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Psalm chapter 17

English Standard Version

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

1Hear a just cause, Lord, give Your attention to my cry; Listen to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips. 2Let my judgment come forth from Your presence; Let Your eyes look with integrity. 3You have put my heart to the test; You have visited me by night; You have sifted me and You find nothing; My intent is that my mouth will not offend. 4As for the works of mankind, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the ways of the violent. 5My steps have held to Your paths. My feet have not slipped. 6I have called upon You, for You will answer me, God; Incline Your ear to me, hear my speech. 7Show Your wonderful faithfulness, Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand From those who rise up against them. 8Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings 9From the wicked who deal violently with me, My deadly enemies who surround me. 10They have closed their unfeeling hearts, With their mouths they speak proudly. 11They have now surrounded us in our steps; They set their eyes to cast us down to the ground. 12He is like a lion that is eager to tear, And as a young lion lurking in secret places. 13Arise, Lord, confront him, make him bow down; Save my soul from the wicked with Your sword, 14From people by Your hand, Lord, From people of the world, whose portion is in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your treasure; They are satisfied with children, And leave their abundance to their babies. 15As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.
New Living Translation

King James Version

What does Psalm chapter 17 mean?

Psalm 17 shares several phrases and themes with Psalm 16. A key difference is this psalm's sense of urgency. David's prayer here seems more desperate than the pensive words of Psalm 16. This is one of the psalms specifically labeled as a "prayer," also including psalms 86, 90, 102, and 142. Likely, this was composed when David was being hunted and persecuted by the evil king Saul (1 Samuel 20:32–33).

David begins with an intense plea for deliverance. Much of this revolves around a profession of innocence. Knowing that God is not inclined to grant requests from evil people (Psalm 66:18–19), David points out that he is sincerely and consistently following God. This includes both David's outward actions and his inner thoughts (Psalm 17:1–5).

The next section focuses on the nature of God's protection. David expresses deep trust that God not only hears, but also that He will answer when David prays. David asks to be held with tender protection, using two phrases famous even outside of Scripture. What English translators often render as "the apple of your eye" is literally a reference to the pupil: the central spot of the eyeball. This is arguably the most closely protected part of our body, guarded from even the slightest touch. In a similar way, David appeals to the image of a mother bird using her wings to shield her children (Psalm 17:6–8).

Those whom David seeks to escape are depicted as arrogant and merciless, like predatory animals. In this segment, David shifts to asking for "our" deliverance, likely including his companions (1 Samuel 22:1–2). At the same time, his prayer shifts to mention a singular enemy, likely Saul. While David sees his "portion" as God (Psalm 16:5–6), he knows those who reject God have nothing to look forward to beyond this life. Their "portion" is only in this temporary world. David, on his part, expects to see God's face and be satisfied (Psalm 17:9–15).
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