Psalm 17:1-7, 15

Psalm 17:1-7, 15
Proper 13A


A PrayerA of David.B

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

Notes on superscription - 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 lipsI free of deceit.J

Notes on verse 1b

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 “lips” = saphah. This is lip, edge, border, bank – used for a boundary. It can also be speech or language.
J “deceit” = mirmah. From ramah (to betray, deceive, beguile). This is deceit, treachery, guile, or fraud.

From youK let my vindicationL come;M

Notes on verse 2a

K {untranslated} = paneh. Literally, “your face.” From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
L “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.
M “come” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.

    let your eyesN seeO the right.P

Notes on verse 2b

N “eyes” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
O “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.
P “right” = meshar. 19x in OT. From yashar (to be straight, right, even, agreeable). This is evenness, straightness, prosperity, or uprightness.

If you tryQ my heart,R if you visitS me by night,T

Notes on verse 3a

Q “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.
R “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.
S “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.
T “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.

    if you testU me, you will findV noW wickednessX in me;

Notes on verse 3b

U “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.
V “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.
W “no” = bal. From balah (to grow old, wear out, consume, waste, enjoy, fail, decay). This is not, lest, neither. Properly, it refers to a failure, so it implies nothing or not at all.
X “wickedness” = zamam. 13x in OT. This is to devise, plot, imagine, intend, scheme, think evil. It is usually used in an evil sense.

    my mouthY does notZ transgress.AA

Notes on verse 3c

Y “mouth” = peh. This is mouth in a literal or figurative sense. So, more literally, it can be beak or jaws. More figuratively, it refers to speech, commands, or promises.
Z “not” = bal. Same as “no” in v3. See note W above.
AA “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 othersBB do,CC by the wordDD of your lips

Notes on verse 4a

BB “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.
CC “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.
DD “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.

    I have avoidedEE the waysFF of the violent.GG

Notes on verse 4b

EE “avoided” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
FF “ways” = orach. From arach (to go, travel, wander). This is a road that is widely used, highway, caravan, traveler, troop.
GG “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 stepsHH have held fastII to your paths;JJ
    my feetKK have not slipped.LL

Notes on verse 5

HH “steps” = ashshur. 9x in OT– 2x in Job, 6x in Psalms, 1x in Proverbs. From ashar (to go straight, lead, guide; to be level and so to be right, blessed, honest, happy). This is step or going.
II “held fast” = tamak. This is to sustain, support, maintain, grasp. Figuratively, it can be to help or uphold.
JJ “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.
KK “feet” = paam. From paam (to move, trouble; to tap in a regular rhythm; to agitate). This is a beat, stroke, footstep, or occurrence.
LL “slipped” = mot. This is to shake, slip, falter, stagger, move, fall, give way, waver, be carried.

I call upon you,MM for you will answerNN me, O God;OO

Notes on verse 6a

MM “call upon” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
NN “answer” = anah. This is answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify. It means to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk. Used in a specific sense for singing, shouting, testifying, etc.
OO “God” = El. God, a god.

    inclinePP your earQQ to me; hear my words.RR
Wondrously showSS your steadfast love,TT

Notes on verses 6b-7a

PP “incline” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
QQ “ear” = ozen. Related to “give ear” in v1. See note H above.
RR “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.
SS “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.
TT “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.

    O saviorUU of those who seek refugeVV
    from their adversariesWW at your right hand.XX

Notes on verse 7b

UU “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.
VV “seek refuge” = chasah. This is to take refuge or flee for protection. Figuratively, it means to hope or trust in someone or something.
WW “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.
XX “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.

15 As for me, I shall beholdYY your faceZZ in righteousness;AAA
    when I awakeBBB I shall be satisfied,CCC beholding your likeness.DDD

Notes on verse 15

YY “behold” = chazah. Same as “see” in v2. See note O above.
ZZ “face” = paneh. Same as {untranslated} in v2. See note K above.
AAA “righteousness” = tsedeq. Same as “just cause” in v1. See note D above.
BBB “awake” = quts. Related to qayits (fruit, harvest, dry season); from quts (summer, clip off). This is arise or watch. It is to awake in a literal or figurative sense.
CCC “be satisfied” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.
DDD “likeness” = temunah. 10x in OT. From the same as min (kind, sort, species). This is something that has been apportioned or fashioned. It can be an embodiment or shape. It can also figuratively be a favor that manifests.

Image credit: “Crying Girl” by Emil Cedercreutz, 1928. Photo by Mchiriku, 2014.

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