There is a perek of תהילים that discusses David’s war in Aram:
There’s a problem with it, however:
It’s modern poetry; תנ״ך as envisioned by e e cummings. There aren’t sentences, just images. But we can deal with that; it’s an opportunity for more analysis!
Another issue is that it talks about זה סיני and הר בשן. You could read it as being about מעמד הר סיני, with metaphoric allusions to the Bashan. Or you could read it a about הר בשן, with allusions to Sinai, קריעת ים סוף and שירת דבורה. The Midrash and many commentators take the former approach. We, with Malbim, will take the latter:
The first pasuk (after the כותרת) is an obvious quote:
These were Moshe’s prayers as בני ישראל went through the desert, and it serves as a book of תנ״ך in itself:
בני ישראל went into battle accompanied by the ארון. We will not go into the details of the question of how many arks there were, but will note that the “battle ark” was still with the army at the time of David:
I would understand the text like Tosfot, that there was a simple wood ark with the שברי לוחות that went out to war, until the בית המקדש was finally built:
So here David is introducing his שירה with the battle cry of Moshe.
The remainder of the first stanza (through פסוק ח) is a general introduction of how ה׳ acts בצאתך לפני עמך (פסוק ח). His enemies melt away and our job is only to rejoice in His victory. סֹלּוּ לָרֹכֵב בָּעֲרָבוֹת I would translate as “pave the road for He Who rides in the heavens”׳ our task is to bring ה׳'s שחינה down to earth. And fundamentally that “paving” isn’t on the military side, it’s on the side of צדקה ומשפט. עֲרָבוֹת is a particular kind of “Heaven”:
And we know that ה׳'s destruction of our enemies is intimately tied to צדק משפט וצדקה:
And this idea goes back to the first battle of ה׳ fighting for בני ישראל, קריעת ים סוף:
The second stanza is the description of the event itself: the earth shook and the heavens dripped, an echo of שירת דבורה which itself invoked מעמד הר סיני:
גֶּשֶׁם נְדָבוֹת connects to Devorah’s battle as well:
So whatever happened here, it was similar to how הר תבור ”melted“ and destroyed Sisera’s army. The details of that battle are not spelled out in ספר שופטים, and we don’t know anything about this one, but it resulted in מלכי צבאות ידדון ידדון, kings were scattered as ה׳ speaks. Even the housewife (נְוַת as the feminine of נוה) will collect the spoils. This is clearly not מעמד הר סיני, but a battle that brings it to mind, with the ארץ רעשה. We don’t know what happened but David saw in it the hand of ה׳.
The next pasuk, אם תשכבון בין שפתים; כנפי יונה נחפה בכסף; ואברותיה בירקרק חרוץ is probably the the on that most epitomizes “The coherence of this psalm [is] uncertain”.
What does it mean, literally?
שפתים occurs only one other place in תנ״ך, when יחזקאל is describing the future בית המקדש and the area where the animals are slaughtered:
and a similar word, מִשְׁפְּתַיִם occurs twice:
The root שפת means “to place, to secure”, most commonly used for putting a pot on the fire. So שפתים has to do with animals, maybe “a place to put animals”, so “sheepfolds” is OK (though the יששכר quote indicates it could apply to donkeys as well). But יחזקאל says they are only one tefach wide, so I would rather translate as “feed trough”, where the food is put.
The unusual word has another historic allusion:
The last phrase ירקרק חרוץ means “greenish gold”
And electrum comes from Aram, which fits our story:
So putting it together:
The יונה here is the parallel of the נות בית of the previous verse; it is a metaphor for בני ישראל could simply sit and watch and the spoils would be washed onto the shore for them, just as at ים סוף:
This is all an allusion to קריעת ים סוף, but it’s actually talking about something else, a battle where ה׳”spreads out kings“ by “בָּהּ תַּשְׁלֵג בְּצַלְמוֹן”, by snowing it in, in shadowy darkness. The snow as the weapon of ה׳ is alluded to in איוב:
And familiarly, in תהילים:
And this all occurred at הַר בָּשָׁן, which was named for its snow:
The mountains of Bashan where all this took place is called הר אלקים, which is a common idiom in תנ״ך for “great”:
And the mountains “danced”, as we read in Hallel:
This was a battle fought by the רכב אלקים, as בני ישראל sat and watched:
And then the manifestation of ה׳ recedes, עלית למרום, leaving behind captives and spoils, and even the nonbelievers (who previously were שכנו צחיחה) will dwell with י־ה אלקים.
So in sum, this is a sort of “modern poetry”, just a succession of phrases that evoke an image: the ground shaking, the snow coming down, the enemy dispersed and their spoils landing in front of בני ישראל as a gift. Whatever happened in הר בשן, it was a manifestation of ה׳'s might on a level with סיני, שפת ים of ים סוףand the ארץ רעשה of דבורה.
And the section concludes with a simple prayer of הודאה:
The next section looks to the future. ה׳ has saved us, brought us back from the בשן just as He brought us out of ממצלות ים.
Artscroll translates למות תצאות as ה׳ ”has many avenues toward death“ (based on the gemara ברכות ח,ב), but the context seems to fit Hirsch: “There are manifold remedies for death”: ה׳ 'will save us. אך, but, He will destroy our enemies, so that we (this gets pretty graphic) can wade through the blood as our dogs take their portion.
So we sing שירה as we have done from the beginning of Jewish history: ממקור ישראל.
The Targum mentions an aggadah about Benjamin, Judah, Zevulon and Naphtali, about a fight at ים סוף:
But we have no other record of such a thing. The פשט is that David is mentioning the leaders of Israel in all their battles:
Saul was the first king, from the youngest tribe, and Yehuda has lead בני ישראל throughout history.
שרי זבלון שרי נפתלי is a reference to דבורה:
And now, ה׳, Your glory comes forth out of Jerusalem; the bulls (אַבִּירִים) will become calves (עֶגְלֵי עַמִּים) and even the nobles of Egypt will sing שירה to ה׳.
בזר literally means to scatter, but (1917 JPS translation) “He hath scattered the peoples that delight in war” doesn’t seem to fit. The Malbim takes בזר as a noun “spoils (that are distributed)”:
And all the nations will come to Jerusalem to acknowledge ה׳, even the greatest power of the day—Egypt.
And the conclusion comes back to the introduction, glorifying ה׳ who is רֹכֵב בִּשְׁמֵי שְׁמֵי קֶדֶם, like the רֹכֵב בָּעֲרָבוֹת above. Thank G-d, Whose glory is in מִקְדָּשֶׁיךָ, in the מקדש in Jerusalem.