Psalm 17


Although we can’t be certain, many people that the background to this psalm is found when David and his companions were in real danger as they were fleeing from Saul, 1 Samuel 23:25-26.

David knows that Saul is a real threat and so, he asks God to deliver him from the hands of his enemies.


‘A prayer of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

This heading simply tells us it was a prayer of David.

‘Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed. Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.’ Psalm 17:1-5

In his prayer, David asks God to hear his plea because he had been unjustly accused by Saul of trying to take over his throne, 1 Samuel 24:9. He asks God for vindication and justice as he received no just judgment from Saul.

David was never interested in taking Saul’s throne, he never hungered for power and he certainly didn’t plan any evil, 1 Samuel 25:25-42.

He also asks God to give him a throughout examination, Psalm 139:23-24, which demonstrates his confidence in God. David had walked in God’s paths, which means he had followed God’s instructions, which gave him the confidence to know he had never stumbled from the ways of God.

‘I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground. They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover.’ Psalm 17:6-12

Here we get a glimpse of David’s relationship with God, it was so strong he had absolute confidence that God would hear his prayer. Because of the despair, he was going through, he asks God to show him ‘the wonders of His great love’.

In other words, he wanted a demonstration of God’s grace, he wanted God to save him and his companions from the hand of Saul, who wanted to kill them.

Notice he asks God to keep him as ‘the apple of his eye’, this is a term of endearment, referring to someone very. It also refers to the pupil of the eye, which was the most delicate part of the eye which needed protection, Deuteronomy 32:10 / Proverbs 7:2 / Zechariah 2:8.

He asks God to hide him from the wicked ‘in the shadow of His wings’, this is a metaphor which symbolises protection from danger, Ruth 2:12 / Psalm 36:7 / Psalm 57:1 / Psalm 61:4 / Psalm 63:7 / Luke 13:34.

David’s enemies had callous hearts, in other words, their hearts were hard and they ignored the needs of others around them. All Saul and his followers were interested in was power and positions of power and as a result, they became corrupt.

Remember David was very familiar with lions, 1 Samuel 17:33-37, hence why he speaks of Saul and his men as a lion. He obviously feels like he’s being hunted down like a dog by Saul and his men.

He describes them as lions, who lurk around ready to ambush their prey, Psalm 10:8-10. The lion only has one thing on its mind and that’s to kill.

‘Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked. By your hand save me from such people, LORD, from those of this world whose reward is in this life. May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies; may their children gorge themselves on it and may there be leftovers for their little ones. As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.’ Psalm 17:13-15

David ends his prayer by asking God to ‘rise up’, Psalm 3:7, and bring judgment on his oppressors. He asked God to intervene by His own hand, that is, His ‘sword’, and save him from the wicked. Notice that David wants God to save him but he doesn’t want God to destroy the wicked.

David appears to contrast the material prosperity of the worldly with the spiritual satisfaction of those who follow God, Luke 16:25. He says the wicked are worldly, earthly people, who don’t have a future beyond this life.

However, they have enough food to fill themselves, and their children and still have leftovers to feed their babies. In other words, they may be wicked but God still blesses them, Job 21:7 / Job 21:11 / Matthew 5:45.

He knows he will be vindicated by God and is confident he will see God’s face. Remember God doesn’t have a physical face, John 4:24, David is saying that he will be in the presence of God, Psalm 105:4 / Numbers 12:8 / 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The words, ‘when I awake’, imply that David believed in a bodily resurrection. In the Old Testament thoughts of eternal life and resurrection were not really understood, Psalm 6:5 / Psalm 7:5 / Psalm 30:12 / Psalm 57:8 / Psalm 88:11, that didn’t become clear until Christ came, 2 Timothy 1:10.

Here David implies that when he does awake, he will be satisfied with seeing His likeness. What David prayed for here is the goal of every Christian, that is, to be conformed into the image of God, as it was perfectly displayed in His Son, Jesus, Romans 8:29.


As we get older and our bodies deteriorate, we often have to go to the doctor and ask them to give gives us a thorough examination. We do this in order that the doctor can highlight any areas of our lives that we need to change in order to keep our bodies healthy.

Many people don’t like going to the doctor for fear of the doctor finding something which is life-threatening. However, if the doctor does find something which is life-threatening, they reassure us that any procedures which may be needed will be for our long-term benefit.

When was the last time we asked God to give us a thorough examination of our spiritual lives? David asked God to ‘probe his heart, examine him and test him.’

Most people struggle with sin in their lives but if we ask God to give us a thorough examination, He can highlight the sin in our lives which needs to be removed, Colossians 3:5-9. We need to pray for God to show us our sins, we then need to repent of them, and change our ways, Psalm 139:23-24.

Go To Psalm 18


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."