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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 17

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 17:1. Hear the right, O Lord — Hebrew, צדק, tzedek, righteousness, that is, my righteous cause, or me, who, notwithstanding all their accusations, and slanders, am righteous in my conduct toward them and all men. Attend unto my cry — My fervent prayer, attended with strong cries. That goeth not out of feigned lips — Hebrew, שׁפתי מרמה, shipthee mirmah, lips of deceit, or of guile, which speak one thing when the heart knows and designs another. This profession of his sincerity in his words fitly makes way for his solemn appeal to God, in the following verses.


Verse 2

Psalms 17:2. Let my sentence — Hebrew, משׁפשׂי, mishpati, my judgment, that is, judgment in my cause, or on my behalf: come forth from thy presence — From thee, and from thy tribunal, to which I bring my cause. Do not suspend or delay it, but speedily examine my cause, and give sentence in it. Behold the things that are equal — Or right: for though I need and desire thy mercy and favour in many other respects, yet I beg only the interposition of thy justice in this cause between me and them.


Verse 3

Psalms 17:3. Thou hast proved mine heart — Or searched, or tried it, by many temptations and afflictions; by which the sincerity or hypocrisy of men’s hearts is discovered, and especially is manifest to thy all-seeing eye. Thou hast visited me in the night — Thou hast been present with me in my greatest privacies; to discover whether, in my retirement from the eyes of men, in the night season, when secrecy and solitude prompt the hypocrite to sin, I was forming any evil designs, or indulging any mischievous imaginations. Thou hast tried me — Accurately and severely, as goldsmiths do metals. And shalt find nothing — Nothing of unrighteousness in me. In the Hebrew it is only, Thou shalt not find; namely, that whereof my enemies accuse me, whether hypocrisy toward thee, or evil designs against Saul, covered with fair pretences. I am purposed — I have resolved upon deliberation, as the word here used implies; that my mouth shall not transgress — I am so far from taking any measures, or practising any thing against Saul’s life, as they charge me, that I will not wrong him so much as in word. Or, more generally, and without any particular reference to Saul, “I am so far from doing any wicked thing, that I will keep a strict watch even over my words; and though mine enemies persecute me ever so much by their evil deeds, I am resolved they shall not tempt me to speak evil.” Observe, reader, he does not say, I hope my mouth shall not transgress, or I wish it may not, but I am fully purposed that it shall not. With this bridle he kept it, Psalms 39:2. Constant resolution and watchfulness against the sins of the tongue will be a good evidence of our integrity. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, James 3:2.


Verse 4

Psalms 17:4. Concerning the works of men — That is, the works which men generally practise: observing how unreasonable, wicked, and pernicious they are, not only to others, but also to themselves, I have been resolved to take more care in the ordering of my actions. This he says, to show that he had been as careful to abstain from sinful actions as from sinful words, and in all respects to do his duty to God and man. By the word of thy lips — By the help of thy blessed word, and the excellent precepts, promises, and threatenings thereof, which, by deep and frequent meditation, I have hid and fixed in my heart, as the rule of my actions, the guide of my life, and the best antidote against sin and temptation, Psalms 119:9; Psalms 119:11. I have kept me from the paths — Hebrew, שׁמרתי ארחות, shamarti arechoth, I have watched, or observed, that is, in order to avoid, the paths, or ways of the destroyer. The ways of sin are the ways of the destroyer, that is, of the devil, whose name is Abaddon, and Apollyon, or destroyer, and who ruins souls by decoying them into these ways. Now, if we would shun them, we must attend to the word of God as our rule and guide, and in order thereto, must understand, believe, and hide it in our heart. “If the word be not in our heart at all, or if it be not there in such a manner as to be ready at all times for use and application, we shall be in danger, at every turn, of going astray.” — Horne.


Verse 5

Psalms 17:5. Hold up my goings, &c. — As by thy word and grace thou hast hitherto kept me from the paths of evil men, and led me into thy paths, so I pray thee enable me, by the same means, to persevere therein, and in an abhorrence of all wicked courses. Let me not only be restrained from doing that which is evil, but quickened to abound always in that which is good. Let my goings be so held in thy paths that I may not turn back from them, nor turn aside out of them; and let them be held up, that I may not stumble and fall into sin, that I may not become indolent, and neglect my duty. Observe, reader, we stand no longer than he is pleased to uphold us, we go no farther than he is pleased to lead us. Those, therefore, that would proceed on and persevere in the ways of God, must by faith and prayer fetch in daily supplies of grace and strength from him. That my footsteps slip not — That I may not fall into the sin of revenging myself on Saul, to which I may be more and more tempted, nor into any other sin, whereby thou mayest be provoked, or men may be offended, and religion disgraced. David was sensible that his way was slippery, that he himself was weak, and not so well fixed and established as he ought to be, and that there were those that watched for his halting, and would improve the least slip he might make against him, and therefore he prays in this manner to be upheld and preserved. Let us go and do likewise.


Verse 6

Psalms 17:6. I have called upon thee — It hath been, still is, and shall be, my constant course, to apply myself to thee for assistance and deliverance. For thou wilt hear, O God — Though thou mayest delay for a season, I am well assured that thou wilt hear and answer me.


Verse 7

Psalms 17:7. Show thy marvellous loving-kindness — Namely, in preserving and delivering me: which, if thou dost, I must ever acknowledge it to be an act of kindness, or free grace and mercy, yea, and of marvellous kindness, because of my extreme and pressing dangers, out of which nothing but a miracle of divine mercy and power can save me; O thou that savest by thy right hand — By thy great power, and needest not the agency of any other; them which put their trust in thee — Or, in it, namely, thy right hand, as was now expressed; from those that rise up against them — Hebrew,

ממתקוממים, me-mithkomemim, from, or, because of, those that exalt themselves, not only against me, but also against thee, who hast engaged and declared thyself for me. But the latter clause of this verse is differently translated in the margin, and, as many eminent interpreters, both ancient and modern, think, more agreeably to the Hebrew text. The reader, therefore, will please to attend to it, and to observe, that rising up against God’s right hand, a sin which, according to that translation, David charges upon his enemies, signifies opposing God’s power, or counsels, whether respecting the exaltation of David, and the Messiah his seed, or any other of his dispensations.


Verse 8-9

Psalms 17:8-9. Keep me as the apple of the eye — Which thou hast marvellously fenced on every side, and which men use their utmost care and diligence to preserve. Hide me under the shadow of thy wings — Protect me from my enemies, visible and invisible, as a hen protects her chickens from birds of prey. There seems also to be an allusion to the wings of the cherubim, overshadowing the mercy-seat. From the wicked — Or, Because of the wicked. From my deadly enemies — Hebrew, Mine enemies in, for, or, against my soul, or, life, whom nothing but my blood or life will satisfy. Who compass me about — And thereby show both their extreme malice and my danger.


Verse 10

Psalms 17:10. They are enclosed in their own fat — They live in great splendour and prosperity, while I am exercised with many sore troubles. A similar phrase occurs Job 15:27; Psalms 73:1. Dr. Dodd considers it as “a poetical, or proverbial speech, to signify haughtiness, as caused by wealth or great prosperity; together with that indulgence of the sensual appetites, and disregard to the duties of religion, which are a consequence of such haughtiness.” Jeshurun waxed fat, that is, rich and prosperous; and the consequence was, that he kicked, grew refractory, proud, and insolent, and would not submit to the yoke of God’s law, but lifted up the heel against him. The psalmist adds here, They speak proudly — Boasting of their own power, and of the great things they had done, or would do. “Pride,” says Dr. Horne, “is the child of plenty, begotten by self- indulgence, which hardens the hearts of men against the fear of God and the love of their neighbours; rendering them insensible of the judgments of the former and the miseries of the latter. Let every man take care,” adds he, “that by pampering the flesh, he do not raise up an enemy of this stamp against himself.”


Verse 11-12

Psalms 17:11-12. They have compassed us in our steps — In all our ways. We go from place to place: we flee for safety to rocks, caves, and woods; but whithersoever we go they are at hand, and ready to surround us. See an instance of this 1 Samuel 23:26. They have set their eyes — Namely, upon or against us. They have discovered us, and keep their eyes fixed upon us, that we may not escape, or as intending to shoot at us with their arrows. Bowing down to the earth — Couching and casting themselves down upon the earth, that they may not be discovered, and so may watch the fittest opportunity to surprise us. Which sense is favoured by the next verse, and by comparing Psalms 10:10. The Hebrew, however, לנשׂות בארצ, lintoth baaretz, may be rendered, to cast us down to the earth, that is, They have fixed their eyes upon us, in order that they may watch their opportunity to lay us prostrate on the ground, and destroy us. Like a lion, greedy of his prey — Which is hungry, and therefore cruel. “The similitude of a lion, either roaming abroad in quest of his prey, or couching in secret, ready to spring upon it, the moment it comes within his reach, is often employed by David, to describe the power and malice of his enemies. Christians cannot forget that they likewise have an adversary of the same nature and character; one ever seeking whom, and contriving how, he may devour.” — Horne.


Verse 13

Psalms 17:13. Arise, O Lord, disappoint him — Hebrew, קדמה פניו, kadmah panaiv, prevent his face; that is, Go forth against him, and meet and face him in battle, as enemies are wont to do. Or, prevent the execution of his mischievous designs against me: stop him in his attempt, and give him the first blow. The wicked, which is thy sword — Or thy hand, as it follows, Psalms 17:14, that is, thy instrument to execute vengeance upon thine enemies, or to chastise and exercise thy people; for which latter reason the Assyrian is termed God’s rod, Isaiah 10:5, as being raised up and appointed for the correction of God’s people, Habakkuk 1:12. The sense therefore is, Do not punish me by this rod: let me fall into thy hands, and not into the hands of wicked men, 2 Samuel 24:14. The words, however, may be rendered, Let thy sword deliver me from the wicked: thy hand, O Lord, from men: Psalms 17:14, from those men, who are of this world: the sword and hand of Jehovah being frequently used to denote his power and vengeance.


Verse 14

Psalms 17:14. From men which are thy hand — Wherewith thou dost correct me. From men of the world — Who prosper in, and set their hearts upon, this vain and transitory world, and neither have, nor choose, nor desire, any other portion or felicity: who are actuated by the spirit of the world, walk according to the course of this world, are in love with the wealth and pleasure of this world, eager in the pursuits of it, making them their business; and at ease in the enjoyments of it, making them their happiness: such as, in our Lord’s language, have their reward here, and are to expect none hereafter. The Hebrew מתים מחלד, methim mecheled, means, properly, mortals of the world, a world cessans, instabilis, et transiens, perishing, unstable, and transient, as Buxtorff interprets the word — who, though dying men, in a world continually changing, and at last passing away, are content to have their portion in it; looking upon the reputed good things of it as the best things, and sufficient to make them happy; choosing them accordingly, placing their felicity in enjoying them, aiming at them as their chief good, and, if they attain them, resting satisfied therewith, and neither looking farther, nor taking care to provide for another world. Now, Lord, shall men of this character, men so unreasonable, so unwise, so sottish; men so earthly, so sensual, so grovelling, so like the beasts that perish; shall men of this sort be supported and countenanced against those that honour thee, by preferring thy favour, and the enjoyment of thee, before all the wealth, and honour, and pleasures of this world? Whose belly thou fillest — That is, whose mind or appetite thou satisfiest, with thy hid treasure, that is, not only with common mercies, such as food and raiment, but with the choicest of earthly things, such as men are wont to hide or keep in their treasures; with wealth, and glory, and all the delights and comforts of the present life: “whom thou permittest to enjoy thy temporal blessings in abundance, as if it were to convince us in what estimation we ought to hold the world when we see the largest shares of it dealt out to the most worthless of the sons of Adam.” They are full of children — While many of thy faithful servants are barren, these are blessed with a numerous posterity. Or, as ישׂבעו בניםjisbegnu banim, may be rendered, their children are filled up, or satisfied, namely, as well as themselves. There is abundantly enough, both for them and for their children, and even for their children’s children, for they leave the residue of their substance to their babes — “After living in plenty, perhaps to a good old age, they leave behind them a numerous and flourishing posterity, who inherit their estates, and go on, as their fathers did before them, without piety to God, or charity to the poor. From these men and their ways we have all reason to say with David, Good Lord, deliver us.” — Horne.


Verse 15

Psalms 17:15. As for me — I do not envy their felicity, but my hopes and happiness are of another nature. I will (or, shall) behold thy face — I do not place my portion in earthly and temporal pleasures, as they do, but in beholding God’s face: that is, in the enjoyment of God’s presence and favour; which is, indeed, enjoyed in part in this life, but not fully, and to entire satisfaction, of which David here speaks, as appears from the last clause of this verse; the sight of God, and of his face, being frequently spoken of, both in the Old and the New Testament, as a privilege denied even to the saints in this life, and peculiar to the next life: in righteousness In holiness, internal as well as external, without which no man shall see the Lord, Hebrews 12.; only the pure in heart being admitted to this high honour and unspeakable happiness, Matthew 5:8. He therefore that has this hope in him, must purify himself as he is pure, 1 John 3:3. But the meaning probably is rather, through righteousness, for, grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life. That Isaiah , 1 st, Through righteousness imputed, or justification, Romans 4:2-8. This was experienced by David, as he testifies, Psalms 32:5; Psalms 103:3; and he sets forth the blessedness of it in the beginning of the former of these Psalms, as well as in many other places. Hereby he was entitled to this happiness, for, being justified by grace, and acquitted from condemnation, he was made an heir of it, Titus 3:7. 2d, Through righteousness implanted in him, or through the regeneration and sanctification of his nature, or the Spirit of God, and his various graces dwelling in his soul, and especially shedding abroad in his heart the love of God and all mankind. Hereby he had a meetness for the enjoyment of this felicity, Colossians 1:12. And 3d, Through practical righteousness, flowing from both the former, Titus 3:8; Ephesians 2:10; Luke 1:6. To the absolute necessity of which, our Lord, St. John, and all the apostles bear continual testimony. See Matthew 7:21; 1 John 3:4-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. In this way he was led to that vision of God to which he had a title, through his justification, and for which he was prepared by his sanctification. Remember, reader, it is only by faith in him who is the Lord our righteousness that thou canst be made a partaker of righteousness in these three absolutely necessary and closely connected branches of it. O seek this without delay, and with thy whole heart! I shall be satisfied — However distressed and exercised with trials and troubles I may be now, the time is coming when I shall be abundantly satisfied, namely, with beholding God’s face and enjoying his glorious presence, which to me is more desirable, and will be infinitely more satisfactory, and full of consolation, than all the possessions of this world. When I awake with thy likeness — When I arise from the dead, receive a body conformed to Christ’s glorious body; and as I have borne the image of the earthly Adam, shall also bear that of the heavenly; when the image of God shall be completely and indelibly stamped on my glorified soul; and I shall be made fully like him, and therefore shall see him as he is, Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Revelation 22:4; 1 John 3:2.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 17:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-17.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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