Psalm 17:10-12

10. They have inclosed themselves in their own fat,1 they have spoken proudly with their mouth. 11. They have now compassed me round about in our steps; they have fixed their eyes to cast down to the ground. 12. The likeness of him is as a lion that desireth to tear in pieces, and as a lion's whelp which lurketh in secret places.


10. They have inclosed themselves in their own fat. If the translation which is given by others is considered preferable, They have inclosed their own fat, the meaning will be quite the same. Some Jewish interpreters explain the words thus:that being stuffed with fat, and their throat being, as it were, choked with it, they were unable to speak freely; but this is a very meagre and unsatisfactory exposition. By the word fat, I think, is denoted the pride with which they were filled and swollen, as it were, with fatness. It is a very appropriate and expressive metaphor to represent them as having their hearts choked up with pride, in the manner in which corpulent persons are affected from the fat within them.2 David complains of their being puffed up with their wealth and pleasures, and accordingly we see the ungodly, the more luxuriously they are pampered, conducting themselves the more outrageously and proudly. But I think there is described by the word fat an inward vice namely, their being inclosed on all sides with arrogance and presumption, and their having become utter strangers to every feeling of humanity.3 The Psalmist next declares that this is abundantly manifested in their language. In short, his meaning is, that inwardly they swell with pride, and that they take no pains to conceal it, as appears from the high swelling words to which they give utterance. When it is said, They have spoken proudly with their mouth, the word mouth is not a pleonasm, as it often is in other places; for David means, that with mouths widely opened they pour forth scornful and contemptuous language, which bears testimony to the pride which dwells within them.

11. They have now compassed me round about in our steps. The Psalmist confirms what he has said before concerning the furious passion for doing mischief with which his enemies were inflamed. He says they were so cruelly bent on accomplishing his destruction, that in whatever way he directed or altered his course, they ceased not to follow close upon him. When he says our steps, he doubtless comprehends his own companions, although he immediately after returns to speak of himself alone; unless, perhaps, another reading is preferred, for some copies have wnwbbo, sebabunu, They have compassed us, in the plural number. This, however, is not a matter of great importance. David simply complains, that unless God stretch forth his hand from heaven to deliver him, there now remains for him no way of escape, seeing his enemies, whenever he stirs his foot to avoid their fury, immediately pursue him, and watch all his steps. By the adverb now, he intimates not only that he is at present in very great danger, but also that at every moment his enemies, in whatever way he turns himself, pursue and press hard upon him. In the last clause, They have fixed their eyes to cast down to the ground, some consider David as comparing his enemies to hunters, who, with eyes fixed on the ground, are silently looking with eager desire for their prey. They, therefore, think that by the eyes fixed on the ground is denoted the gesture or attitude of David's adversaries, and certainly crafty and malicious men have their countenance often fixed on the ground. According to others, whose opinion is nearer the spirit of the passage, this form of expression signifies the continual and unwearied ardor by which the ungodly are impelled to turn all things upside down. To fix their eyes, therefore, is nothing else than to apply all their ingenuity, and put forth all their efforts. What follows, to cast down to the ground, is the same thing as to overthrow. The ungodly, as if they must necessarily fall, should the world continue to stand, would wish all mankind thrown down or destroyed, and, therefore, they exert themselves to the utmost to bring down and ruin all men. This is explained more fully by the figurative illustration introduced in the following verse, where they are said to be like lions and lions' whelps.4 But we ought always to keep this truth in remembrance, that the more proudly wicked men exercise their cruelty against us, the hand of God is so much the nearer to us to oppose itself to their savage fury; for to him alone belongs the praise of subduing and restraining these wild beasts who delight in shedding blood. David speaks of dens, or secret lurking places, because his enemies were deeply skilled in artful stratagem, and had various methods of doing mischief, while they had also at hand the power and means of executing them, so that it was difficult to resist them.

1 Houbigant and Kennicott read, wrgo wmlbx yle "They have closed their net upon me." Horsley and Fry adopt this reading. "But," says Rogers, "it receives no support from the ancient versions or MSS."

2 "Comme les gens replets se trouvent saisis de leur graisse au dedans." -- Fr. "The sacred writers employ this term [fat] to signify a body pampered to excess by luxury and self-indulgence, Psalm 73:7; 119:70; Job 15:27." - French and Skinner's Translation of the Book of Psalms. There may no doubt be a reference to the personal appearance and sensual indulgence of David's enemies. But something more is implied. "We know that, in the figurative language of Scripture fatness denotes pride. This connection of ideas is still maintained in the East, where, when it is intended to indicate a proud man, he is said to be fat, or to look fat, whether really so or not." -- Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.

3 Dr Geddes translates the clause, "Their hearts have they hardened." "Literally," says he, "they have closed their midriff; -- shut out all compassion from their hearts." The Hebrew word which is rendered fat is explained by Gesenius, when used figuratively, as denoting a fat, that is, an unfeeling heart.

4 In the French version it is lionceaux, young lions. French and Skinner read "like a lion," and "like a young lion ;' and observe, "The word translated ' young lion' signifies a lion in the rigour of youth, and fully capable of pursuing his prey."