Psalm 17:5
Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
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(5) Hold up.—Not, as in the Authorised Version, imperative, which is directly opposed to the context. The psalmist still asserts his innocence. Render:—

My course kept close in thy tracks,

My footsteps have not wavered.

(Comp. Job 23:11; Psalm 41:12.)

Paths.—Literally, wheel-tracks.

Psalm 17:5. Hold up my goings, &c. — As by thy word and grace thou hast hitherto kept me from the paths of evil men, and led me into thy paths, so I pray thee enable me, by the same means, to persevere therein, and in an abhorrence of all wicked courses. Let me not only be restrained from doing that which is evil, but quickened to abound always in that which is good. Let my goings be so held in thy paths that I may not turn back from them, nor turn aside out of them; and let them be held up, that I may not stumble and fall into sin, that I may not become indolent, and neglect my duty. Observe, reader, we stand no longer than he is pleased to uphold us, we go no farther than he is pleased to lead us. Those, therefore, that would proceed on and persevere in the ways of God, must by faith and prayer fetch in daily supplies of grace and strength from him. That my footsteps slip not — That I may not fall into the sin of revenging myself on Saul, to which I may be more and more tempted, nor into any other sin, whereby thou mayest be provoked, or men may be offended, and religion disgraced. David was sensible that his way was slippery, that he himself was weak, and not so well fixed and established as he ought to be, and that there were those that watched for his halting, and would improve the least slip he might make against him, and therefore he prays in this manner to be upheld and preserved. Let us go and do likewise.

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.Hold up my goings in thy paths - He had been enabled before this to keep himself from the ways of the violent by the word of God Psalm 17:4; he felt his dependence on God still to enable him, in the circumstances in which he was placed, and under the provocations to which he was exposed, to live a life of peace, and to keep himself from doing wrong. He, therefore, calls on God, and asks him to sustain him, and to keep him still in the right path. The verb used here is in the infinitive form, but used instead of the imperative. DeWette. - Prof. Alexander renders this less correctly, "My steps have laid hold of thy paths;" for he supposes that a prayer here "would be out of place." But prayer can never be more appropriate than when a man realises that he owes the fact of his having been hitherto enabled to lead an upright life only to the "word" of God, and when provoked and injured by others he feels that he might be in danger of doing wrong. In such circumstances nothing can he more proper than to call upon God to keep us from sin.

That my footsteps slip not - Margin, as in Hebrew: "be not moved." The idea is, "that I may be firm; that I may not yield to passion; that, provoked and wronged by others, I may not be allowed to depart from the course of life which I have been hitherto enabled to pursue." No prayer could be more appropriate. When we feel and know that we have been wronged by others; when our lives have given no cause for such treatment as we receive at their hands; when they are still pursuing us, and injuring us in our reputation, our property, or our peace; when all the bad passions of our nature are liable to be aroused, prompting us to seek revenge, and to return evil for evil, then nothing can be more proper than for us to lift our hearts to God, entreating that he will keep us, and save us from falling into sin; that he will enable us to restrain our passions, and to subdue our resentments.

5. May be read as an assertion "my steps or goings have held on to Thy paths."5 Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.

6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.

Psalm 17:5

Under trial it is not easy to behave ourselves aright; a candle is not easily kept alight when many envious mouths are puffing at it. In evil times prayer is peculiarly needful, and wise men resort to it at once. Plato said to one of his disciples, "When men speak ill of thee, live so that no one will believe them;" good enough advice, but he did not tell us how to carry it out. We have a precept here incorporated in an example; if we would be preserved, we must cry to the Preserver, and enlist divine support upon our side. "Hold up my goings" - as a careful driver holds up his horse when going down hill. We have all sorts of paces, both fast and slow, and the road is never long of one sort, but with God to hold up our goings, nothing in the pace or in the road can cast down. He who has been down once and cut his knees sadly, even to the bone, had need redouble his zeal when using this prayer; and all of us, since we are so weak on our legs through Adam's fall, had need use it every hour of the day. If a perfect father fell, how shall an imperfect son dare to boast? "In thy paths." Forsaking Satan's paths, he prayed to be upheld in God's paths. We cannot keep from evil without keeping to good. If the bushel be not full of wheat, it may soon be once more full of chaff. In all the appointed ordinances and duties of our most holy faith, may the Lord enable us to run through his upholding grace! "That my footsteps slip not." What I slip in God's ways? Yes, the road is good, but our feet are evil, and therefore slip, even on the King's highway. Who wonders if carnal men slide and fall in ways of their own choosing, which, like the vale of Siddirn, are full of deadly slime-pits? One may trip over an ordinance as well as over a temptation. Jesus Christ himself is a stumbling-block to some, and the doctrines of grace have been the occasion of offence to many. Grace alone can hold up our goings in the paths of truth.

Psalm 17:6

"1 have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God." Thou hast always heard me, O my Lord, and therefore I have the utmost confidence in again approaching thine altar. Experience is a blessed teacher. He who has tried the faithfulness of God in hours of need, has great boldness in laying his case before the throne. The well of Bethlehem, from which we drew such cooling draughts in years gone by, our souls long for still; nor will we leave it for the broken cisterns of earth. "Incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech." Stoop out of heaven and put thine ear to my mouth; give me thine ear all to myself, as men do when they lean over to catch every word from their friend. The Psalmist here comes back to his first prayer, and thus sets us an example of pressing our suit again and again, until we have a full assurance that we have succeeded.

As by thy word and grace thou hast hitherto kept me from the paths of evil men, and led me into thy paths; so, I pray thee, enable me by the same means to persevere in thy ways, and in mine abhorrency of wicked courses, that I may not fall into that sin of revenging myself upon Saul, to which I may be more and more tempted; nor into any other sin, whereby thou mayst be provoked, or men may be offended, and religion disgraced.

Hold up my goings in thy paths,.... Which being spoken by David in his own person, and for himself, shows that he was conscious of his own weakness to keep himself in the ways of God, and to direct his steps therein; and that he was sensible of, the need he stood in of divine power to uphold and support him in them;

that my footsteps slip not; out of the paths of truth and duty, of faith and holiness; of which there is danger, should a man be left to himself, and destitute of divine direction and aid; see Psalm 73:2; and though Christ had no moral weakness in him, and was in no danger of falling into sin, or slipping out of the ways of God; yet these words may be applied to him in a good sense, as considered in human nature, and attended with the sinless infirmities of it, he being God's servant, whom he upheld, and of whom he gave his angels charge to keep him in all his ways, Isaiah 42:1.

Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
5. My steps have held fast to thy tracks,

My feet have not slipped.

The A.V. is grammatically untenable. He describes his conduct positively. Paths, a different word from that in Psalm 17:4, denotes the beaten tracks made by wheeled vehicles. Slipped (the same word as moved in Psalm 15:5, Psalm 16:8), of moral ‘slips’ and ‘falls.’

Verse 5. - Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. So De Wette and Rosenmuller; but most recent critics prefer to consider the words as an assertion rather than a prayer, and translate, "My steps have held fast to thy paths: [therefore] my feet have not been moved" (Kay, Hengstenberg, Alexander, Cheyne, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Revised Version). Psalm 17:5David 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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