Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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,
1 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.
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.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised:
So shall I be saved from mine enemies.
4 The sorrows of death compassed me,
And the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about:
The snares of death prevented me.
6 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.
7 Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations also of the hills moved
And were shaken, because he was wroth.
8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils,
And fire out of his mouth devoured:
Coals were kindled by it.
9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down:
And darkness was under his feet.
10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly:
Yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place;
His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed,
Hail stones and coals of fire.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
And the Highest gave his voice;
Hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
And he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15 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.
16 He sent from above, he took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity:
But the LORD was my stay.
19 He brought me forth also into a large place;
He delivered me, because he delighted in me.
20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his judgments were before me,
And I did not put away his statutes from me.
23 I was also upright before him,
And I kept myself from mine iniquity.
24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful;
With an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure;
And with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people;
But wilt bring down high looks.
28 For thou wilt light my candle:
The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by thee I have run through a troop;
And by my God have I leaped over a wall.
30 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.
31 For who is God save the LORD?
Or who is a rock save our God?
32 It is God that girdeth me with strength,
And maketh my way perfect.
33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet,
And setteth me upon my high places.
34 He teacheth my hands to war,
So that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
35 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.
36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me,
That my feet did not slip.
37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them:
Neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise:
They are fallen under my feet.
39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle:
Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies;
That I might destroy them that hate me.
41 They cried, but there was none to save them:
Even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind:
I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
43 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.
44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me:
The strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
45 The strangers shall fade away,
And be afraid out of their close places.
46 The LORD liveth; and blessed be my Rock;
And let the God of my salvation be exalted.
47 It is God that avengeth me,
And subdueth the people under me.
48 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.
49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen,
And sing praises unto thy name.
50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king;
And sheweth mercy to his anointed,
To David, and to his seed for evermore.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
THE TITLE.—The title, as far as the words of David, is like that of Ps. 36, the rest of it reminds us strongly of Deut. 31:30, in part of Ex. 15:1; Num. 21:17; and is found likewise in 2 Sam. 22, where this Psalm appears in its historical connection, with some differences, yet essentially the same. In most cases the Psalm of our collection has the original and better readings (vid. below upon its relation to 2 Sam. 22). All this is in favor of the view that it was in one of those historical books from which the author of the book of Samuel made extracts. The use of this Psalm in Pss. 116 and 144 is in favor of its great antiquity, as well as the use of Psalm 18:30 in Prov. 30:5, and Psalm 18:33 in Hab. 3:19. So many particulars in the contents and expressions of the Psalm agree with David, that only Olsh. and Hupf. think of a later author. There is likewise no valid reason for regarding the closing verse as a later addition (Hitzig against Hupf.). But being authentic, inasmuch as it presupposes the prophecy 2 Sam. 7, it refers to the latter period of David’s life, if not even to the time of his dying song, 2 Sam. 23. The prominent features of the subject agree with this, and do not allow us to mistake the retrospective view of a very important period of life, especially agitated by war and like events, but yet brought by grace to a satisfactory conclusion; and they lead to a period in which David, after having come forth victorious over domestic feuds, and as a king victorious likewise over other nations, and widely feared, on the one side praises the help afforded him by God as a sign of His condescension and favor, and on the other celebrates this as the reward of his devotion to Jehovah. Hitzig, therefore, refers, especially Psalm 18:43 and 44, to the fact mentioned 2 Sam. 8:9 sq., that the son of a distant king brought gifts to David, when on his return from Aram, he had likewise conquered the Edomite, and stood at the end of his expedition of war; and when the shadows which the rebellion of Absalom, and the transgression committed with Bathsheba and on her account, threw upon his life and his soul, had not yet troubled the sunshine of his happiness. The mention of Saul after all his enemies renders him conspicuous as the most dangerous of all, who is the last to be forgotten, although his time had long since passed away. The form in which these facts are put together, shows that we have here a retrospect which extends over a long period, but which occurred on the day of the composition of the Psalm, and originated the tone of the song together with its sentiments. The name, servant of Jehovah, which David gives to himself in his prayers, Ps. 19:11, 13; 144:10; 2 Sam. 7:20, and there in a general sense in which every pious Israelite might use it, is here in the title, as in Ps. 36, in the pregnant meaning of an official name and honorable title as Moses bears it, Deut. 34:5; Jos. 24:29; the prophets, Jer. 7:25 and elsewhere, on account of their historical position as the specially commissioned instruments of God; and David likewise has received it being recognized as such by the mouth of Jehovah, Ps. 89:3, 20. A parallel to its use in the title of several Psalms is found in its use at the beginning of most of the epistles of the apostles.
ITS CONTENTS AND THEIR ARRANGEMENT.—First, there is an expression of tender resignation to Jehovah (Psalm 18:1), the Protector and Lord, consequently sought and never sought in vain (Psalm 18:2); then follows the principal clause (Psalm 18:3), the unfolding of which forms the essential subject of the Psalm, namely: the thankful confession, that this Jehovah has delivered the Psalmist from his enemies in answer to prayer. The greatness of the danger is illustrated (Psalm 18:4 and 5); the prayer is warmly mentioned and its having been heard (Psalm 18:6). His coming to help in the earthquake and tempest (not merely figurative as Hupf. contends) is magnificently and surprisingly described (Psalm 18:7–15); the deliverance by the hand of God in the moment of the greatest danger is thankfully recognized as a proof of His good pleasure (Psalm 18:16–19), to reward the pious conduct of His servant (vers 20–25), which is founded in the moral nature of God Himself (Psalm 18:24–27), and gives the reason and pledge of this support of the Psalmist’s life (Psalm 18:28, 29). Then the Psalmist begins to praise Jehovah as the only true God and faithful Helper (Psalm 18:30, 31). This is interrupted in form by the retrospective review (although there is actually a praising God) which the Psalmist makes with reference to his repeated experiences of the assistance of God in domestic feuds, and in foreign wars (Psalm 18:32–45). It is then, however, taken up again directly, and brought to a satisfactory conclusion in two strophes, first, the summing up of thanksgiving for the abundance of help afforded as just described (Psalm 18:46–48), and then in vows of thanksgiving which look far beyond the bounds of Israel (Psalm 18:49, 50), in faith in the Messianic promise and destiny given to David and his seed.
ITS RELATION TO 2 SAM. 22—The older view maintained by Hengst. was that the origin of the double recension of this Psalm of thanksgiving (שִׁירָה instead of שִׁיר, which is used elsewhere in titles) was to be referred to David himself, and indeed so that 2 Sam. 22 is a later but independent variation, with expressions which were chosen, emphatic, and at times explanatory. Gramberg supposes an intentional revision of the text of the Psalm, but attempts (in Winer, Exeget. Stud.I. 1 to show, by a close comparison, that 2 Sam. 22 affords throughout easier and worse readings, by a different hand from that of the author. On the other hand, Von Lengerke (Comment. Crit., 1833), sought to show that the better readings are found now in the one, now in the other, that the deviations were not intentional, but accidental, occasioned by oral tradition, and the carelessness of the copyist; and that both texts have about the same value; that the orthography, however, on account of the less frequent use of the vowel signs, bears an ancient character. The latter is explained by Ewald from the use of an ancient MS. Hupfeld shows that even in the orthography no sure principle can be carried out, that most of the variations in 2 Sam. 22 do not at all deserve the preference sometimes given to them, and derives them from careless copying and tradition. Hitzig now again maintains the independence of both recensions, neither of which gives the original pure text entirely, yet he supposes that the form of the text of Ps. 18 is for the most part preferable, and explains it thus: That the Psalms incorporated in a historical book share the fate of all historical texts; the respect for their poetical form, rythm and movement very soon yielded and disappeared before the care for the simple sense, not to speak of the fact that the text was afterwards accented as prose, whilst in the book of Psalms it was accented as poetry. Delitzsch thinks that the annals of David (dibrê ha yamin) were the source of 2 Sam. 22, in which the Psalm had been incorporated, and from which likewise the historian derived much besides. He agrees with Hupfeld, but remarks that 2 Sam. 22 shows the license of popular language. Olsh. finds in this evidence of a free interpolation with literary productions before the close of the Canon.
Str. I. Psalm 18:1. I love Thee affectionately [A. V., I will love thee].—אהב is elsewhere the only word used in Hebrew to express the love of men to God and the word used here, רחם, is found only in the Piel and in the sense of pity. But this word in the Aramaic has in the kal the meaning of love, and Aramaic expressions are not infrequent in the more ancient as well as in the later Hebrew writings. The proposal of Hitzig, therefore, to correct the ח by מ and change the vowel points, is unnecessary. The sense, which would be: “I will extol Thee,” would be very appropriate at the beginning of a song of praise and thanksgiving. But to doubt of an expression of love to God in the mouth of David, because among the ancient Hebrews the fear of God was alone proper, love only after Deut. 6:5, is connected with a criticism of sacred history and its historical monuments, which condemns itself by its unavoidable necessity of doing violence to the text. In the parallel passage, 2 Sam. 22, this verse has manifestly fallen off, by shortening, whilst a compensation has been made by an enlargement of the next verse, which the accents then divide into two verses, by the addition, after the word fortress, of the clause: my refuge, my deliverer, who delivered me from violence. Likewise in the first line of this verse “my deliverer” is used as Ps. 144:2, and in the second line: God (Elohe) my rock as Psalm 18:46.
Psalm 18:2. [There is in this verse a heaping up of metaphors, vid.Pss. 31; 71; 144 Perowne: “The images, which are most of them of a martial character, are borrowed from the experience of David’s life, and the perpetual struggles in which he was engaged. Some of them were suggested by the natural configuration of Palestine. Amid the ‘rocks’ and ‘fastnesses’ of his native land, and the ‘high tower’ perched on some inaccessible crag, he with his little band of outlaws, had often found a safe hiding-place from the wrath of Saul.”—My Rock.—Alexander: “As the rock (סֶלַע) of the first clause suggests the idea of concealment and security, so the rock (צוּר) of the second clause [A. V., ‘My strength’] suggests that of strength and immobility. The figure is borrowed from Deut. 32:4, and reappears in Ps. 92:15. Compare Isaiah’s phrase, rock of ages (Is. 26:4), and Jacob’s phrase, the stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24.”14—My stronghold (A.V., fortress).—Hupf.: “מְצוּרָה is in general a strong and not easily accessible place, affording refuge and safety; a mountain, a cave, a wilderness, etc. Comp. 1 Sam. 23:14, 19; 24:1; Judges 6:2; Isa. 33:16; Job 39:28.”—My shield (A. V., buckler, a species of shield). Vid.Psalm 3:4 and Gen. 15:1, where God calls Himself Abram’s shield.”—C. A. B.]—Horn of my salvation.—The horn is frequently the figure of strength and victorious power, yet the reference here is not to attack, but to protection. Hence the figure is not borrowed from the horn of the buffalo (most interpreters), or indeed of the summits of mountains [called horns in many languages, e.g. Matterhorn, Faulhorn, etc.—C. A. B.], but of the altar,1 Kings 2:28 (Hitzig).15—[My height (A. V., high tower)—Alexander: “The Hebrew word properly denotes a place so high as to be beyond the reach of danger.” It is a high rock or crag affording a safe refuge, vid.Ps. 9:9.—C. A. B.]
Many interpreters, with the ancient translations (likewise Maurer, Hengst., Hupf.), regard Jehovah and Eli as subjects, the names which follow each time as His predicates, seven of which would thus be contained in Psalm 18:2, to which Hengst. attaches some importance. Most recent interpreters, however (Hitzig and Delitzsch likewise), find as in all the names, so likewise in Jehovah and Eli, amplifications of the suffix of the verb, which begins the Psalm, yet not as its real object., but as taking up the vocative of the first line. Only Hitzig would change Eli into גאלי=my Redeemer, according to Ps. 19:15.
Str. II. Psalm 18:3. Jehovah is not a vocative in this verse (Storr), but in apposition to the words placed before for emphasis: the one who is praised, that is, who is the subject of the praises of Israel, Pss. 48:1; 96:4; 113:3; 145:3; perhaps the glorious One (Hupf.), that is, He to whom glory and majesty is ascribed. The imperfects are not to be taken as futures (many ancient interpreters), since the following strophe shows that the reference is to praising God on account of Divine help already experienced; but hardly as preterites with reference to a previous special deliverance (Hitzig). It is true, they are thus used frequently from ver 6 onwards, but they depend upon the perfects which occur from Psalm 18:4 on. If now these words which immediately follow are found to be a recapitulation of many particular experiences, the description of which makes use of the tempest, taken from other theophanes only as a figurative illustration (Ewald, Hengst., Hupf., Delitzsch); then the imperfects are taken as indefinite designations of the past. In this not unusual poetical use they occur without doubt in Psalm 18:20 and 28 sq. of this Psalm. But there it treats really of a recapitulation of particular and similar features with a retrospect of the moral action of the Psalmist and of the experiences made by him in consequence of this. Yet here the entire description seems to refer to a particular case, only it does not follow that Psalm 18:3 should be put at the same time as Psalm 18:6a. The motto of the entire Psalm appears first, namely, in the form of a general clause prepared by the predicate used in calling upon Jehovah. But it is not necessary, on this account, to translate with G. Baur: praised be Jehovah, I cry.
Str. III. Psalm 18:4. Bands of death.—The Sept. and the Rabbins translate sorrows [A. V.]; and 2 Sam. 22, where the clause begins with “then” [A. V., when], another word is used = waves. The parallel clauses agree very well with this, the verb not so well; and our reading is likewise in Psalm 116:3, and is likewise very ancient (Calvin, Hupfeld).—Brooks of evil [A. V., floods of ungodly men]. —בְּלִיַּעַל– literally=not to go up, is generally but not exclusively used (Hengst.) for moral unthriftiness, as unworthiness; and is then taken by most interpreters as a personification of ungodly enemies and their attacks, by some (Jerome, Luther, J. H. Mich., Stier) is understood directly of the person of the devil, according to 2 Cor. 6:15, comp. 2 Sam. 23:6; but the physical signification (Ruding.), partly recognized by Calv. and without doubt in Nah. 1:11; Ps. 41:8 (Hupf.), is recognized by most recent interpreters as here parallel with death and the lower world, yet not mythologically, the lower world with its streams (J. H. Mich.), but as abysmal evil and perdition.16
[Psalm 18:5. Bands of the under-world (A. V., sorrows of hell).—For the explanation of Sheol or under-world vid.Ps. 6:5.—Snares of death.—De Wette: “Snares of death are figurative of the danger of death; for slings and the like are frequent figures of danger and waylaying (Job 18:9, 10; Pss. 64:5; 140:5).”—Prevented me.—Barnes: “The word here used in Hebrew, as our word prevent did originally, means to anticipate, to go before. The idea here is that those snares had, as it were, suddenly rushed upon him, or seized him. They came before him in his goings, and bound him fast.”—C. A. B.]17
[Psalm 18:6. In my distress.—Under the experience of the brooks of evil, the snares of death and the bands of the under-world mentioned, probably referring to the anguish of the most trying periods of his persecution by Saul.—And cried.—The anxiety of soul demanding immediate relief expresses itself in the cry.—Temple.—Perowne: “Not the temple or tabernacle on Mt. Zion, but the temple in heaven wherein God especially manifests His glory, and where He is worshipped by the heavenly hosts—a place which is both temple and palace.”—And my cry came before him.—Barnes: “It was not intercepted on the way, but came up to Him.”—Into his ears.—“Indicating that He certainly heard it.” The cry of the suffering Psalmist, in peril of death, speeds its way with more than the speed of light, to the palace of Jehovah, to His very presence, into His very ears, and the response is given with the same wonderful directness by Jehovah. Perowne: “The deliverance is now pictured as a magnificent theophany. God comes to rescue His servant as He came of old to Sinai, and all nature is moved at His coming. Similar descriptions of the Divine manifestation, and of the effects produced by it, occur Pss. 68:7, 8; 77:14–20; Ex. 19; Judges 5:4; Amos 9:5; Micah 1:3; Hab. 3; but the image is nowhere so fully carried out as here. David’s deliverance was, of course, not really accompanied by such convulsions of nature, by earthquake, and fire, and tempest, but his deliverance, or rather his manifold deliverances, gathered into one as he thinks of them, appear to him as a marvellous proof of the Divine Power, as verily effected by the immediate presence and finger of God, as if He had come down in visible form to accomplish them. The image is carefully sustained throughout. First, we have the earthquake, and then, as preluding the storm, and as herald of God’s wrath, the blaze of the lightning (Psalm 18:7, 8). Next, the thick gathering of clouds, which seem to touch and envelop the earth; the wind, and the darkness which shrouds Jehovah riding on the cherubim (9–11). Lastly, the full outburst of the storm, the clouds parting before the presence and glory of Jehovah, and pouring upon the earth the burden with which they were heavy—the thunder, and the lightning, and the hail,—the weapons of Jehovah by which, on the one hand, He discomfits His enemies, and, on the other, lays bare the depths of the sea, and the very foundations of the world, that He may save His servant who trusts in Him (11–16).”—C. A. B.]
Str. IV. Psalm 18:7. Foundations of the mountains [A. V., hills].—2 Sam 22 has instead of the earth, the heavens, and it is generally understood of the mountains as the pillars of the heavens (Job 26:11). [Jehovah is represented as moved, by the cry of the suffering Psalmist, to anger, His wrath is kindled against His enemies with the brooks of evil and the snares of death. The earth and its foundations shake under the emotions of Divine wrath.—Smoke in his nostrils.—Hupfeld: “Wrath is poetically represented as the nose snorting, taken from the action of an angry man (Calv., Geier), or rather beast, as a horse, lion (Rosenm.), comp. particularly the description of the crocodile, Job 41:11 sq.; as then that is indeed the proper meaning of אף (from אנף snort, that is, breathe through the nose), and hence likewise among the Greeks and Romans the nose was the seat and organ of wrath. Here it is increased to smoke. as it is often said of the wrath of God, אַפּוֹ יֶעְשַׁן, His nose (or His wrath) smokes, Ps. 74:1; 80:4; Deut. 29:19. This is connected with fire (as Isa. 65:5), the usual figure of wrath in all languages, and here indeed from His mouth, parallel with the smoke in the nose, as with the crocodile, Job 41:13.”—Burning coals blazed from it, that is, from the mouth, parallel with fire out of His mouth devoured (Hupfeld, Delitzsch, et al.), not as the A. V., coals were kindled by it.—Delitzsch: “When God is angry, according to the Old Testament ideas, the power of wrath present in Him is kindled, and flames up, and breaks forth. The snorting of wrath may therefore be called the smoke of the fire of wrath (Ps. 74:1; 80:3); smoke is as the breath of fire and the violent hot breath, which is drawn in and out through the nose of the wrathful (comp. Job 41:12), is as smoke, which curls upward from the internal fire of wrath. The fire of wrath “devours out of the mouth.” that is, flames forth from the mouth, devouring all that it lays hold of, with men in angry words, with God in fiery powers of nature which correspond with His wrath and serve it, especially the fire of the lightning. It is first of all the lightning which is here compared to the flaming up of glowing coals. The power of the wrath of God, realizing itself, becomes a flame, and before its fire is entirely discharged, announces itself in lightnings.” The reference in this strophe is to the approaching storm with its distant flashes of lightning.—C. A. B.]
Str. V. Psalm 18:9. [He bowed the heavens and came down.—The storm is near at hand, the dark masses of clouds descend and seem almost to touch the earth, vid.Ps. 144:5; Ex. 19:18; Isa. 64:1. Parallel with this is the second clause.—Dark clouds under his feet.—Comp. Nah. 1:3 sq., where the clouds are called the “dust of His feet.”—C. A. B.]
Psalm 18:10. [He rode upon the cherub and did fly.—As in the preceding verse the presence of Jehovah in the dark and overhanging storm-cloud is represented by His agency in bowing the clouds and treading them down to the earth, so in this verse His presence in the strong wind which precedes the outbreaking of the storm is represented by His riding upon the cherub. The cherub is used here as a collective for the plural. The cherubim are composite creatures, embracing in one the forms of the ox, the lion, the eagle and man; they represent in the unity of their conception the entire creation in its most perfect form as the servant of Jehovah, through the faces and forms of the four most prominent and characteristic creatures which reflect the attributes and glory of God. They are represented as the bearers of the throne of Jehovah (Ezek. 1 and 10), the guardians of Eden (Gen. 3:24), and the most holy place and the mercy-seat. They fly in a whirlwind and with flaming fire and lightning (Ezek. 1:4, 13), and “the noise of their wings is like the noise of great waters” (Ezek. 1:24), the glory of God is above the cherubim which form His living chariot.18—C. A. B.]
Soar on the wings of the wind [A. V., fly].—2 Sam. 22 has instead of soar a weaker word, He appeared [A. V., was seen], yet not in all MSS.; perhaps it originated merely by a slip of the pen, changing ד into ר. [This clause is parallel with the preceding; the wind which accompanies the chariot of the cherubim is represented as winged. As Jehovah rides upon the cherubic car, He soars, borne by the wings of the wind, vid.Ps. 104:3; Isa. 66:15; Nah. 1:3. Hupfeld, with Calvin, thinks that the cherub here represents the storm wind, or the clouds; Riehm, that we have here an indication of the original meaning of the cherub, but it is better to regard the clauses as parallel yet distinct in idea, Jehovah rides upon the cherubic chariot as the God of the Covenant, and soars on the wings of the wind as the God of nature.—C. A. B.]
Psalm 18:11. He made darkness His veil [A. V., His secret place.—Barnes: “The word rendered secret place—סֵתֶר—means properly a hiding; then something hidden, private, secret. Hence it means a covering, a veil. Comp. Job 22:14; 24:15. 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.”—Round about him belongs to covering and not to pavilion, as A. V.—His tent is parallel with veil and dependent upon the same verb, not with the copula, as in A. V. (His pavilion were). C. A. B.].—2 Sam. 22 has, instead of darkness of waters [A. V., dark waters], a word, which has originated perhaps by a slip of the pen, to which according to the Arabic we can only give the meaning of “collection of waters.” 2 Sam. 22 has likewise: He made darkness tabernacles round about Him, which is a weakening of the idea of the Psalm. [This verse is a description of the storm in its momentary lull, before bursting forth. The angry Jehovah stays His cherubic car, veils Himself with the dark clouds, and piles up the darkness of waters and the thick clouds like a tent in which He meant to dwell.—C. A. B.]
Psalm 18:12. [Hupfeld: “Finally the storm of Divine wrath breaks forth and discharges itself in thunder, hail and lightnings, etc., on the heads of the wicked.”—C. A. B ] The reading of 2 Sam. 22, from the brightness before Him coals of fire burned [A. V., Through the brightness before Him were coals of fire kindled] is easier. Many interpreters likewise would blot out the strange word “His clouds,” and translate: hail and coals of fire went forth, or rushed forth (Hupf.). If this remain, our translation, after Hupf. and Delitzsch, is the best recommended: From the brightness before him passed through his clouds hail and coals of fire.—For the interpretations: “vanished” (Alex., Jerome, Calv.), or “broke up,” so that hail and coals of fire went forth (Luther, Geier, J. H. Mich., Rosenm.), or that the last words are to be taken as an outcry of astonishment (Hengst., Ewald, Olsh.), are doubtful and find no support in the parallel words in Psalm 18:13 (G. Baur), as if the repeated breaking forth of the lightning would be pictured by the restoration of those words which had been taken away. For in Psalm 18:13, these words not only are lacking in 2 Sam. 22, but likewise in the Sept. of our Psalm; they disturb the structure of the verse, and find no support (as Hengst. contends) in the reference to Ex. 9:23, where the connection of words is different. If, however, their dependence upon the verb, sent forth [A. V., gave], is maintained, then the poetry of that interpretation is lost. [The A. V., “At the brightness (that was) before Him His thick clouds passed, hail (stones) and coals of fire,” does not give a good sense. The idea is that Jehovah discharged through the darkness that veiled His brightness the weapons of His wrath, hail and coals of fire. Comp. the description of the destruction of the Canaanites, Josh. 10:11, fire mingled with hail plaguing the Egyptians, Ex. 9:24, so also in Isa. 28:17; 30:30.—C. A. B.]
Psalm 18:13. Instead of in the heavens,2 Sam. 22 has the reading: from heaven, which most interpreters prefer.
Psalm 18:14. The suffix êm [them, object of the verb, scattered and discomfited] refers not to the arrows and lightnings (ancient interpreters), but to the enemies, who are not named, it is true, yet are before the mind of the Psalmist. Ewald refers it to the waters which are directly mentioned, on account of the easy grammatical connection. Instead of He shot (or He threw, which meaning רב has in Gen. 49:23), many interpreters read here, in place of the verb, the well-known adverb rab=many, in abundance.
[Str. VI. Psalm 18:15. This storm of Divine wrath not only scattered and discomfited the enemies of the Psalmist as the Canaanites before Joshua, and the Egyptians before Moses, but likewise burst in fury upon the earth, laying bare the beds of the waters, as of the Red Sea and the Jordan, for the passage of the Israelites, disclosing the foundations of the world. This was accomplished by the strong wind, the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils.—C. A. B.]
[Str. VII. Psalm 18:16. The Psalmist here leaves the figure of the Theophany and returns to the more simple ideas of Strophe III. He realizes once more his own personal danger, in peril of death and exposed to the brooks of evil and the bands of Sheol. Jehovah reached from above—He stretched forth His hand (not as in A. V., He sent from above), He laid hold of me (A. V., took me, not so good), and drew me up out of great waters, that is, the brooks of evil, which have well nigh overwhelmed the Psalmist and snared him in their bands of death. Nothing can be more simple and touchingly beautiful than this description of his deliverance. Alexander supposes a reference here to the “historical fact and the typical meaning of the deliverance of Moses, and a kind of claim upon the part of David to be regarded as another Moses.”
Psalm 18:17. The Psalmist now leaves his figures of speech and states in simple terms that Jehovah delivered him from his strong enemy. This strong enemy was probably Saul.
Psalm 18:18. They fell upon me in the day of my calamity (A. V., prevented me, incorrect); but Jehovah was his support; they could not overcome Him.
Psalm 18:19. Large place.—He brought him forth from his straits of trouble, and gave him ample room to recover himself and extend himself to his heart’s content, vid.Ps. 4:1.—C. A. B.]
[Str. VIII. Psalm 18:20–23. This strophe gives the reason why Jehovah delighted in him and delivered him. His profession of personal integrity is like that of the previous Psalm (Ps. 17:3). Perowne: “The words are, in truth, words of child-like, open-hearted simplicity, not of arrogant boastfulness.” They are not inconsistent with the latter period of his life. David in his life was guilty of great sins and suffered Divine chastisements and confessed that he was receiving the penalty of his crimes, yet in this Psalm, where he is praising the deliverances of his God, he likewise shows that these were testimonies of Divine favor to him and of approval of his uprightness and integrity. If in other Psalms David is sincere in his confessions under the experience of Divine chastisement, he is likewise sincere in this Psalm in his professions under the experience of Divine deliverances. The penitential Psalms stand for themselves and the Psalms which assert innocence and uprightness stand for themselves, there is no inconsistency if we recognize the difference of experience in the godly man as expressed in these two classes of Psalms. Delitzsch: “In this strophe Ps. 18 has the same tone as Ps. 17. and for this reason it follows it. Compare the testimony of David himself 1 Sam. 26:23 sq., the testimony of God 1 Kings 14:8, the testimony of history 1 Kings 15:5, 11:4.”—C. A. B.]
Str. IX. Psalm 18:25. 2 Sam. 22 has instead of man,hero [A. V. does not distinguish, but has man in both versions—C. A. B.]. The other, differences in this section are still less important and relate only to grammatical forms or differences in orthography. [Barnes: “From the particular statement respecting the Divine dealings with himself the Psalmist now passes to a general statement (suggested by what God had done for him) in regard to the general principles of the Divine administration. That general statement is, that God deals with men according to their character; or that He will adapt His providential dealings to the conduct of men. They will find Him to be such towards them as they have shown themselves to be towards Him.” Delitzsch: “The truth here expressed, is not that the idea which man forms of God is constantly the mirror of his soul, but that the dealing of God with men is the mirror of the relation in which God puts Himself to him.”—C. A. B.]
Psalm 18:27. In 2 Sam. 22 is either: Thine eyes Thou didst let fall upon the proud; or, Thine eyes (look) upon the proud, (whom) Thou dost humiliate [A. V., Thine eyes (are) upon the haughty (that) Thou mayest bring (them) down].
Str. X. Psalm 18:28. Thou makest light my lamp [A. V., “Thou wilt light my candle.” The Hebrew imperfects are not here futures but indefinite designations of continued and incomplete action.—C. A. B.]. Lamp not=light=happiness (the majority of interpreters), but burning lamp, the putting out of which shows the desolation of the tabernacle, the abandonment of the house (Harmar, Beob. aus dem Orient, I. 180 sq.), and therefore is frequently used as figurative of destruction and ruin, as well of the individual (Job 18:6; 21:17; Jer. 25:10; Prov. 13:9; 20:20; 24:20), as particularly of his race (2 Sam. 21:17); as the continual burning and care of the lamp serves as a figure of the preservation of life and the condition of prosperity (Job 29:3; Prov. 31:18), and is especially applied to the continuance of the house of David (1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; Ps. 132:17; De Wette, Hupf., Delitzsch). This passage is abbreviated in 2 Sam. 22, and so used that Jehovah Himself is called the lamp of David. In 2 Sam. 22 “my God” is lacking in the second member of the verse.
[Psalm 18:29. For by thee I run upon troops, and by my God I leap over walls (A. V., I have run through a troop. … have I leaped over a wall).—The imperfects are not preterites, but are indefinite, as generally in this Psalm (vid. notes on Psalm 18:3). Barnes: “The word troop here refers to bands of soldiers, or hosts of enemies. The word rendered run through [A. V.] means properly to run; and then, as here, to run or rush upon in a hostile sense; to rush with violence upon one. The idea here is, that he had been enabled to rush with violence upon his armed opposers; that is, to overcome them and secure a victory. The allusion is to the wars in which he had been engaged.” The second clause carries on the idea of the first, he attacks the troops of his enemies, he breaks their ranks, he rushes upon their fortified towns, he mounts and leaps over their walls and captures them. Comp. Joel 2:7. This had been his experience of the gracious help of his God who had enabled him to do this.—C. A. B.]
[Str. XI. Psalm 18:30. Delitzsch: “הָאֵל [(As for) God, A. V.] is nom. abs. as הַצּוּר, Deut. 32:4; this ancient Mosaic expression sounds here again as 2 Sam. 7:22, in the mouth of David. The article of הָאֵל points to the God historically revealed. His way is faultless and unblamable. His word is צְרוּפָה, not drossy ore, but pure gold, freed from dross, Ps. 12:7. He who withdraws himself in Him, the God of promise, is shielded from all dangers. Prov. 30:5 is borrowed from this passage.”
Psalm 18:31. Hupfeld: “Jehovah alone is true God, that is, Who can and will help. This is parallel with צוּר, rock (comp. Psalm 18:2), here used at once, as the name of God, as Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30 sq., 37; Isa. 44:8, etc.; frequently as a clause in contrast with the vain idols, especially Deut. 32:31; 1 Sam. 2:2; but likewise with all the false props and idle hopes on which man gladly builds instead of on God only (Calv.).”—C. A. B.]
[Str. XII. Psalm 18:32. The God who girdeth me with strength. (A. V. (It is) God that). The reference is to “our God” of Psalm 18:31. Alexander: The imparting of a quality or bestowing of a gift is in various languages described as clothing. Thus the English words endue and invest have almost lost their original meaning. The figure of girding is peculiarly significant, because in the oriental dress the girdle is essential to all free and active motion.—My way perfect.—Hupfeld: “Manifestly is correlative of the same phrase, Psalm 18:30 applied to God, as the effect of it and thereby mediately the same as, even, easy, free, that is a successful way.”
Psalm 18:33. He maketh my feet like hind’s feet. Barnes: “So Hab. 3:19. He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.’ The hind is the female deer, remarkable for fleetness or swiftness. The meaning here is, that God had made him alert or active, enabling him to pursue a flying enemy, or to escape from a swift-running foe.”19—And setteth me upon my high places. Alexander: “My heights, those which are to be mine by right of conquest and by Divine gift. The heights may be the natural highlands of the country or the artificial heights of its fortified places.”20
Psalm 18:34. He teacheth my hands to war.—Barnes: “The skill which David had in the use of the bow, the sword, or the spear, all of which depends on the hands,—he ascribes entirely to God.”—And mine arms bend the bow of brass.—(A. V., incorrectly, “So that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.”) Perowne: “נִחֲתָה, not (as Kimchi) Niph. of חתת ‘is broken’ but Piel of נחת, ‘to press down and so to bend,’ so Hupf., De Wette, Ewald, Delitzsch, Alexander, et al. Perowne: “Here the bending of a bow of brass (or bronze, rather, χαλκός, which seems to have been tempered, and rendered pliable like steel with us), indicates his great strength (comp. Job 20:24.) In Homer, Ulysses leaves behind him at Ithaca a bow which no one but himself could bend.”—C. A. B.]
Str. XIII. Psalm 18:35. Condescension,—[A. V., gentleness]. The word עֲנָוָה always means, merely the bowing of one’s self and not the humiliation of another. Therefore the translation of Luther, after the Sept., Vulg., “If Thou humiliatest me, Thou makest me great,” is inadmissible. It is true this word, which expresses the idea of humility (Prov. 15:32; 22:4) is used with reference to God only in this passage; since however in Ps. 45:4 it denotes the corresponding attribute of the condescension of the king, it is unnecessary to explain, with Hitzig, after the Arabic; Thy care, favor; or with Olsh. to correct עַנְוָתְךָ with עֶזְרָתְךָ that is thy help. The reading 2 Sam. עֲנֹתְךָ is hardly to be explained as if the ו merely quiesces (Kimchi); still less is the meaning to be forced by altering the vowel points עַגֹתְךָ (J. H. Mich., Hengst.) to that of ‘humility’ (Sept., Pesch., Theod., Symm.); but to translate, there, with the Chald., Thy hearing [A. V. does not distinguish but uses the same word, gentleness.—C. A. B.]
[Psalm 18:36. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me.—Barnes: “The idea here is, ‘Thou hast made room for my feet, so that I have been enabled to walk without hindrance or obstruction.’ So in Ps. 31:8, ‘Thou hast set my feet in a large room.’ The idea is, that he was before straitened, compressed, hindered in his goings, but that now all obstacles had been taken out of the way, and he could walk freely.—That my feet did not slip. Margin, ‘mine ankles.’ The Hebrew word means properly a joint; small joint; especially the ankle. The reference here is to the ankle, the joint that is so useful in walking, and that is so liable to be sprained or dislocated. The meaning is that he had been enabled to walk firmly; that he did not limp.”—C. A. B.]
[Str. XIV. Psalm 18:37–40. The consequences of Divine assistance were the subjugation and destruction of his enemies. Delitzsch: “Thus fighting in God’s strength, with God’s weapons and under God’s assistance he beat, subjected, annihilated all his enemies in domestic and foreign wars. According to Hebrew syntax, all this is retrospective.
Psalm 18:40. And my enemies, Thou gavest to me the back.—(A. V. Thou hast also given me the neck of mine enemies. Hupfeld: “נתן צרֶֹף., is elsewhere intransitive (2 Chron. 29:6.)= פנה עֹרֶף ,חפךְ עֹרֶף (Josh. 7:8, 12) to turn the back=terga dare, vertere, flee; is here causative to make the enemies’ backs that is fugitives as Ex. 23:27, and in like sense Ps. 21:12. שּׁית שְׁכֶם to make backs: necks, backs,=present their necks or backs to the pursuers, who see them only on this side and thus only as necks and backs. Comp. Jer. 18:17. “I will see them as backs and not as face, that is behind and not before.” So Gesen., De Wette, Delitzsch, Perowne, Alexander, et al. Barnes, however, prefers the A. V. and understands it “complete subjection,—as when the conqueror places his foot on the necks of his foes.”—C. A. B.
Str. XV. Psalm 18:41. 2 Sam. 22 has, they looked [instead of, they cried]. [Delitzsch: “Their prayer to their idols and even to Jehovah forced by necessity, because it was directed to Him for their own interests and too late, was vain.”—C. A. B.]
Psalm 18:42. 2 Sam. 22 has: “dust of the earth” [instead of dust before the wind]; and in the second member again: “I did stamp them.” [Barnes: “As the fine dust is driven by the wind, so they fled before me. There could be no more striking illustration of a discomfited army flying before a conqueror.”—As the dust in the streets.—Barnes: “The idea is, that he poured them out, for so the Hebrew word means, as the dirt or mire in the streets. As that is trodden on, or trampled down so they, instead of being marshalled for battle, were wholly disorganized, scattered and left to be trodden down as the most worthless object is.”—C. A. B.]
Str. XVI. Psalm 18:43. Strifes of the people—This is referred by Hengst., Hitzig, Delitzsch, to the internal conflicts with reference to Saul and Absalom, and they then explain in the same way the reading 2 Sam. 22עַמִּי= my people; whilst Olsh. supplies the thought, “with other nations;” and the Rabbins regard this form as plural. Many likewise regard the עם of the Psalm as plural, which however with this interpretation is best regarded as collective (Hupf.) But the goyim in the following member favors the first mentioned interpretation, as likewise in the third member the עם acquires by the following relative clause, the closer meaning of people previously unknown to the Psalmist, as foreign and distant. In the first member the construction is like Is. 26:2; 49:8; 2 Sam. 22 has [in the second clause]: thou hast kept me as, or thou preservedst me to be, the head of the heathen.—[Head of the heathen. Hupfeld. “It is questionable whether this is historical of the subjection of some foreign nations, or whether it is not rather in ideal universality=sovereignty of the world, as Ps. 22.” It is probable that it has rather a historical reference. This is more in keeping with the entire Psalm as retrospective.—C. A. B.]
Psalm 18:44. At the hearing of the ear.—This is regarded by most interpreters as in contrast to their own beholding (Job 42:5,)=they heard, without seeing me, or as soon as the sound of command from the distance had come to them, or better, as soon as they heard the report of the name and victories of David, (Deut. 2:25; Josh. 6:27; 9:9: Is. 23:5). On account of the mention of obedience, which immediately follows, others (Stier, Hupf., Camph), regard the expression as like the German, “at the word of,” with reference to the command they had received and its prompt execution. Sachs supposes a repetition of the previous word and explains: “They only know me by the knowledge of the ear.”—Sons of foreign parts dissembled to me.—[A. V. Strangers shall submit themselves. Alexander: “Sons of outlands will lie.”—C. A. B]. The humble expressions of the conquered, which have been forced, are often mentioned as lies, hypocrisy and flattery.
Psalm 18:45. The sons of foreign parts faded away.—The victorious power of David has struck them as a fiery wind (Is. 40:7), therefore they wither away.—Trembled [A. V., be afraid]. It follows from Micah 7:17, comp. Hos. 11:11, that חרג must have the meaning of tremble. It is likewise found in cognate dialects. The word used in 2 Sam. 22 instead of this חגר which many MSS. and ancient translations likewise have in the Psalm, means, gird themselves, which, however, is an unusual expression of equipping oneself for flight. The meaning, limp (Sept. Vulg., Pesch., Kimchi), however, occurs in cognate dialects and is accepted by Hitzig.
Str. XVII. Psalm 18:46. Hitzig, likewise, with many recent interpreters, regards Psalm 18:46 sq. as optative, as if the cry of homage and rejoicing addressed to the king, which, however is יְחִי (1 Sam. 10:24; 1 Kings 1:39), is here applied to God. But it is better with Sept., Jerome, Cleric., to regard these words as declarative clauses in the sense of doxologies (Hengst., Hupf., Delitzsch).
Psalm 18:47. The rare word used here for subdue, [יַדְבֵּר] is in 2 Sam. 22 supplied by the usual word [ירד].
Psalm 18:48. Many interpreters understand the Man of violence to be particularly Saul (even Hitzig and Hengst.). Most interpreters regard the expression as collective (Prov. 3:31).
Str. XVIII. Psalm 18:49–50. [Delitzsch: “The praise of such a God, who does to David as He has promised, is not to remain limited to the narrow space of Israel. If the Anointed of God makes war upon the heathen with the sword, yet it is that finally the blessing of the knowledge of Jehovah, and the salvation of Jehovah which he serves as mediator, may break its way to them in this manner. With entire propriety Paul, Rom. 15:9, adduces Psalm 18:49 of this Psalm, together with Deut. 32:43, and Ps. 117:1, as proof that salvation belongs likewise to the Gentiles according to the Divine mercy. What is stated in verse 50 as the reason and the subject of the praise which extends beyond Israel; is if David is its author, as Hitzig recognizes, a very consistent echo of the Messianic promise, 2 Sam. 7:12–16. And Theodoret without impropriety appeals to the closing words עַד־עוֹלָם against the Jews. In whom else, than in Christ, the Son of David, has David’s fallen throne enduring existence, and all that has been promised to David’s seed, everlasting truth and reality? The praise of Jehovah, the God of David His anointed, is, according to its final meaning, praise of the Father of Jesus Christ”—C. A. B.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. In a thankful and pious heart the demonstrations of the love of God beget a sincere and hearty return of love, in the expression of which the feelings of affection meet it and pervade it with the recognition of great obligations and the vow of entire consecration, (Deut. 6:5). Those, however, who love the Lord, are as the sun, which ascends in its power (Judges 5:31). It is not in vain that they take refuge with God, who is the strength of those who trust in Him, and on the one side delivers and protects them, on the other fills them with strength to continue in the hope of faith.
2. The thankful retrospect of previous deliverances strengthens the faith in future help from God; and he who bears in mind, that the God invoked by him is the Lord of Glory, whom the congregation praises with adoration, joins in, on his part with one song of praise after another and finds his joy in the declaration of the benefits of God, his pleasure in the glory of the Lord. Ecclesia semper vincit semperque pugnat et superatis præteritis malis paratus ad futura mala superanda. (Luther).
3. God’s being enthroned on high and dwelling in the heavens, does not separate Him from His servants on earth; it merely exhibits Him in His exaltation above all the powers of the world and the Abyss; it no more prevents Him from hearing the sighs and supplications of the oppressed, than from making known His presence to help in gracious condescension to the needs of men.
4. The revelations of God in the world are not always accompanied by striking phenomena in nature, still less are thunder and lightning His constant attendants or the sure sign of His coming. But partly, the appearance of God in history has really at times been announced and accompanied by such phenomena (Ex. 19; Pss. 68; 77; Hab. 3; Hag. 2:7; 2 Thes. 1:8); partly, God as Lord of nature uses them as the instruments employed by Him, and means to deliver His servants and punish their enemies. It is, however, of great importance, to recognize the work of the Lord therein, and amidst the shaking of the world, through the powers of nature’s life, to discern the grasp of the hand of God.
5. To behold the form of the Divine Being is still future and yet to be expected (Ps. 17:15). Hence the Theophanies of the Old Testament are all partly typical, partly symbolical; they are mysteries as well as revelations. It is particularly the clouds, which veil the light, which is not to be endured by mortal eyes (Ex. 23:20, and elsewhere) and is inaccessible to any creature (1 Tim. 6:16), in which God dwells and which forms as the reflection of His light-nature, the resplendence of His glory, δοξα, כבוד, and so the approach of man to God is partly made possible, partly declared. This figurative language is taken partly from the sphere of the phenomena of nature which are visible in the heavens, in accordance with which light is called His garment (Ps. 104:2), the clouds His tent (Job 36:29; Ps. 97), the thunder His voice (Ps. 18:13; Job 37:2), lightning, however, and the storm as instruments of His righteous punishments (Judges 5:4; Is. 30:27 sq., Pss. 50:3; 68:8; 97), often in connection with earthquakes (Ps. 77:18; 114:4; Joel 2:10; 4:16; Nah. 1:5; Is. 24:28). At the basis of the symbolism of nature lies the idea, that certain peculiarities in the nature and action of God correspond with it. Thence God Himself is at times described as present and active in these phenomena of nature, not merely accompanied by them, and in bold but contemplative expressions the stirring up and expression of His wrath is represented as the kindling of His light-nature in all the turns of fiery and flaming figures, until that smoke issues from His nostrils snorting with wrath (Deut. 19:9; Ps. 74:1; 80:4), and devouring fire from His mouth, (comp. the description of the crocodile, Job 41:10 sq.), from the coals which glow within Him. These natural phenomena, not so much in themselves, as under certain circumstances and more particular forms, form partly the symbol, partly the means of a Theophany. In the present description the personal interference of God to deliver His servant and judge His enemies, although accompanied by natural phenomena is yet particularly characterized by the mention of the Cherub. For however questionable the etymology and precise meaning of this word may be, yet this much is certain, that the forms thereby designated as well in their artistic representation upon the ark of the covenant, (Ex. 25) and in the temple in manifold ways; as in the prophet’s vision (Ezek. 1; 10; Rev. 4), where they are represented as living beings, not less than in the narrative, (Gen. 3) and in the standing representation of Jehovah, that He is enthroned above the Cherubim (Num. 7:89; 1 Sam. 4:4, 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; Is. 37:16), constantly appeal in the closest relation to the revelation of the royal majesty of Jehovah in the world. On this very account they are in a direct connection with the clouds which indicate the presence of God in the world and are the means of His appearance, as then the Shekinah likewise has its place between the wings of the Cherubim (Lev. 16:2; Num. 7:89). From this follows, that these are neither a further symbol of these clouds (Riehm, de natura et notione symbolica Cheruborum 1864), nor in our passage merely a finishing of the figure, that Jehovah rides upon the wind-clouds (Calv. Hupf.: Ps. 104:3; Is. 19:1; 66:15; Nah. 1:3). Still less, are they to be compared with the mythological thunder horses of the king of heaven. (J. D. Mich.).
6. He who is deprived of all means of resistance to his enemies, seems entirely given over into their power, and yet has God still as his friend, that man is not entirely lost; his day of misfortune becomes a day noteworthy to him for his deliverance by the hand of the Lord, who delivers His elect from all the straits of trouble. Election, however, is not arbitrary, the love of God is not a blind and unrighteous predilection, His good pleasure is not an unreasonable favor. A reciprocity of action, an interchange of a moral character takes place, which has as its contents the thought of recompense, for its foundation the ethical nature of God, by virtue of which God not only appears to every man, as he himself is minded and situated, but likewise on His part acts in a way corresponding to this (1 Sam. 26:23; Is. 29:14; 31:3; Job 5:13; Prov. 3:34). But he who pleads the purity of his hands and the honesty of his heart and his walking in the ways of God, must see to it, that self-praise is not heard in it, such as springs from self-righteousness, but that it is only a testimony of the fruitfulness, with which a man has served God and kept himself from trespasses, and which presupposes entire consecration to God, and declares itself as judging oneself with and according to God’s word and law. Such a self-witness is then confirmed by the judgment of God (1 Kings 14:8). In this connection there can be no reference to pride and self-exaltation, inasmuch as the thought of recompense includes likewise the certainty of the humiliation of the proud (Is. 2:11), whom Jehovah hates (Prov. 6:17).
7. Jehovah is the only true and real God. He alone can and will help. It is well for him, who relies upon His providence, trusts in His promises, resorts to His protection. He will experience the Divine assistance, so that he, armed with power from on high, not only escapes the attacks of his enemies, but is in a position, to completely overcome his adversaries, whose cry to God is not heard, because it is not a cry of prayer from a heart turned to God, but is only a cry of anxiety, extorted by necessity.
8. The difference between the Old and New Testament is very clearly to be recognized in the treatment of enemies and the description of them. It is true on the one side that even in the Old Testament private revenge is repudiated and God is declared to be the avenger of blood already. Gen. 9:5. On the other side likewise in the New Testament the magistrates are represented as the servants of God who bear the sword (Rom. 13:4). And the reference here in this Psalm is to the duty of the king. But a Christian king who has won victories over the enemies of Divine ordinances and institutions through Divine assistance and had as a duty to make an end not only of the actions but likewise of the life of the adversaries of the kingdom of God, could not immediately use either for his thanksgiving or his vows at the celebration of victory, some of the expressions used here. The authority for transferring and transforming them from the Old Testament into the New Testament stand-point lies in the fact that David mentions the exhibitions of vengeance as given to him by God, whereby they receive their justification and at the same time their limitation.
9. Thanksgiving for all the help, protection, and benefits received from God, are not to be limited to the sphere of those who have directly participated therein, but are to be heard as far as possible. And it is not only to resound in all the world, but is intentionally to be carried into all the world. He who understands his position as a servant of God, whether it be high or low, has likewise to lay hold of the task of declaring God as his own, and to unite with it the work of spreading abroad the name of God among those who know Him not. The heathen are not to be combated with the sword, but with the word of God; the blessing of the knowledge of God, however, is the best means of healing the wounds of war.
10. The everlasting continuance of that which David has thankfully laid hold of for himself and his seed in faith in the certainty of the Divine promise, and which he partly lauds, partly praises in Messianic hope, is, after the earthly throne of David’s line had long fallen, secured and pledged by Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, in Rom. 15:9, therefore cites likewise Psalm 18:49 of this Psalm, together with Deut. 32:43, and Ps. 117:1, as an evidence that the heathen likewise are to attain the salvation in Christ according to the mercy of God, and in order to this end are to hear the preaching of the Gospel, and to be received and treated as members of the Christian Church. “When David gives thanks for his victories, he at the same time prepares a prophecy of Christ’s person and victories.” (Luther).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
With God! That is the true watchword in war and in peace.—A pious king gains one victory after another in domestic strifes and foreign wars.—The Almighty, at times, makes use of the powers of nature in a striking manner in order to accomplish His purposes. It is necessary to observe the government of God in natural phenomena not less than in historical events. God reveals Himself in natural phenomena likewise; but at the same time He veils Himself in them. There is no need so great, but that God can deliver us from it.—He who has perceived the hand of the Lord on himself, and gives the glory to God for the salvation he has received, is capable of being a servant of God, and is able to become in the hand of the Lord an instrument of the Divine judgment, and a tool of Divine grace.—God blesses His servants likewise with temporal goods, chiefly, however, with eternal salvation, but both by grace.—God in His action, governs Himself according to the conduct of men; and yet the cause and foundation of our salvation is not human righteousness, but Divine grace.—God is a just Rewerder; but there is a great difference between the reward of grace and punishment.—The name of God is likewise to be proclaimed among the heathen, for this David and his seed on whom the Divine grace rests forever, have an incomparable importance.—Even the most pious man has not yet complete moral perfection; but sincere piety brings abiding blessing; for it leads to both these things, to observation of the law and seeking of grace.—He who earnestly strives to avoid guilt, directs his attention to the Divine law.
BUGENHAGEN: If it please God that we should suffer for His glory and the salvation of ourselves and others how can we refuse.
STARKE: If David, when at the height of his glory, called himself the servant of the Lord in order to show his deep humility, then be ye likewise thus minded; the higher thou art humble yourself the more.—This great king ascribes his deliverance from his enemies not to his own power, but to the Lord, in whose honor he sings a song of praise; would that he had many followers now among the great of this world!—Hearty love to God arises from believing knowledge and reflection upon His benefits.—If God is our rock, who will overthrow us? If He is our stronghold, then we are safe; if He is our deliverer, He will not let us alone in our necessity; if He is our retreat, we are invincible; if He is our shield, no arrow will hit us; yes, if He is the horn of our salvation, no one will deprive us of our salvation.—Believers not only cry to God when they are in distress (even the ungodly do this) but they pray always; yet their longing for grace is redoubled, the more their need increases. The signs of God’s wrath in nature are indeed terrible, but they are not to be reckoned in comparison with the everlasting and horrible punishments of hell.—No abyss has ever been so deep, no enemy so cruel and powerful, and no disaster so terrible, as to put to shame the confidence of believers in their God.—According as you behave towards God, so you have Him; if you seek Him as a gracious God, you will find Him such; if you regard God as your Father, He will regard you as His child; if however you mock His children, beware, He will mock you again (Prov. 1:24 sq.)—God is not only almighty and gracious for Himself, but all that He is, He is to those who hope in Him.—Our God in the highest is He, whose power the idols of the heathen have experienced.—Victory over our enemies must be sought from God, and not ascribed to our own strength and wisdom; yet we are not to reject the use of proper means (1 Kings 20:13 sq.)—A believer must use aright the power of God, and not leave off the struggle until the enemies are overcome.—The ungodly likewise pray, but with impenitent hearts, and not from true faith, therefore God likewise does not hear such prayers (John 9:31).—That is a blessed revenge of the Messiah, when God brings His enemies to repent of their wickedness and accept Him as their King. Since you cannot recompense God for all His benefits, yet love Him for them, and praise His name.
OSIANDER: When our affairs are bad we should trust in God; when they are good, we should not be proud.—ARNDT: Three things are necessary to victory; the shield of God, God’s right, and our humility, which does not rely upon human power, but upon Divine power.—BAUMGARTEN: When God occasions great movements in the realm of nature, and in human society, He designs all to be for the deliverance of His children.—CALVIN: There is promised us an invincible protection against all the onsets of the devil, all the craft of sin, all the temptations of the flesh.—RENSCHEL: By humility we rise, by pride we come down.—HERBERGER: The world goes in many crooked ways, but he who walks with God advances from one virtue to another.—FRISCH: The most of your love you give to the world which yet does not respond to your love. With God however it is well spent. He has first loved you, daily bestows much good upon you, and will continue His love to you forever.—BOGATZKI: We must likewise learn to appropriate our God and Saviour according to all His names and offices, according to all that He is and has, and to attach to every name of God and Christ the little word “my,” and say: He is that likewise to me.—O. v. GERLACH: To contemplate God’s glorious attributes, praise them and magnify them, is for believers the very proper means of deliverance.—GUENTHER: All that is great and glorious, that is worthy of praise, has not been done by heroes, but God has done it through them. But as soon as the glory is to be given to God, all the thoughts of the poet must assume the form of a song of praise.—TAUBE: The enemies of God have nothing so much to fear as the faith of the friends of God
[MATTH. HENRY: God will not only deliver His people out of their troubles in due time, but He will sustain them, and bear them up under their troubles in the meantime.—When we set ourselves to praise God for one mercy, we must be led by that to observe the many more with which we have been compassed about and followed all our days.—BARNES: No man dishonors himself by acknowledging that he owes his success in the world to the Divine interposition.—SPURGEON: The clefts of the Rock of Ages are safe abodes.—To be saved singing is to be saved indeed. Many are saved mourning and doubting; but David had such faith that he could fight singing, and win the battle with a song still upon his lips. How happy a thing to receive fresh mercy with a heart sensible of mercy enjoyed, and to anticipate new trials with a confidence based upon past experiences of Divine love!—Prayer is that postern gate which is left open even when the city is straitly besieged by the enemy; it is that way upward from the pit of despair to which the spiritual miner flies at once when the floods from beneath break forth upon him.—O honored prayer, to be able thus, through Jesus’ blood, to penetrate the very ears and heart of Deity.—Prayer has shaken houses, opened prison doors, and made stout hearts to quail. Prayer rings the alarm bell, and the Master of the house arises to the rescue, shaking all things beneath His tread.—Blessed is the darkness which encurtains my God; if I may not see Him, it is sweet to know that He is working in secret for my eternal good.—Sweet is pleasure after pain. Enlargement is the more delightful after a season of pinching poverty and sorrowful confinement. Besieged souls delight in the broad fields of the promise when God drives off the enemy and sets open the gates of the environed city.—Rest assured, if we go deep enough, sovereign grace is the truth which lies at the bottom of every well of mercy. Deep sea fisheries in the ocean of Divine bounty always bring the pearls of electing, discriminating love to light.—Backsliders begin with dusty Bibles, and go on to filthy garments.—God gives us holiness, then rewards us for it. The prize is awarded to the flower at the show, but the gardener reared it; the child wins the prize from the school-master, but the real honor of his schooling lies with the master, although instead of receiving he gives the reward.—Second thoughts upon God’s mercy should be, and often are, the best. Like wine on the lees our gratitude grows stronger and sweeter as we meditate upon divine goodness.—It is God’s making Himself little which is the cause of our being made great. We are so little that if God should manifest His greatness without condescension, we should be trampled under His feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies, and bow to see what angels do, looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great.—The grace of God sometimes runs like fire among the stubble, and a nation is born in a day. “Love at first sight” is no uncommon thing when Jesus is the wooer. He can write Cæsar’s message without boasting, Veni, vidi, vici; His Gospel is in some cases no sooner heard than believed. What inducements to spread abroad the doctrine of the cross!—Those who are strangers to Jesus are strangers to all lasting happiness; those must soon fade who refuse to be watered from the river of life.—C. A. B.]
[Delitzsch: “סֶלַע means properly the cleft of the rock, then the rock as riven into clefts; and צוּר the hard and great rock (Aram. טוּר, mountain).”—“Accordingly the idea of a safe (and convenient) hiding-place, predominates in סַלְעִי, that of a firm foundation and inaccessibleness in צוּרִי. The one figure reminds us of the Edomite סֶלַע, Isa. 16:1; 42:11, the Πέτρα [Petra], described by Strabo, xvi. 4, 21, enclosed by steep rocks; the other of the Phœnician rock island צוּר [Tyre], the refuge place of the sea.”—C. A. B.]
[But there is no reference in the context to the temple or the altar or the throne of God, as places of refuge; the reference is entirely to the mountains and caves and rocks and warlike means of defence. The connection of horn with shield might favor the defensive horns of the buffalo, but the following word and the general tenor of the passage favor the reference to the summits of hills or mountains. On these rocky, horn-like summits David had often found refuge when pursued by Saul. It is a beautiful figure of the protecting care of Jehovah, which lifts David to a lofty and inaccessible peak, where his salvation is sure.—C. A. B.]
[De Wette: “Waves, great waters are, especially to the Hebrews, a frequent figure of misfortunes, danger (Psalm 18:16; Ps. 32:6; 42:7; 69:1); so likewise to the Greeks.”—C. A. B.]
[For the explanation of the mingling of bands and brooks and snares we may think of those brooks of Palestine which are ordinarily dry, or containing but little water, but when the storms burst upon the land, they rush in torrents, overflow their banks and entrap the unwary in their waters; they lay hold of him, bind him fast, surround him, and lead him to his death. Thus the Kishon overwhelmed the host of Sisera. And the Psalmist was in corresponding danger from the storm of evil with its rushing flood and ensnaring waters, vid. especially Pss. 42:7; 69:1 and 2.—C. A. B.]
[For a full discussion of the Cherubim vid. Bähr., Symbolik d. Mos. Cult. I. 311 sq., 340 sq.; Herder, Geist d. Heb. Poes. I. 1, 6; Hengst., Büch. Mosis und Ægypt. 157 sq.; Riehm, Comm. de natura et notione symbolica Cheruborum; Herzog, Real-Encyclopädie Cherubim; Fairbairn, Typology I. 185 sq.; Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, art. Cherubim, etc.—C. A. B.]
[De Wette: “Swiftness in running was a celebrated virtue of the ancient heroes, because fleeing was no disgrace and often a necessary stratagem. Achilles is called πόδας ὠκύς II. a. 58, with renown; 1 Chron. 12:8, it is said of two heroes: as roes upon the mountain in swiftness; comp. 2 Sam. 1:23. Hamas ed. Freytag, p. 84 sq.”—C. A. B.]
[This is the view of Calvin and Hengst., but it is strongly opposed by De Wette and Hupf., who contend that David alludes to swiftness of flight and refuge upon his high places. The Psalmist is, however, speaking of the help of the Lord, in giving him strength and power, and it is better to interpret this verse consistently with the preceding and following, of attacking and conquest, and not of fleeing from his enemies.—C. A. B.]
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.