Psalm 18 was written by David. By reading this psalm in its entirety, you will see it is a song written about how the Lord delivered David from his enemies. This psalm has something more to it that can be entirely missed. In this song there is a word or series of words that shows repetition. This repetition is emphasizing the significance of the entire song. These can be called repetition synonyms. “Repetition is a literary device that repeats the same words or phrases a few times to make an idea clearer. There are several types of repetition commonly used in both prose and poetry. As a rhetorical device, it could be a word, a phrase or a full sentence, or a poetical line repeated to emphasize its significance in the entire text.” 1
In this particular psalm there are two uses of the word rock. Verse 2 states, the LORD is my rock. Verse 31 and 46 both state, the LORD is the Rock. This uses two different Hebrew words to say the word rock. The LORD is my (David’s) rock and the LORD is the Rock. David is saying that the LORD is both the rock סֶלַע H5553 and the Rock צוּר H6697. This repeating shows emphasis and clarity.
What puts even more emphasis and clarity to this is that this song is also found in 2 Samuel 22 with the different uses of rock.
“And he said, the LORD is my rock סֶלַע H5553 , and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock צוּר H6697; in him I will trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence” (King James Version 22:3).
“For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock צוּר H6697, save our God?” (2 Samuel 22:32)
“The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock צוּר H6697; and exalted be the God of the rock צוּר H6697of my salvation” (2 Samuel 22:47).
Again, David is saying my rock, the rock, and “the Rock” are all synonymous of each other.
“rock cela` סֶלַע H5553 Strong’s Concordance definition is סֶלַע çelaʻ, seh’-lah; from an unused root meaning to be lofty; a craggy rock, literally or figuratively (a fortress):—(ragged) rock, stone(ny), strong hold.” 2
“Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon’s translation for the word means: (1) Metaph. God is called any one’s rock, i.e. his refuge, where he is safe from foes. (2) Petra, the chief city of the Edomites” 2
“rock צוּר tsûwr, tsoor; or צֻר tsur; from H6696 Strong’s Concordance definition; properly, a cliff (or sharp rock, as compressed); generally, a rock or boulder; figuratively, a refuge; also an edge (as precipitous):—edge, (mighty) God (one), rock, sharp, stone, strength, strong. See also H1049.” 2
Why does this matter, you might ask… After reading Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22, I instantly thought of the rock mentioned in Matthew 16.
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Phillippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock πέτρα G4073 I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:13-18).
Rock in Aramaic: Remains the same-Kepha (כיפא)
Rock in Greek: petros (masculine); upon this Rock πέτρα, petra (feminine)
This passage is referring to Peter’s revelation of Jesus being the son of the Living God! Here we find the trinity. God the Father, revealing to Peter through the Holy Spirit (who is inside of him/us) about Jesus the son. The three parts of the trinity, being in three different places revealing the same thing. The way rock is being used here is a play on words.
The problem with comparing and contrasting words from the Old Testament to the New Testament and visa versa, is that the Old Testament is written in Hebrew and the New Testament is written in Greek. This makes for a difficult translation from Greek to Hebrew to English etc. and from Hebrew to Greek. Accurate translations tend to get distorted and this is a very big deal. When using a translator from Greek to Hebrew the word rock becomes stone. When using a translator from Hebrew to Greek, the word rock becomes flint. Similar, but creates differences and discrepancies, which happens when any language is translated to another.
The interesting thing about the New Testament is that Jesus was thought to have spoken primarily Aramaic and Hebrew. He would have also spoke Greek as well. The question is, if Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Hebrew, why was the New Testament written in Greek? Most of the authors of the New Testament were from Greek speaking areas so it would have made sense that they would have been translated into Greek, even if originally translated into Hebrew. There is one exception to this though, which is the most intriguing part of all. One disciple was thought to have come from Israel/Judea where the primary language would have been Hebrew, not Greek. That disciple is none other than Matthew! The very author of the book of Matthew, where we find our difficult to translate passage from Matthew 16. Difficult, but not necessary. We can find the answer to all our questions simply by looking to the ancient song, sung by David himself!
http://literarydevices.net accessed: 9/30/17
Strong, James. Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009.