Psalm 18 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Psalm 18)

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.

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.

3. to be praised--for past favors, and worthy of confidence.

4. sorrows--literally, "bands as of a net" (Ps 116:3).
floods--denotes "multitude."

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.

6. He relates his methods to procure relief when distressed, and his success.
temple--(Compare Ps 11:4).

7, 8. God's coming described in figures drawn from His appearance on Sinai (compare De 32:22).

8. smoke out . . . his nostrils--bitter in His wrath (compare Ps 74:1).
by it--that is, the fire (Ex 19:18).

9. darkness--or, a dense cloud (Ex 19:16; De 5:22).

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.

11. dark waters--or, clouds heavy with vapor.

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).

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).

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.

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.

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).

18. prevented-- (Ps 18:3).

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.

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.

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.

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).

26. froward--contrary to.

27. the afflicted people--that is, the humbly pious.
high looks--pride (Ps 101:5; 131:1).

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.

29. And this on past experience in his military life, set forth by these figures.

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.

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.

35. thy gentleness--as applied to God--condescension--or that which He gives, in the sense of humility (compare Pr 22:4).

36. enlarged my steps--made ample room (compare Pr 4:12).

37-41. In actual conflict, with God's aid, the defeat of his enemies is certain. A present and continued success is expressed.

39. that rose up against me--literally, "insurgents" (Ps 3:1; 44:5).

40. given me the necks--literally, "backs of the necks"; made them retreat (Ex 23:27; Jos 7:8).

42. This conquest was complete.

43-45. Not only does He conquer civil foes, but foreigners, who are driven from their places of refuge.

44. submit, &c.--(compare Margin)--that is, show a forced subjection.

46. The Lord liveth--contrasts Him with idols (1Co 8:4).

47, 48. avengeth me--His cause is espoused by God as His own.

48. liftest me up--to safety and honors.

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.