Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 18:1-50. "The servant of the Lord," which in the Hebrew precedes "David," is a significant part of the title (and not a mere epithet of David), denoting the inspired character of the song, as the production of one entrusted with the execution of God's will. He was not favored by God because he served Him, but served Him because selected and appointed by God in His sovereign mercy. After a general expression of praise and confidence in God for the future, David gives a sublimely poetical description of God's deliverance, which he characterizes as an illustration of God's justice to the innocent and His righteous government. His own prowess and success are celebrated as the results of divine aid, and, confident of its continuance, he closes in terms of triumphant praise. 2Sa 22:1-51 is a copy of this Psalm, with a few unimportant variations recorded there as a part of the history, and repeated here as part of a collection designed for permanent use.
1. I will love thee—with most tender affection.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
2, 3. The various terms used describe God as an object of the most implicit and reliable trust.
rock—literally, "a cleft rock," for concealment.
strength—a firm, immovable rock.
horn of my salvation—The horn, as the means of attack or defense of some of the strongest animals, is a frequent emblem of power or strength efficiently exercised (compare De 33:17; Lu 1:69).
tower—literally, "high place," beyond reach of danger.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
3. to be praised—for past favors, and worthy of confidence.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
4. sorrows—literally, "bands as of a net" (Ps 116:3).
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
5. death—and hell (compare Ps 16:10) are personified as man's great enemies (compare Re 20:13, 14).
prevented—encountered me, crossed my path, and endangered my safety. He does not mean he was in their power.
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
6. He relates his methods to procure relief when distressed, and his success.
temple—(Compare Ps 11:4).
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
7, 8. God's coming described in figures drawn from His appearance on Sinai (compare De 32:22).
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
8. smoke out … his nostrils—bitter in His wrath (compare Ps 74:1).
by it—that is, the fire (Ex 19:18).
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
9. darkness—or, a dense cloud (Ex 19:16; De 5:22).
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
10. cherub—angelic agents (compare Ge 3:24), the figures of which were placed over the ark (1Sa 4:4), representing God's dwelling; used here to enhance the majesty of the divine advent. Angels and winds may represent all rational and irrational agencies of God's providence (compare Ps 104:3, 4).
did fly—Rapidity of motion adds to the grandeur of the scene.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
11. dark waters—or, clouds heavy with vapor.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
12. Out of this obscurity, which impresses the beholder with awe and dread, He reveals Himself by sudden light and the means of His terrible wrath (Jos 10:11; Ps 78:47).
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
13. The storm breaks forth—thunder follows lightning, and hail with repeated lightning, as often seen, like balls or coals of fire, succeed (Ex 9:23).
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
14. The fiery brightness of lightning, in shape like burning arrows rapidly shot through the air, well represents the most terrible part of an awful storm. Before the terrors of such a scene the enemies are confounded and overthrown in dismay.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
15. The tempest of the air is attended by appropriate results on earth. The language, though not expressive of any special physical changes, represents the utter subversion of the order of nature. Before such a God none can stand.
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
16-19. from above—As seated on a throne, directing these terrible scenes, God—
sent—His hand (Ps 144:7), reached down to His humble worshipper, and delivered him.
many waters—calamities (Job 30:14; Ps 124:4, 5).
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
18. prevented—(Ps 18:3).
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
19. a large place—denotes safety or relief, as contrasted with the straits of distress (Ps 4:1). All his deliverance is ascribed to God, and this sublime poetical representation is given to inspire the pious with confidence and the wicked with dread.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
20-24. The statements of innocence, righteousness, &c., refer, doubtless, to his personal and official conduct and his purposes, during all the trials to which he was subjected in Saul's persecutions and Absalom's rebellions, as well as the various wars in which he had been engaged as the head and defender of God's Church and people.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
23. upright before him—In my relation to God I have been perfect as to all parts of His law. The perfection does not relate to degree.
mine iniquity—perhaps the thought of his heart to kill Saul (1Sa 24:6). That David does not allude to all his conduct, in all relations, is evident from Ps 51:1, &c.
Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
25-27. God renders to men according to their deeds in a penal, not vindictive, sense (Le 26:23, 24).
merciful—or, "kind" (Ps 4:3).
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
26. froward—contrary to.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
27. the afflicted people—that is, the humbly pious.
high looks—pride (Ps 101:5; 131:1).
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
28. To give one light is to make prosperous (Job 18:5, 6; 21:17).
thou—is emphatic, as if to say, I can fully confide in Thee for help.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
29. And this on past experience in his military life, set forth by these figures.
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
30-32. God's perfection is the source of his own, which has resulted from his trust on the one hand, and God's promised help on the other.
tried—"as metals are tried by fire and proved genuine" (Ps 12:6). Shield (Ps 3:3). Girding was essential to free motion on account of the looseness of Oriental dresses; hence it is an expressive figure for describing the gift of strength.
For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
33-36. God's help farther described. He gives swiftness to pursue or elude his enemies (Hab 3:19), strength, protection, and a firm footing.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
35. thy gentleness—as applied to God—condescension—or that which He gives, in the sense of humility (compare Pr 22:4).
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
36. enlarged my steps—made ample room (compare Pr 4:12).
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
37-41. In actual conflict, with God's aid, the defeat of his enemies is certain. A present and continued success is expressed.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
39. that rose up against me—literally, "insurgents" (Ps 3:1; 44:5).
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
40. given me the necks—literally, "backs of the necks"; made them retreat (Ex 23:27; Jos 7:8).
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
42. This conquest was complete.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
43-45. Not only does He conquer civil foes, but foreigners, who are driven from their places of refuge.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
44. submit, &c.—(compare Margin)—that is, show a forced subjection.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
46. The Lord liveth—contrasts Him with idols (1Co 8:4).
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
47, 48. avengeth me—His cause is espoused by God as His own.
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
48. liftest me up—to safety and honors.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
49, 50. Paul (Ro 15:9) quotes from this doxology to show that under the Old Testament economy, others than the Jews were regarded as subjects of that spiritual government of which David was head, and in which character his deliverances and victories were typical of the more illustrious triumphs of David's greater Son. The language of Ps 18:50 justifies this view in its distinct allusion to the great promise (compare 2Sa 7:12). In all David's successes he saw the pledges of a fulfilment of that promise, and he mourned in all his adversities, not only in view of his personal suffering, but because he saw in them evidences of danger to the great interests which were committed to his keeping. It is in these aspects of his character that we are led properly to appreciate the importance attached to his sorrows and sufferings, his joys and successes.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.