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Psalms 18:20-27

Context

18:20 The Lord repaid 1  me for my godly deeds; 2 

he rewarded 3  my blameless behavior. 4 

18:21 For I have obeyed the Lord’s commands; 5 

I have not rebelled against my God. 6 

18:22 For I am aware of all his regulations, 7 

and I do not reject his rules. 8 

18:23 I was innocent before him,

and kept myself from sinning. 9 

18:24 The Lord rewarded me for my godly deeds; 10 

he took notice of my blameless behavior. 11 

18:25 You prove to be loyal 12  to one who is faithful; 13 

you prove to be trustworthy 14  to one who is innocent. 15 

18:26 You prove to be reliable 16  to one who is blameless,

but you prove to be deceptive 17  to one who is perverse. 18 

18:27 For you deliver oppressed 19  people,

but you bring down those who have a proud look. 20 

1 tn In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not imperfect.

2 tn Heb “according to my righteousness.” As vv. 22-24 make clear, the psalmist refers here to his unwavering obedience to God’s commands. In these verses the psalmist explains that the Lord was pleased with him and willing to deliver him because he had been loyal to God and obedient to his commandments. Ancient Near Eastern literature contains numerous parallels. A superior (a god or king) would typically reward a subject (a king or the servant of a king, respectively) for loyalty and obedience. See R. B. Chisholm, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Psalm 18/2 Samuel 22” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 211-13.

3 tn The unreduced Hiphil prefixed verbal form appears to be an imperfect, in which case the psalmist would be generalizing. However, both the preceding and following contexts (see especially v. 24) suggest he is narrating his experience. Despite its unreduced form, the verb is better taken as a preterite. For other examples of unreduced Hiphil preterites, see Pss 55:14a; 68:9a, 10b; 80:8a; 89:43a; 107:38b; 116:6b.

4 tn Heb “according to the purity of my hands he repaid to me.” “Hands” suggest activity and behavior.

5 tn Heb “for I have kept the ways of the Lord.” The phrase “ways of the Lord” refers here to the “conduct required” by the Lord. In Ps 25 the Lord’s “ways” are associated with his covenantal demands (see vv. 4, 9-10). See also Ps 119:3 (cf. vv. 1, 4), as well as Deut 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16.

6 tn Heb “I have not acted wickedly from my God.” The statement is elliptical; the idea is, “I have not acted wickedly and, in so doing, departed from my God.”

7 tn Heb “for all his regulations [are] before me.” The Hebrew term מִשְׁפָּטִים (mishpatim, “regulations”) refers to God’s covenantal requirements, especially those which the king is responsible to follow (cf. Deut 17:18-20). See also Pss 19:9 (cf. vv. 7-8); 89:30; 147:20 (cf. v. 19), as well as the numerous uses of the term in Ps 119.

8 tn Heb “and his rules I do not turn aside from me.” 2 Sam 22:23 reads, “and his rules, I do not turn aside from it.” The prefixed verbal form is probably an imperfect; the psalmist here generalizes about his loyalty to God’s commands. The Lord’s “rules” are the stipulations of the covenant which the king was responsible to obey (see Ps 89:31; cf. v. 30 and Deut 17:18-20).

9 tn Heb “from my sin,” that is, from making it my own in any way.

sn Kept myself from sinning. Leading a blameless life meant that the king would be loyal to God’s covenant, purge the government and society of evil and unjust officials, and reward loyalty to the Lord (see Ps 101).

10 tn Heb “according to my righteousness.”

11 tn Heb “according to the purity of my hands before his eyes.” 2 Sam 22:25 reads “according to my purity before his eyes.” The verbal repetition (compare vv. 20 and 24) sets off vv. 20-24 as a distinct sub-unit within the psalm.

12 tn The imperfect verbal forms in vv. 25-29 draw attention to God’s characteristic actions. Based on his experience, the psalmist generalizes about God’s just dealings with people (vv. 25-27) and about the way in which God typically empowers him on the battlefield (vv. 28-29). The Hitpael stem is used in vv. 26-27 in a reflexive resultative (or causative) sense. God makes himself loyal, etc. in the sense that he conducts or reveals himself as such. On this use of the Hitpael stem, see GKC 149-50 §54.e.

13 tn Or “to a faithful follower.” A “faithful follower” (חָסִיד, khasid) is one who does what is right in God’s eyes and remains faithful to God (see Pss 4:3; 12:1; 16:10; 31:23; 37:28; 86:2; 97:10).

14 tn Or “innocent.”

15 tn Heb “a man of innocence.”

16 tn Or “blameless.”

17 tn The Hebrew verb פָתַל (patal) is used in only three other texts. In Gen 30:8 it means literally “to wrestle,” or “to twist.” In Job 5:13 it refers to devious individuals, and in Prov 8:8 to deceptive words.

18 tn The adjective עִקֵּשׁ (’iqqesh) has the basic nuance “twisted, crooked,” and by extension refers to someone or something that is morally perverse. It appears frequently in Proverbs, where it is used of evil people (22:5), speech (8:8; 19:1), thoughts (11:20; 17:20), and life styles (2:15; 28:6). A righteous king opposes such people (Ps 101:4).

sn Verses 25-26 affirm God’s justice. He responds to people in accordance with their moral character. His response mirrors their actions. The faithful and blameless find God to be loyal and reliable in his dealings with them. But deceivers discover he is able and willing to use deceit to destroy them. For a more extensive discussion of the theme of divine deception in the OT, see R. B. Chisholm, “Does God Deceive?” BSac 155 (1998): 11-28.

19 tn Or perhaps, “humble” (note the contrast with those who are proud).

20 tn Heb “but proud eyes you bring low.” 2 Sam 22:28 reads, “your eyes [are] upon the proud, [whom] you bring low.”



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