What does Psalms 17 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Psalm 17:1–5 begins David's prayer for deliverance. He asks God to intervene in a dangerous situation, pleading and making note of his own faithfulness to the Lord. David is confident that his life proves loyalty to God and obedience to His commands. This might have been written during David's time of persecution under king Saul.
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.
Psalm 17:13–15 closes the prayer as David asks the Lord to execute judgment on his enemy. He also echoes his earlier pleas for deliverance. David knows those who hate God have a bleak future, whereas he sees his future as glorious. He is confident he will behold God's face.
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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