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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Psalms 17

 

 

Verse 1

Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.

Psalms 17:1-15.-The grounds on which David rests his prayer-the righteousness of his cause; his heart, mouth, and steps will bear God's testing (Psalms 17:1-5); the prayer itself-that Yahweh will keep him from his deadly foes; joyful anticipation of awakening fully satisifed with Yahweh's likeness (Psalms 17:6-15).

Hear the right - Hebrew, 'Hear (what is) righteous;' i:e., hear me on the ground of righteousness. The ulterior reference is to Christ, 'the Just One,' appealing from the tribunal of man to that of God, who will vindicate the Just One's righteous cause. The primary reference is to David, as the representative of all believers. These, though claiming no justifying righteousness, except that of Messiah, yet can appeal to the Heart-Searcher to test their sincerity of aim. This personal righteousness consists in a life mainly striving after holiness (1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9-10), though deeply conscious of sinfulness cleaving to it (Psalms 19:13; Psalms 143:2; 1 John 1:8). It springs out of a sense of pardoned sin, which pre-supposes the renouncing of self-righteousness. Righteousness of life is the offspring of righteousness of faith. Without this sincere aim after righteousness, prayer will not be accepted (Psalms 66:18; John 9:31; Job 27:8-9); with it, prayer obtains all it asks (1 John 3:22).

Give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. Those who, in praying, "regard iniquity in their heart," pray from 'lips of deceit' (Hebrew). Compare John 1:47-48, concerning Nathanael (probably praying) under the fig tree, "without guile;" cf. also Revelation 14:5.


Verse 2

Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

Let my sentence come forth from thy presence - i:e., Let thy sentence, in vindication of my righteous cause, come forth before the whole world, by delivering me from my enemies.

Let thine eyes behold the things that are equal , [ meeyshaariym (Hebrew #4339)] - literally, rightnesses. The petitioner, conscious of integrity, claims a favourable hearing only on the ground of God's regard to right.


Verse 3

Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

Thou hast proved ... tried me - as pure gold tested by the searching fire, and found to have no dross. The Hebrew for tried is literally 'melted me.' The preterite tenses express the past reaching on to the present: Thou hast proved me, and the result is thou findest nothing (against me in respect to insincerity), and shalt find nothing.

In the night - the time when especially good and evil thoughts in the soul are accustomed to start up, there being nothing outward to draw off the attention: 'when secrecy and solitude prompt the hypocrite to sin, and the undisciplined imagination wanders abroad like a bird of darkness after forbidden objects' (Horne). So Psalms 16:7. This psalm was probably an evening-song: cf. Psalms 17:15, "when I awake," the time of sleep suggesting the thought of the last sleep, from which the awaking shall be at the resurrection.

I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. The proving of the heart by God, in the beginning of the verse, has little connection with the transgression of the mouth at the end. Moreover, `aabar (Hebrew #5674) can hardly, without addition, mean to transgress. The only thing in question in the context is, are the declarations of his mouth confirmed by the heart, when proved by God? Not the mouth, but the thought or heart, was the chief object of the divine search. I therefore prefer, with Hengstenberg, to translate, 'my mouth oversteps not my thought;' i:e., my heart, as proved by thee, shows that it does not differ from the statement of my mouth, whereby I claimed to be righteous - i:e., sincere before thee. [ zamotiy (Hebrew #2161), 'my thought,' is the infinitive, used as a noun in the accusative, and stands before the subject, "my mouth," as it is the thought that is the principal object of search.] The question is not whether he thinks otherwise than he speaks, but whether he speaks otherwise than he thinks: therefore reject Gesenius' translation, 'thy thoughts overstep not my mouth.' Compare Psalms 17:1, "my prayer goth not out of feigned lips."


Verse 4

Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.

Concerning the works of men - i:e., their ordinary actings, which are naturally and essentially corrupt (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Psalms 51:5). David's language undesignedly coincides with that attributed to him in 1 Samuel 24:9, "MEN'S words." Where men's words or acts are spoken of, unless some epithet mark them to be regenerate men, they are thought of only as evil, so universal is man's corruption. So Hosea 6:7. Compare my note, Job 23:12. Nor does David except himself naturally from men's general corruption, but includes himself among them as by nature prone to evil (cf. Psalms 18:23). This constitutes the difficulty of avoiding the paths of the transgressor, that these are the paths of men, and believers are still men, and therefore apt to slip naturally into such paths.

By the word of thy lips. It is only by the light of God's Word that the believer can see the danger and guilt of the ways of men, and the blessedness and holiness of the way of God, so as to shun that, and to press onward in this way (Psalms 119:9; Psalms 119:11).

I - emphatic, in contrast to 'the wicked.'

I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer - literally, 'I have observed (in order that I might shun) the paths of the wanton transgressor' [ paariyts (Hebrew #6530), one who BREAKS THROUGH all restraints, from paarats (Hebrew #6555), to break] (Hosea 4:2).


Verse 5

Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. Hold up my goings in thy paths, (that) my footsteps slip not - a beautiful supplement to Psalms 17:4, "I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer" - namely, a prayer for perseverance in the ways of God. My having done so theretofore heretofore is solely of thy grace; therefore "Hold up my goings in thy paths" still. Thus, the Hebrew infinitive is for the imperative. Hengstenberg, Cocceius, L. de Dieu, etc., take the infinitive for the preterite, 'my steps hold fast by thy paths, my feet slip not,'-a continuation of the protestation of his righteousness (Psalms 17:1-5), on which he grounds the following prayer for deliverance from enemies. He had said that he 'kept himself from the paths of the destroyer.' He next declares what paths he chose - "thy paths;" hence, his 'footsteps slipped not.' "Thy paths" are parallel to "the word of thy lips," Psalms 17:4 : "my footsteps slip not" are parallel to 'I have kept me from the paths of the wanton transgressor.' Compare Job 23:11 [ taamok (Hebrew #8551) ... b


Verse 6

I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.

I have called upon thee (and now call again), for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. Here begins the chief prayer of the psalm, based on the Psalmist's righteousness or sincerity, which was the subject of the introductory section, Psalms 17:1-5; a second ground for being heard afterward follows-namely, the wickedness of his enemies, which called for God's vengeance.


Verse 7

Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.

Show thy marvelous loving-kindness - `Signalize thy loving-kindnesses.' The Hebrew [ hapleeh (Hebrew #6395)] is literally, single out thy loving-kindnesses, so as not to give them indiscriminately, as heretofore, even to the wicked; but now restrict them to the godly, so as to deliver these from their wicked foes. Another Hebrew form [haplee'] more usually is employed to express the English version, 'make marvelous.' But Gesenius regards the two words akin in etymology and sense.

O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust (in thee). God's character as the Saviour of believers is a strong plea for confidently asking a favourable answer to prayer.

By thy right hand - implying the irresistible power which God has at command for the deliverance of His By thy right hand - implying the irresistible power which God has at command for the deliverance of His people.

From those that rise up (against them) - rather, 'from these that rise up against thee,' just as the previous ellipsis is supplied, 'Thou that savest them which put their trust in thee.' It is a strong plea for deliverance from his enemies, that they, in their presumption, rise up against God himself.


Verse 8

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,

Keep me as the apple of the eye. This prayer rests on the East fact of history (Deuteronomy 32:10) 'The Lord kept him (Israel) as the apple of His eye.' The promise of God to Israel in prayer is found in Zechariah 2:8, "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of His eye." The apple is the pupil, the most tender part of the eye; literally, a little man, from the image formed on the retina [ 'iyshown (Hebrew #380)]; the part most carefully guarded from external attack.

Hide me under the shadow of thy wings. Image from a parent eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11) gathering her young under her wing to protect them from foes. The Lord Jesus would have so hidden Jerusalem, but that she would not (Matthew 23:37).


Verse 9

From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.

From my deadly enemies - literally, 'my enemies in soul.' Compare Ps. ,


Verse 10

They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly.

They are enclosed in their own fat - literally, 'their fat they have closed up;' they have wholly covered themselves with fat - i:e., with spiritual callousness. Compare Judges 3:22; metaphorically of spiritual obesity and proud revolt against God, the result of external posperity (Deuteronomy 32:15; Job 15:27; Psalms 73:7; Psalms 119:70).


Verse 11

They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;

They have now compassed us in our steps. So the Qeri' reads [ c


Verse 12

Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.

Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey - literally, 'the likeness of him (the ideal wicked Prayer of Manasseh 1:-1 :e., all the wicked personified in one man) is as a lion which is greedy to tear in pieces.'


Verse 13

Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:

Arise, O Lord, disappoint him - literally, 'anticipate his presence,' for it threatens me with destruction: be thou beforehand with him, so as to thwart his designs which he comes in person to execute.

Deliver my soul from the wicked, (which is) thy sword. Compare Isaiah 10:5; Habakkuk 1:12. This idea of the wicked being the sword of God for chastising His people, hardly suits the context, as the ground of the Psalmist's prayer throughout is not that he had been suffering chastisement through the instrumentality of the wicked, but that his cause is altogether a righteous one, and the enemy's a bad one. Translate, 'deliver my soul from the wicked through (or by) thy sword.'


Verse 14

From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.

From men, (which are) thy hand - rather (see note, Psalms 17:13), 'from men by thy hand.' The Hebrew is mortal men [ m


Verse 15

As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

As for me - in contrast to my enemies for whom the Lord is preparing destruction.

I will behold thy face in righteousness - righteousness which was the ground on which the Psalmist all along rested his prayer (Psalms 17:1-4), and against which the unrighteousness of his enemies seemed to prevail, shall at last triumph. I shall enjoy thy favour as one whose righteousness is vindicated before the world. The image is from Oriental kings, who permit their face to be seen only by those to whom they are propitious. The full sense must refer to the coming actual vision of Christ in glory, as the parallel passage, Psalms 16:11, proves. Compare also Psalms 65:4. The Old Testament saints must have had a glimpse of the good things to come, reaching far above the present world, in such plainly Gospel language (Revelation 22:4; Matthew 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:12).

I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness - namely, when I awake from the sleep of death (Daniel 12:2), at the resurrection of the body, when the saints shall "bear the image of the heavenly" - i:e., of Yahweh-Messiah (1 Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2). David had in view the earnest given of this to Moses, who 'beheld the similitude of the Lord apparently' (Numbers 12:8). The ungodly find their satisfying portion in being full of "children," who bear their likeness (Psalms 17:14), and in whom they have a kind of posthumous existence; I, on the contrary, shall be satisfied with thy likeness. 'Their belly is now filled with thy hid treasure;' but 'I shall be filled' with thyself. I shall behold thy face, not, so much in riches of this perishing "world" (Psalms 17:14), as in everlasting "righteousness." Not that temporal prosperity did not enter into David's anticipation; but it certainly is not to be restricted to it, even from the Old Testament stand-point. The Septuagint, the Arabic, and the Vulgate translate, 'I shall be satisfied, when thy glory shall have appeared'-literally, 'when thy likeness is awakened.' Compare Colossians 3:4. The Hebrew accents are against this.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 17:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-17.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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