Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by John Gill, [1746-63], at sacred-texts.com
psa 17:0INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 17
A Prayer of David. This prayer was put up by David either in his own person, on his own account, praying to God for the vindication of his cause, and for salvation and deliverance from his enemies; or in the person of the Messiah, whose type he was, and of the whole church, so Jerom of old interpreted it; and the title of it in the Arabic version is,
"a prayer in the person of a perfect man, and of Christ himself, and of everyone that is redeemed by him;''
in which preservation and protection are prayed for, and hope of eternal life is expressed. It was written, according to Theodoret, when David suffered persecution from Saul.
psa 17:1Hear the right, O Lord,.... The psalmist appeals to the Lord as a Judge, sitting on the throne judging right, that he would hear his cause litigated between him and his adversaries, determine and give the decisive sentence about it; so Christ committed himself to him that judgeth righteously, Pe1 2:23; for by "right" may be meant his right and cause, or his righteous cause, as in Psa 9:4; unless rather his righteous prayer should be intended, so the Targum paraphrases it, "my prayer in righteousness"; not presented for the sake of his own righteousness, but on account of the righteousness of Christ, and for the vindication of his righteous cause before men: the Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, render it "my righteousness", meaning his righteous cause; but rather the word may be rendered "righteousness" (z), or the "righteous one", and may design the psalmist himself, who was a righteous person, and such the Lord hears; or Christ, whose name is the Lord our righteousness, Jer 23:6; and who, as an advocate or intercessor for himself and for his people, is Jesus Christ the righteous, Jo1 2:1. The Septuagint version takes it to be an epithet of the Lord himself, translating it, "O Lord of my righteousness", as in Psa 4:1; and so the Syriac version, "hear, O holy Lord"; and in this manner does Christ address his father in prayer, Joh 17:11; and the consideration of the holiness and righteousness of God is of use in prayer to glorify God, and to command a proper awe and reverence of him;
attend unto my cry; the word for "cry" signifies both a noise made in a way of joy and grief; wherefore the Chaldee paraphrase renders it, "attend to my praise", or hymn of praise, and which arises from sorrow and distress; and intends not mental prayer attended with groanings which cannot be uttered, but vocal prayer expressed in a loud and mournful manner, signifying the distress the person is in, and his earnestness and importunacy for help; and of this sort were some of Christ's prayers; see Heb 5:7;
give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips; hypocritical and deceitful ones; but this went forth from his heart, which was lifted up with his hands to God, to whom he drew nigh with a true heart, and called upon him in the sincerity and uprightness of his soul; and of this sort were all Christ's prayers, in whose mouth there is no guile: the various expressions, "hear, attend, give ear", which signify the same thing, show the distress the supplicant was in, the fervency of his prayer, and his vehement and earnest desire to be heard and answered immediately; and since the accent "athnach" is upon the word "my prayer", this last clause is not to be joined only to that, but refers to all that is said before; as that his "right" and his "cry", as well as his prayer, were unfeigned.
(z) "justitiam", Vatablus, Cocceius, Gejerus; , Aquila in Drusius; "justitiam", i.e. "me qui sum justus", Piscator.
psa 17:2Let my sentence come forth from thy presence,.... Not of condemnation, such as came forth from God and passed on Adam and all his posterity, Rom 5:12; though such an one was executed on Christ, as he was the surety and representative of his people; but of justification, which came forth from God and passed on Christ, when he rose from the dead, and upon his people in him, Ti1 3:16. Here it chiefly designs the vindication of the innocence of the psalmist before men; and his request is, that as he was fully persuaded that he was clear of the things he was charged with in the sight of God, that he would openly and publicly make him appear so before men; that he would bring forth his righteousness as the light, and his judgment as the noonday, Psa 37:6; and of which he made no doubt but he would; so Christ, though he was traduced by men, knew he should be justified by his Father, and by his children, Isa 50:8;
let thine eyes behold the things that are equal; which is not to be understood barely of the eyes of his omniscience; for these behold things both equal and unequal, good and evil, things which agree and disagree with the law of God, the rule of righteousness and equity; but of his approbation of them, and that he would some way or other testify that approbation; for the petition intends the favouring of his just and equal cause, and making it to appear to be so.
psa 17:3Thou hast proved mine heart,.... This properly belongs to God, who is the searcher of the heart and reins, and is desired by all good men; and though God has no need to make use of any means to know the heart, and what is in it; yet in order to know, or rather to make known, what is in the hearts of his people, he proves them sometimes by adversity, as he did Abraham and Job, and sometimes by prosperity, by mercies given forth in a wonderful way, as to the Israelites in the wilderness, Deu 8:2; sometimes by suffering false prophets and false teachers to be among them, Deu 13:3; and sometimes by leaving corruptions in them, and them to their corruptions, as he left the Canaanites in the land, and as he left Hezekiah to his own heart, Jdg 2:22. In one or other or more of these ways God proved the heart of David, and found him to be a man after his own heart; and in the first of these ways he proved Christ, who was found faithful to him that appointed him, and was a man approved of God;
thou hast visited me in the night; God visited and redeemed his people in the night of Jewish darkness; he visits and calls them by his grace in the night of unregeneracy; and so he visits with his gracious presence in the night of desertion; and he often visits by granting counsel, comfort, and support, in the night of affliction, which seems to be intended here; thus he visited the human nature of Christ in the midst of his sorrows and sufferings, when it was the Jews' hour and power of darkness. Elsewhere God is said to visit every morning, Job 7:18;
thou hast tried me; as silver and gold are tried in the furnace; thus the people of God, and their graces in them, are tried by afflictions; so David was tried, and in this manner Christ himself was tried; wherefore he is called the tried stone, Isa 28:16;
and shalt find nothing; or "shalt not find": which is variously supplied; some "thy desire", or what is well pleasing to thee, so Jarchi; or "thou hast not found me innocent", as Kimchi; others supply it quite the reverse, "and iniquity is not found in me", as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions; or "thou hast not found iniquity in me", as the Syriac and Arabic versions; to which agrees the Chaldee paraphrase, "and thou hast not found corruption"; which must be understood, not as if there was no sin and corruption in David; for he often makes loud complaints and large confessions of his sins, and earnestly prays for the forgiveness of them; but either that there was no sin in his heart which he regarded, Psa 66:18; which he nourished and cherished, which he indulged and lived in; or rather there was no such crime found in him, which his enemies charged him with; see Psa 7:3. This is true of Christ in the fullest sense; no iniquity was ever found in him by God, by men or devils, Joh 14:30, Pe1 2:22; and also of his people, as considered in him, being justified by his righteousness, and washed in his blood, Jer 50:20; though otherwise, as considered in themselves, they themselves find sin and corruption abounding in them, Rom 7:18;
I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress; by murmuring against God, on account of his visitation and fiery trials, or by railing at men for their false charges and accusations; this resolution was taken up by the psalmist in the strength of divine grace, and was kept by him, Psa 39:9; so Christ submitted himself patiently to the will of God without repining, and when reviled by men reviled not again, Luk 22:42; and from hence may be learned, that the laws of God may be transgressed by words as well as by works, and that the one as well as the other should be guarded against; see Psa 39:1.
psa 17:4Concerning the works of men,.... Of wicked men, as to what respects and concerns them, or in the midst of them; in the midst of a wicked generation of men, and their filthy conversation; who appear to be so,
by the word of thy lips; the law of God, the Scriptures of truth, the rule and standard of faith and practice, which show what works are good and what are not; by the use, help, and benefit of this;
I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer; such is the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning; antichrist, whose name is Abaddon and Apollyon, both which signify a destroyer; false teachers, and all wicked men: the "paths" of such are their wicked principles and practices, their damnable errors and heresies, their sins and lusts, which make up the broad road that leads to destruction: these the psalmist "kept" or "observed" (a), for the words "me" and "from" are not in the original text; and the sense is, that he took notice of them, and avoided them, and, as a faithful prince and magistrate, forbad his subjects walking in them, and restrained them from them, making the word of God the rule of his conduct.
(a) "custodivi", Pagninus, Montanus; "observavi", Musculus, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus; so Ainsworth; "vel prohibui", Muis.
psa 17:5Hold up my goings in thy paths,.... Which being spoken by David in his own person, and for himself, shows that he was conscious of his own weakness to keep himself in the ways of God, and to direct his steps therein; and that he was sensible of, the need he stood in of divine power to uphold and support him in them;
that my footsteps slip not; out of the paths of truth and duty, of faith and holiness; of which there is danger, should a man be left to himself, and destitute of divine direction and aid; see Psa 73:2; and though Christ had no moral weakness in him, and was in no danger of falling into sin, or slipping out of the ways of God; yet these words may be applied to him in a good sense, as considered in human nature, and attended with the sinless infirmities of it, he being God's servant, whom he upheld, and of whom he gave his angels charge to keep him in all his ways, Isa 42:1.
psa 17:6I have called upon thee,.... In prayer. This had been the constant practice of the psalmist, and he still continued in it;
for thou wilt hear me, O God; God is a God hearing prayer; he is used to hear his people, and they have frequent experience of it, and they may be assured that whatsoever they ask according to his will, and in the name of Christ, he will hear; and such an assurance is a reason engaging the saints to a constant calling upon God, Psa 116:2; and such confidence of being always heard Christ had, Joh 11:41;
incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech; meaning his prayer, which he now directed to him in full assurance of being heard, and is as follows.
psa 17:7Show thy marvellous loving kindness,.... Such is the lovingkindness of God to his people in Christ; which is sovereign, free, special, distinguishing, everlasting, and unchangeable; it is better than life, and passes knowledge; and which is set upon men and not angels, some and not all, and these many of them the worst and vilest of men, and all of them by nature children of wrath as others; and which has appeared in choosing them in Christ, putting them into his hand, and making a covenant with him for them; in sending him into the world to suffer and die for them; in regenerating, adopting, justifying, pardoning, and saving them with an everlasting salvation; all which is marvellous in their eyes, and will be the wonder of men and angels to all eternity: this sometimes is hidden from the objects of it, as it might be from the psalmist, and therefore he desires a manifestation of it to him; or else his sense is, that God would show to others in what a marvellous manner he loved him, by the help, deliverance, and salvation he would give him. Such a petition will agree with Christ; see Psa 40:10. Some render the words (b), "separate thy lovingkindness", or cause it to pass "from them that rise up on" or "against thy right hand"; but these were never the objects of it; and there is no separation of them from it, nor of that from them who are interested in it, Rom 8:38; much better may it be rendered, "separate" or "distinguish thy lovingkindness" (c); that is, let it appear that I have special interest in thy lovingkindness, distinct from others; distinguish me by thy lovingkindness, remember me with that which thou bearest to a peculiar people, Psa 106:4;
O thou that savest by thy right hand; either by his power, or by the man of his right hand, his own son;
them which put their trust in thee; not in men, not in an arm of flesh, not in themselves, in their own power, wisdom, riches, and righteousness; but in the Lord their God, who is the Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believe, Ti1 4:10; for these he saves both in a temporal and in a spiritual manner;
from those that rise up against them; from all their spiritual enemies, sin and Satan; and from all outward ones, from the men of the world, oppressors and violent persecutors, who are afterwards described: the phrase, "by thy right hand", is by some, as Aben Ezra, connected with the word trust, and rendered, "them which trust in thy right hand" (d); either in the grace, mercy, and favour of God, dispensed by his right hand; or in his strength, and the mighty power of his arm; and by others it is joined to the last clause, and so it stands in the original text, and rendered, "from those that rise up against thy right hand" (e); and so the words describe such persons who in a bold and presumptuous manner set themselves against God, and strengthen themselves against the Almighty; who resist his counsel and will, oppose themselves to the Lord and his Anointed, the man of his right hand, made strong for himself; and to his saints, who are as dear to him as his right hand, and who are preserved by him in the hollow of his hand.
(b) Kimchi & Ben Melech. (c) "separa", Junius & Tremellius; "segrega", Montanus; so some in Vatablus; see Ainsworth. (d) "eos qui fidunt in dextera tua", so some in Vatablus, Castalio, Ainsworth; "recipentes se ad dexteram suam", Junius & Tremellius. (e) "ob insurgentes in dexteram tuam", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius; so Michaelis, Gejerus, Musculus.
psa 17:8Keep me as the apple of the eye,.... Which is weak and tender, and is hurt and put to pain, and made uneasy by every little thing that annoys it, and than which nothing is more dear to a man, or he is more careful of preserving from being hurt; and fitly represents the weak estate and condition of God's people, his affection for them, and tender care of them; who as he has provided tunics for the eye, and guarded it with eyebrows, so he has taken care for the safety of his dear children, Deu 32:10;
hide me under the shadow of thy wings; alluding either to the wings of the cherubim over the mercy seat, where God granted his presence; so the Targum paraphrases it,
"under the shadow of thy Shechinah hide me;''
or to birds, who cover their young ones with their wings to save them from birds of prey; see Psa 91:1. From such passages perhaps the Heathens had their notion of presenting their gods with wings (f).
(f) Vid. Cuperi Apotheos. Homer. p. 169, &c.
psa 17:9From the wicked that oppress me,.... Or "waste" or "destroy" (g); as wild beasts do a field or vineyard when they get into it; and such havoc do persecutors and false teachers make of the church and people of God, when they are suffered to get in among them, Psa 80:13; wherefore from such wicked and unreasonable men protection is desired, Th2 3:2;
from my deadly enemies; enemies against his soul or life, who sought to take it away, nothing would satisfy them but this;
who compass me about; on all sides, in order to obtain their desire; such were the enemies of Christ, and so they are described, Psa 22:12.
(g) "quid vastant", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "qui vastaverunt", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Michaelis.
psa 17:10They are enclosed in their own fat,.... Or "their fat has enclosed them"; either their eyes, that they can hardly see out of them, or their hearts, so that they are stupid and senseless, and devoid of the fear of God; the phrase is expressive of the multitude of their wealth and increase of power, by which they were swelled with pride and vanity, and neither feared God nor regarded man; so the Targum paraphrases it,
"their riches are multiplied, their fat covers them;''
see Deu 32:15; some read it, "their fat shuts their mouths", so Aben Ezra and Kimchi; or "with their fat they shut them" (h); but the accent "athnach" will not admit of this reading; the last word belongs to the next clause;
with their mouth they speak proudly; against God and his people, belching out blasphemies against the one, and severe menaces and threatenings against the other.
(h) So De Dieu.
psa 17:11They have now compassed us in our steps,.... The sense is, they could not stir a step but they were at their heels, surrounding them on every side. This was true of David, when he was pursued by Saul, and followed by him to Keilah and the wilderness of Maon, Sa1 23:8; according to the "Cetib", or textual writing, it should be rendered, "they have compassed me"; but, according to the "Keri", or marginal reading, and the points, it is as we have translated it, and which is followed by the Targum, and both are right, and design David as a principal person, and those that were with him, who were encompassed by Saul and his men. This also was verified in Christ, when Judas followed him into the garden with a band of men to betray him, and when he was enclosed by wicked men as he went to the cross, and hung upon it, Joh 18:2; and may likewise be accommodated to the case of all the saints, who are troubled on every side, are beset with the corruptions of their hearts, the temptations of Satan, and the reproaches and persecutions of the men of the world, Co2 4:8;
they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; which posture either denotes fraudulence and hypocrisy, showing, by looking only upon the ground, as if they were harmless and inoffensive, and had no ill designs, and took no notice of anything; which, as it was true of David's enemies, so of the Jews and of Judas with respect to Christ, and of false teachers with respect to the church, Luk 20:20, Mat 7:15; or else inhumanity and contempt, not caring to turn their eyes to look upon them in distress, but kept their eyes fixed upon the earth, so Christ was treated by the Jews, Isa 53:3; or rather their being intent upon mischief, their diligence and watchfulness to observe all motions, and take every opportunity "to strike", or "cast me down to the earth", as the Arabic and Syriac versions render it; or the sense is, as Kimchi gives it, their eyes are upon our ways, to spread nets for us in the earth to take us.
psa 17:12Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey,.... Or "the likeness of him is as a lion" (i); meaning Saul, as Kimchi interprets it; or everyone of them that compassed them about, as Aben Ezra observes; sometimes wicked and persecuting princes are compared to lions, for their strength and cruelty; see Pro 28:15; so the devil is called a roaring lion, Pe1 5:8; and the antichristian beast is said to have the mouth of a lion, Rev 13:2;
and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places; to leap upon its prey, and seize it at once, as it has opportunity; this denotes the secret and insidious method which the enemies of Christ take to do mischief; see Psa 10:9.
(i) "similitudo ejus, vel cujusque est tanquam leonis", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius; so Musculus, Gejerus, Michaelis.
psa 17:13Arise, O Lord,.... See Psa 3:7;
disappoint him, or "prevent his face" (k); be beforehand with him, and so disappoint him, when he is about to seize his prey; who is comparable to the lion, or to the young lion; meaning the chief of his enemies, it may be Saul;
cast him down; everyone of them that set themselves to cast down others to the earth. Jarchi's note is,
"cut off his feet,''
that he may bow down and fall;
deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword; so Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, render the words; that is, from wicked men, whom God makes use of as instruments to afflict and chastise his people: so the Assyrian monarch is called the "rod" of his anger, with whom he scourged his people Israel, Isa 10:5. Compare with this Psa 22:20. The words are rendered by some, "deliver my soul from the wicked by thy swords" (l); meaning not the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God by which Christ was delivered from the wicked one, when tempted by him in the wilderness; but the avenging justice of God, the sword of the Lord, which, being whetted and taken hold on, and used by him, brings vengeance on his enemies, and salvation to his people; see Deu 32:41. The Targum paraphrases the clause thus,
"deliver my soul from the wicked, who deserves to be slain by thy sword.''
(k) "praeveni faciem ejus", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Musculus, Gejerus; "anticipa faciem ejus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (l) "gladio tuo ab improbis", Junius & Tremellius; Gejerus; so Ainsworth.
psa 17:14From men which are thy hand, O Lord,.... Some understand these words, with what follows, as independent of the former, and of another set of men, even of good men; so the Targum,
"and the righteous who deliver their souls for thy sake, O Lord, unto death in the earth, their portion is in eternal life;''
so Jarchi gives the like sense of them: but the words are to be connected with the preceding, as they are by Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech; and the sense is, deliver my soul from men, which are instruments in thine hand to chastise thy people: so even Satan himself, and the Sabeans and Chaldeans, whom he instigated to afflict Job, are called the "hand" of the Lord that touched him, because he suffered them to do what they did for the trial of him, Job 19:21. The words may be rendered, "the men of thy hand" (m); who are raised up by thine hand to the power and dignity they have; and who can easily be pulled down by it; and who are in thine hand, and at thy beck and control, and whose wrath and fury thou canst restrain. Or they may be rendered, "from men by thy hand" (n); that is, deliver me from them by thy strong hand and mighty power; as Israel of old was delivered from the Egyptians by the strong and mighty hand of God;
from men of the world: who are, as they were when they came into the world, in sin, in darkness, and in a carnal and unregenerate state; who are not only in the world, but of it, and belong to it, and to it only; and are under the influence of the god of the world, and are taken with the lusts and pleasures of it, and live in them and serve them: and are of worldly spirits, inordinately love the things of the world, mind earth and earthly things, and are unconcerned about the things of another world; see Luk 16:8;
which have their portion in this life; and in this only; have a large share of the good things of this life; and which is all their portion, Luk 16:25;
and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: earthly treasure, as gold and silver, which is called hid treasure, because it is first hid in the bowels of the earth, out of which it is dug, and afterwards hid in the coffers of worldly men; and oftentimes kept to the hurt of the owners of it. Or the phrase may denote the value and preciousness of it. And to have the belly filled with this is to have a very great affluence and plenty of it; though it is very rare, let it be ever so large, that men are fully satisfied with it;
they are full of children; which among the eastern nations was reckoned a considerable part of outward prosperity and happiness; see Job 21:7; or their "children are full", or "filled" (o) with hidden treasure also;
and leave the rest of their substance to their babes; their children's children; their grandchildren, as Kimchi explains it; and which is said, not by way of complaint, as an evil in them, since it is lawful and right for parents to lay up for their children, and leave it to them: unless the sense is, that they engross all to themselves, and to their posterity, in life and death; while they live, they indulge their sensual appetites and lusts, and fill themselves and theirs, but give nothing to the poor and hungry; nor part with anything for the interest of God and true religion; and when they die leave nothing for such use and service, but all to their posterity: but rather the phrase is expressive of their great plenty; that having lived in and enjoyed great fulness themselves, and given large portions to their children, yet have much left; which, at death, they bequeath to the young generation. Now from such men in power and dignity, and from being hurt by them, as well as from communion and conversation with them, the psalmist desires to be delivered; and expresses his satisfaction in other and better things than they enjoy, in the following words.
(m) "ab inimieis manus tuae", V. L. so Sept. "a viris manus tuae", Lutherus, Musculus. (n) "Manu tua", Montaus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus. (o) "saturantur vel satiantur filii", Munster, Muis, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus; so Targ. Ar. Ainsworth.
psa 17:15As for me,.... I do not desire to be in their place and stead, with all their plenty and prosperity; I am content with my present condition and situation: for
I will, or "shall"
behold thy face in righteousness; that is, appear before God in public worship, where was the ark, the symbol of the face of God; enjoy his gracious presence, have the discoveries of his love, and see his face and favour; than which nothing was more desirable by him and delightful to him. Or God himself may be meant by "his face"; and especially God as he is to be beheld in the face of Christ, the Angel of his presence; and who is to be beheld by faith in the present state of things, though as through a glass, darkly; and in the future state perfectly, and as he is, both with the eyes of the understanding, and, after the resurrection, with the eyes of the body; see Job 19:26; and to this state the psalmist seems more especially to have respect, as Jarchi interprets it: and the beatific vision of God in Christ will be very glorious and exceeding delightful; it will be assimilating and appropriating; it will be free from all darkness and interruption, and will continue for ever. And this shall be seen "in righteousness"; the psalmist believing that he should then appear as an innocent person clear of all the false charges brought against him; and so this may be understood of the righteousness of his cause, in which he should stand before God, and enjoy communion with him:, or this may design that perfect holiness and purity of heart, without which no man shall see the Lord; and which, though now imperfect, shall in the other state be without spot or blemish: or rather, the righteousness of Christ, which fits believers for, and in which they are brought into and stand in, the King's presence;
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness; which will be in the resurrection morn: or, as Jarchi expresses it, when the dead shall awake from their sleep; for this is not to be understood of awaking from natural sleep in the morning; when it is a satisfaction to a believer to be with God, and to have God with him, Psa 139:18; nor of awaking from a sleepy drowsy frame of spirit, which sometimes attends the saints; but of rising from the dead: for as death is oftentimes expressed by sleep in Scripture, so the resurrection by an awaking out of it, Isa 26:19; at which time the saints will arise with the image of the heavenly One upon them: they will be like to Christ both in soul and body; in soul, in perfect knowledge and complete holiness: in body, in incorruption and immortality, in power, glory, and spirituality; in this will lie their happiness and satisfaction. Or the meaning is, that he should be satisfied with the likeness of God, with Christ the image of God, when he should arise from the dead; seeing he should then appear with him in glory, see him as he is, and be like him, and be for ever in his presence; which will yield endless pleasure and unspeakable satisfaction. For the words may be interpreted, not of David's awaking, but of the glory of God awaking or appearing; which would afford an infinitely greater satisfaction than worldly men have in worldly things (p), to which this is opposed, Psa 17:10; so the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions read, I shall be satisfied when thy glory appears, or is seen; and so the Ethiopic and Arabic versions.
(p) Vid. Castel. Lexic. Heptaglott. col. 2014.