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Psalm 17[a]

A prayer of David.

17 Lord, consider my just cause.[b]
Pay attention to my cry for help.
Listen to the prayer
I sincerely offer.[c]
Make a just decision on my behalf.[d]
Decide what is right.[e]
You have scrutinized my inner motives;[f]
you have examined me during the night.[g]
You have carefully evaluated me, but you find no sin.
I am determined I will say nothing sinful.[h]
As for the actions of people[i]
just as you have commanded,
I have not followed in the footsteps of violent men.[j]
I carefully obey your commands;[k]
I do not deviate from them.[l]
I call to you because you will answer me, O God.
Listen to me![m]
Hear what I say![n]
Accomplish awesome, faithful deeds,[o]
you who powerfully deliver those who look to you for protection from their enemies.[p]
Protect me as you would protect the pupil of your eye.[q]
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.[r]
Protect me from[s] the wicked men who attack[t] me,
my enemies who crowd around me for the kill.[u]
10 They are calloused;[v]
they speak arrogantly.[w]
11 They attack me, now they surround me;[x]
they intend to throw me to the ground.[y]
12 He[z] is like a lion[aa] that wants to tear its prey to bits,[ab]
like a young lion crouching[ac] in hidden places.
13 Rise up, Lord!
Confront him.[ad] Knock him down.[ae]
Use your sword to rescue me from the wicked man.[af]
14 Lord, use your power to deliver me from these murderers,[ag]
from the murderers of this world.[ah]
They enjoy prosperity;[ai]
you overwhelm them with the riches they desire.[aj]
They have many children,
and leave their wealth to their offspring.[ak]
15 As for me, because I am innocent I will see your face;[al]
when I awake you will reveal yourself to me.[am]


  1. Psalm 17:1 sn Psalm 17. The psalmist asks God to intervene on his behalf because his life is threatened by dangerous enemies. He appeals to divine justice, for he is certain of his own innocence. Because he is innocent, he expects to encounter God and receive an assuring word.
  2. Psalm 17:1 tn Heb “hear, Lord, what is just.”
  3. Psalm 17:1 tn Heb “Listen to my prayer, [made] without lips of deceit.”
  4. Psalm 17:2 tn Heb “From before you may my justice come out.” The prefixed verbal form יָצָא (yatsaʾ) could be taken as an imperfect, but following the imperatives in v. 1, it is better understood as a jussive of prayer.
  5. Psalm 17:2 tn Heb “May your eyes look at what is right.” The prefixed verbal form is understood as jussive. (See also the preceding note on the word “behalf.”)
  6. Psalm 17:3 tn Heb “you tested my heart.”
  7. Psalm 17:3 tn Heb “you visited [at] night.”
  8. Psalm 17:3 tc Heb “you tested me, you do not find, I plan, my mouth will not cross over.” The Hebrew verbal form זַמֹּתִי (zammoti) is a Qal perfect, first person singular from the root זָמַם (zamam, “plan, plan evil”). Some emend the form to a suffixed form of the noun, זִמָּתִי (zimmati, “my plan/evil plan”), and take it as the object of the preceding verb “find.” However, the suffix seems odd, since the psalmist is denying that he has any wrong thoughts. If one takes the form with what precedes, it might make better sense to read זִמּוֹת (zimmot, “evil plans”). However, this emendation leaves an unclear connection with the next line. The present translation maintains the verbal form found in the MT and understands it in a neutral sense, “I have decided” (see Jer 4:28). The words “my mouth will not cross over” (i.e., “transgress, sin”) can then be taken as a noun clause functioning as the object of the verb.
  9. Psalm 17:4 tn Heb “with regard to the deeds of man[kind].”
  10. Psalm 17:4 tn Heb “by the word of your lips, I, I have watched the paths of the violent” (i.e., “watched” in the sense of “watched for the purpose of avoiding”).
  11. Psalm 17:5 tn Heb “my steps stay firm in your tracks.” The infinitive absolute functions here as a finite verb (see GKC 347 § God’s “tracks” are his commands, i.e., the moral pathways he has prescribed for the psalmist.
  12. Psalm 17:5 tn Heb “my footsteps do not stagger.”
  13. Psalm 17:6 tn Heb “Turn your ear toward me.”
  14. Psalm 17:6 tn Heb “my word.”
  15. Psalm 17:7 tn Heb “Set apart faithful acts.”
  16. Psalm 17:7 tn Heb “[O] one who delivers those who seek shelter from the ones raising themselves up, by your right hand.” The Lord’s “right hand” here symbolizes his power to protect and Those who look to you for protection from their enemies. “Seeking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear and serve the Lord (Pss 5:11-12; 31:17-20; 34:21-22).
  17. Psalm 17:8 tc Heb “Protect me like the pupil, a daughter of an eye.” The noun בַּת (bat, “daughter”) should probably be emended to בָּבַת (bavat, “pupil”). See Zech 2:12 HT (2:8 ET) and HALOT 107 s.v. *בָּבָה.
  18. Psalm 17:8 sn Your wings. The metaphor compares God to a protective mother bird.
  19. Psalm 17:9 tn Heb “from before”; or “because.” In the Hebrew text v. 9 is subordinated to v. 8. The words “protect me” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  20. Psalm 17:9 tn Heb “destroy.” The psalmist uses the perfect verbal form to emphasize the degree of danger. He describes the wicked as being already in the process of destroying him.
  21. Psalm 17:9 tn Heb “my enemies, at the risk of life they surround me.” The Hebrew phrase בְּנֶפֶשׁ (benefesh) sometimes has the nuance “at the risk of [one’s] life” (see 1 Kgs 2:23; Prov 7:23; Lam 5:9).
  22. Psalm 17:10 tn Heb “their fat they close.” The Hebrew term חֵלֶב (khelev, “fat”) appears to stand by metonymy for their calloused hearts. They attack the psalmist without feeling any pity or remorse. Some propose emending the text to חֵלֶב לִבָּמוֹ (khelev libbamo, “fat of their heart[s]; cf. Ps 119:70, “their heart is insensitive like fat”). This assumes haplography of the לב (lamed-bet) consonantal sequence.
  23. Psalm 17:10 tn Heb “[with] their mouth they speak with arrogance.”
  24. Psalm 17:11 tc Heb “our steps, now they surround me.” The Kethib (consonantal text) has “surround me,” while the Qere (marginal reading) has “surround us,” harmonizing the pronoun to the preceding “our steps.” The first person plural pronoun does not fit the context, where the psalmist speaks as an individual. In the preceding verses the psalmist uses a first person singular verbal or pronominal form twenty times. For this reason it is preferable to emend “our steps” to אִשְּׁרוּנִי (ʾisheruni, “they attack me”) from the verbal root אָשַׁר (ʾashar, “march, stride, track”).
  25. Psalm 17:11 tn Heb “their eyes they set to bend down in the ground.”
  26. Psalm 17:12 tn Here the psalmist switches to the singular pronoun; he views his enemies collectively, or singles out a representative of the group, perhaps its leader.
  27. Psalm 17:12 tn Heb “his likeness [is] like a lion.”
  28. Psalm 17:12 tn Heb “[that] longs to tear.”
  29. Psalm 17:12 tn Heb “sitting.”
  30. Psalm 17:13 tn Heb “Be in front of his face.”
  31. Psalm 17:13 tn Or “bring him to his knees.”
  32. Psalm 17:13 tn Heb “rescue my life from the wicked [one] [by] your sword.”
  33. Psalm 17:14 tc Heb “from men [by] your hand, Lord.” The translation assumes an emendation (both here and in the following line) of מִמְתִים (mimetim, “from men”) to מִמְּמִתִים (mimmemitim, “from those who kill”). For other uses of the plural form of the Hiphil participle of מוּת (mut, “die”), see 2 Kgs 17:26 (used with lions as subject), Job 33:22 (apparently referring to the agents of death), and Jer 26:15 (used of those seeking Jeremiah’s life).
  34. Psalm 17:14 tn Heb “from men, from [the] world.” On the emendation of “men” to “murderers,” see the preceding note on the word “murderers.”
  35. Psalm 17:14 tn Heb “their portion, in life.”
  36. Psalm 17:14 tn Heb “and [with] your treasures you fill their belly.”sn You overwhelm them with the riches they desire. The psalmist is not accusing God of being unjust; he is simply observing that the wicked often prosper and that God is the ultimate source of all blessings that human beings enjoy (see Matt 5:45). When the wicked are ungrateful for God’s blessings, they become even more culpable and deserving of judgment. So this description of the wicked actually supports the psalmist’s appeal for deliverance. God should rescue him because he is innocent (see vv. 3-5) and because the wicked, though blessed abundantly by God, still have the audacity to attack God’s people.
  37. Psalm 17:14 tn Heb “they are satisfied [with] sons and leave their abundance to their children.”
  38. Psalm 17:15 tn Heb “I, in innocence, I will see your face.” To “see” God’s “face” means to have access to his presence and to experience his favor (see Ps 11:7; see also Job 33:26 [where רָאָה (ra’ah), not חָזַה (khazah), is used]). Here, however, the psalmist may be anticipating a mystical experience. See the following note on the word “me.”
  39. Psalm 17:15 tn Heb “I will be satisfied, when I awake, [with] your form.” The noun תְּמוּנָה (temunah) normally carries the nuance “likeness” or “form.” In Job 4:16 it refers to a ghostlike spiritual entity (see Job 4:15) that revealed itself to Eliphaz during the night. The psalmist may anticipate a mystical encounter with God in which he expects to see a manifestation of God’s presence (i.e., a theophany), perhaps in conjunction with an oracle of deliverance. During the quiet darkness of the night, God examines the psalmist’s inner motives and finds them to be pure (see v. 3). The psalmist is confident that when he awakens, perhaps sometime during the night or in the morning, he will be visited by God and assured of When I awake you will reveal yourself to me. Some see in this verse an allusion to resurrection. According to this view, when the psalmist awakens from the sleep of death, he will see God. It is unlikely that the psalmist had such a highly developed personal eschatology. As noted above, it is more likely that he is anticipating a divine visitation and mystical encounter as a prelude to his deliverance from his enemies.