Psalm 17:1-9

Psalm 17:1-9
Ordinary C50


A PrayerA of David.B

1 HearC a just cause,D O Lord;E attendF to my cry;G

Notes on superscript - verse 1a

A “prayer” = tephillah. From palal (to judge for oneself or in an official capacity; to pray or make supplication, to entreat). This is prayer or intercession. It can also be a hymn.
B “David” = david. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); the root may mean to boil, which is used figuratively to describe love. So, this implies someone you love such as a friend, a lover, or a close family member like an uncle. David’s name likely means something like “beloved one.”
C “hear” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
D “just cause” = tsedeq. This is rightness, righteousness, vindication. It is everything that is just or ethical. That which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense. It also includes just weights (i.e. true weights). Figuratively, this is justice, righteousness, equity – even prosperity.
E “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
F “attend” = qashab. To listen, pay attention to, incline – used in the phrase incline the ears.
G “cry” = rinnah. From ranan (a cry of joy or a joyful song; properly, emitting a shrill sound, especially one of joy). This is a song, shout, cry of joy, or proclamation. It could also be a shout of grief.

    give earH to my prayer from lips free of deceit.I

From youJ let my vindicationK come;
    let your eyes seeL the right.M

Notes on verses 1b-2

H “give ear” = azan. Perhaps from ozen (ear, hearing, audience, show; properly, broadness – applied to its ear in reference to its shape). Properly, this is to expand or broaden one’s ear i.e. listen intently, pay attention, heed.
I “deceit” = mirmah. From ramah (to betray, deceive, beguile). This is deceit, treachery, guile, or fraud
J “you” = paneh. Literally “your face.”
K “vindication” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.
L “see” = chazah. This is to gaze at – to see or behold. It can also refer to perceiving as a mental process or looking at something with pleasure. It can be used particularly to mean seeing a vision.
M “right” = meshar. 19x in OT. From yashar (to be straight, right, even, agreeable). This is evenness, straightness, prosperity, or uprightness.

If you tryN my heart,O if you visitP me by night,Q

Notes on verse 3a

N “try” = bachan. This is to examine, test, or prove – as one tests metals. It can also be used literally or figuratively for investigating or trying.
O “heart” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
P “visit” = paqad. This is to attend to or visit – can be used for a friendly or violent encounter. So, it can be to oversee, care for, avenge, or charge.
Q “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.

    if you testR me, you will findS no wickednessT in me;
    my mouth does not transgress.U

Notes on verse 3b

R “test” = tsaraph. This is to refine, smalt, or fuse metal. It can also refer to the smelter (goldsmith or silversmith). Figuratively, this is refine in a literal or figurative sense – to test or try, make pure.
S “find” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.
T “wickedness” = zamam. This is to devise, plot, imagine, intend, scheme, think evil. It is usually used in an evil sense
U “transgress” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.

As for what othersV do,W by the wordX of your lips
    I have avoidedY the waysZ of the violent.AA

Notes on verse 4

V “others” = adam. Perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.
W “what…do” = peullah. 14x in OT. From paal (to do, make, work, or accomplish; generally refers to regularly repeated or systematic action – to practice). This is work, deed, reward, or wages.
X “word” = dabar. From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
Y “avoided” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
Z “ways” = orach. From arach (to go, travel, wander). This is a road that is widely used, highway, caravan, traveler, troop.
AA “violent” = parits. 6x in OT. From parats (to make a breach, burst out, compel, disperse; to break out literally or figuratively). This is violent, vicious or one who is violent like a robber, tyrant, or destroyer.

My steps have held fastBB to your paths;CC
    my feetDD have not slipped.EE

Notes on verse 5

BB “held fast” = tamak. This is to sustain, support, maintain, grasp. Figuratively, it can be to help or uphold.
CC “paths” = magal. 16x in OT. From the same as agol (round). Older root may mean to revolve. This is a path or course. It is a track in a literal or figurative sense. Could also refer to a rampart because it is circular.
DD “feet” = paam. From paam (to move, trouble; to tap in a regular rhythm; to agitate). This is a beat, stroke, footstep, or occurrence.
EE “slipped” = mot. This is to shake, slip, falter, stagger, move, fall, give way, waver, be carried.

I call uponFF you, for you will answer me, O God;GG
    inclineHH your earII to me, hear my words.JJ

Notes on verse 6

FF “call upon” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
GG “God” = el.
HH “incline” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
II “ear” = ozen. Related to “give ear” in v1. See note H above.
JJ “words” = imrah. From emer (speech, thing, utterance, promise, argument, command); from amar (to speak, say, answer, command, promise, report). This is any kind of utterance, a word or commandment.

Wondrously showKK your steadfast love,LL
    O saviorMM of those who seek refugeNN
    from their adversariesOO at your right hand.PP

Notes on verse 7

KK “wondrously show” = palah. 7x in OT. This is to distinguish in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be to sever, set apart, or show self to be marvelous.
LL “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
MM “savior” = yasha. To deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free.
NN “those who seek refuge” = chasah. This is to take refuge or flee for protection. Figuratively, it means to hope or trust in someone or something.
OO “adversaries” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
PP “right hand” = yamin. May be from yamam (to go or choose the right, use the right hand; to be physically fit or firm). This can mean right hand, right side, or south. Since most people are right-handed, the metaphorical usage of this word presumes that the right hand is stronger and more agile. Thus, it is the instrument of power and action.

GuardQQ me as the appleRR ofSS the eye;
    hideTT me in the shadowUU of your wings,VV

Notes on verse 8

QQ “guard” = shamar. Same as “avoided” in v4. See note Y above.
RR “apple” = ishon. 5x in OT. From ish (man); perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is middle. It could be the pupil as the middle of the eye or the middle of the night or a ball.
SS “of” = bat. Literally “daughter.”
TT “hide” = sathar. This is hide, conceal, or be absent. It is hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense.
UU “shadow” = tsel. From tsalal (to be or become dark, shade; this is the shade as during twilight or shadow as associated with something opaque). This is shade in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be shadow, shade, protection, shelter, or defense.
VV “wings” = kanaph. This is wing, edge, corner, extremity. It can also be a flap or fold of a garment or the pinnacle of a building.

fromWW the wickedXX who despoilYY me,
    my deadlyZZ enemies who surroundAAA me.

Notes on verse 9

WW “from” = paneh. Literally “from the face of.”
XX “wicked” = resha. From rasha (to be wicked, guilty, make trouble, do wrong; can also be condemn, guilty, inflict punishment; this verb implies disturbing or violating). This is wrong, particularly moral wrong. It can we wickedness, evil, wicked deeds, or something that is ill-gotten.
YY “despoil” = shadad. This is to ruin, assault, devastate, oppress, destroy completely. Properly, it is being burly. Figuratively it is something that is powerful.
ZZ “deadly” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
AAA “surround” = naqaph. 19x in OT. This is to strike, cut down, surround, destroy, corrode, knock together, or enclose. It can be to surround as a guard or like the sea. It can meaning coming to the end of a festival time or enclosing in a net or trap.

Image credit: “Arc Outburst” by frostnip907.

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