The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 18

Psa 18:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "OF DAVID THE SERVANT OF THE LORD. HE SANG TO THE LORD THE WORDS OF THIS SONG WHEN THE LORD DELIVERED HIM FROM THE HAND OF ALL HIS ENEMIES AND FROM THE HAND OF SAUL. HE SAID...": Places the psalm somewhere between 2Sa 6 and 2Sa 11 -- for it is inconceivable that vv 22-24 were written after the time of David's great lapse, and the allusions in the second half of the psalm to the northern tribes and Gentile enemies require that David be king in Jerusalem when writing these words.

Consider allusions to Deu 32; 1Sa 2 (song of Hannah); and Gen 49.

V 1: Omitted in 2Sa 22.

I LOVE YOU: This Heb verb links with the word for "womb". The virgin birth? Cp Psa 22:10.

MY STRENGTH: Echoes the name Hezekiah. The concluding vv of the psalm may be his.

Psa 18:2

ROCK (first): "Sela" = strength or refuge. Hence no further need for "Selah" in Psa 18!

FORTRESS: Heb "metsudah" is a mighty fortress from which military campaigns might be launched. It is applied to Zion in 2Sa 5:7,9,17 and 1Ch 11:5,7,16. Translated "bulwark" (Ecc 9:14; Deu 20:20), "munition" (Isa 29:7; 33:16; Nah 2:1), "stronghold" (2Sa 5:7), and "castle" (1Ch 11:5,7). Thus God is both the place of defense (Sela), and the place from which a victorious attack may be launched. In Psalms, "metsudah" occurs in Psa 31:3; 66:11; 71:3; 91:2; 144:2.

ROCK (second): Heb "tsur", ref to altar rock on threshing floor of Ornan: 2Sa 24:18-25. The title "Tsur" is used of God in vv 31,46; Psa 28:1; 62:2,7; 78:35; etc.

IN WHOM I TAKE REFUGE: Quoted conc Messiah in Heb 2:13. This particular Heb word comes 24 times in Psalms, an indication of Christ's need to lean on God.

THE HORN OF MY SALVATION: Psa 132:17. Those in danger of death at the hand of an avenger fled for mercy to the horns of the altar: 1Ki 1:50; 2:28; Exo 21:14.

Psa 18:3

Christ's prayer on the Mount.

Psa 18:4

Vv 4-6: Not easy to connect to David's reign, but easy regarding the Lord Jesus. God is the "rock" (vv 1,2,46) upon which man builds his "house" of faith, so as to survive the "floods" (v 15 also). The source of Christ's parable in Mat 7:24-27.

CORDS OF DEATH: Explained in Psa 118:27 as a figure for sacrifice: esp the sacrifice of Christ (cp LXX and Act 2:24: "the pains of death").

THE CORDS OF DEATH ENTANGLED ME: Prob another hunting metaphor: a circle of nets (cp Psa 17:9-13).

THE TORRENTS OF DESTRUCTION: A different figure of speech, as in the "many waters" of v 16. Another Messianic psalm applies it very powerfully to the death of Christ: Psa 69:1,2,14,15.

DESTRUCTION: "Belial", one meaning of which may be "the Lord of night" (cp 2Sa 23:6).

Psa 18:6

IN MY DISTRESS I CALLED TO THE LORD: True of both Gethsemane (Heb 5:7) and Golgotha, but the context here requires the second of these.

I CRIED TO MY GOD: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" (Psa 22:1).

FROM HIS TEMPLE HE HEARD MY VOICE: Hence the rending of the veil of the temple -- from top to bottom, that is, by divine and not human or "natural" agency (Mat 27:51; Mar 15:38; Luk 23:45).

HIS TEMPLE: Some time after 2Sa 6, when tabernacle was set up in Zion. Heaven is the temple, or dwelling place, of Jehovah; but He dwells also in the most holy place, to which David is turning his attention: Psa 11:4. In the sanctuary, God is surrounded by the thick darkness (v 11). In Psa 20:2,6; 2Ch 7:1; and Lev 9:24, "heaven" is parallel to God's "sanctuary". The "door in heaven" (Rev 4:1) is // to the "heavenly places" (Eph 1:3) -- ie an insight into the fortunes of God's saints, whom He protects and tries (Psa 11:4,5).

Psa 18:7

Vv 7-15: In answer to the desperate prayer God manifested Himself in a marvelous "theophany": vivid brightness, intense darkness, and a mighty voice, as at Sinai.

(NT) VV 7-15: An impressive manifestation of God; belongs to the time of the Crucifixion. Esp important is the paradox of contrasting phrases: there is both (a) darkness, and (b) vivid brightness. This is reminiscent of Sinai but esp of Israel's deliverance from Egypt (Exo 14:20), and also of God's covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:7). The Shekinah Glory of God was darkness to the Egyptians, but brightness and light to the Hebrews. Now, similarly, at the crucifixion: darkness over all the land from the sixth to the ninth hour (Mat 27:45), expressing God's anger with His enemies. But there was brightness and light for Jesus. JT (Phan 57) applies this paragraph to the Second Coming. It is true, of course, that then Jesus will come "in the glory of his Father" (Mat 16:27). But the context here (esp vv 4-6) calls for a different ref.

A great earthquake is also coupled with the cherubim and the salvation of God in Psa 68:7,8; 77:14-20; 114:6,7. This section bears a great resemblance to Hab 3, in which the Holy One is pictured as coming in clouds. The Psalmist (as Habakkuk also) sees a re-creation of God's glory in the march of the avenging cherubim. Many other LD prophecies mention the cloud, poss the dark cloud to obscure the Shekinah Glory of Jehovah: Joe 2:2; Zep 1:15; Eze 30:3; Isa 19:1; 25:5; Rev 1:7. The revelation of God in His glory is shown against the background of an awesome storm.

THE EARTH TREMBLED AND QUAKED... BECAUSE HE WAS ANGRY: "Trembled"/"quaked" = Heb "wayyigash/wayyirash". Earthquake is an expression of the wrath of God: Job 9:5,6; Isa 2:19,21; Eze 38:18-20; Hag 2:6,21; Heb 12:26; Act 16:25,26. There was no greater wrath than at the crucifixion of God's Son: Mat 27:51.

Psa 18:8

SMOKE: Shekinah cloud in Gen 15:17; Isa 6:4; Joe 2:30.

CONSUMING FIRE CAME FROM HIS MOUTH: A further expression of divine anger: Deu 32:22; cp also Rev 19:15. But not so for Jesus, for whom it was the comforting presence of his Father.

BURNING COALS: Kindled a rededication in the crucified malefactor, as with Isaiah the prophet: Isa 6:6,7 (and perhaps Rom 12:20).

Psa 18:9

HE PARTED THE HEAVENS AND CAME DOWN: The thick rolling clouds of the approaching storm would seem literally to bring heaven down to the earth. So this is poss equivalent to "a door opened in heaven" (Rev 4:1). Certainly it is the language of "theophany": a divine manifestation, as in Gen 11:5; 18:21; Exo 3:7,8; 19:11,18,20; Isa 64:1.

Psa 18:10

HE MOUNTED THE CHERUBIM: "He rode" (AV): cp 1Ch 28:18: "the chariot of the cherubim". See Lesson, Cherubim.

HE SOARED: On eagles' wings: Eze 1:6-9.

THE WINGS OF THE WIND: But in Heb "wind" is also "Spirit". Cp Deu 33:26; Psa 68:33; 104:3; Nah 1:3.

Psa 18:11

COVERING... CANOPY: Protection for Joshua/Jesus: Psa 91:1,4.

CANOPY: Heb succoth, tabernacle, booth, "canopy" (RSV, NEB, NIV) -- from the Feast of Tabernacles: Lev 23:34,42,43; Deu 16:13,16; Psa 31:20,21; Isa 4:6; Amo 9:11; Zec 14:16.

DARK RAIN CLOUDS: To obscure the Shekinah Glory of the Most Holy: cp Dan 7:13; Rev 1:7; 1Th 4:17; esp Deu 4:11; Job 22:14; Psa 27:5; 1Ki 8:8,12.

Psa 18:12

THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS PRESENCE: Heb "nogah" always ref the Shekinah Glory (Isa 4:5; 60:3,19; Eze 1:4,13, 27,28; 10:4; Hab 3:4,11). LXX has a word for "far-shining, conspicuous from a distance". The only NT occurrence is in Mar 8:25. But here the special force of the word is of sacrifice accepted (Psa 80:1). What better assurance could Jesus have as he hung on the cross? At the crucifixion Jesus was not really deserted by his Father. Even the words which seem to point this way (Psa 22:1) are immediately set in true perspective in Psa 22:24. Under the Law the evidence of the sacrifice was always to be brought before the Lord -- blood poured out at the base of the altar of burnt-offering, blood on the horns of the altar of incense, blood before the veil, blood on the mercy-seat itself. In the death of Jesus, this supreme sacrifice could not be brought into the temple, so instead the veil was rent and the Glory of the Lord came to Jesus!

Psa 18:13

THE LORD THUNDERED: As in Joh 12:29, the Father spoke reassuringly to His Son on the cross.

Psa 18:14

Note the parallelism: arrows with lightnings (cp Psa 77:17). Jehovah is the God of war and the God of storm. The same word for lightning occurs in other visions of the Shekinah Glory: Exo 19:16; Deu 32:41 ("glittering"); Hab 3:4.

Psa 18:15

VALLEYS: Heb "aphikim", watercourses, constrained by rocky channels. Similar to the Heb wadis, dry creek beds, which flow only spasmodically, after great rains: Psa 42:1; Job 6:15; Isa 8:7. The rage of the great storm spends itself in the flood torrents.

THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH (WERE) LAID BARE: This is the earthquake of Mat 27:51,52. And by the resurrection of these saints on the third day it was demonstrated that the merits of the Lord's sacrifice and the power of his resurrection are not only prospective in their force (to apply even to believers today), but also are retrospective, right back to Adam the "foundation" of mankind (Rom 3:25; Heb 9:15; consider the sym of Jos 3:14-17).

THE BLAST OF BREATH FROM YOUR NOSTRILS: Cp Exo 15:8, the song of Moses, where God with the blast of His nostrils parted the Red Sea. Remarkably, this LXX word comes only in Act 9:1. What a ct! But Saul of Tarsus certainly thought himself to be the righteous anger of God at work.

Psa 18:16

Vv 16-19 speak very clearly of an extraordinary deliverance. But it is difficult to identify which. Perhaps the singular and plural in v 17 ref Saul and the later Gentile adversaries described in 2Sa 8.

NT: These vv, as describing the deliverance of Christ, require no commentary. In v 17 the singular and plural are the power of Sin (Heb 2:14; Rom 7:17,20) and of Sin's disciples, the Jewish rulers (Joh 15:25).

HE REACHED... TOOK HOLD... DREW OUT: Key words same as in Exo 2:5,10: "Drew out" is "mashah"/Moses: deliverance of the Deliverer, so that he might then deliver others!

Psa 18:19

A SPACIOUS PLACE: David is commemorating his deliverance from the dens and caves of the rocks (Psa 18:36; Psa 31:8).

HE RESCUED ME BECAUSE HE DELIGHTED IN ME: This is the Divine answer to the derisive statement of Mat 27:43: "Let [God] deliver him, now, if he will have him." He did! Cp also Psa 22:8.

Psa 18:20

Vv 20-24 (NT): Re Jesus, the refs to righteousness are strictly and lit true: Joh 4:34; 6:38; 8:46; 1Pe 2:22; Heb 4:15; 7:26; 2Co 5:21; 1Jo 3:5; Isa 53:9,11. But so also are the words: "I kept myself from mine iniquity" (AV), for there was in him the legacy of a propensity to sin which is the lot of all who are in Adam. For the strange paradox of righteousness and "sin" in the suffering Messiah, see Psa 25:11,15; 38:1,3,5,20; 40:8,10,12; 41:4,12; 86:2,5,11.

OT: Apt commentary on such passages as 1Sa 24:19. These vv (20-24) describe the righteousness of David relative to his adversaries. But there is that sinister phrase in v 23: I kept myself from mine iniquity -- it was only through the effort of Abigail, in a desperate attempt to avert David's hostility from her husband Nabal (1Sa 25:23), that even the righteous David was spared from such guilt.

Psa 18:25

A principle developed in the Lord's prayer: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mat 6:14,15; cp also Mat 18:33-35; Jam 2:13). And, conversely, God's ways do not appear right to those who themselves are not upright: cp Mat 25:24; 27:5.

Psa 18:26

In this section of the psalm there are several indirect allusions to certain of the tribes of Israel. These refs are appropriate to the gathering of all 12 tribes in loyalty to David: 2Sa 5:1-3.

TO THE CROOKED: Lev 26:23,24,27,28. Also, Pro 3:34.

YOU SHOW YOURSELF SHREWD: "Will wrestle" -- an allusion to Gen 32:24, the only other OT occurrence, to which Eph 6:12 also refers. Consider Jesus' rebukes of Peter.

Psa 18:27

Vv 27-31: Vindication! David's own personal experiences are traceable somewhat more readily.

NT: The vindication of God's Messiah leads on to a sustained picture of triumph over his enemies.

Psa 18:28

Light/darkness symbolize prosperity/affliction or death. See the usage in Job 21:17; 29:3; Pro 13:9; 20:20. The judgment of the wicked is pictured as being cast into "outer darkness" (Mat 8:12; 22:13).

LAMP: David is called the "light (or candle: AV) of Israel" in 2Sa 21:17 (cp 1Ki 11:36; 15:4). Psa 132:17 speaks of "a lamp for mine anointed", in a psalm which repeats David's resolve to see a worthy sanctuary of the Lord in Zion. Cp Mic 7:8; Rev 21:23 (ct Rev 18:23).

Psa 18:29

Vv 29-40: Numerous comparisons in this section with the prophecy of Jacob: troop (Psa 18:29; Gen 49:19); wall (Psa 18:29; Gen 49:22); deer (Psa 18:33; Gen 49:21); bow (Psa 18:34; Gen 49:24); neck of enemies (Psa 18:40; Gen 49:8).

V 29: A vivid description of the shock-tactics, the sudden assaults, used by General David against the Philistines. Cp also the exploits of David's "mighty men" in 2Sa 23.

I CAN ADVANCE AGAINST A TROOP: Links with David's victory over the marauding Amalekites in 1Sa 30:15,17. (As in v 33, David and his men are seen to be fighting on foot, while from the time of Solomon onward the kings of Israel resorted most often to chariots for war: 1Ki 22:34; 2Ki 9:21.)

NT: The angel of God striking down the soldiers assigned to guard the tomb of Jesus, so that he might escape the "prison" of death (Mat 28:2,4).

WITH MY GOD I CAN SCALE A WALL: Is this the taking of the Jebusite stronghold (2Sa 5)? NT: Firstly, the "wall" of armed guards at the tomb. Then, Eph 2:14 and context impart a splendid meaning to this enigmatic phrase: the wall of legalistic separation between Jews and Gentiles, and of course the wall of division between God and man.

Psa 18:31

ROCK... GOD: The altar of burnt-offering: 2Sa 24:18-25.

Psa 18:32

Vv 32-45: The historical background to this section is, on the whole, 2Sa 8: when David's new kingdom was in danger of being overwhelmed by a host of enemies (see Psa 60 and comments). But here and there David seems to look back to the evil days of Saul's hostility.

Vv 32-35, along with Isaiah's words (Isa 59:16,17), appear to be the OT origin of Paul's exposition of the "armor of righteousness" (Eph 6:13-17).

Psa 18:33

HE MAKES MY FEET LIKE THE FEET OF A DEER: To tread down the wicked: Rev 1:15; Psa 58:10,11; Mic 4:1-3,11-13; Eze 1:7; Song 2:8; Eur 1:175,176.

DEER: A beautiful wild creature. Its sureness of foot and speed form the basis of this oft-used Scriptural figure. Moses, in Deu 32:13, speaks of God as "He (that) made him (Israel) to ride on the high places of the earth." "Naphtali is a hind let loose" (Gen 49:21), or sent forth, to preach the gospel (Rom 10:15; Isa 52:7). "How beautiful are his feet!"

Psa 18:34

MY ARMS CAN BEND A BOW OF BRONZE: Actual metal bows (most likely, wooden bows strengthened with strips of metal) were often used in Bible times (as in Job 20:24). // Gen 49:24, where it is said of 'Joseph' that God makes his arms strong. More specifically, this is a description of Christ, like Joseph the son favored over all his brethren, the son of man whom God made strong for Himself (Psa 80:1,15,17).

Psa 18:35

YOUR RIGHT HAND SUSTAINS ME: Christ is the Son of the right hand of God (Psa 80 again). After his redemptive work, he is now seated on the right hand of his Father (Psa 110:1; Act 2:33). The right hand is the hand of strength (Psa 20:6), righteousness (Psa 48:10), authority (Isa 62:8), and fellowship (Psa 16:11; Gal 2:9).

YOU STOOP DOWN TO MAKE ME GREAT: "Thy gentleness hath made me strong" (AV). Jacob, made lame by the angel, then made spiritually strong again through prayer, lifted up to go forth with "enlarged" steps to meet Esau: Gen 32.

Psa 18 is majestic and warlike throughout; its theme is vengeance and victory. All the destructive elements of nature are marshaled on the side of Omnipotence, but right in the midst of it we read of the "gentleness", the "meekness", the "condescension" of the Almighty. What better way to remind us that the awesome destructive power is but the outer fringe of the garments of the Lord. The Lord is not really in the wind, the earthquake, nor the fire (1Ki 19:11,12). They are but the passing manifestations of His fury -- they endure only for the moment, but the still small voice of gentle strength remains forever. Whirlwind and earthquake and flame -- those great evidences of His might -- can pull down and purify and consume, but His gentleness alone can build up and make great (see also Psa 113:4-9).

Psa 18:37

Note the progression of the battle (or better, the rout!): pursue... overtake... destroy... crush (v 38)... But in the antitype again, David's 30 mighty men of war (2Sa 23) are destined to give way to Christ's "double portion" of 60 mighty men (Song 3:7,8), the symbolic Cherubim.

Psa 18:38

FELL BENEATH MY FEET: Psa 8:6; Mat 28:18; 1Co 15:27; Gen 3:15!

Psa 18:39

YOU ARMED ME WITH STRENGTH: Rev 1:13; 15:6. First we must be girded with righteousness, as was Christ (Isa 11:5; Psa 132:9; Job 29:14; 1Pe 5:5; Eph 6 -- the whole armor of God). Then we may expect to be girded with the strength of eternal life and Spirit.

Psa 18:41

This can only refer to David's enemies among his own people -- Saul, for example: 1Sa 28:6. Cp "the strivings of the people": LXX: contentions, railings; and here the word for people is the word which normally describes Israel.

NT: How bitterly this was fulfilled in AD 70, and many times since. Ct v 6.

Psa 18:44

FOREIGNERS CRINGE BEFORE ME: Lit "shall yield feigned obedience", or "come cringing" (NEB) -- which is precisely the situation in Psa 2:2,3 when Messiah is already king on mount Zion. Cp the figure of speech in Psa 81:15; 66:3; Deu 33:29 mg.

Psa 18:47

God as the Avenger of David: "May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you" (1Sa 24:12).

NT: Here is an anticipation of the Son's ultimate subjection to the Father: 1Co 15:28.

Psa 18:48

Jerusalem the holy city, under both David and Christ, is lifted up above all surrounding nations and cities (Isa 2:2,3; Zec 14:4,5,10,16). The holy city is exalted above the man of violence, or the "man of sin" (2Th 2).

Psa 18:49

Paul quotes this v in Rom 15:9 (along with Deu 30:43; Psa 117:1; Isa 11:10) as proof that Gentiles are to have a share in the gospel. The implicit argument is this: If Gentiles are to take part willingly and gladly in the great Messianic thanksgiving in the Kingdom, must not their thanksgiving look back joyfully to their earlier redemption from ignorance and sin? The theme is continued in Psa 19:4,6.

I WILL SING PRAISES TO YOUR NAME: Lit "To thy name will I sweep the strings."

Psa 18:50

GREAT VICTORIES: "Salvations". An intensive plural anticipating the name of Jesus, just as "Anointed" (here also) is the same as Christ! Same combination in Psa 28:8.

HE SHOWS UNFAILING KINDNESS TO HIS ANOINTED, TO DAVID, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS FOREVER: An allusion to the great promise made to David in 2Sa 7:13. There can be but one true "Seed" of David (cp Gal 3:16).


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