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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 18

Verse 1

I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.

The time was the close of David's life. (2 Samuel 22:1-51; 2 Samuel 23:1-39.) The varied form in 2 Samuel 22:1-51, which omits the words "to the chief Musician," was subsequent to the form here, which was for liturgical use in the sanctuary. The psalm is 'a great Hallelujah, with which David retires from the theater of life,' praising God for all past deliverances. Compare with the title, Moses' song, Deuteronomy 31:30; also Exodus 15:1.

The servant of the Lord - a title of dignity, not mere humility (Psalms 18:50). David was the first after Moses and Joshua specially so called, having 'for the good of his own generation served the will of God' (Acts 13:36, Greek).

Delivered ... from ... all his enemies, and ... Saul. In the case of Saul he was but a private man assailed by a powerful king: hence, in Psalms 18:4-19 he appears as passive, drawn out of the floods of his strong enemy's hostility by the Almighty. But in his deliverance from later enemies (Psalms 18:28-45), he appears as an active and triumphant warrior.

Psalms 18:1-50.-The theme (Psalms 18:1-3); his earlier distresses, and deliverance, in answer to his cry, by the Almighty (Psalms 18:4-19); the ground of his being heard, his righteousness (Psalms 18:20-27); the aid which God gave him against foreign foes when he had become king, and would still give (Psalms 18:28-45) conclusion, renewed praise for God's past grace, and His promised grace to David's seed forever (Psalms 18:46-50).

I will love thee, O Lord - Hebrew, love with intense affection [ raacham (H7355), to love from the inmost bowels: a word made by David, as no existing term was strong enough to express his feeling (Jeremiah 31:20); splangchnizomai (G4697), from splangchna (G4698)]. The love of God experienced so richly by David generated in him an intense reciprocal love toward God.

My strength - who suppliest me with both external and internal strength. Compare 1 Samuel 30:6, end.

Verse 2

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

My God, my strength - Hebrew, 'my strong rock' [ tsuwriy (H6697)], expressing immovable firmness: implying the immutable faithfulness of God. Compare Psalms 31:1-24, derived from Deuteronomy 32:4. See Genesis 49:24; Isaiah 26:4, margin, in 2 Samuel 22:3; 2 Samuel 22:47, 'my rock-God.' Distinct from "my strength" (Psalms 18:1) [ chizqiy (H2391)] and my rock, implying height and inaccessibility [ calª`iy (H5553)] (Psalms 18:2). The natural state of Palestine, abounding in rocks, which David often betook himself to when fleeing from Saul, suggested the figure.

The horn of my salvation - His power affords me defense, just as the beast whose chief strength lies in its horns depends on them for safety from its foes.

Verse 3

I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, [ mªhulaal (H1984)] - literally, 'the praised Lord.'

Verses 4-5

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

The sorrows ... the sorrows - rather, 'the cords ... the cords,' as the parallel word, "the snares" (Psalms 18:5), requires.

Of death prevented - surprised or overtook me. Death or hell (Hades) is pictured as a hunter, from whose net-cords the animal cannot escape. Compare Acts 2:2,

The floods of ungodly men - Hebrew, 'of Belial.' See Deuteronomy 13:13; 2 Samuel 23:6; Matthew 1:11, margin. Saul is especially referred to: see Psalms 18:16-17. Belial means primarily worthless [from bªliy (H1097), not, and yaa`al (H3276), to be of use]: so the wicked one.

Verse 6

In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God - "I cried" implies a sense of more imminent danger, than "I called." "My God." implies not the mere cry of nature, such as even the ungodly utter in pain, but the cry of filial confidence to God as HIS Father.

He heard my voice out of his temple - i:e., out of heaven. His exaltation there does not lift Him above the reach of our cry, but enables Him the more effectually to 'come down' for our relief (cf. Psalms 18:9).

Verse 7

Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

Then the earth shook and trembled ... because he was wroth - with my persecutors.

Verse 8

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils - an expansion of Psalms 18:7, "He was wroth." The imagery is from Deuteronomy 32:22; Deuteronomy 29:20. The nostrils are in Hebrew conception the seat of anger.

Fire out of his mouth devoured - the fire and its accompanying smoke metaphorically express the heat of God's anger.

Coals were kindled by it or 'from it' - i:e., from His mouth. The "coals" in Psalms 18:12 are distinct from those here. Here they mean the wrath of Yahweh kindled: there they mean the lightnings which result from this wrath.

Verse 9

He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

He bowed the heavens also, and came down. The wrath of which the kindling in heaven has been described is now seen descending upon the earth as a storm upon the wicked enemies of David. He bowed the heavens also and came down - (Isaiah 64:1.) In a storm the clouds descend. Faith sees in this sign God Himself, who had so long seemed far off from His suffering servant, drawing nigh for the confounding of all enemies.

And darkness was under his feet - `the Lord approaches, marching upon the dark thunder-clouds' [ `ªraapel (H6205)] (Hengstenberg).

Verse 10

And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

He rode upon a cherub - see note, Ezekiel 1:6. The cherubim are "the chariot" of God (1 Chronicles 28:18); they probably represent the ruling powers which are the administrators of His government and providence, both in the natural and the moral world. In the tabernacle, with their faces toward the ark, they guard the covenant which it symbolized. Being the two supporters of the ark on which the divine Shekinah glory rested between them (like the supporters of a shield in heraldry), they occupied so subordinate a place as to cause no risk of being made objects of worship). The cherub combined in itself the highest kinds of creaturely life. Thus, God here, riding upon the cherub, implies that He comes in all His majesty as Lord of all creation.

Verse 11

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

He made darkness his secret place. This verse expands (Psalms 18:9) "darkness was under His feet."

His pavillion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds. From these dark watery and thick clouds broke forth the thunder, lightning, and hail which David proceeds to describe (Psalms 18:12-14). See Job 36:29; Psalms 97:2.

Thick clouds - literally, clouds of clouds [ `aabeey (H5645) shªchaaqiym (H7834). The former occurs only in the plural, and therefore stands for the clouds of the entire heaven (Hengstenberg), the upper and rarer clouds of the ether (Bustorf). The latter implies denser clouds, from `uwb (H5743), to be thick].

Verse 12

At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed - i:e., these were dissipated on every side to make way for His lightnings.

Hail stones and coals of fire. The Lord uses the same weapons against David's enemies as he had used against the Egyptians (Exodus 9:24; Psalms 78:47-48); and against the Canaanites at Beth-horon (Joshua 10:11).

Verse 13

The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

The Lord also thundered ... and the Highest gave his voice - drawn from Exodus 9:23; Hebrew, 'the Lord gave voices and hail, and the fire ran upon the earth.'

Verse 14

Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

And he shot out lightnings - rather, 'and much [ raab (H7227)] lightnings.' [Not from raabab (H7232), to shoot arrows, Genesis 49:23 ].

And discomfited them. Compare Exodus 14:24; Exodus 23:27, Hebrew.

Verse 15

Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

In the previous verses the enemy's overthrow was described; in this and the following verses is described the Psalmist's deliverance.

Then the channels of waters were seen ... (the channels below had been hidden, in which I lay as it were buried in "the floods" (Psalms 18:4 ), until) the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord. Compare Psalms 144:6-7.

Verse 16

He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

He drew me out of many waters - like a second Moses, whose name (meaning drawn out) is from the Hebrew; used here for "He drew me" [ yamªsheeniy (H4871), a word which occurs nowhere else] (Exodus 2:10). Moses was a type of Israel and the Church: the waters typify hostile oppression; cf. Psalms 18:17, which explains "many waters" by "my strong enemy." Thus, the history of Moses was 'a prophecy constantly realizing itself anew under similar circumstances' (Hengstenberg).

Verse 17

He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

He delivered me ... for they were too strong for me. The power of the enemy overmatching believers is what necessitates the Lord to put forth His omnipotence in our behalf.

Verse 18

They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.

They prevented me - i:e., surprised me.

In the day of my calamity. Saul, with 3,000 men, encamped at the mouth of the very cave in the sides of which David and his handful of men remained (1 Samuel 24:3): it was then that David called himself (Psalms 18:14) "a dead dog ... a flea."

Verse 19

He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

He delivered me, because he delighted in me - on the ground of the righteousness in me, which forms the subject of the next part (Psalms 18:20-27).

The section Psalms 18:20-27 expands the last words of Psalms 18:19, "He delighted in me." Herein salvation is set forth as inseparable from righteousness: everyone that hath the righteousness of a sincere walk with God by faith has a sure warrant for salvation; none without this righteousness has a well-grounded hope of it.

Verse 20

The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteouness. It was from no arbitrary favouritism, but on the eternal law of His government, that God vindicated me. Compare Deuteronomy 28:1-68. The charge of self-righteousness cannot be brought against David; because the righteousness which he claims is not that which is free from infirmity (Psalms 19:12-13), but the righteousness of sincere striving by faith after holiness, as contrasted with wickedness and hypocrisy. His aim, too, is, not to praise self, but to magnify righteousness as the way to deliverance, in answer to prayer.

Verse 21

For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

For I ... have not wickedly departed from my God - literally, 'I was not evil from my God.' All wickedness is vile ingratitude in departing from our Greatest Benefactor. David, though he had in particular cases, through infirmity, grievously departed from God, yet had not departed in the sense of entirely renouncing his spiritual walk with God.

Verse 22

For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

For all his judgments were before me. So long as one keeps these before his eyes, he is safe from utter apostasy (Psalms 119:176).

Verse 23

I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

I was also upright before him - literally, with Him (Genesis 17:1; Deuteronomy 18:13). See God's own testimony to David (1 Kings 14:8) "My servant David kept my commandments, and followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes;" also 15:5.

And I kept myself from mine iniquity - i:e., from the iniquity to which I am liable. Herein he shows himself as not perfectly righteous, but a believer needing watchfulness and prayer to keep down his natural corruption (cf. note, Psalms 17:4). See an instance of his going to the verge of sin against his enemy Saul, but shrinking back from it in time (1 Samuel 24:4-7; also 26:23-24, which compare with Psalms 18:20 here). 'What he there hopes for on the ground of his righteousness, that he here marks as granted to him on the same ground' (Hengstenberg).

Verse 24

Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness - reverting to the same principle of God's dealings as was set forth in Psalms 18:20: this principle he proceeds to set forth in detail.

Verse 25

With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful. David brings forward his case, not for self-glorification, but for the edification of the Church, to illustrate the universal principle of God's dealings self-glorification, but for the edification of the Church, to illustrate the universal principle of God's dealings [ chaaciyd (H2623)]: benign.

With an upright man - literally, 'with an upright hero [ gªbar (H1399)] thou wilt show thyself upright.' To the godly alone belongs true hero-power.

Verse 26

With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

And with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward - not that God is really so; but to the froward God seems so. Compare the words of the unprofitable servant, "Lord, I knew thee, that thou art an hard man" (Matthew 25:24; and Luke 19:21-22). What regarded by itself would seem perverse ("froward"), becomes altogether right, and the only thing worthy of the holiness of God, when viewed in relation to the sinner's perversitity. God's procedure toward men exactly accords with their procedure toward Him. See Leviticus 26:23-24; also Deuteronomy 32:1-52 throughout.

Verse 27

For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.

For thou wilt save the afflicted people - those whom he had before called 'merciful (benignant), upright, and pure,' he now calls "the afflicted people," for the ordinary characteristic of the godly in this life is to be afflicted (2 Timothy 3:12). They are described as a "people" - i:e., a class by themselves, as contra-distinguished from unbelievers. As the godly are an afflicted people, so the ungodly are men of high looks.

Verses 28-45

For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

Here follows the fourth section of the psalm. The aid which God had given the Psalmist against foreign enemies, after he had been established on the throne, and which God would hereafter also give. That the view of God's grace to David is not restricted to the past, but extends to the future, and to his posterity to all generations, is proved by Psalms 18:50, "He showeth mercy to His anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore." How deep was the impression that God's promise respecting the establishment of David's seed in the kingdom forever, had made on David's mind, is seen in 2 Samuel 7:9; 2 Samuel 7:12; 2 Samuel 7:18-19; 2 Samuel 7:25; 2 Samuel 7:29; 2 Samuel 23:5. Thus the psalm finds its full realization only in Christ. David above his enemies, once so haughty.

Verse 43. Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the pagan. 'The people's strivings' are the intestine troubles caused by Absalom in Israel (cf. Psalms 35:1). His deliverance from the strivings of domestic foes was the preparation for the headships given him by conquest over the pagan. This fact is marked in 2 Samuel 22:44, "Thou hast kept me to be head of the pagan."

A people whom I have not known shall serve me. Even distant peoples, with whom David had been brought into no close connection, voluntarily submitted to him (cf. 2 Samuel 8:9-12). But the language is framed so as mainly to point beyond David to his Antitype, Messiah, in whom alone the prophecy has its exhaustive fulfillment (Psalms 22:30; Isaiah 55:3-5).

Verse 44. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me. Hengstenberg says that in the Hebrew Niphal the only true signification is, 'Who, through the hearing of the ear, are heard to me' - i:e., are heard of by me. But the Chaldaic, Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic support the English version. At the mere report of my victorious prowess (as opposed to seeing, Job 42:5), without waiting for my approach in person, they hearken, in obedient submission.

The strangers shall submit themselves unto me - Hebrew, 'the sons of the stranger feign to me;' i:e., fawn upon me, pretending a goodwill and submission which they do not feel at heart. [So the Hebrew, kicheesh, means (cf. Psalms 66:3, margin, 'yield feigned obedience;' and Deuteronomy 33:29; also Psalms 81:15)].

Verse 45 The strangers shall ... be afraid out of their close places. [ chaarag (H2727) combines the notions of trembling with fear and moving out.] So Micah 7:17.

Verses 46-50

The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

Closing recapitulation of the whole subject.-

Verse 46. The Lord liveth; and blessed be my Rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. The threefold blessing answers to that in Numbers 6:24-26: an intimation of the Trinity. With "the Lord liveth," cf. 1 Timothy 6:16, "who only hath immortality" - a tacit contrast to the dead idols, which afford no safety to their votaries. Hengstenberg translates, 'exalted is my salvation-God;' saying, that if it were a wish, the Hebrew verb would have been the apocopated future.

Verse 47. It is God ... avengeth me - not private revenge. It is the will of God that the saints should glory in the avenging of their cause, as the vindication of the cause of God Himself (Luke 18:3; Luke 18:7; Revelation 6:10-11).

Verse 48. Thou hast delivered me from the violent man - an ideal representative of all his enemies, Saul especially.

Verse 49. Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, The Hebrew for "give Verse 49. Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, The Hebrew for "give thanks" means also 'to confess,' and is so quoted by Paul, Romans 15:9. [ yaadah (H3034), whence comes towdaah (H8426), confession, or praise.] In praising men we may exceed the truth; in praising God we can never do so. Each fresh praise we bring is only a confession of what (God is; because His excellencies always surpass our praise. This passage and Deuteronomy 32:43, and Psalms 117:1, show that salvation is designed for the pagan also. 'Since the pagan are interested in that which Yahweh does by Israel, since they also belong to the auditory in which His great deeds are to be celebrated, then God must be their God, as well as God of the Jews' (Hengstenberg).

Verse 50. Great deliverance (Hebrew, salvation) giveth he to his king. The plural indicates the fullness of the salvation vouchsafed.

And to his seed for evermore - referring to the promise, 2 Samuel 7:12-13. The last promise is twice repeated in Psalms 18:16. Compare also Psalms 21:1-13; Psalms 89:1-52:respecting the favours of the Lord to the seed of David. In Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 45:1-17; Psalms 72:1-20; Psalms 110:1-7, Messiah exclusively is brought into view; here He is presented before us only as a member of David's seed.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.