Or You Could Just Read II Samuel 22 AgainBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Cross-reference this Psalm with II Samuel chapter 22; they are virtually identical. This Psalm is the only one of the many that David wrote to be incorporated in the historical account of his life in Samuel. Here, it recounts the words of David, which he spoke on the day of his deliverance from his enemies, and especially from Saul, who was equal to all his other adversaries combined.
David says that he loves G-d for giving him the strength to persevere. David goes through a litany of words he uses to describe G-d, including rock, shield, fortress, and many other terms indicative of G-d’s defense and salvation. David says he has been saved because he praises G-d, not the other way around!
David’s enemies surrounded him and the threat of death was imminent. He would call upon G-d, Who saved him. Historically, the very foundations of the world tremble when G-d’s wrath is aroused. G-d’s anger is compared to fire and smoke and things went black for those who antagonized Him when He metaphorically “stepped” on them. He concealed Himself from His enemies and poured misfortunes upon them, scattering them in all directions.
G-d drew David out of his troubles, like pulling a drowning man from the water. G-d freed David because David follows the path He has laid down, unlike his pursuers. David keeps his eyes on the Torah and will not allow himself to be distracted. He overcame the natural instinct to protect himself by disposing of Saul, his predecessor. For this, G-d has rewarded David with an everlasting dynasty. G-d treats people according to the way they act.
G-d is with Israel in their darkest hours; He will redeem the exiles and humble their conquerors, bringing light. With G-d’s help, David says that he is unbeatable. G-d is perfect in all ways and His word is inevitably true. He protects those who rely upon Him; there is no other besides Him. It is G-d Who gives David strength and guides him; all of David’s victories really belong to G-d. As great as He is, G-d exhibits the trait of humility and grants favor to His creatures. He made David greater than his enemies, allowing him to be victorious over them. (David continues with a few metaphors of his victories.)
David asks to be spared from having to judge the disputes of his people; he would rather judge the nations, who will acquiesce from fear of him. He praises G-d, Who allows him to dominate his enemies and Who saved him from Saul’s pursuits. David publicly thanks G-d and sings to His Name. What does he sing? That G-d increases his victories and does kindness to his descendants, forever.
As we mentioned back in II Samuel 22, the most noteworthy difference between this chapter and the way the Psalm appears there is the last verse, which is recited at the end of bentching (birkas hamazon, grace after meals). In Samuel it reads, “migdol yeshuos malko,” that G-d is the tower of His chosen king’s salvations. Here, it says “magdil yeshuos malko,” that G-d increases His chosen king’s salvations. In his personal version of the Psalm, David used the word migdol – tower – referring to his own complete salvation. For the “public” version here in Psalms, David used magdil – increases – referring to gradual growth leading towards the ultimate salvation. On weekdays, we bentch using magdil, referring to gradual growth. On Shabbos, which is a taste of the “World to Come,” we bentch with the word migdol, reflecting the eventual completion of our salvation as a people.