Psalm 17:1
A Prayer of David. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.
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(1) Hear the right.—Or (see margin), justice. Some ancient versions read, “Hear, Lord of righteousness.” Others make it concrete: “Hear me, the righteous; “but the Authorised Version has the true sense.

Psalm 17:1. Hear the right, O Lord — Hebrew, צדק, tzedek, righteousness, that is, my righteous cause, or me, who, notwithstanding all their accusations, and slanders, am righteous in my conduct toward them and all men. Attend unto my cry — My fervent prayer, attended with strong cries. That goeth not out of feigned lips — Hebrew, שׁפתי מרמה, shipthee mirmah, lips of deceit, or of guile, which speak one thing when the heart knows and designs another. This profession of his sincerity in his words fitly makes way for his solemn appeal to God, in the following verses.

17:1-7 This psalm is a prayer. Feigned prayers are fruitless; but if our hearts lead our prayers, God will meet them with his favour. The psalmist had been used to pray, so that it was not his distress and danger that now first brought him to his duty. And he was encouraged by his faith to expect God would notice his prayers. Constant resolution and watchfulness against sins of the tongue, will be a good evidence of our integrity. Aware of man's propensity to wicked works, and of his own peculiar temptations, David had made God's word his preservative from the paths of Satan, which lead to destruction. If we carefully avoid the paths of sin, it will be very lead to destruction. If we carefully avoid the paths of sin, it will be very comfortable in the reflection, when we are in trouble. Those that are, through grace, going in God's paths, should pray that their goings may be held up in those paths. David prays, Lord, still hold me up. Those who would proceed and persevere in the ways of God, must, by faith prayer, get daily fresh supplies of grace and strength from him. Show thy marvellous loving-kindness, distinguishing favours, not common mercies, but be gracious to me; do as thou usest to do to those who love thy name.Hear the right - Margin, as in Hebrew, "justice." The prayer is, that God would regard that which was "right" in the case, or that he would vindicate the psalmist from that which was wrong. It is the expression of his confident assurance even in the presence of God that his cause was right, and that he was asking only that which it would be consistent for a "just" God to do. We can offer an acceptable prayer only when we are sure that it would be right for God to answer it, or that it would be consistent with perfect and eternal justice to grant our requests. It is to be observed here, however, that the ground of the petition of the psalmist is not that "he" was righteous, that is, he did not base his petition on the ground of his own merits, but that his "cause" was righteous; that he was unjustly oppressed and persecuted by his enemies. We cannot ask God to interpose in our behalf because we have a claim to his favor on the ground of our own merit; we may ask him to interpose because wrong is done, and his glory will be promoted in securing that which is just and right.

Attend unto my cry - The word used here - רנה rinnâh - means either a shout of joy, Psalm 30:5; Psalm 42:4; Psalm 47:1; or a mournful cry, outcry, wailing, Psalm 61:1; et soepe. It is expressive, in either case, of deep feeling which vents itself in an audible manner. Here it denotes the earnest "utterance" of prayer.

Give ear unto my prayer - See the notes at Psalm 5:1.

That goeth not out of feigned lips - Margin, as in Hebrew, "without lips of deceit." That is, that is sincere, or that proceeds from the heart. The utterance of the lips does not misrepresent the feelings of the heart. True prayer is that in which the lips "do" represent the real feelings of the soul. In hypocritical prayer the one is no proper representation of the other. It is evident that the prayer here was not mere mental prayer, or a mere desire of the heart. It was uttered prayer, or oral prayer; and, though private, it was in the form of uttered words. The feeling was so great that it was expressed in an audible cry to God. Deep emotion usually finds vent in such audible and fervent expressions. Compare the Saviour's earnest prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:41 ff.


Ps 17:1-15. This Psalm is termed a prayer because the language of petition is predominant. With a just cause, sincerely presented, the writer prays for a just decision and help and protection. Pleading former mercies as a ground of hope, he urges his prayer in view of the malice, pride, rapacity, and selfishness of his foes, whose character is contrasted with his pious devotion and delight in God's favor.

1 Hear the right, O Lord attend unto my unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer that goeth not out of reigned lips.

2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

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.

Psalm 17:1

"Hear the right, O Lord." He that has the worst cause makes the most noise; hence the oppressed soul is apprehensive that its voice may be drowned, and therefore pleads in this one verse for a hearing no less than three times. The troubled heart craves for the ear of the great Judge, persuaded that with him to hear is to redress if our God could not or would not hear us, our state would be deplorable indeed; and yet some professors set such small store by the mercy-seat, that God does not hear them for the simple reason that they neglect to plead. As well have no house if we persist like gypsies in living in the lanes and commons; as well have no mercy-seat as be always defending our own cause and never going to God. There is more fear that we will not hear the Lord than that the Lord will not hear us. "Hear the right;" it is well if our case is good in itself and can be urged as a right one, for right shall never be wronged by our righteous Judge; but if our suit be marred by our infirmities, it is a great privilege that we may make mention of the righteousness of our Lord Jesus, which is ever prevalent on high. Right has a voice which Jehovah always hears; and if my wrongs clamour against me with great force and fury, I will pray the Lord to hear that still louder and mightier voice of the right, and the rights of his dear Son. "Hear, O God, the just One;" i.e., "hear the Messiah," is a rendering adopted by Jerome, and admired by Bishop Horsley, whether correct or not as a translation, it is proper enough as a plea. Let the reader plead it at the throne of the righteous God, even when all other arguments are unavailing.

"Attend unto my cry." This shows the vehemence and earnestness of the petitioner; he is no mere talker, he weeps and laments. Who can resist a cry? A real hearty, bitter, piteous cry, might almost melt a rock, there can be no fear of its prevalence with our heavenly Father. A cry is our earliest utterance, and in many ways the most natural of human sounds; if our prayer should like the infant's cry be more natural than intelligent, and more earnest than elegant, it will be none the less eloquent with God. There is a mighty power in a child's cry to prevail with a parent's heart. "Give ear unto my prayer." Some repetitions are not vain. The reduplication here used is neither superstition nor tautology, but is like the repeated blow of a hammer hitting the same nail on the head to fix it the more effectually, or the continued knocking of a beggar at the gate who cannot be denied an alms. "That goeth not out of feigned lips." Sincerity is a sine qu non in prayer. Lips of deceit are detestable to man and much more to God. In intercourse so hallowed as that of prayer, hypocrisy even in the remotest degree is as fatal as it is foolish. Hypocritical piety is double iniquity. He who would feign and flatter had better try his craft with a fool like himself, for to deceive the all-seeing One is as impossible as to take the moon in a net, or to lead the sun into a snare. He who would deceive God is himself already most grossly deceived. Our sincerity in prayer has no merit in it, any more than the earnestness of a mendicant in the street; but at the same time the Lord has regard to it, through Jesus, and will not long refuse his ear to an honest and fervent petitioner.

Psalm 17:2

"Let my sentence come forth from thy presence." The Psalmist has now grown bold by the strengthening influence of prayer, and he now entreats the Judge of all the earth to give sentence upon his case. He had been libelled, basely and maliciously libelled; and having brought his action before the highest court, he, like an innocent man, has no desire to escape the enquiry, but even invites and sues for judgment. He does not ask for secrecy, but would have the result come forth to the world. He would have sentence pronounced and executed forthwith. In some matters we may venture to be as bold as this; but except we can plead something better than our own supposed innocence, it were terrible presumption thus to challenge the judgment of a sin-hating God. With Jesus as our complete and all-glorious righteousness we need not fear, though the day of judgment should commence at once, and hell open her mouth at our feet, but might joyfully prove the truth of our hymn writer's holy boast -

"Bold shall I stand in that great day;

For who ought to my charge shall lay?

While, through thy blood, absolved Iam

From sin's tremendous curse and shame."

continued...David being now grievously persecuted and distressed by Saul and other enemies, and being also bespattered with many calumnies, he appeals to the heart-searching God, makes a solemn protestation of his integrity, earnestly begs of God protection and deliverances; and being made weary of this life by his pressing and manifold calamities, he comforts himself with the contemplation and hope of a happier life.

David, in confidence of his integrity, Psalm 17:1-6, prayeth to God for defence against his enemies, Psalm 17:7-9. He showeth their pride, craft, and eagerness to make a prey of the innocent, Psalm 17:10-12; and prayeth against them in confidence of his hope, Psalm 17:13-15.

The right, Heb. righteousness, i.e. me, who, notwithstanding all their accusations and slanders, am righteous. Or, my righteous cause; do thou take notice of it, and give sentence for me. Or, my righteous prayer. I desire nothing that is unreasonable or unjust, but that thou wouldst judge righteously between me and mine enemies, and vindicate thine own honour and faithfulness in making good thy promise to me; which thy righteousness obliges thee to do.

My cry, i.e. my fervent prayer attended with strong cries.

Not out of feigned lips, Heb. not with deceitful lips, which speak one thing, when my heart knoweth and designeth another. And this profession of his sincerity in his words doth fitly make way for his solemn appeal to God in the following verses.

Hear the right, O Lord,.... The psalmist appeals to the Lord as a Judge, sitting on the throne judging right, that he would hear his cause litigated between him and his adversaries, determine and give the decisive sentence about it; so Christ committed himself to him that judgeth righteously, 1 Peter 2:23; for by "right" may be meant his right and cause, or his righteous cause, as in Psalm 9:4; unless rather his righteous prayer should be intended, so the Targum paraphrases it, "my prayer in righteousness"; not presented for the sake of his own righteousness, but on account of the righteousness of Christ, and for the vindication of his righteous cause before men: the Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, render it "my righteousness", meaning his righteous cause; but rather the word may be rendered "righteousness" (z), or the "righteous one", and may design the psalmist himself, who was a righteous person, and such the Lord hears; or Christ, whose name is the Lord our righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6; and who, as an advocate or intercessor for himself and for his people, is Jesus Christ the righteous, 1 John 2:1. The Septuagint version takes it to be an epithet of the Lord himself, translating it, "O Lord of my righteousness", as in Psalm 4:1; and so the Syriac version, "hear, O holy Lord"; and in this manner does Christ address his father in prayer, John 17:11; and the consideration of the holiness and righteousness of God is of use in prayer to glorify God, and to command a proper awe and reverence of him;

attend unto my cry; the word for "cry" signifies both a noise made in a way of joy and grief; wherefore the Chaldee paraphrase renders it, "attend to my praise", or hymn of praise, and which arises from sorrow and distress; and intends not mental prayer attended with groanings which cannot be uttered, but vocal prayer expressed in a loud and mournful manner, signifying the distress the person is in, and his earnestness and importunacy for help; and of this sort were some of Christ's prayers; see Hebrews 5:7;

give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips; hypocritical and deceitful ones; but this went forth from his heart, which was lifted up with his hands to God, to whom he drew nigh with a true heart, and called upon him in the sincerity and uprightness of his soul; and of this sort were all Christ's prayers, in whose mouth there is no guile: the various expressions, "hear, attend, give ear", which signify the same thing, show the distress the supplicant was in, the fervency of his prayer, and his vehement and earnest desire to be heard and answered immediately; and since the accent "athnach" is upon the word "my prayer", this last clause is not to be joined only to that, but refers to all that is said before; as that his "right" and his "cry", as well as his prayer, were unfeigned.

(z) "justitiam", Vatablus, Cocceius, Gejerus; , Aquila in Drusius; "justitiam", i.e. "me qui sum justus", Piscator.

<> Hear {a} the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.

(a) My righteous cause.

1. the right] Lit. righteousness or justice. With a righteous cause and a just appeal (Psalm 7:8) the Psalmist appears before the righteous Judge (Psalm 7:17; Psalm 9:4; Psalm 9:8), confident in the integrity of his motives towards God and man. A good conscience is the indispensable condition of earnest prayer.

my cry] The word denotes a shrill piercing cry, frequently of joy, sometimes as here of entreaty, “expressive of emotional excitement such as an Eastern scruples not to use in prayer” (Cheyne). Cp. Psalm 61:1; Jeremiah 7:16.

that goeth not out of feigned lips] Uttered by no deceitful lips. Cp. Psalm 5:6; Psalm 10:7. There is no hypocrisy in this prayer.

1, 2. An appeal for justice.

Verse 1. - Hear the right, O Lord (comp. Psalm 9:4). Here and elsewhere the psalmist assumes that right is on his side, and that he is persecuted unjustly. Unless he had been convinced of this, he could not have called on God to vindicate him. The narrative in 1 Samuel 18. - 27, fully justifies his conviction. Attend unto my cry (comp. Psalm 4:1; Psalm 5:2; Psalm 61:1). Rinnah, the word translated "cry" here (and in Psalm 61:1) is a strong term: it means "shout," "outcry" - most often, though not here, "a shout of joy." Give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips; rather, feigning lips, or guileful lips - lips, i.e., that speak falsehood knowingly. Psalm 17:1צדק is the accusative of the object: the righteousness, intended by the suppliant, is his own (Psalm 17:15). He knows that he is not merely righteous in his relation to man, but also in his relation to God. In all such assertions of pious self-consciousness, that which is intended is a righteousness of life which has its ground in the righteousness of faith. True, Hupfeld is of opinion, that under the Old Testament nothing was known either of righteousness which is by faith or of a righteousness belonging to another and imputed. But if this were true, then Paul was in gross error and Christianity is built upon the sand. But the truth, that faith is the ultimate ground of righteousness, is expressed in Genesis 15:6, and at other turning-points in the course of the history of redemption; and the truth, that the righteousness which avails before God is a gift of grace is, for instance, a thought distinctly marked out in the expression of Jeremiah צדקנוּ ה, "the Lord our righteousness." The Old Testament conception, it is true, looks more to the phenomena than to the root of the matter (ist mehr phnomenell als wurzelhaft), is (so to speak) more Jacobic than Pauline; but the righteousness of life of the Old Testament and that of the New have one and the same basis, viz., in the grace of God, the Redeemer, towards sinful man, who in himself is altogether wanting in righteousness before God (Psalm 143:2). Thus there is no self-righteousness, in David's praying that the righteousness, which in him is persecuted and cries for help, may be heard. For, on the one hand, in his personal relation to Saul, he knows himself to be free from any ungrateful thoughts of usurpation, and on the other, in his personal relation to God free from מרמה, i.e., self-delusion and hypocrisy. The shrill cry for help, רנּה, which he raises, is such as may be heard and answered, because they are not lips of deceit with which he prays. The actual fact is manifest לפני יהוה, therefore may his right go forth מלּפניו, - just what does happen, by its being publicly proclaimed and openly maintained - from Him, for His eyes, the eyes of Him who knoweth the hearts (Psalm 11:4), behold מישׁרים (as in Psalm 58:2; Psalm 75:3 equals בּמישׁרים, Psalm 9:9, and many other passages), in uprightness, i.e., in accordance with the facts of the case and without partiality. מישׁרים might also be an accusative of the object (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:17), but the usage of the language much more strongly favours the adverbial rendering, which is made still more natural by the confirmatory relation in which Psalm 17:2 stands to Psalm 17:2.
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