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Full of thankfulness, David praises the Lord for having heard his prayer, and delivered him out of great danger, Psalms 18:1-3. He delineates in Psalms 18:4-19 the first part of his dangers and deliverances, which are particularly mentioned in the superscription, by a variety of elevated figures. He affirms, in Psalms 18:20-27, that he had, received the Lord’s assistance only in consequence of the righteousness of his endeavours, and his devotedness. The deliverance from Saul had been referred back to this source; and now the representation of the second part, of the Divine goodness, in Psalms 18:28-45, namely, of the assistance which God had in part already given him against foreign enemies, the opponents of his kingdom, and which He was still to give by means of His promise, both to David personally and to his posterity, starts from the same point. The conclusion in Psalms 18:46-50, consists of praise to God for the whole of His wonderful deeds.
We have thus five parts: the introduction, at the end of which, in. Psalms 18:3, the theme is announced, “according to His glory I call upon the Lord, and am delivered from mine enemies; the conclusion, a twofold representation of the wonderful deeds of God; in the middle, a representation of the subjective conditions on which the Lord imparts His aid, connected alike with what is behind and what is before.
That we have here an artistically composed whole, is obvious from this view of the subject and the train of thought. No traces of a strophe-arrangement are discoverable. We cannot overlook, however, the respect had to the number three, pointing to the Mosaic blessing, which in the Psalmist had met with so remarkable a fulfilment. In the superscription, the name Jehovah is thrice used; and thrice also in the introduction, which consists too of three verses. The names of God in Psalms 18:2, in which the Psalmist has concentrated the entire fulness of the Divine grace, fall into three divisions. The first and the third of these divisions contain three names, whilst that in the middle, only one. The whole number of names is seven; so that alongside of the number of the blessing, occurring five times, goes the number of the covenant. As in the introduction we meet the number three, so also in the beginning of the conclusion. It can hardly be accidental also, that the whole is made up of fifty verses, five decades, in correspondence with the five verses of the conclusion.
The strongest scepticism has not ventured to deny here the Davidic authorship. With the solitary exception of Olshausen, in the “Emendations,” it is universally recognised. Ewald urges in support of it, that here there are expressed, with the greatest clearness, David’s nature, his views, and his lofty consciousness, and his experiences, so peculiar in their kind. That the Psalmist was a king, is quite manifest from Psalms 18:50, as also from Psalms 18:43. The same confidence in the blessing of God, in respect even to his latest posterity, discovers itself in the last words of David, 2 Samuel 23. The separate words have quite the Davidic hue. The recurrence in the Books of Samuel is also to be regarded as an external ground, and of the greater importance, as all the other songs which these books contain, as of David, are certainly his genuine productions. Hitzig marks, “The author is a warrior, whom the armies of his enemies had often threatened with death, Psalms 18:29. But Jehovah had delivered him from them all, because of his piety, withdrawn him from their power, and enabled him finally to subdue them. He not only brought him forth unscathed from domestic wars, and set him upon the throne of Israel, but subjected to him also, far and wide, the heathen nations.
One of the most important indications of the hand of David, is to be found in the relation, to be investigated afterwards, in which Psalms 18:28 ff. stand to the promise in 2 Samuel 7. Another also will be pointed out in the course of our exposition.
In regard to the situation, we are told in the superscription, that David sung this Psalm after the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies. The Psalm is thus designated as not having arisen from some special occasion, but as a general thanksgiving for all the grace and the assistance which he had received from God all his life long, as a combination of the thanks which David had uttered from time to time on particular occasions, as a great halleluiah with which he retired from the theatre of life. In the Books of Samuel this Psalm is expressly connected with the end of David’s life, immediately before his “last words,” which are presently after given in 2 Samuel 23. With this account the matter of the Psalm entirely agrees. In it the Psalmist thanks God, not for any single deliverance, but has throughout before his eyes a great whole of gracious administrations, an entire life rich with experiences of the lovingkindness of God.
Without foundation, Venema and others would conclude from Psalms 18:20 ss., that this Psalm must have been composed before the adultery with Bathsheba. That deed, though a dreadful sin, yet being one only of infirmity, from the guilt of which David was delivered by a sincere repentance, cannot be regarded as inconsistent with what he here says of himself, if his words are but rightly understood.
In 2 Samuel 22, this Psalm is repeated with not a few variations. The supposition which is now commonly received, and which has been specially defended by Lengerkei [Note: Comment. de dupl. Psalms 18, exemplo.] and Hitzig, is, that these variations have arisen from carelessness, discovering itself in both forms of the text, though principally in that of Samuel. But the following reasons may be advanced against this view: 1. If such were the correct view of the origin of these variations, it would follow, that before the collection of the canon, the text of the books of the Old Testament had been very carelessly treated. For it is improbable that this particular Psalm should have had a specially unpropitious fate. And in that case, conjectural criticism must have a very large field assigned it. We should have to proceed on the expectation of finding one, or even more faults, in almost every verse. But even the rashest of our critics do not consider the text to be in such a state, and the more judicious confine conjectural criticism within very narrow limits. 2. In other places where similar variations are found, where there are texts that come in contact with each other, these variations are uniformly not the result of accident and negligence, but of design. So, for example, in Isaiah 2, comp. with Micah 4, and in Jeremiah, comp. with the numerous passages in the older Scriptures, which he has appropriated. 3. The text in each of the forms is of such a nature, that one would never have thought of regarding it as faulty in any particular place, were it not for the comparison with the corresponding place. If negligence had here played its part, there would inevitably be a multitude of passages in which the fault would be discoverable at a glance, and could be shown incontestably to be such. 4. A great number of the variations, nay, the greater part of them, are of such a kind that they cannot be explained by accident. This circumstance forbids the derivation from accident, even in those cases where it might fairly be allowed to have had place, since it is improbable that the variations should have flowed from a double source. The proof of this will be found in considering the particular variations. 5. It is not difficult to discover certain principles by which the variations in the Books of Samuel are governed. That which has had the most powerful influence, is the tendency already found in Psalms 53, as comp. with Psalms 14, to substitute for the simple, plain, and common, the far-fetched, elevated, emphatic, and rare. Besides this, there is also perceptible the desire to explain what is dark. Such pervading tendencies cannot be shown to exist in the sphere of accident.
It has been advanced in support of the view we oppose, that the variation in a number of cases consists only in the change of a single letter, and sometimes, indeed, of such letters as are, either in form or pronunciation, similar to each other; for example, Psalms 18:11, וידא and וירא , in Psalms 18:12, חשכת and חשרת , etc. But this appearance is found even where the variations have unquestionably arisen from design; and wherever a text is revised, the author of the variations will take particular pleasure in expressing a different sense by the greatest possible similarity of form. The fact in question could only have been of moment in the case of the sense being unsuitable in one of the readings. But no trace of this is at all discoverable.
We derive the variations, altogether from an intentional revision; and as both the texts are prefaced by the superscription of David, the revision must have been undertaken by himself. As to the object of the revision, we do not consider it to have been that of antiquating the earlier form, but of producing variations which should be placed alongside of the original and main text. The text in the Psalms appears to us to be this original and main one, partly on the external ground, that this Psalm was given up by David for public use, as we learn from the expression, “To the chief musician,” in the superscription, partly also on the internal ground already noticed, that in a considerable number of variations in the Books of Samuel, design is unmistakeable; and finally, because the text in Samuel, though excellent when considered simply as a variation, is, apart from that, decidedly inferior to the text of the Psalms.
From this view we derive the advantage of being wholly delivered from a line of procedure, the arbitrariness and inadmissibleness of which experience has sufficiently shown;—the course, namely, which leads writers constantly to extol the one text at the expense of the other, and to use every means for making one of them appear deserving of utter rejection.
What has been objected to this view by Lengerke, that such an artificial mode of procedure was not to be expected of David, rests upon a view of the Psalms as mere natural poetry, the falseness of which has been sufficiently proved by our previous exposition; nor can it have much weight, at any rate, in a Psalm like the present, which was already designated by Amyrald as artis poeticoe luculentissimum specimen, and by Hitzig as “an unrivalled production of art and reflection.”
To the chief musician, of the servant of the Lord David, who spake to the Lord the words of this song, at the time, when the Lord delivered him from the hand of his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. In this superscription, the form of introduction to the song of Moses, in Deuteronomy 31:30, seems to be imitated: “And Moses spoke in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song,”—a supposition which is the more natural, since in the song itself the reference to Deuteronomy 32 is unquestionable, from which, in particular, David has borrowed the designation of God as the rock, צור ; and since the introduction to the last words of David, in 2 Samuel 23:1, rests in like manner upon the introduction of Balaam to his prophecies, in Numbers 24:3. Especially noticeable is the coincidence in the expression, “the words of this song,” for which, elsewhere, we find simply, “this song,” Exodus 15:1, etc. Instead of, “in the ears of the congregation,” we have here, “to the Lord,” which occurs also in Exodus 15:1. The expression, “of the servant of the Lord,” indicates the dignity and importance of the person, who constituted the ground-work of the deliverances granted to him, and corresponds to the words in the conclusion, “who makes great the salvation of his king,” equivalent to, “ my salvation because I am His king.” To this dignity of the person, to its importance in respect to the kingdom of God, are to be attributed the words, “To the chief musician.” A song so thoroughly individual in its character as this is, could not have been consecrated to the public worship of God if its author and object had not represented the whole of the Church, and that his blessing and grace were its also. Every pious man, in a general sense, is named the servant of the Lord; so Job, in Job 1:8, Job 2:3, comp. also Psalms 19:11, Psalms 19:13. Even in this general sense, the designation has respect, not merely to the subjective element of obedience, but also to the dignity of him who is thus denominated: it is an honour to be received by God as among the number of His servants, who enjoy the support and protection of their rich and mighty Lord. But the designation is more commonly used in a special sense of those whom God employs for the execution of His purposes, to whom He entrusts the management of His concerns, and whom He fits for the advancement of His glory. David, who is said in the Acts, Acts 13:36, to have “served the will (purpose) of God in his generation,” was the first, after Moses and Joshua, who in such a sense was called the servant of God. He is so designated here—in the superscription of Psalms 36, which is nearly related to ours, and must consequently have proceeded from the author himself—and again in his own words, in 2 Samuel 7. Analogous also the description in the last words of David, “The man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob”—a passage which fully justifies the remark of Venema, that the designation is not one merely of modesty and humility,—though these qualities are recognisable in it, so far as David seeks his honour in what God had given him, not in what he had of himself,—but also, and pre-eminently, of honour. Not that he acts presumptuously in assuming to himself such an honourable appellation; for the position which he vindicates to himself belonged to him according to unquestionable testimonies on the part of God, both in word and deed, and in such cases it is only false humility to decline claiming that which God has openly bestowed. With ביום , the entire following period stands in stat. constr.: in the day of the Jehovah delivered him; for: in the day that Jehovah delivered him. To the words, “from the hand of all his enemies, and (especially) from the hand of Saul,” correspond those in Exodus 18:10, “Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of Egypt, and out of the hand of Pharaoh.” The deliverance of David from the hand of Saul was too important not to be specially referred to in the superscription, and in the Psalm itself. It was the first of all; it was by means of what he experienced in these necessities that his faith in God’s fatherly care first developed itself; and in all his subsequent difficulties, David’s mind always fell back on those experiences which formed the basis of his inward life. That deliverance was for him the same as the redemption out of Egypt was for Israel. The danger, besides, was for David the greatest of all. In later times, he stood as king over against other kings, or his own rebellious subjects; but here as a private man, without power or resources, over against the king, who employed all his power to persecute: never afterwards was he so much alone, and immediately thrown upon God. This distinction is impressed upon the Psalm itself. In the section which celebrates the deliverance from the hand of Saul, David is represented as entirely passive: the hand out of the clouds lays hold of him, and pulls him out of great waters. On the other hand, in the section which is taken up with his deliverance from the hand of his other enemies, we see him throughout active: God delivers him by imparting His blessing to the use of the means which he had himself furnished. He is no longer like a “flea,” is no more “hunted like a partridge upon the mountains;” but as a warrior he places himself in opposition to warriors, “runs in the Lord upon troops, and in his God springs over walls.” [Note: This important distinction was first noticed by Venema, whose remark, however, appears to have been quite overlooked by later writers: “In the former section he had ascribed his deliverance to God alone as a just Judge, and had reserved no part to himself; here, however, while he acknowledges God as the source of power and victory, he yet represents himself as an instrument in the hand of God, whereby the enemies were subdued.”] He must first learn to read with larger characters, and then the smaller shall become legible to him. Finally, in no later deliverance did the height to which David was raised form such a contrast to the depth to which he had sunk, nor in any later catastrophe was there, in reference to his enemies, such a contrast between the depth to which they fell, and their former elevation: he, raised from tending flocks to be the shepherd of a people—out of the deepest misery to kingly power and glory; Saul, abandoned to despair and an ignominious death, his family thrust down to a low condition. One can only read with surprise the assertion of Lengerke, that the words, “and from the hand of Saul,” are a latter addition. It is justified as genuine by the division of matter in the song itself. The deliverance from Saul is treated as a separate whole, and is disconnected from the mass of the other deliverances and gracious acts of God. [Note: That the superscription is not, as some have supposed, borrowed from 2 Sam., is shown even by its formal agreement with the introduction (the threefold number of the names of God), which bespeaks its origin with the Psalmist himself. The same thing is still more decisively proved by the internal character of the superscription,—in particular by the words, “and from the hand of Saul,” as compared with the contents. The variations in 2 Sam. are just so many intentional changes. First, the words, “To the chief musician,” are left out, because here the song comes under consideration only as the personal confession of David. Then the words, “of the servant of the Lord,” are omitted, for no other reason than that in 2 Sam., in the superscription and introduction, the entire arrangement, and the predominance of the number three, which rendered these words necessary, are abolished; of the genuineness of the words, one can scarcely doubt after comparing 2 Samuel 7, 2 Samuel 23:1, and the corresponding, “His king and His anointed,” of the conclusion. Finally, instead of מיד , there is used a second time מכף , for conformity sake, while the original מיד was probably employed on purpose to distinguish the deliverance from the hand of Saul more clearly from that out of the hands of the other enemies.]
The introduction occupies Psalms 18:1-3; and in it the Psalmist first declares his tender love to God, and then draws attention to its grounds, as well through the number of epithets applied to God, as in Psalms 18:3, through an open exhibition of the actual facts.
Ver. 1. And he said: Heartily do I love Thee, O Lord, my strength. Luther: “Our sweet and joyful affection ought to impel us with great force to those to whose goodness we owe deliverance from huge evil and misfortune. So says he now: I have a sincere and childlike longing toward Thee. He thus confesses the warmest love, and that he has had pleasure in our Lord God, for he has found His kindness to be unspeakable; and from this constraining desire and love it arises that he ascribes to God so many names.” Love to God, even in Deuteronomy 10:12, and in a series of other passages in the Pentateuch, is declared to be the sum of the whole law. The manifestations of God’s love are designed to lead to Him; but this aim is not accomplished in all: many embrace the gifts, and forget the Giver—their hearts become colder toward God the more eminent His gifts are. Of Israel it is said in Deuteronomy 15, “But, Israel waxed fat and kicked; he forgot God that made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” In David, however, the manifestations of God’s love to him kindled the flame of a corresponding love, and caused it to burn ever clearer and brighter. רחם , diligere ex intimis visceribus, to love heartily, occurs in Kal only here; Piel could not have been used, for that always marks the tender love of the stronger toward the weaker, compassion. It appears that David made the word for himself, because no existing term was sufficient to express his feeling. The word, “my strength” (חֵ זֶ ק , also ἁ?́?παξ λεγ .), is referred by Luther to that strength “with which a man is clothed from above, and by which he is inwardly strengthened and fortified,—the firmness which braces weak and delicate minds.” This strength, he says, we have not, excepting from God. For when it depends upon ourselves, we are quite weak, in good as well as in bad times, and we melt like wax before the sun. This view would lead to the comparison of 1 Samuel 30:6, “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” But that “my strength” is at least not exclusively, or even pre-eminently, to be referred to internal strengthening, is evident from the following names of God, which all refer to the external aid granted by God, and also from the entire sequel, which treats of actual deliverances, and may be said to be involved in this one word. [Note: This first verse is altogether awanting in 2 Sam. Its internal character bespeaks its genuineness; the judgment of Lengerke, inanis est et frigidus versiculus, is characteristic only of him who uttered it, not of the saying, which was the source of two of our finest hymns (Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dich, O Herr, and Ich will dich lieben meine Stärke). The ἁ?́?π . λεγ . רחם is a further proof of its originality; and also the fact, that the threefold use of the name Jehovah fails in the introduction, if this verse is held to be of later origin. Finally, as an external ground, the name of King Hezekiah, which, in all probability, was derived from this verse. Against the opinion of Hitzig, that the words were dropt in 2 Sam. from negligence, we would say, that such a degree of negligence precisely at the commencement is scarcely to be conceived. But it is quite conclusive that this omission goes hand in hand with the longer addition in ver. 3, which was manifestly designed to supply the place of what was omitted, and which therefore must have been known to the author. If we should attribute to the author of the text in 2 Sam. the design of supplanting our text by the addition, “my Saviour, who savest me from violence,” he would certainly have done very ill. But this was obviously not his design. He only wished to give a variation.]
Ver. 2. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer: my God is my stronghold, in whom I trust; my shield and horn of my salvation, my citadel. The first thing to be considered here is, how the words in the middle, אלי צורי אחסה בו , are to be understood. Generally two names of God are found here, “my God, my Stronghold, in whom I trust.” We, however, render, “my God is my stronghold, in which I trust,” so that only this, the term, “my Stronghold,” belongs to the series of appellatives applied to God. This view is supported, first, by the consideration that the quite general term, “my God,” interrupts the series of appellatives, which all bear a special character. In the second place, that on the other view, in place of the number seven, so significant, and such a favourite with David, and which we the rather expect here, as the number plays so conspicuous a part in the superscription and introduction, the meaningless eight would be found. In the third place, אלי does not form one of the series of the other names of God; as is shown also by the corresponding, “my rock-God, in whom I trust,” in 2 Sam. The author divides the seven names, with which he would praise God, into three parts. The first and the third contain three names; for the intermediate part only one remains. צורי alone would have been too isolated and bald; hence was אלי prefixed, and אחסה בו added. If then we must render, “my God is my rock or stronghold,” it is certain that the whole verse, precisely as Psalms 18:3 (comp. also Psalms 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength”), speaks concerning Jehovah, and that the current exposition, which regards it as containing direct addresses, dependent on the words, “I love Thee,” is to be rejected. So long a series of vocatives also would have something formal and cold about it, and would not accord with the calmness appropriate to an introduction, and which is observed in the two other verses. Our construction was already adopted by the Vulgate.
The designations of God in this verse, as also that in the preceding, “my strength,” contain not only an expression of thankfulness for what is past, but also, at the same time, expression of hope in respect to the future; not the Lord was, but the Lord is my rock, etc. David’s relation to God is a standing one, out of which the future salvation will proceed, just as the past salvation has proceeded. That the designations must be thus understood, is evident, first of all, from the expression in the next verse, “I am delivered,” not, I was. Then it is clear also from the body of the Psalm, which refers not merely to the deliverance already received, but also to the future, inclusive even of that which David was to receive in his posterity. The two first names, and also the last, are taken from the natural features of Palestine, where the precipitous rocks, surrounded by deep ravines, afford protection to the flying: comp. “He sets me up upon a rock,” in Psalms 27:5, for, He delivers me, Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 24:22; 2 Samuel 5:8. David’s predilection for this figurative description of the Divine protection, which shows itself, not merely in the threefold repetition, but also in its forming both the beginning and the end, comprising everything else, appears to have originated in the persecution of Saul. Then he often had to betake himself to rocks for refuge. He grounded the hope of his security, however, not upon their natural inaccessibility, but his mind rose from the corporeal rock to the spiritual, which he beheld under the form of the corporeal. The mode of contemplation, to which he then became familiarized, suggested such figurative designations of God, his deliverer, as his rock, his fastness, his stronghold. Placed upon this rock, he could say: non curo te Caesar, with infinitely better right than he who, according to Augustine, on Psalms 70, from a lofty cliff addressed the Emperor with these words, as he passed beneath. The third designation, “my deliverer,” the only proper one amid others solely figurative, is intended to explain the two first, pointing to their real substance. In the fourth designation, “my mountain, in whom I trust,” it is not the height and inaccessibility, as in the case of the rock, which are considered, but the immoveableness, and unchangeable firmness. It directs attention to the immutability of God, His constancy and inviolable faithfulness. The etymology also suggests this sense; צור properly signifies, not, “rock,” but, “stone.” Such decidedly is its import in the first passage, where it is used as a designation of God, Deuteronomy 32:4. There it is manifestly equivalent to אמונה , “fidelity,” and the meaning, tutissimum asylum, is quite unsuitable. That David borrowed the צור from this passage, which with singular predilection he used for his last words, is evident from Psalms 18:31. Similarly dependent on that original passage, צור is found in Psalms 92:15, “To show that the Lord is upright, my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” The Psalm celebrates God’s love and fidelity, אמונה , Psalms 18:2. צור frequently occurs in close connection with Jehovah, the One who absolutely is, the unchangeable (see my Beitr. Th. II. p. 244 ss.), and especially in Isaiah 26:4. The name in Genesis 49:24, “the stone of Israel,” is analogous. This stone is the touchstone for the interpretation of צור , showing what is the quality in it that comes under consideration. To suppose that this quality here is the inaccessible height, would only be justifiable, if we could take חסה with ב in the sense of “to fly to,” whereas it always signifies “to trust in.” To the trusting exactly corresponds unchangeableness and fidelity.
The epithet, “My shield,” occurred already in Psalms 3:3. In Deuteronomy 33:29, God is named, “the shield of the help of Israel.”
Horn of deliverance, is either equivalent to “delivering horn” (so Luther: It signifies an horn of salvation, because it overcomes the enemies, delivers from the enemies, and gives salvation)—or the literal term ישעי is the explanation of the figurative one קרן , “my deliverance-horn,” q. d. “my horn,” that is, “my deliverance;” His power affords me the deliverance which horns afford to beasts. In any case, the image is taken from beasts which defend themselves with their horns, and in these have the seat of their strength. To the interpretation of others, who take the word in the sense of height, there is the objection, that this signification occurs only in one passage, namely, Isaiah 5:1, and even there it means, not mountain-top, but hill; whereas it is found in a great number of passages in the sense adopted by us, with a reference to beasts, whose strength resides in their horns; comp. for ex. Deuteronomy 33:27; 1 Samuel 2:10; Job 16:15. It is a confirmation also of this view, that the epithet, “my high place,” of the conclusion, may better stand alone than “my shield.” For it only rounds off, and points back to the commencement. In Deuteronomy 33:29, parallel with the “helping shield,” is “the imperious sword,” defence and offence. [Note: In 2 Sam. לו is added מפלטי , my deliverer, which is neither, with Lengerke, to be declared original, nor, with others, to be characterized as wholly to be rejected. It bears the character of the unusual, which distinguishes so many of the variations in 2 Sam. It is found also in Psalms 144:2, a passage grounded upon ours, and cannot therefore be regarded as a corruption of late origin. Of the passages in which Lengerke has sought to find a similar use of the Psalms 27:2; Psalms 31:4, the first has nothing to do with it, and the second is uncertain. Instead of, “my God is my rock,” there is in 2 Sam., “my rock-God,” &אֱ לֹ הֵ י צוּ רִ י , a variation which is shown to be intentional by ver. 47, where the designation, “rock-God,” again occurs. Such a regularity is incompatible with an accidental origin. The solitariness of משגבי is in 2 Sam. relieved by the addition מְ נוּ סִ י , my refuge. Then there is also appended a fuller conclusion: my Redeemer, who redeemest me from violence. It is impossible to account for such an addition by accident. Our text maintains here throughout the character of the ground-text; but considered as a variation, that in 2 Sam. is quite unexceptionable. No one would think of bettering it, if we had it alone.]
Ver. 3. As on the glorious one I call upon the Lord, and from mine enemies I am delivered. The Futs. of the verb are to be taken aoristically, “as often as I call upon Thee, I am delivered;” so that the sentiment refers at once to the past, the present, and the future. Luther: “He would teach us by this, that there is nothing so bad, so great, so mighty, so tedious, which may not be overcome by the power of God, if we only put our trust therein. Likewise, that we have pre-eminent cause to hope that the power of God will be mighty in us, when many great, strong, and continuous evils forcibly press upon us, inasmuch as it is a property of Divine strength to help the little, the feeble, the dejected, not merely amid the evils of punishment, but also of guilt. For what sort of power were God’s, if it could only prevail over punishment, and not also over sin in us? So full is this passage of consolation; because the state of things it contemplates seems to be wholly against nature, and that one must abandon all hope, when not evil merely, but also great, weighty, and long-continued evils break in.” The first clause is translated by many, “I call upon the Lord as one that has been praised,” i.e. “after that I have already praised Him.” So Luther: I will praise the Lord, and call upon: Him. “This doctrine,” says he, “is in tribulation the most noble and truly golden. It is scarcely credible what a powerful assistance such praise of God is in pressing danger. For the moment thou beginnest to praise God, the evil begins to abate, the consoled courage grows, and then follows the calling upon God with confidence. There are people who cry to the Lord, and are not heard, Psalms 18:41. Why this? Because they do not praise the Lord when they cry to Him, but go to Him with reluctance; they have not represented to themselves how sweet the Lord is, but have looked only upon the bitterness. But no one is delivered from evil by simply looking upon his evil, and becoming alarmed at it; he can only do so by overcoming it, clinging to the Lord, and having respect to His goodness. O doubtless a hard counsel! And a rare thing, truly, in the midst of misfortune to conceive of God as sweet, and, worthy of being praised; and when He has removed Himself from us, and is incomprehensible, even then to regard Him more strongly than our present misfortune, which keeps us from regarding Him. Only let any one try it, and endeavour to praise God when he is not in good heart: he will presently experience an alleviation. All other consolation profits not, or profits in a deceitful manner; in other words, is highly injurious.” Though the sense, however, is given here with substantial correctness, yet the view taken of מהלל cannot be grammatically justified. To take “praised,” for, “after that I have praised Him,” is harsh, and everywhere else the word is used in the Psalms as an epithet of God: “praised” glorious, Psalms 48:1, Psalms 96:4, Psalms 113:3, Psalms 145:3, comp. 1 Chronicles 16:25. So must be understood here also. It marks that property of God which David vividly realized to himself in calling upon Him; points out that it is not enough simply to call upon the Lord, comp. Psalms 18:41; but that the full recognition of His glory must be coupled therewith, which only dwells in the heart that has undoubting faith. This it is that distinguishes the prayer of faith from that of the doubter, who prays merely by way of experiment, and dares not hope that he shall receive anything comp. James 1:5. מהלל stands in the accus., comp. Ewald, § 510, c.; and the position at the beginning, which has led many astray, is to be explained from the design of giving emphasis to this word.
After the introduction, there follows now, in Psalms 18:4-19, the first part of the description of the Divine help which David had experienced amid the great necessities and manifold dangers of his life, referring to the period of the persecution under Saul. This is opened in Psalms 18:4 and Psalms 18:5, by a description of the necessity. Then, in Psalms 18:6-19, he sets forth how the words, “I call upon the Lord as the glorious one, and am delivered from mine enemies,” were fulfilled.
Ver. 4. The cords of death compassed me about, and the waters of mischief frightened me. Ver. 5. The cords of hell compassed me about; the snares of death surprised me. The question first of all arises, Of what distress in the life of David does he here speak? The proper answer is, that David here masses all the necessities, of the Sauline period together. This view is favoured by the superscription, which divides all the distresses of David into two great halves,—the Sauline ones, and the others; and also by the relation between the two sections, Psalms 18:4-19, and Psalms 18:28-45, already referred to: in the former, David is delivered by God, without his co-operation; while in the latter, he is represented as at once the instrument and the object of the Divine deliverance. The supposition, that David comprehends all the distresses of his life into one, is discountenanced by the division of the matter into two parts; and the opinion of De Wette and Lengerke, viz. that the Psalmist speaks of one particular danger and deliverance (De Wette is uncertain what, Lengerke thinks of David’s escape from the treachery of the Ziphites), is not suited to the occasion. to the general character of the Psalm; it is based on the supposition, that the Psalmist spoke too largely, without being able to explain why he should have given such prominence to one particular event at the expense of others. Instead of cords, several have, “the pains of death.” חֶ בְ לֵ י , can certainly signify that; but the sense of cords, to which the compassing is also more suitable, is decided for here by מוקשי , parallel to the second חבלי , with which the first must accord in meaning. Death is represented under the image of a hunter, from whom the animal can no longer escape, when the fatal net has been thrown over it. Belial is taken here by many expositors in the sense of “destruction.” The brooks or waters of destruction must be a figurative description of great misfortune, which in a manner overflows a man. But Belial always signifies unprofitableness in a moral sense, worthlessness. In this sense it occurs even in Deuteronomy 13:13, Deuteronomy 15:19. In that sense it was quite familiarly used, especially in David’s time, and is so used in the last words of David, 2 Samuel 23:6, which are so closely related to this Psalm: worthlessness as abstr. pr. concr., or personified. For the signification, “misfortune,” “destruction,” Gesenius produces only, in addition to our passage, Nahum 1:11; where, however, יועץ בליעל is explained by Michaelis, “consiliarius Belial, nequam, diabolicus,” and according to Nahum 2:1, it must be so rendered. If we follow the only certain meaning of the word, as already the LXX. χεί?μαῤ?ῥ?οι ἁ?νομί?ας , then by the brooks of unworthiness, we can only understand, with Muis and others, the unworthy (Saul and his company), who overflow as brooks. This view is supported also by what follows. If Belial is explained by destruction, no clear description of the distress is given at all. One might think, for example, that the Psalmist had been sick unto death. But that is contrary to the conclusion in Psalms 18:17 and Psalms 18:18, where it is clearly intimated, that the troubles proceeded from enemies. In this conclusion there is, further, as good as an express comment on the brooks of Belial. In Psalms 18:17 we find parallel with the preceding words, “He drew me out of many waters,”—which refer to the brooks of Belial,—”He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from my haters, for they were too strong for me.” Also in Psalms 144:7, which is based on the present one, “Deliver me out of many waters, out of the hand of strange children,” the waters are not the image of misfortune, but of its cause, the enemies. The Fut. יבעתוני is to be explained from the lively realization of presence. קום is, “to surprise;” comp. on Psalms 17:13. [Note: In 2 Sam. we have first, at the beginning of ver. 5, כי added. This addition bears the character of an explanation. The כי marks precisely the relation in which the section just begun, stands to the preceding. Luther: “In what precedes he had said and taught, that we must call upon the name of the Lord with praise and love, if we would be delivered from the hand of our enemies; and now, further, he relates that he had done this, and relates his own history as an example of the doctrine which he had taught.” Then, instead of חבלי מות , the cords of death, stands מִ שׁ ְ בּ ְ רֵ י מָ וֶ ת , the waves of death. Thereby the first member is made more conformable to the second, and the repetition is avoided. But we are not to conclude from this, that משברי is the original. If it had been so, certainly no one would have thought of substituting חבלי for it. With the reading חבלי , the two verses are made only too regular. If Belial denotes mischief, then there is the less reason for wishing anything exactly corresponding to the brooks. The repetition of חבלי has an analogy in vers. 12 and 13. The thought of the cords is so peculiarly attractive to the Psalmist, that he involuntarily, as it were, returns to it. Bound, entangled by death, a helpless victim of it, this is the most suitable description of his case; and to this he returns again, after having slightly employed another image, and thus indicated the source of his deadly distress. From all which it is clear, that משברי has only the import of a good variation. The antiquity of the חבלי is also secured by Psalms 116:3. Finally, for סבבוני , the fuller and more sonorous poetic form, there is in 2 Sam. the common סַ בּ ֻ נִ י . The two readings taken together correspond to סבוני גם סבבוני in Psalms 118:11. The סבני in 2 Sam. serves the purpose of pointing to the emphasis in סבבוני here.]
Ver. 6. In my distress I call upon the Lord, and cry to my God; He hears out of His temple my voice, and my cry comes before Him, in His ear. Just as before the distresses had been all comprehended in one great distress, as also again at the commencement of this verse, so here, and in the subsequent context, the manifold Divine hearings and helps are united into a single grand hearing and help. The Futures of the verb are again to be explained from the lively realization of presence. Faith knows no past and no future; what God has done and will do, is present to it. Stier would take צר as the third person Pret. But as צַ ר unquestionably occurs in Job 15:24 as a noun in the sense of distress, we have no occasion to prefer here the more strained exposition, “in the distress to me,” for, “in this my distress.” שוע , stronger than קרא , denotes the cry for help uttered by him who is in the greatest danger and extremity. On the expression, “my God,” Calvin remarks: “In calling God his God, he distinguishes himself from those gross despisers of God and hypocrites, who, indeed, confusedly invocate a heavenly power, when impelled by hard necessity; but neither with a pure heart, nor as on terms of intimacy, draw near to God, of whose fatherly grace they know nothing.” By the temple of God is here indicated His dwelling-place in the heavens, not for the reason adduced by Theodoret, that the earthly temple was then still unbuilt—for היכל is used, as was formerly noticed, also of the tabernacle; and it was only from this being named the dwelling of God, that heaven was also named so—but because, by this exposition, we obtain a finer contrast: the servant far below on the earth cries, and the Lord hears high up in the heavens; nay, the more highly He is enthroned, the better does He hear, the more easily does He help; because the following context represents how God comes down from heaven, in order to help His servant; and lastly, also, because of the parallel passage in Psalms 11:4, “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven.” [Note: In 2 Sam, there is אֶ קְ רָ א , instead of אשוע here. This throws the emphasis upon אלהי , whereas its import does not come out so decidedly with our reading, which, by the increased force of the expression, “I cry,” rather draws attention to the singular intensity of emotion and the greatness of the distress. That it is appropriate thus to distinguish אלהי , and to draw attention to it by employing the same verb, is clear as day. On the ground that Jehovah was David’s God, rested the confidence of his prayer, and, indeed, the whole result reported in the sequel. But that אשוע is the original reading, is manifest from שועתי , by which it is again resumed. The לפניו תבא is awanting in 2 Sam. Our reading has the advantage of picturesqueness and vividness: we see how the prayer with winged speed travels the long way from earth to heaven, comes before God’s throne, and enters into His ear. The reading in 2 Sam., on the other hand, has the advantage of impressive brevity. Both readings stand peacefully beside other, and expositors in vain try to bring them into collision.]
Berleb. Bible: “Has thy God now heard thee, O thou oppressed king; then let us know how it has turned out with thy cry and prayer for redemption.”
Ver. 7. Then the earth shakes and trembles, and the foundations of the mountains move and shake, because He is wroth. The Psalmist’s cry for help has penetrated from the deepest depth to the highest height. It had kindled in his God, who heard him, indignation against those who oppressed His servant; and, before the wrath of the Almighty, the earth heaves in frightful anticipation of the things which are soon to come to pass. “The foundations of the mountains,” for, “their lowest base.” [Note: In 2 Sam. we have, instead of the foundations of the mountains, the foundations of the heavens, מוסדות שמים . Our reading takes into view alone the shaking of the earth, because it is concerned with the judgments of the Lord, which now begin to discover themselves in wrath. On the other hand, the reading in 2 Sam., with the view of marking very strongly the frightfulness of the wrath of the Almighty, represents the whole fabric of the universe as trembling before Him. This could only be regarded as unsuitable if, misunderstanding the whole verse, we should imagine a thunder-storm to be spoken of.]
Ver. 8. Smoke goes up in His nose, and fire out of His mouth devours, coals burn from it. In the whole verse there is a further expansion of the words, חרה לו , prop. “He is inflamed,” with which the preceding verse had closed (Michaelis rightly: ascendit enim), and so the Divine wrath is represented under the image of a fire, just as in Deuteronomy 32:22, Deuteronomy 29:20, “Then the anger of the Lord, and His jealousy, shall smoke against that man;” Psalms 74:1. With the thunder-storm, smoke, and fire, and coals have primarily nothing to do here; this is here only prepared. The nose is named, because it is commonly considered the seat of anger,—the mouth, because it consumes. That אף signifies “nose” (LXX.: ἀ?νέ?βη καπνὸ?ς ἐ?ν ὀ?ρτῆ? αῦ?τοῦ? ; Vulgate: in ira ejus; so also Stier), is clear from the juxtaposition with mouth; and that מפיו is to be rendered by, “out of His mouth,” is clear from its juxtaposition with nose. Quite falsely has the ascension of smoke in the nose been connected with the observation, that furious beasts, such as horses, lions, snort dreadfully; and then Stier finds occasion, in the “unpolished, nay, monstrous nature of the image,” for adopting his false exposition. Smoke has nothing to do with snorting; it is only the inseparable accompaniment of fire. The relation of the two to each other is discovered in Exodus 19:18, “And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire.” To the nose is attributed the fire of the Divine anger, in its smoking aspect, simply because, in its burning, consuming aspect, it is best attributed to the mouth. The word devours stands purposely without an object, and we must not supply the enemies. It is the burning power only which is here considered. The whole scene in Psalms 18:7 and Psalms 18:8 still belongs to the heavens. By the coals we are not to understand lightning. This is only the later product (comp. Psalms 18:12) of the glow of fire and wrath, here first kindled. The suffix in ממנו refers to the mouth. “Coals burn out of it,” is not equivalent to “burning coals go forth out of it,” but to, “the flame of burning coals bursts forth from it,” as out of a burning oven, תנור אש , Genesis 15.
The second point comes now: the expression of the anger, whose growth had been described in the preceding verses. The wrath which was kindled in the heavens makes itself felt upon the earth, which had called it forth, and embodies itself in a storm upon the heads of the wicked, whose destruction is at the same time the deliverance of the servant of the Lord.
Ver. 9. He bowed the heavens and came down, and darkness was under His feet. He, God, as burning fire. The heavens appear to let themselves down in a storm. Luther: “When there is a clear heaven, the clouds are high; but when a storm comes, one might fancy them pushing against the roof.” There seems to be some allusion to this here. However, as is justly remarked by Stier, the words, “He bowed,” are in themselves a fit introduction to the strong expression, “He came down.” He appeals to Isaiah 63:19. It is a proof of the living nature of faith, when, in times of judgment and help, one sees not merely the working of a God far removed, but Himself in bodily manifestation. What is to be understood by the darkness, we may best learn from Exodus 19:16, “And there were thunders, and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the Mount;” and Deuteronomy 5:22, “All these words spake the Lord unto all your assembly in the Mount, out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness,” הערפל . The Lord approaches, marching upon the black thunder-clouds. These are, to His enemies, an indication of His anger, and a proclamation of His judgment. Michaelis: “That the wicked might not perceive His serene countenance, but only the terrible signs of His severe anger, and of His punishment.”
Ver. 10. He rode upon, the cherub and did fly, and He flew upon the wings of the wind. “The cherub,” remarks Baehr , Symbolik, Th. p. 341, who, of recent authors, has given the most correct and profound investigation of the nature of the cherub, and with which my remarks on Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 154 ss., may be compared, as supplementary of his,—“The cherub is a being which stands on the highest pinnacle of created life, and combines in itself the most perfect kinds of creaturely life, is the most complete manifestation of God, and of the Divine life. It is an image of the creature in its highest form, an ideal creature. The powers of life, divided amongst the creatures that occupy the highest place in the visible creation, are in it combined and individualized.” The cherub is a personification of creation. When the Lord is represented as throned on the cherub, as in the sanctuary, or as riding upon it, as in this place and in Ezekiel, it signifies that creation belongs to and serves Him, that He is the God and Lord of the whole earth, its Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler. When He comes to judgment, woe to those on earth who have awakened His anger. In the passage, Psalms 104:3, which is based on the one before us, the clouds are substituted for the cherub: “Who makes the clouds His chariot.” That the appearance of the Lord must not be measured with an earthly measure, that He comes in the majesty of the Lord of the whole creation, not in human weakness,—to this also the second clause refers: “He flew upon the wings of the wind.” [Note: For וידא , “He flew, hovered,” there is in 2 Sam. וַ יּ ֵ רָ א , “and He appeared;” the appearing of God, in contrast to His concealment in the heavens. Quite fruitless are the efforts made to represent this reading as unsuitable; it offers rather a pleasant variation. As דאה frequently occurs, Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22, the reading cannot be explained with Hitzig, from the offence which was taken at the rarer form.]
Ver. 11. He makes darkness His covering, round about Him in His tent, dark waters, thick clouds. This verse is related to the last words of ver. precisely as Psalms 18:8 is to the last words of Psalms 18:7. It further expands the words, “darkness was under His feet,” for the purpose of introducing, at Psalms 18:12, the description of the lightning thunder, and hail, which broke forth from these dark tempest-clouds. The abbrev. Fut. ישת is used poetically with the meaning of the usual Fut. Thunder-clouds are designated, just as here, the tent of God, in Job 36:29, comp. also Psalms 97:2, “Clouds and darkness are round about Him.” Calvin: “When God covers the heavens with darkness, He in a manner prevents men from beholding Him, as when a king, displeased with his people, withdraws and hides himself.” To “dark waters,” and “thick clouds,” we must supply: “He makes His tent.” Dark waters are a designation of thunder-clouds. עבי שחקים , prop. “clouds of cloud,” equivalent to “the most dense clouds,” such as are not scattered, but form, one entire cloud. שחקים denotes clouds more as a whole, compacted together; hence it never occurs in the singular as bf and stands for the clouds of the entire heaven. There is a corresponding phrase in Exodus 19:9, עַ ב הֶ עָ נָ ן , thick clouds. Gesenius improperly takes bf, in both places, in the sense of darkness. [Note: In 2 Sam. סתרו is awanting, and for סכתו stands סֻ כּ וֹ ת . An intentional abbreviation. For חשכת stands the ἁ?́?παξ λεγ . חַ שׁ ְ רַ ת , according to the Arabic, gathering. The rare and select חסרת is poetical in its form; the חשכת , water-darkness, for dark rain-clouds, is the same in its import.]
Ver. 12. From the brightness before Him His clouds passed, hailstones and coals of fire, The storm of the Divine anger discharges itself. Amid. frightful thunder ( Psalms 18:13), from the sea of fire, with which the Lord in His indignation is encompassed (comp. Psalms 18:8), there shoot forth lightnings, dividing the clouds, and hailstones pour down,—the weapons with which the Lord fights against His own and the Psalmist’s enemies, as heretofore against the Egyptians, Exodus 9:24, comp. Ps. 88:47, 48, and the Canaanites at Bethhoron, Joshua 10:11. The deep floods under which the Psalmist lies buried, disperse themselves under God’s almighty hand, until the earth is laid open in its inmost recesses, even to the chambers of the dead, and God’s hand reaches into the deep abyss, the yawning jaws of hell, and lays hold of His servant. The first clause was quite correctly expounded by Luther: “It is a description of lightning. When He pleases, He rends the clouds asunder, and darts forth a flash, such as the clouds cannot restrain; it breaks through just as if there were no clouds there. As we see that the whole heaven, as it were, opens when there is lightning.” In the second clause, the verb cannot be supplied from the first—עבר does not suit. “Hailstones and coals of fire” stands rather as an exclamation, referring to the frightful nature of the unexpected manifestation. Lengerke, whom De Wette follows, expounds: “From the brightness before Him went forth His clouds, hailstones, and coals of fire;” the latter being taken as explanatory: but עבר does does not mean “to go forth;” and the clouds, which may not be identified with lightning and hail, do not proceed from the brightness, but cover it. [Note: In 2 Sam. it runs merely: out of the brightness before Him &גּ ַ חֲ לֵ י־אֵ שׁ בּ ָ עֲ רוּ? , coals of fire burned. It is there more distinctly brought out, that these coals of fire are the effect of the brightness. The variation cannot be accounted for by accident, it is too great; and there are also analog. var. in the superscription and ver. 6.]
Ver. 13. And the Lord thundered in the heaven, and the Highest gave His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. In Exodus 9:23 it is said, “The Lord gave voices and hail, and the fire ran upon the earth.” The comparison with this ground-passage shows, that the words, “hailstones, etc.,” are still dependent on יתן , and at the same time confutes those who, following the LXX., would set aside “the hailstones and coals of fire” as spurious, and as interpolated from the preceding verse. The repetition is the more in its place, as the coals of fire, or the lightning and the hail, are the very things by which the enemies of the Psalmist were annihilated,—the rest were but the circumstantials which rendered the scene of annihilation more frightful. [Note: In 2 Sam., instead of, “in the heaven,” there is, “from the heaven,” it. Both are equally good. Hitzig maintains, that בשמים is to be rejected, especially since, ver. 9, Jehovah is no longer in the heaven. But the Lord is perpetually there; even when he comes down, God is still said to be in heaven. Comp. Genesis 11:7, where the Lord, after He had already come clown, ver. 6, says, “Go to, We will go down,” etc.; Genesis 18:21, where the Lord says, at the time He was walking upon the earth, “I will go down;” and John 3:13, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of Man that is in heaven,” where the Son of God is said to have been in heaven at the very time of His sojourning on earth. In 2 Sam. there are also awanting the words, “hailstones and coals of fire.” The hail, therefore, altogether fails in 2 Sam. The destruction of the enemies is accomplished merely by lightning. This constancy argues against those who would derive the variations from accident. So also the fact, that the recension in 2 Sam. remains uniform in its predilection for abbreviations. The text in Psalms 18 is proved to be the original by its closer approximation to the original passage in Exodus 9.]
Ver. 14. And He sent out His arrows, and scattered them; much lightning, and discomfited them. The Lord is represented under the image of a warrior who comes to the help of David. The arrows which He sends upon them, are the lightnings and the hail. The former are alone named in the second clause, as being the most destructive weapons. The suff. here also require us to understand by the brooks of Belial, in Psalms 18:4, the enemies. For no other designation of them had been given before. רָ ב , the pausal-form for רַ ב , is either an adverb, enough, comp. Genesis 45:28; Exodus 9:28; Numbers 16:3; Numbers 16:7; Deuteronomy 1:6; or, we may also render, “so that there is much of them,” comp. coll., multum, for multi, Exodus 19:21; 1 Samuel 14:6; Numbers 26:54. The latter exposition, according to which a comma is to be supplied before רב , quorum multum erat, is the simplest. There is a corresponding expression, “from my enemy, strong,” in Psalms 18:17. It shows a strong predilection for strained expositions to drag in here the verb רבב , “to shoot arrows,” which occurs only in Genesis 49:23: “He hurls forth lightnings.” On the ויהמם , “and He discomfited, confounded them,” Exodus 14:24 is to be comp.: “And God troubled (confounded), ויהם , the host of the Egyptians,”—the more so, as there also it was effected by lightning. Further, Exodus 23:27, “I will confound all thine enemies, against whom thou shalt come, and give all thine enemies against thee to the neck;” which passage the Psalmist also, in Psalms 18:40, considers as a prophecy, that had now met with its fulfilment. [Note: In 2 Sam. for, “His arrows,” there is simply חִ צִ רם ; for “lightnings many,” the simple בּ ָ רָ ק ; for, “He discomfited them,” merely, “He discomfited.” All these variations have sprung from the disposition to impart an elevated character, by abbreviating the discourse. The author of Psalms 144 had, in ver. 6, at once ברק in 2 Sam. and חציו of our Psalm in his eye.]
Ver. 15. Then were seen the brooks of waters, and discovered the foundations of the earth, before Thy rebuke, O Lord, before the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils. The signification channel as regards אפיק is quite uncertain: in Isaiah 8:7, “And he (Euphrates) goes over all his brooks,” i.e. “overflows all his canals,” the common signification is perfectly suitable, as also in Ezekiel 32:6, comp. Ezekiel 31:12. מים here is against that signification. The brooks are in a manner invisible, so long as their waters are not divided, and not discovered even to their lowest bottom, in which the Psalmist lies buried. The becoming visible of their lowest depths, refers to the brooks of mischief, in which the Psalmist, according to Psalms 18:4, lay sunk; comp. Psalms 144:6, “Deliver me out of many waters, out of the hand of strange children;” on the other hand, the laying open of the inmost parts of the earth, even to the cords of sheol, with which he was bound, Psalms 18:5. In the preceding verse, it was the vanquishing of the enemies; here, and in the following verses, it is the deliverance of the Psalmist from their hands, and from the misery which they had prepared for him. The nose here also is employed as the seat of anger. [Note: Instead of מים , we have in 2 Sam. יָ ם . In 2 Sam the enemies appear wider the stronger image of sea-brooks. Then instead of &מגערתך בּ ְ גַ עֲ רַ ת , and for &אפך אַ פּ וֹ? . The address to Jehovah is laid aside, in accordance with the preceding and subsequent context, where Jehovah is spoken of in the third person. The reading in 2 Sam. has the advantage of uniformity, the other of liveliness.]
Ver. 16. He sends from above, takes me, draws me out of many waters. ישלח stands absolutely in Psalms 57:3, as here, In Psalms 144:7, the object, “His hand,” omitted here, as being sufficiently indicated by the words, “He took me,” is expressly mentioned. That the many waters are an image of the enemies, is evident from the explanation in Psalms 18:17. That there is a reference to Exodus 2:10, “And she called his name Moses, and said, Because I drew him out of the water,”—that David marks himself as the second Moses, is clear, especially from the use of משה , which occurs nowhere else but here, and in that original passage. Luther already called attention to this reference. It is the more important, as Moses was a type of the Israelitish people; the waters, an image of the hostile oppression, in consequence of which Moses was exposed; and the event, a prophecy constantly fulfilling itself anew under similar circumstances.
Ver. 17. He delivers me from my enemy, strong, and from my haters, because they are too powerful. The discourse, as Ewald remarks, passes on more quietly to a simpler representation, after the exhaustion of the great image. That by the enemy is to be understood, not an individual, but an ideal person, who was most completely represented by the individual Saul, appears from the parallel, “my haters.” The strong properly forms an entire period, i.q. “who was strong.” This also appears from the corresponding words, “because they are too powerful,” in the second clause, which rest on the supposition, that our weakness necessitates the Lord to employ His almightiness in our behalf.
Ver. 18. They surprised me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my stay. The words, “in the day of my calamity,”—as Amalek surprised Israel on the way, “when he was faint and weary,” Deuteronomy 25:18,—are explained by facts, such as are recorded in 1 Samuel 24, where David, helplessly wandering about, and feeling like a dead dog or a flea, 1 Samuel 24:15, is pursued by Saul with three thousand men, and finds himself in the back part of the cave, in whose entrance Saul took up his abode. [Note: Instead of למשענ , there is in 2 Sam. משען . Excellently Schultens: hoc est elegantius, illud vero simplicius. The use of ל in such cases is certainly the common custom.]
Ver. 19. And He brought me into a large place; He delivered me, for He delighted in me, the righteous, comp. Psalms 18:20-27; while, on the other hand, mine enemies, by their malice, have drawn on them His wrath. [Note: In 2 Sam. &וַ יּ צֵ א למרחב אֹ תִ י אתי brings out the me more pointedly, quite suitably to the context: here, “He brought me into a large place;” there, “He brought into a large place, me.” אתי belongs not merely to prose, but also to poetry, though certainly rarer in it; see Ew., p. 593.]
There follow, in Psalms 18:20-27, as a further expansion of the last words of the verse, the grounds which moved God to deliver David in so glorious a manner, set forth with the design, not that the prophecy contained in this fact should be appropriated by those to whom it did not belong, but of bringing the Church of God to the conviction, that righteousness is the only path of salvation. The arrangement of the section is as follows:
The Psalmist first sets forth the thesis, that his salvation was the fruit of his righteousness. Then he goes on to prove this thesis in Psalms 18:21-23, by showing that he actually possessed righteousness. He next repeats the principle, as proved in Psalms 18:24, with the view of connecting therewith a general declaration in Psalms 18:25-27, in accordance with the didactive and admonitory design, which he pursues throughout the whole section, in order to show how, in what was peculiar to himself, there was realized a general law; so that every one possessing righteousness is sure of salvation, while none without righteousness can comfort himself with the hope of it.
Ver. 20. The Lord rewards me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands He recompenses me. In order to set aside the least appearance of arbitrariness or partial favour, and to show that what happened to himself was grounded on the eternal laws of the Divine government, David points to that as existing in himself, which, according to the faithful word of God, as already declared in the law of Moses in a multitude of passages, but most expressly in Deuteronomy 28, forms the indispensable condition of every exercise of Divine help. Amid all the infirmities common to men, they still fall into two great divisions, between which an immense gulf is fixed, the wicked and the righteous; and only the prayer of the latter can be heard. The reproach of self-righteousness, we must not, with Calvin, endeavour to meet by the remark, that David had a peculiar reason here for insisting on the righteousness of his endeavours, in the manifold calumnies which were circulated against him, whose injurious consequences affected not his person merely, but the whole Church and cause of God; nor with Muis, by the remark, that David attributes to himself righteousness here, rather with respect to his enemies, than in reference to God; nor yet with Geier, that he laid claim, not to righteousness of person, but to righteousness of cause. The legitimate removal of the objection rests upon the three following remarks: 1. Righteousness forms a contrast, not to infirmity, but to wickedness. 2. David owed this only to his faithful and inward adherence to God, who kept His servant from wickedness, that it might not reign over him. In both respects, this Psalm, as well as Psalms 17, is necessarily supplemented by Psalms 19, which, not without reason and design, immediately follows. 3. Finally, the reason why David here so insists on his righteousness, is not a vain bepraising of self, but the design of enlivening within himself and others, zeal for the fulfilment of the law. The reproach of self-righteousness, were it just here, might also be brought against a multitude of assertions in Christian songs. Quite analogous, for ex., in the fine song of Anton Ulrich: Nun tret’ Ich wieder aus der Ruh, is the stanza: “Thus my heart is refreshed, when I feel myself enclosed by the guardian care of the Highest; still, in order to be assured of this, I must live free from sin, and walk in the way of God. My God will never go my way, unless I go His way. [Note: For כצדקי in 2 Sam. כּ ְ צִ דְ קָ תִ י . That the difference is not accidental, appears from ver. 25, where the same variation again occurs. But it affects not the essence of the idea צדק is, “the being righteous,” and צדקה “righteousness.”]
Ver. 21. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and was not evil against my God. שמר , “to observe, keep,” stands opposed to the reckless conduct of the ungodly. This becomes quite clear from the corresponding expression in next verse, “all His judgments were before me,” also Psalms 17:4. מאלהי , prop. from my God: in that I turn myself away in vile ingratitude from Him who is the guardian of my life. For wickedness, as Luther remarks, is a departing and turning away from God. Calvin: “The word which he employs denotes, not a single transgression, but apostasy, which entirely alienates man from God. But though David, through infirmity of flesh, had sometimes fallen, yet never did he give up piety of life, or abandon the warfare committed to him.”
Ver. 22. But all His judgments were before me, and His commandments I do not put away from me. כי corresponds to our but. To institute the one contrast, involves the negation of the other. Whoever has all the commands of God before his eyes=observes the ways of God, he cannot be evil from his God. [Note: In 2 Sam. לֹ א אָ סוּ ר מִ מּ ֶ נּ ָ ה , I depart not therefrom. Ven.: rotundior et facilior constructio in Ps. The reading in 2 Sam. is closely related to that in Deut., comp. 5:29, 17:11.]
Ver. 23. And I was blameless toward Him, and kept myself from mine iniquity. With the first member is to be compared Genesis 17:1, Deuteronomy 18:13, and the Divine testimony for David in 1 Kings 14:8, “My servant David, who kept My commandments, and who followed Me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in Mine eyes;” and 1 Kings 15:5, “David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him, all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” By the עמו , prop. with Him, David, in the opinion of some, opposes himself to the hypocrites, who succeed in appearing before men as unblameable. But that the expression is rather equivalent to, toward Him (comp. 1 Kings 11:4, “His heart was not upright with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father”), appears, 1. From the corresponding לוֹ? in 2 Samuel , 2. By a comparison of Psalms 18:25-26,—grounds which are equally conclusive against the exposition of Venema, “adhering to Him, remaining with Him.” By the words, “from my guilt,” i.q. “from the guilt into which I may so readily fall,” to which I am so exposed, David shows that he is not a spotless saint, but a sinner, who had to take care by watchfulness and conflict that his indwelling corruption did not regain dominion over him, and entangle him in guilt. He who was born in sin, Psalms 51:6, must call sin his all his life long, and be continually on his guard against it. Compare Psalms 17:4, where David characterized sinful doing as the doing of man. To suppose, with De Wette and others, that the expression means, that iniquity might not be mine, that I might not contract guilt, is groundless, as the simpler exposition affords so beautiful a sense, and one so nearly allied to other declarations of David. Much light is thrown on the words, from my sin, by the narrative in 1 Samuel 24. David’s cutting off the skirt of Saul’s robe is to be regarded as the first step on the path to murder. This is clear from the connection in which it stands with the speeches of David’s companions urging the killing of Saul, with which the act in question is immediately connected, and from 1 Samuel 24:5, which can only be explained on this supposition, “And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” We see here how near the guilt lay to him, but, at the same time, how he kept himself from it. At the first step in the course of sin, he starts back, and expels from his heart, with abhorrence, the evil thoughts that arose in it. Certainly the Psalmist had here, as also in the preceding verses, his conduct toward Saul pre-eminently before his eyes; to whom he said in 1 Samuel 26:23-24: “ The Lord renders to every man his righteousness, and his faithfulness; for the Lord delivered thee into my hand to-day, but I would not stretch forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed. And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.” What he there confidently hopes for on the ground of his righteousness, that he here describes as accorded to him on the same ground. [Note: In 2 Sam. לו is used for עמו—valuable explanation, as the false renderings of עמו show. Then we find there the forms וָ אֶ הְ רֶ ה and וָ אֶ שׁ ְ תּ ַ מּ ְ רָ ה . The form with He occurs in the Fut. with v. conv. in the Day. Psalms, comp. 3:6, 7:4.]
Ver. 24. Thus the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands before His eyes. The Psalmist returns, according to the plan already announced, to the proposition laid down in the introduction, in order to connect therewith the following general statements. [Note: In 2 Sam. stands here, as in ver. 21, כצדקתי . We find צדקה likewise in 1 Samuel 26:23, in David’s mouth. For, “according to the cleanness or my hands,” there is merely in 2 Sam., “according to my cleanness,” כּ ְ בֹ רי . It also would not have been placed there, if the more common כבר ידי had not been used before in ver. 21. It is justified by the נָ בָ ר in ver. 27, to which it forms the transition.]
Ver. 25 Toward the pious Thou art pious, toward the upright Thou art upright: Ver. 26. Toward the pure Thou art pure, and toward the perverse Thou art perverse. The transition here from the particular to the general, equivalent to, “for so Thou dost always act,” shows why David laid so much stress on the particular; that he had therein a didactic purpose in view, spoke of himself, not from vain self-conceit, but rather self-denyingly,—had in view, not his own honour, but God’s honour, and his neighbour’s edification. The expression has something peculiar, which vanishes, however, as soon as it is perceived that the Psalmist here, in order to express as pointedly as possible the thought, that God regulates His procedure toward men exactly according to men’s procedure toward Him, so describes the conduct of God toward the wicked, as it would appear apart from the abnormal relation in which they had placed themselves toward Him. That which, considered in itself, would be unloving, impure, perverse, appears, when done by way of reprisals towards the unloving, impure, perverse, as alone worthy of God, as the necessary outflow of His holiness: that which, considered in itself, seems perverse, is the only right. But to the sinner, who lacks the sense of sin and its damnableness, the conduct of God; which is determined by sin, and is justified thereby, appears really unloving, impure, and perverse. He imagines God to be a hard, envious, and malignant tyrant and despot. Against such an imagination the whole of the (Deuteronomy 32) 32d ch. of Deut. is directed. A similar mode of speech prevails in Leviticus 26:23-24, “If ye will walk perversely toward Me, then will I also walk perversely toward you.” The גּ ְ בַ ר is the rarer poetical form for גּ ֶ בֶ ר . The Hithpael of all the four verbs seems to have been first formed by David expressly for the purpose of painting, in the most vivid colours, the Divine jus talionis. The Hithp. of ברר , is found only once elsewhere, in Daniel 12:10, and of the three other verbs nowhere else. [Note: In 2 Sam., instead of גּ ְ בַ ר stands גּ ִ בּ וֹ ר which is as little to be rejected, as it is original. גבור means only hero, and the other significations are to be derived from this, according to the pattern in Isaiah 5:22, “Woe to the heroes in drinking wine.” The expression, “a hero, unblameable,” denotes either one who excels in unblameableness, or better, it indicates that heroic power belongs to unblameableness, equivalent to, “with the unpunishable man, who is to be esteemed as a hero, who is a hero in the spiritual sphere”—comp. in ver. 23: from mine iniquity. Further, there are in 2 Sam. the two forms תּ ִ תּ ָ בַ ר and תּ ִ תּ ַ פּ ַ ל . These forms, of which the last in particular can with difficulty be justified grammatically, are formed on account of euphony and similarity of sound, the first with reference to נָ בָ ר , the second on account of similarity of sound to תּ ִ תּ ָ בַ ר . If one reflects, that the Hithpael of these verbs does not occur elsewhere, that the formation itself was undertaken in the interest of the context, and that every uncertainty was thereby removed from the existing original text, one will be inclined to defend these readings from the attacks which some recent critics have brought against them.]
Ver. 27. For Thou helpest the poor people, and the lofty eyes Thou bringest down. The reason implied in for consists only in the further enlargement. עני which always, and without exception, consequently also here, means poor, not humble, meek, is more exactly defined by the preceding context (Muis: “whom he had before called holy, innocent, clean, he now names afflicted, intimating that it is almost the destiny of the pious in this life to be afflicted with innumerable evils”) and by the contrast, though it necessarily involves this meaning in itself, inasmuch as only the righteous are, in the strict sense, sufferers; comp, the illustration in the introd. to Psalms 6—עמ , “people,” characterizes the עניים as a society, as an exclusive class of men, which stands opposed to another class just as exclusive. The lowering of the lofty eves denotes the humiliation of the proud, who exalt themselves superciliously above all, and, despising the Divine law, tread their neighbours under their feet. The general sentiment of our text is best exemplified by the relation of David and Saul, which was the particular case on which the general declaration is here based. [Note: In 2 Sam. stands first, and Thou deliverest, instead of for Thou. As כי is only an explication, there was no way of avoiding its frequent repetition, recurring as it does at the beginning of ver. 29 and ver. 30, but by substituting the mere copulative ו which is important for the exposition of the כי . Instead of simple עם there is in 2 Sam. את־עם . The את draws attention to the fact, that even without the article the word must have a determinate sense, comp. Ewald, § 524; the article being only left out poetically. The second member runs in 2 Sam. &וְ אֵ ינֶ יךָ עַ ל־רָ מִ ים תּ ַ שׁ ְ פּ ִ יל , “and Thine eyes are against the high, that Thou mayest bring them down;” comp. Isaiah 2:12, “For the day of the Lord of Hosts is upon everything that is high, רם , that it may be brought low, ושפל ;” also ver. 17. Here again in 2 Sam., the more select expression is employed. Lengerke and Hitzig explain, “Thine eyes Thou lettest down against proud men.” But the deviations in 2 Sam. are only variations, having the same radical sense,—a circumstance which decidedly contradicts the accidental origin of the differences; then the expression, “to make low the eyes,” never occurs as a description of displeasure. Psalms 113:6, to which Lengerke refers, has nothing to do with this; nor also Jeremiah 3:12, Job 36:27, which Hitzig appeals to.]
We come now to the second great representation of the Divine grace and help, reaching from Psalms 18:28-45. This is connected with the preceding by for. David had described his deliverance from the hand of Saul as the consequence of his righteousness, and then, rising from the particular to the general, had laid down the principle, that righteousness is always the ground of salvation. Here he descends from the general to the particular, confirms the general principle from his own experience, and shows how its truth had been manifested in the help already received, and would still further be shown in that which the Divine promise made him sure of still further receiving. In regard to the Divine favour, which David celebrates in this section, a twofold view presents itself. According to the one, the whole representation refers merely to the past; according to the other, to the past, present, and future alike: David is supposed to glorify the grace which, without including the deliverance from the hand of Saul, spoken of in the preceding section, he had already in part received, and which, in part, the Divine promise gave him reason to expect, not only in his own person, but also in his posterity. The last view is the only correct one. It is supported, 1. By the almost uniform use of the Future in this representation, designative, according to this view, of continued action; whereas this use cannot be explained on the other view. 2. אֶ רְ דּ ְ פָ ה , “I will pursue,” in 2 Sam. 2 Samuel 22:38, which must at once be considered erroneous on the supposition that the whole representation has respect only to the past. 3. The express declaration of David at the close of the whole in 2 Samuel 22:50, which alone might suffice, affirming the object of his praise to be the favours which God manifests to David and to his seed for ever. There was the more reason for David’s uniting the future with the past, as he possessed, in reference to it, a sure word of promise, which rendered the future salvation just as certain as the past. If we take this promise into account, and the deep impression which it had made upon the mind of David, we shall feel it to have been impossible for him to have wholly confined himself in this general song of thanksgiving to the past. The joyful confidence regarding the fulfilment of the promises made by the Lord towards his house, David gives utterance to besides, in 2 Samuel 23:5, in his last words. Nathan, in his address to David in 2 Samuel 7, connects both together, the past salvation and the future, the salvation of the person himself and that of his seed: comp. 2 Samuel 7:9, “And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name;” 2 Samuel 7:12, “And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, and I will establish his kingdom.” How deep root this announcement of the future salvation struck into the mind of David, appears from 2 Samuel 7:18-19, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God; but Thou hast spoken also of Thy servant’s house for a great while to come;” 2 Samuel 7:25, “And now, O Lord God, the word that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as Thou hast said;” 2 Samuel 7:28-29, “And now,” etc. By holding fast the right view in regard to the object of the representation, it follows also, that it unfolds a Messianic element. If it respects David and his seed for evermore, it can find its complete truth only in Christ.
Ver. 28. For Thou snakest my lamp clear; the Lord my God makes my darkness light. The shining of the lamp is an image of prosperity, just as its extinguishment is an image of misfortune; comp. Job 18:5-6, “The light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine. The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his lamp shall be put upon him;” Job 21:17. The Lord had enlightened David’s darkness; raised him from the state of inferiority, contempt, and misery, in which he was, especially during the days of Saul, to, high honour and great prosperity; and the Lord will further also enlighten David’s darkness, by causing to shine upon him and his seed, amid every season of darkness and distress, the light of His salvation. [Note: In 2 Sam. the verse runs, “For Thou art my light, O Lord; and the Lord makes my darkness light.” The admissibility of אַ תּ ָ ה נֵ ירִ י doubted by Hitzig and others, shines out still more clearly than in Psalms 27:1, Job 29:3, from 2 Samuel 21:17, where David is named the lamp or light of Israel. His people say to him, “Thou shalt no more go out with us to battle, that thou quench not the lamp of Israel.” Probably these words occasioned the variation in 2 Sam. David gives God the glory which they had ascribed to him. If he is Israel’s lamp, it can only be by God being his.]
Ver. 29. For in Thee do I rush upon troops, and in my God I spring over walls. Luther: “In confidence on Thee I am terrified at no assault, contend against all kinds of enemies, leap over all walls, and whatever else is opposed to me; that is, I, who in myself am weak, shall be invincible in Thee; and as Paul boasts in Php_4:13 , “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” and in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “God be thanked, who always maketh us to triumph in Christ.” The ב in both cases retains its common signification, in David was not in himself, but in God, from whose fulness he drew power and salvation. The רוץ “to run,” is, as a verb of motion, construed with the accus.
Ver. 30. The God, whose way is perfect: the word of the Lord is purified; He is a buckler to all who trust in Him. The האל is in appos. with אלהי in the preceding verse. The Psalmist describes more exactly what sort of God his God is. Taking it as nomin. absol., the article remains inexplicable. In the second clause, the connection with the preceding verse is then given up. But the whole of the verse stands in the closest connection therewith. What is here said of God, explains and grounds the expressions there, in Thee, and in my God; the God whose way, etc., equivalent to, “for He is a God,” etc., very different from the idol-gods, who feed their votaries with wind and ashes; comp. 2 Samuel 7:22, “For there is none like Thee, neither is there any God besides Thee.” By the word of the Lord, is here specially to be understood His promises. On the expression purified, comp. Psalms 12:6.
Ver. 31. For who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, besides our God? The for refers to the subject of the whole preceding verse, “The way of Jehovah, our God, is blameless;” He abides by what He has spoken, supports His own, for He is the only true God, the one ground of salvation. Upon this also, that Jehovah is exclusively God, David grounds his confidence in 2 Samuel 7. For צור , comp. on Psalms 18:2.
Ver. 32. The God, who girds me with power, and makes my way perfect. A return is here made to the path which was left in Psalms 18:30-31, with a very close allusion, however, to what immediately precedes. האל stands in appos. to אלהינו , “besides our God, the God, who, etc.” That the Lord alone is God and a rock, David confirms by the fact, that He has manifested Himself as such in His dealings. To be girded with power, is simply equivalent to being furnished with power. Verbs of clothing are frequently used in the sense of allotting. As תמים is always used in a moral sense, we must not understand by the way of the Psalmist, that in which he goes, but only that in which he is led, his leading. It is favoured also by Psalms 18:30, where the word is likewise used in a moral sense, and refers to God, and by the original passage, Deuteronomy 32:4, “The rock, perfect is His work.” [Note: In 2 Sam., the first clause runs חָ אֵ ל מָ עוּ זִ י חָ יִ ל , “the God who is my strong fortress.” Before חיל a comma is to be supplied, precisely as אז מחסי in Psalms 71:7. We are not to imagine, with Lengerke, a stat. constr. interrupted by a suff. The מעוז occurs precisely as in Psalms 27:1, “The Lord is the fortress of my life,” Psalms 31:4. Hitzig objects to this reading its “meaningless generality;” but it is not more general than the other, and, as a variation, certainly excellent. The second clause is וַ יּ ַ תּ ֵ ר תּ ָ מִ ים דּ ַ רְ כּ וֹ? , “and the upright He leads his way,” is his leader and guide. נתר תור , which in Proverbs 12:26 occurs in the sense of to lead, comp. Umbreit in loc. The suff. in דרכו is, on account of the following רגליו , to be referred to the blameless, perfect. The Kri דּ ַ רְ כּ ִ י rests on a misunderstanding.]
Ver. 33. Who makes my feet like hinds, and places me upon my heights. משוה , like מלמד in the next verse, connects itself with האל , “our God, who girds me, who makes me like;” who teaches. Like the hinds, that is, as to their feet. That hinds, and not stags, are here mentioned, must have a real or a supposed foundation in nature. They must be regarded as the fleeter. For, that the word denotes both sexes; is incorrect. In Egyptian paintings also; the hind is the image of fleetness. Many, as De Wette, conceive that the discourse here is of speed in flight. But this is against the connection—the words, “who maketh like hinds, etc.,” occupy a middle position between equipment with strength and instruction in war—against the parallelism, and against the parallel passages: 2 Samuel 2:18, “And Asahel was light of foot as one of the gazelles that is in the field, and he pursued, etc.;” and 1 Chronicles 12:8, where it is said of those who came out of the tribe of Gad to David, that their look was like that of lions, and their swiftness of foot like the gazelles on the mountains. A figurative element lies in what is said here of fleetness, which becomes quite obvious when we take it along with the last clause, and compare it also with the dependent passage, Habakkuk 3:19. David points to the quick and unrestrained course of his conquests, just as already in Psalms 18:29, the words, “I spring over walls,” do not refer simply to David’s personal deeds, but to what he did also by his army. In the second clause, the heights are the hostile positions, which David in the strength of the Lord surmounts. He names these heights his in faith; because he has the Lord for his helper, he considers them all beforehand as his possession, none are insurmountable. That we are not, with De Wette and others, to understand by the heights, places of refuge, is clear, not only from the context and parallelism, but also from the original passages in Deuteronomy 32:13, “He made him ride upon the high places of the earth,” and Deuteronomy 33:29, “thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places,” in which, not secure flight, but resistless victory is spoken of, as it is also in the passage, Habakkuk 3:19, which is based on our verse, “The Lord is my strength, and He makes my feet like the hind’s, and He leads me on my high places.” [Note: The רגליו , “his feet,” in 2 Sam., has been occasioned by the discourse concerning the blameless or perfect being in the third person.]
Ver. 34. Who teaches my hands in the war, and a brazen bow is drawn by my arms. That this verse also has in some measure a figurative character, that the particular comes into consideration less as such than as an individualization, and in order to render palpable the ground-idea, namely, the invincible strength, which the Psalmist receives from God, to resist all attacks of the enemies and gain the victory over them, appears from the partial reference to the race. The N. T. parallel passage is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. The “not after the flesh,” and “not fleshly,” there, are not peculiar to the Apostle, but belong also to David. The external conflict with the enemies of God’s kingdom is not in itself fleshly, but becomes so only through the spirit in which it is conducted, just as a spiritual conflict is not necessarily spiritual, but only is so when it is fought with divine weapons, with the power which the Lord imparts. Luther justly finds in this verse the promise, that an “unwearied and invincible power to overcome all adversaries is given to those preachers who are taught of God Himself.” Such a promise is implied, not merely in so far as what is said of one believer holds good regarding all, but also more directly inasmuch as David speaks here not of himself alone, but of his whole race, which is perfected in Christ; so that everything he says refers in the highest and fullest sense to Christ and His kingdom and servants. The form נחתה is Pi. from נהת “to descend,” “to make to descend”=to constrain, to stretch, bend, because in the stretching the cord is brought down. The fem. of the sing. is to be explained by this, that the arms here are treated as abstr.; comp. Ewald, p. 629. Also the sing. of the masc. in 2 Sam., וְ נִ חַ ת , presents no difficulty, as the verb precedes. Brass was often used in antiquity for making weapons. The arms of the Egyptians in particular were entirely made of brass. To draw a bow of brass is a proof of the greatest strength.
Ver. 35. Thou givest me the shield of Thy salvation, and Thy right hand holds me up, and Thy lowliness makes me great. The shield of salvation is the shield which consists in salvation. ענוה does not signify here simply goodness, as many expositors suppose. Derived from ענה , to be low—in this sense, certainly of outward lowness, the verb occurs in Psalms 116:10; Isaiah 25:5,—it denotes, first, humility, then the meekness and gentleness which spring from humility. The idea of lowliness predominates in Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 22:12; the idea of meekness, which, however, is always to be considered as proceeding from humility or lowliness, in Zephaniah 2:3; Psalms 45:4. Here the idea of lowliness is the predominant one. This is proved by the contrast with greatness, and the parallel passage 2 Samuel 7:18, “Who am I, Jehovah, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?” What our Lord says of Himself, “Come to Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart,” may equally be said of Jehovah. He also condescends to the lowly, to men at large, and to those who are poorest among them; comp. Psalms 8, where, after the description of God’s infinite majesty, follows, “What is man, that Thou thinkest of him, and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” and Isaiah 66:1-2, where the Lord, who has heaven for His throne, and earth for His footstool, is spoken of as looking down on the poor and contrite in spirit. But that we may become partakers in the manifestations of this humility and condescension of God, it is necessary that we be, not externally merely, but also internally, lowly,—that we feel ourselves to be poor and needy. To any others it would be a profanation of His dignity. But the lowly His lowliness makes great. That this qualification was possessed by David, is evident from this, that he derives all that God had done for him out of his lowliness. Luther remarks: “Who then are we, that we should either fancy or undertake to defend the truth and overcome the adversaries, or should feel indignant if we do not succeed therein? It proceeds from the Divine meekness (lowliness) and grace, if we are held up and honoured, not from our designing and undertaking; so that the whole glory remains with God.” [Note: In 2 Sam. “and Thy right hand holds me up” is awanting. This is done out of the uniform predilection for impressive brevity. For “Thy lowliness” the infin. is used, עֲ נֹ תְ ךָ? , “Thy being lowly,”
Hitzig’s exposition, “Thy hearing,” gives, according to his own remark, “a very unpleasant and improbable sense,”—which is the more select, as in the words, “O my Lord Jesus, Thy being near,” is more poetical than, “Thy nearness.”]
Ver. 36. Thou makest space under me to go, and my ankles fail not. Thou makest long my step, etc. One takes small steps, when many stumbling-blocks and hindrances are in the way. [Note: For תחתי there is in 2 Sam. תּ ַ חְ תּ ֵ נִ י . The difference cannot be accidental, as the latter is repeated in vers. 40 and 48. In this case also the reading in 2 Sam. is the more select, 1. Because of the rare singular suf. with תחת , see Ew. p. 501; and, 2. Because of the insertion of נ , ib. p. 506.]
Ver. 37. I pursue my enemies and overtake them, and turn not again till I have consumed them. David’s kingdom was, is, and shall be for ever a victorious kingdom. Any temporal limitation also of this declaration is inadmissible, as David’s celebration of the Divine grace cannot be narrower than this grace itself, partly already bestowed on him, and partly held in promise, which found its culminating point in Christ. That under Christ the form of conflict and victory is predominantly, although by no means exclusively different, makes no essential distinction; enough, that David also in Him conquers and constantly will conquer. Luther: “And this has happened, and still happens, in all the victories of God’s people, when at the beginning of the contest the enemies seemed to be superior and invincible; but when once the onset is fairly made, it is strengthened, and the enemies flee and are slain; and then the Church remits not to follow up the victory that has been won, until all the enemies are consumed.” [Note: The אֶ רְ דּ ְ פָ ה in 2 Sam., which can only mean, I will pursue, could only be rejected on the erroneous supposition that the whole description referred to the past, and it is valuable as a sort of finger-post for the right understanding. For, “and I overtake them,” 2 Sam. has “and I extirpate them.” In our Psalm there is a progression in the thought; in 2 Sam., on the contrary, the parallelism is simply a synonym. That in Exodus 15:9; Psalms 7:5, the overtaking is also coupled with the pursuing, may be a strong proof in favour of the originality of this form, although it does not in the slightest imply the incorrectness of the other text.]
Ver. 38. I dash them in pieces, and they cannot rise up again; they fall under my feet. [Note: In 2 Sam. there is at the beginning, וָ אֲ כַ לֵ ם ; Mich. rightly: consumam inquam eos; and instead of, “they cannot stand up,” “they do not stand up,” לֹ א יְ קוּ מוּ ן . The expression, “I extirpate them,” indicates that this verse is an extension of the thought, “till they are extirpated,” in the preceding, and implying that the extirpation was seriously intended. Of an accidental origin we cannot think, as, whilst something is added, something also is thrown away. The words, “they stand not up,” are to be explained from the predilection for impressive brevity.] Ver. 39. A nd Thou girdest me with strength to the battle, Thou bowest mine adversaries under me. Calvin remarks, that it might seem as if David gave too military an air to the whole representation, as if he gave to his human passions too much space, and forgot the mildness which should shine forth in all believers, in order that they may be like their heavenly Father. But the matter becomes quite different, if David is viewed not as a private individual,—as such he shrunk from shedding a single drop of blood,—but in reference to his Divine calling and his Divine office. As king he has his sacred obligations to pursue the stiff-necked and obstinate enemies of God and of His people with unrelenting strictness, and with the power given him by God, and to spare only the penitent—just as Christ, his great antitype, while He tenderly calls all to repentance, at the same time shivers with His iron sceptre such as obstinately resist Him to the last. He then shows how every one, even he who is not properly called to fight for the kingdom of God against external enemies, has to apply this representation to his edification and strengthening in the faith: “As the victories of David are common to us, it follows that an insuperable aid is promised to us against all the assaults of the devil, all the snares of sin, and all the temptations of the flesh. While, therefore, Christ obtains His peaceful kingdom only through war, it is matter of certainty to us, that God’s hand will be always ready for his support. But we must at the same time learn here, with what arms we must fight according to the will of God, with those alone which He gives us.” [Note: In 2 Sam. וַ תּ ַ זְ רֵ נִ י , with the omission of א , the rarer, and hence more poetic form.]
Ver. 40. Thou puttest me mine enemies to flight, and my haters I extirpate. The first clause we must either render, “thou hast given them to me so, that they are only necks to me, must turn the back toward me,” or, “in respect to the neck,” so that ערף determines more precisely in what respect the enemies of David were delivered up to him. The former exposition is supported by the original passage, Exodus 23:27, “And I will give all thine enemies to thee as necks.” The Psalmist recognises in his own case the fulfilment of the promise which the Lord there gave to His people. [Note: In 2 Sam., for נתתה there is the rare form תּ ַ תּ ָ ה . The ו is awanting before משנאי , and is placed instead before the last word, “my haters,” whom I extirpate,—more poetical and impressive than the simple, “my haters, I extirpate them;” comp. Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 9:4; Daniel 8:25.]
Ver. 41. They cry, but there is no helper: to the Lord, but He does not hear them. על is employed, because Jehovah is, as it were, the substratum of the crying, the person upon whom the crying rests; comp. 1 Samuel 1:10, “She prayed על יהוה ,” Ewald, p. 531. The words, “to the Lord,” add to the general, the particular which best promised help, equivalent to, “they cry in vain even when their cry is addressed, not to false gods, but to Jehovah,” to whom even the heathens in their last extremities knew to turn, Jonah 2:14, or at least might possibly turn. The reason why even Jehovah would not hear, is, that the particular prayer had not its justification in the general relation toward God, which alone could make it acceptable; that the persons addressing it are without the covenant and the promises, are the enemies of God, who cannot pray to Him in true faith, but only by way of venture. That which was the ground of David’s prayer being heard, excluded theirs from the privilege. [Note: In 2 Sam., instead of ישועו , “they cry,” we have יִ שׁ ְ עוּ? , “they look out.” The rarer and more select שעה , is used precisely thus in Isaiah 17:7, “In that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the God of Israel.” For על the explanatory אל is substituted.]
Ver. 42. I crush them as dust before the wind; as the dirt of the streets I pour them out. As the dust before the wind is not crushed, but carried away, and the enemies are not carried away, but crushed, we gain nothing by arbitrarily inserting such words as, scattering, or carrying away. The sense, therefore, is, “so that they resemble the dust;” to crush them is as easy as for the wind to drive before it the dust. The sense is, “to crush is only a sort of pastime to me.” Exactly analogous are the comparisons in Job 38:30, “The waters disappear like a stone;” Job 30:14; Zephaniah 1:17. The like holds good also of the second member. As the dirt of the street is not poured out, but trodden down, the expression, “as dirt of the street,” can only mean, “they resemble the dirt of the street, in respect, namely, to the contemptuous treatment which they suffer.” This is always the point of comparison which is aimed at in such a use of the dirt of the street: Isaiah 10:6; Zechariah 10:5. In the expression, “I pour them out,” there is at bottom a second image, that of unclean water,—equivalent to, “I have as little respect for them, I use as little ceremony with them as with the offscourings which one treads upon, filthy water which one pours out.” In these words, also, there is praise given to the grace of God, who strengthens the Psalmist so completely to bumble the enemies, that he can treat them in such a manner. [Note: In 2 Sam. the comparison stands otherwise, in both members. There we have a fully expressed one, while here it is merely indicated. For, “dust before the wind,” stands, “dust of the earth,” because this is the object of crushing. Comp. עפר ארץ in this sense, though denied by Hitzig, in Genesis 13:16; Genesis 28:14; Exodus 8:12-13; Isaiah 40:12; Amos 2:7. For, “I pour them out,” stands אֲ דִ קּ ֵ ם , “I make them thin or small,” because the dirt of the street is the object, not of pouring out, but of treading to pieces. (Against Hitzig: רקק , signifies in Hiph. not “to crush, to rub to pieces,” but everywhere, “to make thin, small;” also the dirt of the street, or street-filth, is not to be thought of as necessarily fluid.) As this אדקם for אריקם cannot possibly be accidental, we may certainly infer design in the other deviations which consist only in the substitution of particular letters nearly related to the others in form or in sound. The judgment of that man is not assuredly to be envied, who would attempt to explain the whole of the ingenious alterations in both members by accident. The stronger word, אֶ רֳ קעֵ ם , “I stamp upon them,” is added to אדקם , in 2 Sam., and that, too, without connection, as the character of the entire recension would lead us to expect.]
Ver. 43. Thou deliverest me from the enmities of the people: Thou settest me at the head of the heathen; a people, whom I know not, serve me. By the people in the first clause, is indicated here the great multitude of enemies, in opposition to individuals. That the first member refers to the domestic adversaries of David (Saul and Absalom, with their adherents), is evident, not only from the words, “my people,” in 2 Sam., but even from ריב , which relates rather to disputes than to wars; comp. Psalms 35:1; 1 Samuel 25:39. In the whole of the second part, too, which refers to his heathen adversaries, he does not speak of deliverance from them, but of their being conquered and destroyed. On the contrary, when domestic enemies are spoken of, the idea is principally that of deliverance; comp. Psalms 18:16-19. Deliverance from the enmity of his own people is brought into notice here chiefly as a foundation and preparation for the supremacy over the heathen. This appears clearly in 2 Sam., in the words, “Thou keepest me for the head of the heathen.” The whole context also shows it. Both before and after, and, indeed, generally in the second part, the discourse is of the heathen. That in the expression, “a people whom I know not, serves me,” which is of increased force, the word knowing is to be taken emphatically, equivalent to, “such as I have had no nearer relation to,”—as, for example, the king of Hamath, 2 Sam. 8:10,—appears from the next verse. As David, according to Psalms 18:50, speaks not merely of the kindnesses which were shown to himself personally, but of those also which were to be shown to his posterity, various expositors, such as Calvin, have justly remarked, that the complete fulfilment of this and the next verse is to be sought in Christ. [Note: In 2 Sam. stands עַ מּ ִ י , my people, instead of עם , a deviation of an explanatory character, the more valuable, as many expositors, such as Lengerke and De Wette, who disdained its help, have made mistakes. For, “Thou settest me,” there is the more select phrase, “Thou keepest me,” תּ ִ שׁ ְ מְ רֵ נִ י—another example of a change adhering closely in form to the original text, which cannot be explained from accident,—which brings more distinctly into view the connection between the second clause and the first. Hitzig “Out of these Jehovah delivered him,” in order to preserve him for a future leader of peoples.]
Ver. 44. Those who heard by the hearing of the ear became mine: the sons of the stranger play the hypocrite to me. De Wette remarks, that “from this point the Futs. appear to have the force of the Present.” But if they have it from this, they must also have it throughout the whole section. For there is nothing to justify us in supposing a change to take place just here. The first member is commonly expounded, “on hearing, on the mere report, they obey me.” But this exposition is alto gether inadmissible: שמע in Niph. can only signify “to be heard,” not, “to be made to hear,”—and this cannot stand for, “to obey.” In the sense of “to be heard,” Niphal is also everywhere used. Afore objectionable still is another exposition, “on what their ear heard, on the mere word, they obey me.” For it takes not only ישמעו , but also לשמע אזן , contrary to the common usage. עמע , “hearing”=what one hears, the heard, stands both with and without אזן specially of that, which one receives through hearsay, through report; comp. for ex. Job 42:5, where לשמע אזן , in the sense of hearing merely through report, is opposed to seeing,—uncertain and fluctuating knowledge, to clear and determinate. The variation in 2 Sam. also is against both interpretations. One must either translate as we have done above, or, “they, the people who serve me, are heard of me by the hearing of the ear,
I know of them merely by report.” The paral. is by the latter rendering only apparently lost. For, “by the hearing of the ear, etc.,” is from the connection as much as, “there serve me those, etc.” The first of these expositions, both which are in essential agreement, is more favoured by the text in 2 Sam. The expression, “they feign to me,” is equivalent to, “far distant people, of whom I hitherto have known only through hearsay, testify to me their subjection, from fear, in the most humble terms, although they hate me in heart, and would fain shake off, my yoke.” Such an external and constrained obedience,—just on account of its bearing this character, the power which God manifested in behalf of David is made more conspicuous; for how great must this be, when the fear it awakened overcame the strongest aversion!—is denoted by כחש in the original passage, Deuteronomy 33:29, “And Thine enemies shall feign to Thee,” to which David here refers, as having met with its fulfilment in him; comp. also Psalms 66:3, Psalms 81:15. [Note: In 2 Sam.: “The sons of the stranger feign to me, who, through the hearing of the ear, were heard of by me.” The sense is made clearer by the inversion. By placing “the sons of the stranger” in the front, it is intimated that what follows, “who through the hearing, etc.,” is a mere description of them. The לִ שׁ מוֹ עַ? , inf. used instead of the less obvious noun, has also the character of an explanation. How necessary this explanatory style is in the variation, appears from the fact, that those who have not availed themselves of the key offered by it have quite failed to discover the true meaning. But our text is shown to be the original and main text, by the circumstance that the words, “who through the hearing,” etc., are immediately joined to the others, “a people that I know not,” the בנינכר being placed nearer to the next verse, in which it is again resumed.]
Ver. 45. The sons of the stranger fade away, and tremble out of their castles. For the ἁ?́?παξ λεγ . חרג—in Chald. חרגא , “terror”—we have in Mich. 7:17, רגז , “to shake,” in a precisely similar connection. [Note: In 2 Sam. וְ יַ הְ גּ ְ רוּ? , “they gird themselves,” namely, for going forth. Hitzig expounds according to the Syriac “they limp out of their castles.” But it is quite unjustifiable to take a word of such common use in the Hebrew in a signification so peculiar. The girding for departure, Exodus 12:11, and especially 2 Kings 4:29. As a variation, the reading is quite good, but certainly that in our text is the original one.]
In the closing verses, which now begin, the subject of the whole is recapitulated.
Ver. 46. Living is the Lord, and praised be my rock, and exalted is my salvation-God. That the threefold praise of God here, has respect to the Mosaic blessing, we remarked before. The words, “living Jehovah,” can either be explained, “living is,” or, “living be Jehovah.” Recent expositors mostly follow the latter rendering: they conceive that the usual acclamation to the king is here transferred to God. But as the expression, “may he live,” presupposes the possibility of dying, and is always used in reference to mortals, such a transference is scarcely to be thought of; the formula for kings is a different one, יחי המלךְ? , 1 Samuel 10:24; 2 Samuel 16:16; 1 Kings 1:25; 2 Kings 11:12; and finally, what of itself is enough to decide the matter, חי יהוה is familiar as a form of oath, and in that use always means, “living is the Lord.” These passages are regulative for the exposition of the present one, the only one where the expression occurs not as an oath. The ground derived from the analogy of the following doxologies is without significance. The expression, “living is the Lord,” is also doxology, and accords with what follows. Compare 1 Timothy 6:16, “who alone has immortality.” To praise God, means nothing else than to ascribe to Him the glorious perfections which He possesses; for we can only give to Him what is His own. The exalted also is a mere declaration, “He is,” not, “let Him be, exalted.” If it were a wish, then the verb would have been the Fut. apoc. The Lord is named living in contrast with the dead idols, who can do nothing, leave their own without support, given up to destruction. That David was living, exalted, and blessed, showed that his God was also living, exalted, and to be blessed. He is Himself the living proof of His vitality, exaltedness, and title to be praised. [Note: In 2 Sam. we have, for my salvation-God, the rock-God of my salvation, i.e. the rock-like God, who procures me salvation. Comp. the expression,my rock-God, in ver. 2. The interpolated צוּ ר is used, like so many other deviations in 2 Sam., for the purpose of strengthening.]
Ver. 47. The God, who gives me vengeance, and constrains peoples under me. This and the following verse sum up in brief what had been set forth in detail in Psalms 18:4-19 and Psalms 18:28-45, and direct attention to the ground of the praise of God in the preceding verse, to the facts which prove Him to be living, exalted, and worthy to be praised. It is as if this verse had begun with a for. Revenge is justly sweet to David, because he does not take it for himself, but God takes it through him. Where the individual is the representative of right appointed by God, it would be sinful not to seek revenge, not to withstand the violation of right, not to strive, that injustice may recoil on the head of those who commit and not to rejoice when this takes place. [Note: In 2 Sam. for וידבר , with the view of making plain, וּ מוֹ רִ יד , and brings down. The הדביר in the sense of, “to drive,” only elsewhere in Psalms 47:3.]
Ver. 48. Who deliverest me from my enemies; Thou also liftest me up from my adversaries, from the man of violence Thou deliverest me. As in the second clause there is no positive indication either in the verb or in the noun of a climax, אף cannot be used to denote increased force, but, as very commonly in the Psalms of David, simply for the purpose of connecting and adding; and the and in 2 Sam. approves itself as the right exposition. If we seek for an increase of force in the noun, then קמי causes us perplexity; if we seek it in the verb, we are again perplexed by the words, “Thou deliverest me,” in the third clause. The expression, “Thou liftest me up from my adversaries,” is constr.: exaltas me, hostibus mein ereptum. The man of violence is primarily an ideal person, as “the strong enemy,” in Psalms 18:17; comp. Psalms 140:1, Psalms 140:4. Still the reference to the superscription shows that the Psalmist had Saul specially in view. [Note: In 2 Sam. stands, instead of מפלטי , the more select מוֹ צִ יאִ י , pointing to ver. 19. Further, instead of איש חםס there is the stronger phrase איש חמסים , which also occurs in Psalms 140:1; Psalms 140:4.]
Ver. 49. Therefore will I praise Thee among the heathen, O Lord, and sing praises to Thy name. The mention of the heathen indicates, that the mercies experienced by David were too great for the praise of them to be confined within the narrow bounds of Palestine. He can only have a proper auditory in the nations of the whole earth. Paul brings forward, in Romans 15:9, among the Old Testament passages which show that salvation was appointed also for the heathen, this verse, in connection with the similar passage, Deuteronomy 32:43, “Rejoice, ye heathen, (rejoice) His people,” i. q. with His people, Psalms 117:1. These passages are quite adapted to prove what they are intended to prove. If the heathen are interested in that which Jehovah does in Israel, if they also belong to the auditory to which His great deeds are to be made known, then God must be the God not merely of the Jews, but also of the heathen, and consequently must make Himself known as such through the offer of His salvation. Our verse and the similar passages decidedly oppose that wretched particularism which Paul combats. The variations in 2 Sam. are unimportant.
Ver. 50. Who gives great salvation to His king, and does good to His anointed, to David and his seed for evermore. Who gives great, is equivalent to, “ for He gives great.” The pl. ישועות points to the rich fulness of the salvation. The Epexegesis to משיחו is not merely לדוד , but לדוד ולזראו . There is an evident reference to 2 Samuel 7:12-16, where it was promised, that God would show favour to the seed of David even to eternity; זרע חסד , and אד עולם , all occur there again. By this reference, and by the necessity for a guide to the meaning of Psalms 18:28-45, the words, “to David and his seed for evermore,” are justified as genuine, though they have been objected to by some who fail to understand the description. Elsewhere too David has interwoven his name in his song and prayer; comp. 2 Samuel 7:20, 2 Samuel 7:26, 2 Samuel 23:1. Similar to our Psalm is Psalms 89, where likewise the favours of the Lord to the seed of David, both past and future, are celebrated; comp. also Psalms 21. These Psalms are distinguished from those which may more strictly be called Messianic, Psalms 2, Psalms 45, Psalms 72, Psalms 72, only by this, that in the latter the Messiah exclusively is brought into view, while here He is presented to our notice only as a member of the seed of David.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 18". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20