Psalm 18#sn Psalm 18. In this long song of thanks, the psalmist (a Davidic king, traditionally understood as David himself) affirms that God is his faithful protector. He recalls in highly poetic fashion how God intervened in awesome power and delivered him from death. The psalmist’s experience demonstrates that God vindicates those who are blameless and remain loyal to him. True to his promises, God gives the king victory on the battlefield and enables him to subdue nations. A parallel version of the psalm appears in 2 Sam 22:1-51.
For the music director; by the Lord’s servant David, who sang#tn Heb “spoke.” to the Lord the words of this song when#tn Heb “in the day,” or “at the time.” the Lord rescued him from the power#tn Heb “hand.” of all his enemies, including Saul.#tn Heb “and from the hand of Saul.”
1 He said:#tn A number of translations (e.g., NASB, NIV, NRSV) assign the words “he said” to the superscription, in which case the entire psalm is in first person. Other translations (e.g., NAB) include the introductory “he said” at the beginning of v. 1.
“I love#tn The verb רָחַם (rakham) elsewhere appears in the Piel (or Pual) verbal stem with the basic meaning, “have compassion.” The verb occurs only here in the basic (Qal) stem. The basic stem of the verbal root also occurs in Aramaic with the meaning “love” (see DNWSI 2:1068-69; Jastrow 1467 s.v. רָחַם; G. Schmuttermayr, “rhm: eine lexikalische Studie,” Bib 51 [1970]: 515-21). Since this introductory statement does not appear in the parallel version in 2 Sam 22:1-51, it is possible that it is a later addition to the psalm, made when the poem was revised for use in worship. you, Lord, my source of strength!#tn Heb “my strength.” “Strength” is metonymic here, referring to the Lord as the one who bestows strength to the psalmist; thus the translation “my source of strength.”
2 The Lord is my high ridge,#sn My high ridge. This metaphor pictures God as a rocky, relatively inaccessible summit, where one would be able to find protection from enemies. See 1 Sam 23:25, 28. my stronghold,#sn My stronghold. David often found safety in such strongholds. See 1 Sam 22:4-5; 24:22; 2 Sam 5:9, 17; 23:14. my deliverer.
My God is my rocky summit where#tn Or “in whom.” I take shelter,#sn Take shelter. “Taking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear and serve the Lord (Pss 5:11-12; 31:17-20; 34:21-22).
my shield, the horn that saves me,#tn Heb “the horn of my salvation”; or “my saving horn.”sn Though some see “horn” as referring to a horn-shaped peak of a hill, or to the “horns” of an altar where one could find refuge, it is more likely that the horn of an ox underlies the metaphor (cf. Deut 33:17; 1 Kgs 22:11; Ps 92:10). The horn of the wild ox is frequently a metaphor for military strength; the idiom “exalt the horn” signifies military victory (see 1 Sam 2:10; Pss 89:17, 24; 92:10; Lam 2:17). In the ancient Near East powerful warrior-kings would sometimes compare themselves to a goring bull that uses its horns to kill its enemies. For examples, see P. Miller, “El the Warrior,” HTR 60 (1967): 422-25, and R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 135-36. Ps 18:2 uses the metaphor of the horn in a slightly different manner. Here the Lord himself is compared to a horn. He is to the psalmist what the horn is to the ox, a source of defense and victory. and my refuge.#tn Or “my elevated place.” The parallel version of this psalm in 2 Sam 22:3 adds at this point, “my refuge, my savior, [you who] save me from violence.”
3 I called#tn In this song of thanksgiving, where the psalmist recalls how the Lord delivered him, the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not an imperfect. to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,#tn Heb “worthy of praise, I cried out [to] the Lord.” Some take מְהֻלָּל (mÿhullal, “worthy of praise”) with what precedes and translate, “the praiseworthy one,” or “praiseworthy.” However, the various epithets in vv. 1-2 have the first person pronominal suffix, unlike מְהֻלָּל. If one follows the traditional verse division and takes מְהֻלָּל with what follows, it is best understood as substantival and as appositional to יְהוָה (yÿhvah): “[to the] praiseworthy one I cried out, [to the] Lord.”
and I was delivered from my enemies.
4 The waves#tc Ps 18:4 reads “ropes,” while 2 Sam 22:5 reads “waves.” The reading of the psalm has been influenced by the next verse (note “ropes of Sheol”) and perhaps also by Ps 116:3 (where “ropes of death” appears, as here, with the verb אָפַף, ’afaf). However, the parallelism of v. 4 (note “currents” in the next line) favors the reading “waves.” While the verb אָפַף is used with “ropes” as subject in Ps 116:3, it can also be used with engulfing “waters” as subject (see Jonah 2:5). Death is compared to surging waters in v. 4 and to a hunter in v. 5. of death engulfed me,
the currents#tn The Hebrew noun נַחַל (nakhal) usually refers to a river or stream, but in this context the plural form likely refers to the currents of the sea (see vv. 15-16). of chaos#tn The noun בְלִיַּעַל (vÿliyya’al) is used here as an epithet for death. Elsewhere it is a common noun meaning “wickedness, uselessness.” It is often associated with rebellion against authority and other crimes that result in societal disorder and anarchy. The phrase “man/son of wickedness” refers to one who opposes God and the order he has established. The term becomes an appropriate title for death, which, through human forces, launches an attack against God’s chosen servant. overwhelmed me.#tn In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not an imperfect. (Note the perfect verbal form in the parallel/preceding line.) The verb בָּעַת (ba’at) sometimes by metonymy carries the nuance “frighten,” but the parallelism (see “engulfed”) favors the meaning “overwhelm” here.
5 The ropes of Sheol tightened around me,#tn Heb “surrounded me.”
the snares of death trapped me.#tn Heb “confronted me.”
6 In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried out to my God.#tn In this poetic narrative context the four prefixed verbal forms in v. 6 are best understood as preterites indicating past tense, not imperfects.
From his heavenly temple#tn Heb “from his temple.” Verse 10, which pictures God descending from the sky, indicates that the heavenly temple is in view, not the earthly one. he heard my voice;
he listened to my cry for help.#tc Heb “and my cry for help before him came into his ears.” 2 Sam 22:7 has a shorter reading, “my cry for help, in his ears.” It is likely that Ps 18:6 MT as it now stands represents a conflation of two readings: (1) “my cry for help came before him,” (2) “my cry for help came into his ears.” See F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (SBLDS), 144, n. 13.
7 The earth heaved and shook;#sn The earth heaved and shook. The imagery pictures an earthquake in which the earth’s surface rises and falls. The earthquake motif is common in OT theophanies of God as warrior and in ancient Near Eastern literary descriptions of warring gods and kings. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 160-62.
the roots of the mountains#tn 2 Sam 22:8 has “heavens” which forms a merism with “earth” in the preceding line. The “foundations of the heavens” would be the mountains. However, the reading “foundations of the mountains” has a parallel in Deut 32:22. trembled;#tn In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not an imperfect. Note the three prefixed verbal forms with vav (ו) consecutive in the verse.
they heaved because he was angry.
8 Smoke ascended from#tn Heb “within”; or “[from] within.” For a discussion of the use of the preposition -בְּ (bÿ) here, see R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 163-64. his nose;#tn Or “in his anger.” The noun אַף (’af) can carry the abstract meaning “anger,” but the parallelism (note “from his mouth”) suggests the more concrete meaning “nose” here. See also v. 15, “the powerful breath of your nose.”
fire devoured as it came from his mouth;#tn Heb “fire from his mouth devoured.” In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not an imperfect. Note the two perfect verbal forms in the verse.sn Fire devoured as it came from his mouth. For other examples of fire as a weapon in OT theophanies and ancient Near Eastern portrayals of warring gods and kings, see R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 165-67.
he hurled down fiery coals.#tn Heb “coals burned from him.” Perhaps the psalmist pictures God’s fiery breath igniting coals (cf. Job 41:21), which he then hurls as weapons (cf. Ps 120:4).
9 He made the sky sink#tn The Hebrew verb נָטָה (natah) can carry the sense “[cause to] bend, bow down.” For example, Gen 49:15 pictures Issachar as a donkey that “bends” its shoulder or back under a burden. Here the Lord causes the sky, pictured as a dome or vault, to sink down as he descends in the storm. as he descended;
a thick cloud was under his feet.
10 He mounted#tn Or “rode upon.” a winged angel#tn Heb “a cherub.” Because of the typical associations of the word “cherub” in English with chubby winged babies, the term has been rendered “winged angel” in the translation.sn Winged angel (Heb “cherub”). Cherubs, as depicted in the OT, possess both human and animal (lion, ox, and eagle) characteristics (see Ezek 1:10; 10:14, 21; 41:18). They are pictured as winged creatures (Exod 25:20; 37:9; 1 Kgs 6:24-27; Ezek 10:8, 19) and serve as the very throne of God when the ark of the covenant is in view (Pss 80:1; 99:1; see Num 7:89; 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2; 2 Kgs 19:15). The picture of the Lord seated on the cherubs suggests they might be used by him as a vehicle, a function they carry out in Ezek 1:22-28 (the “living creatures” mentioned here are identified as cherubs in Ezek 10:20). In Ps 18:10 the image of a cherub serves to personify the wind (see the next line of the psalm). and flew;
he glided#tc 2 Sam 22:11 reads “appeared” (from רָאָה, ra’ah); the relatively rare verb דָאָה (da’ah, “glide”) is more difficult and probably the original reading here in Ps 18. on the wings of the wind.#sn The wings of the wind. Verse 10 may depict (1) the Lord riding a cherub, which is in turn propelled by the wind current. Another option (2) is that two different vehicles (a cherub and the wind) are envisioned. Yet another option (3) is that the wind is personified as a cherub. For a discussion of ancient Near Eastern parallels to the imagery in v. 10, see M. Weinfeld, “‘Rider of the Clouds’ and ‘Gatherer of the Clouds’,” JANESCU 5 (1973): 422-24.
11 He shrouded himself in darkness,#tc Heb “he made darkness his hiding place around him, his covering.” 2 Sam 22:12 reads, “he made darkness around him coverings,” omitting “his hiding place” and pluralizing “covering.” Ps 18:11 may include a conflation of synonyms (“his hiding place” and “his covering”) or 2 Sam 22:12 may be the result of haplography/homoioarcton. Note that three successive words in Ps 18:11 begin with the Hebrew letter samek: סִתְרוֹ סְבִיבוֹתָיו סֻכָּתוֹ (sitro sÿvivotayv sukkato).
in thick rain clouds.#tc Heb “darkness of water, clouds of clouds.” The noun “darkness” (חֶשְׁכַת, kheshkhat) is probably a corruption of an original reading חשׁרת, a form that is preserved in 2 Sam 22:12. The latter is a construct form of חַשְׁרָה (khashrah, “sieve”) which occurs only here in the OT. A cognate Ugaritic noun means “sieve,” and a related verb חָשַׁר (khashar, “to sift”) is attested in postbiblical Hebrew and Aramaic. The phrase חַשְׁרַת מַיִם (khashrat mayim) means literally “a sieve of water.” It pictures the rain clouds as a sieve through which the rain falls to the ground (see F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry [SBLDS], 146, n. 33).
12 From the brightness in front of him came
hail and fiery coals.#tc Heb “from the brightness in front of him his clouds came, hail and coals of fire.” 2 Sam 22:13 reads, “from the brightness in front of him burned coals of fire.” The Lucianic family of texts within the Greek tradition of 2 Sam 22:13 seems to assume the underlying Hebrew text: מנגה נגדו עברו ברד וגחלי אשׁ, “from the brightness in front of him came hail and coals of fire” (the basis for the present translation). The textual situation is perplexing and the identity of the original text uncertain. The verbs עָבָרוּ (’avaru; Ps 18:12) and בָּעֲרוּ (ba’aru; 2 Sam 22:13) appear to be variants involving a transposition of the first two letters. The noun עָבָיו (’avayv, “his clouds,” Ps 18:12) may be virtually dittographic (note the following עָבְרוּ, ’avru), or it could have accidentally dropped out from the text of 2 Sam 22:13 by virtual haplography (note the preceding בָּעֲרוּ, which might have originally read עָבְרוּ). The noun בָּרָד (barad, “hail,” Ps 18:12) may be virtually dittographic (note the preceding עָבְרוּ), or it could have dropped out from 2 Sam 22:13 by virtual haplography (note the preceding בָּעֲרוּ, which might have originally read עָבְרוּ). For a fuller discussion of the text and its problems, see R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 74-76.
13 The Lord thundered#sn Thunder is a common motif in OT theophanies and in ancient Near Eastern portrayals of the storm god and warring kings. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 179-83. in#tn 2 Sam 22:14 has “from.” the sky;
the sovereign One#tn Heb “the Most High.” This divine title (עֶלְיוֹן, ’elyon) pictures God as the exalted ruler of the universe who vindicates the innocent and judges the wicked. See especially Ps 47:2. shouted.#tc The text of Ps 18:13 adds at this point, “hail and coals of fire.” These words are probably accidentally added from v. 12b; they do not appear in 2 Sam 22:14.tn Heb “offered his voice.” In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not an imperfect. Note the prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive in the preceding line.
14 He shot his#tn 2 Sam 22:15 omits the pronominal suffix (“his”). arrows and scattered them,#tn The pronominal suffixes on the verbs “scattered” and “routed” (see the next line) refer to the psalmist’s enemies. Some argue that the suffixes refer to the arrows, in which case one might translate “shot them far and wide” and “made them move noisily,” respectively. They argue that the enemies have not been mentioned since v. 4 and are not again mentioned until v. 17. However, usage of the verbs פוּץ (puts, “scatter”) and הָמַם (hamam, “rout”) elsewhere in Holy War accounts suggests the suffixes refer to enemies. Enemies are frequently pictured in such texts as scattered and/or routed (see Exod 14:24; 23:27; Num 10:35; Josh 10:10; Judg 4:15; 1 Sam 7:10; 11:11; Ps 68:1).
many lightning bolts#sn Lightning is a common motif in in OT theophanies and in ancient Near Eastern portrayals of the storm god and warring kings. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 190-92. and routed them.#tn Heb “lightning bolts, many.” 2 Sam 22:15 has simply “lightning” (בָּרָק, baraq). The identity of the word רָב (rav) in Ps 18:14 is problematic. (1) It may be a form of a rare verb רָבַב (ravav, “to shoot”), perhaps attested in Gen 49:23 as well. In this case one might translate, “he shot lightning bolts and routed them.” Other options include (2) understanding רָב (rav) as an adverbial use of the adjective, “lightning bolts in abundance,” or (3) emending the form to רַבּוּ (rabbu), from רָבַב (ravav, “be many”) or to רָבוּ (ravu), from רָבָה (ravah, “be many”) – both a haplography of the vav (ו); note the initial vav on the immediately following form – and translating “lightning bolts were in abundance.”sn Arrows and lightning bolts are associated in other texts (see Pss 77:17-18; 144:6; Zech 9:14), as well as in ancient Near Eastern art (see R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” [Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983], 187).
15 The depths#tn Or “channels.” of the sea#tc Ps 18:15 reads “water” (cf. Ps 42:1); “sea” is the reading of 2 Sam 22:16. were exposed;
the inner regions#tn Or “foundations.” of the world were uncovered
by#tn Heb “from.” The preposition has a causal sense here. your battle cry,#tn The noun is derived from the verb גָּעַר (ga’ar), which is often understood to mean “rebuke.” In some cases it is apparent that scolding or threatening is in view (see Gen 37:10; Ruth 2:16; Zech 3:2). However, in militaristic contexts this translation is inadequate, for the verb refers in this setting to the warrior’s battle cry, which terrifies and paralyzes the enemy. See A. Caquot, TDOT 3:53, and note the use of the verb in Pss 68:30; 106:9; and Nah 1:4, as well as the related noun in Job 26:11; Pss 9:5; 76:6; 104:7; Isa 50:2; 51:20; 66:15. Lord,
by the powerful breath from your nose.#tn 2 Sam 22:16 reads “by the battle cry of the Lord, by the blast of the breath of his nose.” The phrase “blast of the breath” (Heb “breath of breath”) employs an appositional genitive. Synonyms are joined in a construct relationship to emphasize the single idea. For a detailed discussion of the grammatical point with numerous examples, see Y. Avishur, “Pairs of Synonymous Words in the Construct State (and in Appositional Hendiadys) in Biblical Hebrew,” Semitics 2 (1971): 17-81.
16 He reached down#tn Heb “stretched.” Perhaps “his hand” should be supplied by ellipsis (see Ps 144:7). In this poetic narrative context the three prefixed verbal forms in this verse are best understood as preterites indicating past tense, not imperfects. from above and took hold of me;
he pulled me from the surging water.#tn Heb “mighty waters.” The waters of the sea symbolize the psalmist’s powerful enemies, as well as the realm of death they represent (see v. 4 and Ps 144:7).
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy,#tn The singular refers either to personified death or collectively to the psalmist’s enemies. The following line, which refers to “those [plural] who hate me,” favors the latter.
from those who hate me,
for they were too strong for me.
18 They confronted#tn The same verb is translated “trapped” in v. 5. In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not imperfect. me in my day of calamity,
but the Lord helped me.#tn Heb “became my support.”
19 He brought me out into a wide open place;
he delivered me because he was pleased with me.#tn Or “delighted in me.”
20 The Lord repaid#tn In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not imperfect. me for my godly deeds;#tn Heb “according to my righteousness.” As vv. 22-24 make clear, the psalmist refers here to his unwavering obedience to God’s commands. In these verses the psalmist explains that the Lord was pleased with him and willing to deliver him because he had been loyal to God and obedient to his commandments. Ancient Near Eastern literature contains numerous parallels. A superior (a god or king) would typically reward a subject (a king or the servant of a king, respectively) for loyalty and obedience. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 211-13.
he rewarded#tn The unreduced Hiphil prefixed verbal form appears to be an imperfect, in which case the psalmist would be generalizing. However, both the preceding and following contexts (see especially v. 24) suggest he is narrating his experience. Despite its unreduced form, the verb is better taken as a preterite. For other examples of unreduced Hiphil preterites, see Pss 55:14a; 68:9a, 10b; 80:8a; 89:43a; 107:38b; 116:6b. my blameless behavior.#tn Heb “according to the purity of my hands he repaid to me.” “Hands” suggest activity and behavior.
21 For I have obeyed the Lord’s commands;#tn Heb “for I have kept the ways of the Lord.” The phrase “ways of the Lord” refers here to the “conduct required” by the Lord. In Ps 25 the Lord’s “ways” are associated with his covenantal demands (see vv. 4, 9-10). See also Ps 119:3 (cf. vv. 1, 4), as well as Deut 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16.
I have not rebelled against my God.#tn Heb “I have not acted wickedly from my God.” The statement is elliptical; the idea is, “I have not acted wickedly and, in so doing, departed from my God.”
22 For I am aware of all his regulations,#tn Heb “for all his regulations [are] before me.” The Hebrew term מִשְׁפָּטִים (mishpatim, “regulations”) refers to God’s covenantal requirements, especially those which the king is responsible to follow (cf. Deut 17:18-20). See also Pss 19:9 (cf. vv. 7-8); 89:30; 147:20 (cf. v. 19), as well as the numerous uses of the term in Ps 119.
and I do not reject his rules.#tn Heb “and his rules I do not turn aside from me.” 2 Sam 22:23 reads, “and his rules, I do not turn aside from it.” The prefixed verbal form is probably an imperfect; the psalmist here generalizes about his loyalty to God’s commands. The Lord’s “rules” are the stipulations of the covenant which the king was responsible to obey (see Ps 89:31; cf. v. 30 and Deut 17:18-20).
23 I was innocent before him,
and kept myself from sinning.#tn Heb “from my sin,” that is, from making it my own in any way.sn Kept myself from sinning. Leading a blameless life meant that the king would be loyal to God’s covenant, purge the government and society of evil and unjust officials, and reward loyalty to the Lord (see Ps 101).
24 The Lord rewarded me for my godly deeds;#tn Heb “according to my righteousness.”
he took notice of my blameless behavior.#tn Heb “according to the purity of my hands before his eyes.” 2 Sam 22:25 reads “according to my purity before his eyes.” The verbal repetition (compare vv. 20 and 24) sets off vv. 20-24 as a distinct sub-unit within the psalm.
25 You prove to be loyal#tn The imperfect verbal forms in vv. 25-29 draw attention to God’s characteristic actions. Based on his experience, the psalmist generalizes about God’s just dealings with people (vv. 25-27) and about the way in which God typically empowers him on the battlefield (vv. 28-29). The Hitpael stem is used in vv. 26-27 in a reflexive resultative (or causative) sense. God makes himself loyal, etc. in the sense that he conducts or reveals himself as such. On this use of the Hitpael stem, see GKC 149-50 §54.e. to one who is faithful;#tn Or “to a faithful follower.” A “faithful follower” (חָסִיד, khasid) is one who does what is right in God’s eyes and remains faithful to God (see Pss 4:3; 12:1; 16:10; 31:23; 37:28; 86:2; 97:10).
you prove to be trustworthy#tn Or “innocent.” to one who is innocent.#tn Heb “a man of innocence.”
26 You prove to be reliable#tn Or “blameless.” to one who is blameless,
but you prove to be deceptive#tn The Hebrew verb פָתַל (patal) is used in only three other texts. In Gen 30:8 it means literally “to wrestle,” or “to twist.” In Job 5:13 it refers to devious individuals, and in Prov 8:8 to deceptive words. to one who is perverse.#tn The adjective עִקֵּשׁ (’iqqesh) has the basic nuance “twisted, crooked,” and by extension refers to someone or something that is morally perverse. It appears frequently in Proverbs, where it is used of evil people (22:5), speech (8:8; 19:1), thoughts (11:20; 17:20), and life styles (2:15; 28:6). A righteous king opposes such people (Ps 101:4).sn Verses 25-26 affirm God’s justice. He responds to people in accordance with their moral character. His response mirrors their actions. The faithful and blameless find God to be loyal and reliable in his dealings with them. But deceivers discover he is able and willing to use deceit to destroy them. For a more extensive discussion of the theme of divine deception in the OT, see R. B. Chisholm, “Does God Deceive?” BSac 155 (1998): 11-28.
27 For you deliver oppressed#tn Or perhaps, “humble” (note the contrast with those who are proud). people,
but you bring down those who have a proud look.#tn Heb “but proud eyes you bring low.” 2 Sam 22:28 reads, “your eyes [are] upon the proud, [whom] you bring low.”
28 Indeed,#tn Or “for.” The translation assumes that כִּי (ki)is asseverative here. you are my lamp, Lord.#tn Ps 18:28 reads literally, “you light my lamp, Lord.” 2 Sam 22:29 has, “you are my lamp, Lord.” The Ps 18 reading may preserve two variants, נֵרִי (neriy, “my lamp”) and אוֹרִי (’oriy, “my light”), cf. Ps 27:1. The verb תָּאִיר (ta’ir, “you light”) in Ps 18:28 would, in this case, be a corruption of the latter. See F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (SBLDS), 150, n. 64. The metaphor, which likens the Lord to a lamp or light, pictures him as the psalmist’s source of life. For other examples of “lamp” used in this way, see Job 18:6; 21:17; Prov 13:9; 20:20; 24:20. For other examples of “light” as a symbol for life, see Job 3:20; 33:30; Ps 56:13.
My God#tn 2 Sam 22:29 repeats the name “Lord.” illuminates the darkness around me.#tn Heb “my darkness.”
29 Indeed,#tn Or “for.” The translation assumes that כִּי (ki) is asseverative here. with your help#tn Heb “by you.” I can charge against#tn Heb “I will run.” The imperfect verbal forms in v. 29 indicate the subject’s potential or capacity to perform an action. Though one might expect a preposition to follow the verb here, this need not be the case with the verb רוּץ (ruts; see 1 Sam 17:22). Some emend the Qal to a Hiphil form of the verb and translate, “I put to flight [Heb “cause to run”] an army.” an army;#tn More specifically, the noun גְּדוּד (gÿdud) refers to a raiding party or to a contingent of troops.sn I can charge against an army. The picture of a divinely empowered warrior charging against an army in almost superhuman fashion appears elsewhere in ancient Near Eastern literature. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 228.
by my God’s power#tn Heb “and by my God.” I can jump over a wall.#sn I can jump over a wall. The psalmist uses hyperbole to emphasize his God-given military superiority.
30 The one true God acts in a faithful manner;#tn Heb “[As for] the God, his way is blameless.” The term הָאֵל (ha’el, “the God”) stands as a nominative (or genitive) absolute in apposition to the resumptive pronominal suffix on “way.” The prefixed article emphasizes his distinctiveness as the one true God (cf. Deut 33:26). God’s “way” in this context refers to his protective and salvific acts in fulfillment of his promise (see also Deut 32:4; Pss 67:2; 77:13 [note vv. 11-12, 14]; 103:7; 138:5; 145:17).
the Lord’s promise#sn The Lord’s promise. In the ancient Near East kings would typically seek and receive oracles from their god(s) prior to battle. For examples, see R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 241-42. is reliable;#tn Heb “the word of the Lord is purified.” The Lord’s “word” probably refers here to his oracle(s) of victory delivered to the psalmist before the battle(s) described in the following context. See also Pss 12:5-7 and 138:2-3. David frequently received such oracles before going into battle (see 1 Sam 23:2, 4-5, 10-12; 30:8; 2 Sam 5:19). The Lord’s word of promise is absolutely reliable; it is compared to metal that has been refined in fire and cleansed of impurities. See Ps 12:6.
he is a shield to all who take shelter#sn Take shelter. See the note on the word “shelter” in v. 2. in him.
31 Indeed,#tn Or “for.” who is God besides the Lord?
Who is a protector#tn Heb “rocky cliff,” which is a metaphor of divine protection. See v. 2, where the Hebrew term צוּר (tsur) is translated “rocky summit.” besides our God?#tn The rhetorical questions anticipate the answer, “No one.” In this way the psalmist indicates that the Lord is the only true God and reliable source of protection. See also Deut 32:39, where the Lord affirms that he is the only true God. Note as well the emphasis on his role as protector (Heb “rocky cliff,” צוּר, tsur) in Deut 32:4, 15, 17-18, 30.
32 The one true God#tn Heb “the God.” The prefixed article emphasizes the Lord’s distinctiveness as the one true God (cf. Deut 33:26). See v. 30. gives#tn Heb “is the one who clothes.” For similar language see 1 Sam 2:4; Pss 65:6; 93:1. The psalmist employs a generalizing hymnic style in vv. 32-34; he uses participles in vv. 32a, 33a, and 34a to describe what God characteristically does on his behalf. me strength;#tn 2 Sam 22:33 reads, “the God is my strong refuge.”sn Gives me strength. As the following context makes clear, this refers to physical and emotional strength for battle (see especially v. 39).
he removes#tn The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive here carries along the generalizing force of the preceding participle. the obstacles in my way.#tn Heb “he made my path smooth.” The Hebrew term תָּמִים (tamim, “smooth”) usually carries a moral or ethical connotation, “blameless, innocent.” However, in Ps 18:33 it refers to a pathway free of obstacles. The reality underlying the metaphor is the psalmist’s ability to charge into battle without tripping (see vv. 33, 36).
33 He gives me the agility of a deer;#tn Heb “[the one who] makes my feet like [those of ] a deer.”
he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.#tn Heb “and on my high places he makes me walk.” The imperfect verbal form emphasizes God’s characteristic provision. The psalmist compares his agility in battle to the ability of a deer to negotiate rugged, high terrain without falling or being injured.sn Habakkuk uses similar language to describe his faith during difficult times. See Hab 3:19.
34 He trains my hands for battle;#sn He trains my hands. The psalmist attributes his skill with weapons to divine enablement. Egyptian reliefs picture gods teaching the king how to shoot a bow. See O. Keel, The Symbolism of the Biblical World, 265.
my arms can bend even the strongest bow.#tn Heb “and a bow of bronze is bent by my arms”; or “my arms bend a bow of bronze.” The verb נָחַת (nakhat) apparently means “pull back, bend” here (see HALOT 692 s.v. נחת). The third feminine singular verbal form appears to agree with the feminine singular noun קֶשֶׁת (qeshet, “bow”). In this case the verb must be taken as Niphal (passive). However, it is possible that “my arms” is the subject of the verb and “bow” the object. In this case the verb is Piel (active). For other examples of a feminine singular verb being construed with a plural noun, see GKC 464 §145.k.sn The strongest bow (Heb “bow of bronze”) probably refers to a bow laminated with bronze strips, or to a purely ceremonial or decorative bow made entirely from bronze. In the latter case the language is hyperbolic, for such a weapon would not be functional in battle.
35 You give me your protective shield;#tn Heb “and you give to me the shield of your deliverance.”sn You give me your protective shield. Ancient Near Eastern literature often refers to a god giving a king special weapons. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 260-61.
your right hand supports me;#tc 2 Sam 22:36 omits this line, perhaps due to homoioarcton. A scribe’s eye may have jumped from the vav (ו) prefixed to “your right hand” to the vav prefixed to the following “and your answer,” causing the copyist to omit by accident the intervening words (“your right hand supports me and”).
your willingness to help#tn The MT of Ps 18:35 appears to read, “your condescension,” apparently referring to God’s willingness to intervene (cf. NIV “you stoop down”). However, the noun עֲנָוָה (’anavah) elsewhere means “humility” and is used only here of God. The form עַנְוַתְךָ (’anvatÿkha) may be a fully written form of the suffixed infinitive construct of עָנָה (’anah, “to answer”; a defectively written form of the infinitive appears in 2 Sam 22:36). In this case the psalmist refers to God’s willingness to answer his prayer; one might translate, “your favorable response.” enables me to prevail.#tn Heb “makes me great.”
36 You widen my path;#tn Heb “you make wide my step under me.” “Step” probably refers metonymically to the path upon which the psalmist walks. Another option is to translate, “you widen my stride.” This would suggest that God gives the psalmist the capacity to run quickly.
my feet#tn Heb “lower legs.” On the meaning of the Hebrew noun, which occurs only here, see H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena (SBLDS), 112. A cognate Akkadian noun means “lower leg.” do not slip.
37 I chase my enemies and catch#tn 2 Sam 22:38 reads “destroy.” them;
I do not turn back until I wipe them out.
38 I beat them#tn Or “smash them.” 2 Sam 22:39 reads, “and I wiped them out and smashed them.” to death;#tn Heb “until they are unable to rise.” 2 Sam 22:39 reads, “until they do not rise.”
they fall at my feet.#sn They fall at my feet. For ancient Near Eastern parallels, see O. Keel, The Symbolism of the Biblical World, 294-97.
39 You give me strength#tn Heb “clothed me.” See v. 32. for battle;
you make my foes kneel before me.#tn Heb “you make those who rise against me kneel beneath me.”sn My foes kneel before me. For ancient Near Eastern parallels, see R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 268.
40 You make my enemies retreat;#tn Heb “and [as for] my enemies, you give to me [the] back [or “neck”].” The idiom “give [the] back” means “to cause [one] to turn the back and run away.” Cf. Exod 23:27.
I destroy those who hate me.#sn Those who hate me. See v. 17, where it is the Lord who delivered the psalmist from those who hated him.
41 They cry out, but there is no one to help them;#tn Heb “but there is no deliverer.”
they cry out to the Lord,#tn Heb “to the Lord.” The words “they cry out” are supplied in the translation because they are understood by ellipsis (see the preceding line).sn They cry out. This reference to the psalmist’s enemies crying out for help to the Lord suggests that the psalmist refers here to enemies within the covenant community, rather than foreigners. However, the militaristic context suggests foreign enemies are in view. Ancient Near Eastern literature indicates that defeated enemies would sometimes cry out for mercy to the god(s) of their conqueror. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 271. but he does not answer them.
42 I grind them as fine windblown dust;#tn Heb “I pulverize them like dust upon the face of the wind.” The phrase “upon the face of” here means “before.” 2 Sam 22:43 reads, “like dust of the earth.”
I beat them underfoot#tc Ps 18:42 reads, “I empty them out” (Hiphil of ריק), while 2 Sam 22:43 reads, “I crush them, I stomp on them” (juxtaposing the synonyms דקק and רקע). It is likely that the latter is a conflation of variants. One, but not both, of the verbs in 2 Sam 22:43 is probably original; “empty out” does not form as good a parallel with “grind, pulverize” in the parallel line. like clay#tn Or “mud.” in the streets.
43 You rescue me from a hostile army;#tn Heb “from the strivings of a people.” In this context the Hebrew term רִיב (riv, “striving”) probably has a militaristic sense (as in Judg 12:2; Isa 41:11), and עָם (’am, “people”) probably refers more specifically to an army (for other examples, see the verses listed in BDB 766 s.v. I עַם, עָם 2.d). Some understand the phrase as referring to attacks by the psalmist’s own countrymen, the “nation” being Israel. However, foreign enemies appear to be in view; note the reference to “nations” in the following line.
you make me#tn 2 Sam 22:44 reads, “you keep me.” a leader of nations;
people over whom I had no authority are now my subjects.#tn Heb “a people whom I did not know serve me.” In this context “know” (יָדַע, yada’) probably refers to formal recognition by treaty. People who were once not under the psalmist’s authority now willingly submit to his rulership to avoid being conquered militarily (see vv. 44-45). The language may recall the events recorded in 2 Sam 8:9-10 and 10:19.
44 When they hear of my exploits, they submit to me.#tn Heb “at a report of an ear they submit to me.” The report of the psalmist’s exploits is so impressive that those who hear it submit to his rulership without putting up a fight.
Foreigners are powerless#tn For the meaning “be weak, powerless” for כָּחַשׁ (kakhash), see Ps 109:24. The next line (see v. 45a), in which “foreigners” are also mentioned, favors this interpretation. Another option is to translate “cower in fear” (see Deut 33:29; Pss 66:3; 81:15; cf. NIV “cringe”; NRSV “came cringing”). before me;
45 foreigners lose their courage;#tn Heb “wither, wear out.”
they shake with fear#tn The meaning of חָרַג (kharag, “shake”) is established on the basis of cognates in Arabic and Aramaic. 2 Sam 22:46 reads חָגַר (khagar), which might mean here, “[they] come limping” (on the basis of a cognate in postbiblical Hebrew). The normal meaning for חָגַר (“gird”) makes little sense here. as they leave#tn Heb “from.” their strongholds.#tn Heb “their prisons.” The besieged cities of the foreigners are compared to prisons.
46 The Lord is alive!#tn Elsewhere the construction חַי־יְהוָה (khay-yÿhvah) is used exclusively as an oath formula, “as surely as the Lord lives,” but this is not the case here, for no oath follows. Here the statement is an affirmation of the Lord’s active presence and intervention. In contrast to pagan deities, he demonstrates he is the living God by rescuing and empowering the psalmist.
My protector#tn Heb “my rocky cliff,” which is a metaphor for protection. See similar phrases in vv. 2, 31. is praiseworthy!#tn Or “blessed [i.e., praised] be.”
The God who delivers me#tn Heb “the God of my deliverance.” 2 Sam 22:48 reads, “the God of the rocky cliff of my deliverance.” is exalted as king!#tn The words “as king” are supplied in the translation for clarification. Elsewhere in the psalms the verb רוּם (rum, “be exalted”), when used of God, refers to his exalted position as king (Pss 99:2; 113:4; 138:6) and/or his self-revelation as king through his mighty deeds of deliverance (Pss 21:13; 46:10; 57:5, 11).
47 The one true God#tn Heb “the God.” See v. 32. completely vindicates me;#tn Heb “is the one who grants vengeance to me.” The plural form of the noun indicates degree here, suggesting complete vengeance or vindication.sn Completely vindicates me. In the ancient Near East military victory was sometimes viewed as a sign that one’s God had judged in favor of the victor, avenging and/or vindicating him. See, for example, Judg 11:27, 32-33, 36.
he makes nations submit to me.#tn Heb “he subdues nations beneath me.” On the meaning of the verb דָּבַר (davar, “subdue,” a homonym of דָּבַר, davar, “speak”), see HALOT 209-10 s.v. I דבר. See also Ps 47:3 and 2 Chr 22:10. 2 Sam 22:48 reads “and [is the one who] brings down nations beneath me.”
48 He delivers me#tn Heb “[the one who] delivers me.” 2 Sam 22:49 reads “and [the one who] brings me out.” from my enemies;
you snatch me away#tn Heb “lifts me up.” In light of the preceding and following references to deliverance, the verb רום probably here refers to being rescued from danger (see Ps 9:13). However, it could mean “exalt, elevate” here, indicating that the Lord has given the psalmist victory over his enemies and forced them to acknowledge the psalmist’s superiority (cf. NIV, NRSV). from those who attack me;#tn Heb “from those who rise against me.”
you rescue me from violent men.
49 So I will give you thanks before the nations,#sn I will give you thanks before the nations. This probably alludes to the fact that the psalmist will praise the Lord in the presence of the defeated nations when they, as his subjects, bring their tribute payments. Ideally the Davidic king was to testify to the nations of God’s greatness. See J. H. Eaton, Kingship and the Psalms (SBT), 182-85. O Lord!
I will sing praises to you!#tn Heb “to your name.” God’s “name” refers metonymically to his divine characteristics as suggested by his name, in this case “Lord,” the primary name of Israel’s covenant God which suggests his active presence with his people (see Exod 3:12-15).
50 He#tn Or “the one who.” gives his chosen king magnificent victories;#tn Heb “magnifies the victories of his king.” “His king” refers to the psalmist, the Davidic king whom God has chosen to rule Israel.
he is faithful#tn Heb “[the one who] does loyalty.” to his chosen ruler,#tn Heb “his anointed [one],” i.e., the psalmist/Davidic king. See Ps 2:2.
to David and his descendants#tn Or “offspring”; Heb “seed.” forever.”#sn If David is the author of the psalm (see the superscription), then he here anticipates that God will continue to demonstrate loyalty to his descendants who succeed him. If the author is a later Davidic king, then he views the divine favor he has experienced as the outworking of God’s faithful promises to David his ancestor.
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