Psalm 17

Psalm 17[a]

Prayer in Time of Persecution

1 A prayer of David.

Hear, O Lord, my call for justice;
give heed to my cry.
Listen to the prayer of my lips,
for they are free of deceit.
2 Let my vindication issue forth from you;
let your eyes discern what is right.
3 You have probed my heart[b]
and examined me throughout the night.
You have tested me
and found no malice in me,
for I have not sinned with my mouth.
4 Despite what other people do,
I have been guided by the word of your lips[c]
and refrained from their acts of violence.
5 My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not wavered.
6 I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me.
Incline your ear to me and listen to my plea.
7 Show how wonderful is your kindness,[d]
you who save those who seek protection
by taking refuge at your right hand.
8 Guard me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings[e]
9 from the wicked who treat me with violence,
from deadly enemies who surround me.
10 There is no compassion in their hearts,[f]
and arrogance issues from their mouths.
11 They track me down and begin to close in,
watching for the chance to strike me down,
12 like a lion primed to attack it prey,
like a young lion lurking in hiding.
13 Rise up, O Lord, confront them, and cast them down;[g]
deliver me from the wicked by your sword.
14 With your hand, O Lord, snatch me from such people,
from the worldly whose reward is in this life.[h]
You satisfy the hunger of those you cherish;
their children have all they desire
and leave their wealth to their little ones.
15 But in my righteousness I will see your face;[i]
when I awaken, I will be blessed by beholding you.


  1. Psalm 17:1 Here again we have a picture of smug and pitiless people whose hearts are closed to the word of God as well as to the cry of the poor. The psalmist who endures their unjust accusations begs God to show forth his innocence and to punish his evil accusers. He is willing to leave earthly goods to them (v. 14) as long as he can rejoice in God’s presence. Perhaps we can see in this desire for awakening, enlightened by God’s face (v. 15), the burgeoning hope of the resurrection.
    In praying this psalm, we should recall that in the Church (his Mystical Body) and in each Christian (as in a part of that Body), Jesus relives the mystery of his undeserved Passion and glorious Resurrection (see Acts 9:4f).
  2. Psalm 17:3 Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.
  3. Psalm 17:4 Word of your lips: God’s revelation by which he made known the “paths” his faithful are to follow. And refrained . . . violence: an alternative translation is: “and kept the words of your law.”
  4. Psalm 17:7 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
  5. Psalm 17:8 Apple of your eye . . . shadow of your wings: conventional Hebrew metaphors for protection (see Deut 32:10; Prov 7:2; Isa 49:2).
  6. Psalm 17:10 Hearts: see note on Ps 4:8. Arrogance . . . mouths: see notes on Pss 5:11; 10:7.
  7. Psalm 17:13 Cast them down: see notes on Pss 5:11; 35.
  8. Psalm 17:14 From the worldly . . . life: or: “from mortals whose part in life is transitory.” You satisfy . . . little ones: or: “With your treasures you fill their bellies; / their sons are enriched / and bequeath their abundance to their little ones.”
  9. Psalm 17:15 See your face: see note on Ps 11:7. When I awaken: from the night of death; however, inasmuch as death is often compared to sleep (see Ps 76:6; Dan 12:1f), it may refer to a new awakening after death.

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