Psalm 17:3
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.
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(3) In the night (as Psalm 16:7).—The time of calm reflection and self-examination. Some, however, taking this verse in connection with Psalm 17:15, think the poem was composed at night.

I am purposed.—The Hebrew word presents a difficulty. It is better to take it as a noun—counsels, and here, as generally, evil counsels—and join it to the preceding, not (as in the Authorised Version) the following words.

“Thou hast proved my heart,

Thou hast visited me in the night,

Thou hast found no malice in me,

My mouth doth not transgress, or

It (malice) doth not pass my mouth.”

“I offend”—that is, “neither in thought nor word.” The LXX., Vulg., Syr., Chald., and Arab. versions support this arrangement.

Psalm 17:3. Thou hast proved mine heart — Or searched, or tried it, by many temptations and afflictions; by which the sincerity or hypocrisy of men’s hearts is discovered, and especially is manifest to thy all-seeing eye. Thou hast visited me in the night — Thou hast been present with me in my greatest privacies; to discover whether, in my retirement from the eyes of men, in the night season, when secrecy and solitude prompt the hypocrite to sin, I was forming any evil designs, or indulging any mischievous imaginations. Thou hast tried me — Accurately and severely, as goldsmiths do metals. And shalt find nothing — Nothing of unrighteousness in me. In the Hebrew it is only, Thou shalt not find; namely, that whereof my enemies accuse me, whether hypocrisy toward thee, or evil designs against Saul, covered with fair pretences. I am purposed — I have resolved upon deliberation, as the word here used implies; that my mouth shall not transgress — I am so far from taking any measures, or practising any thing against Saul’s life, as they charge me, that I will not wrong him so much as in word. Or, more generally, and without any particular reference to Saul, “I am so far from doing any wicked thing, that I will keep a strict watch even over my words; and though mine enemies persecute me ever so much by their evil deeds, I am resolved they shall not tempt me to speak evil.” Observe, reader, he does not say, I hope my mouth shall not transgress, or I wish it may not, but I am fully purposed that it shall not. With this bridle he kept it, Psalm 39:2. Constant resolution and watchfulness against the sins of the tongue will be a good evidence of our integrity. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, James 3:2.

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.Thou hast proved mine heart - In this verse he refers to his own character and life in the matter under consideration, or the consciousness of his own innocence in respect to his fellow-men who are persecuting and opposing him. He appeals to the Great Searcher of hearts in proof that, in this respect, he was innocent; and he refers to different forms of trial on the part of God to show that after the most thorough search he would find, and did find, that in these respects he was an innocent man, and that his enemies had no occasion to treat him as they had done. It is still to be borne in mind here that the trial which the psalmist asks at the hand of God was not to prove that he was innocent toward him, or that he had a claim to His favor on account of his own personal holiness, but it was that he was innocent of any wrong toward those who were persecuting him, or, in other words, that after the most searching trial, even by his Maker, it would be found that he had given them no cause for treating him thus. The word here rendered "proved" means "to try, to prove, to examine," especially metals, to test their genuineness. See Psalm 7:9-10, note; Job 12:11, note. The psalmist here says that God had tried or searched "his heart." He knew all his motives. He had examined all his desires and his thoughts. The psalmist felt assured that, after the most thorough trial, even God would not find anything in his heart that would justify the conduct of his enemies toward him.

Thou hast visited me - That is, for the purpose of inspecting my character, or of examining me. The English word "visit," like the Hebrew, is often used to denote a visitation for the purpose of inspection and examination. The idea is, that God had come to him for the very purpose of "examining" his character.

In the night - In solitude. In darkness. When I was alone. In the time when the thoughts are less under restraint than they are when surrounded by others. In a time when it can be seen what we really are; when we do not put on appearances to deceive others.

Thou hast tried me - The word used here - צרף tsâraph - means properly "to melt, to smelt," etc., metals, or separating the pure metal from the dross. The meaning is, that God, in examining into his character, had subjected him to a trial as searching as that employed in purifying metals by casting them into the fire.

And shalt find nothing - Thou wilt find nothing that could give occasion for the conduct of my enemies. The future tense is used here to denote that, even if the investigation were continued, God would find nothing in his heart or in his conduct that would warrant their treatment of him. He had the most full and settled determination not to do wrong to them in any respect whatever. Nothing had been found in him that would justify their treatment of him; he was determined so to live, and he felt assured that he would so live, that nothing of the kind would be found in him in time to come. "I am purposed." I am fully resolved.

My mouth shall not transgress - Transgress the law of God, or go beyond what is right. That is, I will utter nothing which is wrong, or which can give occasion for their harsh and unkind treatment. Much as he had been provoked and injured, he was determined not to retaliate, or to give occasion for their treating him in the manner in which they were now doing. Prof. Alexander renders this "My mouth shall not exceed my thought; "but the common version gives a better idea, and is sanctioned by the Hebrew. Compare Gesenius, Lexicon.

3. proved … visited … tried—His character was most rigidly tested, at all times, and by all methods, affliction and others (Ps 7:10).

purposed that, &c.—or, my mouth does not exceed my purpose; I am sincere.

Proved, or searched, or tried it, by many and sore temptations and afflictions, whereby the sincerity or hypocrisy of men’s hearts are easily and commonly discovered, and especially by thy all-seeing eye. And that is my great comfort, that thou art witness of my innocency.

Thou hast visited me; thou hast made an inspection and inquiry into my heart.

In the night; either,

1. Metaphorically, i.e. in the time of trouble. Or,

2. Properly; when men’s minds being freed from the encumbrance and distraction of business, and from the presence and society of men, (which either lays a restraint upon them, or tempts them to use dissimulation,) do act most vigorously and freely, either upon good or evil, according to their several inclinations.

Thou hast tried me, accurately and severely, as goldsmiths do metals.

Shalt find nothing, i.e. nothing of unrighteousness. Heb. shalt not find, to wit, that whereof mine enemies accuse me, namely, hypocrisy towards thee, and evil design against Saul, covered under fair pretences, as they allege. So this general phrase is to be limited from the context, as other generals most frequently are. For he was so far from thinking himself sinless, that he often acknowledgeth his many and great sins, and particularly, that if God should enter into judgment with him, and be severe to mark iniquities, no living man could be justified, or stand before him, Psalm 130:3 143:2.

I am purposed, or, I have resolved upon deliberation, as the word implies, that my mouth shall not transgress; I am so far from practising against Saul’s life, as they charge me, that I will not wrong him so much as in a word. Some join these words with the next foregoing, and render the place thus, That which I have thought, my mouth shall not transgress, or rather, hath not transgressed, i.e. my thoughts and words always agree together. I abhor falsehood and dissimulation.

Thou hast proved mine heart,.... This properly belongs to God, who is the searcher of the heart and reins, and is desired by all good men; and though God has no need to make use of any means to know the heart, and what is in it; yet in order to know, or rather to make known, what is in the hearts of his people, he proves them sometimes by adversity, as he did Abraham and Job, and sometimes by prosperity, by mercies given forth in a wonderful way, as to the Israelites in the wilderness, Deuteronomy 8:2; sometimes by suffering false prophets and false teachers to be among them, Deuteronomy 13:3; and sometimes by leaving corruptions in them, and them to their corruptions, as he left the Canaanites in the land, and as he left Hezekiah to his own heart, Judges 2:22. In one or other or more of these ways God proved the heart of David, and found him to be a man after his own heart; and in the first of these ways he proved Christ, who was found faithful to him that appointed him, and was a man approved of God;

thou hast visited me in the night; God visited and redeemed his people in the night of Jewish darkness; he visits and calls them by his grace in the night of unregeneracy; and so he visits with his gracious presence in the night of desertion; and he often visits by granting counsel, comfort, and support, in the night of affliction, which seems to be intended here; thus he visited the human nature of Christ in the midst of his sorrows and sufferings, when it was the Jews' hour and power of darkness. Elsewhere God is said to visit every morning, Job 7:18;

thou hast tried me; as silver and gold are tried in the furnace; thus the people of God, and their graces in them, are tried by afflictions; so David was tried, and in this manner Christ himself was tried; wherefore he is called the tried stone, Isaiah 28:16;

and shalt find nothing; or "shalt not find": which is variously supplied; some "thy desire", or what is well pleasing to thee, so Jarchi; or "thou hast not found me innocent", as Kimchi; others supply it quite the reverse, "and iniquity is not found in me", as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions; or "thou hast not found iniquity in me", as the Syriac and Arabic versions; to which agrees the Chaldee paraphrase, "and thou hast not found corruption"; which must be understood, not as if there was no sin and corruption in David; for he often makes loud complaints and large confessions of his sins, and earnestly prays for the forgiveness of them; but either that there was no sin in his heart which he regarded, Psalm 66:18; which he nourished and cherished, which he indulged and lived in; or rather there was no such crime found in him, which his enemies charged him with; see Psalm 7:3. This is true of Christ in the fullest sense; no iniquity was ever found in him by God, by men or devils, John 14:30, 1 Peter 2:22; and also of his people, as considered in him, being justified by his righteousness, and washed in his blood, Jeremiah 50:20; though otherwise, as considered in themselves, they themselves find sin and corruption abounding in them, Romans 7:18;

I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress; by murmuring against God, on account of his visitation and fiery trials, or by railing at men for their false charges and accusations; this resolution was taken up by the psalmist in the strength of divine grace, and was kept by him, Psalm 39:9; so Christ submitted himself patiently to the will of God without repining, and when reviled by men reviled not again, Luke 22:42; and from hence may be learned, that the laws of God may be transgressed by words as well as by works, and that the one as well as the other should be guarded against; see Psalm 39:1.

Thou hast {c} proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my {d} mouth shall not transgress.

(c) When your Spirit examined my conscience.

(d) I was innocent toward my enemy both in deed and thought.

3. Thou hast tried mine heart (Psalm 7:9; Psalm 11:4-5); thou hast visited me in the night, when men’s thoughts range unrestrainedly, and they appear in their true colours (Psalm 36:4); thou hast proved or refined me (Psalm 66:10), and findest nothing, no dross of evil purpose. But see next note.

I am purposed &c.] A difficult and much disputed clause. The A.V., retained in R.V. text, follows the Massoretic accents. It is however better to connect this and the preceding clause thus:

Thou hast proved me, and findest no evil purpose in me;

My mouth doth not transgress.

In thought, word, and deed (Psalm 17:4), he has nothing to fear from the Divine scrutiny.

3–5. The bold language of a good conscience. See Introd. p. lxxxvii. Cp. Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16.

Verse 3. - Thou hast proved mine heart (comp. Psalm 26:2; Psalm 66:9; Psalm 95:9; Psalm 139:23). "Proved" means "tried," "tested," examined strictly, so as to know whether there was any wickedness in it or not. Thou hast visited me in the night. The night is the time when men can least escape those searching, testing thoughts which God's providence then especially sends, to "try the very heart and reins" (Psalm 7:9). Thou hast tried me., and shalt find nothing; rather, and findest nothing. The process was one begun in the past, and continuing on in the present. God was ever searching David and trying him; but "found nothing," i.e. no alloy, no base rectal, no serious flaw in his character; not that he was sinless, but that he 'was sincere and earnest - a true worshipper of God, not a hypocrite. I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man" (James 3:2). David's resolution to "keep the door of his lips" would have a chastening influence over both his thoughts and acts. Psalm 17:3David refers to the divine testing and illumination of the inward parts, which he has experienced in himself, in support of his sincerity. The preterites in Psalm 17:3 express the divine acts that preceded the result בּל־תּמצא, viz., the testing He has instituted, which is referred to in צרפתּני and also בּחנתּ as a trying of gold by fire, and in פּקד as an investigation (Job 7:18). The result of the close scrutiny to which God has subjected him in the night, when the bottom of a man's heart is at once made manifest, whether it be in his thoughts when awake or in the dream and fancies of the sleeper, was and is this, that He does not find, viz., anything whatever to punish in him, anything that is separated as dross from the gold. To the mind of the New Testament believer with his deep, and as it were microscopically penetrating, insight into the depth of sin, such a confession concerning himself would be more difficult than to the mind of an Old Testament saint. For a separation and disunion of flesh and spirit, which was unknown in the same degree to the Old Testament, has been accomplished in the New Testament consciousness by the facts and operations of redemption revealed in the New Testament; although at the same time it must be remembered that in such confessions the Old Testament consciousness does not claim to be clear from sins, but only from a conscious love of sin, and from a self-love that is hostile to God.

With זמּותי David begins his confession of how Jahve found him to be, instead of finding anything punishable in him. This word is either an infinitive like חנּות (Psalm 77:10) with the regular ultima accentuation, formed after the manner of the הל verbs, - in accordance with which Hitzig renders it: my thinking does not overstep my mouth, - or even 1 pers. praet., which is properly Milel, but does also occur as Milra, e.g., Deuteronomy 32:41; Isaiah 44:16 (vid., on Job 19:17), - according to which Bttcher translates: should I think anything evil, it dare not pass beyond my mouth, - or (since זמם may denote the determination that precedes the act, e.g., Jeremiah 4:28; Lamentations 2:17): I have determined my mouth shall not transgress. This last rendering is opposed by the fact, that עבר by itself in the ethical signification "to transgress" (cf. post-biblical עברה παράβασις) is not the usage of the biblical Hebrew, and that when יעבר־פּי stand close together, פי is presumptively the object. We therefore give the preference to Bttcher's explanation, which renders זמותי as a hypothetical perfect and is favoured by Proverbs 30:32 (which is to be translated: and if thou thinkest evil, (lay) thy hand on thy mouth!). Nevertheless בל יעבר־פי is not the expression of a fact, but of a purpose, as the combination of בל with the future requires it to be taken. The psalmist is able to testify of himself that he so keeps evil thoughts in subjection within him, even when they may arise, that they do not pass beyond his mouth, much less that he should put them into action. But perhaps the psalmist wrote פּיך originally, "my reflecting does not go beyond Thy commandment" (according to Numbers 22:18; 1 Samuel 15:24; Proverbs 8:29), - a meaning better suited, as a result of the search, to the nightly investigation. The ל of לפעלּות fo ל need not be the ל of reference (as to); it is that of the state or condition, as in Psalm 32:6; Psalm 69:22. אדם, as perhaps also in Job 31:33; Hosea 6:7 (if אדם is not there the name of the first man), means, men as they are by nature and habit. בּדבר שׂפתיך does not admit of being connected with לפעלּות: at the doings of the world contrary to Thy revealed will (Hofmann and others); for פּעל בּ cannot mean: to act contrary to any one, but only: to work upon any one, Job 35:6. These words must therefore be regarded as a closer definition, placed first, of the שׁמרתּי which follows: in connection with the doings of men, by virtue of the divine commandment, he has taken care of the paths of the oppressor, viz., not to go in them; 1 Samuel 25:21 is an instance in support of this rendering, where שׁמרתי, as in Job 2:6, means: I have kept (Nabal's possession), not seizing upon it myself. Jerome correctly translates vias latronis; for פּריץ signifies one who breaks in, i.e., one who does damage intentionally and by violence. The confession concerning himself is still continued in Psalm 17:5, for the inf. absol. תּמך, if taken as imperative would express a prayer for constancy, that is alien to the circumstances described. The perfect after בּל is also against such a rendering. It must therefore be taken as inf. historicus, and explained according to Job 23:11, cf. Psalm 41:13. The noun following the inf. absol., which is usually the object, is the subject in this instance, as, e.g., in Job 40:2; Proverbs 17:12; Ecclesiastes 4:2, and frequently. It is אשׁוּרי, and not אשּׁוּרי, אשׁור (a step) never having the שׁ dageshed, except in Psalm 17:11 and Job 31:7.

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