David Sings to the Lord
1sn In this long song of thanks, David affirms that God is his faithful protector. He recalls in highly poetic fashion how God intervened in awesome power and delivered him from death. His 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 song appears in Ps 18. David sangtn Heb “spoke.” to the Lord the words of this song whentn Heb “in the day,” or “at the time.” the Lord rescued him from the powertn Heb “hand.” of all his enemies, including Saul.tn Heb “and from the hand of Saul.”
2 He said:
“The Lord is my high ridge,tn Traditionally “is my rock”; CEV “mighty rock”; TEV “is my protector.” 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,tn Traditionally “my fortress”; TEV “my strong fortress”; NCV “my protection.”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.
3 My Godtc The translation (along with many English versions, e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT) follows the LXX in reading אֱלֹהִי (’elohi, “my God”) rather than MT’s אֱלֹהֵי (’elohe, “the God of”). See Ps 18:2. is my rocky summit where I take shelter,tn Or “in whom.”
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 (see 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. 2 Sam 22:3 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. my stronghold,
my refuge, my savior. You save me from violence!tn The parallel version of the song in Ps 18 does not include this last line.
4 I calledtn In this song of thanksgiving, where David recalls how the Lord delivered him, the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense (cf. CEV “I prayed”), not an imperfect (as in many English versions). 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, “Yahweh”), resulting in “[to the] praiseworthy one I cried out, [to the] Lord.”
and I was delivered from my enemies.
5 The waves of death engulfed me;
the currentstn The 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 chaostn The noun בְלִיַּעַל (bÿliyya’al) is used here as an epithet for death. Elsewhere it is a common noun meaning “wickedness, uselessness” (see HALOT 133-34 s.v. בְּלִיַּעַל). 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 (note “engulfed” in the preceding line) favors the meaning “overwhelm” here.
6 The ropes of Sheoltn “Sheol,” personified here as David’s enemy, is the underworld, place of the dead in primitive Hebrew cosmology. tightened around me;tn Heb “surrounded me.”
the snares of death trapped me.tn Heb “confronted me.”
7 In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called to my God.tn In this poetic narrative the two prefixed verbal forms in v. 7a are best understood as preterites indicating past tense, not imperfects. Note the use of the vav consecutive with the prefixed verbal form that follows in v. 7b.
From his heavenly templetn Heb “from his temple.” Verse 10, which pictures God descending from the sky, indicates that the heavenly, not earthly, temple is in view. he heard my voice;
he listened to my cry for help.tn Heb “and my cry for help [entered] his ears.”
8 The earth heaved and shook;tn 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 Old Testament 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 foundations of the skytn Ps 18:7 reads “the roots of the mountains.” 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 consecutive in the verse.
They heaved because he was angry.
9 Smoke ascended fromtn Heb “within” or “[from] within.” For a discussion of the use of the preposition בְּ (bet) 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 (most English versions, “nostrils”). See also v. 16, “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 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 For other examples of fire as a weapon in Old Testament 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 (see Job 41:21), which he then hurls as weapons (see Ps 120:4).
10 He made the sky sinktn The verb נָטָה (natah) can carry the sense “[to cause to] bend; [to cause to] bow down” (see HALOT 693 s.v. נָטָה). For example, Gen 49:15 pictures Issachar as a donkey that “bends” its shoulder or back under a burden (cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV “He bowed the heavens”; NAB “He inclined the heavens”). Here the Lord causes the sky, pictured as a dome or vault, to bend or sink down as he descends in the storm. as he descended;
a thick cloud was under his feet.
11 He mountedtn Or “rode upon.” a winged angeltn Heb “a cherub” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV); NIV “the cherubim” (plural); TEV “his winged creature”; CEV “flying creatures.”sn A winged angel. Cherubs, as depicted in the Old Testament, 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). and flew;
he glidedtc The translation follows very many medieval Hebrew mss in reading וַיֵּדֶא (vayyÿde’, “and he glided”; cf. NIV “soared”; NCV “raced”) rather than MT וַיֵּרָא (vayyera’, “and he appeared,” so NASB, CEV). See as well the Syriac Peshitta, Targum, Vulgate, and the parallel version in Ps 18:10, which preserves the original reading (see the note there). on the wings of the wind.sn The wings of the wind. Verse 10 may depict the Lord mounting a cherub, which is in turn propelled by the wind current. Another option is that two different vehicles (a cherub and the wind) are envisioned. A third option 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.
12 He shrouded himself in darkness,tc Heb “he made darkness around him coverings.” The parallel text in Ps 18:11 reads “he made darkness his hiding place around him, his covering.” 2 Sam 22:12 omits “his hiding place” and pluralizes “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 letter ס (samek): סִתְרוֹ סְבִיבוֹתָיו סֻכָּתוֹ (sitro sÿvyvotav sukkato).
in thick rain clouds.tc Heb “a sieve of water, clouds of clouds.” The form חַשְׁרַת (khashrat) is a construct of חַשְׁרָה (khashrah, “sieve”), which occurs only here in the OT. A cognate Ugaritic noun means “sieve,” and a related verb חשׁר (“to sift”) is attested in postbiblical Hebrew and Aramaic (see HALOT 363 s.v. *חשׁר). 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, 146, note 33.)
13 From the brightness in front of him
came coals of fire.tc The parallel text in Ps 18:12 reads “from the brightness in front of him his clouds came, hail and coals of fire.” The Lucianic family of texts within the Greek tradition of 2 Sam 22:13 seems to assume the underlying Hebrew text: מִנֹּגַהּ נֶגְדּוֹ עָבְרוּ בָּרָד וְגַחֲלֵי אֵשׁ (minnogah negdo ’avru barad vÿgakhale ’esh, “from the brightness in front of him came hail and coals of fire”) which is the basis for the present translation. The textual situation is perplexing and the identity of the original text uncertain. The verbs עָבְרוּ (’avÿru; 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 (’avav, “his clouds”; Ps 18:12) may be virtually dittographic (note the following עָבְרוּ), or it could have accidentally dropped from the text of 2 Sam 22:13 by virtual haplography (note the preceding בָּעֲרוּ [ba’aru], which might have originally read עָבְרוּ). The term בָּרָד (barad, “hail”; Ps 18:12) may be virtually dittographic (note the preceding עָבְרוּ), or it could have dropped 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, see R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 74-76.
14 The Lord thunderedtn The shortened theme vowel indicates that the prefixed verbal form is a preterite. from the sky;
the sovereign Onetn 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 loudly.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 preterite form in the preceding line. 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.sn Thunder is a common motif in Old Testament 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.
15 He shottn Heb “sent.” arrows and scattered them,tn The pronominal suffixes on the verbs “scattered” and “routed” (see the next line) refer to David’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).
lightning and routed them.sn Lightning is a common motif in OT theophanies and in ancient Near Eastern portrayals of the storm god and warring kings. 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, 190-92.
16 The depthstn Or “channels.” of the sea were exposed;
the inner regionstn Or “foundations.” of the world were uncovered
by the Lord’s battle cry,tn The noun is derived from the verb גָעַר (nag’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.
by the powerful breath from his nose.tn Heb “blast of the breath” (literally, “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.
17 He reached down from above and grabbed me;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.
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. 5 and Ps 144:7).
18 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.
19 They confrontedtn The same verb is translated “trapped” in v. 6. In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not imperfect. Cf. NAB, NCV, TEV, NLT “attacked.” me in my day of calamity,
but the Lord helped me.tn Heb “became my support.”
20 He brought me out into a wide open place;
he delivered me because he was pleased with me.tn Or “delighted in me” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
21 The Lord repaidtn 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. 22-25 make clear, David refers here to his unwavering obedience to God’s commands. He 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 rewardedtn 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. 25) 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.
22 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 (see HALOT 232 s.v. דֶרֶךְ). 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 being, “I have not acted wickedly and, in so doing, departed from my God.”
23 For I am aware of all his regulations,tn Heb “for all his regulations are before me.” The term מִשְׁפָּטָו (mishpatav, “his 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 it.” Ps 18:22 reads, “and his rules I do not turn aside from me.” The prefixed verbal form is probably an imperfect; David 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).
24 I was blameless before him;
I kept myself from sinning.tn Heb “from my sin,” that is, from making it my own in any way. 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).
25 The Lord rewarded me for my godly deeds;tn Heb “according to my righteousness.” See v. 21.
he took notice of my blameless behavior.tn Heb “according to my purity before his eyes.”
26 You prove to be loyaltn The imperfect verbal forms in vv. 26-30 draw attention to God’s characteristic actions. Based on his experience, the psalmist generalizes about God’s just dealings with people (vv. 26-28) and about the way in which God typically empowers him on the battlefield (vv. 29-30). 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 חָסִיד (khasid, “faithful follower”) 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 trustworthytn Or “innocent.” to one who is innocent.tc Heb “a warrior of innocence.” The parallel text in Ps 18:25 reads, probably correctly, גֶּבֶר (gever, “man”) instead of גִּבּוֹר (gibor, “warrior”).
27 You prove to be reliabletn Or “blameless.” to one who is blameless,
but you prove to be deceptivetc The translation follows two medieval Hebrew mss in reading תִּתְפַּתָּל (titpattal, from the root פתל, “to twist”) rather than the MT תִּתַּפָּל (tittappal, from the root תפל, “to be tasteless,” “behave silly”; cf. KJV “unsavoury”). See as well the parallel passage in Ps 18:26. The 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. Cf. NAB, NASB “astute”; NIV “shrewd”; NRSV “perverse”; TEV, NLT “hostile.” 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). Verses 26-27 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.
28 You deliver oppressedtn Or perhaps “humble” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT; note the contrast with those who are proud). people,
but you watch the proud and bring them down.tc Heb “but your eyes are upon the proud, you bring low.” Ps 18:27 reads “but proud eyes you bring low.”
29 Indeed,tn Or “for.” The translation assumes that כִּי (ki) is asseverative here. you are my lamp,tc Many medieval Hebrew mss, some LXX mss, and the Syriac Peshitta support reading תָּאִיר (ta’ir, “you cause to shine”) before the words “my lamp.” See Ps 18:28. 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. Lord.
The Lord illuminestc The Lucianic Greek recension and Vulgate understand this verb to be second person rather than third person as in the MT. But this is probably the result of reading the preceding word “Lord” as a vocative under the influence of the vocative in the first part of the verse. the darkness around me.tn Heb “my darkness.”
30 Indeed,tn Or “for.” The translation assumes that כִּי (ki) is asseverative here.with your helptn Heb “by you.” I can chargetn Heb “I will run.” The imperfect verbal forms in v. 30 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 [literally, “cause to run”] an army.” against an army;tn More specifically, the noun refers to a raiding party or to a contingent of troops (see HALOT 177 s.v. II גְדוּד). 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 powertn Heb “by my God.” I can jump over a wall.tn David uses hyperbole to emphasize his God-given military superiority.
31 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 (see BDB 42 s.v. II אֵל 6; 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 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. 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.
he is a shield to all who take shelter in him.
32 Indeed,tn Or “for.” The translation assumes that כִּי (ki) is asseverative here. who is God besides the Lord?
Who is a protectortn Heb “rocky cliff,” which is a metaphor of protection. 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 (צוּר, tsur, “rocky cliff”) in Deut 32:4, 15, 17-18, 30.
33 The one true Godtn Heb “the God.” See the note at v. 31. is my mighty refuge;tc 4QSama has מְאַזְּרֵנִי (mÿ’azzÿreni, “the one girding me with strength”) rather than the MT מָעוּזִּי (ma’uzzi, “my refuge”). See as well Ps 18:32.
he removestn The prefixed verbal form with vav consecutive here carries along the generalizing tone of the preceding line. the obstacles in my way.tn Heb “and he sets free (from the verb נָתַר, natar) [the] blameless, his [Kethib; “my” (Qere)] way.” The translation follows Ps 18:32 in reading “he made my path smooth.” The 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).
34 He gives me the agility of a deer;tc Heb “[the one who] makes his feet like [those of] a deer.” The translation follows the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss in reading רַגְלַי (raglai, “my feet”) rather than the MT רַגְלָיו (raglav, “his feet”). See as well Ps 18:33.
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. Habakkuk uses similar language to describe his faith during difficult times. See Hab 3:19.
35 He trainstn Heb “teaches.” my hands for battle;tn The psalmist attributes his skill with weapons to divine enabling. Egyptian reliefs picture gods teaching the king how to shoot a bow. See O. Keel, 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.” The verb נָחֵת (nakhet) apparently means “to pull back; to bend” here (see HALOT 692 s.v. נחת). The bronze bow referred to here was probably laminated with bronze strips, or 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.
36 You give metn Another option is to translate the prefixed verb with vav consecutive with a past tense, “you gave me.” Several prefixed verbal forms with vav consecutive also appear in vv. 38-44. The present translation understands this section as a description of what generally happened when the author charged into battle, but another option is to understand the section as narrative and translate accordingly. your protective shield;tc Ps 18:35 contains an additional line following this one, which reads “your right hand supports me.” It may be omitted here due to homoioarcton. See the note at Ps 18:35.tn Heb “and you give me the shield of your deliverance”; KJV, ASV “the shield of thy (your NRSV, NLT) salvation”; NIV “your shield of victory.” 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 willingness to help enables me to prevail.tn Heb “your answer makes me great.” David refers to God’s willingness to answer his prayer.
37 You widen my path;tn Heb “step.” “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 him the capacity to run quickly.
my feettn 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.
38 I chase my enemies and destroy them;
I do not turn back until I wipe them out.
39 I wipe them out and beat them to death;
they cannot get up;
they fall at my feet.
40 You give me strength for battle;tn Heb “you clothed me with strength for battle.”
you make my foes kneel before me.tn Heb “you make those who rise against me kneel beneath me.”
41 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.” See Exod 23:27 and HALOT 888 s.v. II ערף.
I destroy those who hate me.
42 They cry out,tc The translation follows one medieval Hebrew ms and the ancient versions in reading the Piel יְשַׁוְּעוּ (yÿshavvÿ’u, “they cry for help”) rather than the Qal of the MT יִשְׁעוּ (yish’u, “they look about for help”). See Ps 18:41 as well. but there is no one to help them;tn Heb “but there is no deliverer.”
they cry out to the Lord,tn The words “they cry out” are not in the Hebrew text. This reference to the psalmists’ 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.
43 I grind them as fine as the dust of the ground;
I crush them and stomp on them like claytn Or “mud” (so NAB, NIV, CEV). See HALOT 374 s.v. טִיט. in the streets.
44 You rescue me from a hostile army;tn Heb “from the strivings of my people.” In this context רִיב (riv, “striving”) probably has a militaristic sense (as in Judg 12:2; Isa 41:11), and עַם (’am, “people”) probably refers more specifically to an army (for other examples, see the verses listed in BDB 766 s.v. עַם 2.d). The suffix “my” suggests David is referring to attacks by his own countrymen, the “people” being Israel. However, the parallel text in Ps 18:43 omits the suffix.
you preserve me as 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 the verb “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. 45-46). The language may recall the events recorded in 2 Sam 8:9-10 and 10:19.
45 Foreigners are powerless before me;tn For the meaning “to be weak; to be powerless” for the verb כָּחַשׁ (kakhash), see Ps 109:24. Verse 46, which also mentions foreigners, favors this interpretation. Another option is to translate “cower in fear” (see Deut 33:29; Pss 66:3; 81:15).
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 David’s exploits is so impressive that those who hear it submit to his rulership without putting up a fight.
46 Foreigners lose their courage;tn Heb “wither, wear out.”
they shake with feartc The translation assumes a reading וְיַחְרְגוּ (vÿyakhrÿgu, “and they quaked”) rather than the MT וְיַחְגְּרוּ (vÿyakhgÿru, “and they girded themselves”). See the note at Ps 18:45. as they leavetn Heb “from.” their strongholds.tn Heb “prisons.” Their besieged cities are compared to prisons.
47 The Lord is alive!tn Elsewhere the construction חַי־יְהוָה (khay-yÿhvah) as used exclusively as an oath formula, 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 that he is the living God by rescuing and empowering the psalmist.
My protectortn Heb “my rocky cliff,” which is a metaphor for protection. is praiseworthy!tn Or “blessed [i.e., praised] be.”
The God who delivers metn Heb “the God of the rock of my deliverance.” The term צוּר (tsur, “rock”) is probably accidentally repeated from the previous line. The parallel version in Ps 18:46 has simply “the God of my deliverance.” is exalted as king!tn The words “as king” are supplied in the translation for clarification. 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).
48 The one true God completely vindicates me;tn Heb “The God is the one who grants vengeance to me.” The plural form of the noun “vengeance” indicates degree here, suggesting complete vengeance or vindication. 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 “and [is the one who] brings down nations beneath me.”
49 He delivers me from my enemies;tn Heb “and [the one who] brings me out from my enemies.”
you snatch me awaytn Heb “you lift me up.” In light of the preceding and following references to deliverance, the verb רוּם (rum) 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 him victory over his enemies and forced them to acknowledge the psalmist’s superiority. from those who attack me;tn Heb “from those who rise against me.”
you rescue me from violent men.
50 So I will give you thanks, O Lord, before the nations!sn This probably alludes to the fact that David will praise the Lord in the presence of the defeated nations when they, as his subjects, bring their tribute payments. Ideally God’s chosen king was to testify to the nations of God’s greatness. See J. Eaton, Kingship and the Psalms (SBT), 182-85.
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).
51 He gives his chosen king magnificent victories;tc The translation follows the Kethib and the ancient versions in reading מַגְדִּיל (magdil, “he magnifies”) rather than the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss of the MT which read מִגְדּוֹל (migdol, “tower”). See Ps 18:50.
he is faithful to his chosen ruler,tn Heb “[the one who] does loyalty to his anointed one.”
to David and to his descendants forever!”
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