Psalm 17:4
Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.
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(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.

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). Psalm 17:4David 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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