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David’s Victory Hymn, part 1: The LORD as My Rock and Deliverer (2 Samuel 22.2–51)

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield and the horn of my salvation,

my stronghold and my refuge,

my savior; you save me from violence.

I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,

and I am saved from my enemies.

For the waves of death encompassed me,

the torrents of perdition assailed me;

the cords of Sheol entangled me,

the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the LORD;

to my God I called.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry came to his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the foundations of the heavens trembled

and quaked because he was angry.

Smoke went up from his nostrils,

and devouring fire from his mouth;

glowing coals flamed forth from him.

He bowed the heavens, and came down;

thick darkness was under his feet.

He rode on a cherub, and flew;

he was seen upon the wings of the wind.

He made darkness around him a canopy,

thick clouds, a gathering of water.

Out of the brightness before him

coals of fire flamed forth.

The LORD thundered from heaven;

the Most High uttered his voice.

He sent out arrows, and scattered them

—lightning, and routed them.

Then the channels of the sea were seen,

the foundations of the world were laid bare

at the rebuke of the LORD,

at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.

He reached from on high, he took me,

he drew me out of mighty waters.

He delivered me from my strong enemy,

from those who hated me;

for they were too mighty for me.

They came upon me in the day of my calamity,

but the LORD was my stay.

He brought me out into a broad place;

he delivered me because he delighted in me.

The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness;

according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.

For I have kept the ways of the LORD,

and have not wickedly departed from my God.

For all his ordinances were before me,

and from his statutes I did not turn aside.

I was blameless before him,

and I kept myself from guilt.

Therefore, the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness,

according to my cleanness in his sight.

Background

In the last prayer passage, David had dealt with the problem of Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites.1 The narrator then tells us of how his army defeated the Philistines. David has finally dealt with the major issues that stood as an obstacle to the full unification of Israel. Some were internal crises, some were external, but David, victorious as God promised, reigns supreme over a peaceful and safe Israel. So, the final victory over the Philistines was the end of an era and the beginning of a new age for the nation. In the ancient world, victories were often celebrated by the composition of a song which thanked or praised a god for his or her or help.2 Occasionally, these songs (which are prayers) were collected into books.3 The book of Psalms is one such collection (though it contains much more than just victory hymns).

This hymn is one such victory hymn, and was later included in the collection of Psalms with minor changes (see Psalm 18). Though its content is general enough to serve in a collection, it is also included here in 2 Samuel because it serves as the climax to the long struggle to unify Israel under King David. Yet it also shows David’s skill as a composer, and the words show, once again, how David depended on God and gave him the glory for all victories.

It is one of the longest prayers in the Bible (outside the Psalms). As such, we will study it in two parts. The first half has David as the primary subject; the second has God has the primary subject. Because it is a composed hymn, it is poetry rather than prose.

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