Here are some of my notes for Sunday, November 30, 2008 based on the Lifeway’s Explore the Bible curriculum
Reference works cited include:
1)IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas
2) 1, 2 Samuel New American Commentary by Robert D. Bergen
3)The David Story by Robert Alter
4) Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Gleason Archer, R. Laird Harris, Bruce Waltke, 1980 link
2 Sam 22:1
Songs written to commemorate a victory and thank the patron deity responsible are a major category of poetry from the ANE. Records of them go back as far as the third millennium BC, from places like Egypt and Assyria. (BBCOT)
It was common practice to compose a long poem or song at the end of biblical narrative books, like Jacob’s Testament from Gen 49 and Moses’ Song from Deu 32. Samuel is book ended by Hannah psalm and David’s song. Many skeptics doubt that David wrote this psalm, but many other scholars have pointed out the obscure, archaic language in the poem that fits a tenth century origin. (Alter)
This song might well have been written much earlier in David’s career than its placement in Samuel would suggest, based on the narrative introduction, perhaps only a few years into David’s reign. Note Saul is separated from all of David’s enemies, in a special category by himself.(Bergen)
In Psalm 18 the introduction seems to indicate a public setting for this poem (“For the Music Director”), yet the language of the poem is intensely personal.(Bergen)
2 Sam 22:2
Crag and Fortress- Many ancient deities in Palestine and Anatolia are considered deified mountains (El being a well-known example) and deities are frequently associated with mountains (think the Olympian gods of Greece, Yahweh’s association with Sinai). Even more, the metaphor of a god as a rock or mountain, representing security or a sort of fortress, is a common trope in ANE poetry.(Alter, BBCOT)
There are eight descriptions of God in this verse, and seven of them describe as a defensive refuge, while the eighth describes God “the horn that saves me”, an offensive defender pointing to the horns of a ram or a bull, used in aggressive defense.(Bergen, Alter)
2 Sam 22:4
While the KJV and some other translations in its tradition translate here “floods of ungodly men”, and the Hebrew term “beliyaal” is frequently associated with evil people, it seems more likely here that a more impersonal “streams of evil or destruction” is meant.
2 Sam 22:5
waves of death- This is a roundabout reference to death and the grave, to Sheol, the chasm that swallows up and holds the dead. Water in the ANE typically represents chaos, destruction, and death, and the Jews seem to have a cultural fear of the sea, which is not unreasonable given the dangers of sea travel and the pattern of sudden savage storms on the Sea of Galilee. (BBCOT)
2 Sam 22:6
snares, cords, ropes bands of death: This is a reference to the noose snares commonly used by ANE hunters, casting Death or Sheol as the hunter of men. This Sheol was considered the land of all the dead, where ghostly shadows of former people exist on dust, forever bound by gates and gatekeepers in the “land from which no traveler returns”. (BBCOT)
2 Sam 23:1
Another ancient archaic poem with lots of obscure points, hinting at its actual age. It can be read as either/or a prophecy or a wise saying.
said- The Hebrew root word, na’um, and the verb forms, are used almost exclusively of God, in the classic “thus says the LORD”. Even in the three cases it is used of men, David, Balaam, and Agur, it is plainly a form of inspired speech or prophecy. (TWOT)
raised on high- This is clarified in the Dead Sea Scrolls Samuel and the Greek OT Septuagint as “God raised on high”.(Alter)
2 Sam 23:2
This is a direct statement that God speaks through David here, at least, and thus puts him among the prophets. The later Aramaic expansion on this text, the Targum of Jonathan, says this explicitly: “These are the words of the prophecy of David concerning the end of the age, concerning the days of consolation which are to come”.
2 Sam 23:3-7
Solar metaphor: Theses verses compare the rule of a just king to the effects of the sun on crops. This is another common metaphor in the ANE, particularly the Hittites and the Egyptians. The sun (king) nutures and helps grow the grass (the righteous) but the same sun withers and burns up thorns (unjust), which are so dangerous they cannot be removed by hand, but dug up with tools. On the other hand, one can see the second metaphor in 23:6-7 as separate, the reference to thorns being a farming analogy, where the evil people/thorns are pulled up with tools or simply burnt in place.(BBCOT, Bergen)
2 Sam 23:5
Older translations like the KJV seem to miss that the Hebrew here is expressing a negative question expecting a positive answer. “Is not my house like this?” meaning Yes, it is like the metaphors in 23:4, nourished and growing, and will it not continue to do so, because God has made a covenant with David’s house?