he is a shield to all who take shelter 12 in him.
my arms can bend even the strongest bow. 19
1 sn Psalm 18. In this long song of thanks, the psalmist (a Davidic king, traditionally understood as David himself) affirms that God is his faithful protector. He recalls in highly poetic fashion how God intervened in awesome power and delivered him from death. The psalmist’s experience demonstrates that God vindicates those who are blameless and remain loyal to him. True to his promises, God gives the king victory on the battlefield and enables him to subdue nations. A parallel version of the psalm appears in 2 Sam 22:1-51.
2 tn Heb “spoke.”
3 tn Heb “in the day,” or “at the time.”
4 tn Heb “hand.”
5 tn Heb “and from the hand of Saul.”
6 tn A number of translations (e.g., NASB, NIV, NRSV) assign the words “he said” to the superscription, in which case the entire psalm is in first person. Other translations (e.g., NAB) include the introductory “he said” at the beginning of v. 1.
7 tn The verb רָחַם (rakham) elsewhere appears in the Piel (or Pual) verbal stem with the basic meaning, “have compassion.” The verb occurs only here in the basic (Qal) stem. The basic stem of the verbal root also occurs in Aramaic with the meaning “love” (see DNWSI 2:1068-69; Jastrow 1467 s.v. רָחַם; G. Schmuttermayr, “rhm: eine lexikalische Studie,” Bib 51 : 515-21). Since this introductory statement does not appear in the parallel version in 2 Sam 22:1-51, it is possible that it is a later addition to the psalm, made when the poem was revised for use in worship.
8 tn Heb “my strength.” “Strength” is metonymic here, referring to the Lord as the one who bestows strength to the psalmist; thus the translation “my source of strength.”
9 tn Heb “[As for] the God, his way is blameless.” The term הָאֵל (ha’el, “the God”) stands as a nominative (or genitive) absolute in apposition to the resumptive pronominal suffix on “way.” The prefixed article emphasizes his distinctiveness as the one true God (cf. Deut 33:26). God’s “way” in this context refers to his protective and salvific acts in fulfillment of his promise (see also Deut 32:4; Pss 67:2; 77:13 [note vv. 11-12, 14]; 103:7; 138:5; 145:17).
10 sn The
11 tn Heb “the word of the
14 tn Heb “is the one who clothes.” For similar language see 1 Sam 2:4; Pss 65:6; 93:1. The psalmist employs a generalizing hymnic style in vv. 32-34; he uses participles in vv. 32a, 33a, and 34a to describe what God characteristically does on his behalf.
sn Gives me strength. As the following context makes clear, this refers to physical and emotional strength for battle (see especially v. 39).
16 tn The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive here carries along the generalizing force of the preceding participle.
17 tn Heb “he made my path smooth.” The Hebrew term תָּמִים (tamim, “smooth”) usually carries a moral or ethical connotation, “blameless, innocent.” However, in Ps 18:33 it refers to a pathway free of obstacles. The reality underlying the metaphor is the psalmist’s ability to charge into battle without tripping (see vv. 33, 36).
18 sn He trains my hands. The psalmist attributes his skill with weapons to divine enablement. Egyptian reliefs picture gods teaching the king how to shoot a bow. See O. Keel, The Symbolism of the Biblical World, 265.
19 tn Heb “and a bow of bronze is bent by my arms”; or “my arms bend a bow of bronze.” The verb נָחַת (nakhat) apparently means “pull back, bend” here (see HALOT 692 s.v. נחת). The third feminine singular verbal form appears to agree with the feminine singular noun קֶשֶׁת (qeshet, “bow”). In this case the verb must be taken as Niphal (passive). However, it is possible that “my arms” is the subject of the verb and “bow” the object. In this case the verb is Piel (active). For other examples of a feminine singular verb being construed with a plural noun, see GKC 464 §145.k.
sn The strongest bow (Heb “bow of bronze”) probably refers to a bow laminated with bronze strips, or to a purely ceremonial or decorative bow made entirely from bronze. In the latter case the language is hyperbolic, for such a weapon would not be functional in battle.