Psalm 18:33-36

33. Making my feet like hinds'1 feet, and he hath set me upon my high places. 34. Teaching my hands to war:and a bow of steel2 will be broken by my arms. 35. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation; and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy clemency hath increased me. 36. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, and my feet have not staggered.


David, having taken many strongholds which, on account of their steep and difficult access, were believed to be impregnable, extols the grace of God in this particular. When he says that God had given him feet like hinds' feet, he means that he had given him unusual swiftness, and such as does not naturally belong to men. The sense, therefore, is, that he had been aided by God in an extraordinary manner, so that like a roe he climbed with amazing speed over inaccessible rocks. He calls the strongholds, which, as conqueror, he had obtained by right of war, his high places; for he could justly boast that he took possession of nothing which belonged to another man, inasmuch as he knew that he had been called to occupy these fortresses by God. When he says that his hands had been taught and framed to war, he confesses that he had not acquired his dexterity in fighting by his own skill, nor by exercise and experience, but had obtained it as a gift through the singular goodness of God. It is true in general, that strength and skill in war proceed only from a secret virtue communicated by God; but David immediately after shows that he had been furnished with greater strength for carrying on his wars than what men commonly possess, inasmuch as his arms were sufficiently strong to break even bows of brass in pieces. True, he had by nature a vigorous and powerful bodily frame; but the Scripture describes him as a man of low stature, and the similitude itself which he here uses implies something surpassing the natural strength of man. In the following verse, he declares that it was by the grace of God alone that he had escaped, and been kept in perfect safety:Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation. By the phrase, the shield of God's salvation, he intimates, that if God had not wonderfully preserved him, he would have been exposed unprotected to many deadly wounds; and thus God's shield of salvation is tacitly opposed to all the coverings and armor with which he had been provided. He again ascribes his safety to the free goodness of God as its cause, which he says had increased him, or more and more carried him forward in the path of honor and success; for, by the word increase, he means a continuation and an unintermitted and ever growing augmentation of the tokens of the divine favor towards him.

By the enlargement of his steps, he intimates that God had opened up to him an even and an accommodating pathway through places to which there was before no means of access; for there is in the words an implied contrast between a large and spacious place and a narrow spot, out of which a person cannot move his foot. The meaning is, that when David was reduced to the greatest distress, and saw no way of escape, God had graciously brought him out of his straits and difficulties. This is a lesson which may be highly useful for correcting our distrust. Unless we see before us a beautiful and pleasant plain, in which the flesh may freely enjoy itself, we tremble as if the earth would sink under our feet. Let us, therefore, remember, that the office of enlarging our ways and making them level belongs to God, and is here justly ascribed to him. In short, the Psalmist subjoins the effect of this instance of the grace of God towards him, namely, that his feet had not staggered or slipped; in other words, no resistance, adversity, or calamity, which had befallen him, had been able to deprive him of courage or cast him into despair.

1 "Faisant, ascavoir, me donnant legerete de pieds." -- Note, Fr. marg. "Making, namely, giving me swiftness of feet."

2 "It should be brass, and not steel. A bow of steel," says Dr Adam Clarke, "is out of the question. In the days of David, it is not likely that the method of making steel was known. The method of making brass out of copper was known at a very early period of the world; and the ancients had the art of hardening it, so as to work it into the most efficient swords." Horsley reads, "Thou hast made my arms like a brazen bow." This is also the reading of the Septuagint, Vulgate, Jerome, and all the versions. But the reading of Calvin, which is that of our English version, seems preferable, and is more expressive. To bend a strong bow was anciently considered a proof of great strength, much more to compress it so as to break it. To bend a bow of brass is still more expressive, and still more so to do it by the arms without requiring the assistance of the foot, which was then usually employed in making that effort.


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