What does an Old Testament passage not about eschatology have to do with eschatology? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
When I had that talk with two Preterists, I remember distinctly hearing about 2 Samuel 22. This is not a prophecy or a passage about eschatology. This is about the life of David and what happened during his days. So what on Earth does this have to do with eschatology?
Let’s look at the passage. We’re not going to go through the whole thing. It’s just going to be the relevant parts.
David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said:
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
from violent people you save me.
4 “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and have been saved from my enemies.
5 The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
6 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
Here, we can recognize a lot of poetic license going on. This is the ways of poetry and even the hardest internet atheist could understand that this is not to be taken literally. This is David talking about how he felt hopeless. Those Christians who say we should always take the Bible “literally” will recognize this as well.
But what happens when we get to the next part?
7 “In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
8 The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
9 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.
17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Whoa. What happens with your interpretation here? This is quite an amazing event in the life of David. David is surrounded by enemies and here comes YHWH flying out of Heaven on the backs of Gabriel and Michael. He is preceded by a massive earthquake and then YHWH starts shooting arrows at all of the bad guys.
This is a fascinating event and as we look back at the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, we find that this battle took place in…
Wait. I can’t find it….
It’s got to be here somewhere! An earthquake and then YHWH flying on angels shooting arrows at the enemies of David! Surely this would be worth mentioning! Where is it?!
Wait. Wait. You mean this whole chapter is poetic license? This is not a literal reading? This is David describing political events, such as ordinary battles and running from Saul, in cosmic language?
Who on Earth ever talks this way? Who uses over the top language to describe an event?
What? You mean a football team was described as destroying their opponents? That political announcement was said to be Earth-shattering? America’s story has a history of a shot heard around the world?
So you’re saying that if David is an Old Testament prophet, as is said in the New Testament such as in Acts 2, then maybe we should see this is how prophets spoke? Maybe prophets did use this kind of language regularly and it’s a mistake to take it “literally”?
It might be tempting to think this is an isolated incident, but it isn’t. There are several passages like this in the Old Testament. As we go through, we will find that this is the way that Jews spoke of events in their lives. Something literally happened, of course, but language used to describe it is often highly apocalyptic in nature. For us, a football team does get defeated, but the language we use is often very far from literal.
I had read this passage several times before and never considered it. This opened me up to a whole new way of reading the text. I had always understood it was poetic license, but I never had considered that this could be done in prophecy as well as the exact same language shows up there.
And as we’ll eventually see, the New Testament does the same, but that’s for the future.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)