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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 17



Verse 1

1. Hear the right—To hear the right, or righteousness, is the same as to hear the prayer for righteousness, or that righteousness may obtain. David does not pray, Hear the righteous man, but righteousness, being intent upon that which is right rather than personal victory. Herein he submits everything to the will of God as the rule of justice. The hearing invoked is a judicial hearing.

My cry—My outcry, my loud call for help.

Attend… give ear—That is, hearken, listen, stronger words than “hear.”

Feigned lips—Lips of deceit. This he could aver of himself without reserve, that he was innocent of any crime as the cause of his persecution, and honest in his desire that righteous judgment should be given. Morally he was upright, however defective his judgment; and his appeal to the divine judgment was confidently grounded upon the rectitude of his intentions.

Verse 2

2. Let my sentence come forth—Rather, my judgment [acquittal] shall come forth from thee. Thine eyes shall behold equity. The verb is declarative, as an expression of faith.

Things that are equal—Taken adverbially, the word denotes rightly, uprightly; thine eyes behold righteously. Proverbs 8:6

Verse 3

3. Proved mine heart—He accepts his afflictions as tests of his sincerity. The word prove is applied to the trying of metals. Jeremiah 9:7; Zechariah 13:9.

In the night—See Psalms 16:7.

Tried—A word of similar import to “proved,” in previous line. Thou hast purified me. Psalms 66:10; Isaiah 48:10.

Shalt find nothing—No dross, no concealed iniquity upon which to ground condemnation. See John 14:30.

My mouth shall not transgress—I will not speak otherwise than I think and purpose. My heart and my lips shall be alike pure.

Verse 4

4. There is an historic background to the allusions of this verse. David was leading a fugitive life on the southern boundary of Judea, and in Arabia and Philistia, exiled from his country, proscribed by government, hunted by Saul, and compelled to live most of his time in the neighbourhood of robbers. It was a wild border life; but the word of God had kept him from going in their paths or adopting their habits.

Concerning the works of men—As to the doings of men; that is, the common practices of men who follow not God. Compare “course of this world.” Ephesians 2:2.

Kept… from the paths of the destroyer—Literally, I have watched the paths of the destroyer; that is, with a view to avoid them.

Verse 5

5. Hold up my goings—Rather, My steps hold fast to thy paths. It is a protestation by the psalmist of his fidelity, as in Psalms 17:3, and Job 23:11; and this agrees better with the Hiphil preterit of the next verb, My steps have not been moved.

Verse 6

6. Having laid open his inmost thoughts, and protested his innocence before God, the psalmist now resumes his prayer.

Verse 7

7. Show thy marvellous loving-kindness—Literally, Set apart, distinguish, make honourable, thy loving kindness; work in an extraordinary manner. He would seem to call for some special miracle, but all God’s acts of deliverance are special and wonderful. See Exodus 33:16 and Psalms 4:3, where “separated” and “set apart” mean, to be made honourable.

Verse 8

8. As the apple of the eye—The pupil, or centre of the eye, a beautiful phrase, denoting a place of great safety, carefully guarded. The Hebrew reads: “Keep me as the little man, the daughter of the eye,” called so because the miniature picture of the man is seen in the door, or opening, of the eye. Mendelssohn reads, “The offspring of the eye;” and Kimchi, “The dark part of the eye, because there is seen in it the image of a man.” (See Deuteronomy 32:10; Lamentations 2:18; Zechariah 2:8.)

Shadow of thy wings—The figure changes, but the idea of complete safety is preserved. Psalms 91:4; Matthew 23:37

Verse 10

10. From this to Psalms 17:14 the character and deadly purposes of the writer’s enemies are described.

Enclosed in their own fat—A phrase to be understood figuratively for haughty, insubordinate, and selfish persons, who have become wanton by prosperity.

Verse 11

11. They have now compassed us in our steps—They have completely surrounded us, so as to cut off all retreat. “The ‘now’ points to thisthat the greatest danger had arrived, and, consequently, also the time for God to help.”Hengstenberg. Some think this points to Maon: 1 Samuel 23:25-26.

They have set their eyes—The allusion is to a beast of prey, who fixes his eyes on his victim preparatory to springing upon him.

Bowing down to the earth—Either for their own concealment, as a lion watching his prey, or, taking the verb transitively, in the sense of depressing, prostrating, read: “They have fixed their eyes [upon us] to prostrate [us] to the earth. See Psalms 10:10. This agrees with the next verse.

Verse 12

12. Like as a lion—Literally, He is like a lion, etc. The sudden change from the plural, in Psalms 17:11, to the singular, in this, suggests that the singular be taken distributively. The likeness of himthat is, of every one of themis as a lion, etc.; or, the singular may represent the body of the wicked collectively.

Verse 13

13. Arise, O Lord, disappoint him—Literally, Rise, O Jehovah, meet his face. The lion couched, with his eye on the prey, is before us in Psalms 17:11-12. God only can step between and face the monster. It may also be equal to “smite his face.” Psalms 3:7.

Thy sword—Not which is “thy sword,” but by thy sword.

Verse 14

14. Thy hand—By thy hand; same as by thy sword, Psalms 17:13.

Men of the world—The word “world,” here, comes from the idea of time, duration, and means the passing world, this temporary state of things, same as αιων. Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19. Men of the world, therefore, are men who live for temporary and perishable things, same as “children of this world,” (Luke 16:8,) “man of the earth,” (Psalms 10:18,) which see.

Their portion in this life— “This life” is opposed to the life to come, as time is to eternity. See Job 21:13-14; Luke 6:24; Luke 16:25. No language could more clearly define the sensuous and the spiritual character, the temporary present and the eternal future life, the carnally minded and the spiritually minded, the lovers of this world and the lovers of God, as unfolded in the New Testament.

Full of children—Satisfied with children. Wealth and a numerous posterity were their portion, and in these they rested all their hope.

Verse 15

15. As for me—The pronoun is emphatic, and marks the contrast between the psalmist and the “men of the world,” just mentioned. So Psalms 73:28 : “But, [as to me,] it is good for me to draw near to God,” etc.

I will behold thy face in righteousness—An expression like Job 19:26, and Psalms 11:7, on which last see note, and compare 1 John 3:2.Clearly this hope is to be realized only in the life to come.

When I awake—To apply this to awaking from natural sleep, or, figuratively, to coming forth in new vigor from the night of affliction, completely destroys the sense. He is contrasting the temporal with the eternal, this world with the next. To “awake” from the sleep of death was not an uncommon figure in Old Testament times. See 2 Kings 4:31; Job 14:12; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2. A resurrection from the grave is here anticipated as an object of faith in language as full and literal as any in which Messianic prophecy has foretold the Messiah. See on Psalms 16:9-11.

Likeness— The word means form, shape, similitude, and in Numbers 12:8, it would seem to denote a symbolic form of God, as the shekinah. Resemblance to God was the highest idea of perfection to the Hebrew, grounded on Genesis 1:26. It also is the point of the temptation, (Genesis 3:5,) where, instead of “ye shall be as gods,” read “ye shall be as God.” If the objective idea of form is at all involved in the word, we do not dissent, for the New Testament statements imply as much of the glorified state: (see 1 Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2;) but the connexion of the text requires specially the subjective or moral sensethe similitude of characterjust as “I will behold thy face in righteousness” is not to be understood of objective vision, but of subjective experienceperception joined with communionand exactly accords with 1 John 3:2 : “We shall see him as he is.” So, also, I shall… awake with thy likeness, is parallel to the apostle’s statement, “We shall be ( ομοιοι αυτω) like him.” The same Hebrew word in Exodus 20:4, is rendered by the Septuagint ομοιωμα, (likeness,) a word of the same family as that used by the apostle above. Indeed, 1 John 3:2 is a complete parallel of the text, and they together bear a cognate testimony to the glorious doctrine of the resurrection of the body after a divine model.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 17:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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