Psalm 17:11
They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) They have now . . .—Evidently the meaning is, Wherever we go they surround us like curs, i.e., they dog our footsteps. But the text is confused.

They have set.—Literally, they fix their eyes to cast on the earth, which may mean, “they fix their eyes on me, ready to strike me to the ground.” Ewald, “they direct their eyes through the land to strike.” But Mr. Burgess suggests a translation at once simple and convincing. He brings the first word back from the next verse, and points it our blood, instead of the awkward his likeness. He thus gets, “They have set their eyes to shed our blood on the earth.” For the Hebrew verb in similar sense, comp. Isaiah 66:12.

Psalm 17:11-12. They have compassed us in our steps — In all our ways. We go from place to place: we flee for safety to rocks, caves, and woods; but whithersoever we go they are at hand, and ready to surround us. See an instance of this 1 Samuel 23:26. They have set their eyes — Namely, upon or against us. They have discovered us, and keep their eyes fixed upon us, that we may not escape, or as intending to shoot at us with their arrows. Bowing down to the earth — Couching and casting themselves down upon the earth, that they may not be discovered, and so may watch the fittest opportunity to surprise us. Which sense is favoured by the next verse, and by comparing Psalm 10:10. The Hebrew, however, לנשׂות בארצ, lintoth baaretz, may be rendered, to cast us down to the earth, that is, They have fixed their eyes upon us, in order that they may watch their opportunity to lay us prostrate on the ground, and destroy us. Like a lion, greedy of his prey — Which is hungry, and therefore cruel. “The similitude of a lion, either roaming abroad in quest of his prey, or couching in secret, ready to spring upon it, the moment it comes within his reach, is often employed by David, to describe the power and malice of his enemies. Christians cannot forget that they likewise have an adversary of the same nature and character; one ever seeking whom, and contriving how, he may devour.” — Horne.

17:8-15 Being compassed with enemies, David prays to God to keep him in safety. This prayer is a prediction that Christ would be preserved, through all the hardships and difficulties of his humiliation, to the glories and joys of his exalted state, and is a pattern to Christians to commit the keeping of their souls to God, trusting him to preserve them to his heavenly kingdom. Those are our worst enemies, that are enemies to our souls. They are God's sword, which cannot move without him, and which he will sheathe when he has done his work with it. They are his hand, by which he chastises his people. There is no fleeing from God's hand, but by fleeing to it. It is very comfortable, when we are in fear of the power of man, to see it dependent upon, and in subjection to the power of God. Most men look on the things of this world as the best things; and they look no further, nor show any care to provide for another life. The things of this world are called treasures, they are so accounted; but to the soul, and when compared with eternal blessings, they are trash. The most afflicted Christian need not envy the most prosperous men of the world, who have their portion in this life. Clothed with Christ's righteousness, having through his grace a good heart and a good life, may we by faith behold God's face, and set him always before us. When we awake every morning, may we be satisfied with his likeness set before us in his word, and with his likeness stamped upon us by his renewing grace. Happiness in the other world is prepared only for those that are justified and sanctified: they shall be put in possession of it when the soul awakes, at death, out of its slumber in the body, and when the body awakes, at the resurrection, out of its slumber in the grave. There is no satisfaction for a soul but in God, and in his good will towards us, and his good work in us; yet that satisfaction will not be perfect till we come to heaven.They have now compassed us - Myself, and those who are associated with me. It would seem from this that the psalmist was not alone. It is to be observed, however, that there is a difference of reading in the Hebrew text. The Masoretic reading is: "us;" the Hebrew text is "me," though in the other expression the plural is used - "our steps." There is no impropriety in supposing that the psalmist refers to his followers, associates, or friends, meaning that the wrong was done not to him alone, but to others connected with him. The meaning of "compassed" is, that they "surrounded" him on every side. Wherever he went, they were there.

In our steps - Wherever we go.

They have set their eyes - As those do who are intent on any thing; as the lion does that is seeking its prey Psalm 17:12. They looked keenly and directly at the object. They did not allow their eyes to wander. They were not indifferent to the object of their pursuit.

Bowing down to the earth - That is, as the translators evidently understood this, having their eyes bowed down to the ground, or looking steadily to the ground. The image, according to Dr. Horsley, is borrowed from a hunter taking aim at an animal upon the ground. A more literal translation, however, would be, "They have fixed their eyes to lay me prostrate upon the ground." The Hebrew word - נטה nâṭâh - means properly "to stretch out, to extend;" then, "to incline, to bow, to depress;" and hence, the idea of "prostrating;" thus, to make the shoulder bend downward, Genesis 49:15; to bring down the mind to an object, Psalm 119:112; to bow the heavens, Psalm 18:9. Hence, the idea of prostrating an enemy; and the sense here clearly is, that they had fixed their eyes intently on the psalmist, with a purpose to prostrate him to the ground, or completely to overwhelm him.

11. They pursue us as beasts tracking their prey. In our steps, i. e. in all our ways. We go from place to place, to rocks, and caves, and woods; but wheresoever we go they are at hand, and ready to surround us; of which see an example, 1 Samuel 23:26.

They have set their eyes, to wit, upon or against us, i.e. they have discovered us, and keep their eyes fixed upon us, that we may not escape, or as designing to shoot at us.

Bowing down to the earth, i. e. couching and casting themselves down upon the earth, that they may not be discovered, and so may watch the fittest opportunity to surprise us; which sense is favoured by the next verse, and by comparing Psalm 10:10. Otherwise, to cast us down to the earth.

They have now compassed us in our steps,.... The sense is, they could not stir a step but they were at their heels, surrounding them on every side. This was true of David, when he was pursued by Saul, and followed by him to Keilah and the wilderness of Maon, 1 Samuel 23:8; according to the "Cetib", or textual writing, it should be rendered, "they have compassed me"; but, according to the "Keri", or marginal reading, and the points, it is as we have translated it, and which is followed by the Targum, and both are right, and design David as a principal person, and those that were with him, who were encompassed by Saul and his men. This also was verified in Christ, when Judas followed him into the garden with a band of men to betray him, and when he was enclosed by wicked men as he went to the cross, and hung upon it, John 18:2; and may likewise be accommodated to the case of all the saints, who are troubled on every side, are beset with the corruptions of their hearts, the temptations of Satan, and the reproaches and persecutions of the men of the world, 2 Corinthians 4:8;

they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; which posture either denotes fraudulence and hypocrisy, showing, by looking only upon the ground, as if they were harmless and inoffensive, and had no ill designs, and took no notice of anything; which, as it was true of David's enemies, so of the Jews and of Judas with respect to Christ, and of false teachers with respect to the church, Luke 20:20, Matthew 7:15; or else inhumanity and contempt, not caring to turn their eyes to look upon them in distress, but kept their eyes fixed upon the earth, so Christ was treated by the Jews, Isaiah 53:3; or rather their being intent upon mischief, their diligence and watchfulness to observe all motions, and take every opportunity "to strike", or "cast me down to the earth", as the Arabic and Syriac versions render it; or the sense is, as Kimchi gives it, their eyes are upon our ways, to spread nets for us in the earth to take us.

They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. It has come to this that they beset the Psalmist and his adherents at every step. See 1 Samuel 23:26.

They have set &c.] R.V., They set their eyes to cast us down to the earth. They watch intently for an opportunity of overthrowing us. Cp. Psalm 37:32; Psalm 37:14; Psalm 10:8.

Verse 11. - They have now compassed us in our steps; rather, [following] our steps, they now compass me (comp. ver. 9; and see 1 Samuel 23:26). They have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; rather, they have set their eyes, to east [me] down to the earth. The simile of the lion is already in the writer's mind. As the lion, before making his spring, fixes his eyes intently upon the prey - not to fascinate it, but to make sure of his distance - with intent, when he springs, to cast the prey down to the earth; so it is now with my enemies, who have set their eyes on me. (So Dr. Kay, the 'Speaker's Commentary,' and the Revised Version.) Psalm 17:11Psalm 17:10 tell what sort of people these persecutors are. Their heart is called fat, adeps, not as though חלב could in itself be equivalent to לב, more especially as both words are radically distinct (חלב from the root לב, λιπ; לב from the root לב, לף to envelope: that which is enveloped, the kernel, the inside), but (without any need for von Ortenberg's conjecture חלב לבּמו סגרוּ "they close their heart with fat") because it is, as it were, entirely fat (Psalm 119:70, cf. Psalm 73:7), and because it is inaccessible to any feeling of compassion, and in general incapable of the nobler emotions. To shut up the fat equals the heart (cf. κλείειν τὰ σπλάγχνα 1 John 3:17), is equivalent to: to fortify one's self wilfully in indifference to sympathy, tender feeling, and all noble feelings (cf. השׁמין לב equals to harden, Isaiah 6:10). The construction of פּימו (which agrees in sound with פּימה, Job 15:27) is just the same as that of קולי, Psalm 3:5. On the other hand, אשּׁוּרנוּ (after the form עמּוּד and written plene) is neither such an accusative of the means or instrument, nor the second accusative, beside the accusative of the object, of that by which the object is surrounded, that is usually found with verbs of surrounding (e.g., Psalm 5:13; Psalm 32:7); for "they have surrounded me (us) with our step" is unintelligible. But אשׁורנו can be the accusative of the member, as in Psalm 3:8, cf. Psalm 22:17, Genesis 3:15, for "it is true the step is not a member" (Hitz.), but since "step" and "foot" are interchangeable notions, Psalm 73:2, the σχῆμα καθ ̓ ὅλον καὶ μέρος is applicable to the former, and as, e.g., Homer says, Iliad vii. 355: σὲ μάλιστα πόνος φρένας ἀμφιβέβηκεν, the Hebrew poet can also say: they have encompassed us (and in fact) our steps, each of our steps (so that we cannot go forwards or backwards with our feet). The Ker סבבוּנוּ gets rid of the change in number which we have with the Chethb סבבוני; the latter, however, is admissible according to parallels like Psalm 62:5, and corresponds to David's position, who is hunted by Saul and at the present time driven into a strait at the head of a small company of faithful followers. Their eyes - he goes on to say in Psalm 17:11 - have they set to fell, viz., us, who are encompassed, to the earth, i.e., so that we shall be cast to the ground. נטה is transitive, as in Psalm 18:10; Psalm 62:4, in the transitively applied sense of Psalm 73:2 (cf. Psalm 37:31): to incline to fall (whereas in Psalm 44:19, Job 31:7, it means to turn away from); and בּארץ (without any need fore the conjecture בּארח) expresses the final issue, instead of לארץ, Psalm 7:6. By the expression דּמינו one is prominently singled out from the host of the enemy, viz., its chief, the words being: his likeness is as a lion, according to the peculiarity of the poetical style, of changing verbal into substantival clauses, instead of דּמה כּאריה. Since in Old Testament Hebrew, as also in Syriac and Arabic, כ is only a preposition, not a connective conjunction, it cannot be rendered: as a lion longs to prey, but: as a lion that is greedy or hungry (cf. Arab. ksf, used of sinking away, decline, obscuring or eclipsing, growing pale, and Arab. chsf, more especially of enfeebling, hunger, distinct from חשׂף equals Arab. ks̆f, to peel off, make bare) to ravin. In the parallel member of the verse the participle alternates with the attributive clause. כּפיר is (according to Meier) the young lion as being covered with thicker hair.
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