Verse 2. How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob. Moved by intense devotion, David expressed his resolve in the form of a solemn vow, which was sealed with an oath. The fewer of such vows the better under a dispensation whose great Representative has said, "swear not at all." Perhaps even in this case it had been wiser to have left the pious resolve in the hands of God in the form of a prayer; for the vow was not actually fulfilled as intended, since the Lord forbade David to build him a temple. We had better not swear to do anything before we know the Lord's mind about it, and then we shall not need to swear. The instance of David's vows shows that vows are allowable, but it does not prove that they are desirable. Probably David went too far in his words, and it is well that the Lord did not hold him to the letter of his bond, but accepted the will for the deed, and the meaning of his promise instead of the literal sense of it. David imitated Jacob, that great maker of vows at Bethel, and upon him rested the blessing pronounced on Jacob by Isaac, "God Almighty bless thee" ( Genesis 28:3 ), which was remembered by the patriarch on his death bed, when he spoke of "the mighty God of Jacob." God is mighty to hear us, and to help us in performing our vow. We should be full of awe at the idea of making any promise to the Mighty God: to dare to trifle with him would be grievous indeed. It is observable that affliction led both David and Jacob into covenant dealings with the Lord: many vows are made in anguish of soul. We may also remark that, if the votive obligations of David are to be remembered of the Lord, much more are the suretyship engagements of the Lord Jesus before the mind of the great Lord, to whom our soul turns in the hour of our distress.
Note, upon this verse, that Jehovah was the God of Jacob, the same God evermore; that he had this for his attribute, that he is mighty -- mighty to succour his Jacobs who put their trust in him, though their afflictions be many. He is, moreover, specially the Mighty One of his people; he is the God of Jacob in a sense in which he is not the God of unbelievers. So here we have three points concerning our God: -- name, Jehovah; attribute, mighty; special relationship, "mighty God of Jacob." He it is who is asked to remember David and his trials, and there is a plea for that blessing in each one of the three points.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 2. And vowed. The history does not record the time nor the occasion of this vow; but history does record how it was ever in David's thoughts and on David's heart. David, indeed, in the first verse, asks of God to remember his afflictions, and then records his vow; and you may, perhaps, think that the vow was the consequence of his afflictions, and that he made it contingent on his deliverance ... It is far more consistent with the character of David to look upon the affliction to which he alludes as resulting from the Lord's not permitting him to carry out his purpose of erecting an earthly habitation for the God of heaven, inasmuch as he had shed blood abundantly. And if, as is more than probable, amid that blood which he had shed, David's conscience recalled the blood of Uriah as swelling the measure, he could not but be deeply afflicted, even while he acknowledged the righteousness of the sentence.
But though not permitted of God to execute his purpose, we cannot but feel and own that it was a noble resolution which David here makes; and though recorded in all the amplification of Oriental imagery, it expresses the holy determination of the Psalmist to forego every occupation and pursuit, and not to allow a single day to elapse till he had at least fixed on the site of the future temple. --Barton Bouchier.
Verse 2. He vowed. He who is ready to vow on every occasion will break his vow on every occasion. It is a necessary rule, that "we be as sparing in making our vows as may be"; there being many great inconveniences attending frequent and multiplied vows. It is very observable, that the Scripture mentions very few examples of vows, compared with the many instances of very great and wonderful providences; as if it would give us some instances, that we might know what we have to do, and yet would give us but few, that we might know we are not to do it often. You read Jacob lived seven score and seven years ( Genesis 47:28 ); but you read, I think, but of one vow that he made. Our extraordinary exigencies are not many; and, I say, our vows should not be more. Let this, then, be the first necessary ingredient of a well ordered vow. Let it be no oftener made than the pressing greatness of an evil to be removed, or the alluring excellency of a blessing extraordinary to be obtained, will well warrant. Jephthah's vow was so far right; he had just occasion; there was a great and pressing danger to be removed; there was an excellent blessing to be obtained: the danger was, lest Israel should be enslaved; the blessing was victory over their enemies. This warranted his vow, though his rashness marred it. It was in David's troubles that David sware, and vowed a vow to the Most High; and Jacob forbare to vow until his more than ordinary case bade his vow, and warranted him in so doing: Genesis 28:20 . Let us do as he did, -- spare to vow, until such case puts us on it. --Henry Hurst (1629? -- 1690), in "The Morning Exercises."
Verse 2. Vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob. The first holy votary that ever we read of was Jacob here mentioned in this text, who is therefore called thee father of vows: and upon this account some think David mentions God here under the title of "the mighty God of Jacob", rather than any other, because of his vow. --Abraham Wright.
Verse 2. The mighty God of Jacob. The title strong one of Jacob, by which God is here designated, first used by Jacob himself, Genesis 49:24 , and thence more generally used as is clear from Isaiah 1:24 49:26, and other places, here sets forth God both as the most mighty who is able most severely to punish perjury, and with whom no one may dare to contend, and also as the defender and most mighty vindicator of Israel, such as Jacob had proved him, and all his descendants, in particular David, who frequently rejoiced and gloried in this mighty one and defender. Such a mighty one of Jacob was worthy to have a temple built for him, and was so great that he would not suffer perjury. --Hermann Venema.
Verse 2. Where the interpreters have translated, "the God of Jacob", it is in the Hebrew, "the mighty in Jacob." Which name is sometimes attributed unto the angels, and sometimes it is also applied to other things wherein are great strength and fortitude; as to a lion, an ox, and such like. But here it is a singular word of faith, signifying that God is the power and strength of his people; for only faith ascribes this unto God. Reason and the flesh do attribute more to riches, and such other worldly helps as man seeth and knoweth. All such carnal helps are very idols, which deceive men, and draw them to perdition; but this is the strength and fortitude of the people, to have God present with them ... So the Scripture saith in another place: "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord." Likewise Paul saith: "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." For this power is eternal, and deceives not. All other powers are not only deceitful, but they are transitory, and continue but for a moment. --Martin Luther.