Psalm 17

The Word Made Fresh

(A prayer of David)

1My cause is just, LORD. Hear my cry.
Listen, for my prayer is free of any deceitfulness.
2Your eyes see what is right –
let my acquittal come from you.
3If you visit me by night and examine my heart,
test me, for you will find no wickedness in me.
My mouth will not transgress against you.
4As for the deeds of others, I have kept your words faithfully.
I have avoided the ways of those who practice violence.
5I have kept my feet on your path,
and I have not slipped.
6I call on you, God, knowing you will answer me.
Listen to my words.
7Let your steadfast love shine forth,
for you are the savior of those who seek safety
from all their enemies.
8Protect me as if I were the apple of your eye,
and hide me in the shelter of your wings
9from the evil ones who cheat me,
and from all my enemies who seek my life.
10They cannot feel pity,
and they are filled with haughtiness.
11They have pursued me, and now they are all around me.
Their eyes look upon me as an outcast.
12They watch me like a lion eager to pounce,
like a young lion waiting to attack.
13Rise, LORD! Face them! Defeat them!
Use your sword to save me from the wicked.
14They are mere mortals, LORD, which your own hands have made.
You gave them life in this world.
Let their stomachs be filled with what you have planned for them.
Let their children have plenty to eat,
and let them pass along something for them to inherit.
15But I will pursue righteousness before you,
and when I awake, I will be rewarded, beholding your face.


Superscription: this is the 14th psalm ascribed to David. Although many, perhaps most, of the psalms can be thought of as prayers only the 17th, the 86th, the 90th and the 142nd are labeled as such. The 90th is a “prayer of Moses;” the others are ascribed to David.

1-2: This is a prayer for God to take the psalmist’s side in some unspecified dispute.

3-5: God should hear the prayer because the petitioner has done his best to live a blameless life and therefore deserves to be heard.

6-8: God’s protection is beautifully described: “Protect me as if I were the apple of your eye and hide me in the shelter of your wings.”

9-12: The enemies are described. They are wicked, deadly, pitiless, and arrogant. They are bent on doing injury. They are like hungry lions stalking their prey.

13-14: The psalmist wants God to confront them and defeat their plot, and he wants their children to suffer the consequences as well. This sentiment makes more sense if we take the psalm to be a royal one in which the king or other royal official is under a threat that comes not just from individuals but from clans or families with whom there has been a history of dispute. This would certainly be the case if David actually wrote the psalm. (Remember, whenever we see “a psalm of David” the ‘of’ could also be translated ‘by,’ ‘of,’ ‘about,’ or ‘for.’)

15: The psalm concludes with the psalmist’s promise of fidelity and hope for the life to come.


David was not perfect by any means, but he was a man after God’s own heart. When we acknowledge our mistakes and lean on God for forgiveness and direction and acknowledge God as our creator and redeemer, our lives are gradually and firmly shaped by God’s will for us.