The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 17

Psa 17:1


Psa 86 and Psa 142 are psalms of pleading remarkably like the first paragraph here in tone and language, and with the same title: "Prayer" = Heb "tephillah". See also Psa 90 (by Moses) and Psa 102 (by Hezekiah). There are quite a few verbal links with Psa 16, which might account for their being placed side by side: Psa 16:7/17:3; 16:8/17:5; 16:11/17:5; 16:8/17:7; 16:5/16:14; 16:11/17:15.

HISTORICAL SETTING: In the middle of a group of psalms re Saul's persecution of David the "outlaw". He and his men are the hunters, David and his men the prey (vv 9-13).

DECEITFUL LIPS: Again, as in Psa 10,12,15, etc, ct David's honesty with Saul's deceitfulness. (NT) ct the Lord's openness and honesty of speech with the scheming of his adversaries (as in Mat 22:16,17). Cp Isa 53:9; 1Pe 2:21-24.

Psa 17:3

AT NIGHT: Gethsemane (Luk 22:43). Cp Psa 16:7.

TEST: Put to test, so as to purge away impurities, as gold or silver are tested by fire: Psa 12:6; Job 23:10; 1Pe 1:7.

THOUGH YOU TEST ME, YOU WILL FIND NOTHING: Nothing amiss, as Gethsemane demonstrated (see also Joh 14:30).

I HAVE RESOLVED: Strong resolution, more necessary in Jesus than in any other man.

MY MOUTH WILL NOT SIN: True of David, relatively, when cpd with others. But absolutely true of Jesus: Joh 8:46; 14:30; 2Co 5:21; Heb 4:15.

Psa 17:4

BY THE WORD OF YOUR LIPS: The promise given through Samuel at the time he anointed David (1Sa 16)? Or, by God's word through the ephod (1Sa 23:2,4,6, etc)?

(NT) How often did Jesus make Scripture his anchor when in temptation or debate.

THE VIOLENT: The "destroyer" (AV), ie the destroying angel of Passover (Exo 12:23). Yet others gladly made Jesus their "Passover lamb".

Psa 17:5

MY STEPS HAVE HELD TO YOUR PATHS: "Put all your eggs in one basket: direct moment to moment help from God. Cast out everything else, and stake all on this. Relying on God's continuous help does not mean just sitting and waiting for it. It does not mean just kneeling and praying for it. It means two things: studying His Word, and obeying His commands: constant thought, constant activity -- doing our own very best, but always realizing that if God isn't constantly directing, then it's all a sham and a charade. What guarantee do we have that He will? And how do we know when He does? Don't worry about that. Just do. You have nothing to lose by trying, and nothing to gain by questioning. We are promised He will, if we are doing our part. And let us not get the foolish and conceited idea that we are 'inspired' or 'have the Spirit' just because it seems to work. That's the quickest way to bring everything to a grinding halt. God can turn His help and guidance off as quickly as He can turn it on, and He is quick to deflate presumption. This life is merely for education and training. We can never actually accomplish anything. Anything we do for God He could do infinitely better and more quickly Himself. He is patiently teaching us, and preparing us to be useful in the future (if we are at last approved), and presumption will be corrected by allowing humiliating mistakes to teach us wisdom" (GVG).

Psa 17:6

GIVE EAR TO ME: "Incline thine ear" (AV). As one might bow down to hear the low and feeble words of the ill or dying (cp Psa 71:2; 116:2).

Psa 17:7

SAVE BY YOUR RIGHT HAND: By Gabriel who stands in God's presence (Luk 1:19; cp Mat 18:10), and who is the angel of answered prayer (cp Psa 34:7; 91:11).

RIGHT HAND: Strength (Exo 15:6; Psa 20:6; 63:8; 118:15,16); righteousness (Psa 48:10); authority (Isa 62:8); honor (Gen 48:13-18; 1Ki 2:19); salvation (Psa 17:7; 60:5); and fellowship (Psa 16:11).

THEIR FOES: Saul, the hunter (1Sa 24).

Psa 17:8

THE APPLE OF YOUR EYE: Apparently, the pupil; Zec 2:8 is very expressive. Naturally speaking, the pupil is one of the most treasured parts of the body, being protected by skull, cheekbones, eyebrows, eyelids, lashes, tears, and even hands. Here (cp Deu 32:10) (but not in the other places) lit: the dark one, the daughter of the eye. So perhaps the idea is that of a man with a dark-haired, dark-eyed daughter, a beauty, whom he treasures as the "idol" of his eye. This is so because a picture in miniature of one's self is seen, as in a mirror, when looking into another person's eye. The ref is then to the pupil, and the surrounding iris.

IN THE SHADOW OF YOUR WINGS: The wings of the cherubim, as in Psa 57:1; 63:7 -- both psalms of this outlaw period. A poss allusion to Samuel's altar at Ramah (1Sa 7:17), where David once fled from Saul (1Sa 19:18).

(NT) Cp Psa 91:1,4, also about Messiah. Cp Psa 18:10.

Psa 17:9


Psa 17:10

THEY CLOSE UP THEIR CALLOUS HEARTS: "They are inclosed in their own fat" (AV). See Deu 32:15; cp Eglon in Jdg 3:17. The fat of the sacrifices was God's own portion. The men of the temple, so hostile to Jesus, had shut up their bowels of compassion (1Jo 3:17; Psa 119:70), and they ran the temple for their own materialistic benefit. The holy court was called "The Bazaar of the Sons of Annas".


Psa 17:11

THEY NOW SURROUND ME: AV has "us" (David and his men in the wilderness), surrounded by Saul and his men (1Sa 19:11; 23:19-27).

WITH EYES ALERT, TO THROW ME TO THE GROUND: "They have set their eyes bowing down to the earth" (AV), as trackers following the trail of the hunted men. Cp Psa 10:8-10 (also about Saul).

Psa 17:12

LIKE A LION: As a lion, with Jesus as the prey -- waylaid, hunted. This same ugly scene, of patient stalking and sudden, vicious attack, is amplified in Psa 22:12-18, the preeminent psalm of Golgotha!

Psa 17:13

Vv 13,14: "The wicked, which is thy sword", and... "Men which are thy hand, O Lord." As the Assyrians were the rod of God's anger (Isa 10:5,15), and Saul the hard but necessary test of the faith of David, so also "it pleased the Lord to bruise" Jesus (Isa 53:10) through the hostility of evil men (Act 2:23).

Psa 17:14

WHOSE REWARD IS IN THIS LIFE: "They have their reward" (Mat 6:2,5, etc), ie, here and now. And for them, that is all. Cp Luk 16:25 and Psa 49:19; ct Psa 16:5 and also v 15 here.

THEIR SONS HAVE PLENTY: AV: "Whose belly (Heb womb) thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes."

(NT) Annas had 5 sons and a son-in-law (Caiaphas), all of whom followed him in the high priest's office. In general, see Psa 73:2,3.

Psa 17:15

A continuation of the resurrection theme in Psa 16:8-11. For "satisfied", see Isa 53:11.

Notice the commas; David does not say, "when I awake with thy likeness", as though rising from the dead and receiving immortality (ie "immortal emergence") were one and the same event. But, rather, he says, "when I awake, with thy likeness". 'When I arise, I shall be satisfied to receive thy likeness.' Other translations bear out this small, but important, distinction.

YOUR FACE: In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Psalms, God's face.


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