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Bible Commentaries

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary
Psalms 17



Verse 1

title is almost wholly taken from the book of Kings, except Unto the end for; instead of which we read, And David spoke, &c., [2 Kings xxii.] (Haydock) which are the words of the inspired writer; so that Ferrand is very rash in rejecting both these titles. David wrote this psalm after he had subdued the Moabites, &c. (Calmet) --- He was inspired to write it (Worthington) twice, with some variations, (Berthier) 74 in number, (Aberbanel) or many more, if we believe Kennicott, who lays them to the charge of transcribers, perhaps, (Haydock) with greater reason. (Calmet) --- We cannot doubt but this psalm regards David. But there are some passages which refer to Jesus Christ and his Church more directly; and in general, David must here be considered as only (Berthier) the figure of the Messias, and of the just in his Church. (Worthington) --- James Paine has endeavoured to prove, with great ingenuity, that the whole must be explained of Jesus Christ, and that the name of Saul stands for "the grave;" as the points which are of modern date, only need to be changed. Thus the sufferings of our Saviour, and the punishment of the Jews in the last siege of Jerusalem are described; and thus it is clear that St. Paul (Romans xv. 9.) has cited this psalm in it proper sense. (Berthier) --- See ver. 10, 41. --- Sts. Jerome and Augustine explain it of the victories of David, of the Messias, and of his Church. (Calmet) --- Saul may be particularly mentioned, because he was the most powerful. (Worthington)

Verse 2

I will love thee, as a mother does her son. He that loves has fulfilled the law. This word is omitted [in] 2 Kings. xxii. 2. (Calmet) --- Strength. Ibid. --- Rock. (Haydock) --- The Septuagint have inserted some alterations in the Psalms, giving the sense of the Hebrew. (Worthington) --- Others attribute the variations to David, or to the mistake of transcribers. (Haydock)

Verse 3

Firmament. Hebrew, "rock and my citadel, and my deliverer. My God, (or strong one) my rock." St. Jerome, "my strong one." The two words which are rendered "my rock," are salhi and metsudathi. (Haydock) --- David frequently retired to such places for safety. The idea was beautiful and striking. Such multiplicity of titles shews the gratitude (Calmet) and affection which David felt. (Calmet) --- Here are nine, and we may add the three metaphorical Hebrew terms, "rock, citadel, and buckler." Can we refuse to love One from whom we have received so many favours? --- And in, &c. These words are most probably cited by St. Paul, (Hebrews ii. 13.) though they occur also in Isaias viii. 18. --- Protector. Hebrew, "buckler." (Berthier) --- Horn. This title is given to Jesus Christ, Luke i. 69. It is an allusion to beasts which attack their opponents with their horns (Theodoret; Deuteronomy xxxiii. 17.) being an emblem of strength (Worthington) and glory. (Calmet) --- And my, &c. (2 Kings) he lifted me up and is my refuge; my Saviour, thou wilt deliver me from iniquity. Hebrew, "violence."

Verse 4

Praising. Hebrew, "praised;" and (2 Kings) the Lord, who is worthy to be praised. (Haydock) --- Chaldean agrees here with the Septuagint and Vulgate, which seems more natural. (Calmet) --- The sense is the same. (Berthier)

Verse 5

Sorrows...iniquity. Hebrew, "cables....Belial." By these figurative expressions, David declares to what dangers he had been exposed. They seem to be more applicable to our Saviour's agony. (Berthier) --- The wicked were constantly laying snares for both. We have the same idea enforced in the next verse. (Haydock) --- The words are put into the mouth of fallen man, in the mass for Septuagesima[the third Sunday before Lent]. (Worthington)

Verse 7

Called. All these words are in the future, 2 Kings and Hebrews. (Haydock) --- But as they relate to an event that was past, they seem to be as well expressed here as they are in Duport's Greek Psalms. (Berthier) --- Both are true; as David had prayed, and would continue to pray, for God's protection; otherwise he would have deserved to lose it. We must always pray, and never faint. (Haydock) --- Temple, "from my heart;" (St. Augustine) from the tabernacle at Gabaaon, (Lyranus) or from heaven. (Chaldean) (Eusebius) (Calmet) --- Earnest prayer is the best remedy against temptations and affliction. God will not fail to hear those who are sincere, as he did the prophet. (Worthington)

Verse 8

With them is not in Hebrew. Lo, illi refers to God. Furor fuit ei. (Montanus) --- "He was wroth." (Protestants) Yet he displayed his power on the mountains, as if he had been displeased with them, or with the enemies (ver. 4.) whom he would thus strike with awe. (Haydock) --- These expressions are not to be taken in a gross literal sense. (Calmet) --- God shewed himself as earnest in the protection of David, (Haydock) as if he had been in a rage; (Calmet) or as if the elements had all conspired to defend him. (Theodoret) --- This most pompous description (Calmet) alludes to the wonders wrought at Sinai, and the terrors which would happen at the death and resurrection of Christ, and at his last coming. Some moderns think that the overthrow of the Babylonians, and other enemies of God's people, are also denoted. The sinner, touched by divine grace, implores mercy, and feels the remorse of conscience, the ropes or sorrows of hell, and a dread of God's just judgments hanging over him. (Berthier) --- These cause the most haughty and obstinate to tremble. (Worthington)

Verse 9

By it. This relates to the clouds, thunder, and lightning. (Muis) --- God's wrath is compared with smoke, fire, a dark night, or mist. (Worthington)

Verse 10

Feet. A violent storm of rain. Hence the Pagans borrowed: Jupiter et læto descendit plurimus imbri. (Virgil, Eclogues 7.)

--- The prophets Isaias (xxix. 6.) and Nahum (i. 3.) speak in the same lofty strains; (Calmet) and shall any one despise the language of Scripture? Nothing can exceed its sublimity. Hebrew is rather more expressive, (ver. 9.) "a fire devoured;" (ver. 11.) "on a cherub, and flew; he flew most swiftly;" like and eagle. (Berthier) --- Hebrew vida. (Haydock)

Verse 11

Winds. God mounts his chariot, as it were, (Ezechiel i. 4., &c.) to come speedily to David's assistance. Æscylus, and other pagan authors, seem to have imitated his description. (Eusebius, præp. evan. xiii. 13.) --- The Fathers explain the former verse of Christ's incarnation, or of his second coming; and this of his ascension. (St. Athanasius, &c.) --- They may also (Haydock) intimate that God is ready to pardon as well as to punish. (Worthington) --- Plato (Phædro) represents the Deity on "a winged chariot, directing and taking care of all things." (Haydock)

Verse 12

Pavilion. Job xxii. 14., and xxvi. 9. The Jews had this idea of God's throne, of which we behold only the less brilliant side, as the Egyptians did that of the cloud, Exodus xiv. 19. The poets represent Jupiter surrounded with clouds and darkness. (Hesiod, op. 125 and 255.; Homer, Iliad O.) --- Air. The parallel passage, (2 Kings) seems more accurate. Dropping waters out of the clouds of the heavens. Hebrew, "waters bound up in darksome clouds." (Calmet) --- God is incomprehensible in himself, and his counsels are inscrutable. (Worthington)

Verse 13

Clouds. 2 Kings, The coals (Hebrew, "flames") of fire were kindled. Two words, habaw haberu, his clouds removed, (Haydock) omitted in this passage, are here supplied, as the former word is found in Syriac and Arabic. But then hail and coals of fire seem improper for "they kindled into coals of fire;" and in the next verse they are redundant; being therefore omitted in 2 Kings xxii., in the best editions of the Septuagint and in the old Italic of Blanchini. Capel supposes they have been inserted from the preceding verse, which is rendered more probably by the Hebrew manuscript 5. (Kennicott, Dis. 1.) --- They have been inserted in some editions of Septuagint from the Hebrew of Theodotion, (Calmet) or Symmachus. (Montfalcon) --- This unusual third hemistic occurs in a smaller type in Brettinger's (Kennicott) and Grabe's Septuagint, but they indicate thereby that it was not in the Alexandrian manuscript, as it is not in that of the Vatican. If it were in its proper place, we should read at least grandinem, &c. This magnificent description of a thunder-storm (Haydock) may allude to that which routed the Philistines, 2 Kings v. 24., and Isaias xxviii. 21. (Calmet) --- The lightning seemed to dispel the gloom. (Theodoret; Flaminius) --- Though man is overpowered with God's majesty, yet he is instructed how to act by those whom God has commissioned to teach. (Worthington)

Verse 15


David's thanks to God for his delivery from all his enemies.

Arrows. Thunderbolts. Tela reponuntur manibus fabricata Cyclopum. (Metam. Hesiod Theog. 708.)

Verse 16

Discovered. The earthquakes were so great, that such dreadful effects might have been expected. These phenomena sometimes make the sea retire, and new islands appear. (Pliny, [Natural History?] i. 84., and xxxi. 5., &c.) --- The Jews supposed that the sea was the common source of all fountains, and that the earth was founded on it, Psalm xxiii. 2., and Ecclesiastes i. 7. (Calmet)

Verse 17

Sent his angel, &c. --- Waters, which often represent multitudes, (Apocalypse xvii. 15.; Calmet) and afflictions. (Worthington) --- David seemed in danger of perishing. (Calmet)

Verse 18

For me. He may allude to the giant Jesbibenob, or to Saul, who surrounded him on all sides; (1 Kings xxiii. 26., and 2 Kings xxi. 15.; Calmet) and, in general, to all his temporal or spiritual adversaries. (Worthington)

Verse 19

Affliction, when my friends joined Absalom. (Theodoret) --- In the rest of this psalm, the prophet chiefly uses words in the obvious sense, yet mystically speaks of Christ, and of the faithful. (Worthington)

Verse 20

Place, where I was not hemmed in by my enemies. (Haydock) --- Saved me, by repentance, out of his infinite mercy, (Eusebius; St. Athanasius) without any deserts. (Worthington)

Verse 21

Will reward. St. Jerome, "hath rewarded," (Calmet) yet the edition of 1533 reads retribuet. (Haydock) --- Justice, with respect to my enemies, whom I have not injured; (Calmet) or my sincere desire to serve God. (Theodoret)

Verse 23

Judgments. Commands, or treatment both of the just and of the wicked.

Verse 24

Him, by his grace. (Worthington) --- Iniquity, and be careful not to relapse. Others explain it in the past time. I have not shed the blood of my enemy when I could have done it, 1 Kings xxiv. 6, 14. (Calmet) --- Fui immaculatus. (St. Jerome) (Haydock) It seems most probable that David composed this before his fall, as Aberbanel, one of the most learned of the Jews, asserts. If he be only a figure of Jesus Christ, we may easily conceive how the latter might speak thus of his innocence, and declare his abhorrence of all sin, though he was made a sin-offering, having undertaken to expiate the iniquities of mankind. (Berthier)

Verse 25

And. He repeateth, (ver. 21.) that God will render to every one as he deserves. (Worthington) --- Matthew xvi. That all sins are equal is the error of the Stoics. (Haydock)

Verse 27

Perverted. No version can properly express this idea. God turns away from those who abandon him, treating every one according to his works. If we do not advance in piety, it is a sign that God perceives something amiss in us. (Berthier) --- He cannot but abhor duplicity, and resist the wicked, Leviticus xxvi. 23, 40., and Proverbs iii. 34. He will make the craft of men turn against themselves, as he evinced in the case of Laban, Joseph's brethren, Pharao, and Saul. Sinners complain of him without reason, Ezechiel xviii. 25. (Calmet) --- Some improperly use this text to shew, that people will adopt the manners of those with whom they associate, (Haydock) though it means that God will treat the good liberally, and the wicked with severity, Leviticus xxvi. 23, 24. (Amama)

Verse 28

Proud, as thou hast already done. (Calmet) --- Insignem attenuat Deus,

Obscura promens. (Horat.[Horace?])

Verse 29

Lamp, giving me hopes of redress, and of the Messias. (Calmet)

Verse 30

Temptation. David was almost continually assailed by enemies. (Calmet) --- Septuagint Greek: peieatesion, signifies "a place of pirates;" denoting what crafty foes he had to encounter, (Berthier) or "a place or time to learn the military exercise," a warfare, Job vii. 1. But gedud, (Haydock) means "a troop," designed to make incursions, as those under Jephte and David. Hebrew, "In thee I will run armed;" (St. Jerome) or, "at the head of my troops." (Calmet) --- "I will break, (Pagnin) or, run through an army." (Montanus) --- No fortification can hold out. (Haydock) --- He alludes particularly to the wall of the Jebusites, which Joab first mounted, though extremely high, 2 Kings v. 6. (Calmet) --- With God's help, every difficulty may be surmounted. (Worthington) --- Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation, as our Saviour admonishes. [Matthew xxvi. 41.]

Verse 31

As for, might be omitted. (Haydock) --- The conduct of God towards men is irreproachable. He will treat all according to their deserts, and will fulfil his promises of protecting the just. (Eusebius) --- Hebrew, "He is the strong God....his words are pure as gold....He is the shield," &c. (Berthier)

Verse 32

Our God. Will any one then hinder Him from doing as He has said? (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "Who is the rock but our God?" (Berthier) --- God is often styled a rock, tsur. Yet St. Jerome and Pagnin render it "strong," or "the strong one." (Haydock) --- There is only one Lord and Saviour of all. (Worthington)

Verse 33

Blameless. Whatever good is in me, comes from his grace, ver. 21, 24. (Haydock) --- God has prevented me from killing Saul and Nabal; He has rescued me from the abyss into which I had fallen. (Calmet)

Verse 34

Harts. Protestants, "hinds." (Haydock) --- The Hebrews generally prefer to specify the female. Harts are remarkably swift, and this quality was greatly esteemed in a warrior. Asael is praised for it; (2 Kings ii. 18.) and Homer styles his hero "the swift-footed Achilles." (Calmet) --- As harts trample serpents under their feet, says Theodoret, so I treat my enemies. --- High. Hebrew, "my high places," where I have so often baffled the efforts of my persecutors. (Haydock)

Verse 35

And thou. Chaldean gives the same sense. "He strengthens," &c. (Calmet) --- Hebrew, "and a brazen bow is broken by my arms." (Montanus) --- Protestants, "a bow of steel." Perhaps not knowing that the ancients had the art of making brass answer the same purposes. See Proclus, Hesiod, &c. (Haydock) --- They made all sorts of weapons of it. Job (xx. 24.) seems even to insinuate that it was harder than iron. Our brass is too brittle. To break a bow, often means to obtain a victory, 1 Kings ii. 4., and Jeremias xlix. 5. (Calmet) --- David gained many over a lion or a bear, over Goliath, &c. (Worthington)

Verse 36

Of thy. The latter word is omitted in some copies of the Septuagint, while others change it into "my." But the Hebrew is agreeable to the Vulgate. (Calmet) --- End. Thou hast preserved me by salutary correction. (St. Augustine) (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "thy goodness shall multiply me" with children. Symmachus, conformably to 2 Kings xxii., has, "my obedience shall lift me up." (Calmet) --- The Hebrew may, however, admit the sense of the Vulgate. --- And thy, &c., is a paraphrase of the former sentiment, or it is borrowed from Theodotion. (Berthier) --- Grabe marks from unto the end, &c., as omitted in Hebrew. (Haydock) --- Luther and the Dutch translate, "When thou humblest me, then thou exaltest me," to shew the salutary effects of suffering. But there is nothing of the kind in the original. (Amama)

Verse 37

Weakened, or tired. (Chaldean) (Haydock) --- I am now free from danger. All my enterprizes have succeeded, 2 Kings viii. 6., and 1 Paralipomenon xviii. 13. See Proverbs iv. 12. (Calmet)

Verse 38

I will. Bellarmine would supply "I said I will;" and thus all is connected. But these future victories relate more to Jesus Christ. (Berthier) --- David also continued making fresh conquests, (Haydock) and so entirely subdued his enemies all around, that they were not able to make head, even against his successor.

Verse 40

Against. me. No prince was ever more courageous than David, as the single combat with Goliath evinces. We know not that he ever lost a battle. He refers all the glory to God. (Calmet)

Verse 41

Upon me. An expression often used to denote a fight, Josue iii. 12., &c. (Calmet) --- God strengthens his servants, and weakens their enemies. (Worthington)

Verse 42

Lord. This must be understood of Absalom, who offered sacrifices, (2 Kings xv. 12.; Berthier) or of Saul, who, receiving no answer, consulted a witch. The Philistines also brought their gods with them, so that they were taken and burnt; (2 Kings v. 21.) and the other pagans, finding no aid in their idols, might in time of danger, invoke the Lord. (Calmet) --- This is "the testimony of a soul naturally Christian," as Tertullian (Apol. xvii.) speaks, to have recourse to the great and only God, in the utmost distress. (Haydock) --- Deus ut subveniat oratur; ipsa veritas, cogente natura....erumpit. (Lac. Inst. ii. 1.)

Verse 43

Streets. Thus he treated the Ammonites, &c., 2 Kings viii. 2., and xii. 31. (Calmet) --- Jesus Christ will rule over his enemies with a rod of iron. (Berthier)

Verse 44

Gentiles. Here he begins to predict the glory of the Messias, though what he says may be applied to himself. David's own people began to revolt, under Absalom and Seba; after he had subdued the most powerful nations around, 2 Kings xx. 1. The chosen people rejected Christ, (Calmet) while the nations were converted. The reprobation of the former was prefigured by those rebels. (Worthington)

Verse 46

Faded, (inveterati sunt) "are grown old." (Haydock) --- The Jews had been long the objects of God's favours: yet they fell away. Thus we often see priests outdone in piety by simple laics. (Berthier) --- David continues in the comparison of a tree which bears no fruit; (Calmet) thus lying, as it were, and frustrating the just expectations of the owner. Subjects do the like, when they revolt; (Isaias xxx. 9.) and thus deserve the title of strange. Protestants, "the strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places;" (St. Jerome) "shall flow away, and be contracted in their straits;" while I shall be at large, ver. 37. The last verb gachregu, (Haydock) occurs no where else. It may signify "shall be withered," or burnt, from carar. (Calmet)

Verse 47

Liveth. This is my consolation, though it must fill the obstinate sinner with dismay. (Haydock) --- In a sort of transport, David wishes all happiness to his great benefactor. He may also speak of Christ's resurrection. (Calmet) --- My God. Hebrew, "rock:" a title frequently applied to God, in acknowledgment of his stability and protection. (Berthier)

Verse 48

Avengest, or "grantest me revenges," (Haydock) and the victory; inflicting a just punishment on the wicked. David was too well informed to delight in sentiments of revenge, 3 Kings iii. 11. Jesus Christ takes vengeance on his enemies, but this id done without passion. The love of justice is his only motive. David approves of this conduct. (Calmet) --- Enraged enemies. Vulgate iracundis. (Haydock) --- Septuagint have thus explained aph, "wrath;" others join it with the following verse, "But (Calmet) or yea," (Haydock) etiam. The former version is, however, very accurate. (Berthier)

Verse 50

Nations. St. Paul (Romans xv. 9.) adduces this to prove the vocation of the Gentiles. (Calmet) --- We cannot doubt but the great things announced in the psalm pertain to Christ. (Berthier) --- We see the completion of this prophecy, as there is no Christian nation which does not use the psalms of David to praise God. (Theodoret, &c.) --- This practice is very common (Pref.; Worthington) in all places here either Jews or Christians are found.

Verse 51

Great. This in intimated by the plural salutes, "salvations;" as David had experienced innumerable favours. (Haydock) --- He speaks of himself in the third person, to lead our minds to the Messias, in whom this was more gloriously accomplished. The greater honour of this chief family of Israel, consisted in giving birth to so great a personage, in whom all are blessed. (Calmet) (Isaias xi. 1., and Ezechiel xxxiv. 23.) --- For ever. The true Church will never perish; (Haydock) God still protecting it, as he did David, ver. 48. (Worthington)


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Bibliography Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 17:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

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