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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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PSALM 18

PRAISE OF GOD FOR DAVID'S VICTORY AGAINST SAUL

(For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of Jehovah, who spake unto Jehovah the words of this song in the day that Jehovah delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: and he said):

Of all the Psalms accredited to David, "This is the one that can be assigned to him with the greatest confidence."F1 There is another record of this same Psalm, with only insignificant variations, in 2 Sam. 22.

The outdated, extravagant, and disproved allegations of radical critics which were popular in some schools of thought during the 19th and early twentieth centuries are no longer considered to have any importance whatever by thoughtful scholars. We shall here cite the efforts of Addis to deny this psalm to David, as examples of the type of radical criticism to which we refer.

He seized upon the word "temple" in Ps. 18:6, applied it to Solomon's temple (to which it has no reference whatever); and, as Solomon's temple was not built till after David died, (1) therefore David could not have written it! Any university sophomore today would be able to cite Ps. 11:4 in which the Hebrew parallelism makes it crystal clear that the word "temple" as used in the psalms is a reference, not to any earthly temple at all, but to "God's residence in heaven."

Jehovah is in his holy temple;

Jehovah, his throne is in heaven.

After the manner of Hebrew poetry, the second line here repeats the meaning of the first, so one may forget about when Solomon's temple was built. It doesn't make any difference. Dozens of the most dependable scholars confirm this usage of "temple" in the psalms.

Regarding the use of the word in Ps. 18:6, Dummelow stated that it means "in heaven."F2 "It may refer to `tabernacle,' or to `heaven.' "F3 "It refers either to heaven or to the tabernacle."F4 "In 1 Sam. 1:9 and 1 Sam. 3:3, the same word translated `temple' here refers to the tabernacle."F5 Furthermore, Jacob referred to a place in an open field where he had that vision at Bethel, saying, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28:17). The word house in the Old Testament is the same as the word temple.

Also Addis founded his rejection of the Davidic authorship of this psalm upon the fact that, "Such language presupposes familiarity with the Pentateuch!"F6 Of course, Addis denied the early existence of the Pentateuch and thought that the evident shadow of the Pentateuch which falls upon every page of the Old Testament was proof of a post-Davidic date for this psalm. Ridiculous. The Pentateuch was written during the Mid-Second Millennium Before Christ, as we proved beyond any shadow of doubt in our Commentary on Genesis. There are statements in Genesis which could not possibly have been written later than 1300 B.C.

We have spent many years studying the Bible; and we now know and are absolutely certain that the Pentateuch preceded every other book in the Old Testament. Both the Minor Prophets and the Major Prophets are absolutely filled with references to the Book of Moses, i.e., the Pentateuch. We have cited, in our writings, literally hundreds of such references.

Addis also gave as a third reason for his rejection of the Davidic authorship of this psalm its emphasis upon monotheism. Radical critics cannot seem to rise above their foolish notion that the Jews invented monotheism at some relatively late date. Noah, Melchizedek, Job, Abraham, Jonah and others were monotheists; and the notion that David could not have been a monotheist is impossible of acceptance.

Perhaps we have devoted a little more space to this phase of our study of this psalm than it deserves; but we have done so for the sake of young students who might be tempted by some of the old radical critics.

As John Calvin said, "Much of this psalm agrees better with Jesus Christ than with David";F7 and Paul's application of verse 49 to the calling of the Gentiles by Jesus Christ also proves that there is a strong Messianic application for at least part of it.

As Leupold said, "There is every reason for accepting the heading and superscription of this psalm as accurate,"F8 no matter when or by whom they were attached to it.

Ps. 18:1-3

I love thee, O Jehovah, my strength.

Jehovah is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

My God, my rock, in whom I will take refuge;

My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower.

I will call upon Jehovah who is worthy to be praised:

So shall I be saved from mine enemies."

Eight metaphors here praise God's sufficiency as fulfilling every need for those who love him. "Strength, Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, Refuge, Shield, Horn, High Tower, etc., such graphic titles as these are all suggestive of impregnability."F9

Regarding the superscription in which Leupold manifested such confidence, McCaw likewise noted that the title there assigned to David, "The Servant of the Lord" is a highly honorable one; and that "Apart from two references to Joshua, it is almost always applied to Moses, or used prophetically of the Messiah."F10 This is another element entering into the impression that the psalm has Messianic implications.


 
Verses 1-3
I love thee, O Jehovah, my strength. Jehovah is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I will take refuge; My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower. I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to be praised: So shall I be saved from mine enemies.
Nowhere else in scripture is the form of the word employed which is used here for `love.' It has special depth and tenderness.F11

Watkinson has an interesting outline here on the subject of "Love."

True Love:

I. The object of it was right.

A. Love of God, not nature.

B. Not humanity.

C. Not self.

D. Not the world.

II. The measure of it was right.

A. It was boundless.

B. It was everlasting.

III. The inspiration of it was right.

A. God is our strength.

B. Loving God assures victory.

C. He first loved us.

D. In Him is Life eternal.F12

Horn of my salvation
(Psalms 18:2). This is an ancient expression referring to strength, power, and ability. It may probably be derived from the utility of a bull's horn.

The cords of death compassed me,

And 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, and cried unto my God:

He heard my voice out of his temple,

And my cry before him came into his ears."

David's crying unto Jehovah was directly the result of the distress which came upon him. This reminds us of the words of Jonah, who said, "By reason of my affliction, I cried unto Jehovah" (Jonah 2:2). There can be no better reason for calling upon the Lord than that of acute danger, distress, and threatenings of death.

Heard my voice out of his temple. This has no reference whatever to Solomon's temple, but means that God in heaven heard the prayer of the psalmist. See further discussion of this above in the opening paragraphs of this chapter.

Then the earth shook and trembled;

The foundations also of the mountains 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 soared upon the wings of the wind.

He made darkness his hiding place, his pavilion round about him,

Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.

At the brightness before him his thick clouds passed,

Hailstones and coals of fire.

Jehovah also thundered in the heavens,

And the Most High uttered his voice,

Hailstones and coals of fire.

And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;

Yea, lightnings manifold, and discomfited them."

This highly imaginative section suggests to this writer nothing quite so vividly as it does the final judgment of mankind. The Theophany, the coming of God Himself, the mighty earthquake, the mountains being moved (Revelation 6:12-15), the great hail (Revelation 16:21), the darkness (Revelation 6:12), the death of the wicked (as indicated by God's arrows), the salvation of the righteous (mentioned a little later) ... all of these things are undoubtedly characteristic of the Final Judgment on the Great Day of God's wrath; and they could not possibly refer to God's judgment of David's enemies except as tokens of the final judgment of Adam's race. This interpretation of the section here also fits the drift of the psalm into Messianic significance a bit later.

Then the channels of waters appeared,

And the foundations of the world were laid bare,

At thy rebuke, O Jehovah,

At the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

He sent from on high, he took me;

He drew me out of many waters.

He delivered me from my strong enemy,

And from them that hated me; for they were too mighty for me."


 
Verses 15-17
Then the channels of waters appeared, And the foundations of the world were laid bare, At thy rebuke, O Jehovah, At the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. He sent from on high, he took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from them that hated me; For they were too mighty for me.
This language is reminiscent of the exodus;F13 but it also fits the event of the Final Judgment mentioned by Zephaniah (Zephaniah 1:2) in which all the fishes of the sea: will be consumed on that Day when God will cut off man from the face of the ground. The language here will allow the meaning that the waters of the whole earth shall be dried up, exposing the channels of the waters and laying bare the foundations of the earth, possibly exposing the very bottoms of the seas themselves. We freely admit that this might not be what is intended here; we only affirm that the language certainly allows such an understanding of it.

At the blast of the breath of his nostrils. Again from Ash, "This line implies divine wrath."F14 Indeed it does; and again we have another element of the Final Judgment, "The great day of his wrath" (Revelation 6:17).

Verses 16 and 17 have the psalmist's statement of God's saving him, drawing him out of many waters, etc. The "many waters" here are a "reference to the psalmist's enemies."F15

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 hath 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 I put not away his statutes from me.

I was also perfect with him,

And kept myself from mine iniquity.

Therefore hath Jehovah recompensed me according to my righteousness,

According to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight."

The explicit fact of God's delivering David from his enemies is stressed in these lines. We do not believe that David, in any sense whatever, was here claiming to be absolutely perfect and sinless in the sight of God, but that he had been forgiven of all sins he had committed and that, at the moment of his deliverance, he was "clean" in "God's eyesight" (Psalms 18:24). Of course, all forgiveness during the dispensation of the Mosaic Covenant was dependent, in the final analysis, upon the ultimate sacrifice of the Christ upon Calvary. However, in the practical sense, "God passed over the sins done aforetime" (Romans 3:25), and that was the practical equivalent of divine forgiveness.

The explanation we have offered here is the only way we are able to think of David as "clean," "perfect," "righteous," and the keeper of" all God's ordinances." Of course, if the words are understood as descriptive of the "Son of David," even the Christ, then there is no problem.

Addis, rejecting the Davidic authorship of this psalm, did so, partially, upon the grounds that David could not possibly have described himself as one "Who kept the ways of Jehovah,"F16 However, we believe that Addis misunderstood what that verse really means. Rawlinson has the following very enlightening comment on that passage:

"I have kept the ways of the Lord." The parallel line here is, "And have not wickedly departed from my God." "Departed wickedly" implies willful and persistent wickedness, an entire alienation from God. Not even in the humblest of the penitential psalms, in which David bewails his offenses against God, does he use such terms as `departed wickedly' concerning himself.F17

This means that in all the protestations of David here to the effect that he is clean in the sight of God, there is not a claim of never having done anything sinful, but a claim, which was true, that he had never "wickedly departed from his God," nor renounced his allegiance to the Lord. This is a very important distinction.

In the lives of two of Jesus' apostles, we find the distinction exemplified. (1) Judas "wickedly departed" from Christ, being terminally alienated from Him. (2) Peter, who shamefully and profanely denied the Lord, nevertheless, did not forsake Him, did not "wickedly depart" from Him; and, consequently was permitted to continue, after his repentance, as a faithful apostle.

The great consolation for Christians in these observations is that "Not even gross sins can prevent their ultimate and final salvation," provided only that they do not "wickedly depart" from the Lord, but repent of their lapses and forsake him not.


 
Verses 18-24
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 hath 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 I put not away his statutes from me. I was also perfect with him, And I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath Jehovah recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
(Psalms 18:23). Leupold called attention to the fact that this should have been translated, And so I was blameless (or perfect), etc.F18 Also, in the very next verse, the text should read, And so the Lord requited me.F19 This has the effect of indicating that, therefore, David was blameless; therefore, the Lord recompensed him as perfectly clean and righteous. In other words, it was because David had never in any sense whatever wickedly departed from God, but had clung to him even in the face of shameful sins and mistakes, God requited him on the basis of his fundamental love of God, and not upon the basis of human sins and mistakes of which he was most certainly guilty.

I kept myself from mine iniquity…
It appears here that David had an inclination to some particular form of sin, against which he was continually on guard. We have no way of determining just what that sin was.F20

A fact not often stressed is that any Christian still in fellowship with the Lord may say anything that the psalmist here has said of himself. How so? "That I may present every man PERFECT in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). How wonderful, how glorious, how absolutely precious above everything else is the privilege of being "perfect" in Christ Jesus, as David claimed in these passages! Perhaps we should be a little more eager in our stress of this magnificent truth. But, don't Christians make mistakes, and sin? Indeed yes; but, "If we walk in the Light as he is in the Light, then we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The present participle "cleanseth" is an indication that the cleansing is constant, continual, and never-failing, thus keeping the child of God in a state of holy perfection.

The way in which all of this is deployed upon the sacred page is a providential arrangement designed to constitute also a prophetic indication of the absolute and genuine perfection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

For thou wilt save the afflicted people;

But the haughty eyes thou wilt bring down.

For thou wilt light my lamp:

Jehovah my God will lighten my darkness.

For by thee I run upon a troop;

And by my God do I leap over a wall."


 
Verses 25-29
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. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; But the haughty eyes thou wilt bring down. For thou wilt light my lamp: Jehovah my God will lighten my darkness. For by thee I run upon a troop; And by my God do I leap over a wall.
This word means perverse, indicating that God would show himself to the wicked as an enemy, an antagonist, or adversary. This, of course, is just the opposite of the way it is with the merciful, the perfect, and the pure.

God's lighting his lamp is a reference to the constant enlightenment available to the faithful in God's Word.

The ability to "leap over a wall," according to McCaw, may be, "A reference to the incident in 2 Sam. 5:6-10."F21

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 besides our God,

The God that girdeth me with strength,

And maketh my way perfect?

He maketh my feet like hinds' feet:

And setteth me upon high places."


 
Verses 30-33
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, besides our God, The God that girdeth me with strength, And maketh my way perfect? He maketh my feet like hinds' [feet]: And setteth me upon my high places.
This is the Hebrew equivalent of There is no God besides Jehovah. This strong monotheistic thrust of the psalm was one of the grounds upon which Addis rejected Davidic authorship of it, as cited above.

And maketh my way perfect…
When one considers that David was an humble keeper of his father's sheep, that he was merely the youngest in a large family, that his father's house was of no particular significance in Israel, and that from this humble and obscure person God led to the kingship of the Chosen People, making of him a mighty world-renowned monarch, whose name would live for centuries, and even allowing him to be a significant Type of the Blessed Messiah himself when all that is considered, we must allow the absolute truth of what is said here.

My feet like hinds' feet…
The meaning of hind here is the doe, the female deer, a marvelous example of sure-footedness and swiftness even in the steepest, ruggedest, and rockiest terrain. It is not swiftness in flight, but in attack, that is meant.F22

We remember the report of how an old Holiness preacher interpreted this verse. He read it as follows: "He setting my feet like hen's feet."

"Now," he said, "We all know that a hen has four toes, three in front and one behind; so that when she is going up a steep, slippery hill, that toe on the back side keeps her from slipping back! This, of course, illustrates the fact that we cannot fall from God's grace. God has given us feet like a hen's feet, so we can't slip backwards!"

He teacheth my hand to war;

So that my arms do bend a bow of brass.

Thou hast given me the shield of thy salvation;

And thy right hand hath holden me up,

And thy gentleness hath made me great.

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me,

And my feet have not slipped.

I will pursue mine enemies, and overtake them;

Neither will I turn again till they are consumed.

I will smite them through, so that they shall not be able to rise:

They shall fall under my feet.

For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle:

Thou has subdued under me them that rose up against me."


 
Verses 34-39
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 right hand hath holden me up, And thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, And my feet have not slipped. I will pursue mine enemies, and overtake them; Neither will I turn again till they are consumed. I will smite them through, so that they shall not be able to rise: They shall fall under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
The meaning here is clearer if we use to make war instead of to war.

My arms bend a bow of brass…
Brass was not usually used in the making of bows; but the idea is a very strong and powerful bow. We note that one commentator thought that bows were bent with the feet; but that happens only when the bow is being strung. The actual shooting of an arrow required the bow to be bent by the arms, as indicated here.

Ps. 18:35 states that not only has God taught David the skills and abilities to wage war, as in the previous verses, but that God has saved him, upheld him, and made him great.

The same thought continues into Ps. 18:36, revealing that God has enlarged his steps and prevented him from falling.

I will pursue mine enemies
(Psalms 18:37). In the God-given strength and ability with which the Lord has endowed him, David here pledged to pursue, overtake, smite through, and consume all of those enemies who had risen up against him.

Thou hast also made mine enemies turn their backs unto me,

That I may cut them off that hate me.

They cried, but there was none to save;

Even unto Jehovah, but he answered them not.

Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind;

I did cast them out as the mire of the streets."

David here acknowledge that his victories, even with all of his skills and strength, did not come of himself alone but were the gift of God.


 
Verses 40-42
Thou hast also made mine enemies turn their backs unto me, That I might cut off them that hate me. They cried, but there was none to save; Even unto Jehovah, but he answered them not. Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind; I did cast them out as the mire of the streets.
Here again we have a suggestion of the Final Judgment of the Great Day when earth's kings, captains, and mighty men shall cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them (Revelation 6:16).

It is at this point that the psalm appears to drift into overtones that are Messianic.

Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people;

Thou hast made me the head of the nations:

A people I have not known shall serve me.

As soon as they hear of me they shall obey me;

The foreigners shall submit themselves unto 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 the God of my salvation,

Even the God that executeth vengeance for me,

And subdueth peoples under me."


 
Verses 43-47
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; Thou hast made me the head of the nations: A people whom I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me they shall obey me; The foreigners shall submit themselves unto 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 the God of my salvation, Even the God that executeth vengeance for me, And subdueth peoples under me.
The word nations is often translated Gentiles, and it must be admitted that David was never head of the Gentiles in any significant degree. As Halley said, `Head of the nations' could be true of David only in a partial sense. This looks forward beyond the time of David to the Throne of David's Greater Son.F23 This is a Messianic prophecy, parallel with Ps. 2:8.F24

He that rescueth me from mine enemies;

Yea, thou liftest me up above them that rise up against me;

Thou deliverest me from the violent man.

Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Jehovah, among the nations,

And will sing praises unto thy name.

Great deliverance giveth he to his king,

And Jehovah showeth lovingkindness to his anointed,

To David and to his seed forevermore."


 
Verses 48-50
He rescueth me 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.
The apostle Paul did not hesitate to take this statement as a prophecy Of the calling of the Gentiles in Christ Jesus (Romans 15:8-12). Nations in the Old Testament invariably means Gentiles.

To his anointed…
These words at their full value portray the Lord's Anointed, ultimately the Messiah.F25 This psalm is Messianic in that it reflects God's covenant with David and his descendants (2 Samuel 7:12-16).F26

It will be recalled that in that prophecy, God promised David that "of his seed" one would arise who would build God's house (The Holy Church), that His Kingdom should be established and that the throne of it would endure forever.

David doubtless claimed some of those wonderful promises in the words of this psalm without any full understanding whatever of what their ultimate fulfillment really meant. For example, David probably thought that the reprobate Solomon would be that "King." The prophecy, without any doubt whatever, was of the Holy Messiah, and not of any of the lesser kings of the earthly Davidic dynasty, which produced as shameful a "batch" of evil kings as ever lived.


Footnotes for Psalms 18
1: J. R. Dummelow, Whole Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 336.
2: Ibid.
3: G. Rawlinson, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 8 (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 116.
4: Albert Barnes, Psalms, Vol. 1 (Baker Book House, 1953), p. 149.
5: Alexander Maclaren, Psalms, Vol. 1 (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1893),
6: W. E. Addis, Peake's Commentary on the Bible (Edinburgh: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 367.
7: Derek Kidner, Psalms (London: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 90.
8: H. C. Leupold, The Psalms (Baker Book House, 1959), p. 162.
9: Leslie S. McCaw, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 461.
10: Ibid.
11: Alexander Maclaren, op. cit., p. 167.
12: W. L. Watkinson, The Psalms, Vol. 1 (New York: Funk and Wagnalls), p. 70.
13: Anthony L. Ash, Psalms (Austin: Sweet Publishing Co., 1980), p. 81.
14: Ibid.
15: Ibid.
16: W. E. Addis, op. cit., p. 367.
17: G. Rawlinson, op. cit., p. 117.
18: H. C. Leupold, op. cit., p. 175.
19: Ibid.
20: G. Rawlinson, op. cit., p. 118.
21: Leslie S. McCaw, op. cit., p. 462.
22: F. Delitzsch. The Old Testament, Vol. 5 (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 264.
23: Henry H. Halley, Bible Handbook (Zondervan Publishing House), p. 236.
24: G. Rawlinson, op. cit., p. 120.
25: Derek Kidner, op. cit., p. 96.
26: Arnold B. Rhodes, The Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 9 (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1960), p. 46.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalm 18". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=018>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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