A Life Well Lived – 2 Samuel 22 [Totally Hip Gratitude]

2 Samuel 22 Bible with Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s ChocolateChocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s Passage2 Samuel 22

Now it’s time for Obadiah 2 Second Obadiah another installment of Totally Hip Gratitude, our questionably-named study on thankfulness in the Bible. Today we’re looking at the first time in the Bible that someone explicitly makes a verbal statement of thanks to God. It’s King David, and you’ll find it in 2 Obadiah NO 2 Samuel 22.

You’ll also find it, with some variations, in Psalm 18. To be honest, I wouldn’t have recognized it if I hadn’t run a search for commentaries and stumbled across it. And it’s an accident of how we order the books of the Bible that the first explicit statement of thanks to God occurs in 2 Samuel 22; if we put the wisdom literature before the histories, the honor would go to Psalm 7:17: “I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness.” But some instance of actual thanking has to come first, and in the traditional order, we find it in 2 Samuel 22: “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name” (50).

As we observed before, when you thank someone, you thank them for something. No benefit to you, no occasion for thanks, and here David is thanking God for deliverance from his enemies. The history notes that David sang this song “in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (1), and the epigraph in the Psalm reads almost exactly the same. God has preserved David’s life and thwarted the intentions of his adversaries; he’s clearly got something to be thankful for.

What’s not clear to me, though, is which occasion or occasions of deliverance the song is referring to. The historical portions of the Bible often see musical interjections, such as Hannah’s song that we saw in the previous Totally Hip Gratitude installment. (Note to self: write Bible!: The Musical.) But I’m not sure why the writer of the Samuels has seen fit to put the song right here. Saul has been dead since the final chapter of 1 Samuel, and there were numerous occasions when David escaped Saul’s murderous intentions while the former king was still alive. On top of that, David saw no shortage of enemies before and after he became king himself. So what deliverance exactly is David thanking God for?

I ask myself this question, and I tentatively answer myself: maybe all of it. David himself will die only a few chapters later, passing the royal torch to Solomon at the beginning of 1 Kings. It seems likely that the author of the Samuels has placed the song at this point in the text because it encapsulates the whole of David’s life, coming up to the brink of death time and time again only to find rescue in the Lord, his shield and stronghold. It may be that we have an early version of the song in Psalm 18, which David revised and whose final form we find in 2 Samuel.

Or, as long as I’m speculating, it may be the other way around, and Psalm 18 constitutes the final version. Or perhaps the discrepancies are due to the psalm’s role in music and liturgy, while the textual differences in 2 Samuel 22 owe to its function as a historical account. Or maybe something else entirely! I ask myself what deliverance exactly David is thanking God for, and I answer myself: does it matter? David’s got his entire life to thank God for, a life well-lived. What’s the song about? Pick a time from his life and see how David’s thankful for it. That’s what it’s about.

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