A PSALM OF DAVID
[Psalms 17:1] HEAR THE RIGHT, O LORD, ATTEND UNTO MY CRY, GIVE EAR UNTO MY
PRAYER, THAT GOETH NOT OUT OF FEIGNED LIPS.
<<RIGHT>>: Hebrew "tsedek" i.e. justice.
<< MY CRY>>: Hebrew "rinati" my exultation usually used in the sense of joy
but S.R. Hirsch says it can apply to strong emotional expression in
general. He is praying in a genuine manner for a righteous cause.
[Psalms 17:2] LET MY SENTENCE COME FORTH FROM THY PRESENCE; LET THINE EYES
BEHOLD THE THINGS THAT ARE EQUAL.
<<LET MY SENTENCE COME FORTH FROM THY PRESENCE>>: Rashi: For things I
deserve to be punished over them put away from before you and let judgement
not be passed.
<<THINGS THAT ARE EQUAL>>: Hebrew "maysharim" meaning "straightforward
matters", "upright dealings" from the root "Yashar" – straight, ascertain.
From here ultimately came the English words "sure", "assure".
[Psalms 17:3] THOU HAST PROVED MINE HEART; THOU HAST VISITED ME IN THE
NIGHT; THOU HAST TRIED ME, AND SHALT FIND NOTHING; I AM PURPOSED THAT MY
MOUTH SHALL NOT TRANSGRESS.
The person praying has withstood temptation and also held up under
tribulation. He has run the course of doubt and deliberation and come
through strengthened by his ordeal.
[Psalms 17:4] CONCERNING THE WORKS OF MEN, BY THE WORD OF THY LIPS I HAVE
KEPT ME FROM THE PATHS OF THE DESTROYER.
Radak: I keep your laws and will and keep others from doing wrong and from
breaking the boundaries.
[We are explaining this psalm as it seems to us but some of the
Commentaries take a quite different path that may be equally valid or more so.].
[Psalms 17:5] HOLD UP MY GOINGS IN THY PATHS, THAT MY FOOTSTEPS SLIP NOT.
[Psalms 17:6] I HAVE CALLED UPON THEE, FOR THOU WILT HEAR ME, O GOD:
INCLINE THINE EAR UNTO ME, AND HEAR MY SPEECH.
[Psalms 17:7] SHEW THY MARVELLOUS LOVINGKINDNESS, O THOU THAT SAVEST BY THY
RIGHT HAND THEM WHICH PUT THEIR TRUST IN THEE FROM THOSE THAT RISE UP
<<SHEW THY MARVELLOUS LOVINGKINDNESS>>: Go beyond the bounds of normalcy.
David had been appointed king by the Almighty. Those that rose against
David were defying the Almighty (Radak).
[Psalms 17:8] KEEP ME AS THE APPLE OF THE EYE, HIDE ME UNDER THE SHADOW OF
<<AS THE APPLE OF THE EYE>>: I understand this (as most others also
would) to mean "Keep me as you instinctively would guard the pupil of your
eye" but S.R. Hirch claims it means "eyelid" i.e. keep me as the eyelid
protects the eye. Either way the basic meaning is the same.
[Psalms 17:9] FROM THE WICKED THAT OPPRESS ME, FROM MY DEADLY ENEMIES,
WHO COMPASS ME ABOUT.
David was a king who attempted to rule righteously. He was beset round
about with advisors and all kinds of well-to-doers who often had their own
agenda that was not in line with the righteous aims of the king. David
considered these self-seekers to be his personal enemies. His standards
were far beyond those we take for granted nowadays. He was one of a kind.
His task was to set a precedent of rulership and create a pattern of action
that some time in the future may be once again taken up and developed.
[Psalms 17:10] THEY ARE INCLOSED IN THEIR OWN FAT: WITH THEIR MOUTH THEY
It is inevitable that even the good we do will be somehow connected with a
search for our own benefit, our own "fat". There is nothing wrong with this
as long as it is kept in the right perspective and subsidiary to the true
search. The same applies to pride. We will always want something to gratify
our ego. This may be accepted and acceptable but it must always be a minor
consideration and one that is ignored whenever necessary. We may not all
want to be saints all the time but we do not have to become sinners either.
The people who were against David wanted to impose their own conceptions on
Israel and the world. So to nowadays the whole world is against the State
of Israel and within the State of Israel exist godless people who work
against the State because of their own proud wish to impose their personal
misconceptions over others.
[Psalms 17:11] THEY HAVE NOW COMPASSED US IN OUR STEPS: THEY HAVE SET THEIR
EYES BOWING DOWN TO THE EARTH;
The enemy is waiting for us to make a slip (Radak, Iben Ezra).
[Psalms 17:12] LIKE AS A LION THAT IS GREEDY OF HIS PREY, AND AS IT WERE A
YOUNG LION LURKING IN SECRET PLACES.
The evildoers are lying in ambush like a lion stalking its prey.
[Psalms 17:13] ARISE, O LORD, DISAPPOINT HIM, CAST HIM DOWN: DELIVER MY
SOUL FROM THE WICKED, WHICH IS THY SWORD:
This could apply to physical enemies but I guess it applies to David
wishing to escape from bad advice and wicked machinations of these in his
kingdom who were (consciously or not) seeking to divert his rule from its
righteous and necessary path.
[Psalms 17:14] FROM MEN WHICH ARE THY HAND, O LORD, FROM MEN OF THE WORLD,
WHICH HAVE THEIR PORTION IN THIS LIFE, AND WHOSE BELLY THOU FILLEST WITH
THY HID TREASURE: THEY ARE FULL OF CHILDREN, AND LEAVE THE REST OF THEIR
SUBSTANCE TO THEIR BABES.
This verse is more difficult in the Hebrew to explain than it looks.
Malbim: The men who run this world according to your will receive a reward
in this life for themselves and their offspring. It can be interpreted
The concept of reward and punishment: There exists the principle that for
what good bad people do they will be rewarded in this world and not in the
next whereas the main reward of the righteous will be in the Future Life.
This is so BUT on the whole there is a general principle that for
everything you do you will be either rewarded or punished both in this
world and the next. There exist apparent exceptions where bad people appear
to have it good and good people suffer but in this too different
explanations exist. If we could see the whole picture we would agree that
things be as they are. In some way we already agree. At the same time
disagreeable situations come upon us in order that we take heed and change
what can be changed for the better. Often it only requires the first
step to improve everything significantly.
[Psalms 17:15] AS FOR ME, I WILL BEHOLD THY FACE IN RIGHTEOUSNESS: I SHALL
BE SATISFIED, WHEN I AWAKE, WITH THY LIKENESS.
Through righteousness we may one day approach the Almighty. When we awaken
(in the next life?) we will look upon HIS face when we have done what we
should here and now.
Note: The psalms were written in Biblical Hebrew and are difficult to
translate often deliberately containing a manifold message capable of
several interpretations. The translations we have in our possession usually
offer an acceptable possibility but we are going according to what we understand to be
the most pertinent according to what seems to us to have been the original intention.
Instead of writing this commentary I could be discussing political matters
etc but I would not be certain of what I say.
Through the Psalms and the Bible in general the real innermost realizations
of each one of us find expression.