What does Psalm 17:12 mean?
ESV: He is like a lion eager to tear, as a young lion lurking in ambush.
NIV: They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover.
NASB: He is like a lion that is eager to tear, And as a young lion lurking in secret places.
CSB: They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush.
NLT: They are like hungry lions, eager to tear me apart — like young lions hiding in ambush.
KJV: Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.
NKJV: As a lion is eager to tear his prey, And like a young lion lurking in secret places.
Verse Commentary:
Concerned about danger in the prior verse, David shifted from speaking about himself (Psalm 17:8–9) to speaking of a group (Psalm 17:11). These were probably the men who fought beside him (1 Samuel 22:1–2) when he was persecuted by Saul (1 Samuel 20:32–33). In another shift, David changes from speaking of his enemies—plural (Psalm 17:9–10)—to a single person, saying "he" is a threat. Most likely, this person is Saul.

David compares Saul to a ferocious lion eager to surprise prey and rip its victim apart. Saul was certainly bloodthirsty and eager to ambush David and kill him. When David served in Saul's court, Saul demonstrated his savage side. At least twice he threw his spear at David, hoping to pin David to the wall (1 Samuel 18:11; 19:10). He sent soldiers four times to capture David (1 Samuel 19:11–23). Finally, he personally led the search for David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23:24–25).

Today, believers face a ferocious enemy: Satan. The apostle Peter depicts him as a roaring lion that prowls around in search of someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). The way to escape is to be sober-minded, watchful, and strong in the faith (1 Peter 5:8–9).
Verse Context:
Psalm 17:6–12 is David's prayer for the Lord's protection. He expresses confidence that the Lord will keep him safe. Surrounded by his bloodthirsty enemies, David knows he is helpless without the Lord's intervention. He describes the enemy as dangerous and deadly as a lion.
Chapter Summary:
Likely written when Saul was pursuing David in the wilderness, this records David's urgent plea for deliverance. He insists that he is in the right and free from deceit or evil. He proclaims God as a Savior and asks God to heed his cry and reveal His steadfast love to him. David addresses God as the Savior of those who seek refuge in Him from their enemies. Verse 8 uses two famous phrases describing God's tender care and love: "apple of the eye" and "shadow of your wings." Using a singular noun, David compares his enemy, likely Saul, to a ferocious, stealthy, bloodthirsty lion. Through these struggles, David looks forward to a blessed eternity of beholding God's face.
Chapter Context:
This is another psalm in which David appeals to God to deliver him from his enemy, likely Saul (1 Samuel 20:32–33). It shares themes and even Hebrew phrases with Psalm 16. This is one of several psalms identified as direct prayers, along with psalms 86, 90, 102, and 142.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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