A King’s Thanksgiving for Victory
1For the leader. Of David, the servant of the LORD, who sang to the LORD the words of this song after the LORD had rescued him from the clutches of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. 2He said:a
I love you, LORD, my strength,
3LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,
My God, my rock of refuge,
4Praised be the LORD, I exclaim!
I have been delivered from my enemies.
5The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction terrified me.
6The cords* of Sheol encircled me;
the snares of death lay in wait for me.c
7In my distress I called out: LORD!
I cried out to my God.d
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry to him reached his ears.
8*The earth rocked and shook;
the foundations of the mountains trembled;
they shook as his wrath flared up.e
9Smoke rose from his nostrils,
a devouring fire from his mouth;
it kindled coals into flame.
10He parted the heavens and came down,
a dark cloud under his feet.f
11Mounted on a cherub* he flew,
borne along on the wings of the wind.
12He made darkness his cloak around him;
his canopy, water-darkened stormclouds.
13From the gleam before him, his clouds passed,
hail and coals of fire.g
14The LORD thundered from heaven;
the Most High made his voice resound.h
15He let fly his arrows* and scattered them;
shot his lightning bolts and dispersed them.i
16Then the bed of the sea appeared;
the world’s foundations lay bare,j
At your rebuke, O LORD,
at the storming breath of your nostrils.
17He reached down from on high and seized me;
drew me out of the deep waters.k
18He rescued me from my mighty enemy,
from foes too powerful for me.
19They attacked me on my day of distress,
but the LORD was my support.
20He set me free in the open;
he rescued me because he loves me.
21The LORD acknowledged my righteousness,
rewarded my clean hands.l
22For I kept the ways of the LORD;
I was not disloyal to my God.
23For his laws were all before me,
his decrees I did not cast aside.
24I was honest toward him;
I was on guard against sin.
25So the LORD rewarded my righteousness,
the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
26Toward the faithful you are faithful;
to the honest man you are honest;m
27Toward the pure, you are pure;
but to the perverse you are devious.
28For humble people you save;
haughty eyes you bring low.n
29For you, LORD, give light to my lamp;
my God brightens my darkness.o
30With you I can rush an armed band,
with my God to help I can leap a wall.
31God’s way is unerring;
the LORD’s promise is refined;
he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.p
32Truly, who is God except the LORD?
Who but our God is the rock?q
33This God who girded me with might,
kept my way unerring,
34Who made my feet like a deer’s,
and set me on the heights,r
35Who trained my hands for war,
36You have given me your saving shield;
your right hand has upheld me;
your favor made me great.
37You made room for my steps beneath me;
my ankles never twisted.t
38I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
I did not turn back till I destroyed them.
39I decimated them; they could not rise;
they fell at my feet.
40You girded me with valor for war,
subjugated my opponents beneath me.
41You made my foes expose their necks to me;
those who hated me I silenced.
42They cried for help, but no one saved them;
cried to the LORD but received no answer.
43I ground them to dust before the wind;
I left them like mud in the streets.
44You rescued me from the strife of peoples;
you made me head over nations.
A people I had not known served me;
45as soon as they heard of me they obeyed.
Foreigners submitted before me;
they came cowering from their dungeons.u
47The LORD lives! Blessed be my rock!v
Exalted be God, my savior!
48O God who granted me vengeance,
made peoples subject to me,w
49and saved me from my enemies,
Truly you have elevated me above my opponents,
from a man of lawlessness you have rescued me.
50Thus I will praise you, LORD, among the nations;
I will sing praises to your name.x
51You have given great victories to your king,
and shown mercy to his anointed,
to David and his posterity forever.y
* [Psalm 18] A royal thanksgiving for a military victory, duplicated in 2 Sm 22. Thanksgiving Psalms are in essence reports of divine rescue. The Psalm has two parallel reports of rescue, the first told from a heavenly perspective (Ps 18:5–20), and the second from an earthly perspective (Ps 18:36–46). The first report adapts old mythic language of a cosmic battle between sea and rainstorm in order to depict God’s rescue of the Israelite king from his enemies. Each report has a short hymnic introduction (Ps 18:2–4, 32–36) and conclusion (Ps 18:21–31, 47–50).
* [18:6] Cords: hunting imagery, the cords of a snare.
* [18:8–16] God appears in the storm, which in Palestine comes from the west. The introduction to the theophany (Ps 18:8–9) is probably a description of a violent, hot, and dry east-wind storm. In the fall transition period from the rainless summer to the rainy winter such storms regularly precede the rains, cf. Ex 14:21–22.
* [18:11] Cherub: a winged creature, derived from myth, in the service of the deity (Gn 3:24; Ex 25:18–20; 37:6–9). Cherubim were the throne bearers of the deity (Ps 80:2; 99:1; 1 Kgs 6:23–28; 8:6–8).
* [18:15] Arrows: lightning.
* [18:35] Bow of bronze: hyperbole for a bow difficult to bend and therefore capable of propelling an arrow with great force.