Psalm 17 is the 17th psalm from the Book of Psalms. The psalm is a prayer of David, and is titled “A Prayer for Deliverance from Persecution.” In the psalm, David calls on God to save him from his enemies, who are seeking his life. He also declares his innocence, and asks that God judge his enemies.
The psalm has been called a “prayer for preservation in time of danger” and a “prayer for final deliverance.” It has also been interpreted as a Messianic psalm, due to its references to the King and the Anointed One.
Structure of Psalm 17
Psalm 17 is divided into three main sections: (1) A call for help from God (verses 1-2), (2) A declaration of innocence (verses 3-9), and (3) A request for judgment on David’s enemies (verses 10-15).
The first section consists of two verses in which David calls on God to hear him, and save him from his enemies. In verse 2, David asks God to “deliver” him, using a word that can also be translated as “rescue” or “save.” This word is used often in the Psalms, especially in Psalms 18, 20, 25, 31, 33, 38, 40, 41, 69, and 71.
The second section contains seven verses in which David declares his innocence before God. In verses 3-4 he asks God to investigate his life, and test him; he is confident that God will find that he has kept himself innocent. He then lists a number of ways in which he has done this: by keeping himself from evil (verse 5), by not walking in the ways of sinners (verse 6), by not following the counsel of the wicked (verse 7), and by avoiding evil company (verse 8).
In verse 9 David prays that his words will be agreeable before God; this may be a reference to what he has just said about his innocence (verses 3-8), or it may be a general statement about all his words.
The third section consists of six verses in which David asks for judgment on his enemies. In verse 10 he describes them asadulterers and perjurers; this may be a specific accusation against them or it may be general reference to their wickedness. He then asks that they be caught in their own nets (verse 11), which probably refers to traps set for others but which end up catching the trappers themselves. He prays that they would be caught like birds or made helpless like animals caught in traps; this would humiliate them and show their powerlessness. He concludes with a prayer for revenge against them(verse 15).
In his book An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books, Walter Brueggemann writes that Psalm 17 “cries out against an adversary who seems more powerful than ever before.” He sees David’s enemies as representing all those who threaten Israel’s existence; they could be human beings such as Philistines or Assyrians, or they could be things such as drought or famine. But whatever form they take, these adversaries have one thing in common: they are all seeking Israel’s destruction.
In Psalm 17 we see David crying out to God for help against those who seek his destruction. He declared his innocence before God, and asked for judgment against his enemies. This psalm can teach us a number of important lessons about how to deal with our own adversaries. First, we should call on God for help; he is our ultimate deliverer. Second, we should examine our own lives to make sure we are living blamelessly before him; only then can we have confidence when we ask him to judge our adversaries. Finally, we should pray for those who seek our harm; even though they may deserve punishment, we should leave revenge in the hands of God.