corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms
Psalms 17



Verses 1-15

Psalm 17:1-15. Title. The inscription found at the beginning of many of these sacred hymns, viz. " A psalm " of David," may literally be rendered " A psalm to David; " and thence some have been led to think that he did not write all, or even most of them. But at the head of this psalm the same mode of expression is used; and consequently if those psalms were not composed by him, but only addressed to him, this psalm would be entitled " A prayer to David." This shews that our version is so far right; that ..the translation is of the same import as the original, which means A Psalm , ascribed to David, as its author.

V:1- 3. We shall not fully enter into the spirit of this Psalm , unless we place ourselves in the circumstances of David. The whole tenour of it shews, that he has recorded his earnest meditation and prayer, at the most interesting crisis, when Saul, instigated by groundless suspicions, and false accusations, and pursuing him as a traitor, had surrounded him with his troops, and must have seized on him, had not God most wonderfully interposed. (Notes, 54: title. 1 Samuel 23:19-28.) The persecuted and slandered servant of God, in this extremity, appealed to his omnipotent Lord; and conscious, that he had in no respect deserved ill of his cruel enemy, he called upon God to " hear justice," and to accept his prayer, which was not the language of deceit respecting men, or hypocrisy towards God. (Notes, Psalm 145:18. Jeremiah 3:6-11.) He besought him to pronounce sentence between him and Saul, according to his intimate acquaintance with the cause, as he knew that equity was on his side : for the Lord had long proved the heart of his servant; he had seen his conduct and thoughts, even at midnight, when traitors either meet to form their plans, or meditate how to carry them into execution. Indeed, circumstances had served to try him as by Jire; seeing he had every temptation to seek opportunities of avenging himself. Yet God was witness, that nothing of this kind had been thought of by him; nay, he had avoided every disrespectful word concerning Saul, the Lord"s anointed; lest he should excite his followers to attempt ought against him.

V:4 , 5. " The works of men," (of Adam, or of his descendants, as inheriting his fallen nature,) are those works to which they are prepense; and among others, they have a strong propensity to " render evil for evil : " but David had so studied the oracles of God, that by regarding his promises and precepts, he had resisted every temptation to this conduct. The word, rendered " destroyer," signifies a robber or murderer: but the Psalmist seems not so much to have intended, that he had kept himself out of the reach of those who wished to murder him, or from the ways of Satan the destroyer; as that he had been kept from embracing any opportunity afforded him of killing Saul. And he still prayed, that he might be upheld, and not left to fall into so great a crime, however injured and tempted.

(Notes, Psalm 119:114-117; Psalm 133:1-3. 1 Samuel 2:9.)

In the present circumstances of human nature, the ways of godliness are become slippery paths, through the artifices of Satan, and the snares of the world, combining with " the sin that dwelleth in us." In some of these things David may be considered as a type of Christ : he alone was universally and perfectly free from sin, and could say in the fullest sense, that a heart-searching God could find nothing wrong in him (3).

V:6- 8. (Marg. Ref.) " Make wonderful thy mercies, " O thou, who savest those that trust, from those who rise "up against, thy right hand " (7). This address to God, as the especial Protector of those, who trust in him, from those who rebel against him, is worthy of special notice. In answering such prayers he acts according to his known character. ( John 15:5; John 15:13. Notes, 2 Corinthians 7:5-7 - Hebrews 13:20-21. 1 Peter 5:10-11.)

Apple. (8) As the pupil, or black spot the daughter of the eye. The singular precaution, with which the Creator has secured the pupil of the eye, and by which every creature instinctively guards it from injury, forms a striking illustration of the Lord"s watchful care over his people, amidst the peculiar dangers to which they are on every side exposed. (Notes, Deuteronomy 32:10. Proverbs 7:2. Zechariah 2:6-9.)

V:9 , 10. (Marg.) David"s persecutors were prosperous, self-indulgent, and luxurious; and thus they grew arrogant, impious, unfeeling, and presumptuous. (Notes, Psalm 73:6-9. Psalm 119:70.)

V:11 , 12. " Indeed they have now gotten me and my " followers into a very great strait; and which way soever " we turn ourselves, we are in danger to fall into the hands " of those, who have stedfastly resolved on our utter ruin. " . .. No lion can be more desirous to tear a lamb in pieces, " than Saul is to make a prey of me." Bp. Patrick. Saul and his associates acted also with dark subtlety, and seemed to be thinking of something else, when they were watching their opportunity of mischief and murder. (Marg. Notes, Psalm 7:14-16. 1 Samuel 18:17-21; 1 Samuel 23:22-28. Matthew 26:35.)

V:13- 15. In this extremity, unless the Lord speedily interposed, (as one who had delayed till no more time could be lost,) to prevent Saul from accomplishing his wicked design, and to disappoint him of his prey, by some humiliating event; he would certainly take away David"s life, and so render the promises of God of no effect : but this could not be. Saul and his men had been as the " sword," and " hand," of God, by which he executed vengeance on many, and corrected others, in Israel; but they were mere mortal men of a worldly spirit, who preferred an earthly portion to the favour of God, and consequently had their good things in this life. God indeed gave them abundance of those treasures, which are commonly hidden for security, and spent in self-indulgence with their children. They were also full of children : and after living in plenty, nay, luxury, perhaps till old age; they left a numerous and flourishing family to inherit their riches : but they were not " rich towards God." (Notes, Psalm 49:10-11; Psalm 49:15-18; Psalm 73:11-14. Job 21:7-22; Job 27:13-23.) And would the Lord suffer his servant to be destroyed by such profane, selfish men ? The Psalmist however determined, whatever might be the event, to act as in the immediate presence of God, to maintain a good conscience, and to walk before God in righteousness: and then, whether he died soon, or lived many years, he should certainly at last obtain full satisfaction, when he awaked in the eternal world, or at the general resurrection, perfectly renewed to the divine image in righteousness and true holiness. The former clause of the last verse is here interpreted of David"s purpose, and only the latter of his "fnepect. Some explain both to mean his expectation of happiness in the eternal world; yet not excluding his hope of deliverance from his urgent dangers. The Septuagint render the last clause; "I shall be satisfied in " beholding thy glory." (Notes, Psalm 36:5-9. Psalm 119:111. Matthew 5:6-8. 1 John 3:13. Revelation 21:22-27; Revelation 22:2-5.)


Believers must follow their Saviour, in the way by which he passed through this world to glory; and such men as were his enemies will be thelr"s also : but he was more hated, insulted, and cruelly intreated, than any of his followers ever were. They cannot, like Jesus, plead sinless perfection in any parlor action of their lives; but through his merits and grace, they may " rejoice in the testimony " of their conscience, to their simplicity and godly sinccrity." (Note, 2 Corinthians 1:12-14.) They have right on their side, when oppressed or persecuted, their own hearts do not condemn them of hypocrisy; and therefore they have confidence before: a just and merciful God: their prayers are riot the language of dissembling lips, but the fervent desires of their hearts, and they may expect that he will give sentence in their behalf, when they are slandered and injured; even such an equal sentence, as must proceed from the presence of a holy God. Unallowed evil, felt and mourned over, should in no wise weaken this confidence : but without conscious integrity in our conduct towards God and Prayer of Manasseh , such appeals would be the most impious presumption. The Lord sees us in secret, visits us in the night, and witnesses our conduct in our most secret retirement, when solitude tempts the hypocrite to sin, and when the imagination is apt to roam after forbidden objects : and if he find one indulged and allowed iniquity, he will abhor our feigned devotions. We should therefore purpose not to offend with our lips, or even in our hearts. We must not conform to the works of men, if we would escape the paths of the destroyer; for " broad " is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there " be who go in thereat." (Note?, Matthew 7:13-14. Romans 12:2. Ephesians 2:1-2.)

We must treasure up the precepts and promises of God"s word in our hearts, for our direction and encouragement; and pray continually to be upheld by his grace, if we would walk in the paths of holiness : for our way through this evil world is very slippery; we arc weak, and apt to be heedless; and our own watchfulness or resolutions, and former upright and consistent behaviour, cannot safely be depended on. But the Lord will incline his ears to those who call upon him : he has always magnified his loving-kindness to such as have trusted in him; upholding and defending them by his right hand from all their enemies; keeping them safer by his grace, than the pupil of the eye is kept by his providence; and with greater tenderness, than " the hen gathereth her chickens under " her wings."

(Notes, Ruth 2:11-12. Matthew 23:37

39.) The profane, the sensual, and the proud, indeed are at all times their enemies; yet they are not always left to take an active part against them : but Satan is their most deadly foe : he is destitute of compassion, hardened in malice, and replete with subtlety; and concerning him we may pray in assured faith, " Arise, O LORD, disappoint " him, and cast him down; deliver my soul from this " wicked one." He is indeed the sword, by which the Lord punishes his enemies, and scourges a guilty world; but his children shall not be given over to be a prey to him, nor to his instruments. The most afflicted Christian needs not envy the most prosperous " men of the world, " who have their portion in this life." (Note, Luke 16:24-26.) They indeed receive from the Lord that abundun treasure, which they love to lay up securely for themselves; to spend in varied kinds of gratification, or hoard to airgrandi their families : and frequently the desire"s of their hearts in these matters are granted them. Yet they must die, and leave their good things behind them, to enter an other world, where they have no portion but darkness and despair. But the believer walks here in the light of God"s countenance, in a delightful attendance on his ordinances and obedience to his commands : he rejoices in the hope of glory; when he dies, his soul departs hence " to be with " Christ which is far better; " and at the resurrection his body shall be raised incorruptible and glorious : and being completely changed into the image of his God and Saviour, he shall be eternally and perfectly satisfied with a happiness, large as his desires and capacities. Lord, teach us to " choose this good part, which shall never be " taken from us." (Note and P. O. Luke 10:38-42.)


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 17:4". Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology