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This chapter, with numerous slight variations, constitutes Psalms 18:0, the first verse here serving as the title there, with only such differences as the nature of the Book of Psalms required. With this title may be compared the inscriptions of other historical psalms, as Exodus 15:1; Deuteronomy 31:30.
No more definite time can be assigned for the composition of this hymn than that already given in its title. 2 Samuel 22:51 shows that it must have been after the visit of Nathan promising the perpetuity of David’s kingdom.
As comment upon this psalm will naturally be expected in connection with the Book of Psalms, only the differences between these two copies will here be spoken of. On the whole, the form given in the Psalms seems to be the later, and to have been in some points intentionally altered—probably by David himself—to adapt it to the exigencies of liturgical worship; but it must also be remembered that minor differences inevitably grow up in the copying of manuscripts age after age, and that much of the lesser variation is undoubtedly due to this cause.
(2) He said.—The psalm here wants the opening line of Psalms 18:0, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength,” forming a fitting introduction to the whole.
(3) The God of my rock.—In the psalm, “My God, my rock” (margin). The two expressions of the psalm are here united in one, and the recurrence of the similar expression in 2 Samuel 22:47 (but not in the psalm) indicates that this was intentional.
And my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.—These words are omitted from the psalm, being compensated in part by the opening line there.
(5) The waves of death.—In Psalms 18:0, “the sorrows of death,” in the Authorised Version, but literally, the bands of death. The word is entirely different, and the variation can hardly have been accidental. The form here accords better with the parallelism of the next clause.
(7) Called . . . cried.—The original words are the same here, although differing in the parallel place in the psalm.
My cry did enter into his ears.—Literally, my cry in his ears, an elliptical expression which is filled out in the psalm, “my cry came before him, even into his ears.”
(8) Of heaven.—Psalms 18:0, “of the hills.” The thought is the same, but the strong poetic figure by which the mountains are spoken of as “the pillars of heaven” (comp. Job 26:11) is softened in the psalm.
(11) He was seen.—Psalms 18:0, “he did fly.” The two words are exceedingly alike in the Hebrew, and either could easily be mistaken for the other. The form in the psalm is far more poetical.
(12) Made darkness pavilions.—Psalms 18:0, more fully, “He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters.” A word appears to have dropped out here, and in the second clause the margin, “binding (or gathering) of waters” is a more exact translation, the word differing in one letter from that used in the psalm.
(13) Through the brightness.—Rather, Out of the brightness. The psalm (with the same correction) is more full, and perhaps the more exact representation of the original: “Out of the brightness before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.”
(14) From heaven.—Psalms 18:0, “in the heavens,” a difference found in the original; the two are otherwise alike in the Hebrew, except that the psalm adds the words, “hail stones and coals of fire.”
(16) Of the sea.—Psalms 18:0, “of waters.” There are several such slight differences between 2 Samuel 22:15-16, and the parallel verses in the psalm, which mark the two as distinctly different recensions. The most striking change is that of the last pronoun from “his” to “thy in the psalm, as appropriate to its use in public worship.
(23) His statutes, I did not depart from them.—The psalm, by a very slight change in the original, has “I did not put away his statutes from me.” The former is the more common form, the latter suits better the parallelism here.
(25) To my cleanness.—Psalms 18:0, more poetically. “to the cleanness of my hands.”
(27) Unsavoury.—Rather, froward, for although the form here is anomalous, it is the same word, and has the same reference to the previous word as in the psalm.
(28) Thine eyes are upon the haughty.—More briefly, but in more common form, the psalm, “wilt bring down high looks.”
(29) Thou art my lamp.—Comp. Psalms 27:1. The psalm changes the figure, “thou wilt light my candle (margin, lamp).” With this comp. Psalms 132:17; 1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 15:4.
(33) God is my strength and power.—Better, my strong fortress. The psalm has quite a different thought, which is expressed in 2 Samuel 22:40, “It is God that girdeth me with strength.”
(36) Thy gentleness.—This is the translation of the word in Psalms 18:35. The word here, which differs very slightly, and is otherwise unknown, is undoubtedly meant for it; if taken as it stands it would, by its etymology, mean thy answering, viz., to the prayers offered. The psalm inserts between the two clauses of the verse, “and thy right hand hath holden me up.”
(38) Destroyed them.—In the psalm, “overtaken them,” an expression intended to suggest the same thing as the plain expression here. The second clauses are identical in the original.
(39) I have consumed them, and wounded them.—The former clause is wanting in the psalm, and the latter needs a stronger word—crushed them.
(42) They looked.—By the change of a letter this becomes in the psalm “They cried,” and it is so translated here in the LXX., “they shall cry.” One of the readings is doubtless a mere clerical error.
(43) Dust of the earth.—Psalms 18:0 reads, “Dust before the wind,” and in the second clause omits “did spread them abroad.” The psalm thus combines in one compact figure what is here spread out in two clauses. The change is certainly designed, and heightens the poetic effect.
Thou hast kept me.—The wording of the psalm, “Thou hast made me,” involves only a slight difference in the original, and is a mere clerical variation.
(45) As soon as they hear.—This and the previous clause are transposed in the psalm, this clause there constituting 2 Samuel 22:44.
(46) Shall be afraid out of their close places.—The English here follows Psalms 18:45. but the Hebrew verbs differ by the transposition of a letter. This is probably a mere clerical error, but if it be retained the sense will be a little changed. The psalm means, came trembling from their fastnesses, representing the conquered as submitting with fear; the text here, came limping from their fastnesses, suggesting that the remnant of the enemy had already been injured and wounded.
(51) He is the tower of salvation.—This translation follows the margin of the Hebrew. The text is found in the ancient versions and in Psalms 18:50. “Great deliverance giveth he.” The difference in the original between the consonants of the two words is extremely slight.
This brief review of these two recensions of this magnificent hymn is instructive, as showing that Providence has dealt with the MSS. of the Old Testament as with those of the New, securing them during the long succession of ages from all substantial error, and yet not so destroying ordinary human action but that mere slips of the pen should sometimes creep in, and care and diligence be required to ascertain precisely what was originally written, and sometimes, perhaps, in the merest minutiæ, leaving the original form still uncertain.
The Psalm is a grand anthem of thanksgiving of David for the many mercies he had received—a full and confident expression of his trust in God under all circumstances, and of his well-assured hope in the fulfilment of the Divine promise of the perpetuity of his kingdom through the coming of Him “in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed.”
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 22". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30