Psalm 17:1-15

A Prayer of David.

1 Hear a just cause, O Lord,
Attend to my cry;
Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.

Let my vindication come from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.

You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

Concerning the works of men,
By the word of Your lips,
I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.

Uphold my steps in Your paths,
That my footsteps may not slip.

I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God;
Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.

Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,
O You who save those who trust in You
From those who rise up against them.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,

From the wicked who oppress me,
From my deadly enemies who surround me.

10 They have closed up their fat hearts;
With their mouths they speak proudly.

11 They have now surrounded us in our steps;
They have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth,

12 As a lion is eager to tear his prey,
And like a young lion lurking in secret places.

13 Arise, O Lord,
Confront him, cast him down;
Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,

14 With Your hand from men, O Lord,
From men of the world who have their portion in this life,
And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their possession for their babes.

15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

The 17th Psalm was a prayer of David which was probably written in the wilderness of Maon when King Saul and his men thought they were in the very act of capturing David. The story is told in 1 Samuel 23. Though David prayed the prayer and made the predictions therein, the Psalm goes far beyond him to present a view of the sinless Messiah.

At no time in the life of David could the virtues mentioned have been those of David. These were as follows:

The all searching eyes of Jehovah found no fault in Him (v.3).

There was no deceit in his lips (v.4).

A mouth of no transgression (v.4).

His steps never slipped (v.5).

Christ alone could claim such perfection; He was the holy, righteous One. He is pronounced righteous ten times in this psalm. — Phillips, pages 34-35.

Prayer (heading) — five psalms are called prayers — this one, the 86th, 90th, 102nd and the 142nd.

A comparison of these five psalms bears out, not unexpectedly, certain similarities that serve to mutually reinforce and clarify the content of each psalm individually. Especially prominent in each of these psalms is the explicit phraseological-conceptual triumvirate of (1) an appeal that God “hear” or “give heed” — or in the case of Psalm 90, to “return” with a compassionate answer — to the psalmist’s cry/supplication, (2) a description of the “affliction,” “trouble,” or “distress” of the psalmist or the people of Israel collectively, and (3) an appeal to God’s “lovingkindness,” “compassion,” and/or “grace.” — Wechsler, page 59-60.


The speaker in this psalm, as in the previous one, is the Messiah; but here in verses 7 and 11 He associates His people with Himself. The Messiah appeals to God from the unjust judgment of man, and claims an affirmative sentence upon His upright conduct. — Williams, page 308.

attend (v.1) = favorably answer

hear (v.1) — Such words as hear, attend, give ear, let thy eyes see give shape and force both to the cry (lit. a loud cry) from his heart, and to the strong conviction of his own righteousness. These are thrown into greater prominence, first, by an implicit comparison with the prayer of lips … of deceit, and secondly by his clear sense of innocence, shown in his willingness to be scrutinized by Thy eyes which see the right of the matter. — Guthrie, page 460.


The second verse may read thus: Let sentence in My favor be pronounced by Thee; for Thine eyes discern upright actions. — Williams, pages 308-309.

tested (v.3) = tried, melted, as gold is tried in the furnace and found to have no dross.

night (v.3) — This, and the final phrase in verse 15, may indicate that this psalm was written for the evening.

I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress (v.3) — an expression of sincerity

The path of the Destroyer and the path of Jehovah are contrasted in verses 4 and 5, and the statement is made that preservation from the one and perseverance in the other alone are secured by allegiance to the Scriptures. This was demonstrated in the temptation in the desert. The Destroyer (v.4) and the Wicked, and the Enemies (v.9) are titles proper to the future Antichrist and his followers. The Hebrew text distinguishes between Wicked One and wicked men. — Williams, page 309.


I have called (v.6) — The note of passionate appeal is reintroduced in such words as I call, Thou wilt answer me, incline, hear, show, and there is again in indirect allusion to his opponents (v.7c). The new note, as compared with the preemptoriness of vs. 1-2, is that of worship and trust. — Guthrie, page 460.


After the 6th verse, the Messiah makes an appeal for the saved of any period, but particularly for the saved remnant of the Tribulation period. Isaiah foresaw the Messiah identifying Himself with the afflicted remnant of Israel in the last days (Isaiah 63:7-9). When Christ spoke to Saul of Tarsus He did not say, Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute believers in Me?” but He said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” It is like that in this section of Psalm 17; He identifies Himself  with the persecuted saints. David was persecuted and suffered, and that was a prophetic type of the suffering Christ. — Phillips, page 37.

apple (v.8) = the little man of the eye; the pupil, the middle — so, protect him as a man would react to any threat to his eye

fat (v.10) = unfeeling

crouching down to the earth (v.11) = to cast me down to the ground, to throw me down

the wicked with Your sword (13) — “The wicked, Thy sword” (not “with Thy sword,” there being no preposition in the Hebrew text) — i.e., the “sword” of God’s chastisement (on the well-recognized biblical principle of God using the wicked to chastise and refine believers). — Wechsler, page 61.

David is aware that it often appears that the wicked are rewarded with their desires (v.14), but he knows that that reward is only in this life and, often, carries its own punishment. The sense of the verse is that the wicked are motivated by treasure and look to accumulate it on earth and leave it to their children, rather than seeking rewards in heaven.

David concludes in characteristic fashion by looking beyond the present life to his guaranteed future state in eternity — a state characterized by perfect righteousness (here serving to “bookend” the psalm with the same term in verse 1 — albeit there translated “just cause”) — when he will behold the face (or “presence”) of God. Implicit in this conclusion is the recognition (and acceptance of the possibility) that God may choose, for now (or for his life), not to protect him from further affliction by the wicked, but rather — as in the case of Job — to permit it for David’s further refinement (not necessarily chastisement), and in the end, therefore, for God’s greater glory. — Wechsler, pages 61-62.

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