New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 17:1 A Prayer by David.
Hear, Yahweh, my righteous plea; give ear to my prayer, that doesn’t go out of deceitful lips-
David has elsewhere lamented the deceitful lips of his opponents, and he comes over as being convinced of his own righteousness, often comparing himself with them, even when he is in God's presence.

Psa 17:2 Let my sentence come forth from Your presence, let Your eyes look on integrity-
David imagines the heavenly throne room sitting right now in judgment upon him, and a favourable sentence coming forth in response to his prayer (as in Ps. 9:4,7 and often). He therefore saw prayer as a foretaste of judgment to come. The New Testament does likewise, speaking of our "boldness" in prayer now (Heb. 4:16; 10:19) and also our boldness in the day of judgment (1 Jn. 4:17). The request for the sentence to come forth suggests David hadn't yet received the answer to his prayer, but was very confident of receiving it (:6).

Psa 17:3 You have proved my heart. You have visited me in the night. You have tried me, and found nothing. I have resolved that my mouth shall not disobey-
The sensitivity of God to sin is far higher than we would think. He even notices "the eye that mocketh at his father" (Prov. 30:17); even body language is analyzed by Him, as are our unconscious thoughts as we sleep (Ps. 17:3). But David seems rather over confident of his total purity, for no human heart can be tested by God and 'nothing found' wrong. It was a case of false accusation leading David to assume his total perfection, the same mistake Job made. The Bathsheba experience was used by God to help David quit this attitude. But we can also note that the Saul experience led David to self examination. Reading through the book of Psalms in one or two sittings reveals that frequent and intense self-examination was a leading characteristic of David:, especially while on the run from Saul; as if he began to pick up false guilt from how he was being treated, wondering if it was all in fact justified (Ps. 4:4; 7:3; 17:3; 18:20-24; 19:12; 26:1; 39:1; 59:3; 66:18; 77:6; 86:2; 101:2; 109:3; 139:23,24).


Psa 17:4 As for the works of men, by the word of Your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent-
This could be a reference to how the sons of Zeruiah urged David to slay Saul when he had the chance. But he refused, because he believed Samuel's prophetic word that he would finally be king as being words which dropped from God's lips. This was how deeply he understood Divine inspiration, and it motivated him to obedience.

Psa 17:5 My steps have held fast to Your paths, my feet have not slipped-
David in his earlier Psalms exalts and boasts to God that his feet have not slipped, indeed he was overly confident that his feet would never slip / "be moved" (Ps. 17:5; 21:7; 55:22; 62:2,6; 125:1). His more mature reflection is that he had wrongly said "I shall never slip [AV "be moved"]" (Ps. 30:6), and his feet had indeed slipped, not least over the Bathsheba incident (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). Solomon didn't learn this lesson, for he likewise assumed that the righteous would never be moved / slip (Prov. 10:30), although he appears to accept that even a righteous man like his father had indeed slipped (Prov. 25:26). And Solomon himself did so, not learning the lesson from his father's mistaken assumption that the righteous can never slip.

Psa 17:6 I have called on You, for You will answer me, God. Turn Your ear to me, hear my words-
As noted on :2, David hadn't yet received the answer to his prayer; but he is absolutely confident of the answer. But we note that he parallels the "answer" with God 'hearing my words'. The answer is in the hearing, although the answer may not be as we imagine.

Psa 17:7 Show Your marvellous grace, You who save those who take refuge under Your right hand from their enemies-
Although David seems to insist God answer him because of his own self-perceived righteousness (:2,3), he does here recognize that the answer would be by God's grace alone. And this is so true to human spiritual experience; we can within moments, within the same prayer, recognize that all is of grace; whilst also asserting our own self righteousness. Being at God's right hand suggests David felt he was before God's throne; the immediate reference is to the ark of the covenant. See on :8.

Psa 17:8 Keep me as the apple of Your eye, hide me under the shadow of Your wings-
This is an appeal for God to treat him as He treated His true Israel (Dt. 32:10). The shadow of God's wings alludes to the mercy seat, upon which the blood of atonement was sprinkled, overshadowed by the cherubic wings. David saw himself as being right there. This was the throne of God, as it were, where David felt he was safe. See on :7; Ps. 18:28.

We are the apple of God’s eye (Ps. 17:8; Dt. 32:10), and His word must be as the apple of our eye (Prov. 7:2). We dwell in God, and His word dwells in us (Jn. 15:7).

Psa 17:9 from the wicked who oppress me, my deadly enemies, who surround me-
These enemies were "deadly" in that they wished his death. Saul and his supporters are in view. But the word for "oppress" is often used of Judah's Babylonian and Assyrian enemies who surrounded Jerusalem (e.g. Jer. 4:20,30), especially in the surrounding of Jerusalem in Hezekiah's time. Again we see a Psalm of David reused, under inspiration, in later history.

Psa 17:10 They close up their callous hearts. With their mouth they speak proudly-
This would have special relevance to the proud boasts of Rabshakeh outside the surrounded Jerusalem (see on :9).

Psa 17:11 They have now surrounded us in our steps, they set their eyes to cast us down to the earth-
Again, the language of surrounding is very relevant to the Assyrian lion (:12) surrounding Jerusalem.

Psa 17:12 He is like a lion that is greedy of his prey, as it were a young lion lurking in secret places-
As explained on :9-11, this has been reapplied to the lions of Judah's subsequent invaders and abusers, Assyria and Babylon.

Psa 17:13 Arise, Yahweh, confront him. Cast him down. Deliver my soul from the wicked by Your sword-
This is the language of the casting down of the kings of Babylon and Assyria. David's personal salvation from Saul was to be seen as the guarantee that if Judah were likewise faithful, their enemies would also be thrown down.

Psa 17:14 from men by Your hand, Yahweh, from men of the world, whose portion is in this life-
David's portion or inheritance he expected to be a kingdom in his own personal inheritance of mount Zion (see on Ps. 15:1; 16:5,6). He had hoped to receive this fully at the resurrection (Ps. 16:8-10), whereas the inheritance or portion of Saul and his men would be only "in this life".


You fill the belly of Your cherished ones. Your sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children- Here David sounds like Job, whose story he was evidently familiar with and identified with. The wicked prosper, for now- and that is evidence that a future day of judgment and eternal justice is yet to come. Although married, David’s family life was a source of grief to him. He comments that the men of the world “are satisfied with children” (AV), but for him, the only satisfaction would be when he resurrected to behold God’s face and to be turned into that same image: “As for me, I shall behold thy face… I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17:14,15 RV). This was his satisfaction; the satisfaction of men of the world was simply in their children, and to “leave the rest of their substance to their babes”, i.e. their grandkids. And David’s perspective must be that of us all. 


Psa 17:15 As for me, I shall see Your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with seeing Your form
- Doubtless spurred by the insensitive prying into his private spirituality by his friends / brethren, Job seems to almost exult that he would see God for himself, in his own way, and nobody else (Job 19:21 "and not another") would see God in this way. David had a similar vision; he looked to the day of resurrection when he would be satisfied, when he awoke, with seeing the face of God with a good conscience. These are the sort of pictures which should be embedded in our own private spirituality. Nobody, not even faithful brethren, can have dominion over our faith; by our own faith we stand (2 Cor. 1:24, filling in the ellipsis). David's vision of future reward was to see God's face, a thought unthinkable for many in Israel; and to do so "in righteousness", because righteousness had been imputed to him.