Psalms 17

Lord, consider my just cause!
Heb “hear, Lord, what is just.”

Pay attention to my cry for help!
Listen to the prayer
I sincerely offer!
Heb “Listen to my prayer, [made] without lips of deceit.”

Make a just decision on my behalf!
Heb “From before you may my justice come out.” The prefixed verbal form יָצָא (yatsa’) could be taken as an imperfect, but following the imperatives in v. 1, it is better understood as a jussive of prayer.

Decide what is right!
Heb “May your eyes look at what is right.” The prefixed verbal form is understood as jussive. (See also the preceding note on the word “behalf.”)

You have scrutinized my inner motives;
Heb “you tested my heart.”

you have examined me during the night.
Heb “you visited [at] night.”

You have carefully evaluated me, but you find no sin.
I am determined I will say nothing sinful.
Heb “you tested me, you do not find, I plan, my mouth will not cross over.” The Hebrew verbal form זַמֹּתִי (zammotiy) is a Qal perfect, first person singular from the root זָמַם (zamam, “plan, plan evil”). Some emend the form to a suffixed form of the noun, זִמָּתִי (zimmatiy, “my plan/evil plan”), and take it as the object of the preceding verb “find.” However, the suffix seems odd, since the psalmist is denying that he has any wrong thoughts. If one takes the form with what precedes, it might make better sense to read זִמּוֹת (zimmot, “evil plans”). However, this emendation leaves an unclear connection with the next line. The present translation maintains the verbal form found in the MT and understands it in a neutral sense, “I have decided” (see Jer 4:28). The words “my mouth will not cross over” (i.e., “transgress, sin”) can then be taken as a noun clause functioning as the object of the verb.

As for the actions of people
Heb “with regard to the deeds of man[kind].”

just as you have commanded,
I have not followed in the footsteps of violent men.
Heb “by the word of your lips, I, I have watched the paths of the violent” (i.e., “watched” in the sense of “watched for the purpose of avoiding”).

I carefully obey your commands;
Heb “my steps stay firm in your tracks.” The infinitive absolute functions here as a finite verb (see GKC 347 God’s “tracks” are his commands, i.e., the moral pathways he has prescribed for the psalmist.

I do not deviate from them.
Heb “my footsteps do not stagger.”

I call to you for you will answer me, O God.
Listen to me!
Heb “Turn your ear toward me.”

Hear what I say!
Heb “my word.”

Accomplish awesome, faithful deeds,
Heb “Set apart faithful acts.”

you who powerfully deliver those who look to you for protection from their enemies.
Heb “[O] one who delivers those who seek shelter from the ones raising themselves up, by your right hand.” The Lord’s “right hand” here symbolizes his power to protect and deliver.
Those who look to you for protection from their enemies. “Seeking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear and serve the Lord (Pss 5:11–12; 31:17–20; 34:21–22).

Protect me as you would protect the pupil of your eye!
Heb “Protect me like the pupil, a daughter of an eye.” The noun בַּת (bat, “daughter”) should probably be emended to בָּבַת (bavat, “pupil”). See Zech 2:12 HT (2:8 ET) and HALOT 107 s.v. *בָּבָה.

Hide me in the shadow of your wings!
Your wings. The metaphor compares God to a protective mother bird.

Protect me from
Heb “from before”; or “because.” In the Hebrew text v. 9 is subordinated to v. 8. The words “protect me” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
the wicked men who attack
Heb “destroy.” The psalmist uses the perfect verbal form to emphasize the degree of danger. He describes the wicked as being already in the process of destroying him.
my enemies who crowd around me for the kill.
Heb “my enemies, at the risk of life they surround me.” The Hebrew phrase בְּנֶפֶשׁ (benefesh) sometimes has the nuance “at the risk of [one’s] life” (see 1 Kgs 2:23; Prov 7:23; Lam 5:9).

10  They are calloused;
Heb “their fat they close.” The Hebrew term חֵלֶב (khelev, “fat”) appears to stand by metonymy for their calloused hearts. They attack the psalmist without feeling any pity or remorse. Some propose emending the text to חֵלֶב לִבָּמוֹ (khelev libbamo, “fat of their heart[s]; cf. Ps 119:70, “their heart is insensitive like fat”). This assumes haplography of the לב (lamed-bet) consonantal sequence.

they speak arrogantly.
Heb “[with] their mouth they speak with arrogance.”

11  They attack me, now they surround me;
Heb “our steps, now they surround me.” The Kethib (consonantal text) has “surround me,” while the Qere (marginal reading) has “surround us,” harmonizing the pronoun to the preceding “our steps.” The first person plural pronoun does not fit the context, where the psalmist speaks as an individual. In the preceding verses the psalmist uses a first person singular verbal or pronominal form twenty times. For this reason it is preferable to emend “our steps” to אִשְּׁרוּנִי (’isheruni, “they attack me”) from the verbal root אָשֻׁר (’ashur, “march, stride, track”).

they intend to throw me to the ground.
Heb “their eyes they set to bend down in the ground.”

12  He
Here the psalmist switches to the singular pronoun; he views his enemies collectively, or singles out a representative of the group, perhaps its leader.
is like a lion
Heb “his likeness [is] like a lion.”
that wants to tear its prey to bits,
Heb “[that] longs to tear.”

like a young lion crouching
Heb “sitting.”
in hidden places.
13  Rise up, Lord!
Confront him!
Heb “Be in front of his face.”
Knock him down!
Or “bring him to his knees.”

Use your sword to rescue me from the wicked man!
Heb “rescue my life from the wicked [one] [by] your sword.”

14  Lord, use your power to deliver me from these murderers,
Heb “from men [by] your hand, Lord.” The translation assumes an emendation (both here and in the following line) of מִמְתִים (mimtim, “from men”) to מִמְמִתִים (mimmitim, “from those who kill”). For other uses of the plural form of the Hiphil participle of מוּת (mut, “die”), see 2 Kgs 17:26 (used with lions as subject), Job 33:22 (apparently referring to the agents of death), and Jer 26:15 (used of those seeking Jeremiah’s life).

from the murderers of this world!
Heb “from men, from [the] world.” On the emendation of “men” to “murderers,” see the preceding note on the word “murderers.”

They enjoy prosperity;
Heb “their portion, in life.”

you overwhelm them with the riches they desire.
Heb “and [with] your treasures you fill their belly.”
You overwhelm them with the riches they desire. The psalmist is not accusing God of being unjust; he is simply observing that the wicked often prosper and that God is the ultimate source of all blessings that human beings enjoy (see Matt 5:45). When the wicked are ungrateful for God’s blessings, they become even more culpable and deserving of judgment. So this description of the wicked actually supports the psalmist’s appeal for deliverance. God should rescue him because he is innocent (see vv. 3–5) and because the wicked, though blessed abundantly by God, still have the audacity to attack God’s people.

They have many children,
and leave their wealth to their offspring.
Heb “they are satisfied [with] sons and leave their abundance to their children.”

15  As for me, because I am innocent I will see your face;
Heb “I, in innocence, I will see your face.” To “see” God’s “face” means to have access to his presence and to experience his favor (see Ps 11:7; see also Job 33:26 [where רָאָה (raah), not חָזַה (khazah), is used]). Here, however, the psalmist may be anticipating a mystical experience. See the following note on the word “me.”

when I awake you will reveal yourself to me.
Heb “I will be satisfied, when I awake, [with] your form.” The noun תְּמוּנָה (temunah) normally carries the nuance “likeness” or “form.” In Job 4:16 it refers to a ghostlike spiritual entity (see v. 15) that revealed itself to Eliphaz during the night. The psalmist may anticipate a mystical encounter with God in which he expects to see a manifestation of God’s presence (i.e., a theophany), perhaps in conjunction with an oracle of deliverance. During the quiet darkness of the night, God examines the psalmist’s inner motives and finds them to be pure (see v. 3). The psalmist is confident that when he awakens, perhaps sometime during the night or in the morning, he will be visited by God and assured of vindication.
When I awake you will reveal yourself to me. Some see in this verse an allusion to resurrection. According to this view, when the psalmist awakens from the sleep of death, he will see God. It is unlikely that the psalmist had such a highly developed personal eschatology. As noted above, it is more likely that he is anticipating a divine visitation and mystical encounter as a prelude to his deliverance from his enemies.

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