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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 18:15-16

Context

18:15 The depths 5  of the sea 6  were exposed;

the inner regions 7  of the world were uncovered

by 8  your battle cry, 9  Lord,

by the powerful breath from your nose. 10 

18:16 He reached down 11  from above and took hold of me;

he pulled me from the surging water. 12 

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 Or “channels.”

6 tc Ps 18:15 reads “water” (cf. Ps 42:1); “sea” is the reading of 2 Sam 22:16.

7 tn Or “foundations.”

8 tn Heb “from.” The preposition has a causal sense here.

9 tn The noun is derived from the verb גָּעַר (gaar), which is often understood to mean “rebuke.” In some cases it is apparent that scolding or threatening is in view (see Gen 37:10; Ruth 2:16; Zech 3:2). However, in militaristic contexts this translation is inadequate, for the verb refers in this setting to the warrior’s battle cry, which terrifies and paralyzes the enemy. See A. Caquot, TDOT 3:53, and note the use of the verb in Pss 68:30; 106:9; and Nah 1:4, as well as the related noun in Job 26:11; Pss 9:5; 76:6; 104:7; Isa 50:2; 51:20; 66:15.

10 tn 2 Sam 22:16 reads “by the battle cry of the Lord, by the blast of the breath of his nose.” The phrase “blast of the breath” (Heb “breath of breath”) employs an appositional genitive. Synonyms are joined in a construct relationship to emphasize the single idea. For a detailed discussion of the grammatical point with numerous examples, see Y. Avishur, “Pairs of Synonymous Words in the Construct State (and in Appositional Hendiadys) in Biblical Hebrew,” Semitics 2 (1971): 17-81.

11 tn Heb “stretched.” Perhaps “his hand” should be supplied by ellipsis (see Ps 144:7). In this poetic narrative context the three prefixed verbal forms in this verse are best understood as preterites indicating past tense, not imperfects.

12 tn Heb “mighty waters.” The waters of the sea symbolize the psalmist’s powerful enemies, as well as the realm of death they represent (see v. 4 and Ps 144:7).



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