Dark Waters and Thick Clouds

“And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind. And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies.” (2 Samuel 22:11-12)

This mysterious passage in David’s song of deliverance (also in Psalm 18) is usually classified by commentators as mere poetic hyperbole. However, it may also be taken literally, if we only assume that David was translated by the Holy Spirit (who “spake by me”—2 Samuel 23:2) far back in time to the great Flood, seeing in vision the Lord in great power unleashing the mighty waters of judgment on a corrupt world, yet delivering Noah through it all. David had a similar vision when he wrote Psalm 29, which speaks explicitly of the Noahic Flood (Hebrew mabbul, v. 10).

In our text above, the Hebrew word for “wind” is the same as “spirit,” so this phrase could refer to “the wings of the Spirit.” In the Bible’s first reference to “the Spirit of God” (Genesis 1:2), He is seen as “moving” in the presence of the primeval waters, the word being the same as that for the fluttering movement of the wings of a great bird. This vibrating motion implies the generating of mighty waves of energy flowing out from the Spirit to energize the newly created cosmos of Genesis 1:1. Similarly, the divine energy emanates again from the Spirit here at the Flood, but this time in destructive rather than creative power.

The references to waters and darkness in these and nearby verses may well refer to the condensation and precipitation of the extensive canopy suggested by the “waters which were above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7), when great torrents of rain suddenly poured through “the sluiceways of heaven,” continuing at highest intensity for 40 days, then at lesser intensity for 110 more days, until the “thick clouds” were emptied and the great Flood covered the whole earth. HMM

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