Wednesday, June 7th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ 2-samuel-22.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES
2 Samuel 22:1. This Psalm, with a few unimportant variations, is identical with the eighteenth in the Psalter. Wordsworth suggests that the modifications which there appear, where the title has “to the chief musician,” may be accounted for from the circumstance that in the present chapter the song appears as used by David for his own private devotions; and in the Psalms 18:0, it exhibits the form in which he delivered it for the general liturgical use of the Hebrew Church. The genuineness of the Psalm is acknowledged by all critics, except Olshausen and Hupfield, but there is a difference of opinion as to the time when it was composed. Keil thinks it belongs to David’s later years. The “Biblical Commentary” refers it “to the early part of David’s reign, when he was recently established upon the throne;” and Erdmann says “the time of composition (the reference in 1 Timothy 2:0; 2 Samuel 7:02 Samuel 7:0 being unmistakeable) cannot be before the date when David, on the ground of the promise given him through Nathan, could be sure that his dominion, despite all opposition, was immovable, and that the throne of Israel would remain for ever with his house. The words of the title agree with the description of victories in 2 Samuel 22:29-46, and point to a time when David had established his kingdom by war, and forced heathen princes to do homage (comp. 2 Samuel 22:44-49). But as God’s victorious help against external enemies is celebrated in the second part of the song, and the joyous tone of exultation shows that David’s heart is taken up with the gloriousness of that help, it is a fair assumption that the song was written not after the toil of Absalom’s conspiracy and the succeeding events, but immediately after the victorious wars narrated in chaps. 8 and
10.” “Spake unto the Lord,” etc. “These expressions are borrowed from Exodus 15:1, and Deuteronomy 31:30. This is the more observable because the Psalm contains obvious allusions to the song of Moses in Deuteronomy.” (Alexander). “The hand of Saul.” “Not because Saul was the last of his enemies, but rather because he was first, both in power and importance.” (Alexander). “The poet’s imagination, in its contemplation of the two principal periods of war, moves backwards, presenting first the external wars, which were the nearest, and then the internal, with Saul and his house.” (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 22:2. “My rock” Sela, my rock-cleft, a place for refuge; not the same word as that used in 2 Samuel 22:3. “First and frequently used by David, who had often found refuge on a sela in his persecution; indeed, it is only once used by any other writer (Isaiah 32:2) in the Old Testament, in a figurative sense, and there the metaphor is derived from the shadow and not from the height of the rock.” (Wordsworth.) “My deliverer.” “The explanation of the foregoing figures. Whilst David took refuge in rocks, he placed his hope of safety not in their naccessible character, but in God the Lord.” (Keil).
2 Samuel 22:3. “God of my rock.” Rather my rock-God. The word here rendered rock (tsur) indicates what is solid and immovable. “Horn.” “A term borrowed from animals which have their strength and defensive weapons in their horns.” (Kiel and others). “Not only a protection against attack (as a shield), but also a weapon of attack.” (Erdmann).
2 Samuel 22:4. “I will call.” “Shall be saved.” Not to be taken as future, but as “indefinite as to time, the English general present.” (Trans. of Lange’s Commentary). “Worthy to be praised.” Rather the praised one.
2 Samuel 22:6. “Hell.” Sheol, the under world, the place of departed spirits. “In the wide old English sense, a poetical equivalent to death.” (Alexander.) Prevented, rather encountered.
2 Samuel 22:7. Temple. Better, palace, “for Jehovah is here represented as a King enthroned in heaven.” (Erdmann.) The Hebrew word means both.
2 Samuel 22:8. “The earth shook,” etc. A few writers understand the following as a description of a real storm, and refer it to a battle with the Syrians when a storm occurred (2 Samuel 7:5), but most agree with Kiel that it is a poetical description of David’s deliverance which “had its type in the miraculous phenomenon which accompanied the descent of God upon Sinai, and which suggested, as in Judges 5:4-5, the idea of a terrible storm that the saving hand of God from heaven was so obviously manifested, that the deliverance experienced by him could be poetically described as a miraculous interposition on the part of God.”
2 Samuel 22:9. “Smoke,” etc. The figurative idea is that of snorting or violent breathing, which indicates the rising of wrath.” (Keil and others.) Tholuck sees in the picture thus far an image “to be referred to the rising of the storm-cloud, and the flashes of sheet-lightning which announces the storm.”
2 Samuel 22:10. “Bowed the heavens.” A picture of the low hanging storm-clouds, at whose approach the heaven seems to bend down to the earth.” (Erdmann.) “Came down.” “The scene here seems to be transferred from heaven to earth, where the Psalmist sees not only the Divine operation, but the personal presence of Jehovah.” (Alexander). Darkness, rather gloom. A poetical expression applied to thick clouds and vapours. (Alexander.)
2 Samuel 22:11. “A cherub,” “The cherubim of the Mosaic system were visible representations of the whole class of creatures superior to man. The singular form seems to be used here to convey the indefinite idea of a superhuman, yet created being. As earthly kings are carried by inferior animals, so the heavenly King is here described as being borne through the air in His descent by beings intermediate between Himself and man.” (Alexander.) “The poetical figure is borrowed from the fact that God was enthroned between the two cherubim upon the lid of the ark of the covenant, and above their outspread wings. As the idea of His ‘dwelling between the cherubim’ (2 Samuel 6:2, etc.) was founded upon this typical manifestation of the gracious presence of God in the Most Holy place, so here David thus depicts the descent of Jehovah, picturing the cherub as a throne upon which God appears in the clouds of heaven, though without imagining Him as riding upon a sphinx or driving in a chariot-throne. Such notions are precluded by the addition of the term, ‘did fly.’ ” (Keil.)
2 Samuel 22:12. “Pavilions,” i.e., tents or coverts. Alexander takes this as expressive of the brightness insupportable by mortal sight; Keil thinks that it represents Jehovah as hiding His face from man in wrath. “Dark waters.” Literally, water gatherings, or watery darkness. “A beautiful description of clouds charged with rain.” (Alexander.) “Thick clouds,” or cloud-thicket. “This second noun is used only in the plural, and seems properly to designate the whole body of vapours constituting the visible heavens or sky.” (Alexander.)
2 Samuel 22:13. “Through,” or out of, were kindled, rather burned.
2 Samuel 22:14. “Thundered.” “Uttered His voice.” The second clause is a poetical repetition of the first. (Alexander.)
2 Samuel 22:15. “Arrows.” “The lighthings of the last clause may be understood as explaining the arrows of the first.” (Alexander.) “Discomfited.” “The standing expression for the destruction of the foe accomplished by the miraculous interposition of God.” (Keil.)
2 Samuel 22:16. “The breakers of death” and the streams of evil, have, according to 2 Samuel 22:5, overwhelmed David. Under the image of water-waves he has thus depicted the dangers that have threatened his life. The Lord in revealing His anger against his enemies, saves him by laying bare the depths of the sea to which he had sunk, and uncovering the foundations of the earth by the storm-wind of His wrath. Thither descending from on high the Lord seized him and drew him forth from the waves as described in the following verses.” (Delitzsch and Erdmann.) Some writers also see here a reference to the early history of Moses. “The verb to draw,” says Dr. Jamieson, “naturally suggests it.” “Luther,” says Hengstenberg, “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 to which he was exposed; and the event, a prophecy constantly fulfilling itself under different circumstances.”
2 Samuel 22:18. Here is a transition from the figurative to the literal.
2 Samuel 22:19. Prevented. (See on 2 Samuel 22:6). “Day of calamity.” Most writers think the time of Saul’s persecution is here specially intended.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Samuel 22:1-19
DAVID’S SONG OF THANKSGIVING.—PART I
I. Deep gratitude in the heart will find its way to the lip. It seems altogether unnatural that any being should experience real and deep emotion without in some way making it manifest to others—we should as soon expect to see the cup filled above the brim without running over as to find a man with a heart overflowing with grateful love who gave no expression to his feeling. The one seems as great a contradiction of the laws of our soul-life as the other does of the physical world outside of us. True it is that speech is not the only index of what men feel, and there are often many words where there is little or no emotion, still there appears to be a divinely ordained connection between all deep stirring of the inner life—especially when it is of a joyous nature—and the utterance of it in speech, so that the experience of each man may be helpful to all, and individual joy be increased by the sympathy of others. It is so in the heavenly world, for there we are told the redeemed Church gives expression to its grateful love in songs of praise, and it was so with David. Even while surrounded with much to sadden him, he could not look back upon a life so filled with tokens of Divine favour without bursting forth into a song of thanksgiving, which, although addressed in the first instance to Jehovah, was doubtless intended also to be a testimony to his fellow-men.
II. The foundation of all joy in God is found in a conviction of His personal interest in the individual man. The key-note of this psalm, and, indeed, of the whole psalter, is a sense of personal relationship to an Almighty and Loving-Father; not simply a share in a general providence which extends to all, or even to a few, but of special interposition and guidance on behalf of one man as truly if he were the sole object of God’s care. There are many ascriptions of praise in the Bible to God as the God of nations and of all created beings, but there are many in which the writers confine themselves principally, and often entirely, to celebrating His goodness to them as individual men and women, and this not because they were selfish, entirely or chiefly occupied with their own concerns and thinking little of the needs of others. In this song David makes no mention of anybody but himself, and yet we know he had the welfare of his people very near his heart, and grieved deeply when his sin brought trouble upon them (see 2 Samuel 24:17). Nehemiah gave up his place in the king’s palace to devote himself to his people, yet he could not feel heart-satisfaction merely in the help God gave to him as one of a nation, but craved a special and individual remembrance also (see Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:14; Nehemiah 13:22; Nehemiah 13:31). Nor is this feeling confined to Old Testament saints. Paul was, perhaps, the most self-forgetful man who has ever lived, yet, amidst all his praises for the riches of Christ’s mercy to the world, his gratitude is never deeper than when he speaks of the Saviour who “loved him and gave himself for him” (Galatians 2:20); and he never penned a more glowing ascription of praise to God than when he contemplated the abundant grace which had been manifested to himself personally (1 Timothy 1:12-17). The Bible does not require men to ignore their individuality, on the contrary Christ himself appeals to that Divinely-implanted self-love, which is so far removed from selfishness (Mark 8:36), that those who obey its instincts are never at rest unless they can persuade others to partake of the same blessedness. An unshaken confidence that God is his God in a personal and direct sense, is the only foundation for that rest and satisfaction of the spirit without which no obedience to God or service to man can ever be rendered.
III. No material similitude is too strong to express soul-experience. The ocean-depths are great, but they are not too great to set forth the deep agony into which a soul is sometimes plunged by remorse or by a sense of God’s displeasure. The waves of the sea are often rough, and buffet the weary swimmer until his bodily strength entirely fails him; but they are not rougher than the waves of adverse circumstances which often overwhelm his soul. God’s hand was seen very plainly when He drew Moses out of the water and made a way for Israel through the sea, but when David looked back on his eventful life he felt that Divine interposition was as plainly seen in the deliverances which he had experienced. Storm and fire and earthquake are wonderful manifestations of the power of God, but they are not so mighty nor so glorious as the omnipotence which rules in the world of spirit, and works all things there also according to the counsel of His own will. It is great to still the noise of the waves, but it is greater to keep in check the passions of evil men (Psalms 65:7) and more glorious to rule over the the countless myriads that people the globe than to ride upon the wings of the wind. Therefore no metaphor that David here uses can even adequately set forth what he desires to express, because nothing that belongs to the world of sense can perfectly represent the unseen and the spiritual.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
2 Samuel 22:1. God lets out His mercies to us for this rent of our praises, and is content we have the benefit of them, so Ho have the glory.—Trapp.
The mention of Saul in the title does not indicate that the Psalm was composed in David’s early life, but rather that, even though thirty years had gone since his persecution by the son of Kish, the deliverances which he then experienced had not faded from his memory, but still stood out before him as the greatest mercies which he had ever received. We are prone to forget past favors. The benefactors of our youth are not always remembered in our after years; and in the crowd and conflict of events in our later history we have too often little thought to spare, and few thanks to express, for our early mercies. We do not enough consider that, in mounting the ladder of life, it is often more difficult to set our foot on the first round than to take any single step thereafter; and, therefore, that those who aided us in the beginning have given us by far the most effectual assistance. But it was not so with David, for as he sits here looking back on his career, his first conflicts seem still his greatest; and much as he blessed God for after-kindness, he places high above all the other favors which he had received his deliverance out of the hand of Saul.—Dr. Taylor.
2 Samuel 22:2. In the chapter that immediately follows the names of David’s great captains are faithfully recorded and their exploits duly chronicled, but in his address to God there does not occur the name of a single human being.… In the intensity of the gaze which is fixed on him who is invisible, the eye of faith lost sight for a time of the human instruments through whom much of the work was done. He who in the depths of his penitence saw but One injured Being, and said “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned;” now at the height of his prosperity sees but one gracious Being.—Blaikie.
2 Samuel 22:2-3. It pleased holy David more that God was his strength than that God gave him strength; that God was his deliverer than that he was delivered; that God was his fortress, buckler, horn, his high tower, than that he gave him the effect of all these. It pleases all the saints more that God is their salvation, whether temporal or eternal, than that he saves them; the saints look more at God than at all that is God’s.—Caryl.
This is no vain repetition, neither is it a straining after effect, like that of the young orator who piles epithet upon epithet, weakening only where he meant to strengthen; but it is an attempt to describe, from many sides, that which he felt could not be fully shown from any single standpoint. He means to say, that for every sort of peril in which he had been placed, God had been a protection appropriate thereto; as if he had said, “those whom God intends to succour and defend are not only safe against one kind of danger, but are, as it were, surrounded by impregnable ramparts on all sides; so that, should a thousand deaths be presented to their view, they ought not to be afraid even at this formidable array.” Nor is this many-sided description of God’s protection without its value to us; for though we may have proved his power to help us in one way, we are apt to fall into despair when some new danger threatens us, and therefore it is reassuring to have David’s testimony to the fact that those whom God shields are incased all round, and will have perfect protection in every emergency.—Dr. W. M. Taylor.
2 Samuel 22:4. When David called on God in danger, he very specially set Him before his mind as “worthy to be praised.” A very remarkable habit this, and the key to many of his spiritual triumphs. He first sets before his mind the gracious, encouraging, reassuring aspects of God’s character, then asks deliverance from his enemies.—Blaikie.
This doctrine is in tribulation the most ennobling and truly golden. One cannot believe what assistance such praise to God is in pressing danger. For as soon as you begin to praise God, the sense of the evil will also begin to abate, the comfort of your heart will grow, and God will be called upon with confidence.—Luther.
2 Samuel 22:4-7. The cordial intercourse of prayer between the Old Testament saints and their covenant-God is the factual proof of the positive self-revelation of the personal, Iiving God, without whose initiative such over-springing of the chasm between the holy God and sinful man were impossible, and also the most striking refutation of the false view that the religion of the old covenant presents an absolute chasm between God and man. The real life communion between the heart that goes immediately to its God in prayer and the God who hears such prayer, is, on the one hand, in contrast to the extra testamental religion of the pre-Christian world, alone founded on God’s positive historical self-revelation to his people and the thereby established covenant relation between them, and, on the other hand, as sporadic anticipation of the life-communion with God established by the New Testament Mediator, it is a factual prophecy of the religious ethical life-communion (culminating in prayer) between man redeemed by Christ and His heavenly Father.—Erdmann.
2 Samuel 22:7. Prayer is that postern-gate which is left open even when the city is straitly beseiged by the enemy; it is that way upward from the pit of despair to which the spiritual miner flies at once when the floods from beneath break forth upon him. Observe that he calls, then he cries—prayer grows in vehemence as it proceeds. Note also that he first invokes his God under the name of Jehovah, and then advances to a more familiar name—“My God.” Thus, faith increases by exercise, and He who we first viewed as Lord may soon be our God in covenant.… Above the noise of the raging billows of death or the barking dogs of hell, the feeblest cry of a true believer will be heard in heaven. Far up within the bejewelled walls and through the gates of pearl the cry of the suffering suppliant was heard. Music of angels and harmony of seraphs availed not to drown or even impair the voice of that humble call. The King heard it in His palace of light unsufferable, and lent a willing ear to the cry of his beloved child.—Spurgeon.
If you listen even to David’s harp you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols, and the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes, and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see in needlework and embroideries it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a light-some ground. Judge, therefore, of the pleasures of the heart by the pleasures of the eye. Certainly, virtue is like precious odours—most fragrant when they are crushed; for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.—Lord Bacon.
2 Samuel 22:12. Blessed is the darkness which encurtains my God. If I may not see Him, it is sweet to know that He is working in secret for my eternal good. Even fools can believe that God is abroad in the sunshine and in the calm, but faith is wise and discerns them in the terrible darkness and threatening storm.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 22:19. The means by which this deliverance was achieved were, as far as we know, those which we see in the books of Samuel—the turns and chances of Providence, his own extraordinary activity, the faithfulness of his followers, the unexpected increase of his friends. But the act of deliverance itself is described in language which belongs to the descent upon Mount Sinai and the passage of the Red Sea. It was the exodus, though of a single human soul, yet of a soul which reflected the whole nation. It was the giving of a second law, though through the living tablets of a heart deeper and vaster than the whole legislation of Moses. It was the beginning of a new dispensation.—Dean Stanley.
At the basis of the symbolism of nature lies the idea that certain peculiarities in the nature and action of God correspond with it. Thence God Himself is at times described as present and active in these phenomena of nature, not merely accompanied by them, and in bold but contemplative expressions the stirring up and expression of his wrath is represented as the kindling of His light—nature in all the turns of fiery and flaming figures.
… These natural phenomena, not so much in themselves as under certain circumstances and more particular forms, form partly the symbol, partly the means of a Theophany.—Dr. Moll.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES
2 Samuel 22:20. “Large place.” Lit. the broad, a condition of freedom and safety in contrast with the straits and dangers of the past.
2 Samuel 22:21. The Lord rewarded, or, requited. Alexander in Psalms 18:0 translates the verbs of this clause into the future tense: “They have reference,” he says, “to the condition of the Psalmist under his afflictions, and the hopes which he was even then enabled to cherish.” “Cleanness of hands.” Dr. Jamieson sees here a special reference to David’s refusal to injure Saul, or to free himself by any unrighteous act.
2 Samuel 22:22. “Ways of the Lord.” “The rules of human conduct given in His law.” (Erdmann.) “Wickedly departed,” etc. Literally, “wicked from God.” “The combination of the verb and preposition shows clearly that the essential idea in the writer’s mind was that of apostasy or total abjuration of God’s service.” (Alexander.)
2 Samuel 22:23. “Judgments.” Rights. (Keil.) Judicial decisions. (Alexander.) The verbs here are in the present tense.
2 Samuel 22:24. “Mine iniquity.” “That to which I am naturally prone, An undoubted confession of corruption.” (Alexander.) “An indirect testimony to indwelling sinfulness.” (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 22:25. “Therefore,” etc. “This verse shows clearly that the futures in 2 Samuel 22:21 must be strictly understood.” (Alexander.)
2 Samuel 22:26. “Merciful,” or gracious.
2 Samuel 22:27. “Pure,” or genuine. (Keil.) “Unsavoury.” Better, perverse, or crooked. “The resemblance of the last clause of this verse to Leviticus 26:23-24, makes it highly probable that the whole form of this singular dictum was suggested by that passage, the rather as this Psalm abounds in allusions to the Pentateuch and imitations of it.” (Alexander.)
2 Samuel 22:28. “Thou.” This word is emphatic. “However men may despise thy afflicted people, I know that thou wilt save them.” (Alexander)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Samuel 22:20-28
DAVID’S SONG.—PART II
I. Men are to be judged by the spirit of their lives, and not by isolated actions. It is evident that we must read David’s words here concerning himself in the light of others found elsewhere, and then we shall understand that he does not claim to have been faultless even in his outward life, or to have merited the distinguishing marks of divine favour that he had received. (See Suggestive Comments.) He can only be recording his consciousuess of a generally faithful discharge of his public duties and of a life which had, upon the whole, been governed by pure and holy motives. If a man holds a fort against an enemy for many years, and is upon one occasion overpowered and taken prisoner, even if it be by his own negligence, he cannot be classed with him who treacherously parleys with the foe and betrays his trust for selfish ends. He must be regarded as blameworthy, but if he make every possible effort to retrieve his failure he cannot be treated as a deserter. David’s reputation was sadly tarnished by his being surprised through being found morally asleep by the tempter when he ought to have been awake and standing upon his watch-tower. But though he was at that time captured by the devil at his will, and remained for some time tied and bound in the camp of the enemy, the 51st Psalm reveals his efforts to escape, and his desire, so far as it was possible, to regain his old position and again serve God in serving his people. God’s subsequent treatment of David reveals that He did not judge him by this fall, or even by repeated false steps, but by the general spirit and intent of his whole life, and the heart and conscience of every upright man testify to the justice of the divine verdict. It has been remarked that the disobedience of Saul in the matter of the sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:0) bears no comparison in itself to the crimes of David in relation to Uriah, yet it seems to have been visited by a far heavier penalty. We can only explain the different treatment of the two offenders upon the principle just considered. (See also on this subject, page 360.)
II. The character of man influences the conduct of God. David here teaches this truth by connecting his own faithfulness and integrity with the gracious dealings of God towards him, making, in fact, the one dependent on the other. Valuable possessions of any kind give a man worth and importance in the eyes of others. Even material wealth increases a man’s worth in the estimation of his fellow men—because such an addition to his existence enables him to do what poorer men cannot do, he is treated with more consideration, and his life is regarded as more precious. The gifts and possessions of the intellect more justly give value to him to whom they belong—great knowledge and mental ability can be so beneficial to the community at large that he who has them is held in high estimation, and men who can appreciate such a person delight to honour him. But much more does moral excellence make a man precious in the sight of other good men. They look upon character as the real and personal and eternal possession, and value human creatures only in proportion as they are holy and true. This they do, not only because of the sympathy which must exist between all who are united in desire and aim, but because of the beneficial influence of such a character—because of the blessed use of such a life in the world and in the universe. It would be strange indeed if we found this rule reversed as we ascended in the moral scale—if the infinitely good God did not set a high price upon human character, and deal with men accordingly. True is it that he can discern flaws and imperfections in the best of human creatures, but His moral perfection does not prevent Him from looking with approval upon those who love and seek after righteousness, however morally weak they may be. He not only loves them for all that is God-like within them, but for the efforts they make to uphold and advance His kingdom in the world. Such being the regard in which they are held by God, it must be that His dealings with them are in accordance with His gracious approval of them, and there must, therefore, be a special and intimate connection between human character and Divine conduct.
III. Upon the character and conduct of men depends their view of the character and conduct of God. Many commentators do not think this idea is expressed in 2 Samuel 22:26-27, but that they only express the truth just dwelt upon, viz., “that God’s objective, real conduct towards men, according to His retributive justice, corresponds exactly to man’s ethical conduct towards God” (Erdmann). But David may also here refer to the undoubted fact that every man’s conception of God depends upon his own condition of heart and conscience. Men see each other through the same medium. The face that looks into the mirror is the same that is seen reflected; there are laws which forbid that distorted or unlovely features should give back a beautiful and pleasing reflection. And there are also laws which make all other men appear morally unattractive and even disagreeable to a wicked or even an unloving man. He who lives for self thinks everybody whom he meets is a selfish being, and the proud and angry man is always complaining of the pride and bad temper of those around him. There is some objective foundation for these conceptions, inasmuch as evil passions in ourselves call forth and foster the same in others and the reverse; and there is a sense in which even the unchanging and righteous God, as we have already seen, must really manifest a side of His perfect character to the unholy and rebellious which differs from that which is seen by those who love Him and desire to serve Him. But apart from the actual fact, all the ways of the Almighty seem hard and often unjust to those who will not fall in with His methods of blessing them, and the more they rebel under the yoke the heavier it must really become. The old statute is still in force:—“If ye will not be reformed by me in these things, but will walk contrary unto me, then will I walk contrary unto you” (Leviticus 26:23-24), but every man who is unreconciled to God regards even His most merciful dispensations and laws from a false standpoint, and often transfers his own unrighteousness to the spotless character of his Maker.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
2 Samuel 22:21. Albeit the dispensations of Divine grace are to the fullest degree sovereign and irrespective of human merit, yet in the dealings of Providence there is often discernible a rule of justice by which the injured are avenged and the righteous ultimately triumph. David’s early troubles arose from the wicked malice of envious Saul, who, no doubt, prosecuted his persecutions under cover of charges brought against the character of the man after God’s own heart. These charges David declares to have been utterly false, and asserts that he possessed a grace-given righteousness which the Lord had graciously rewarded in defiance of all his calumniators. Before God, the man after God’s own heart was a humble sinner; but before his slanderers he could, with unblushing face, speak of the cleanness of his hands and the righteousness of his life. He knows little of the sanctifying power of Divine grace who is not, at the bar of human equity, able to plead innocence. There is no self-righteousness in an honest man knowing that he is honest, nor even in his believing that God rewarded him in Providence because of his honesty, for such is often a most evident matter of fact. It is not at all an opposition to the doctrine of salvation by grace, and no sort of evidence of a Pharisaic spirit, when a gracious man, having been slandered, stoutly maintains his own integrity and vigorously defends his character. A godly man has a clear conscience, and knows himself to be upright. Is he to deny his own consciousness, and to despise the work of the Holy Ghost, by hypocritically making himself out to be worse than he is? A godly man prizes his integrity very highly, or else he would not be a godly man at all; is he to be called proud because he would not readily lose the jewel of a reputable character? A godly man can see that in the long run uprightness and truth are sure to bring their own reward; may he not, when he sees that reward bestowed in his own case, praise the Lord for it? Yea, rather must he not show forth the faithfulness and goodness of his God? Read the cluster of expressions in this and the following verses as the song of a good conscience, after having safely outridden a storm of obloquy, persecution, and abuse, and there will be no fear of our upbraiding the writer as one who set too high a price upon his own moral character.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:22. That is, with a purpose and resolution to continue in the way of sinning, and that is the property of sincerity. A man indeed may be overtaken and surprised in a temptation, but it is not with a resolution to forsake God and to cleave unto the sin, or rest in it. He will not sleep in it, spare it, or favour it; that is, to do wickedly against God, to have a double heart and a double eye; to look upon two objects, partly at God and partly at sin; so to keep God as to keep some sin also, as it is with all false-hearted men in the world. They look not upon God alone, let them pretend to religion never so much, but upon something else together with God; as Herod regarded John, but regarded his Herodias more; and the young man in the gospel, comes to Christ, yet he looks after his estate; and Judas followed Christ, yet looks after the bag; this is to depart wickedly from God.—W. Strong.
2 Samuel 22:24. Keep himself! Who made man his own keeper? ’Tis the Lord that is his keeper; He is the keeper of Israel and the preserver of men. If a man cannot keep himself from sorrow, how can he keep himself from sin? God indeed in our first conversion works upon us as He works upon the earth, or Adam’s body in paradise, before He breathed a soul into it, or made a living creature; such a power as Christ put forth on Lazarus in his grave, for we are dead in trespasses and sins; but yet, being living, he must walk and act of himself, the Lord will have us to co-operate together with Him, for we are built upon Christ, not as dead, but as “living stones.” (1 Peter 2:5).—W. Strong.
There is “I have” and “I have not,” both of which must be blended in a truly sanctified life; constraining and restraining grace must each take its share.—Spurgeon.
Mark “from mine iniquity.” The godless man, though he do much, will be sure to fail here, and the godly man will strike home here wherever he be favourable. A horse that is not sound, but foundered, will favour one foot, if not more; the lapwing, some observe, will cry and make a great noise, but it is when she is farthest from her nest; the hypocrite may keep a great stir about many sins, but there is one sin which he meddleth not with. There is, says a learned divine, no greater argument of unsound repentance than indulgent thoughts and reserved delight and complacency in a master-sin. As some grounds are most proper soils to breed and nourish some particular weeds, so are some men’s hearts for some particular sins, and the devil holds them as fast by this sin as by ten thousand.… The creature may do much by the command of God, but there is old stir and pulling before this sin be separated from him. If this be once done thoroughly the man is converted truly.—Swinnock.
2 Samuel 22:25. God first gives us holiness and then rewards us for it. We are His workmanship—vessels made unto honour, and when made the honour is not withheld from the vessel; though, in fact, it all belongs to the Potter upon whose wheel it was fashioned. The prize is awarded to the flower at the show, but the gardener reared it; the child wins the prize from the school master, but the real honour of his schooling lies with the master, although, instead of receiving, he gives the reward.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:26. Note that even the merciful need mercy. No amount of generosity to the poor or forgiveness to enemies can set us beyond the need of mercy.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:22-25. What David here extols is not the ground upon which he personally, as a sinner, obtained the favour of God, but the ground on which he, as the public champion of a great cause, enjoyed God’s countenance, while he was honestly and faithfully maintaining that cause. There could be no self-praise in the lieutenant of a ship saying to his captain, “I adhered to your instructions in every point, and my success was complete.” There would have been no self-righteousness in such a man as Luther saying, “I constantly maintained the principles of the Bible—God crowned my labours with success;” for the honour in such cases is not claimed by the person acting, it is given to his superior, by whose instructions he has acted.… No other spirit than this can with consistency be claimed for David.—Blaikie.
The current of his moral being flowed on in the channel of everlasting right. His sins were only wavelets on the stream, which the winds of temptation occasionally dashed over the embankments.—Dr. David Thomas.
As you may see a proportion between sins and punishments which are the rewards of them, so that you can say, such a sin brought forth this affliction, it is so like its father; so you might see the like proportions between your prayers and your walking with God and God’s answers to you and His dealings with you. So did David. According to the cleanness, etc. His speech denotes some similitude or likeness, as, for example, the more by ends or carnal desires you had in praying, and the more you mingled of these with your holy desires, and the more want of zeal, fervency, etc., were found in your prayers, the more you shall, it may be, find of bitterness mingled with the mercy, when it is granted, and so much imperfection, and want of comfort in it. So says David in this psalm, “With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure.” Pure prayers have pure blessing, and è contra, “With the froward thou wilt show Thyself froward.” And, again, as you in prayer sometimes slackened and grew cold, so you might see the business in like manner to cool and cast backward, as, when Moses hands were down Amalek prevailed, and when they were lifted up Israel had the better. A man finds in praying that his suit sometimes sticks, and goes not on as he expected; but, on the contrary, when he was stirred up to pray, then still he found things to go well. By this a man may clearly see that it was the prayer which God did hear and regarded. Thus, likewise, when a man sees hills and dales in a business, fair hopes often, and then all dashed again, and the thing in the end brought to pass, let him look back upon his prayers. Didst thou not in like manner just thus deal with God? When thou hadst prayed earnestly, and thought thou hadst even carried it, then dash all again by interposing some sin, and thus again and again. Herein God would have you observe a proportion, and it may help you to discern how and when they are obtained by prayer, because God deals thus with you therein in such a proportion to your prayers.—T. Goodwin.
2 Samuel 22:26-27. If men will deal plainly with God, He will deal plainly with them. He that is upright in performing his duty shall find God upright in performing His promises. It is God’s way to carry to men as they carry to Him. If thou hast a design to please Him, He will have a design to please thee; if thou wilt echo to Him when He calls, He will echo to thee when thou callest.—R. Steele.
Even as the sun which, unto eyes being sound and without disease, is very pleasant and wholesome, but unto the same eyes, when they are feeble, sore, and weak, is very troublesome and hurtful, yet the sun is ever all one and the self-same that it was before; so God, who hath ever shown Himself benign and bountiful to those who are kind and tender-hearted towards His saints, is merciful to those who show mercy. But unto the same men, when they fall into wickedness and show themselves full of beastly cruelty, the Lord showeth Himself to be very wrathful and angry, and yet is one and the same immutable God from everlasting to everlasting.—Cawdray.
But doth the Lord take colour from everyone He meets, or change His temper as the company changes? That’s the weakness of sinful man. He cannot do so with whom is no variableness nor shadow of changing. God is pure and upright with the unclean and hypocritical, as well as with the pure and upright, and His actions show Him to be so. God shows Himself froward with the froward, when He deals with them as He has said He will deal with the froward—deny them and reject them. God shows Himself pure with the pure when He deals with them as He has said He will—hear them and accept them. Though there be nothing in purity and sincerity which deserveth mercy, yet we cannot expect mercy without them. Our comforts are not grounded upon our graces, but they are the fruits or consequences of our graces.—Caryl.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES
2 Samuel 22:29. “Lamp.” “While light is always the symbol of good fortune and well-being (Job 18:5), the burning lamp denotes the source of lasting happiness and joyful strength.” (Job 18:6; Psalms 132:17; compare Isaiah 42:3; Isaiah 43:17). (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 22:30. “By thee.” Literally, in thee. “By the first noun David means the hostile bands he has encountered; by the second, the fortified places he has conquered.” (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 22:31. “Perfect,” i.e., blameless, free from all taint of injustice. “Tried.” As metals are by fire, and thus proved to be genuine. “Buckler,” i.e., shield.
2 Samuel 22:32. “A Rock.” “He adopts the language of Moses in his song in Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:30-31, in all of which places the word tsur, rock, is applied to God; and that is the first passage in the Bible, and the only chapter in the Pentateuch, where that figure is used, and it is next adopted in 1 Samuel 2:2. In the present chapter the figure is used four times, in 2 Samuel 22:3; 2 Samuel 22:32; 2 Samuel 22:47 twice, and in 2 Samuel 23:3. These are the only places up to this point in the Hebrew Bible where the word tsur is thus used, and they serve to mark the connection between the hymns of Moses, of Hannah, and of David.” (Wordsworth.)
2 Samuel 22:33. “My strength.” Better, fortress. “Maketh my way,” etc. Erdmann and Keil read, “He leads the perfect, or innocent, on his way.” Alexander explains it, “Who gives my conduct the perfection which belongs to it.”
2 Samuel 22:34. “Hinds.” The female gazelle, noted for her agility and swiftness. Probably alluding to David’s speed in pursuit of his enemies. “A figurative element lies in what is here said of fleeteness,” which becomes quite obvious when we take it along with the last clause. David points to the quick and unrestrained course of his conquests just as in 2 Samuel 22:29. (Jamieson.) “High places.” Either the strongholds taken from the enemy (Hengstenberg), or those of his own land which he held securely, and from which he ruled as king. (Keil.)
2 Samuel 22:35. “Steel.” Rather, brass or bronze. Both skill and strength are the gifts recorded in this verse.
2 Samuel 22:36. “Gentleness.” Keil and Erdmann read “hearing,” i.e., favourable acceptance of a request. Alexander translates “condescension,” Hengstenberg “lowliness.”
2 Samuel 22:37. “Enlarged my steps,” i.e., given me ample room to walk without hindrance. “Feet.” Rather, ankles. The whole verse expresses safe guidance.
2 Samuel 22:38-39. A picture of a victory where the enemy is entirely vanquished.
2 Samuel 22:40. “Thou hast girded.” “As warriors bind up all their garments and fortify their loins, that they may be more fitted for strenuous effort.” (Jamieson.) “Subdued,” etc. literally, “didst make to bow the knee.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Samuel 22:29-40
DAVID’S SONG.—PART III
I. God can disperse the darkness of man’s ignorance and cheer the night of his sorrow. There are but few thoughtful human creatures who do not feel themselves in need of some clue to guide them in their walk through life and of some hand stronger than man’s to lift them up when earth’s sorrows seem to weigh them to the ground; of something, in short, of a spiritual kind which shall be to their inner sense what the light is to their bodily vision. The godly in all ages have testified that their God can and does supply this want—that what the sun is to the physical nature of man the Creator of the sun is able and willing to be to the souls of His creatures. He reveals Himself as the Light of men and the Sun of Righteousness, and those who have put Him to the test declare that enough spiritual enlightenment and joy and strength are found in Him to satisfy all their needs. Light is a revealing power—It reveals us to ourselves. Without the light of day we could not know what we do of our own bodily structure and appearance. Light reveals itself to us while it reveals us to ourselves. There is this twofold revelation ever in operation wherever a ray of light falls. Those who walk in the light of God feel that as He reveals Himself to them. He reveals them unto themselves, and that knowledge of Him goes hand-in-hand with right conceptions of their own nature, and needs, and destiny. Light is a gladdening influence. Apart from all its life-giving power, the rays of the sun help to revive the sad at heart, and even the rays of a lamp or candle are cheering after long-continued darkness. So God can and does give a gladness of soul to His children which uplifts them in the dark and cloudy day of adversity, and causes them to joy in Him when all earthly sources of comfort are dried up. It was in God as this fountain of enlightenment and joy that David had found the moral strength to war life’s warfare and the courage to return to the conflict after defeat and almost despair.
II. God’s ways with men, and His word to them, will stand the utmost test which can be applied to them. Only those who will not trust God find flaws in His dealings, and charge Him with non-fulfilment of His promises. Those who put themselves under His guidance by opening their hearts to receive His word, enter upon such an experience of His wisdom and love, that the more they know, and the longer they live, the more settled is their conviction that the Judge of all the earth always has and ever must do right to every one of His creatures, and thus the more exultant is their song of hope for the future. David’s testimony here is one with all who have exercised the same trust in God, and obeyed Him in the same spirit. The details and the form of expression change from age to age, but the principle and the spirit must ever be one. To David, God is the “Rock” whose “way is perfect,” and whose “word is tried,” to those around the sea of glass He is the “Holy and True One, just and true in His ways.” (Revelation 6:10; Revelation 15:3.) But none can arrive at this assurance without putting Him to the test. The sun would be what it is if no man upon the face of the earth opened his eyes to receive its light—the ocean would be as able to float the navies of the world if no vessel ever ventured upon its waters. To know the glory of either, and their adaptation to his needs, man must put them to the test. And as he must do with the creatures of God, so must He do in relation to God Himself.
III. The perfection of God’s nature is manifested for the perfecting and uplifting of His creatures. The elevation of God above sinful men, and His separation from them by reason of the great moral gulf between them and Him, is always dwelt upon, both by God Himself and by His inspired messengers, as a ground of hope and a reason for joy. True the High and Lofty One stands alone in His purity and glory, as the snowy mountain peak, unsullied by the impurities of the lower earth, is isolated from it by its height and grandeur; but as from it pour down abundant streams to give life to the dwellers below, so from Him flow rivers of grace to revive and glorify His needy children. The arm of His power is not outstretched with the desire to subdue by omnipotent force, but to upraise by gentleness; His Almighty strength is not displayed for the purpose of filling men with terror, but to encourage them to flee to Him for shelter, and to draw from Him the help they must have if they are to triumph over the powers of evil. All who rightly apprehend God do as David does here, see in His perfection and might matter for triumphant praise because they feel that they have been used to raise them in the past, and are assured that by them they will at last be more than conquerors.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
2 Samuel 22:29. Even the children of the day sometimes need candle-light. In the darkest hour light will arise; a candle shall be lit, it will be a comfort such as we may fittingly use without dishonesty—it will be our own candle. Yet God Himself will find the holy fire with which the candle shall burn. Our evidences are our own, but their comfortable light is from above. Candles which are lit by God the devil cannot blow out. All candles are not shining, and so there are some graces which yield no present comfort, but it is well to have candles which may by-and-bye be lit, and it is well to possess grace which may yet afford us cheering evidences.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:30. God’s warriors may expect to have a taste of every form of fighting, and must by the power of faith determine to quit themselves like men, but it behoves them to be very careful to lay all their laurels at Jehovah’s feet, each one of them saying “by my God have I wrought this valiant deed.”—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:31. This is the language of one who, in his own history, combines, in a very high degree, the character of the saint, the poet, the hero and the prince. The testimony of such a man is worth having on any subject, especially on the greatest of all subjects—GOD. The authors’ testimony may apply—I. To the way which God prescribes. He prescribes a way—a course of action—for all the creatures He has made.… The stars, the ocean, insects, brutes, and souls of every kind, from the least to the greatest, have each their “way” marked out, and the highest science attests that the way is “perfect.” But the course or the way which is prescribed for man is what the writer refers to. First. The way which is prescribed for our moral conduct is perfect. Who can improve the decalogue? How perfect in justice and in compass is the golden rule, “Whatsoever ye would?” etc. Secondly. The way that is prescribed for our spiritual restoration is perfect. What is the way? Here it is: “What the law could not do,” etc. “God so loved the world,” etc. Faith in Christ is the prescribed way. This way is “perfect” in its wisdom; it is in every way adapted. “Perfect” in its justice—it honours the righteousness of God. “Perfect” in its sufficiency—it is adequate to the needs of each man and all. II. To the way which God pursues. God has a method of action. He acts, not by caprice or impulse, but by an eternal settled plan. It is but a little of that plan we can see; but so far as our knowledge of the order of nature, the history of providence, and the provisions of redemption extends, we join in the testimony of the text and say: “His way is perfect. First His method of procedure is perfect in conception. We have not the full draft of this plan. An infinitesimal section only comes under our eye. The Architect of the great building presents you with a whole plan, and you may understand it and see the superstructure on paper. Thus God has not acted, and if He had given us the whole plan we could not have scanned the millionth part. What we see, however, we feel to be perfect. Secondly His method of procedure is perfect in execution. What His infinite benevolence prompted and His infinite wisdom conceived, His Almightiness carried out with perfection. A conviction of the perfection of God’s way
(1) is essential to our well-being. Without this we cannot supremely love and trust Him.
(2) Is the most attainable of beliefs. Our reason, conscience, Bible, observation, experience, all concur in urging this on the soul—this, the grandest of all conclusions.
(3) Must flash on every sinner’s nature sooner or later. If not here in the day of grace, yonder in the period of retribution.—Dr. David Thomas.
2 Samuel 22:34. When our thoughts are nimble and our spirits rapid, let us not forget that our best beloved’s hand has given us the choice favour.… We, too, have had our high places of honour, service, temptation and danger, but hitherto we have been kept from falling.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:36. Gentleness in a deity—what other religion ever took up such a thought? When the coarse mind of sin makes up gods and a religion by its own natural light, the gods, it will be seen, reveal both the coarseness and the sin together, as they properly should. They are made great as being great in force, and terrible resentments.… Just opposite to all these, the God of Revelation, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, contrives to be a gentle being; even hiding His power and withholding the stress of His will, that He may put confidence and courage in the feelings of His children.… What, then, do we mean by gentleness? To call it sweetness of temper, kindness, patience, flexibility, indecisiveness does not really distinguish it. When you speak, for example, of dealing gently with an enemy, you mean that instead of trying to force a point straight through with him you will give him time, and ply him indirectly with such methods and modes of forbearance as will put him on different thoughts and finally turn him to a better mind. Here, then, lies the true conception of God’s gentleness.… It means that He does not set Himself, as a Ruler, to drive His purpose straight through, but that, consciously wise and right, … He is only too great to fly at His adversary, and force him to the wall if he does not instantly surrender; that, instead of coming down upon him thus, in the manner of direct onset, to carry his immediate submission by storm, He lays gentle siege to him, waiting for his willing assent and choice.… That we may have it in true estimation, observe how far off it is from the practice and even the capacity generally of mankind. We can do almost anything more readily than consent to any sort of indirection, when we are resisted in the exercise of authority or encounter another at some point of violated right.… To redress the injury by gentleness, to humble an adversary by the circuitous approach of forbearance and a siege of true suggestion—that is not the manner of men, but only of God.… How openly He takes this attitude in the Scriptures. When our first father breaks through law by his act of sin, He does not strike him down by His thunders, but He holds them back, comes to Him even by a word of promise, and sends him forth into a world unparadised by guilt, to work, and suffer, and learn, and, when he will, to turn and live.… What we call the Gospel is only a translation, so to speak, of the gentleness of God—a matter in the world of fact, answering to a higher matter, antecedent, in the magnanimity of God. I do not say that it is a mere effusion of Divine sentiment, apart from all counsel and government.… It is at once the crown of God’s purposes and of His governmental order. And.… that wondrous indirection of grace, the incarnate life and cross of Jesus, is the very plan to carry the precept of law by precepts higher than force, by feeling and character, and sacrifice.… So, too, the Holy Spirit.… working efficiently, and, in a certain sense in the man, or subject, circles round the will, doing it respect by laying no force upon it, and only raising appeals to it from what He puts in the mind, the conscience, the memory, the sense of want, the fears excited, the aspirations kindled.… Holding this view … we ought to find that God’s whole management of us and the world corresponds. Is it so?.… Where is the gentleness of God in the unpitying, inexorable, fated powers of the world?.… Just here … Able to use force, He can use character, and time, and kindness. Real gentleness supposes counsel, order, end, and a determinate will. Not even a weak woman can be properly called gentle See how it goes with us in God’s management of our experience. Doing everything to work on our feeling, temperament, thought, will, and so on our eternal character He still does nothing by direct impulsion. It is with us here in everything as it was with Jonah when the Lord sent him to Nineveh.… Jonah steers straight the other way, and there puts to sea, sailing off upon it, and then under it, and through the belly of hell, and comes to land nobody knows where. After much perambulation he gets to Nineveh, and gives his message doggedly, finally to be tamed by a turn of hot weather and the withering of a gourd.… The subject culminates in the end God has in view, which is to make us great. He certainly has a different opinion of greatness from that which is commonly held by men—a much higher respect for the capabilities of our human nature, and much higher designs concerning it.… We do not understand Him, in fact, till we conceive it as a truth that He wants to make us great in will in the breadth and freedom of our intellect, great in courage, enthusiasm, self-respect, firmness, superiority to things and matters of condition, great in sacrifice and beneficence, great in sonship with Himself, great in being raised to such common counsel and such intimate unity with Him in His ends—that we do, in fact, reign with Him.… His object is to gain our will in such a manner as to save it, and make it finally a thousand-fold stouter in good, … and to recover our intellect by bidding us to set it for seeing by a wholly right intent and a willingness even to die for the truth, … and so He manages to save all the attributes of force and magnanimity within us while reducing us to love and obedience.
Easy enough were it for Him to lay His force upon us, and dash our obstinacy to the ground. He might not thrust us into love, He could not into courage and confidence, but He might instantly crush out all wilfulness for ever.… But He wants no slaves about His throne, and … therefore refuses to subdue us unless by some such method that we may seem, in a certain other sense, to subdue ourselves.—Bushnell.
2 Samuel 22:37. It is no small mercy to be brought into full Christian liberty and enlargement, but it is a still greater favour to be enabled to walk worthily in such liberty, not being permitted to slip with our feet. To stand upon the rock of affliction is the result of gracious upholding, but that aid is quite as much needed in the luxurious plains of prosperity.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:42. As nature prompteth men in an extremity to look up for help; but because it is but the prayer of flesh for ease, and not of the spirit for grace, and a good use of calamities, and not but in extreme despair of help elsewhere, therefore God hears them not. “They looked,” etc., q.d. If they could have made any other shift, God should never have heard of them. Trapp.
2 Samuel 22:45. In many cases the gospel is speedily received by hearts apparently unprepared for it. Those who have never heard the gospel before have been charmed by its first message, and yielded obedience to it; while others, alas, who are accustomed to its joyful sound, are rather hardened than softened by its teachings. The grace of God sometimes runs as fire among stubble, and a nation is born in a day. “Love at first sight” is no uncommon thing when Jesus is the wooer. He can write Cæsar’s message without boasting, Veni, vidi, vici; His gospel is sometimes no sooner heard than believed.—Spurgeon.
2 Samuel 22:41. “The neck,” or “the back.” Made them turn to flee. (See Exodus 23:27.)
2 Samuel 22:43. “As the dust.” “This language may be only expressive of that contempt in which ancient conquerors were wont to indulge when speaking of their foes. But it is literally true that they might soon be reduced as small as dust. The bodies of slain enemies that lie exposed without the rites of burial on the field or streets, soon become the prey of dogs or vultures, and the bones, stripped of all flesh, blanch in the warm climate, where they are not long in being crumbled to dust, and so trodden under the feet of their masters.” (Jamieson.)
2 Samuel 22:44. “Strivings,” or contests. This may especially refer to the internal conflicts in David’s own kingdom. (So Keil and Alexander.) “The closing words of this psalm, and its obvious connection with the promises in 2 Samuel 7:0, show that the anticipation of the last clause of the psalm was not limited to David’s personal triumphs, either at home or abroad, but meant to comprehend the victories of his successors, and especially of Him in whom the royal line was at once to end and be perpetuated.” (Alexander.)
2 Samuel 22:45. “The stranger.” Or, “the sons of outland,” i.e., foreigners. “Submit.” Literally, &c., i.e., yield a feigned obedience. “As soon as they hear.” This may mean, “they will submit at the mere report, or when they hear the command they will obey,” implying personal presence.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES
2 Samuel 22:47. “The Lord liveth.” In contrast to imaginary gods or dead idols. Some modern expositors understand this to be equivalent to the acclamation uttered at the coronation of an earthly monarch, but Keil, Alexander, Erdrnann, and others, point out that this would be inappropriate to any but a mortal being. They take it simply as a declaration which “itself is to be taken as praise of God” (Keil), for “praising God is simply ascribing to Him the glorious perfections which belong to Him; we have only to give Him what is His own.” (Hengstenberg.) “Blessed,” i.e., praised, or worthy to be praised. “Rock.” (See on 2 Samuel 22:2; 2 Samuel 22:32.)
2 Samuel 22:49. “The violent man.” Most writers take this to refer in the first instance to Saul, but to him as typical of a class.
2 Samuel 22:50. “Among the heathen.” Or, the nations. “This indicates that David’s experienced mercies were so great, that the praise of them should not be confined within the narrow bounds of Palestine, He can only have a proper auditory in the nations of the whole earth.” (Hengstenberg.) “Paul was therefore perfectly justified in quoting the verse in Romans 16:9, along with Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalms 117:1, as a proof that the salvation of God was intended for Gentiles also.” (Keil.)
2 Samuel 22:51. “His king … His anointed.” “The king whose salvation the Lord had magnified was not David as an individual, but David and his seed for ever—that is to say, the royal family of David which culminated in Christ. David could thus sing praises on the ground of the promise which he had received (2 Samuel 7:12-16), and which is repeated almost verbatim in the last clause of this verse.” (Keil)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Samuel 22:47-51
DAVID’S SOGS.—PART IV
I. That Jehovah lives ought to be enough to satisfy every human soul. All that David has said or can say is wrapped up in the words, “The Lord liveth.” That God lives is a sufficient guarantee, not only that His children will live, but that the best that is possible will be done for them and with them. Man feels conscious that he does not exist of himself and that he needs a stronger, a better, a higher life than his own upon which he can rest and whence he can draw supplies. In God, those who seek, find this need supplied—they testify, “With Thee is the fountain of life, in thy light shall we see light” (Psalms 36:9). They feel that the bodily and the spiritual life they now possess is from this living Jehovah, that He who gave them existence has given them what alone makes it worth having, a participation in His own Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and they rejoice in the confidence that while He lives they shall also live in the highest and best sense of the word. The life of God is a life separated from all injustice and unkindness, and it is a life not merely without any shadow of unrighteousness but a life of active justice and mercy. This being so, His existence ought to be for all men what it was to the Psalmist, a ground for hope and exultation. We cannot explain all the mysteries of His dealings with the children of men, some of David’s own words here do but remind us that clouds and darkness are often round about Him, but the simple fact of the existence of such a God is a rock upon which we may rest.
II. Every human life lived to purpose is lived in dependence upon the living God. It is David’s constant testimony that so far as he had fulfilled the high destiny to which he had been called, he had done so by remembering that he was nothing and that God was everything. “The Lord is my strength,” was his watchword on the day when he slew the giant, and, with few exceptions, it continued to be so until the hour in which he went “the way of all the earth” (1 Kings 2:2). He has left it upon record that every deed of his life that had been worth doing had been done in dependence upon the Lord who took him from the sheepfold and who had never failed him whenever he had sought His help. Every man who has lived a life worth living has lived it by putting his trust in David’s God, and every life has been worth living that has been so lived. The narrow circle of every man’s experience, and the wider range of history, furnish abundant proofs how poor a record the greatest leave behind them when they try to stand alone, and how blessed and honoured is the memory of many a lowly servant of God, who, when on earth, lived a life of faith, and therefore was enabled to fulfil the end of his being. But it is not only obscure lives that have been thus en-nobled—all the greatest names that adorn the pages of human history belong to those who have said with David, “God is my strength and power” and with Paul, “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
2 Samuel 22:47. A certain sense of solitariness grows upon a man as he becomes older. Those who were venerable in his youthful days, and to whom he looked for counsel, are one by one carried to the tomb. The companions of his early manhood fall at his side. He comes at length to a time when he does not care to make many new friends; and when he reaches the limit of three-score years and ten, he begins to feel himself almost a stranger, even in the place where he has spent his life. Perhaps a king, more than most other men, will realize this experience. The poet has spoken of “the lonely glory of a throne.” The monarch has no equals, and, from the nature of the case, can have few confidants and counsellors, except such as are venerable for age. But as his reign wears on, one after another of these early friends are taken away; and as each is removed, he is apt to think that a part of himself has been withdrawn from him. Thus loneliness steals over him, and he comes at length to be, like Moses among the tribes, the solitary survivor of a buried generation. Something like this, I doubt not, was felt by David as he advanced into old age. Samuel was gone; Jonathan was no more; Ahithophel had proved a traitor; Joab had become a thorn in his side; but there was One always true, and it was with no ordinary emotion, we may be sure, that out of his earthly solitude he sang of his fidelity and deathlessness: “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.” Let the aged among us fall back on this assurance, and find their solace in the companionship of the Most High. He hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”—Dr. Taylor.
Why do you not boast in your God and bear up yourselves big with your expectations from him? Do you not see young heirs to great estates act and spend accordingly? And why shall you, being the King of Heaven’s son, be lean and ragged from day to day, as though you were not worth a groat? Oh, sirs, live upon your portion; chide yourselves for living beside what you have! There are great and precious promises; rich, enriching mercies; you may make use of God’s all-sufficiency; you can blame none but yourselves if you be defective or discouraged.… Ask your fainting spirits under pressing outward sorrows, is not God alive? And why, then, doth not thy soul revive? Why doth thy heart die within thee when comforts die? Cannot a living God support thy dying hopes?—Oliver Heywood.
2 Samuel 22:50. Paul cites this verse (Romans 15:9). This is clear evidence that David’s Lord is here, but David is here too, and is to be viewed as an example of a holy soul making its boast in God, even in the presence of ungodly men. Who are the despisers of God that we should stop our mouths for them? We will sing to our God whether they like it or no, and force upon them the knowledge of His goodness. Too much politeness to traitors may be treason to our King.—Spurgeon.
Whole chapter. This psalm is called by Michaelis more artificial, and less truly terrible, than the Mosaic odes. In structure it may be so, but surely not in spirit. It appears to many besides us, one of the most magnificent lyrical raptures in the Scriptures. As if the poet had dipped his pen in “the brightness of that light which was before his eye;” so he describes the descending God. Perhaps it may be objected that the nodus is hardly worthy of the vindex—to deliver David from his enemies, could Deity ever be imagined to come down? But the objector knows not the character of the ancient Hebrew mind. God in His view had not to descend from heaven; He was nigh—a cloud like a man’s hand might conceal—a cry, a look, might bring him down. And why should not David’s fancy clothe Him, as He came, in a panoply befitting His dignity, in clouds spangled with coals of fire? If he was to descend, why not in state? The proof of the grandeur of this psalm is in the fact that it has borne the test of almost every translation, and made doggerel itself erect itself and become Divine. Even Sternhold and Hopkins its fiery whirlwind lifts up, purifies, touches into true power and then throws down, helpless and panting, upon their ancient common. Perhaps its great charm, apart from the poetry of the descent, is the exquisite and subtle alternation of I and Thou. We have spoken of parallelism, as the key to the mechanism of Hebrew song. We find this existing between David and God—the delivered and the Deliverer—beautifully pursued throughout the whole of this psalm.… It has been ingeniously argued that the existence of the I suggests inevitably as a polar opposite the thought of the Thou, that the personality of man proves thus the personality of God; but, be this as it may, David’s perception of that personality is nowhere so intense as here. He seems not only to see, but to feel and touch, the object of his gratitude and worship.—Gillfilan.