has, instead of this verb, the more uncoloured שׁים. The hind, איּלה or איּלת, is the perfection of swiftness (cf. ἔλαφος and ἐλαφρός) and also of gracefulness among animals. "Like the hinds" is equivalent to like hinds' feet; the Hebrew style leaves it to the reader to infer the appropriate point of comparison from the figure. It is not swiftness in flight (De Wette), but in attack and pursuit that is meant, - the latter being a prominent characteristic of warriors, according to 2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8. David does not call the high places of the enemy, which he has made his own by conquest "my high places," but those heights of the Holy Land which belong to him as king of Israel: upon these Jahve preserves him a firm position, so that from them he may rule the land far and wide, and hold them victoriously (cf. passages like Deuteronomy 32:13; Isaiah 58:14). The verb למּד, which has a double accusative in other instances, is here combined with ל of the subject taught, as the aim of the teaching. The verb נחת (to press down equals to bend a bow) precedes the subject "my arms" in the singular; this inequality is admissible even when the subject stands first (e.g., Genesis 49:22; Joel 1:20; Zechariah 6:14). קשׁת נחוּשׁה a bow of brazen equals of brass, as in Job 20:24. It is also the manner of heroes in Homer and in the Ram-jana to press down and bend with their hand a brazen bow, one end of which rests on the ground.
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and 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.
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.(Heb.: 18:36-37) Yet it is not the brazen bow in itself that makes him victorious, but the helpful strength of his God. "Shield of Thy salvation" is that consisting of Thy salvation. מגן has an unchangeable , as it has always. The salvation of Jahve covered him as a shield, from which every stroke of the foe rebounded; the right hand of Jahve supported him that his hands might not become feeble in the conflict. In its ultimate cause it is the divine ענוה, to which he must trace back his greatness, i.e., God's lowliness, by virtue of which His eyes look down upon that which is on the earth (Psalm 113:6), and the poor and contrite ones are His favourite dwelling-place (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:1.); cf. B. Megilla 31a, "wherever Scripture testifies of the גבורה of the Holy One, blessed be He, it gives prominence also, in connection with it, to His condescension, ענותנוּתו, as in Deuteronomy 10:17 and in connection with it Deuteronomy 10:18, Isaiah 57:15 and Isaiah 57:15, Psalm 68:5 and Psalm 68:6." The rendering of Luther, who follows the lxx and Vulgate, "When Thou humblest me, Thou makest me great" is opposed by the fact that ענוה means the bending of one's self, and not of another. What is intended is, that condescension of God to mankind, and especially to the house of David, which was in operation, with an ultimate view to the incarnation, in the life of the son of Jesse from the time of his anointing to his death, viz., the divine χρηστότης καὶ φιλανθρωπία (Titus 3:4), which elected the shepherd boy to be king, and did not cast him off even when he fell into sin and his infirmities became manifest. To enlarge his steps under any one is equivalent to securing him room for freedom of motion (cf. the opposite form of expression in Proverbs 4:12). Jahve removed the obstacles of his course out of the way, and steeled his ankles so that he stood firm in fight and endured till he came off victorious. The praet. מעדו substantiates what, without any other indication of it, is required by the consecutio temporum, viz., that everything here has a retrospective meaning.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.(Heb.: 18:38-41) Thus in God's strength, with the armour of God, and by God's assistance in fight, he smote, cast down, and utterly destroyed all his foes in foreign and in civil wars. According to the Hebrew syntax the whole of this passage is a retrospect. The imperfect signification of the futures in Psalm 18:38, Psalm 18:39 is made clear from the aorist which appears in Psalm 18:40, and from the perfects and futures in what follows it. The strophe begins with an echo of Exodus 15:9 (cf. supra Psalm 7:6). The poet calls his opponents קמי, as in Psalm 18:49, Psalm 44:6; Psalm 74:23, cf. קימנוּ Job 22:20, inasmuch as קוּם by itself has the sense of rising up in hostility and consequently one can say קמי instead of עלי קמים (קומים 2 Kings 16:7).
(Note: In the language of the Beduins kôm is war, feud, and kômānı̂ (denominative from kōm) my enemy (hostis); kōm also has the signification of a collective of kōmānı̂, and one can equally well say: entum waijânâ kôm, you and we are enemies, and: bênâtnâ kôm, there is war between us.)
The frequent use of this phrase (e.g., Psalm 36:13, Lamentations 1:14) shows that קום in Psalm 18:39 does not mean "to stand (resist)," but "to rise (again)." The phrase נתן ערף, however, which in other passages has those fleeing as its subject (2 Chronicles 29:6), is here differently applied: Thou gavest, or madest me mine enemies a back, i.e., those who turn back, as in Exodus 23:27. From Psalm 21:13 (תּשׁיתמו שׁכם, Symm. τάξεις αὐτοὺς ἀποστρόφους) it becomes clear that ערף is not an accusative of the member beside the accusative of the person (as e.g., in Deuteronomy 33:11), but an accusative of the factitive object according to Ges. 139, 2.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.(Heb.: 18:42-43) Their prayer to their gods, wrung from them by their distress, and even to Jahve, was in vain, because it was for their cause, and too late put up to Him. על equals על; in Psalm 42:2 the two prepositions are interchanged. Since we do not pulverize dust but to dust, כּעפר is to be taken as describing the result: so that they became as dust (cf. Job 38:30, כּאכן, so that it is become like stone, and the extreme of such pregnant brevity of expression in Isaiah 41:2) before the wind (על־פּני as in 2 Chronicles 3:17, before the front). The second figure is to be explained differently: I emptied them out (אריקם from הריק) like the dirt of the streets, i.e., not merely: so that they became such, but as one empties it out, - thus contemptuously, ignominiously and completely (cf. Isaiah 10:6; Zechariah 10:5). The lxx renders it λεανῶ from הרק (root רק to stretch, make thin, cf. tendo tenius, dehnen dnn); and the text of 2 Samuel 22 present the same idea in אדיקם.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt 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.(Heb.: 18:44-46) Thus victorious in God, David became what he now is, viz., the ruler of a great kingdom firmly established both in home and foreign relations. With respect to the גּוים and the verb תּפלּטני which follows, ריבי עם can only be understood of the conflicts among his own people, in which David was involved by the persecution of Saul and the rebellions of Absolom and Sheba the son of Bichri; and from which Jahve delivered him, in order to preserve him for his calling of world-wide dominion in accordance with the promise. We therefore interpret the passage according to בּרית עם in Isaiah 49:8, and קנאת־עם in Isaiah 26:11; whereas the following עם comes to have a foreign application by reason of the attributive clause לא־ידעתּי (Ges. 123, 3). The Niph. נשׁמע in Psalm 18:45 is the reflexive of שׁמע, to obey (e.g., Exodus 24:7), and is therefore to be rendered: show themselves obedient ( equals Ithpa. in Daniel 7:27). לשׁמע אזן implies more than that they obeyed at the word; שׁמע means information, rumour, and שׁמע אזן is the opposite of personal observation (Job 42:5), it is therefore to be rendered: they submitted even at the tidings of my victories; and 2 Samuel 8:9. is an example of this. כּחשׁ to lie, disown, feign, and flatter, is sued here, as it is frequently, of the extorted humility which the vanquished show towards the conqueror. Psalm 18:46 completes the picture of the reason of the sons of a foreign country "putting a good face on a bad game." They faded away, i.e., they became weak and faint-hearted (Exodus 18:18), incapable of holding out against or breaking through any siege by David, and trembled, surrendering at discretion, out of their close places, i.e., out of their strongholds behind which they had shut themselves in (cf. Psalm 142:8). The signification of being alarmed, which in this instance, being found in combination with a local מן, is confined to the sense of terrified flight, is secured to the verb חרג by the Arabic ḥarija (root ḥr, of audible pressure, crowding, and the like) to be pressed, crowded, tight, or narrow, to get in a strait, and the Targumic חרנּא דמותא equals אימתא דמותא (vid., the Targums on Deuteronomy 32:25). Arab. ḥjl, to limp, halt, which is compared by Hitzig, is far removed as to the sound; and the most natural, but colourless Arab. chrj, to go out of (according to its radical meaning - cf. Arab. chrq, chr‛, etc. - : to break forth, erumpere), cannot be supported in Hebrew or Aramaic. The ירגּזוּ found in the borrowed passage in Micah, Micah 7:17, favours our rendering.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.(Heb.: 18:47-49) The hymn now draws towards the end with praise and thanksgiving for the multitude of God's mighty deeds, which have just been displayed. Like the (צוּרי) בּרוּך which is always doxological, חי ה (vivus Jahve) is meant as a predicate clause, but is read with the accent of an exclamation just as in the formula of an oath, which is the same expression; and in the present instance it has a doxological meaning. Accordingly וירוּם also signifies "exalted be," in which sense it is written וירם (וירם equals וירם) in the other text. There are three doxological utterances drawn from the events which have just been celebrated in song. That which follows, from האל onwards, describes Jahve once more as the living, blessed (εὐλογητόν), and exalted One, which He has shown Himself to be. From ויּדבּר we see that הנּותן is to be resolved as an imperfect. The proofs of vengeance, נקמות, are called God's gift, insofar as He has rendered it possible to him to punish the attacks upon his own dignity and the dignity of his people, or to witness the punishment of such insults (e.g., in the case of Nabal); for divine vengeance is a securing by punishment (vindicatio) of the inviolability of the right. It is questionable whether הדבּיר (synonym רדד, Psalm 144:2) here and in Psalm 47:4 means "to bring to reason" as an intensive of דּבר, to drive (Ges.); the more natural meaning is "to turn the back" according to the Arabic adbara (Hitzig), cf. dabar, dabre, flight, retreat; debira to be wounded behind; medbûr, wounded in the back. The idea from which הדביר gains the meaning "to subdue" is that of flight, in which hostile nations, overtaken from behind, sank down under him (Psalm 45:6); but the idea that is fully worked out in Psalm 129:3, Isaiah 51:23, is by no means remote. With מפלטי the assertion takes the form of an address. מן רומם does not differ from Psalm 9:14 : Thou liftest me up away from mine enemies, so that I hover above them and triumph over them. The climactic אף, of which poetry is fond, here unites two thoughts of a like import to give intensity of expression to the one idea. The participle is followed by futures: his manifold experience is concentrated in one general ideal expression.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
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.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.(Heb.: 18:50-51) The praise of so blessed a God, who acts towards David as He has promised him, shall not be confined within the narrow limits of Israel. When God's anointed makes war with the sword upon the heathen, it is, in the end, the blessing of the knowledge of Jahve for which he opens up the way, and the salvation of Jahve, which he thus mediatorially helps on. Paul has a perfect right to quote Psalm 18:50 of this Psalm (Romans 15:9), together with Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 117:1, as proof that salvation belongs to the Gentiles also, according to the divine purpose of mercy. What is said in Psalm 18:50 as the reason and matter of the praise that shall go forth beyond Israel, is an echo of the Messianic promises in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 which is perfectly reconcileable with the Davidic authorship of the Psalm, as Hitzig acknowledges. And Theodoret does not wrongly appeal to the closing words עד־עולם against the Jews. In whom, but in Christ, the son of David, has the fallen throne of David any lasting continuance, and in whom, but in Christ, has all that has been promised to the seed of David eternal truth and reality? The praise of Jahve, the God of David, His anointed, is, according to its ultimate import, a praising of the Father of Jesus Christ.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.