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Psalms 18:4

Context

18:4 The waves 1  of death engulfed me,

the currents 2  of chaos 3  overwhelmed me. 4 

Psalms 18:9-10

Context

18:9 He made the sky sink 5  as he descended;

a thick cloud was under his feet.

18:10 He mounted 6  a winged angel 7  and flew;

he glided 8  on the wings of the wind. 9 

1 tc Ps 18:4 reads “ropes,” while 2 Sam 22:5 reads “waves.” The reading of the psalm has been influenced by the next verse (note “ropes of Sheol”) and perhaps also by Ps 116:3 (where “ropes of death” appears, as here, with the verb אָפַף, ’afaf). However, the parallelism of v. 4 (note “currents” in the next line) favors the reading “waves.” While the verb אָפַף is used with “ropes” as subject in Ps 116:3, it can also be used with engulfing “waters” as subject (see Jonah 2:5). Death is compared to surging waters in v. 4 and to a hunter in v. 5.

2 tn The Hebrew noun נַחַל (nakhal) usually refers to a river or stream, but in this context the plural form likely refers to the currents of the sea (see vv. 15-16).

3 tn The noun בְלִיַּעַל (vÿliyyaal) is used here as an epithet for death. Elsewhere it is a common noun meaning “wickedness, uselessness.” It is often associated with rebellion against authority and other crimes that result in societal disorder and anarchy. The phrase “man/son of wickedness” refers to one who opposes God and the order he has established. The term becomes an appropriate title for death, which, through human forces, launches an attack against God’s chosen servant.

4 tn In this poetic narrative context the prefixed verbal form is best understood as a preterite indicating past tense, not an imperfect. (Note the perfect verbal form in the parallel/preceding line.) The verb בָּעַת (baat) sometimes by metonymy carries the nuance “frighten,” but the parallelism (see “engulfed”) favors the meaning “overwhelm” here.

5 tn The Hebrew verb נָטָה (natah) can carry the sense “[cause to] bend, bow down.” For example, Gen 49:15 pictures Issachar as a donkey that “bends” its shoulder or back under a burden. Here the Lord causes the sky, pictured as a dome or vault, to sink down as he descends in the storm.

6 tn Or “rode upon.”

7 tn Heb “a cherub.” Because of the typical associations of the word “cherub” in English with chubby winged babies, the term has been rendered “winged angel” in the translation.

sn Winged angel (Heb “cherub”). Cherubs, as depicted in the OT, possess both human and animal (lion, ox, and eagle) characteristics (see Ezek 1:10; 10:14, 21; 41:18). They are pictured as winged creatures (Exod 25:20; 37:9; 1 Kgs 6:24-27; Ezek 10:8, 19) and serve as the very throne of God when the ark of the covenant is in view (Pss 80:1; 99:1; see Num 7:89; 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2; 2 Kgs 19:15). The picture of the Lord seated on the cherubs suggests they might be used by him as a vehicle, a function they carry out in Ezek 1:22-28 (the “living creatures” mentioned here are identified as cherubs in Ezek 10:20). In Ps 18:10 the image of a cherub serves to personify the wind (see the next line of the psalm).

8 tc 2 Sam 22:11 reads “appeared” (from רָאָה, raah); the relatively rare verb דָאָה (daah, “glide”) is more difficult and probably the original reading here in Ps 18.

9 sn The wings of the wind. Verse 10 may depict (1) the Lord riding a cherub, which is in turn propelled by the wind current. Another option (2) is that two different vehicles (a cherub and the wind) are envisioned. Yet another option (3) is that the wind is personified as a cherub. For a discussion of ancient Near Eastern parallels to the imagery in v. 10, see M. Weinfeld, “‘Rider of the Clouds’ and ‘Gatherer of the Clouds’,” JANESCU 5 (1973): 422-24.



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