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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 17



Verses 1-15

Psalm 17

A Prayer of David

1 Hear the right, O Lord, attend unto my cry;

Give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.

2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence;

Let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

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.

4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips

I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.

5 Hold up my goings in thy paths,

That my footsteps slip not.

6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God:

Incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.

7 Shew thy marvellous loving-kindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee

From those that rise up against them.

8 Keep me as the apple of the eye;

Hide me under the shadow of thy wings,

9 From the wicked that oppress me,

From my deadly enemies, who compass me about.

10 They are inclosed in their own fat:

With their mouth they speak proudly.

11 They have now compassed us in our steps:

They have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;

12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey.

And as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.

13 Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down:

Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:

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 oabes.

15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:

I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.


Title and Contents.—Respecting tefillah, vid. Introduction. This Psalm has so strongly impressed upon it the characteristics of a prayer, as it wrenches itself from the soul of a man hard pressed by deadly enemies, in a moment of greatest danger, that we need not suppose that the title is a later addition taken from Psalm 17:1 b (Hitzig). The manner of expression discloses so vividly the agitation, change of sentiment, individuality, and the immediateness of the circumstances, that we are still less to think of the abstract person of the righteous (Hengst.), or of a poet, unknown in person and circumstances, as it is pretended is the case in most of the Psalm of lamentation and prayer (Hupf.); for in the life of David, in the time of the persecution by Saul according to 1 Samuel23, there were circumstances corresponding exactly with those of this Psalm (Hitzig); and the language which is frequently hard and inflexible, with its peculiarly irregular turns and gloomy tones, together with other points of contact with prominent expressions in other Psalm of David, is a very marked echo of his frame of mind (Delitzsch), although we may perhaps in some passages admit a corruption of the text. (Olsh.)[FN6]

The prayer begins with calling upon God as the righteous Judge and infallible searcher of hearts, with an appeal to the honesty of the petitioner ( Psalm 17:1-2), who knows that he is searched through and through in his inmost soul by God, and accordingly holding fast to the word and ways of God he has kept himself in his conversation and walk, so that the corrupt movements of men have not borne him along with them ( Psalm 17:3-5). With so much the greater assurance of being heard ( Psalm 17:6) prayer now rises for deliverance from wicked, strong, and powerful enemies, whose nearness, inexorableness and cruelty ( Psalm 17:10-12) are intuitively described, calling upon Jehovah immediately to interfere ( Psalm 17:13), against an enemy who is especially dangerous ( Psalm 17:12) who is especially prominent among the worldly-minded who seek and find their good and happiness in things of this world ( Psalm 17:14). He closes by bringing into strong contrast the disposition, position, and hopes of the man of prayer.[FN7]

Str. I. Psalm 17:1. Righteousness.—This word is not in apposition to Jehovah (Köhler), or in dependence upon Jehovah according to the translations of Symm. and Theodot, κυρὶε δικαιοσύνης, but as an accusative of the object. The interpretation, me as righteous (Aquil, Jerome, Hengst.), unites the expression, or rather its idea, too closely to the person praying. Luther’s marginal reading: If thou wilt not hear me, then hear thy righteous cause, separates it too far from the person. The general character of the expression and its meaning as introducing the contents of the prayer, are effaced by either of the translations: my righteousness = my righteous cause (Calv.), or, my righteous prayer (Chald.), or indeed, my sincere petition (Kimchi). The parallelism (Hupf.) does not justify any such special reference. Still less is the article to be brought in as a suffix, and the righteousness or innocence regarded as those who were oppressed and injured in the persecution of David, who complain and pray in his mouth (Geier, et al.) It is true the paraphrase: Hear the righteousness which speaketh through me! would be more exact than that already rejected: Hear me in my righteousness or as righteous. For righteousness of the thing and not of the person would be first stated in accordance with the text, and thus at the same time that opposition of righteousness of the thing and of the person would be avoided (Calov, J. H. Mich, et al.), which is foreign to the text, and indeed according to Psalm 17:3 sq, contradictory. But yet the reference of righteousness to the person appears in the text only after many accommodations. To these belong the appeal made to the righteous dealings of God according to His infallible judgment by the praying Psalmist, who in the uprightness of piety cries anxiously to God with the hope of being heard. This interpretation brings into view an advance in the thought which is for the most part overlooked, and likewise is supported by the fact that the last word in Psalm 17:2, in an adverbial interpretation, corresponds better with usage than to regard it as an accusative of the object dependent upon “behold,” and thus parallel to: hear righteousness, in Psalm 17:1, essentially a statement respecting the character of the petitioner, whilst our interpretation presents an appeal to the infallible judgment of God [FN8] Hitzig, by comparing Proverbs 4:25, finds a similar thought expressed to that of Jeremiah 5:3.—From lips without deceit. [A. V. (“that goeth) not out of feigned lips.” Hupfeld: “Not with deceitful lips, or with lips without deceit (falsehood, hypocrisy),” in opposition to the cry and prayer, which at first protests the subjective uprightness of his prayer and the ideas with which he supports it, but at the same time guarantees the objective truth of the assertion of his righteousness in the first member (with which it is parallel) so far as that he who is defiled with guilt dare not approach God and venture to call upon His righteousness as a righteous Prayer of Manasseh, comp. Psalm 32:2; Psalm 66:18, and “lift up holy hands,” 1 Timothy 2:8.—C. A. B.]

Str. II. Psalm 17:3. Thou hast proved, etc.—The three perfects, since they are followed by an imperfect, do not refer to a definite historical event in the history of David, but form the antecedent, stating the Divine activities which constantly precede the result of the Divine examination described in the conclusion. There is no question or doubt but that David is drawn into this court of examination by God, and hence the clause does not properly admit of being taken as hypothetical, but rather as present.—Thou hast visited in the night.—[The visit is for the purpose of investigating, Job 7:18. It is by night as the time when the soul is undisturbed by the external world, and ready for reflection and examination.—Thou hast tried me.—The usual figure of the refiner of metals.—C. A. B.]

Thou wilt not find in me wicked thoughts; my mouth doth not transgress. [A. V. (“And) shall find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress”]. Since it has not been proved that בל has the meaning of “nothing” there is no object to the verb “find,” if we follow the accents, and connect the next word with the next clause. We might certainly most naturally supply “nothing” from the context in accordance with the sense. But the interpretation of זמּותי, as 1 person Perf. = I have thought, that Isaiah, purposed ( Isaiah 4:28) which then would be immediately followed by the statement of the contents of the purpose (Luther, Geier, et al., finally Delitzsch), whilst it is possible, yet is opposed by the fact that the context rather causes us to expect a statement respecting the moral condition of the Psalmist than of his purpose. Moreover the other statements on this subject do not allow us to translate with Böttcher: If I thought wickedness, it must not go over my mouth. The Masora likewise remarks that the tone of this Hebrew word is to be put upon the last syllable. This is then a noun with the suffix, and indeed not the plural of a substantive which cannot be proved, but an infinitive with a feminine ending (Hupf.). If we connect it with the following clause in accordance with the accents, then since the masc. of the verb demands that פי should be the subject of the clause, the translation, my thought does not overstep my mouth (Hitzig), that Isaiah, I do not speak in sleep, because I am not excited by passion, appears to do violence to the text; on the other hand, the translation, “my mouth doth not overstep my thoughts,” that Isaiah, I say no more than I think (Hengst. [Alexander]) as the simple protestation, “I do not dissemble, I do not lie,” is strained, and with the lack of an object in the preceding clause obscure and unintelligible. The explanation of Aben Ezra, Bucer, Rosenm, et al.: my thought is not different from my words is still less admissible. It is accordingly more natural not to regard the accents as restrictive, but with the ancient translations and Jerome, and since J. D. Mich, many recent interpreters, to make an object for “find,” and gain two parallel clauses beginning with “not,” and understand the meditation in accordance with Hebrew usage as the meditation of evil. So Perowne: “Thou hast tried me and findest no evil thought in me, neither doth my mouth transgress.”—C. A. B.] The suffix would be as Psalm 18:23, (Hupf.) not for an actual sin, but for one regarded as possible yet denied. The transition from the mention of sins of thought to sins of action, considered in the subsequent verse, would then be suitably prepared by sins of word.[FN9]

Psalm 17:4. In man’s doings, by the word of Thy lips, I have carefully avoided the path of the destroyer. [A. V, “concerning the works of men”]. The ancient translators connect the last words of the previous verse closely with this verse, and either translate: my mouth doth not go over to the doings of men, that Isaiah, approve them; or, my mouth doth not transgress according to the doings of men. This gives a better parallelism, and therefore many interpreters approve this division of the verses. But the structure of a verse is not always complete. Most interpreters, after Calv. and Geier, regard ל as temporal, as Psalm 32:6; others as denoting either reference = as concerns [A. V.] or condition, as Psalm 69:22. Delitzsch takes the following words directly in the sense of “against the word of Thy lips,” as the object of the doings of men. According to Hitzig ל introduces the accusative of the object, as 1 Samuel 22:7; Psalm 69:6, which widely separated from the finite verb is again taken up after this by the statement wherein these doings of men consisted.[FN10] [Hupfeld: “In the midst of the surrounding practices of men, which so easily carry others away with them, I have shunned following their wicked examples, being led and supported by the word of God.”—Word of Thy lips.—Hupfeld: “The word of God in the law, that Isaiah, the commandments of God in contrast with the doings of men who transgress it, and offer a higher rule.”—C. A. B.] שׁמר is here used in a pregnant sense, without expressing the negative reference by מִן as usual.[FN11]

Psalm 17:5. My steps hold fast in Thy paths.—The infinitive תָמךְ is regarded by the ancient translators and most ancient interpreters, and among more recent interpreters, De Wette and Stier, as imperative = support my steps [A.V.] But this does not agree with the perfect of the following clause. The infinitive is then either to be regarded in the sense of a gerund, and then most properly as an antecedent to the following clause (De Dieu, et al.), or instead of the finite verb (Gesenius, § 128, 4 b), and indeed as a perfect, yet not as the 1 person singular = I have maintained my steps in Thy paths (Geier), but as the 3 d person plural (Cocc0.) with respect to usage = my steps have held fast to Thy paths (Ewald, Hengst, Hitzig, Hupf, Delitzsch).

Str. III. Psalm 17:7. Make Thy grace wonderful.—[A. V, show thy marvellous loving-kindness], literally, separate; namely, by gradation in thought, the implored exhibition of Thy grace from the usual exhibitions of the same, so that it may thus prove to be wonderfully glorious to me (Sept.); not: take away Thy grace from the adversaries (Rabbin.) According to others (De Wette, Hupfeld, Delitzsch), the fundamental meaning of this verb is in the Hiphil made to be an attribute of the object, so that the Psalmist does not request anything extraordinary for himself, but merely implores that the well-known wonderful = glorious grace may be shown. Delitzsch translates like Luther and the ancient translators: against Thy right hand. But the right hand of God is frequently mentioned as the instrument of deliverance, Psalm 44:3; Psalm 98:1; Judges 7:2; Isaiah 59:1. The anxiety of the moment transposes the words with the breath.

Str. IV. Psalm 17:8. Apple of the eye.—Literally; the little Prayer of Manasseh, the daughter of the eye, Lamentations 2:18; Zechariah 2:8. The figure is chosen with reference to Deuteronomy 32:10-11; comp. Proverbs 7:2, as is shown by the subsequent words. [Hupfeld: “The first figure as with us is proverbial, as a symbol of that which is dearest to us, of the most careful, attentive protection. The second, ‘hide me under the shadow of Thy wings,’ is taken from birds, especially the hen, who protects her brood with her wings, a figure of the most tender protection, frequently of God’s protection, Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:4 (used of Christ, Matthew 23:37), and in the same connection with the first figure, Deuteronomy 32:10-11, both in reference to the people of Israel.” Wordsworth: “There is a climax of delicate tenderness in the language here.”—C. A. B.]

Psalm 17:9. My enemies who greedily surround me.—The position of the suffix is against the connection of בנפשׁ with the preceding word = my deadly enemies (Geier [A. V.]). On the other hand it is admissible to get the same sense by the translation: against the life (Kimchi), or, in matters of life (Hengst.). Most recent interpreters, however, translate after the Chald. and Aben Ezra: with eagerness, as Psalm 27:12; Psalm 35:25; Psalm 41:3; Isaiah 5:14.

Psalm 17:10. Fat.—Many interpreters, likewise Clauss, Stier, Tholuck, after the Chald. and Symm, understand by this, the prosperity in which they wrap themselves, and which prompts them to haughty expressions. Others regard it as = the fat heart (Geier) = unfeeling heart, (De Wette, Köster, Ewald, et al.); Hupfeld as merely the heart. But manifestly it is meant that their heart, לב, is not a pulsating human heart, but חלב, a lump of fat, Psalm 73:7; Psalm 119:70 (Delitzsch, Hitzig). The closing up, 1 John 3:17, denotes the intentional holding off from all influences which would excite human emotions, so that the consequence Isaiah, hardening and obduracy, Psalm 95:8. We have not here a pleonasm, but a climax, and the context shows that we are not to think of the closing up of secret, crafty schemes, Psalm 64:6-7; Proverbs 7:10, contrasted with speaking of the mouth (Hupf.). The explanation of Theodoret, who understands the heart in the sense of pity is entirely astray.—Speak proudly.—This comes from their delusion of a near and sure victory.

Psalm 17:11. Our steps … now have they surrounded me.—[A. V, They have now compassed us in our steps]. Since the singular suffix does not agree with the plural suffix of the noun, the translation quoad gressum nostrum, which supposes that this accusative of closer definition of the part of the body ( Genesis 3:15) is parallel with the accusative of the person (Delitzsch) has very little to recommend it. It does violence to the text, however, to read with the Masora the plural when the codd. do not have it. The double accusative which is usual with verbs of surrounding, to which ancient interpreters appeal, would here produce this nonsense: with our steps they have now encompassed me. Hitzig, who previously thought, of the accusative of the object to לנטות = “our steps … to fell to the ground,” now explains that the distance is too great between the words, and moreover it is obstructed by the parenthesis: he now changes the vowel points in order to get the meaning: I perceive him. This is certainly admissible, and gives a good sense; whilst the meaning obtained by some of the ancient translations by changing a consonant: “They express congratulations over me,” is violent and unnatural. With the present reading we think that the discourse is broken by the liveliness of passion.

To throw down upon the ground.—[A. V, “Bowing down to the earth.” Barnes: “The Hebrew word נָטָה, natah—means properly to stretch out, to extend; then to incline, to bow, to depress; and hence the idea of prostrating; thus, to make the shoulder bend downwards, Genesis 49:15; to bring down the mind to an object, Psalm 119:112; to bow the heavens, Psalm 18:9. Hence the idea of prostrating an enemy; and the sense here clearly Isaiah, that they had fixed their eyes intently on the Psalmist, with a purpose to prostrate him to the ground, or completely overwhelm him.”—C. A. B.] The interpretations that they direct their attention “to turn aside in the land” (Hengst.); or “to wander through the land” (Ewald) [Alexander: “go astray,”—C. A. B.] are artificial and unnecessary.

[His likeness = he is like, is not dependent upon the preceding clause, as A. V, but a new and independent clause, introducing the figure of the lion and the young lion, vid., notes upon Psalm 10:9 sq.—C. A. B.]

Str. V. Psalm 17:13. Go forth to meet him.—[A. V, “disappoint him.” [Perowne: “As David himself went forth to meet first the lion and the bear, and afterwards the champion of Gath.” This is the true interpretation advocated by most recent interpreters.—C. A. B.]—Cast him down.—[Properly to make him fall upon his knees, (Hupf.), the figure of the lion is continued here.—C. A. B.]—The wicked. Jerome understands this to be the devil.—By Thy sword.—[Not as A. V, “which is thy sword.” God is to go forth to meet the enemy, who is like a lion, to cast him down upon his knees, and by His sword slay him, and thus deliver the Psalmist.—C. A. B.]

Psalm 17:14. People of the world, literally men of the world [A. V,] or of temporal life, not men of duration or of enduring success, (Calv, Venema, Ruding, Hengst,) after the Arabic, but either perishable men (Hitzig) or better after the Syriac: men of the world with reference to their disposition (Kimchi, Geier and most interpreters). The life, in the following relative clause, answers to this, wherein they have their חֶלֶק, that is their portion, as their highest good and happiness, Psalm 16:5, not temporal life (Geier), life without duration (Hitzig) as showing the fate of the ungodly, Job 20:5, Isaiah 65:20; so likewise not life blessed with external good and earthly happiness (Calv, Hengst.) of which they have received their proper portion; but the idle vain life, in contrast to the spiritual life in God (Hupf, Hitzig).[FN12] Here likewise the tone and order of the words show the language of anxiety and haste. Whilst this was overlooked, most interpreters translated the beginning of the verse “from people of Thy hand” [A. V.] and thought for the most part of those men whom God uses as His rods of chastisement and scourges; sometimes likewise of those who must fall into judgment in the wrathful hand of God because the measure of their sins was filled. [The proper rendering is “by Thy hand” as above by Thy sword, the two expressions being parallel.—C. A. B.]—With that which thou hast stored up. [A. V. “with thy hid (treasure)”]. This is a past partic. used as a substantive in a good sense, Psalm 31:19; Proverbs 13:22, and in a bad sense Job 21:19. Almost all interpreters take it here in the former sense, that God gives the worldly minded the portion they have chosen, even children in abundance, Job 22:17, to whom they leave their affluence, yet without knowing or possessing the prospects and enjoyment of the pious. Hitzig on the other hand takes it in the bad sense of the punishment, the reception or experience of which is represented as eating of bitter, deadly food ( Job 9:18; Job 21:15, comp. Psalm 6:7; Psalm 59:15), as God fills the bodies of the wicked with the fire of His wrath ( Job 20:23). This judgment is likewise said to extend to children and children’s children ( Exodus 20:5, comp. Job 21:7-8; Job 21:11); to which the following words according to his translation, may they satisfy the sons, etc, refer. The translation made by most interpreters “their children are filled” would require בניהם. The translation of Köster who follows the Sept. Vulg. closely “they are full of sons” [A. V.], is literal but obscure.

Str. VI. Psalm 17:15. The antithetical reference of this strophe is rendered very prominent not only by the emphasis of the I [As for me, A. V.], but likewise by the intentional use of the same word satisfied with reference to Jehovah’s form, in beholding His countenance. These expressions themselves by their undeniable reference to Numbers 12:8, comp. Exodus 33:20, lead us beyond the usual means of recognizing and communing with God. In the present context a glance is given into eternity. It is true there is no mention of a resurrection of the dead as such (Hofmann), or of a natural awaking upon the next morning (Ewald), or of a breathing again and stepping forth from the confusion of a perplexing trouble, as from a night of suffering (Hitzig), so that a new earthly phase of life broke forth upon the psalmist in the sunlight of the Divine grace (Kurtz), or of a mingling of both references (Hupf.), or indeed of an awaking of Jehovah that is in His coming to help, after having hidden His countenance (Cleric. Hensl, Hengst.); but of an awaking from the night of death (among recent interpreters, even Rosenmüller, De Wette, Gesenius), as a hope shining forth from the consciousness of communion with Jehovah (Delitzsch) as Psalm 16:10; Psalm 49:15.[FN13]


1. There are troubles, into which we do not fall as a punishment for our sins, but in which we are unjustly persecuted and compelled to flee from hard-hearted, unprincipled and powerful enemies, and with all the justice of our cause, may be in danger of succumbing to the snares of our bitter opponents, and even of losing our lives.

2. In such a situation neither lamentations nor despondency are becoming to the pious. The proper course is to pray for help, which may in anxiety of heart become a cry, without becoming improper, and may appeal before God the righteous Judge to the personal righteousness of the persecuted, without thereby in the least disputing, murmuring or contending with God, or boasting or confiding in one’s own righteousness. For there is no reference to righteousness gained by one’s self, or to one’s own deserts and the worthiness derived therefrom, but to the fact, that the piety of the petitioner has shown itself as vitally and powerfully in his person, as it expresses itself candidly and sincerely in his prayer. And in such cases the question is not of its origin from grace apprehended in faith, but of the earnestness and reality of its attestation.

3. Now he who flees from the judgment and hands of men, to the judgment and presence of God must not forget that the Almighty is likewise the All-knowing, the Searcher of hearts. He must still further be mindful of this, that under the trying eye of the holy and omnipresent God he endures an infallible judgment by night as well as by day, waking or sleeping, dreaming or acting. It is well for the man who feels this judging and sifting nearness of God, which as the fire in the furnace separates the gold from the dross, as soothing his conscience, and who can comfort himself with that fact that God finds in him a man of true piety.

4. The human heart is naturally inclined to evil, and human doings and practices do not move in the paths which please God; they attempt rather, to break through the restraints imposed upon them by God. But the efficacy of the means of grace in the congregation of God is able to change the disposition of the heart and he who holds fast to the word of God, is able likewise to withstand the temptations of his situation and to walk in the ways of God according to God’s regulation.

5. If there is already a great consolation and a strong encouragement to constantly new prayers in the assurance of the faith, that God not only hears the pious, but answers him and thereby testifies, that on His part He has and will maintain intercourse and relations with him; then with increasing needs and under the pressure of great dangers not only the need of the improvement of this intercourse with God, but likewise the joyousness of prayer and the confidence of being heard, gain nourishment and power by the experience made in this intercourse, that it belongs to the nature of God to be a deliverer of those who seek His protection. The courage of the pious is explained by these fundamental principles and upon them it rises in order to implore likewise in special circumstances special gracious help.

6. From the confidence of the faith, that the person of the pious man who has intercourse with God is an object of His love and care, arises the assurance, that this person will not only find occasional help and an assistance referring merely to special and transient needs and dangers, from the almighty Protector of the oppressed, but that he finds constant protection against all the enemies of his body and soul, and can be sheltered forever in God, if he has his satisfaction in the nearness and communion of God in contrast to the people of this world, who do not inquire after God, because they seek and find their satisfaction in the possession of perishable goods and in the enjoyment of earthly joy.

7. Great external happiness, prosperity and luxury, increase the natural selfishness, worldliness and pride of the unconverted Prayer of Manasseh, make his heart insensible to emotions of pity and the inborn feelings of justice, and do not permit him to exhibit thankfulness to God for His great benefits, but rather stop up the sources of his love to God and his neighbor and prevent the approach of those things which would open them, so that the man is choked in his own fat and has become spiritually dead in the midst of his abundance. On the other hand, troubles and dangers, sufferings and infirmities, the lack and loss of earthly goods, impel the pious man with ever renewed energy to lay hold of God and thereby obtain his only salvation and true life in God.

8. He who has God, has life. This truth enters only into the experience of the soul which has communion with God. Moreover the life is likewise the light of the soul, and enlarges its sphere of vision, so that it not only looks upon the gracious countenance which God causes to shine upon His servants in the night of trouble, but it consoles itself with beholding in the future that form of God, in which those who are completely blessed, will see Him as He is. Accordingly the full satisfaction in the blessed enjoyment of thus beholding the Divine glory comes only in eternity and presupposes the awaking from the sleep of death.


The pious man may call upon the judgment of God and rely upon it when condemned by the judgment of men. He who appeals to God, should consider that God is not only the Almighty and the merciful, but that he is likewise the All-knowing and the Holy God.—God sees not only our works, He hears not only our words, He likewise proves the heart, and this without cessation, by day and by night.—He who will walk in the ways of God must direct himself by the word of God and keep the regulations of God.—The Divine grace not only delivers from the hands of earthly enemies, but likewise from inborn sinful corruption and from the power of temporal and eternal death.—Every help of God is a miracle of grace; but in the particular exhibitions of Divine help the miraculous appears in various degrees. It Isaiah, however, not always perceived by men with the same clearness and not implored with the same fervor in personal distress.—It is a true sign of human corruption, that temporal happiness hardens the heart as easily as it fills it with vain efforts after perishable goods and joys.—The principal dangers of worldly-mindedness are forgetfulness of God, exaltation of self, and contempt of others.—The way to escape from temporal need and anxiety to eternal goods and joys consists in walking in the ways of God.

Starke: He who would be heard in his cause against all kinds of oppression and perversion, must have innocence as his plea; if not he must first confess his guilt and ask God for forgiveness. If prayer is not to go forth from a false mouth, the heart must previously be free from all deceitfulness; for what fills the heart, will pass over the mouth ( Matthew 12:34).—If we are attacked and persecuted by the world and our cause is good and righteous we cannot get better advice, than to have recourse to God and place our need in the lap of His grace.—Persecuted Christians often have no judge on earth to do them justice; then sentence must come from heaven.—The eyes of men only see what has a fine appearance of human wisdom and power; but the eyes of the Lord see, what is right and good.—The nights when troubles and afflictions try us, are indeed hard for flesh and blood, but very profitable to the soul, because there is thus revealed to others and ourselves what is concealed in us.—It is not enough to leave off evil works; a Christian is likewise not to speak knowingly an idle word; much less a wicked word. O what watchfulness is necessary for this!—The more ungodly men strive to overthrow the truth of God’s word, or to break from its yoke by bold wickedness, the more carefully should believers be, not to deviate a finger-breadth from reverence and obedience to the word of God.—It is not enough to remain in the right way, but it is likewise necessary to make advances therein and not slip.—O how dangerous and slippery is the way through this wicked world!—God fulfils all His promises to us, not as we think according to our reason, but wonderfully, inconceivably, against all thought and above all reason.—What is more tender, sensitive, dearer than the apple of the eye: yet believers are such before God; how then can those who touch them, remain unpunished? ( Zechariah 2:8.)—The wings of a hen cover her brood so that they cannot be seen by birds of prey; she covers them against rain and storms; she warms them and strengthens them, when they are cold and weak; so likewise, does the Divine grace with His children ( Matthew 23:37).—It is a terrible word, to have one’s portion only in this world and thus be excluded from everlasting possessions! Woe to the man who for a short temporal pleasure sacrifices everlasting joy!—It is true God often blesses the ungodly with more bodily blessings, than the pious, and fills them better with His treasures; but they have their portion in this life and they starve in the world to come.—Children are a gift of the Lord; but they may increase the condemnation of their parents, if they neglect the salvation of their childrens souls and devote their attention merely to the storing up many goods.—Christian, your spiritual hunger and thirst will not endure forever; no, the time is drawing near, when you will be satisfied with the rich possessions of the house of God.—He who would in the future awake in the image of God, must begin even here the transfiguration and production of the image of God, 2 Corinthians 3:18.—A great, yes, an infinite difference between the children of this world and the children of God! The former have their bellies full, the latter the heavens full, the one, the shadows, the other, the true imperishable substance.

Luther: The warmer and more ardent our faith Isaiah, the more will God accomplish with it.—Bugenhagen: The world may satisfy itself where it will; I will satisfy myself with God.—Schnepf: What is it to be a man of the world? To have his heaven upon earth and his portion here.—Arndt: There are three reasons why prayer will be heard: 1) a righteous cause: 2) righteousness in Christ; 3) righteousness of heart.—Scriver: The chief blessedness consists in beholding God, and this consists in the sweetest communion.—Renschel: Innocence is the best treasure.—To behold God’s countenance is the true paradise.—Frisch: David in his opening words expresses at once his faith, because he lays hold of the righteousness of his Saviour; his earnestness, because he continues to cry; his humility because he seeks gracious audience; his perseverance, because he knocks for the third time at the door of grace; his uprightness, because he says nothing except what his heart says to him.—Thym: What glory has the servant of God to expect after death? 1) He is to behold the Lord in His glory; 2) he is to be satisfied with the blessings of heaven; 3) he is to awake glorified according to the glory of the Lord unto everlasting life.

[Matth. Henry: It will be a great comfort to us if trouble, when it comes, finds the wheels of prayer agoing, for then may we come with the more boldness to the throne of grace.—God’s omniscicence is as much the joy of the upright as it is the terror of hypocrites, and it is particularly comfortable to those who are falsely accused and in any wise have wrong done them.—If we keep God’s law as the apple of our eye, Proverbs 7:2, we may expect God will so keep us; for it is said concerning His people, that whoso toucheth them toucheth the apple of His eye. Zechariah 2:8.—There is no satisfaction for a soul but in God, and in His face and likewise His good will towards us, and His good work in us; and even that satisfaction will not be perfect till we come to heaven.—Barnes: We can offer an acceptable prayer only when we are sure that it would be right for God to answer it, or that it would be consistent with perfect and eternal justice to grant our requests.—Spurgeon: David would not have been a man after God’s own heart, if he had not been a man of prayer. He was a master in the sacred art of supplication.—There is more fear that we will not hear the Lord than that the Lord will not hear us.—Who can resist a cry? A real hearty, bitter, piteous cry, might almost melt a rock, there can be no fear of its prevalence with our heavenly Father. A cry is our earliest utterance, and in many ways the most natural of human sounds, if our prayer should like the infant’s cry be more natural than intelligent and more earnest than elegant, it will be none the less eloquent with God. There is a mighty power in a child’s cry to prevail with a parent’s heart.—That heavenly book which lies neglected on many a shelf is the only guide for those who would avoid the enticing and entangling mazes of sin; and it is the best means of preserving the youthful pilgrim from ever treading those dangerous ways. We must follow the one or the other; the Book of Life, or the way of death; the word of the Holy Spirit, or the suggestion of the evil spirit—C. A. B.]


FN#6 - This Psalm resembles the preceding in so many particulars, e. g, the prayer שָׁמְרֵנִי, Psalm 16:1; Psalm 17:8; the recollection of communion with God by night, Psalm 16:7; Psalm 17:3; the use of אֵל in prayer, Psalm 16:1; Psalm 17:6; the verb תָמַךְ, Psalm 16:5; Psalm 15:5 (Delitzsch); the reference to the protecting and defending right hand of God, Psalm 16:8; Psalm 17:7; Psalm 17:14; the contrasted portions of the Psalmist and the wicked, Psalm 16:2-6; Psalm 17:14-15; and the pleasures of the Divine presence, Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:15; that they may properly be regarded as a pair composed at or near the same time, and that towards the close of David’s life (vid. note to Psalm 16).—C. A. B.]

FN#7 - It is very usual among interpreters to regard this enemy who is especially prominent as Saul, and the Psalm is referred to the period of the persecution by Saul, but it seems better to regard this enemy as the powerful Joab, who was the plague of David’s life, especially towards its close, and the Psalmist often alludes to this bold, powerful, unscrupulous chieftain, who more than once had the audacity to threaten David himself. That David regarded him as an enemy we see from his command to Song of Solomon, 1 Kings 2:5-6.—C. A. B ]

FN#8 - The author is incorrect in regarding מֵישָׁרִים as an adverb, it is better with Hupf. and most interpreters to regard it as the object of “behold,” Jehovah is to acknowledge His own judgment as such (Hupf.) He is to behold with favor the right, equity. There is thus a gradation in the thought of this strophe1) The Psalmist appeals to Jehovah to hear the right; 2) to let the sentence go forth from His presence, the court of the great Judges, let the decision be proclaimed, and then; 3) to behold it as executed, to look with approval and pleasure upon equity, the right being approved by the infallible Judge.—C. A. B.]

FN#9 - Riehm mediates between the author and Hitzig. Thus, he contends that עבר never means transgress, sin, when used alone, and “since the ‘my mouth doth not transgress’ can hardly be the result of the examination by night, it is better to regard זמותי the object of תמצא, at the same time as the subject of יעבר, thus: thou will not find wicked thoughts in me, they will not pass over my mouth, that Isaiah, I will not betray them by speaking in sleep.”—C. A. B.]

FN#10 - Thus Hitzig translates: “The doings of men, by the word of Thy lips, I have shunned the path of the robber.”—C. A. B.]

FN#11 - Hupfeld: “שָׁמַר properly to watch, take heed, observe, usually positively, in order to follow the law and the right way (as Psalm 18:21, the ways of God; Proverbs 2:29, the righteous), here, on the contrary, in order to avoid. This meaning is usually brought about by the reflexive idea, to be on one’s guard, to beware of something, but this as a negative idea necessarily has מִן with it: whilst here the accusative presupposes the original active signification, which here either pregnantly includes the negative consequences which are not expressed, or developes from the idea of watch, guard, keep, according to the nature of that which is watched, a negative side or reference = to keep off, hold off, avoid. Wordsworth translates: “I have marked the paths of the transgressor, I have tried them by the words of Thy lips. The sentiment is explained by the Apostolic precept. “If any man obey not our words, note that Prayer of Manasseh, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed ( 2 Thessalonians 3:14).”—C. A. B.]

FN#12 - Perowne: “We have here a view of the world and of life very remarkable for the Old Testament—a kind of anticipation of the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit which St. Paul gives us, or the love of the world and of God of which St. John speaks.”—C. A. B.]

FN#13 - Perowne; “Worldly men have their satisfaction in this life, in treasures, in children; David hopes to be satisfied with the likewise or rather real manifest bodily form (תְּמוּנָח) of God. The personal pronoun stands emphatically at the beginning of the verse, in order to mark the contrast between his own feelings and those of the men of the world. He hopes (as Job also does Job 19:26-27), to see God. (The parallelism of the next clause shows that this must mean more than merely “to enjoy His favors, the light of His countenance,” etc. as in Psalm 11:7). There is an allusion probably to such a manifestation of God as that made to Moses, Numbers 12:8, where God declares that with Moses He will speak ‘mouth to mouth,’ even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude (rather form, the same word as here) of Jehovah shall he behold.” Wordsworth; “The thought is completed by St. John: ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He Isaiah,’ (comp. 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10.) As Theodoret observes here, the wicked may be satisfied with sons in this life, but I, O God, shall be satisfied with the sight of Thy Son for evermore. So also Didymus here.” Perowne: “In opposition to this interpretation it is commonly asserted that the truth of a resurrection had not yet been revealed, and that, consequently if we find the doctrine here, the Psalm must be of later date, after the exile (so De Wette). But this is mere assertion. First as regards the use of the figure ‘Waking from death’ occurs in 2 Kings 4:31., Death is spoken of as a sleep from which there is no awaking Job 14:12, Jeremiah 51:39. Next Isaiah 26:19. ‘Awake ye that sleep in the dust,’ plainly refers to the resurrection, (Hence critics who think the truth could not be known before the exile, are obliged to suppose that this chapter was written after that time). Again, why should not David have attained in some degree to the knowledge of a truth, which in later times was so clearly revealed as it was to Ezekiel (who makes use of it as the image of the resurrection of Israel Psalm 37:1-14), and Daniel ( Psalm 12:2)?”—C. A. B.]


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 17:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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