Psalm 18 Commentary

Turn to Psalm 18.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Genre

Throughout our series in the Psalms, we’ve often been reminded of the fact that a majority of the psalms are in the lament genre. And we all know now that lament psalms are known for their depiction of the psalmist’s enemies – how truly evil they are, what a serious threat they pose to David and/or God, and why God needs to both deliver the psalmist from them and to do this by judging those enemies.

And so I think in Psalm 18 today that we see David’s response to God answering that prayer of his – for deliverance from his enemies. David in so many of the psalms is asking for deliverance. In Psalm 18, he gets it and as a result he praises the Lord for that deliverance.

And that’s the kind of psalm this is. This psalm is a praise psalm – as opposed to a lament psalm or a meditative psalm. And I’d also point out before we get into the text that this psalm is the longest we’ve dealt with thus far at a whopping 50 verses!

Psalm 18 Commentary: Big Idea

So,let me give you the big idea of Psalm 18 and then we’ll look at the text. If I were to summarize this psalm, I’d say that what you see in this psalm is something like this: Praise to the God who Delivers from All Enemies. That’s what David is engaged in and I hope it’s what we really feel and wholeheartedly engage in as we’re studying Psalm 18.

So, let’s start reading Psalm 18. And we’re going to read section by section and make some observations after each section. So, let’s read.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Superscription

Here’s the superscription of this psalm. And it helpfully tells us the circumstances under which this psalm was penned by David.

<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said,>

I’ll just add that what’s interesting about this superscription and really the whole psalm is that you find almost the exact same wording of all 50 verses somewhere else in the Bible. Do you have a note to that effect in your Bible? You find the text of this psalm almost completely reproduced in 2 Samuel 22. There are a few differences in wording, but they’re very minor. Now 2 Samuel 22 is one of the last chapters in the books of Samuel in our Old Testament. It’s one of those chapters that the author of those books just put at the end it seems, out of chronological order from the rest of the book’s narrative. And if I had to guess, I’d say that 2 Samuel 22 was written before this psalm and then later placed in the psalter with a few minor edits when the book of Psalms was being written and compiled.

OK, let’s move on then.

Psalm 18 1 3 Commentary: Call to Praise

Now, in verses 1-3 we see David issuing: a Call to Praise because of God’s powerful deliverance from all David’s enemies.

I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock,
and my fortress,
and my deliverer;
my God,
my strength, in whom I will trust;
my buckler,
and the horn of my salvation,
and my high tower.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised:
so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

You know, we could go through each statement of David’s regarding what the Lord is to him in this first section. And usually we would do just that – explain and discuss what each word and phrase and section means to get a fuller understanding of what David is saying. But when you’re trying to cover 50 verses in 45 minutes that’s just not possible. And really in this case I don’t think you need to do that. The very way that David wrote this call to praise in the first 3 verses does a very good job of explaining how David is feeling about the Lord. He loves him. Why? Well, one reason – he’s strong to deliver. Right? My strength. My rock. My fortress. My deliverer. My God. My strength. My shield. The power or horn of my salvation – the powerful deliverer. My high protecting tower to which I may flee. David is overwhelmed by God’s strength and power to deliver him from his enemies – all of them!

And that’s what he says in verse 3 – he calls on this strong God and is confident that God will save him from his enemies. And because of that, God is worthy to be praised as we have it there.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Need for Deliverance

Next in verses 4-6 David describes the situation that necessitated the kind of deliverance that only this powerful God could provide.

4 The sorrows of death compassed me,
and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about:
the snares of death prevented me.
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God:
he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

I’ll point out that the word “sorrows” in verses 4 and 5 speak of “territory” or a “boundary”. So, David is painting a picture of being subsumed within the boundaries of death and hell – or the grave. As if death were a country that was extending its territory to include David. That’s the idea. David felt as if he would die.

And why did it feel like death was going to swallow David up? It’s because of the “ungodly men” in verse 4 and the “snares of death” or the deadly traps of these ungodly men in verse 5. These are the deadly enemies that David needed God to deliver him from.

But David doesn’t leave it there. He took action in verse 6. He called upon the Lord. And wonderfully God heard him. And God’s response is pretty amazing.

Psalm 18 Commentary: A Storm

We see that response is verses 7-15 where God’s deliverance is pictured as a storm that’s forcefully moving in. And this is no ordinary storm. When is the last time you saw a storm start attacking your enemies? But that’s exactly how David pictures the storm that is God’s response to David’s enemies. Let’s read.

7 Then the earth shook and trembled;
the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils,
and fire out of his mouth devoured:
coals were kindled by it.
9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down:
and darkness was under his feet.
10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly:
yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place;
his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed,
hail stones and coals of fire.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Highest gave his voice;
hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15 Then the channels of waters were seen,
and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

Now, we all know that there are some pretty amazing events recorded in the Old Testament. The creation of everything by God in 6 days – the flood – Joshua’s battle when the sun stood still. But I don’t recall an event recorded that matches what we read in verses 7 through 15. And in particular, I know that smoke has never literally gone up out of God’s nostrils as we have it in verse 8. Fire has never literally gone out of God’s mouth. God the Father is without a body. He’s a spirit. He doesn’t have a mouth or nostrils.

So, what am I getting at? I’m asserting that this event never literally physically happened. Well, then, why is it in our psalm? Because David the poet wanted to express God’s awesome power in delivering him. Now, in reality, this deliverance from all his enemies was providential. It just happened – with God’s leading, of course. That’s basically what providence is – God’s silent invisible leading. And yet, David rightly thinks this deliverance was a big deal! And so, he uses poetic language to describe how God delivered him from all his enemies. It was powerful. It was forceful. It was definite.

So, let’s just meditate on a few details of this description of God’s deliverance. Notice that God was angry. The fact that enemies attack and oppress his people doesn’t leave God unaffected. No. He’s angry about it. That’s the meaning of the earth shaking and the fire and smoke coming out of different places on God’s metaphorical face and lighting coals. So, yes, God is affected by our misery and suffering – especially at the hands of oppressors. And that’s one thing that David wants to portray by this poetic depiction of God – that God gets angry when their enemies attack.

Another thing David wants to get across to us is God’s awesome majesty in this whole process of delivering David from his enemies. God is pictured as bowing the heavens – of taking the sky and bending it under his immensity. He has darkness under his feet. He’s pictured as riding a cherub – an angel – not one of those pudgy little kids with wings – a powerful angel. He’s riding on the wind – swift – powerful – awesome. He’s surrounded by darkness and yet he has light before him. All of this should remind us of the awesome power of a storm – wind, darkness, and yet light.

Wait – darkness… and yet light? In a storm? How does that happen? Verses 13 and 14. Thunder and lightning – that’s the source of light in a storm. And the thunder is pictured as being God’s awesome fearful voice. The lightning – the thing lighting up the sky – is pictured as God’s weapons. He shoots out his lightning and scatters the enemies of his people. He utters his voice and terrifies those enemies. He rebukes and simply breathes out of his nostrils and it’s as if both water and earth are just peeled back and the foundations of these things are exposed.

This is the awesome majestic power of our God. He’s mighty. He’s provoked to anger when his people are oppressed. And he can do something about it. And even when he works in merely providential ways – like he absolutely did in David’s case – right? – David was not delivered from Saul miraculously. It was providential. And yet even when God works in providential, behind-the-scenes sorts of ways – it’s awesome. He truly is mighty – just as mighty and fearful as a loud, dark, bright, windy storm – even if he doesn’t literally physically manifest it that waybefore our eyes.

Now, this picture of a storm is meant to describe how God appears to deal with David’s enemies. And the effect should be terror on their part. But there’s a side to God that only David will see in this process. Throughout the Bible – God’s judging the enemies of his people is never in isolation. That is, God doesn’t just judge his people’s enemies. The other side of that coin is that he delivers his people by judging their enemies.

Psalm 18 Commentary: God’s Deliverance

And that’s what we see David speak of next in verses 16-19 – God’s deliverance for David. Let’s read.

16 He sent from above, he took me,
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity:
but the LORD was my stay.
19 He brought me forth also into a large place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

God is pictured as rescuing David from many mighty waters. Now, I don’t know if those waters are the metaphorical result of the storm and resulting flooding that happened from our previous section where God is pictured as coming in a storm or not. But I do know that verse 16 pictures God as involved in a rescue operation. It’s as if God is the coast guard, flying a helicopter over David who’s stranded in a flood – indeed, who’s actually drowning in that flood. But God doesn’t need a helicopter like a mere mortal rescue worker would need one. God just swoops down and plucks David out of those mighty waters.

And a God who is so strong can deliver his people from the strongest of their oppressors. That’s verse 17. Those strong enemies in verse 18 “prevented” or “confronted” David in the day of his disaster – when David was experiencing hardships and sorrows. But the Lord was his “stay” or his “support”. The Lord propped him up and protected him.

And then David pictures himself in verse 19 as being brought out of a very narrow and restricted place out into a large, broad area where he has freedom to live and move. Freedom!

Psalm 18 Commentary: God’s Delight

And why did God deliver David? End of verse 19 – God delighted in David. And that blessed thought – that God delights in his people and delivers them for that reason – occupies David in verses 20-27. So, let’s read about the reason that God delivered David. 

20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his judgments were before me,
and I did not put away his statutes from me.
23 I was also upright before him,
and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful;
with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure;
and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people;
but wilt bring down high looks.

Verses 20 through 24 start and end with David declaring his own righteousness. Now, as always, I need to point out that David isn’t being a hypocrite here. He’s not claiming perfection. Neither is he claiming a self-righteousness based upon his keeping the Law. The Old and New Testament make clear that David had experienced the blessedness of having his sin forgiven by God by faith.

So, David isn’t boasting of self-righteousness. But he is boasting of the effects of the righteousness that God had imputed to him. Because that righteousness has consequences. It affects the one who has received it. In David’s case, he can confidently proclaim that he kept God’s ways and paid attention to his judgements. Yes, David expresses that he had iniquity in verse 23 – but he kept himself from it. And because of David’s righteousness – which was both imputed by God and then acted out by David – God delivered him because he delighted in David.

And that consideration leads David to ponder and declare God’s reaction to certain types of people in verses 25 and 26. The merciful, upright, and pure are shown those same exact qualities from God. But then there’s the froward or perverse or deceptive man. And God mirrors that man’s actions right back at him. For the crooked man – the enemies of God’s people – God will use crookedness to bring that man to his end. Let’s consider some examples.

In Saul’s case – God sent an evil spirit to torment him because Saul had been exalted over God’s people – and yet Saul had no interest in the Lord or in serving his people the way God wanted him to do it. Saul was crooked and God used crookedness – that evil spirit – to torment him.

Moving forward a few hundred years in Old Testament history – evil king Ahab was going out to fight what would be his last battle. And the prophet Micaiah warned him that God got together with all the host of heaven and contemplated how to destroy that wicked king. And he’s saying this to Ahab’s face, mind you. Micaiah relates that different ones had different ideas. But finally one came forward and volunteered to deceive Ahab through Ahab’s false prophets. The Lord said to that deceiving spirit – “Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.”

My point is that God will show himself crooked with those who are crooked. God is not himself morally crooked. He’s not deceitful. But our text here and other passages of Scripture tell us that God will sometimes use even deceit to undo the enemies of his people.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Strength to Defeat Enemies

Now, in verses 28-42 David is still highlighting God’s deliverance. He’s already done that through picturing God as a forceful frightening storm. But now David pictures it as God effecting that deliverance through the one delivered. So, God delivers his people, yes. But in this case now, we hear about God delivering his people by strengthening his people to defeat their enemies. Let’s read.

28 For thou wilt light my candle:
the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by thee I have run through a troop;
and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect:
the word of the LORD is tried:
he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
31 For who is God save the LORD?
or who is a rock save our God?
32 It is God that girdeth me with strength,
and maketh my way perfect.
33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet,
and setteth me upon my high places.
34 He teacheth my hands to war,
so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation:
and thy right hand hath holden me up,
and thy gentleness hath made me great.
36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me,
that my feet did not slip.
37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them:
neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise:
they are fallen under my feet.
39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle:
thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies;
that I might destroy them that hate me.
41 They cried, but there was none to save them:
even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind:
I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

Notice all the military allusions here. Running through a troop with God’s help. Leaping over a wall. God being a buckler or shield to those who trust him. Being girded with strength. God teaching David’s hands to war. David bending a metal bow – which is an obvious metaphor. And it goes on and on. David is stating in poetic terms and images that God strengthened and continued to strengthen him against his enemies.

And here, too, David is not reporting literal physical truth. This is rather emotional truth – also known as hyperbole. Because – how was David delivered from Saul? Well, the Philistines killed Saul. Did David? No. Did David ever even battle Saul? No. David never even fought his own people. And we are talking about David’s people here. Verse 41 – to whom did David’s enemies cry? To the Lord. This sounds like fellow-Israelites. And so, I think that David again is being poetic and using images to portray God’s deliverance of him from all his enemies.

Psalm 18 Commentary: David Rules the Nations

And now, because God delivered David from all his enemies, David would rule over not only them – the nation of Israel – but also the nations surrounding them – whom God had given into the hands of Israel. That’s verses 43-45. The deliverance that God granted David extended beyond mere deliverance to him now actually ruling and wielding authority over surrounding enemy nations. Let’s read.

43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people;
and thou hast made me the head of the heathen:
a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me:
the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
45 The strangers shall fade away,
and be afraid out of their close places.

So, David has been given authority over the nations. Now, I think in the immediate context, this is talking about Israel’s power over surrounding enemy nations. And now, since Saul is gone and God had made David king – now, David has power over those nations as the king of Israel.

And those nations were afraid of David. They recognized that he had power over them. That’s why they’re pictured as cowering and coming trembling out of their fortresses.

Now, I think it’s also significant to remember that this will be true of Chist when he returns to rule from Jerusalem. Christ – the son of David and eternal Davidic king and king of heaven – he’ll rule over his enemies for 1,000 years.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Summary

OK, so in summary God delivered David from his enemies. David pictures that deliverance as if it were a powerful frightening storm rolling through. And that storm would perhaps even swallow up David in its mighty waters – but God rescued David. David also pictures God as strengthening him for battle against the enemies. So, that’s my summary of the psalm thus far. But David himself gives a summary in verses 46-48. This is a summary from David of God’s deliverance from all his enemies.

46 The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock;
and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
47 It is God that avengeth me,
and subdueth the people under me.
48 He delivereth me from mine enemies:
yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me:
thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Praise

And as with most praise psalms, David ends this one with a concluding resolution in verses 49 and 50. David gives a concluding resolution pledging praise for God’s deliverance from all his enemies.

49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen,
and sing praises unto thy name.
50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king;
and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

Those nations that David is ruling over now – among those folks will David praise God for his deliverance – his great deliverance that God gives to his king – King David – the new king, now that Saul has been taken out of the way.

And not only does God grant deliverance to David – he shows mercy to him and to his seed after him – forever. Which should direct our minds to the returning and eternal King of the Jews – Jesus Christ – whom we worship and today as we eagerly anticipate his imminent return.

Psalm 17 8 Meaning

Now, David follows up his statement of confidence in his own innocence with some requests to God in verses 6 through 8. Particularly, David asks for protection – based on God’s loyal covenant love. Let’s read verses 6 through 8.

6 I have called upon thee,
for thou wilt hear me, O God:
incline thine ear unto me,
and hear my speech.
7 Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness,
O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.
8 Keep me as the apple of the eye,
hide me under the shadow of thy wings,

So, David asks God to do several things for him. He submissively demands that God would incline his ear to David. The picture there is of someone bending down and stretching out his ear to hear the request of another. David wants God to do that for him. And David wants God to “hear” his speech. That word “hear” is in italics in our King James Version. And that usually indicates that the word isn’t there in the Hebrew. But it actually is in the Hebrew, so bonus points to anyone who can figure out why the KJV translators made it italic.

But beyond the very general request for God to hear him, David gets a little more specific in verse 7. He asks God to “shew” his “marvellous lovingkindness”. David wants God to “set apart” and “display” his hesed, which is marvelous in David’s eyes. David wants to see a token of God’s loyal covenant love to him.

Well, how would God do this? How would he put his loyal covenant love on display for David? That’s where David’s next statement comes in. David recognizes God as one who saves with his right hand those who put their trust in God from those who rise up against that person. David wants that to be the case with him – that God would save him from his deadly enemies. And in that way – by protecting David from his enemies, God would put on display his loyal covenant love.

And not only this, but David lastly asks God to keep him as the apple of God’s eye. Keep him like the pupil of God’s eye. How do you protect your eye’s pupil? Do you let anything touch it? Do you let anything get near it? No, it’s natural to protect your eyes. And that’s how God is with his people. It’s only natural for him to protect us. David wants God’s protection.

And continuing with the picture of protection that comes naturally, David pleads with God to hide him under the shadow of God’s wings. Like a mother bird protects her little ones under her wing – that’s how David pictures God as protecting his people – and in particular, David, this innocent man.

Psalm 17 Commentary

Turn to Psalm 17.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Superscription

As you can see from the superscription of this psalm, it’s a “prayer” of David. And this is a rare designation for a psalm. It’s more common for the superscription to tell us that what’s to follow is a “psalm”. We’ve seen other terms being used as well. But there are only a few times when a psalm is declared to be a prayer. Psalm 86 is another psalm that’s designated as “a prayer of David” in its superscription. Psalm 90 is “a prayer of Moses the man of God”. Psalm 102 is “a prayer of the afflicted”. And the last time we see a psalm being designated as a prayer is in Psalm 142 – which is said to be “a prayer when [David] was in a cave”. So then, this is one of only 5 psalms in the psalter designated as a “prayer”.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Theme

And in this prayer, David is expressing this emotion — Confidence that God Will Protect the Innocent Man from His Deadly Enemies. And we’ll attempt to discover that message now.

Psalm 17 Commentary: David’s Innocence

Now, before we go into detail explaining this psalm, I would point to something that sets this psalm apart from others. Throughout Psalm 17 we notice David’s emphasis on his own personal innocence.

And some people take this to mean that this was written before his adultery with Bathsheba and his commissioning the murder of her husband Uriah. And I guess their thinking is that David couldn’t have been so bold in asserting his own innocence after he committed such horrible sin. But I don’t think it’s necessary to place this psalm chronologically before David’s great sin.

David isn’t saying in Psalm 17 that he never sinned. That’s not what he’s getting at when he speaks of his own personal innocence. But what he is saying throughout this psalm is that he doesn’t deserve to be hounded by these enemies of his. They are out to destroy him. But there’s no justification on their part to be doing this to David. And David is confident that if God were to set up court and put David in the defendant’s chair and his enemies in the plaintiff’s chair – David would be found innocent. The enemies would have no justification for their harsh treatment of him.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Invocation

And this innocence of his is something that he emphasizes even in the invocation in the first two verses of Psalm 17. He says…

Hear the right, O LORD,
attend unto my cry,
give ear unto my prayer,
that goeth not out of feigned lips.
2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence;
let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

So, David poetically brings this situation into a law court. And in this court, David wants God the Judge to, “hear the right”. He wants God to hear what is just – David’s just cause. And that’s what David’s referring to when he speaks of his “cry” and his prayer” that he wants God to “attend unto” and “give ear unto”. David has a just cause that he needs God to hear and be sympathetic with.

And notice how David ends verse 1. This cry – this prayer – David’s just cause isn’t coming from “feigned lips” – or “lips of deceit”. Again, David is maintaining his personal innocence. This request of his is just and righteous. It doesn’t come out of deceitful lips. He’s not lying. He’s telling the truth. He’s innocent.

David continues with the law court theme in verse 2. He wants his “sentence” or his “justice” to come from God’s presence. David wants God to behold “the things that are equal” or “even things” – “upright things.” As God examines David, David is convinced that God will see that David has been involved in upright things – certainly not the kinds of activities that would warrant the threats that he’s experiencing from his deadly enemies. And therefore, God will pass judgment in David’s favor – giving David the justice that he needs against those deadly enemies of his.

So, that’s David’s invocation to God. He addresses God as the only one who can protect him – an innocent man – from his deadly enemies.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Confidence

Next, in verses 3 through 5, David expresses his confidence. And listen carefully to this part. It’s a little different than we’ve seen in any other lament psalm thus far. So, let’s read verses 3 through 5.

3 Thou hast proved mine heart;
thou hast visited me in the night;
thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing;
I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
4 Concerning the works of men,
by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.
5 Hold up my goings in thy paths,
that my footsteps slip not.

The emphasis of David’s confidence – as I said – is a little unusual I think. Usually David expresses confidence primarily in God and in God’s character. The confidence in Psalm 17 – in contrast – is in the fact that David is innocent. He’s not saying a whole lot about God and his character.

David says in verse 3 that God has proved his heart. He’s tested David’s heart like one would test metal with fire. And the implication is that God has found David’s heart – the center of his emotions and morals – to be genuine and blameless.

David continues this emphasis on being tested by God and being found genuine through verse 3. David says that God has “visited” him in the night. God “called him to account” or “examined” him in the night. Next, David says that God has “tried” him. That word is used of refining or smelting metals. Again, the emphasis is on God examining the genuineness and sincereity and innocence of David. And the result? David says that God “shalt find nothing”. God won’t find impurities. David is confident that he is innocent.

And so, David has been speaking of his innocence in vague, general terms thus far. But starting at the end of verse 3 and on into verse 4, David gives specific areas where he’s innocent.

David says that he’s purposed that his “mouth shall not transgress”. His mouth won’t overstep the boundaries which God has placed upon it. David has made it his mission to not speak out of line with what God expects and requires of him.

So, David’s SPEECH is innocent. Next, he says that his WORKS are also innocent. That’s verse 4. Because of what God has commanded – “by the words of thy lips” – David has kept himself from the “paths of the destroyer” or “the ways of the violent ones or viscious ones”. David has taken heed to God’s commands and as a result he’s not one to emulate violent and viscious men.

No, in contrast to following the paths of the violent destroyer, David’s steps have held fast to God’s paths. And because that’s been the case, David’s feet have not slipped. God’s paths are firm and safe. And this has been where David has kept to – God’s paths.

So, David is generally innocent. He’s also innocent in regard to his speech. And he’s innocent in regard to his actions. And therefore, David is confident in his innocence.

And yet, David isn’t being self-righteous or self-sufficient. But he is stating that he’s innocent and certainly not worthy of the persecution that he’s facing from his deadly enemies. And because this is the case, David feels confident that God will protect him from those enemies.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Petition

Now, David follows up his statement of confidence in his own innocence with some requests to God in verses 6 through 8. Particularly, David asks for protection – based on God’s loyal covenant love. Read Psalm 17 8 Meaning for the details.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Lament

So, we’ve just heard the innocent man’s pleas to God for protection from his deadly enemies. And next in verses 9 through 12 we have the innocent man’s perspective on these deadly enemies of his – in what we know of as the psalm’s “lament” or “complaint” section. Verses 9 through 12.

9 [Protect me from…] From the wicked that oppress me,
from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.
10 They are inclosed in their own fat:
with their mouth they speak proudly.
11 They have now compassed us in our steps:
they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;
12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey,
and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.

So, in verse 9 we have the relationship between these deadly enemies and the innocent man. The enemies oppress the innocent. They attack him, is another way to say that. These deadly enemies compass the innocent about. They surround him. They’re deadly. They attack. They surround. This doesn’t sound good.

In verse 10 the innocent man focuses in on what these enemies are like. They’re “inclosed in their own fat”. This makes it sound like these enemies are all really fat. But what it’s saying is that they close off their fat. This can mean that they’ve closed up their hearts. They are unfeeling in that sense. They’re attacking the innocent without any sort of remorse. It’s one thing to do wrong and feel bad about it. But these guys aren’t like that. They’re sinning and have no care in the world about it.

And next line of verse 10 – these enemies speak proudly with their mouths. Their mouth speaks arrogance. These enemies are unfeeling, cold, and proud.

Verse 11 returns to the enemies’ relation to the innocent. And this time David has not only himself in view as an innocent man. But now he has other innocent people in view. The enemies have “now compassed US in our steps”. The enemies are surrounding David and his fellow innocents.

The next phrase is a little difficult as we have it here. The enemies “have set their eyes bowing down to the earth”. What that’s saying is that the enemies have their eyes set with this purpose – IN ORDER TO bow the INNOCENT to the ground. To throw the innocent down to the ground. That’s what the deadly enemies have purposed with their eyes. Their eyes are focused on that one goal.

And verse 12 – the enemies do this – they set their eyes on throwing the innocent to the ground – in the same way that a lion would to his prey. These men are lurking and waiting for the right time to destroy David and his fellow innocents.

Psalm 17 Commentary: More Petitions

And so in light of these really troubling realities, David has a second round of requests for the Lord in verses 13 and 14. Let’s read that.

13 Arise, O LORD,
disappoint him,
cast him down:
deliver my soul from the wicked, which is [with] thy sword:
14 From men which are [with] thy hand, O LORD,
from men of the world, which have their portion in this life,
and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure:
they are full of children,
and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.

And so, David has two requests for the Lord. And they prove to be two sides of the same coin. First, David wants God to take action against the enemies. He says “arise, Lord!” And when he arises, David wants God to “disappoint” his enemies. He wants God to “confront” his enemies. And the result of that confrontation will be that the Lord casts the enemies down. The Lord will confront the enemy and bring him to his knees.

And second, David wants God to deliver him from these enemies. So, negatively – destroy them, God. Positively, deliver me, God. Deliver me from the wicked – end of verse 13 and from these men – start of verse 14. By the Lord’s sword and by the Lord’s hand is David’s deliverance pictured as coming.

And then into verse 14 David almost seems to take up another lament against these enemies. And what he reveals about them makes them all the guiltier. Look at how God treats these enemies – these men of the world – worldly, earthly men, who don’t have a future in heaven. These guys have their portion in this life because they have none in the life to come. And you know what – their portion is very generous. Yes, it’s all they have. But it’s really good. Look – God fills the bellies of these people with hid treasure. God feeds the wicked, these deadly enemies.

And no only that – God fills them with children. They have an abundance of children. This would have been viewed as one of the richest blessings an agricultural people could want – more children – more laborers in the fields – more hands to help at home – more influence in your city gate – more power.

God gives these deadly enemies all the children they want. He gives them all the food they want. And you know – sometimes having a lot of children and a lot of food – one wins out over the other. You know? All those children eat all the food. So, sometimes you either have a lot of food or goods without kids to eat it up. Or you have a lot of kids and the food and other goods kind of get used up rather quickly. But God is so good to these wicked men that they have lots of goods and lots of kids, but they have enough left to leave some to their babes. They have such an abundance that they can leave some to their kids. God is good even to the wicked.

And isn’t this like God? He causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust. He’s good and kind and generous indiscriminately. And yet, this goodness and kindness leaves these wicked men all the more culpable. They take what God so generously and kindly gives them and they squander it. They take the resources that they didn’t pay for and they spend it on oppressing the innocent people of the God who gives all these gifts to them.

And this might remind you of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man had all sorts of material blessings and Lazarus had nothing but pain and misery. They both died. Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man went to hell. And when the rich man wanted mercy – this is Abraham’s response to him. “Child, you had your good things during your lifetime and Lazarus had his bad things. But now Lazarus is being comforted and YOU are in agony.” Folks, receiving good things in this life is no sign that God approves of you. For men like these wicked and deadly enemies in this psalm – it actually makes them even guiltier in God’s eyes.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Praise

So, these deadly enemies are just showered with blessings from God in this life. And that’s what they focus on. But what’s David’s focus? Let’s look at the last verse of Psalm 17 where we see David praising God for the antitipation of seeing and being satisfied with God. Verse 15.

15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

“As for me” he says. In opposition to those who set their minds on things of this earth – whose only portion will be what they have in this life – David is more interested in beholding God’s face. Are you? Are you honestly more interested in seeing God and being with him forever than you are in what you can gain in this life? David was.

And what made David confident that he was going to see God? It’s the very thing that he’s been emphasizing throughout this entire psalm – his innocence, his righteousness. Because of David’s rghteousness, he would behold God’s face.

Now, we know from what David says elsewhere and even from what the New Testament says of David that this is not self-righteousness or a righteousness based on the Law. But it’s the righteousness of one to whom sin is not imputed, whose transgressions the Lord forgives. That righteousness based on faith in God’s promises will allow David to see God’s face.

So, the enemies are satisfied with food and children. But David will be satisfied with the Lord’s presence when he wakes – as it were – from this short fleeting life.

So, that’s Psalm 17 – Confidence that God Will Protect the Innocent Man from His Deadly Enemies.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary

Psalm 16 2 Commentary Image

We trust that this Psalm 16 2 commentary will help you understand this verse… In Psalm 16 2 David reminds himself of what he has said to the Lord.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
David’s Master

He at some point has told the Lord that he’s his lord. He’s told Yahweh that he’s David’s Adonai. His master or ruler.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Goodness Doesn’t Extend…

And David has told the Lord additionally that David’s goodness doesn’t extend to the Lord.

And that makes very little sense, honestly. And this is the beginning of where things start getting really gnarly with trying to translate and interpret this psalm.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Verses 2 and 3 Together?

You can see the King James translators interpreting this verse and the next one as David saying that his own goodness doesn’t extend to the Lord, but that it does extend to the saints in verse 3. So they grammatically connect verses 2 and 3 as if they’re one connected thought.

But, I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. So, let’s explore what I think David is saying here.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Whose Goodness?

To begin, “goodness” CAN refer to the goodness that proceeds from someone to someone else. That’s how it’s taken in the KJV.

But it can ALSO refer to someone’s welfare – the goodness – NOT that PROCEEDS from someone – but that someone RECEIVES.

And I think in Psalm 16 2, David is speaking not of his own GOODNESS that others can receive but of his WELFARE which he needs to receive from some source outside of himself.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Extend to God?

And so next, we’re told that this welfare of his doesn’t extend to God.

“Extend” as you see there is in italics – the slanty words – and so it’s not in the Hebrew text.

So, then we have David saying that his “welfare not to God” whatever that means. So, David’s welfare is not TO God.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Meaning of “To”

That word “to” surprisingly has a vast array of meanings. And that’s common in both Hebrew and Greek – that a certain preposition can have any number of meanings. And I’m sure if you thought of our English prepositions and the full range of meanings of each one, you’d probably notice the same flexibility in our language as well.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary

So, that being sad, one possible meaning of this Hebrew preposition “to” that makes sense in context is “beyond”.

David’s welfare – then – is not BEYOND God.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary

And here’s putting it all together. This is the idea that David is communicating in Psalm 16 2:

It’s not beyond God’s ability to produce and maintain David’s welfare.

So, you get the sense that David is expressing confidence that God is able to provide the welfare – the well-being – that he needs.

This is the meaning of Psalm 16 2.

So, let’s return to our Psalm 16 Commentary.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning

Psalm 16 11 Meaning

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Context

And the end of his meditation in Psalm 16, David expresses that he is satisfied with God because he believed that he would enjoy God forever. Verses 9 through 11.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:
my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;
neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life:
in thy presence is fulness of joy;
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

What Does Psalm 16 Verse 11 Mean?

So, here Psalm 16 ends with another very difficult section to interpret. And it’s not difficult primarily because of what IT says. It’s difficult because of what the NEW TESTAMENT says ABOUT it. The difficulty comes from trying to reconcile the way that an Old Testament Hebrew would have read this psalm with how the New Testament Jews – Peter and Paul – interpreted it.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Is it Speaking of David?

If I were a Hebrew reading this psalm in the Old Testament period, I would think this is David speaking of his belief that he would be with God forever.

Verse 9 starts with David kind of summarizing all the things he’s said about his satisfaction with God. He says “therefore” – because of all these reasons that give me satisfaction with God – I’m rejoicing and glad. And I personally hope that’s your reaction to the things we’ve considered so far – joy and gladness.

David goes on to say that his flesh will “rest in hope” or “dwell securely”. He’s not afraid of the future. Why?

Because God in the future will not abandon his soul in “hell” – or in “Sheol”. This is where dead bodies go – the “grave”. God won’t leave David’s body in the grave.

Neither will God in the future allow David – his holy or godly one – his hasid – to “see corruption” or to see the “Pit” – another reference to where dead bodies go and where they then undergo decay as the body breaks down.

David would seem to be affirming that he isn’t going to be left in the grave or the pit. Well, how would that happen? Because all that we can see and experience suggests that all bodies do die eventually and that they are abandoned to the grave in which they’re placed. Well, God, verse 11 will show David “the path of life”. God is going to make known to David this path. And do you know where that path leads? Next statement – right into God’s presence – where there is an abundance of joy and pleasure. And that will be the case FOREVER.

Do you believe that? Isn’t that one humongous reason to be satisfied with God – even when life is hard here on earth? You are going to be with him forever – where pleasures will be in abundance. Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for his people.

And so, if I were a Hebrew reading this psalm originally, I would think that David is just generally speaking of his confidence that God would raise him from the dead some day to be with the Lord forever. And this would be the crowning reason why David is satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning According to Peter

But then Peter preaches on Pentecost starting in Acts 2:24. He says that the Jews crucified David’s SON – Jesus. But death could not hold its power over him. Why? Well,because of what David says in Psalm 16:9-11 right here! And then Peter says – “listen folks, David’s body is still in the grave. He HAS experienced corruption in the pit. And his body is still there to this day.” So, how do you reconcile the fact that David appears to be saying that his body won’t see decay… and yet, that his body saw decay? Well, Peter says that David was a prophet and he knew that God had promised to seat one of his descendants on his throne forever. And so, according to Peter, David was actually looking ahead to and speaking of Christ’s resurrection.

And that IS what David’s speaking of anyway – resurrection. And eventually David WILL be raised. But even before David’s resurrection – Christ, his descendant would be raised. And Christ’s body would not be like David’s. Christ’s body would not undergo any decay. Why? Because God raised him from the dead before that could happen.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning According to Paul

And now, it’s not only Peter that interprets this psalm as referring to Christ. Paul does it too in Acts 13:34. There Paul is arguing that Jesus was raised from the dead and that the Scripture had predicted that that would happen. He FIRST takes a passage from Isaiah 55 that Paul interprets as God promising to give to Christ the promises that were made to David. So, Christ inherits all the promises that were originally David’s. THEN Paul says that one of those promises is found in Psalm 16 – the second line of verse 10 – that God wouldn’t allow his holy one to undergo decay. Paul says pretty bluntly that indeed David DID undergo decay after he died. But – he says – the one whom God raised up – Jesus – he did not undergo decay.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Ultimately Christ, not David

So, PETER says that David spoke of Christ’s resurrection in Psalm 16. PAUL says that Psalm 16 contains a promise to David that Christ rightfully inherited. BOTH are in agreement that the last three verses of Psalm 16 apply directly to Christ and that they couldn’t possibly apply to David in any immediate sense because his body DID experience decay, but Christ’s did NOT.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Be Satisfied with Jesus

And so we’re given yet another reason to be satisfied with God. Here it is. He sent Jesus to die for our sins. But he didn’t leave Jesus in the grave. His body didn’t experience decay. He’s alive and because he lives you will live. He’s alive and now he always intercedes for you – praying to the Father for you.

What a satisfying God! I trust we’ll be fully satisfied with him today – and all the more so today on the first day of the week when we remember that God raised his son from the grave, never to experience decay.