2Sa 22:1 Spoke, &c. By comparing this with the 18th Psalm, we may be convinced how much the Hebrew varies, particularly if we examine also the manuscripts. Kennicott specifies no less than 600 variations in this one canticle, and refutes the opinion of those who say that the 18th Psalm is a second edition, corrected by David’s own hand, as the manuscripts frequently shew that inaccuracies of the printed copies. He has collated them with Walton’s Polyglott. The variations are not however all distinct from each other, sometimes twenty manuscripts having the same various readings, and may of the relate to the letter v. See Diss. ii., p. 565. We shall give the explication in the order of the Psalms. The collation of parallel passages is of infinite advantage. Frequently (Haydock) the words differ so as to explain one another. — Saul. He is specified as the most dangerous. David, by divine inspiration, thanks God for his deliverance from all his enemies, both corporal and spiritual, enjoying peace of mind on account of his sins being forgiven, and all his opponents repressed. (Worthington) — This year, the thirty-seventh of David’s reign, was free from any commotion. Yet the king seems to have given way to a little vanity, on account of the many valiant men whom God had collected in his service; (chap. xxiii.) and hence he consented to the unfortunate resolution of numbering his subjects. (Salien, the year of the world 3016.)
This song, which is found with scarcely any material variation as Ps. 18, and with the words of this first verse for its title, belongs to the early part of David’s reign when he was recently established upon the throne of all Israel, and when his final triumph over the house of Saul, and over the pagan nations 2Sa_22:44-46, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Edomites, was still fresh 2 Sam. 21. For a commentary on the separate verses the reader is referred to the commentary on Ps. 18.
Keil and Delitzsch
The heading is formed precisely according to the introductory formula of the song of Moses in Deu_31:30, and was no doubt taken from the larger historical work employed by the author of our books. It was probably also adopted from this into the canonical collection of the Psalter, and simply brought into conformity with the headings of the other psalms by the alteration of דָּוִד וַיְדַבֵּר (and David said) into דִּבֶּר עֲשֶׁר לְדָוִד יְהֹוָה לְעֶבֶד (“Of David, the servant of the Lord, who spake:” Eng. ver.), and the insertion of לַֽמְנַצֵּחַ (“to the chief musician:” Eng. ver.) at the head (see Delitzsch on the Psalms).
“In the day,” i.e., at the time, “when Jehovah had delivered him.” Deliverance “out of the hand of Saul” is specially mentioned, not because this was the last, but because it was the greatest and most glorious, – a deliverance out of the deepest misery into regal might and glory. The psalm is opened by וַיֹּאמַר in both texts.
Keil and Delitzsch
2Sa_22:2-4 form the introduction.
2 Jehovah is my rock, my castle, and my deliverer to me;
3 My Rock-God, in whom I trust:
My shield and horn of my salvation, my fortress and my refuge,
My Saviour; from violence Thou redeemest me.
4 I call upon the praised one, Jehovah,
And I am saved from my enemies.
This introduction contains the sum and substance of the whole psalm, inasmuch as David groups the many experiences of divine deliverance in his agitated life into a long series of predicates, in all of which he extols God as his defence, refuge, and deliverer. The heaping up of these predicates is an expression both of liveliest gratitude, and also of hope for the future. The different predicates, however, are not to be taken as in apposition to Jehovah, or as vocatives, but are declarations concerning God, how He had proved himself faithful to the Psalmist in all the calamities of his life, and would assuredly do so still.
David calls God וּמְצֻרָתִי סַלְעִי (my rock, and my castle) in Psa_31:4 as well (cf. Psa_71:4). The two epithets are borrowed from the natural character of Palestine, where steep and almost inaccessible rocks afford protection to the fugitive, as David had often found at the time when Saul was pursuing him (vid., 1Sa_24:22; 1Sa_22:5). But whilst David took refuge in rocks, he placed his hopes of safety not in their inaccessible character, but in God the Lord, the eternal spiritual rock, whom he could see in the earthly rock, so that he called Him his true castle. לִי מְפַלְטַי (my deliverer to me) gives the real explanation of the foregoing figures. The לִי (to me) is omitted in Psa_18:2, and only serves to strengthen the suffix, “my, yea my deliverer.’
“My Rock-God,” equivalent to, God who is my Rock: this is formed after Deu_32:4, where Moses calls the Lord the Rock of Israel, because of His unchangeable faithfulness; for zur, a rock, is a figure used to represent immoveable firmness. In Psa_18:3 we find צוּרִי אֵלִי, “my God” (strong one), “my rock,” two synonyms which are joined together in our text, so as to form one single predicate of God, which is repeated in 2Sa_22:47.
The predicates which follow, “my horn and my salvation-shield,” describe God as the mighty protector and defender of the righteous. A shield covers against hostile attacks. In this respect God was Abraham’s shield (Gen_15:1), and the helping shield of Israel (Deu_33:29; cf. Psa_3:4; Psa_59:12). He is the “horn of salvation,” according to Luther, because He overcomes enemies, and rescues from foes, and gives salvation. The figure is borrowed from animals, which have their strength and defensive weapons in their horns (see at 1Sa_2:1).
“My fortress:” misgab is a high place, where a person is secure against hostile attacks (see at Psa_9:10). The predicates which follow, viz., my refuge, etc., are not given in Psa_18:3, and are probably only added as a rhythmical completion to the strophe, which was shortened by the omission of the introductory lines, “I love thee heartily, Jehovah” (Psa_18:1).
The last clause, “My Saviour, who redeemest me from violence,” corresponds to אֶחֱסֶה־בֹּו in the first hemistich. In Psa_18:4, David sums up the contents of his psalm of thanksgiving in a general sentence of experience, which may be called the theme of the psalm, for it embraces “the result of the long life which lay behind him, so full of dangers and deliverances.
” מְהֻלָּל, “the praised one,” an epithet applied to God, which occurs several times in the Psalms (Psa_48:2; Psa_96:4; Psa_113:3; Psa_145:3). It is in apposition to Jehovah, and is placed first for the sake of emphasis: “I invoke Jehovah as the praised one.” The imperfects אֶקְרָא and אִוָּשֵׁעַ are used to denote what continually happens. In 2Sa_22:5 we have the commencement of the account of the deliverances out of great tribulations, which David had experienced at the hand of God.
When the waves of death compassed me – Though in a primary sense many of these things belong to David, yet generally and fully they belong to the Messiah alone.
Keil and Delitzsch
5 For breakers of death had compassed me,
Streams of wickedness terrified me.
6 Cords of hell had girt me about,
Snares of death overtook me.
7 In my distress I called Jehovah,
And to my God I called;
And He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my crying came into His ears.
David had often been in danger of death, most frequently at the time when he was pursued by Saul, but also in Absalom’s conspiracy, and even in several wars (cf. 2Sa_21:16). All these dangers, out of which the Lord delivered him, and not merely those which originated with Saul, are included in 2Sa_22:5, 2Sa_22:6.
The figure “breakers or waves of death” is analogous to that of the “streams of Belial.” His distress is represented in both of them under the image of violent floods of water. In the psalm we find מָוֶת חֶבְלֵי, “snares of death,” as in Psa_116:3, death being regarded as a hunger with a net and snare (cf. Psa_91:3): this does not answer to well to the parallel נַחֲלֵי, and therefore is not so good, since שְׁאֹול חֶבְלֵי follows immediately.
בְלִיַּעַל (Belial), uselessness in a moral sense, or worthlessness. The meaning “mischief,” or injury in a physical sense, which many expositors give to the word in this passage on account of the parallel “death,” cannot be grammatically sustained. Belial was afterwards adopted as a name for the devil (2Co_6:15).
Streams of wickedness are calamities that proceed from wickedness, or originate with worthless men. קִדֵּם, to come to meet with a hostile intention, i.e., to fall upon (vid., Job_30:27). הֵיכָל, the temple out of which Jehovah heard him, was the heavenly abode of God, as in Psa_11:4; for, according to 2Sa_22:8., God came down from heaven to help him.
2Sa 22:7 Temple. David was now busy in making preparations for it.
I will love thee – Love always subsists on motive and reason. The verb רחם racham signifies to love with all the tender feelinys of nature. “From my inmost bowels will I love thee, O Lord!” Why should he love Jehovah? Not merely because he was infinitely great and good, possessed of all possible perfections, but because he was good to him: and he here enumerates some of the many blessings he received from him.
My strength –
1. Thou who hast given me power over my adversaries, and hast enabled me to avoid evil and do good.
I will love thee, O Lord – This verse is not found in the song in 2 Sam. 22. It appears to have been added after the first composition of the psalm, either by David as expressive of his ardent love for the Lord in view of his merciful interpositions in his behalf, and on the most careful and most mature review of those mercies, or by the collector of the Psalms when they were adapted to purposes of public worship, as a proper commencement of the psalm – expressive of the feeling which the general tenor of the psalm was fitted to inspire. It is impossible now to determine by whom it was added; but no one can doubt that it is a proper commencement of a psalm that is designed to recount so many mercies. It is the feeling which all should have when they recall the goodness of God to them in their past lives.
My strength – The source of my strength, or from whom all my strength is derived. So Psa_27:1, “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Psa_28:8, “he is the saving strength of his anointed.” Compare Psa_29:11; Psa_46:1; Psa_73:26; Psa_81:1; Psa_140:7.
Psa 18:1 This title is almost wholly taken from the book of Kings, except Unto the end for; instead of which we read, And David spoke, &c., [2 Kings xxii.] (Haydock)
which are the words of the inspired writer; so that Ferrand is very rash in rejecting both these titles. David wrote this psalm after he had subdued the Moabites, &c. (Calmet)
— He was inspired to write it (Worthington) twice, with some variations, (Berthier) 74 in number, (Aberbanel) or many more, if we believe Kennicott, who lays them to the charge of transcribers, perhaps, (Haydock) with greater reason. (Calmet)
— We cannot doubt but this psalm regards David. But there are some passages which refer to Jesus Christ and his Church more directly; and in general, David must here be considered as only (Berthier) the figure of the Messias, and of the just in his Church. (Worthington)
— James Paine has endeavoured to prove, with great ingenuity, that the whole must be explained of Jesus Christ, and that the name of Saul stands for “the grave;” as the points which are of modern date, only need to be changed. Thus the sufferings of our Saviour, and the punishment of the Jews in the last siege of Jerusalem are described; and thus it is clear that St. Paul (Romans xv. 9.) has cited this psalm in it proper sense. (Berthier) — See ver. 10, 41. —
Sts. Jerome and Augustine explain it of the victories of David, of the Messias, and of his Church. (Calmet)
— Saul may be particularly mentioned, because he was the most powerful. (Worthington)
The Lord is my rock –
2. I stand on him as my foundation, and derive every good from him who is the source of good. The word סלע sela signifies those craggy precipices which afford shelter to men and wild animals; where the bees often made their nests, and whence honey was collected in great abundance. “He made him to suck honey out of the rock,” Deu_32:13.
3. He was his fortress; a place of strength and safety, fortified by nature and art, where he could be safe from his enemies. He refers to those inaccessible heights in the rocky, mountainous country of Judea, where he had often found refuge from the pursuit of Saul. What these have been to my body, such has the Lord been to my soul.
4. מפלתי mephalleti, he who causes me to escape. This refers to his preservation in straits and difficulties. He was often almost surrounded and taken, but still the Lord made a way for his escape – made a way out as his enemies got in; so that, while they got in at one side of his strong hold, he got out of the other, and so escaped with his life. These escapes were so narrow and so unlikely that he plainly saw the hand of the Lord was in them.
5. My God, אלי ,doG Eli, my strong God, not only the object of my adoration, but he who puts strength in my soul.
6. My strength, צורי tsuri. This is a different word from that in the first verse.
Rabbi Maimon has observed that צור tsur, when applied to God, signifies fountain, source, origin, etc. God is not only the source whence my being was derived, but he is the fountain whence I derive all my good; in whom, says David, I will trust. And why? Because he knew him to be an eternal and inexhaustible fountain of goodness. This fine idea is lost in our translation; for we render two Hebrew words of widely different meaning, by the same term in English, strength.
7. My buckler, מגני maginni, my shield, my defender, he who covers my head and my heart, so that I am neither slain nor wounded by the darts of my adversaries.
8. Horn of my salvation. Horn was the emblem of power, and power in exercise. This has been already explained; see on 1Sa_2:1 (note). The horn of salvation means a powerful, an efficient salvation.
9. My high tourer; not only a place of defense, but one from which I can discern the country round about, and always be able to discover danger before it approaches me.
I will call upon the Lord – The idea here is, that he would constantly call upon the Lord. In all times of trouble and danger he would go to him, and invoke his aid. The experience of the past had been such as to lead him to put confidence in him in all time to come. He had learned to flee to him in danger, and he had never put his trust in him in vain. The idea is, that a proper view of God’s dealings with us in the past should lead us to feel that we may put confidence in him in the future.
Who is worthy to be praised – More literally, “Him who is to be praised I will call upon, Jehovah.” The prominent – the leading thought is, that God is a being every way worthy of praise.
So shall I be saved from my enemies – Ever onward, and at all times. He had had such ample experience of his protection that he could confide in him as one who would deliver him from all his foes.
Psa 18:3 Firmament. Hebrew, “rock and my citadel, and my deliverer. My God, (or strong one) my rock.” St. Jerome, “my strong one.” The two words which are rendered “my rock,” are salhi and metsudathi. (Haydock)
— David frequently retired to such places for safety. The idea was beautiful and striking. Such multiplicity of titles shews the gratitude (Calmet) and affection which David felt. (Calmet)
— Here are nine, and we may add the three metaphorical Hebrew terms, “rock, citadel, and buckler.” Can we refuse to love One from whom we have received so many favours? — And in, &c. These words are most probably cited by St. Paul, (Hebrews ii. 13.) though they occur also in Isaias viii. 18.
— Protector. Hebrew, “buckler.” (Berthier)
— Horn. This title is given to Jesus Christ, Luke i. 69. It is an allusion to beasts which attack their opponents with their horns (Theodoret; Deuteronomy xxxiii. 17.) being an emblem of strength (Worthington) and glory. (Calmet)
— And my, &c. (2 Kings) he lifted me up and is my refuge; my Saviour, thou wilt deliver me from iniquity. Hebrew, “violence.”
The sorrows of death compassed me – Surrounded me. That is, he was in imminent danger of death, or in the midst of such pangs and sorrows as are supposed commonly to attend on death. He refers probably to some period in his past life – perhaps in the persecutions of Saul – when he was so beset with troubles and difficulties that it seemed to him that he must die.
The word rendered “sorrows” – חבל chebel – means, according to Gesenius, “a cord, a rope,” and hence, “a snare, gin, noose;” and the idea here is, according to Gesenius, that he was taken as it were in the snares of death, or in the bands of death. So Psa_116:3. Our translators, however, and it seems to me more correctly, regarded the word as derived from the same noun differently pointed – הבל chēbel – meaning “writhings, pangs, pains,” as in Isa_66:7; Jer_13:21; Jer_22:23; Hos_13:13; Job_39:3. So the Aramaic Paraphrase, “Pangs as of a woman in childbirth came around me.” So the Vulgate, “dolores.” So the Septuagint, ὠδῖνες ōdines. The corresponding place in 2 Sam. 22 is: “The waves of death.” The word which is used there – משׁבר mishbâr – means properly waves which break upon the shore – “breakers.” See Psa_42:7; Psa_88:7; Jon_2:3. Why the change was made in the psalm it is not possible to determine. Either word denotes a condition of great danger and alarm, as if death was inevitable.
And the floods of ungodly men – Margin, as in Hebrew, “Belial.” The word “Belial” means properly “without use or profit;” and then worthless, abandoned, wicked. It is applied to wicked men as being “worthless” to society, and to all the proper ends of life. Though the term here undoubtedly refers to “wicked” men, yet it refers to them as being worthless or abandoned – low, common, useless to mankind.
The word rendered floods – נחל nachal – means in the singular, properly, a stream, brook, rivulet; and then, a torrent, as formed by rain and snow-water in the mountains, Job_6:15. The word used here refers to such men as if they were poured forth in streams and torrents – in such multitudes that the psalmist was likely to be overwhelmed by them, as one would be by floods of water. “Made me afraid.” Made me apprehensive of losing my life. To what particular period of his life he here refers it is impossible now to determine.
The sorrows of hell – Margin, “cords.” The word used here is the same which occurs in the previous verse, and which is there rendered “sorrows.” It is correctly translated here, as in that verse, “sorrows,” though the parallelism would seem to favor the interpretation in the margin – cords. If it means “sorrows,” the idea is, that such sufferings encompassed him, or seized upon him, as we associate in idea with the descent to the under-world, or the going down to the dead. If it means “cords, or bands,” then the idea is, that he was seized with pain as if with cords thrown around him, and that were dragging him down to the abodes of the dead. Luther, DeWette, Prof. Alexander, Hengstenberg, and others render the word, in each of these places, “bands.”
On the word here rendered “hell,” שׁאול she’ôl, see the notes at Isa_14:9. It means here the “under-world, the regions of the dead.” It is a description of one who was overcome with the dread of death.
The snares of death – The word “snares” refers to the gins, toils, nets, which are used in taking wild beasts, by suddenly throwing cords around them, and binding them fast. The idea here is, that “Death” had thus thrown around him its toils or snares, and had bound him fast.
Prevented me – The word used here in Hebrew, as our word “prevent” did originally, means to “anticipate, to go before.” The idea here is that those snares had, as it were, suddenly rushed upon him, or seized him. They came before him in his goings, and bound him fast.
The sorrows of hell – חבלי שאול chebley sheol, the cables or cords of the grave. Is not this a reference to the cords or ropes with which they lowered the corpse into the grave? or the bandages by which the dead were swathed? He was as good as dead.
The snares of death prevented me – I was just on the point of dropping into the pit which they had digged for me. In short, I was all but a dead man; and nothing less than the immediate interference of God could have saved my life.