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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Psalms 17



Verse 1

Psalms 17:1 « A Prayer of David. » Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, [that goeth] not out of feigned lips.

A Prayer of David] He was a man of prayer; but this was his appeal to God, the supreme Judge, as the word importeth.

Ver. 1. Hear the right, O Lord] Heb. Righteousness, which crieth unto God no less than blood doth, Genesis 4:10 Or, hear the right, that is, my prayer, saith R. David, rightly made with heart and voice. Or, Hear, O righteous Lord, as Christ also saith, O righteous Father, John 17:25

Attend unto my cry] Some profane persons bear well their crosses, because their cause is good; but they cry not when God bindeth them, Job 36:13. Or, if they cry, they cry out of hard fortune, as the Athenians did when their good General Nicias was slain, and their army routed in Sicily (Thucyd.); or against dame Virtue, as if it were no more than a mere name, as Brutus did, when beaten out of the field (Dio). Or, against providence, as if there were a mist over the eye of it, as Pompey did, when discomfited by Caesar; so blaming the sun, because of the soreness of his own blear eyes. But David (greatly wronged by Saul and his courtiers) by humble and hearty prayer maketh his request known to God with thanksgiving, Philippians 4:6. And this, like his harp, drove away the evil spirit of grief and discontent.

That goeth not out of feigned lips] His devotion was not sorrowful, as is that of hypocrites; it was not an empty ring, a mere outside, the labour of the lips, but the travail of the heart; it was sincere and thoroughly wrought, as St James hath it, ενεργουμενη, James 5:16. Wicked men speak God fair, but it is as the devil did our Saviour, to be rid of him, or as those, Psalms 78:36, who flattered him with their mouths, and lied unto him with their tongues.

Verse 2

Psalms 17:2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

Ver. 2. Let my sentence come forth from thy presence] Let it be both pronounced and executed forthwith.

Let thine eyes behold, &c.] i.e. Make it appear that thou both seest and likest mine integrity; and that thou winkest not at men’s wickednesses.

Verse 3

Psalms 17:3 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.

Ver. 3. Thou hast proved my heart] And knowest me to be no dissembler and traitor, as they wrongfully charge me, while they muse as they use.

Thou hast visited me in the night] In which God is wont to stir up and inmind men of his will, Job 4:13-14, as being all gathered within themselves; and when the darkness doth unmask them of worldly dissimulation.

Thou hast tried me] As metallaries do their gold and silver.

And shall find nothing] Heb. hast not found, טום deficit, saith Aben Ezra; no blot or blemish, that is, not the spot of God’s children, Deuteronomy 32:5, no dross or deceit that may not well consist with godliness.

I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress] My general purpose is such, though I may have my particular failings. I speak my whole heart, so far as I know it. Magna est concordia cordis et oris.

Verse 4

Psalms 17:4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept [me from] the paths of the destroyer.

Ver. 4. Concerning the works of men] sc. Which ought to be done by them according to thy law. Or, which they are wont to do, whether right or wrong, I have not now to say, but this I can safely say by thy mercy, that

By the word of thy lips] Which I have taken for the rule and rudder of my life,

I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer] Effractoris, of the breach maker; such as is the bridge maker of Rome, at this day. David meaneth that he had shunned the society of graceless persons, Psalms 26:4, Proverbs 24:21, Jeremiah 15:17; and taken heed to his ways, that he offended not with his tongue, while the wicked was present, Psalms 39:1-2, lest the wicked should rejoice at his misdemeanors, Psalms 38:17.

Verse 5

Psalms 17:5 Hold up my goings in thy paths, [that] my footsteps slip not.

Ver. 5. Hold up my goings in thy paths, &c.] Keep me within the circle of thy word, as thou hitherto hast done; make me to walk exactly, and as in a frame, Ephesians 5:15. Grant me thy preventing, concomitant, and subsequent grace: O thou God of all grace, perfect, strengthen, stablish me, 1 Peter 5:10.

That my footsteps slip not] By the malice of Satan, who seeks to subvert such as are most eminent, to the scandal of the weak, and scorn of the wicked; by the corruption also of mine own heart, Qua quisque sibi Satan est, as one well saith, whereby every man is a Satan to himself: could we but divorce the flesh from the devil, there would be no such danger. And, lastly, by the allurements or affrightments of this present evil world; the way whereof is like the vale of Siddim, slimy and slippery, full of slime pits and pit falls, springs and stumblingblocks.

Verse 6

Psalms 17:6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, [and hear] my speech.

Ver. 6. I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me] q.d. Thou wast always wont to hear me, and therefore I presume thou wilt. Experience breeds confidence.

Incline thine ear] See how he reinforceth his former request; as if he would wring the blessing out of God’s hands by a holy violence, and take no denial.

Verse 7

Psalms 17:7 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].

Ver. 7. Show thy marvellous lovingkindness, &c] Mirificas benignitates tuas; less than a marvellous mercifulness will not serve David’s turn, he was so hardly bestead; ut nisi mirabiliter feceris, pereo. We now alive have lived in an age of miracles; and God hath dealt with our land, not according to his ordinary course, but according to his prerogative; by a miracle of his mercy have we hitherto subsisted, and by a prop of his extraordinary patience.

O thou that savest, &c.] Servator sperantium. Choice must be made in prayer of fit titles and attributes of God; such as may strengthen faith and quicken affection.

From those that rise up against them] Or, against thy right hand. The saints are at Christ’s right hand, Psalms 45:9, as Christ is at the Father’s; and he puts his holy hand between them and harm.

Verse 8

Psalms 17:8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,

Ver. 8. Keep me as the apple of the eye] Heb. As the black of the apple of the eye, two words to the same sense, for more vehemence, q.d. Serva me studiosissime. The apple of the eye, that little man in the eye (as the Hebrew word importeth, the girl, κορη, as the Greeks for like cause call it), is the tenderest piece of the tenderest part, the eye; which is kept most diligently, and strongly guarded by nature with tunicles. David therefore fitly prayeth to be so kept. ( Huc pertinet locus Cicer. De Nat. Deor.).

Hide me under the shadow of thy wing] Another excellent similitude taken from fowls, which either cover their young with their wings from the scorching heat of the sunbeams, as doth the eagle; or keep them thereby from the cold, or from the kite, as hens do. God’s love to and care of his poor people is hereby shadowed out; as it was likewise by the outspread wings of the cherubims in the sanctuary. See Ruth 2:12, Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8, Psalms 36:8; Psalms 57:2, Matthew 23:37.

Verse 9

Psalms 17:9 From the wicked that oppress me, [from] my deadly enemies, [who] compass me about.

Ver. 9. From the wicked that oppress me] Heb. that waste me, i. e. that cast me out into banishmeat, despoiled of all. This hard usage of his enemies drove David into God’s blessed bosom; as children misused abroad run home to their parents.

From my deadly enemies] Heb. my enemies against the soul, i. e. the life at least, if not the soul, which they would gladly destroy. Some malice is so mischievous, that it would ruin body and soul together; as that monster of Milan, the enemies of John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, whose bodies they delivered to the fire, and their souls to the devil. David elsewhere complaineth of his enemies, that they did Satanically hate him, Psalms 55:4. "Beware of men," saith our Saviour, Matthew 10:17, for one man is a devil to another.

Verse 10

Psalms 17:10 They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly.

Ver. 10. They are inclosed in their own fat] See Job 15:27, {See Trapp on "Job 15:27"} They abound in all delights, and therefore soare not to speak proudly. They have closed up their eyes in their fulsome fat, ut non videant nec timeant te, saith R. Solomon, that they cau neither see nor fear thee. Adipem suum obesant (Tram.).

With their mouth they speak proudly] Heb. in pride, that is, Palam et pleats buccis; openly and with full mouth they condemn God and men; they belch out blasphemies, and do what they please.

Verse 11

Psalms 17:11 They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;

Ver. 11. They have now compassed us in our steps] i.e. Me and my company; so that we cannot stir any whither but we are in danger of them. "In all thy ways acknowledge God, and he shall direct thy paths," Proverbs 3:6. "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him," &c., Psalms 32:5. Keep within God’s precincts, and thou shalt be under his protection. He took order that a bird should be safe upon her own nest.

They have set their eyes bowing down to the earth] i.e. Hoc unum spectant ut ruamus (Junius). They are earnestly bent and firmly resolved upon our ruin, as one that fixeth his eyes upon another, to mark him, or to know him again; or as bulls, ready to run at one, set their eyes downward.

Verse 12

Psalms 17:12 Like as a lion [that] is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.

Ver. 12. Like as a lion that is greedy, &c.] Cruelty and craft are conjoined in the Church’s enemies; as the ape never wandereth alone, they say, without his companion. David here pointeth out some one special enemy (Saul likely), who should have been a shepherd, but proved a lion.

As a young lion lurking] Therefore as we tender our safety, keep close to God, out of whose hands none can take us, no, not the roaring lion of hell.

Verse 13

Psalms 17:13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, [which is] thy sword:

Ver. 13. Arise, O Lord, disappoint him] Anticipa faciem eius, that is, that raging and ravening lion; step between me and him, and stop his fury, defeat his purpose, and disable his power.

Which is thy sword] As Assyria is called tho rod of his wrath. Attila styled himself, Orbis flagellum, the wrath of God and the scourge of the world. So Tamerlane was commonly called, the wrath of God and terror of the world. Some render it, by thy sword, i.e. or thy might and power; see Job 40:19?; or, by thy word execute thy judgment.

Verse 14

Psalms 17:14 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.

Ver. 14. From men which are thy hand] This, saith one, is David’s Litany, From those men, &c., good Lord, deliver me. God’s hand they are called, as before God’s sword. Titus, son of Vespasian, being extolled for destroying Jerusalem, said, I have only lent God my hand, but he hath done the work.

From men of the world] Heb. From mortals of this transitory world, qui sunt mundani, mundum spirant et sapiunt, the inhabitants of the earth, and of the sea, as opposed to the citizens of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 12:12; such as having incarnated their souls (as that Father speaketh) are of the earth, speak of the earth, and the earth heareth them, John 3:31, mind earthly things only, as if they were born for no other purpose. Terrigenae fratres animam habentes triticeam, as those stall fed beasts in the gospel. A mortuis i.e. impiis qui sunt mortui in vita eorum (R. Gaon).

Which have their portion in this life] And they love to have it so; saying, with the prodigal, "Give me the portion that belongeth to me." They crave it, and they have it, but with a vengeance ( Munera magna quidem misit, sed misit in hamo), as the Israelites had quails to choke them, and afterwards a king to vex them, a table to be a snare to them, &c. By the way observe, that wicked men have a right to earthly things (a man must needs have some right to his portion; what Ananias had was his own while he had it, Acts 5:4), and it is a rigour to say, they are usurpers. As when the king gives a traitor his life, he gives him meat and drink that may maintain his life; so it is here; neither shall wicked men be called to account at the last day tbr possessing what they had, but for abusing that possession. As for the saints who are heirs of the world, with faithful Abraham, and have a double portion, even all the blessings of heaven and of earth, conferred upon them, though here they be held to strait allowance, let them live upon reversions, and consider that they have right to all, and shall one day have rule of all, Revelation 3:21 Mendicato pane hic vivamus, annon hoc pulchre sarcitur? &c. What though we here were to live upon alms, saith Luther, is there not a good amends made us, in that here we have Christ the bread of life in his ordinances, and shall hereafter have the full fruition of him in heaven? The whole Turkish empire is nothing else but a crust cast by our Father to his dogs; and it is all they are likely to have, let them make them merry with it. Wilt not thou (saith another) be content, unless God let down the vessel to thee, as to Peter, with all manner of beasts of the earth, and fowls of the air, Acts 10:12. Must you needs have first and second course? Difficile est ut praesentibus bonus quis fruatur et futuris; ut hic ventrem illic mentem reficiat, ut de deliciis ad delicias transeat, ut in coelo et in terra gloriosus apparent, saith Jerome, It is a very hard thing to have earth and heaven too, &c. Gregory the Great trembled whensoever he read those words of Abraham to the rich glutton (who thought this life to be his saginary or boar’s frank), "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things," Luke 16:25. "Ye have lived in pleasure upon earth," James 5:5, no fit place for such a purpose. God did not turn you out of one paradise that you should here provide yourselves of another; earth is a place of banishment and bondage. Of the wicked’s prosperity here, see Job 21:7-8. {See Trapp on "Job 21:7"} {See Trapp on "Job 21:8"}

And whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasures] That is, with gold, and other precious things dug out of the earth, saith Aben Ezra; Opimis rebus, saith Junius; with abundance of outward blessings and benefits, saith another; which are called God’s hidden treasures, not because they are not seen, but because they are not so well perceived and used Of the ungodly, as were meet; or because the reason of their present plenty of all things is hidden from them, and yet it appears not but shall be made manifest that these fatting ware are but fitting for the slaughter.

They are full of children] Which they send forth as a flock, Job 21:11. {See Trapp on "Job 21:11"} Or, their children are full carne porcina, saith the Arabic here, or of worldly wealth, and mountains of money left them by those faithful drudges, their rich but wretched parents and progenitors, whose only care was to heap up hoards of wealth for their posterity.

Verse 15

Psalms 17:15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

Ver. 15. As for me] I neither envy nor covet these men’s happiness, but partly have and partly hope for a far better.

I will behold thy face in righteousness] Which none can do but the pure in heart, Matthew 5:8, and those that keep close to God in a constant communion, being justified and sanctified persons.

I shall be satisfied] Better than those muckworms and their children are.

When I awake] sc. Out of the dust of death, at the resurrection.

With thy likeness] With the visible sign of thy glory in heaven, 1 John 3:2.


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 17:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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