Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume VIII/Expositions on the Book of Psalms/Psalm XVII
A prayer of David himself.
1. This prayer must be assigned to the Person of the Lord, with the addition of the Church, which is His body.
2. “Hear My righteousness, O God, consider My supplication” (ver. 1). “Hearken unto My prayer, not in deceitful lips:” not going forth to Thee in deceitful lips. “Let My judgment from Thy countenance go forth” (ver. 2). From the enlightening of the knowledge of Thee, let Me judge truth. Or at least, let My judgment go forth, not in deceitful lips, from Thy countenance, that is, that I may not in judging utter aught else than I understand in Thee. “Let Mine eyes see equity:” the eyes, of course, of the heart.
3. “Thou hast proved and visited Mine heart in the night-season” (ver. 3). For this Mine heart hath been proved by the visitation of tribulation. “Thou hast examined Me by fire, and iniquity hath not been found in Me.” Now not night only, in that it is wont to disturb, but fire also, in that it burns, is this tribulation to be called; whereby when I was examined I was found righteous.
4. “That My mouth may not speak the works of men” (ver. 4). That nothing may proceed out of My mouth, but what relates to Thy glory and praise; not to the works of men, which they do beside Thy will. “Because of the words of Thy lips.” Because of the words of Thy peace, or of Thy prophets. “I have kept hard ways.” I have kept the toilsome ways of human mortality and suffering.
5. “To perfect My steps in Thy paths” (ver. 5). That the love of the Church might be perfected in the strait ways, whereby she arrives at Thy rest. “That My footsteps be not moved.” That the signs of My way, which, like footsteps, have been imprinted on the Sacraments and Apostolical writings, be not moved, that they may mark them who would follow Me. Or at least, that I may still abide fixedly in eternity, after that I have accomplished the hard ways, and have finished My steps in the straits of Thy paths.
6. “I have cried out, for Thou hast heard Me, O God” (ver. 6). With a free and strong effort have I directed My prayers unto Thee: for that I might have this power, Thou hast heard Me when praying more weakly. “Incline Thine ear to Me, and hear My words.” Let not Thy hearing forsake My humiliation.
7. “Make Thy mercies marvellous” (ver. 7). Let not Thy mercies be disesteemed, lest they be loved too little.
8. “Who savest them that hope in Thee from such as resist Thy right hand:” from such as resist the favour, whereby Thou favourest Me. “Keep Me, O Lord, as the apple of Thine eye” (ver. 8): which seems very little and minute: yet by it is the sight of the eye directed, whereby the light is distinguished from the darkness; as by Christ’s humanity, the divinity of the Judgment distinguishing between the righteous and sinners. “In the covering of Thy wings protect Me.” In the defence of Thy love and mercy protect Me. “From the face of the ungodly who have troubled Me” (ver. 9).
9. “Mine enemies have compassed about My soul;” “they have shut up their own fat” (ver. 10). They have been covered with their own gross joy, after that their desire hath been satiated with wickedness. “Their mouth hath spoken pride.” And therefore their mouth spoke pride, in saying, “Hail, King of the Jews,” and other like words.
10. “Casting Me forth they have now compassed Me about” (ver. 11). Casting Me forth outside the city, they have now compassed Me about on the Cross. “Their eyes they have determined to turn down on the earth.” The bent of their heart they have determined to turn down on these earthly things: deeming Him, who was slain, to endure a mighty evil, and themselves, that slew Him, none.
11. “As a lion ready for prey, have they taken Me” (ver. 12). They have taken Me, like that adversary who “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” “And as a lion’s whelp dwelling in secret places.” And as his whelp, the people to whom it was said, “Ye are of your father the devil:” meditating on the snares, whereby they might circumvent and destroy the just One.
12. “Arise, O Lord, prevent them, and cast them down” (ver. 13). Arise, O Lord, Thou whom they suppose to be asleep, and regardless of men’s iniquities; be they blinded before by their own malice, that vengeance may prevent their deed; and so cast them down.
13. “Deliver My soul from the ungodly.” Deliver My soul, by restoring Me after the death, which the ungodly have inflicted on Me. “Thy weapon: from the enemies of Thine hand” (ver. 14). For My soul is Thy weapon, which Thy hand, that is, Thy eternal Power, hath taken to subdue thereby the kingdoms of iniquity, and divide the righteous from the ungodly. This weapon then “deliver from the enemies of Thine hand,” that is, of Thy Power, that is, from Mine enemies. “Destroy them, O Lord, from off the earth, scatter them in their life.” O Lord, destroy them from off the earth, which they inhabit, scatter them throughout the world in this life, which only they think their life, who despair of life eternal. “And by Thy hidden things their belly hath been filled.” Now not only this visible punishment shall overtake them, but also their memory hath been filled with sins, which as darkness are hidden from the light of Thy truth, that they should forget God. “They have been filled with swine’s flesh.” They have been filled with uncleanness, treading under foot the pearls of God’s words. “And they have left the rest to their babes:” crying out, “This sin be upon us and upon our children.”
14. “But I shall appear in Thy righteousness in Thy sight” (ver. 15). But I, Who have not appeared to them that, with their filthy and darkened heart, cannot see the light of wisdom, “I shall appear in Thy righteousness in Thy sight.”
“I shall be satiated, when Thy glory shall be manifested.” And when they have been satiated with their uncleanness, that they could not know Me, I shall be satiated, when Thy glory shall be manifested, in them that know Me. In that verse indeed where it is said, “filled with swine’s flesh,” some copies have, “filled with children:” for from the ambiguity of the Greek a double interpretation has resulted. Now by “children” we understand works; and as by good children, good works, so by evil, evil.
- Lat. XVI.
- See on Ps. xlv. 2: “the word of grace, the kiss of grace.”
- Al. “the judgment of Godhead.”
- Matt. xxvii. 29.
- 1 Pet. v. 8.
- John viii. 44.
- Al. “because they.”
- Matt. xxvii. 25.
- υἱῶν, ὑ?ν, ὑείων, various readings.—Ben.