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Psalm 17:4

ESV With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.
NIV Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded.
NASB As for the works of mankind, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the ways of the violent.
CSB Concerning what people do: by the words from your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.
NLT I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
KJV Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.

What does Psalm 17:4 mean?

Here, David describes the efforts of human beings as violent. The Bible overflows with evidence of human violence. From Cain who killed his brother (Genesis 4:8) to the reign of terror in the tribulation period (Matthew 24:22) violence has marked and will mark man's downward path away from God. Of course, the epitome of evil violence occurred when sinful mankind crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8).

David testifies that he has avoided the ways of the violent by heeding God's Word. Psalm 119 points out that love for God's Word keeps a person from sin (Psalm 119:11), and later writes: "I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me" (Psalm 119:30). Obeying God and avoiding sin involves a choice, and David made the right choice. So did Joshua, who commanded Israel: "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15). He added: "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

A distinction should be made here between David's experience with combat (Psalm 144:1) and the "violence" he denounces here. This verse uses the Hebrew word pā'ris, which implies someone savage, animalistic, and uncontrolled (Ezekiel 18:10; Daniel 11:14; Isaiah 35:9). The modern English term "violence" is broad enough to include things like war or self-defense, but David's terminology refers to something more specific. Later in this psalm, David will again compare his enemies to predators (Psalm 17:11–12).
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