David now goes on to say “He reached down from above and grabbed me; He pulled me from the surging water” (2 Samuel 22:17). Is this not what God did for His people Israel? David continues: “He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hate me, for they were too strong for me” (22:18). This too is what God had done for Israel, in rescuing them from Egypt, and effectively overthrowing their empire with the waters that had represented His love and mercy for Israel. Undoubtedly, Egypt was not going to be overcome by any attempts towards such ends by Israel, for Egypt was far too strong. Ironically, much of their strength was owing to what the God of Israel had done for Egypt through Joseph, though this had been long since forgotten.
To what might David have been referring when he uses these words? To a lion, to a bear, to a giant, to a king, to a son, to a general? It could be any or all of these things, as David says “They confronted me in my day of calamity, but the Lord helped me” (22:19). As we have taken a good deal of time examining David’s life, we are not stretching the truth if we are to posit that his life moved from one calamity to the next, a fair number of which (but not all) he brought upon himself. This cannot be said of Israel in Egypt, as the Scriptures do not give us any indication that the calamity of their oppression in Egypt was something that they had secured through their own doings. Rather, what we do know about Israel’s sojourn in Egypt is that it was a part of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, that would prove His covenantal faithfulness to those who knew themselves to be descendants of Abraham. However the calamitous circumstances came about, there would be no doubt that the latter part of Israel’s Egyptian experience, along with the initial portions of its exodus experience, could be reckoned by both David and the people to be situations of calamity in which the Lord must intervene in order for there to be a positive outcome.
After speaking of his calamity, David goes on to say, “He brought me out into a wide open place; He delivered me because He was pleased with me” (22:20). This too, God did for Israel, and it could be applied and understood in multiple ways, though it, in context, is most likely still making reference to the crossing of the sea on dry land. God brought His people through the waters of calamity, rescuing them from their quite strong enemy, bringing them through the narrow passage walled by waters to their left and right (here, we can make an allusion to the “valley of the shadow of death” in the twenty-third Psalm), and setting their feet on solid ground on the other side of the sea, with the long-awaited promise of their inheritance of land set before them. Moses would say “By Your loyal love You will lead the people whom You have redeemed; You will guide them by Your strength to Your holy dwelling place… You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place You made for your residence, O Lord, the sanctuary, O Lord, that Your hands have established” (Exodus 15:13,17). With boldness, David declares that the salvations (exodus, redemption, deliverance, rescue) that he had experienced, and which he attributed to the powerful hand of the Lord working on his behalf, was evidence that the Lord was pleased with him. We do not find the same thing being said of Israel in Egypt, though we do hear God instructing Moses to inform Israel that “I am the Lord. I will bring you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians, I will rescue you from the hard labor they impose, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself for a people, and I will be your God. They you will know that I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians” (6:6-7). Clearly, God was redeeming a people whose purpose was His pleasing.
So what we see happening here, as we have carefully reviewed the exodus event in connection with David’s song, is David’s attempted undertaking of the embodiment of Israel. Not only is he placing his story within, and intimately connecting it to Israel’s history, but he is also attempting to define himself as Israel. With these words, David, along with the author, wants the people to identify his trials with nothing less than what Israel had experienced in Egypt and in their coming out of Egypt. It is quite the piece of propaganda, indicating that David has learned well from his experiences. David, quite clearly, wants the people to see him as a Moses figure, which had been successfully undertaken by Absalom. If the people did, in fact, identify David with Israel, and his overcoming of calamities with the same power that God had put on display on behalf of Israel, against Egypt, then just as Israel “feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31b), then so too would they believe in him. By this, David would be elevated alongside Moses as the greatest figure in the history of the nation.
This embodying of Israel, by their king, in which he becomes their representative before the Lord, will carry significant weight in determining God’s future dealings with his nation. It would also come to be quite crucial in Jesus’ own understanding of Himself and His role as Israel’s king, as we can certainly justly see Jesus seizing upon these words of David’s song that we have reviewed, as well as those to come. Just as Adam, the first king of humanity, was representative of all humanity, so now David explicitly positions himself as the representative of the people that saw themselves as God’s new humanity, who were being charged (in the line and light of the Abrahamic covenant) to represent the Creator God and to bless all nations accordingly by reflecting the light of His glory into the world. Jesus will adequately take both of these roles upon Himself, representing Israel and all of humanity before the cross, and representing the new humanity (the people of the kingdom of God which points to the renewed and restored creation) following the Resurrection.