Psalm 17:4
Concerning the works of men, by the word of your lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Concerning the works of meni.e., as regards the actions of men, or in ordinary human actions; for the expression comp. Job 31:33; and Hosea 6:7, where the margin has Adam.

By the word of thy lips.—Some take this clause closely with the foregoing, and render, “against the word,” &c; but the Authorised Version is better. The Divine standard for action, not the human or worldly, influences the writer.

I have kept me.—Literally, I for my part have observed ways of violence. But usage (Proverbs 2:20) almost compels us to understand by this, “I have kept ways of violence,” which is impossible here. Hence we have either to give the verb the unusual sense “guard against,” or suppose an error in the text.

Psalm 17:4. Concerning the works of men — That is, the works which men generally practise: observing how unreasonable, wicked, and pernicious they are, not only to others, but also to themselves, I have been resolved to take more care in the ordering of my actions. This he says, to show that he had been as careful to abstain from sinful actions as from sinful words, and in all respects to do his duty to God and man. By the word of thy lips — By the help of thy blessed word, and the excellent precepts, promises, and threatenings thereof, which, by deep and frequent meditation, I have hid and fixed in my heart, as the rule of my actions, the guide of my life, and the best antidote against sin and temptation, Psalm 119:9; Psalm 119:11. I have kept me from the paths — Hebrew, שׁמרתי ארחות, shamarti arechoth, I have watched, or observed, that is, in order to avoid, the paths, or ways of the destroyer. The ways of sin are the ways of the destroyer, that is, of the devil, whose name is Abaddon, and Apollyon, or destroyer, and who ruins souls by decoying them into these ways. Now, if we would shun them, we must attend to the word of God as our rule and guide, and in order thereto, must understand, believe, and hide it in our heart. “If the word be not in our heart at all, or if it be not there in such a manner as to be ready at all times for use and application, we shall be in danger, at every turn, of going astray.” — Horne.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.Concerning the works of men - In respect to the works or doings of men. The reference is here probably to the ordinary or common doings of mankind, or to what generally characterizes the conduct of men. As their conduct is so commonly, and so characteristically wicked, wickedness may be spoken of as their "work," and it is to this doubtless that the psalmist refers. In respect to the sinful courses or "paths" to which men are so prone, he says that he had kept himself from them. This is in accordance with what he says in the previous verse, that he had given no occasion by his conduct for the treatment which he had received at the hands of his enemies.

By the word of thy lips - Not by his own strength; not by any power which he himself had, but by the commands and promises of God - by what had proceeded from his mouth. The reference is doubtless to all that God had spoken: to the law which prescribed his duty, and to the promises which God had given to enable him to walk in the path of uprightness. He had relied on the word of God as inculcating duty; he had submitted to it as authority; he had found encouragement in it in endeavoring to do right.

I have kept me - I have preserved myself. I have so guarded my conduct that I have not fallen into the sins which are so common among men.

The paths of the destroyer - The paths which the "destroyer" treads; the course of life which such men lead. The idea is, not that he had been able to save himself from violence at their hands, but that he had been enabled to avoid their mode of life. The word rendered "destroyer" is from a verb which means "to break, to rend, to scatter," and would properly refer to acts of violence and lawlessness. He had kept himself from the modes of life of the violent and the lawless; that is, he had been enabled to lead a peaceful and quiet lift. He had given no occasion to his enemies to treat him as a violent, a lawless, a wicked man.

4. works of men—sinful practices.

by the word of thy lips—as a guide (Ps 119:9, 11, 95).

destroyer—violent man.

Concerning the works of men: concerning my care and caution about my words, I have now spoken, Psalm 17:3, now I may say the like concerning my works. As for the works which men generally practise. Or, because of (as the prefix lamed is oft used, as Genesis 2:23 Numbers 16:34 Jeremiah 4:31 22:10 23:9)

the works of men. So the sense may be this, Observing and considering the quality of the works of the men of this age, with whom I converse, or of all mankind, some few excepted; considering, I say, how wicked, and unreasonable, and pernicious they are, not only to others, but also to themselves; I was resolved to take more care in the ordering of my own actions.

By the word of thy lips, i.e. by the help of thy blessed word, and the excellent rules, promises, and threatenings thereof, which by deep and frequent meditation I have hid and fixed in mine heart, as the best antidote against sin and temptation, Psalm 119:9,11.

I have kept; so the same verb is used with the like supplement Joshua 6:18, which also is in a manner included in the verb. Or, I have observed, to wit, so as to avoid them.

The paths, or ways, i.e. the customs and practices, or the imitation of them; as may be gathered from the next verse, where he prays to be kept in God’s paths, which are opposed to these paths.

Of the destroyer; or, of the violent man; such as Saul and his courtiers and soldiers have showed themselves toward me. Although their rage and violence against me might have tempted me to have repaid them in their own coin, yet I forbore it, and spared both others and Saul himself, when his life was at my mercy, 1Sa 24 26; and this I did in obedience to thy word, which required me to honour and preserve the Lord’s anointed. Concerning the works of men,.... Of wicked men, as to what respects and concerns them, or in the midst of them; in the midst of a wicked generation of men, and their filthy conversation; who appear to be so,

by the word of thy lips; the law of God, the Scriptures of truth, the rule and standard of faith and practice, which show what works are good and what are not; by the use, help, and benefit of this;

I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer; such is the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning; antichrist, whose name is Abaddon and Apollyon, both which signify a destroyer; false teachers, and all wicked men: the "paths" of such are their wicked principles and practices, their damnable errors and heresies, their sins and lusts, which make up the broad road that leads to destruction: these the psalmist "kept" or "observed" (a), for the words "me" and "from" are not in the original text; and the sense is, that he took notice of them, and avoided them, and, as a faithful prince and magistrate, forbad his subjects walking in them, and restrained them from them, making the word of God the rule of his conduct.

(a) "custodivi", Pagninus, Montanus; "observavi", Musculus, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus; so Ainsworth; "vel prohibui", Muis.

Concerning the works of men, by the {e} word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.

(e) Though the wicked provoked me to do evil for evil, yet your word kept me back.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. As for the works of men, by the word of thy lips

I have shunned the paths of the violent.

In regard to his behaviour as a man among men, he has obeyed the Divine precepts, and marked and shunned the ways of violent men, avoiding their example and society. God’s commandments have been his preservation, supplying the rule and the strength for his conduct. ‘The paths of the violent’ are the opposite of the ‘path of life,’ Psalm 16:11. (Proverbs 1:19; Proverbs 2:11-19, &c.). Robbery with violence is mentioned as the commonest form of wrong doing to neighbours (Jeremiah 7:11; Ezekiel 18:10). For illustration of the verse from David’s life see 1 Samuel 25:32 ff; 1 Samuel 24:10 ff.; cp. Psalm 7:3 ff.

The P.B.V., Because of men’s works, that are done against the words of thy lips, is untenable.Verse 4. - Concerning the works of man; i.e. "with respect to the actions of ordinary life " - here called "the works of Adam" ? i.e. of the natural man. By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. By attending to thy Law, and following it (see Psalm 119:11), I have refrained myself from sin, and avoided the wicked courses of the violent (comp. 1 Samuel 24:4-10). Thus then, as this concluding strophe, as it were like seven rays of light, affirms, he has the most blessed prospect before him, without any need to fear death. Because Jahve is thus near at hand to help him, his heart becomes joyful (שׂמח) and his glory, i.e., his soul (vid., on Psalm 7:6) rejoices, the joy breaking forth in rejoicing, as the fut. consec. affirms. There is no passage of Scripture that so closely resembles this as 1 Thessalonians 5:23. לב is πνεῦμα (νοῦς), כבוד, ψυχή (vid., Psychol. S. 98; tr. p. 119), בּשׂר (according to its primary meaning, attrectabile, that which is frail), σῶμα. The ἀμέμπτως τηρηθῆναι which the apostle in the above passage desires for his readers in respect of all three parts of their being, David here expresses as a confident expectation; for אף implies that he also hopes for his body that which he hopes for his spirit-life centred in the heart, and for his soul raised to dignity both by the work of creation and of grace. He looks death calmly and triumphantly in the face, even his flesh shall dwell or lie securely, viz., without being seized with trembling at its approaching corruption. David's hope rests on this conclusion: it is impossible for the man, who, in appropriating faith and actual experience, calls God his own, to fall into the hands of death. For Psalm 16:10 shows, that what is here thought of in connection with שׁכן לבטח, dwelling in safety under the divine protection (Deuteronomy 33:12, Deuteronomy 33:28, cf. Proverbs 3:24), is preservation from death. שׁחת is rendered by the lxx διαφθορά, as though it came from שׁחת διαφθείρειν, as perhaps it may do in Job 17:14. But in Psalm 7:16 the lxx has βόθρος, which is the more correct: prop. a sinking in, from שׁוּח to sink, to be sunk, like נחת from נוּח, רחת from רוּח. To leave to the unseen world (עזב prop. to loosen, let go) is equivalent to abandoning one to it, so that he becomes its prey. Psalm 16:10 - where to see the grave (Psalm 49:10), equivalent to, to succumb to the state of the grave, i.e., death (Psalm 89:49; Luke 2:26; John 8:51) is the opposite of "seeing life," i.e., experiencing and enjoying it (Ecclesiastes 9:9, John 3:36), the sense of sight being used as the noblest of the senses to denote the sensus communis, i.e., the common sense lying at the basis of all feeling and perception, and figuratively of all active and passive experience (Psychol. S. 234; tr. p. 276) - shows, that what is said here is not intended of an abandonment by which, having once come under the power of death, there is no coming forth again (Bttcher). It is therefore the hope of not dying, that is expressed by David in Psalm 16:10. for by חסידך David means himself. According to Norzi, the Spanish MSS have חסידיך with the Masoretic note יתיר יוד, and the lxx, Targ., and Syriac translate, and the Talmud and Midrash interpret it, in accordance with this Ker. There is no ground for the reading חסידיך, and it is also opposed by the personal form of expression surrounding it.

(Note: Most MSS and the best, which have no distinction of Ker and Chethb here, read חסידך, as also the Biblia Ven. 1521, the Spanish Polyglott and other older printed copies. Those MSS which give חסידיך (without any Ker), on the other hand, scarcely come under consideration.)

The positive expression of hope in Psalm 16:11 comes as a companion to the negative just expressed: Thou wilt grant me to experience (הודיע, is used, as usual, of the presentation of a knowledge, which concerns the whole man and not his understanding merely) ארח חיּים, the path of life, i.e., the path to life (cf. Proverbs 5:6; Proverbs 2:19 with ib. Psalm 10:17; Matthew 7:14); but not so that it is conceived of as at the final goal, but as leading slowly and gradually onwards to life; חיּים in the most manifold sense, as, e.g., in Psalm 36:10; Deuteronomy 30:15 : life from God, with God, and in God, the living God; the opposite of death, as the manifestation of God's wrath and banishment from Him. That his body shall not die is only the external and visible phase of that which David hopes for himself; on its inward, unseen side it is a living, inwrought of God in the whole man, which in its continuance is a walking in the divine life. The second part of Psalm 16:11, which consists of two members, describes this life with which he solaces himself. According to the accentuation, - which marks חיים with Olewejored not with Rebia magnum or Pazer, - שׂבע שׂמחות is not a second object dependent upon תּודיעני, but the subject of a substantival clause: a satisfying fulness of joy is את־פּניך, with Thy countenance, i.e., connected with and naturally produced by beholding Thy face (את preposition of fellowship, as in Psalm 21:7; Psalm 140:14); for joy is light, and God's countenance, or doxa, is the light of lights. And every kind of pleasurable things, נעמות, He holds in His right hand, extending them to His saints - a gift which lasts for ever; נצח equivalent to לנצח. נצח, from the primary notion of conspicuous brightness, is duration extending beyond all else - an expression for לעולם, which David has probably coined, for it appears for the first time in the Davidic Psalms. Pleasures are in Thy right hand continually - God's right hand is never empty, His fulness is inexhaustible.

The apostolic application of this Psalm (Acts 2:29-32; Acts 13:35-37) is based on the considerations that David's hope of not coming under the power of death was not realised in David himself, as is at once clear, to the unlimited extent in which it is expressed in the Psalm; but that it is fulfilled in Jesus, who has not been left to Hades and whose flesh did not see corruption; and that consequently the words of the Psalm are a prophecy of David concerning Jesus, the Christ, who was promised as the heir to his throne, and whom, by reason of the promise, he had prophetically before his mind. If we look into the Psalm, we see that David, in his mode of expression, bases that hope simply upon his relation to Jahve, the ever-living One. That it has been granted to him in particular, to express this hope which is based upon the mystic relation of the חסיד to Jahve in such language, - a hope which the issue of Jesus' life has sealed by an historical fulfilment, - is to be explained from the relation, according to the promise, in which David stands to his seed, the Christ and Holy One of God, who appeared in the person of Jesus. David, the anointed of God, looking upon himself as in Jahve, the God who has given the promise, becomes the prophet of Christ; but this is only indirectly, for he speaks of himself, and what he says has also been fulfilled in his own person. But this fulfilment is not limited to the condition, that he did not succumb to any peril that threatened his life so long as the kingship would have perished with him, and that, when he died, the kingship nevertheless remained (Hofmann); nor, that he was secured against all danger of death until he had accomplished his life's mission, until he had fulfilled the vocation assigned to him in the history of the plan of redemption (Kurtz) - the hope which he cherishes for himself personally has found a fulfilment which far exceeds this. After his hope has found in Christ its full realisation in accordance with the history of the plan of redemption, it receives through Christ its personal realisation for himself also. For what he says, extends on the one hand far beyond himself, and therefore refers prophetically to Christ: in decachordo Psalterio - as Jerome boldly expresses it - ab inferis suscitat resurgentem. But on the other hand that which is predicted comes back upon himself, to raise him also from death and Hades to the beholding of God. Verus justitiae sol - says Sontag in his Tituli Psalmorum, 1687 - e sepulcro resurrexit, στήλη seu lapis sepulcralis a monumento devolutus, arcus triumphalis erectus, victoria ab hominibus reportata. En vobis Michtam! En Evangelium! -

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