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18. Psalm 18

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

2The 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.

3I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

4The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

5The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

6In 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.

7Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

8There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

9He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

10And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

11He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

12At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

13The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

14Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

15Then 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.

16He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

17He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

18They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.

19He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

20The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

21For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

22For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

23I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

24Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

25With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

26With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

27For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.

28For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

29For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.

30 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.

31For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?

32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

33He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.

34He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

35Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

36Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

37I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.

38I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.

39For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.

40Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

41They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.

42Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

43Thou 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.

44As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.

45The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

46The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.

48He 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.

49Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

50Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

1. And he said, etc. I will not stop to examine too minutely the syllables, or the few words, in which this psalm differs from the song which is recorded in the twenty-second chapter of the Second Book of Samuel. When, however, we meet with any important difference, we shall advert to it in the proper place; and we find one in the remarkable sentence with which this psalm commences, I will love thee affectionately, O Jehovah, my strength, which is omitted in the song in Samuel. As the Scripture does not use the verb רהם, racham, for to love, except in the conjugation pihel, and as it is here put in the conjugation kal, some of the Jewish expositors explain it as here meaning to seek mercy; as if David had said, Lord, since I have so often experienced thee to be a merciful God, I will trust to and repose in thy mercies for ever. And certainly this exposition would not be unsuitable, but I am unwilling to depart from the other, which is more generally received. It is to be observed, that love to God is here laid down as constituting the principal part of true godliness; for there is no better way of serving God than to love him. No doubt, the service which we owe him is better expressed by the word reverence, that thus his majesty may prominently stand forth to our view in its infinite greatness. But as he requires nothing so expressly as to possess all the affections of our heart, and to have them going out towards him, so there is no sacrifice which he values more than when we are bound fast to him by the chain of a free and spontaneous love; and, on the other hand, there is nothing in which his glory shines forth more conspicuously than in his free and sovereign goodness. Moses, therefore, (Deuteronomy 10:12,) when he meant to give a summary of the law, says,

“And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require
of thee but to love him?”

In speaking thus, David, at the same time, intended to show that his thoughts and affections were not so intently fixed upon the benefits of God as to be ungrateful to him who was the author of them, a sin which has been too common in all ages. Even at this day we see how the greater part of mankind enjoy wholly at their ease the gifts of God without paying any regard to him, or, if they think of him at all, it is only to despise him. David, to prevent himself from falling into this ingratitude, in these words makes as it were a solemn vow, Lord, as thou art my strength, I will continue united and devoted to thee by unfeigned love.

2. Jehovah is my rock, etc. When David thus heaps together many titles by which to honor God, it is no useless or unnecessary accumulation of words. We know how difficult it is for men to keep their minds and hearts stayed in God. They either imagine that it is not enough to have God for them, and, consequently, are always seeking after support and succor elsewhere, or, at the first temptation which assails them, fall from the confidence which they placed in him. David, therefore, by attributing to God various methods of saving his people, protests that, provided he has God for his protector and defender, he is effectually fortified against all peril and assault; as if he had said, Those whom God intends to succor and defend are not only safe against one kind of dangers, but are as it were surrounded by impregnable ramparts on all sides, so that, should a thousand deaths be presented to their view, they ought not to be afraid even at this formidable array. 388388     “Comme environnez de bons rempars de tous costez, tellement que mille morts, quand autant il s’en presenteroit a eux, ne leur doyvent point faire peur.” — Fr. We see, then, that the design of David here is not only to celebrate the praises of God, in token of his gratitude, but also to fortify our minds with a firm and steadfast faith, so that, whatever afflictions befall us, we may always have recourse to God, and may be fully persuaded that he has virtue and power to assist us in different ways, according to the different methods of doing us mischief which the wicked devise. Nor, as I have observed before, does David insist so much on this point, and express the same thing by different terms without cause. God may have aided us in one way, and yet whenever a new tempest arises, we are immediately stricken with terror, as if we had never experienced any thing of his aid. And those who in one trouble expect protection and succor from him, but who afterwards circumscribe his power, accounting it limited in other respects, act like a man who upon going into battle, considers himself well secured as to his breast, because he has a breastplate and a shield to defend him, and yet is afraid of his head, because he is without a helmet. David, therefore, here furnishes the faithful with a complete suit of armor, 389389     “Et pourtant David equippe yci les fideles de pied en cap comme on dit.” — Fr. “David, therefore, here equips the faithful from head to foot, as we say.” that they may feel that they are in no danger of being wounded, provided they are shielded by the power of God. That such is the object he has in view, is apparent from the declaration which he makes of his confidence in God: I will trust in him Let us, therefore, learn from his example, to apply to our own use those titles which are here attributed to God, and to apply them as an antidote against all the perplexities and distresses which may assail us; or rather, let them be deeply imprinted upon our memory, so that we may be able at once to repel to a distance whatever fear Satan may suggest to our mind. I give this exhortation, not only because we tremble under the calamities with which we are presently assailed, but also because we groundlessly conjure up in our own imaginations dangers as to the time to come, and thus needlessly disquiet ourselves by the mere creations of fancy. In the song, as recorded in 2 Samuel 22:3, instead of these words, My God, my rock, it is, God of my rock. And after the word refuge, there is, My fortress, my savior, thou shalt preserve me from violence; words which make the sentence fuller, but the meaning comes to the same thing.

3. I will call upon the praised Jehovah. Calling upon God, as has been observed elsewhere, frequently comprehends the whole of his service; but as the effect or fruit of prayer is particularly mentioned in what follows, this phrase in the passage before us, I have no doubt, signifies to have recourse to God for protection, and to ask by prayer deliverance from him. David having said in the second verse, that he trusted in God, now subjoins this as an evidence of his trust; for every one who confides in God will earnestly beseech his aid in the time of need. He therefore declares, that he will be saved, and prove victorious over all his enemies, because he will have recourse to God for help. He calls God the praised Jehovah, not only to intimate that he is worthy of being praised, as almost all interpreters explain it, but also to point out, that, when he came to the throne of grace, his prayers would be mingled and interwoven with praises. 393393     The word in the Hebrew text מהלל, mehullal, literally signifies praise. The ancient versions view the word not as denoting that God is worthy to be praised, which is the meaning attached to it in our English version, but as referring to the Psalmist’s resolution to praise God. The Septuagint reads, Αινων επικαλεσομαι Κυριον Kytov, “Praising I will call upon the Lord.” The reading of the Vulgate is the same, “Laudans invocabo.” The Chaldee reads, “In a song or hymn I pour out prayers unto the Lord:” and the Arabic. “I will praise the Lord, and call upon him.” This is precisely the sense in which Calvin understands the words, “I will call upon the praised Jehovah.” The scope of the passage seems to require that it be understood as meaning, that giving thanks to God for the benefits which he has received from him in times past, he will ask his assistance by renewed supplications. And certainly no man will ever invoke God in prayer freely and frankly unless he animate and encourage himself by the remembrance of the grace of God. Accordingly Paul, in Philippians 4:6, exhorts the faithful

“in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, to make their requests known unto God” (Philippians 4:6)

and to disburden their cares, as it were, into his bosom. All those whose prayers are not accompanied with the praises of God are chargeable with clamouring and complaining against him, when engaged in that solemn exercise.

4. The cords 394394     “Death is here personified under the semblance of a mighty conqueror, who binds his vanquished foes in strong fetters.” — Walford. of death had compassed me about. David now begins to recount the undoubted and illustrious proofs by which he had experienced that the hand of God is sufficiently strong and powerful to repel all the dangers and calamities with which he may be assailed. And we need not wonder that those things which might have been described more simply, and in an unadorned style, are clothed in poetical forms of expression, and set forth with all the elegancies and ornaments of language. The Holy Spirit, to contend against and make an impression upon the wicked and perverse dispositions of men, has here furnished David with eloquence full of majesty, energy, and wonderful power, to awaken mankind to consider the benefits of God. There is scarcely any assistance God bestows, however evident and palpable it may be to our senses, which our indifference or proud disdain does not obscure. David, therefore, the more effectually to move and penetrate our minds, says that the deliverance and succor which God had granted him had been conspicuous in the whole frame-work of the world. This his intention it is needful for us to take into view, lest we should think that he exceeds due bounds in expressing himself in a style so remarkable for sublimity. The sum is, that, when in his distresses he had been reduced to extremity, he had betaken himself to God for help, and had been wonderfully preserved.

We shall now make a few observations with respect to the words. The Hebrew word חבלי, chebley, means cords or sorrows, or any deadly evil, 395395     “חבל, chebel,” says Hammond, “signifies two things, a cord, and a pang of a woman’s travail, and which it signifies must be resolved still by the context. Here, where it is joined with encompassing, it is most fitly to be understood in the former sense, because ropes or cords are proper for that turn, as for holding and keeping in when they are inclosed.” The Chaldee understands the word in the other sense, and paraphrases the clause thus: ”Distress hath compassed me as a woman in travail which hath not strength to bring forth, and is in danger of death,” The Septuagint adopts the same view, reading, “ὠδινες θανατου, the pangs of death.” which consumes a man’s health and strength, and which tends to his destruction. That the psalm may correspond with the song recorded in 2nd Samuel, formerly referred to, I do not disapprove of this word being here taken for contrition, because the phrase there employed is משברי מות, mishberey maveth, 396396     Cocceius renders the words, “the waves of death,” and he observes, that the words “waves’” explains the verb “compassed me about.” Death sent its sorrows thick upon him one after another, as the sea sends forth its waves, and with such violence that he was ready to be overwhelmed. The word משברי, mishberey, is applied both to the breaking waves of the sea, (Psalm 42:7.) — Ainsworth. Horsley translates the phrase, “The breakers of death.” “The metaphor,” says he, “is taken from those dangerous waves our mariners call white breakers.” and the noun משברי, mishberey, is derived from a verb which signifies to break. But as the metaphor taken from cords or snares agrees better with the verb compass about, the import of which is, that David was on all sides involved and entangled in the perils of death, I am disposed rather to adopt this interpretation. What follows concerning torrents implies that he had been almost overwhelmed by the violence and impetuosity of his enemies against him, even as a man who is covered over the head with floods of water is almost lost. He calls them the torrents of Belial, because it was wicked and perverse men who had conspired against him. The Hebrew word Belial has a wide signification. With respect to its etymology there are different opinions among expositors. Why Jerome has rendered it without yoke, 397397     Jerome doubtless derived the word from בלי, beli, not or without, and עול, ol, a yoke, and thus the term Belial means those who shake off all restraint. Signifying to profit, or to gain advantage in any respect. I know not. The more generally received opinion is, that it is compounded of these two words, בלי, beli, not, and יעל, yaäl, 398398     Belial is a compound term, significant of vileness and worthlessness. to denote that the wicked do not rise, in other words, ultimately gain nothing, and obtain no advantage by their infatuated course. The Jews certainly employed this word to designate every kind of detestable wickedness, and from this it is highly probable that David by it meant to describe his enemies, who basely and wickedly plotted his destruction. 399399     “The ‘floods of Belial’ intend large bodies of men, who rush forward in impetuous torrents to overwhelm and destroy whatever opposes them.” - Walford. If, however, any prefer translating the phrase, by deadly torrents, I am not disposed to oppose this rendering. In the following verse he again repeats, that the corruptions or cords of the grave had compassed him about As the Hebrew word is the same which he had employed in the preceding verse, I have thought it proper to translate it cords here, as I have done there, not only because he uses a verb which signifies to beset, to inclose, or to surround, but also because he adds immediately after, the snares of death, which, in my opinion, is to be understood in the same sense. This, then, is the description of the dangerous circumstances into which he was brought, and it enhances and magnifies so much the more the glory of his deliverance. As David had been reduced to a condition so desperate that no hope of relief or deliverance from it was apparent, it is certain that he was delivered by the hand of God, and that it was not a thing effected by the power of man.

6. In my distress, etc. It was a very evident proof of uncommon faith in David, when, being almost plunged into the gulf of death, he lifted up his heart to heaven by prayer. Let us therefore learn, that such an example is set before our eyes, that no calamities, however great and oppressive, may hinder us from praying, or create an aversion to it. It was prayer which brought to David the fruits or wonderful effects of which he speaks a little after, and from this it appears still more clearly that his deliverance was effected by the power of God. In saying that he cried, he means, as we have observed elsewhere, the ardor and earnestness of affection which he had in prayer. Again, by calling God his God, he separates himself from the gross despisers of God, or hypocrites, who, when constrained by necessity, call upon the Divine Majesty in a confused and tumultuous manner, but do not come to God familiarly and with a pure heart, as they know nothing of his fatherly favor and goodness. When, therefore, as we approach to God, faith goes before to illumine the way, giving us the full persuasion that He is our Father, then is the gate opened, and we may converse freely with Him and he with us. David, by calling God his God, and putting him on his side, also intimates that God was opposed to his enemies; and this serves to show that he was actuated by true piety and the fear of God. By the word temple we are not here to understand the sanctuary as in many other places, but heaven; for the description which immediately follows cannot be applied to the sanctuary. Accordingly, the sense is, that when David was forsaken and abandoned in the world, and all men shut their ears to his cry for help, God stretched forth his hand from heaven to save him.


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