What does Psalm 18:34 mean?
ESV: He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
NIV: He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
NASB: He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
CSB: He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
NLT: He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
KJV: He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
NKJV: He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Verse Commentary:
Again, David gives God the credit for his battle skills. Contrary to what some think, pacifism is not an inherently godly trait. While the Bible speaks of peacemaking (Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18–19), ignoring insults (Matthew 5:39; Proverbs 12:16), and avoiding conflict (Proverbs 15:1; 1 Peter 3:17), it also notes that evil must sometimes be resisted physically (John 2:13–17; Genesis 9:6). David did not gain his military skill by accident, or despite his relationship to God. It was God, working to prepare David, who helped him develop those abilities (2 Samuel 8:1–8).

Bows are most often made of wood, but even in the ancient world, there were composite bows that included horn and sinew. Stronger materials made for a more powerful weapon, but also made the bow harder to use. David's reference here is not literal—bronze is not suitable for archery. The point of the metaphor is power—much as the reference in the prior verse was to speed and agility (Psalm 18:33).

The Hebrew root word nachuwshah is used in this verse and is related to metals like copper and bronze. This is also connected to a name eventually given to the serpent formed by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4–9; 2 Kings 18:4). The 17th century translators of the KJV rendered this as "steel." Though that metal existed in rare instances in David's era, it does not seem to fit this verse well.

Scripture provides reasons why God made such provision to keep David alive: it was part of the prophecy surrounding the Messiah. This Promised One was predicted to descend from David (2 Samuel 7:12–13). God even moved the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus to make a decree that took Jesus' adoptive earthly father, Joseph, from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1–4), where it was prophesied that the Messiah would be born. Micah 5:2 prophesies: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth is from old, from ancient days." Luke 2:6–7 and 11 reveal the fulfillment of Micah's prophecy. Mary gave birth in Bethlehem, the city of David, to the Savior, Christ the Lord.
Verse Context:
Psalm 18:28–45 celebrates the Lord's goodness to David during his wilderness experience (2 Samuel 22:1). Second Samuel 22:29–46 is a companion passage, and 2 Samuel chapter 8 features several of David's victories. Other passages that focus on the victory God gives His people are Romans 8:28–39, 1 Corinthians 15:50–58, 2 Corinthians 1:8–11, 2:14–17, Ephesians 6:10–20, Philippians 1:12–26, 1 Peter 1:3–9, and 1 John 5:1–5.
Chapter Summary:
In 2 Samuel chapter 22, David expresses praise for all the times in his life where God gave him victory. That prayer or song is copied almost identically here. Psalm 18, itself, might have been adapted for use in public worship. David remembers dire situations where God rescued him. He dramatically recounts how God provided rescue and power. David also credits God with rewarding his obedience by making him a powerful and successful military leader. For these reasons, David commits himself to the praise and worship of the Lord.
Chapter Context:
This psalm is David's prayer to the Lord in which David praises the Lord for making him victorious over his enemies. Second Samuel 5, 8, and 10 are companion chapters, and 2 Samuel 22 provides another version of this psalm. Second Samuel 22:1 tells us David composed Psalm 18 on the day the Lord delivered him from his enemies and Saul. Second Samuel 19 reports David's victorious return to Jerusalem after David vanquished his enemies.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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