Psalm 18


This psalm is the fourth-longest psalm we find within the book, Psalm 78 / Psalm 89 / Psalm 119, which are longer. It’s a psalm of victory which run similar to the events in 2 Samuel 22.

In this psalm, David tells us of his troubles to be delivered from King Saul but he gives thanks to God for delivering him from Saul’s hands.


‘For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and the hand of Saul. He said:’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

This heading tells us a lot about the background to the psalm. As you can see it’s longer than all the other headings, the only heading which is longer is found in Psalm 60.

Some believe that it was written for God and God Himself is the director of music. The heading tells us that David is a servant of the Lord and he tells us what the background to the psalm is.

It was written either straight after Saul’s death, 1 Samuel 31 / 2 Samuel 1, or the time leading up to David’s enthronement as king, 2 Samuel 2-5. The heading also tells us that David was delivered from his enemies and the hand of Saul.

‘I love you, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.’ Psalm 18:1-6

David begins this psalm by declaring his love for God and he uses eight metaphors to describe his relationship with God.

God is his strength, 2 Samuel 22:3. He is his rock, 2 Samuel 23:2-3 / 2 Samuel 22:47. He is his fortress, 2 Samuel 22:2. He is his deliverer, 2 Samuel 22:2. He is his refuge, 2 Samuel 22:3 / 2 Samuel 22:31 / 2 Samuel 22:33.

He is his shield, 2 Samuel 22:3 / Psalm 33:20. He is his horn, 1 Samuel 2:10 / 2 Samuel 22:3. He is his stronghold, 2 Samuel 22:33-34.

David clearly put the security of his life in God’s hands and he was confident that God would save him from the hands of his enemies, 1 Samuel 27:1. David is obviously fearing for his life, 2 Samuel 22:5, and so, in his distress, he cries out to God for help, Jonah 2:2, and is confident that God heard his prayer.

We must note that the word ‘temple’ used here, can also be translated as the word ‘tabernacle’, Exodus 25:9 / Exodus 25:40 / 1 Samuel 1:9 / 1 Samuel 3:3, which would make a lot more sense because as we know the temple hadn’t been built yet, 2 Samuel 5:6-10 / 1 Kings 5-7.

‘The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.’ Psalm 18:7-15

David again describes God’s deliverance using metaphors of natural phenomenon, there are used to demonstrate that God is taking action, Exodus 19:16-18 / Judges 5:4-5 / Job 38:1 / Isaiah 29:6 / Zephaniah 1:2.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This highly imaginative section suggests to this writer nothing quite so vividly as it does the final judgment of mankind. The Theophany, the coming of God Himself, the mighty earthquake, the mountains being moved, Revelation 6:12-15, the great hail, Revelation 16:21, the darkness, Revelation 6:12, the death of the wicked, as indicated by God’s arrows, the salvation of the righteous, mentioned a little later, all of these things are undoubtedly characteristic of the Final Judgment on the Great Day of God’s wrath, Revelation 6:17.’

David is greatly encouraged because he knows God has the power to control everything and he knows God has the power to deliver him from his enemies.

‘He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.’ Psalm 18:16-19

David thought he was going to drown in the tragedies that were upon him, but he gives credit to God for rescuing him from the deep waters of his tragedies.

He also acknowledges that his enemies were way too strong for him and his army, hence why he relied on the Lord’s strength to deliver him.

In the day of his disaster, that is, the time when he was a fugitive and felt at his weakest, his enemies went to attack him, but it was then, that the Lord gave him the support he needed.

God was obviously pleased with David’s humble and godly character, 1 Samuel 13:14 / Acts 13:22, and so He rescued him.

‘The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.’ Psalm 18:20-24

Because David was righteous and his hands were cleansed, which refers to forgiveness, Romans 3:25 / Colossians 1:28 / 1 John 1:7. He had kept the ways of God, he didn’t ignore the will of God, which speaks about his obedience to God and as a result, he was rewarded by God by being delivered from the hand of Saul.

David says he was ‘blameless’, to be blameless doesn’t mean sinless. When Paul is arguing with the legalizers in Philippi, he tells them he was blameless, Philippians 3:6, however, he was blameless in the sense that he did everything he had to do to be right with God according to the Law.

The law of Moses demanded that a person had to offer the appropriate sacrifice to be right with God, but now under the law of Christ, a person needs to be baptised and confess their sins to God.

Notice that David deliberately ‘kept himself from sin’, this tells us that sin is a choice and David because he had free will deliberately chose to stay away from sin, 2 Timothy 2:21. Because of this, God rewarded him by delivering him from the hands of Saul.

‘To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.’ Psalm 18:25-29

David reminds us of God’s mercies, God will show mercy to those who have shown mercy to others, Matthew 7:2 / James 2:13. He will forgive those who forgive others, Matthew 5:7 / Matthew 6:14-15 / Matthew 18:23-25. It’s only those who have a pure heart who can really understand just how pre God Himself is, Matthew 5:8 / 1 John 3:3.

A devious person is a perverse person, Leviticus 26:23-24 / Proverbs 3:32 / Job 5:12. Perhaps the greatest illustration of this was how God used the shrewd Laban to educate the devious Jacob, Genesis 27-28. God will bring down the proud, Luke 18:14 / James 4:6 / 1 Peter 5:5.

Those who are humble will be saved by God, the humble are those in society who have little or no power, Psalm 10:2 / Psalm 22:24 / Psalm 35:10 / Psalm 68:10.

David says the Lord keeps his ‘lamp burning’, which means his obedience to God would be a light to those who walked in darkness, John 1:5 / John 8:12 / 1 John 1:5-7 / Matthew 5:14-16 / Philippians 2:14-15.

In the context here, this implies that God was going to make it known through David that He was working through him that he becomes the king of Israel. David was confident, that with God’s help, he would be victorious over his enemies.

‘As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—to the LORD, but he did not answer. I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets. You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations. People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me; as soon as they hear of me, they obey me. They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds.’ Psalm 18:30-45

David declares God’s ways are perfect, and this is proven through His flawless word, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / Hebrews 4:12. He says that God is a shield to all those who take refuge in Him, that is, He protects them, Proverbs 30:5.

Notice he asks, ‘for who is God, besides the LORD? David knows full well who the one and only True Living God is compared to all those false gods of the Philistines, the Moabites and the Edomites. It was the God of heaven who took David as a shepherd boy and made him the king of Israel, 2 Samuel 2-5.

David again uses metaphors of war to describe how he could never be king of Israel without God’s help, Revelation 6:16. The very fact that he became king of Israel was proof that God was working in and through him. David was well aware if he was to become king of Israel, it would involve more than just removing Saul as king, he would also have to remove all of his enemies.

When David to became the ‘head of the nations’, he was so militarily dominant over those who opposed him that God extended his influence to nations that were not of Israel, and his conquest was so forceful that his enemies turned their backs and ran away from him.

This also looks forward beyond the time of David to the throne of David’s Greater Son, this is a Messianic prophecy, parallel with Psalm 2:8.

It was during the end of David’s reign as king of Israel when he overpowered the enemies of Israel. His military strength was so great that the surrounding nations were intimidated by the army of Israel and as a result, no nation attempted to attack Israel, and so, during the reign of Solomon, David’s son, peace prevailed.

‘The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, my Saviour! He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name. He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing love to his anointed, to David and to his descendants forever.’ Psalm 18:46-50

David now declares that ‘the Lord lives’, he has no hesitation in giving God all the glory He deserves for what He has done and is doing in David’s life. This is one reason why he is described as ‘a man after God’s own heart’, 1 Samuel 13:14 / Acts 13:22.

David now goes on to praise God, the apostle Paul quotes these words in Romans 15:8-12 as the first of four Old Testament prophecies demonstrating that the work of Jesus Christ wasn’t only for the Jewish people, but for the Gentiles also.

Notice also he says that God shows unfailing love to his ‘anointed’, this again tells us of the Messianic nature of this psalm, it reflects God’s covenant with David and his descendants, 2 Samuel 7:12-16.

God promised David that from his seed, One would arise who would build God’s house, that is the church, Matthew 16:18, and His Kingdom should be established and that the throne of it would endure forever, Daniel 2:44.


David had no hesitation in giving God all the glory for everything He had done and was doing in his life. When we come into God’s presence there is simply no room for boasting about what we have done, 1 Corinthians 1:31 / 1 Corinthians 4:7 / 1 Corinthians 1:29. We must remember that we were created for His glory, not our own, Isaiah 42:8 / Isaiah 43:7.

Even Jesus Himself reminds us in His prayer that it’s God’s kingdom, it’s God’s power and all the glory is His, Matthew 6:13. As Christians, we too must give God all the credit for everything He has done, is doing and will do in our lives in the future, James 1:17.

Go To Psalm 19