If we situate ourselves with an exodus-oriented approach to David’s song (2 Samuel 22), with the looming specter of exile that stands behind his acknowledgment of the Lord as his deliverer, refuge, savior, and rescuer from enemies, we can move through the song to demonstrate more explicitly the reliance upon the theme.
It would not be overdoing it for David to call attention to the God of Israel as the God of exodus, as he says “In my distress I called to the Lord; I called to my God” (2 Samuel 22:7a), as this is a recurring theme in Exodus itself. When we look at Exodus, we are consistently referred back to the Israelite groaning, as we can read that the Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land… And now indeed the cry of the Israelites has come to Me” (3:7-8a,9a). Further on in Exodus, we hear the Lord speaking again and saying, “I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered My covenant” (6:5).
Just as Israel groaned under oppressors and cried out to God under the knowledge of His covenant with them, so too did David. When David cries out in praise, referencing enemies, death, chaos, and distress, he does so under the knowledge that the same God that delivered Israel from Egypt and eventually made him king of Israel, has made a covenant with him. David can rely upon and trust in that covenant because, again, that God of covenant was and is the God of exodus; and if that God can deliver an entire nation, and raise them up as His people to be a light to the nations (no matter how far short of this ideal they fell), then that God can certainly perform according to His promises to David.
The Lord spoke to Moses on two different occasions and spoke of having heard the cry of His people, so we hear David, in reference to his own calling upon the Lord out of his distress, saying “From His heavenly temple He heard my voice; He listened to my cry for help” (22:7b). What happened in Egypt when Israel cried out in their distress and the Lord heard? He responded with an awesome display of the power of His outstretched hand. Egypt and Israel saw water turned to blood, frogs covering the ground, gnats on man and beast, the descent of flies, disease on livestock, affliction with boils, the destructive power of locusts, the falling of hail and fire, the land shrouded in darkness, and the death of Egypt’s firstborn.
What did David see as the Lord’s response to his own call? How did David describe the result of his God listening to his cry for help? He would say, “The earth heaved and shook; the foundations of the sky trembled. They heaved because He was angry. Smoke ascended from His nose; fire devoured as it came from His mouth; He hurled down fiery coals” (22:8-9). Yes, David called upon the God of Israel’s deliverance, claiming Him as the God of His own deliverance as well. We are certainly able to imagine that, if David has successfully brought Israel’s God of exodus to mind with his words to this point, when he speaks of the shaking of heaven and earth, the trembling of the sky, smoke and fire and fiery coals, thoughts of the plagues upon Egypt would not be too terribly distant.
If thoughts of the plagues of Egypt were close-at-hand, then so too would be thoughts of what resulted from those plagues, which was Israel’s liberation. What was it that accompanied that liberation that saw Israel marching out of Egypt? Of course, it was the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, to which we are first introduced in the fourteenth chapter of Exodus, at the Red Sea. The record of Israel’s victory (and Egypt’s defeat) at the Red Sea would be immediately followed by a song of triumph in the fifteenth chapter of Exodus. David’s song, in the second book of Samuel, heavily mirrors the song that was sung by Moses and the Israelites, and would, quite naturally, because of the explicit connections to the exodus that are being made by David, call to mind the song of Exodus and the events that both preceded and followed from the song.
It would be shortly following the deliverance at the Red Sea that Israel would come to Mount Sinai. We read that the Lord’s presence on Sinai was signaled by “thunder and lightning and a dense cloud on the mountain,” and that “Mount Sinai was completely covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire, and its smoke went up like the smoke of a great furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently” (Exodus 19:16b,18). There, God would give voice to the commandments of His covenant, speaking clearly to Moses, for His people, as to what He desired from them. Before we get to that however, “the Lord called to him from the mountain” and said, “Thus you will tell the house of Jacob and declare to the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I lifted you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (19:3b-4). What does David say, when he contemplates the Lord’s deliverance? With words that will call exodus and Sinai and covenant to mind, he says, “He made the sky sink as He descended; a thick cloud was under His feet. He mounted a winged angel and flew; He glided on the wings of the wind. He shrouded Himself in darkness, in thick rain clouds. From the brightness in front of Him came coals of fire. The Lord thundered from the sky; the sovereign One shouted loudly” (22:10-14).