Psalm 17:1-2

1. Hear my righteousness,1 O Jehovah, attend to my cry; hearken to my prayer, which proceedeth not from deceitful lips. 2. Let my judgment [or judgment in my favor] come forth from the presence of thy countenance;2 let thine eyes look upon my uprightness.


1. Hear my righteousness, O Jehovah. The Psalmist begins the psalm by setting forth the goodness of his cause. He does this because God has promised that he will not suffer the innocent to be oppressed, but will always, at length, succor them. Some explain the word righteousness as denoting righteous prayer, an interpretation which appears to me unsatisfactory. The meaning rather is, that David, confiding in his own integrity, interposes God as a Judge between himself and his enemies, to cognosce or determine in his cause. We have already seen, in a preceding psalm, that when we have to deal with wicked men, we may warrantably protest our innocence before God. As, however, it would not be enough for the faithful to have the approving testimony of a good conscience, David adds to his protestation earnest prayer. Even irreligious persons may often be able justly to boast of having a good cause; but as they do not acknowledge that the world is governed by the providence of God, they content themselves with enjoying the approbation of their own conscience, as they speak, and, gnawing the bit, bear the injuries which are done to them rather obstinately than steadfastly, seeing they do not seek for any consolation in faith and prayer. But the faithful not only depend upon the goodness of their cause, they also commit it to God that he may defend and maintain it; and whenever any adversity befalls them, they betake themselves to him for help. This, therefore, is the meaning of the passage; it is a prayer that God, who knew David to have done justly, and to have performed his duty without giving occasion to any to blame him,3 and, therefore, to be unrighteously molested by his enemies, would graciously look upon him; and that he would do this especially, since, confiding in his aid, he entertained good hope, and, at the same time, prays to him with a sincere heart. By the words cry and prayer he means the same thing; but the word cry, and the repetition of what it denotes, by a different expression, serve to show his vehement, his intense earnestness of soul. Farther, as hypocrites talk loftily in commendation of themselves, and to show to others a token of the great confidence which they have in God, give utterance to loud cries, David protests concerning himself that he does not speak deceitfully; in other words, that he does not make use of his crying and prayer as a pretext for covering his sins, but comes into the presence of God with sincerity of heart. By this form of prayer the Holy Spirit teaches us, that we ought diligently to endeavor to live an upright and innocent life, so that, if there are any who give us trouble, we may be able to boast that we are blamed and persecuted wrongfully.4 Again, whenever the wicked assault us, the same Spirit calls upon us to engage in prayer; and if any man, trusting to the testimony of a good conscience which he enjoys, neglects the exercise of prayer, he defrauds God of the honor which belongs to him, in not referring his cause to him, and in not leaving him to judge and determine in it. Let us learn, also, that when we present ourselves before God in prayer, it is not to be done with the ornaments of an artificial eloquence, for the finest rhetoric and the best grace which we can have before him consists in pure simplicity.

2. From the presence of thy countenance. Literally it is, from before thy face, or, before thy face. By these words David intimates that if God does not rise up as the vindicator of his cause, he will be overwhelmed with calumnies though innocent, and will be looked upon as a guilty and condemned person. The cognisance which God will take of his cause is tacitly set in opposition to the dark inventions of falsehood which were spread against him.5 His language is as if he had said, I do not ask for any other judge but God, nor do I shrink from standing before his judgment-seat,6 since I bring with me both a pure heart and a good cause. What he immediately adds with respect to God's looking upon his uprightness is of similar import. He does not mean to say that God is blind, but only beseeches him actually to show that he does not connive at the wickedness of men, and that it is not to him a matter of indifference when he beholds those who have not the means of defending themselves7 receiving evil treatment undeservedly. Some take the word judgment in too restricted a sense for the right to the kingdom which was promised to David, as if he petitioned to be placed on the royal throne by the power of God, inasmuch as he had been chosen by him to be king, and had also, in his name and by his authority, been anointed to this office by the hand of Samuel. The meaning which I attach to David's language is simply this, that being oppressed with many and varied wrongs, he commits himself to the protection and defense of God.

1 The Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions read "my righteousness", or my right, as here and in our English version, meaning, his righteous cause. The Septuagint, "Kurie thv dikaiosunhv mou," "O Lord of my righteousness." Jerome reads, "Audi, Deus, justum," "Hear O God, the just one, a reading which Horsley is inclined to adopt, viewing the Messiah as the speaker in this psalm. In the Syriac version the reading is, "Hear, O righteous Lord ;" and this is followed by Bishop Horne, Dr Adam Clarke, and Dr Boothroyd.

2 "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; that is, be thou, O Jehovah, my judge in thine own person." -- Horsley.

3 "Que David se soit portd justement et fait son devoir sans donner a aucun occasion de le blasmer." -- Fr.

4 "Que nous sommes blasmez et persecutez a tort." -- Fr.

5 "Car la cognoissance que Dieu prendra de sa cause est tacitement mise in l'opposite des tenebres des mensonges qu'on semoit contre luy." -- Fr.

6 "Et qu'il ne refuse point de respondre derant le siege judicial d'iceluy." -- Fr. "Nor do I refuse to answer before his judgment-seat."

7 "Qui n'ont pas moyen de se defendre." -- Fr.