Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament2 SAMUEL 22
DAVID'S SONG OF VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES IS ALMOST IDENTICAL WITH PS. 18
And David spake unto Jehovah the words of this song in the day that Jehovah delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul: and he said, Jehovah is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, even mine; God, my rock, in him will I take refuge; My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge; My saviour, thou savest me from violence. I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to be praised: So shall I be saved from mine enemies. For the waves of death compassed me; The floods of ungodliness made me afraid: The cords of Sheol were round about me; The snares of death came upon me. In my distress I called upon Jehovah; Yea, I called unto my God: And he heard my voice out of his temple, And my cry [came] into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled, The foundations of heaven quaked And were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, And fire out of his mouth devoured: Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; And thick darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly; Yea, he was seen upon the wings of the wind. And he made darkness pavilions round about him, Gathering of waters, thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness before him Coals of fire were kindled. Jehovah thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered his voice. And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; Lightning, and discomfited them. Then the channels of the sea appeared, The foundations of the world were laid bare, By the rebuke of Jehovah, At the blast of the breath of his nostrils. He sent from on high, he took me; He drew me out of many waters; He delivered me from my strong enemy, From them that hated me; for they were too mighty for me. They came upon me in the day of my calamity; But Jehovah was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because he delighted in me. Jehovah rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of Jehovah, And have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his ordinances were before me; And as for his statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also perfect toward him; And I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath Jehovah recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to my cleanness in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; With the perfect man thou wilt show thyself perfect; With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; And with the perverse thou wilt show thyself froward. And the afflicted people thou wilt save; But thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down. For thou art my lamp, O Jehovah; And Jehovah will lighten my darkness. For by thee I run upon a troop; By my God do I leap over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: The word of Jehovah is tried; He is a shield unto all them that take refuge in him. For who is God, save Jehovah? And who is a rock, save our God? God is my strong fortress; And he guideth the perfect in his way. He maketh his feet like hinds' [feet], And setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, So that mine arms do bend a bow of brass. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation; And thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; And my feet have not slipped. I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; Neither did I turn again till they were consumed. And I have consumed them, and smitten them through, so that they cannot arise: Yea, they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle; Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also made mine enemies turn their backs unto me, That I might cut off them that hate me. They looked, but there was none to save; Even unto Jehovah, but he answered them not. Then did I beat them small as the dust of the earth, I did crush them as the mire of the streets, and did spread them abroad. Thou also hast delivered me from the strivings of my people; Thou hast kept me to be the head of the nations: A people whom I have not known shall serve me. The foreigners shall submit themselves unto me: As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me. The foreigners shall fade away, And shall come trembling out of their close places. Jehovah liveth; And blessed be my rock; And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation, Even the God that executeth vengeance for me, And that bringeth down peoples under me, And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: Yea, thou liftest me up above them that rise up against me; Thou deliverest me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O Jehovah, among the nations, And will sing praises unto thy name. Great deliverance giveth he to his king, And showeth lovingkindness to his anointed, To David and to his seed, for evermore.
This entire chapter is a duplicate of Ps. 18, with only the slightest variations, none of which is of any special importance. However, these variations, inconsequential as they are, have been the basis of some comments which might not necessarily be true. For example, our greatly respected Dr. Willis, whose work in the Books of Samuel have been so helpful in these studies, pointed out that, "Whole lines may appear in one of these chapters but not in the other, words or phrases may appear in one but not in the other, synonyms of some words may be used in one of these in place of a different word in the other; and some words are transposed, appearing in a different order in one as compared with the other."F1
All of this, of course, is certainly true, but what should be our conclusion from the consideration of such facts? Willis concluded that, "This shows that the Biblical authors were not concerned with preserving the exact words of those whom they quoted."F2 To this usual deduction, echoed by many scholars, we wish to oppose an opposite view which this writer has long accepted, namely, that both chapters, even with their variations, are inspired and true exactly as they stand. It is certainly possible that David repeated this Psalm with the identical variations which appear in them.
"BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD" (Matthew 4:2)
Christ made many arguments from the Sacred Scriptures to turn, not merely upon the exact words, but also on the very tense of a word.
Jesus said, "And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:31-32).
The significance of this is that our Savior made an argument proving the resurrection of the dead to turn upon a single two-letter word, the word "am", and the tense of the little verb, at that!
The inspired writers often "quoted" Scriptures with variations, but many such "quotations" are not "quotes" at all, but new Scriptures written by the inspired writer. We have cited many such examples in our commentaries. For example, see our comments under Eph. 4:7-8, and under Rom. 12:19, where in both instances the inspired Paul used O.T. passages with variations, but they must not be viewed as Paul's faulty memory of what the quotations really were, but as NEW SCRIPTURE inspired exactly as Paul gave it.
David was the inspired author of both this chapter and Ps. 18; and one of them is just as inspired as the other is.
It is a dangerous notion that some have imported into their interpretations of the type of variations we encounter here, namely, the view that THE EXACT WORDS ARE NOT IMPORTANT. IT'S ONLY THE GIST OF THE TRUTH THAT COUNTS. It is always impossible to know what the GIST OF THE TRUTH is unless we can discern it in the exact words used by the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul, especially, was diligent to observe the principle which we are here advocating. He made an argument pertaining to the identity of Christ himself to turn upon the number of a single noun.
To Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to SEEDS, as of many, but as of one. And in thy SEED which is Christ (Galatians 3:16).
Here we have Paul's great doctrine of Christ, the SEED SINGULAR of Abraham, and it is an example of the extreme untrustworthiness of the RSV that the translators have corrupted the verse in Gen. 17:7 (which Paul here quoted), by substituting a plural word for seed (singular).
There is also an extensive application of this important principle in the interpretation of the N.T. The so-called doublets, in which we have similar statements by Christ, as variously reported by the gospels are not to be understood as variations of some imaginary invariable text, but as independently true and exactly accurate as they stand in the sacred Gospels.
The ridiculous critical canard that Christ made his declarations in some imaginary invariable form is not true. The ministry of our Lord lasted about four years, and, like any campaign speaker in an election year, he delivered the same message in different words upon many different occasions. There are two variations of the Lord's prayer, two variations of the Great Sermon called the Sermon on the Mount in one place and the Sermon on the Plain in another. All are exactly correct as they stand in the N.T. No proper understanding of the Word of God is possible without taking account of this understanding of variations in the vocabulary used by the inspired writers in speaking of the same or similar events and teachings.
(We have devoted fourteen pages to a discussion of this Song of David as recorded in Ps. 18 of our Vol. 2 commentary on The Psalms. The opinions of fifteen reputable scholars are also cited therein; and for those who are interested in a more detailed discussion of what is written here in 2 Sam. 22, we believe it is sufficient to refer them to what we have written there.)
The Holy Spirit did not convey IDEAS to the inspired authors of the Bible, trusting them to express them in their own words, but He gave them the EXACT WORDS of God's message, words which they frequently did not understand at all, as stated by the Apostle Peter in 1 Pet. 1:10-12. No system of interpreting Biblical passages is correct that ignores this principle.
Footnotes for 2 Samuel 22
1: John T. Willis, p. 402.