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Psalm chapter 17

New International Version

1 A prayer of David. Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer-- it does not rise from deceitful lips.
2 Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. 3 Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed. 4 Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded.
5 My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. 6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. 7 Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. 8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings
9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. 10 They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. 11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover. 13 Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
14 By your hand save me from such people, LORD, from those of this world whose reward is in this life. May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies; may their children gorge themselves on it, and may there be leftovers for their little ones. 15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
English Standard Version

1 A Prayer of David. Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit! 2 From your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right! 3 You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress. 4 With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. 5 My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped. 6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words. 7 Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. 8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, 9 from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me. 10 They close their hearts to pity; with their mouths they speak arrogantly. 11 They have now surrounded our steps; they set their eyes to cast us to the ground. 12 He is like a lion eager to tear, as a young lion lurking in ambush. 13 Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, 14 from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. 15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
King James Version

1 {A Prayer of David.} Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. 2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal. 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. 4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. 5 Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. 6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. 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 against them.
8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, 9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. 10 They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. 11 They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; 12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. 13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: 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. 15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
New American Standard Bible

1 Hear a just cause, LORD, give Your attention to my cry; Listen to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips. 2 Let my judgment come forth from Your presence; Let Your eyes look with integrity. 3 You 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. 4 As for the works of mankind, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the ways of the violent. 5 My steps have held to Your paths. My feet have not slipped. 6 I have called upon You, for You will answer me, God; Incline Your ear to me, hear my speech. 7 Show Your wonderful faithfulness, Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand From those who rise up against them. 8 Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings 9 From the wicked who deal violently with me, My deadly enemies who surround me. 10 They have closed their unfeeling hearts, With their mouths they speak proudly. 11 They have now surrounded us in our steps; They set their eyes to cast us down to the ground. 12 He is like a lion that is eager to tear, And as a young lion lurking in secret places. 13 Arise, LORD, confront him, make him bow down; Save my soul from the wicked with Your sword, 14 From 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. 15 As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.
New Living Translation

1 A prayer of David. O LORD, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help. Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips. 2 Declare me innocent, for you see those who do right.
3 You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night. You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong. I am determined not to sin in what I say. 4 I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people. 5 My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you.
6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. 7 Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies. 8 Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. 9 Protect me from wicked people who attack me, from murderous enemies who surround me. 10 They are without pity. Listen to their boasting! 11 They track me down and surround me, watching for the chance to throw me to the ground. 12 They are like hungry lions, eager to tear me apart--like young lions hiding in ambush.
13 Arise, O LORD! Stand against them, and bring them to their knees! Rescue me from the wicked with your sword! 14 By the power of your hand, O LORD, destroy those who look to this world for their reward. But satisfy the hunger of your treasured ones. May their children have plenty, leaving an inheritance for their descendants. 15 Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
Christian Standard Bible

1 Lord, hear a just cause; pay attention to my cry; listen to my prayer -- from lips free of deceit. 2 Let my vindication come from you, for you see what is right. 3 You have tested my heart; you have examined me at night. You have tried me and found nothing evil; I have determined that my mouth will not sin. 4 Concerning what people do: by the words from your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.
5 My steps are on your paths; my feet have not slipped. 6 I call on you, God, because you will answer me; listen closely to me; hear what I say. 7 Display the wonders of your faithful love, Savior of all who seek refuge from those who rebel against your right hand. 8 Protect me as the pupil of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings
9 from the wicked who treat me violently, my deadly enemies who surround me. 10 They are uncaring; their mouths speak arrogantly. 11 They advance against me; now they surround me. They are determined to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush. 13 Rise up, Lord! Confront him; bring him down. With your sword, save me from the wicked.
14 With your hand, Lord, save me from men, from men of the world whose portion is in this life: You fill their bellies with what you have in store; their sons are satisfied, and they leave their surplus to their children. 15 But I will see your face in righteousness; when I awake, I will be satisfied with your presence.

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 infamous 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).