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Summary

Chapter Summaries

Psalms Psalm 18 Summary

Verses 1-6

NRSV
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
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.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.
The cords 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 cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

KJV
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

  • Fans of fire and brimstone, this is the psalm for you. We've got a crushing defeat of God's enemies, the crowning of a king, and even a Superman moment for the author.
  • When the poem starts out, the author is ensnared in "the cords of death." But then he cries out to God, who appears as a dragon-like superbeing that obliterates all opposition.
  • Awesome.
  • The writer asserts that faith in God is what allowed him to live, and now he prospers in God's light.
  • Did you notice that "Sheol" in the NRSV is "Hell" in the KJV? Check out our "Symbolism" section for more about Psalms' take on the afterlife.
  • FYI: God isn't just in the sky. In verse 6, he hears the writer specifically from the temple. Yes, God has cosmic powers, but he also has an address.

Verses 7-15

NRSV
Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains 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 came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice.
And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. 

KJV
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

  • Yikes. We're a little traumatized. But we shall soldier on!
  • It turns out God is supposed to sound scary. Think of yourself as an Israelite. You have no explanation for these natural phenomena, and they're all pretty frightening. Someone comes along with this kind of explanation, and even if you don't buy it 100%, it sure sounds good. 
  • In this psalm, we get a pretty good idea of what God looks like.
  • According to the ancient writers, he has ears, feet, and a voice like a human's, but smoke comes out of his nostrils (remind anyone of a dragon?), his voice is thunder, and his power "laid bare the foundations of the world."
  • So he's like the scariest human ever.
  • Did you notice that God's power here is specifically linked with a control over nature?
  • If you think all this anthropomorphism sounds a lot like the Greek gods, you're right on. The Greek pantheon was developing around the same time that this stuff is being written. For the record: we think that's cool.
  • Another fun fact: cherubs are angels, and God's arrows are lightning. Check out how most of the imagery is weather and water related. Guess they had those things back then, too.

Verses 16-45

NRSV
He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my support.
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 his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.
Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
With the loyal you show yourself loyal; with the blameless you show yourself blameless;
with the pure you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you show yourself perverse.
For you deliver a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.
It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
By you I can crush a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
For who is God except the Lord? And who is a rock besides our God?—
the God who girded me with strength, and made my way safe.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer, and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand has supported me; your help has made me great.
You gave me a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them; and did not turn back until they were consumed.
I struck them down, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet.
For you girded me with strength for the battle; you made my assailants sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine, like dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
You delivered me from strife with the peoples; you made me head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me.
As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me.
Foreigners lost heart, and came trembling out of their strongholds.

KJV
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

  • This is a big chunk, we know. But check out how the whole of this passage refers to what God does for the writer. He gets powers, his enemies are crushed, and he's promoted…that's it in a nutshell.
  • The Biblical writers have a tremendous amount of discretion; they can go on and on whenever they want even if they repeat the same thing a hundred times. Remember all those "begats" in Genesis? Ernest Hemingway would have been horrified, but here we are.
  • Here, God does not use his power to destroy evil in favor of good. No, the author maintains that God helped him "because he delighted in me."
  • It's not about right or wrong, it seems. It's about loyalty. If you want God to help you out, you'll need to be loyal.
  • The author talks about "ordinances" and "statutes," but we never get a clear idea of what those laws tell him to do. The ancient audience would have been very familiar with them, though. Think about it: if you dug up an "Uncle Sam Wants YOU" poster in two thousand years, would you have any idea what it was referring to?
  • In these verses, God's power is not just God's—it's transferred to the author.
  • Basically, the psalm implies that if you are loyal to God, he will give you powers, like the ability to "crush a troop" or "leap over a wall."
  • The author can even "bend a bow of bronze" because he was loyal to God. Faster than a speeding bullet, anyone?
  • Mercy and kindness make no appearance in this psalm at all…in case you didn't notice. The author and God together totally annihilate their enemies. The author "beat them fine, like dust before the wind." 
  • This extermination fantasy arises from the conditions of the ancient world at the time; defeat meant giving up your culture in favor of your conqueror's, and the author is no stranger to this practice. His enemies "have no one to save them," implying God's victory over rival deities who are much less powerful.

Verses 46-50

NRSV
The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me;
who delivered me from my enemies; indeed, you exalted me above my adversaries; you delivered me from the violent.
For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.
Great triumphs he gives to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.

KJV
The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

  • Still with us? Awesome.
  • In case you missed the memo, the author is not kinder or more moral than his adversary; he's just loyal to God.
  • And how about verse 48? After beating his enemies to a pulp, the writer thanks God for saving him from "violent men." What happened to peace and love?
  • The point here isn't that one nation is violent and the other isn't. Turns out everyone in the ancient world is violent.
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