The Treasury of David

Psalm 17

Title And Subject.

A prayer of David. David would not have been a man after God’s own heart, if he had not been a man of prayer. He was a master in the sacred art of supplication. He flies to prayer in all times of need, as a pilot speeds to the harbour in the stress of tempest. So frequent were David’s prayers that they could not be all dated and entitled; and hence this simply bears the author’s name, and nothing more. The smell of the furnace is upon the present psalm, but there is evidence in the last verse that he who wrote it came unharmed out of the flame. We have in the present plaintive song, An Appeal To Heaven from the persecutions of earth. A spiritual eye may see Jesus here.

Divisions. There are no very clear lines of demarcation between the parts; but we prefer the division adopted by that precious old commentator, David Dickson. In Psalms 17:1-4, David craves justice in the controversy between him and his oppressors. In Psalms 17:5-6, he requests of the Lord grace to act rightly while under the trial. From Psalms 17:7-12, he seeks protection from his foes, whom he graphically describes; and in Psalms 17:13-14, pleads that they may be disappointed; closing the whole in the most comfortable confidence that all would certainly be well with himself at the last.
The Treasury of David.

Psalm 17:14


Almost every word of this verse has furnished matter for discussion to scholars, for it is very obscure. We will, therefore, rest content with the common version, rather than distract the reader with divers translations.

From men which are thy hand. Having styled the ungodly a sword in his Father’s hand, he now likens them to that hand itself, to set forth his conviction that God could as easily remove their violence as a man moves his own hand. He will never slay his child with his own hand.

From men of the world, mere earthworms; not men of the world to come, but mere dwellers in this narrow sphere of mortality; having no hopes or wishes beyond the ground on which they tread.

Which have their portion in this life. Like the prodigal, they have their portion, and are not content to wait their Father’s time. Like Passion in the “Pilgrim’s Progress, “they have their best things first, and revel during their little hour. Luther was always afraid lest he should have his portion here, and therefore frequently gave away sums of money which had been presented to him. We cannot have earth and heaven too for our choice and portion; wise men choose that which will last the longest.

Whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure. Their sensual appetite gets the gain which it craved for. God gives to these swine the husks which they hunger for. A generous man does not deny dogs their bones; and our generous God gives even his enemies enough to fill them, if they were not so unreasonable as never to be content. Gold and silver which are locked up in the dark treasuries of the earth are given to the wicked liberally, and they therefore roll in all manner of carnal delights. Every dog has his day, and they have theirs, and a bright summer’s day it seems; but ah! how soon it ends in night!

They are full of children. This was their fondest hope, that a race from their loins would prolong their names far down the page of history, and God has granted them this also; so that they have all that heart can wish. What enviable creatures they seem, but it is only seeming!

They are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. They were fat housekeepers, and yet leave no lean wills. Living and dying they lacked for nothing but grace and alas! that lack spoils everything. They had a fair portion within the little circle of time, but eternity entered not into their calculations. They were penny wise, but pound foolish; they remembered the present, and forgot the future; they fought for the shell, and lost the kernel. How fine a description have we here of many a successful merchant, or popular statesman; and it is, at first sight, very showy and tempting, but in contrast with the glories of the world to come, what are these paltry molehill joys. Self, self, self, all these joys begin and end in basest selfishness; but oh, our God, how rich are those who begin and end in thee! From all the contamination and injury which association with worldly men is sure to bring us, deliver thou us, O God!

Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings

Ver. 13-14. Thy sword… thy hand. Thou canst as easily command and manage them, as a man may wield his sword, or move his hand. Wilt thou suffer thine own sword, thine own hand, to destroy thine own servant?

J. Howe

(first clause). How wonderful are the dispensations of the providence of God, who can use even the wicked to promote the present happiness and the final salvation of his saints! J. Edwards, M.A., 1856.

Men of the world, which have their portion in this life. Time and this lower world, bound all their hopes and fears. They have no serious believing apprehensions of anything beyond this present life; therefore, have nothing to withhold them from the most injurious violence, if thou withhold them not; men that believe not another world, are the ready actors of any imaginable mischiefs and tragedies in this. John Howe.

Men which are thy hand, etc. What shall we say then? Because God maketh use of thy sins, art thou excused? Is not thine evil evil, because he picks good out of it? Deceive not thyself therein. When thou hast done such service to thy Master and Maker, though seven and seven years, as Jacob did service to Laban, thou shalt lose thy wages and thy thanks too. Oh, well were thou if thou didst but lose, for thou shalt also gain a sorrowful advantage. It is unprofitable, nay, miserable service which thou hast thus bestowed. Babylon shall be the hammer of the Lord a long time to bruise the nations, himself afterwards bruised; Asshur his rod to scourge his people, but Asshur shall be more scourged. These hammers, rods, axes, saws, other instruments, when they have done their offices, which they never meant, shall be thrown themselves into the fire, and burnt to ashes. Satan did service to God, it cannot be denied, in the afflicting of Job, winnowing of Peter, buffeting of Paul, executing of Judas, and God did a work in all these either to prove patience, or to confirm faith, or to try strength, or to commend justice; yet is Satan “reserved in chains under darkness, to the retribution of the great day.” Judas did service to God, in getting honour to his blessed name for the redemption of mankind, whilst the worlds endureth, yet was his wages an alder tree to hang himself upon, and, what is worse, he hangeth in hell for eternal generations. He had his wages, and lost his wages. That which the priest gave him, he lost, and lost his apostleship, but gained the recompense of everlasting unhappiness, and lies in the lowest lake, for the worm and death to gnaw upon without ceasing. John King.

Thy hand. The hand of God, his correcting or cherishing hand, sometimes is an immediate, and sometimes a mediate hand. Sometimes it is immediate, when God by himself doth chasten, or punish, or afflict, when no second cause doth appear or intervene. So it may seem Satan means, when he saith (Job 1:11), “Put forth thy hand, “that is, do it thine own self, let no other have the handling of Job but thyself. God doth send such immediate afflictions; a man is afflicted in his body, in his estate, and many other ways, and he cannot find anything in the creature whence it should come; it is an immediate stroke of God, he cannot see how, or which way, or at what door this evil came in upon him; therefore it is called a creating of evil. Isaiah 45:7. “I make peace, and create evil.” Now creation is out of nothing, there is nothing out of which it is wrought. So many times God bringeth evil upon a people or person when there is no appearance of second cause, no matter out of which it is made, but it comes as a creature, formed by the only hand of God. Sometimes likewise it is called God’s hand, when it is the hand of a creature; it is God’s hand in a creature’s hand; God’s hand when it is the hand of wicked men, God’s hand when it is Satan’s hand. So that place is translated (Psalms 17:13-14), “Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: from men which are thy hand:” so that “thy hand” may be understood of an instrument; Satan himself is God’s hand to punish in that sense, as wicked men here are said to be God’s hand: “from men which are thy hand, “though there be other readings of that place; some read it, deliver me from men by thy hand; and others, deliver me from men of thy hand; but our translation may very well carry the sense of the original in it, “from men which are thy hand; “as Nebuchadnezzar, that wicked king, is called God’s servant (Jeremiah 43:10), “I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar my servant:” God speaks of him as his servant, or as his hand in the thing. Joseph Caryl.

Men of the world, which have their portion in this life. The large portion of the wicked in the things of this world, may tell the righteous of how little value this is, in the account of God; in that these things are often given to his enemies plentifully, when denied in such a measure to his children. Now this cannot be because he loves or favours his enemies most; but because these lower things, given them in what degree soever, are so mean in his account, as that his chosen may learn by his distribution of them, to regard them as he does; namely, as no part of their felicity, but as common favours to all his creatures, good or bad, enemies or friends. Daniel Wilcox.

Men which have their portion in this life. God gives wicked men a portion here to show unto them what little good there is in all these things, and to show the world what little good there is in all the things that are here below in the world. Certainly if they were much good they should never have them; it is an argument there is no great excellency in the strength of body, for an ox hath it more than you; an argument there is no great excellency in agility of body, for a dog hath it more than you; an argument of no great excellency in gay clothes, for a peacock hath them more than you; an argument there is not great excellency in gold and silver, for the Indians that know not God have them more than you; and if these things had any great worth in them, certainly God would never give them to wicked men—a certain argument. As it is an argument that there is no great evil in affliction in this world, because that the saints are so much afflicted; so no great argument there is any great good in this world, for the wicked they enjoy so much of it. Luther hath such an expression as this in his comment upon Genesis, saith he, “The Turkish empire, as great as it is, is but a crumb, that the Master of the family, that God, casts to dogs:” the whole Turkish empire, such an esteem had Luther of it; and indeed, it is no more. All the things of the world, God in giving of them to Turks and wicked ones, his enemies, shows there is not much excellency and good in them: God therefore will cast them promiscuously up and down in the world, because he looks upon them as worthless things; God doth not so much regard whether men be prepared to give him the glory of them, yea or no, they shall have them; however he is content to venture them. Indeed, when God comes into his choice mercies in Christ, there he looks to have glory from them, and he doth never give them to any, but first he prepares them, that they may give him the glory of those mercies. But it is otherwise with others; as, suppose you see a man gathering of crabs, although swine be under the tree, he cares not much to drive them away; they are but crabs, let them have them; but if he were gathering any choice and precious fruit, if any swine should come under, he drives them away. As for outward things, crabs, the Lord suffers the swine of the world to come grunting and take them up; but when he comes to his choice mercies in his Christ, there he makes a distinction. Oh, this is precious fruit! A blacksmith that is working upon iron, though a great many cinders and little bits of iron fly up and down, he regards them not; but a goldsmith that is working upon gold, he preserves every rag, and every dust of gold; and a lapidary that is working upon precious stones, every little bit he will be sure to preserve; a carpenter that is only hewing of timber, he regards it not much if chips fly up and down; but it is not so with a lapidary. So these outward things are but as the chips and cinders, and such kind of things as those are, and therefore God ever gives a portion to wicked men out of them. Jeremiah Burroughs.

Men which have their portion in this life. I have read of Gregory, that being advanced to preferment, professed that there was no Scripture that went so to his heart, that struck such a trembling into his spirit, that daunted him so much, as this Scripture did:—”Here you have your reward, son; in your lifetime you have had your pleasure.” Oh, this was a dreadful Scripture that sounded in his ears continually, as Hierom speaks of that Scripture, “Arise ye dead, and come to judgment; “night and day he thought that Scripture sounded in his ears: so Gregory:—”Here you have your reward; in this life you have had your pleasure.” This was the Scripture that night and day sounded in his ears. O that it might please God to assist so far, to speak out of this Scripture to you, that I might make this Scripture ring in your ears even when you lie upon your beds, after the sermon is done; that yet you may think this Scripture rings in your ears: “Men of this world, who have their portion in this life.” Jeremiah Burroughs.

Which have their portion in this life. The earth and the commodities thereof God distributeth without respect of persons, even to them that are his children by creation only, and not by adoption. But yet there is a difference between the prosperity of the one and the other; for the one is but with anxiety of heart (even in laughter their heart is heavy); the others’ is with cheerfulness and joy in the Spirit; the one’s is a pledge of the greater preferment in the world to come, the others’ is their whole portion, and as if God should say, “Let them take that and look for no more.” The one’s is with the blessing of the people, who wish they had more; the others’ with their curse and hatred, who are grieved that they have so much. Miles Smith.

Their portion in this life. The good man’s best, and the bad man’s worst, lie in shall be’s (Isaiah 3:10-11), in reversion. Here Dives had nothing but his “good things, “but hereafter he had no good thing. Here Lazarus had all his “evil things, “but afterwards no evil thing. The good man when he dies, takes his leave of, and departs from, all evil; and the evil man when he dies, takes his leave of, and departs from, all his goods, which was all the good he had. “Now he is comforted, but thou art tormented.” Luke 16:25. Oh! It is a sad thing to have one’s portion of good only in this life. Ralph Venning’s “Helps to Piety, “1620-1673.

This life. There is yet another thing to be seen far more monstrous in this creature; that whereas he is endued with reason and counsel, and knoweth that this life is like unto a shadow, to a dream, to a tale that is told, to a watch in the night, to smoke, to chaff which the wind scattereth, to a water bubble, and such like fading things; and that life to come shall never have end; he yet nevertheless setteth his whole mind most carefully upon this present life, which is today, and tomorrow is not; but of the life which is everlasting he doth not so much as think. If this be not a monster, I know not what may be called monstrous. Thomas Tymme.

What wicked men possess of this world is all that ever they can hope for: why should we grudge them filled bags, or swelling titles! it is their whole portion; they now receive their good things. Hast thou food and clothing? that is children’s fare; envy not ungodly men, who flaunt it in the gallantry of the world: they have more than you; but it is all they are like to have: the psalmist gives us an account of their estate. They are the men of this world, which have their portion in this life, and whose bellies God filleth with his hid treasure. Whereas thou, O Christian, who possessest nothing, art heir apparent of heaven, coheir with Jesus Christ, who is the heir of all things, and hast an infinite mass of riches laid up for thee; so great and infinite, that all the stars of heaven are too few to account it by: you have no reason to complain of being kept short; for all that God hath is yours, whether prosperity or adversity, life or death, all is yours. What God gives is for your comfort; what he denies or takes away is for your trial: it is for the increase of those graces which are far more gracious than any temporal enjoyment. If, by seeing wicked and ungodly men flow in wealth and ease, when thou art forced to struggle against the inconveniences and difficulties of a poor estate, thou hast learnt a holy contempt and disdain of the world, believe it, God hath herein given thee more than if he had given thee the world itself. Ezekiel Hopkins.

To show that wicked men have often the greatest portion in this world, I need not speak much: the experience of all ages since the beginning of the world confirms it, your own observation, I believe, can seal to it; however, Scripture abundantly evinces it. The first murderer that ever was, carries possessions in his very name: Cain signifies so much. Genesis 4:8. Go on in the whole series of Scripture, and you shall find Joseph persecuted by his brethren; Esau (as Rivet observes on Genesis 32:1-32), advanced in the world for a time far above Jacob; go on, and you find the Israelites, God’s peculiar, in captivity, and Pharaoh on the throne; Saul ruling, and David in a cave, or in a wilderness; Job upon the dunghill; Jeremy in the dungeon; Daniel in the den, and the children in the furnace, and Nebuchadnezzar on the throne. In the New Testament you have Felix on the bench, Paul at the bar; Dives in the palace, Lazarus at his gate (Luke 16:19); he clothed in purple, Lazarus in rags and overspread with sores; he banqueted and fared deliciously every day, the other desired but the crumbs from the table, and could not have them; Dives beset with his rich and stately attendance, Lazarus hath no other society but the dogs which came to lick his sores; all which Austin and Tertullian against Marcion (lib. 4), conceive to be a true history of what was really acted, though others think it parabolical. Job tells us that “the tabernacle of robbers” sometimes “prosper” (Job 12:6), which prosperity he at large describes (Job 21:7-14); exalted in “power,” Job 21:7; multiplied in their posterity, Job 21:8, 11; safe at home, Job 21:9; increased abroad, Job 21:10; have their fill of pleasure, Job 21:12, and wealth at will, Job 21:13. David speaks his own experience of this. Psalms 37:35, 73:7. So in the text, they enjoy not only common favours, as air to breathe in, earth to walk on; their bellies are filled with his hid treasure, and that not for themselves only, but for their posterity too; they leave the rest of their substance to their babes; in a word, “they have their portion in this life.” John Frost, 1657.

A master or lord pays his servant his present wages, while he cuts his son short in his allowance during his nonage, that he may learn to depend upon his father for the inheritance. Thus doth God, the great Lord of all, deal with his slaves, who serve him for the hire of some temporal advantage; he gives them their present reward and wages; but though his goodness hath determined a better portion to be a reward to the piety and obedience of his children, yet he gives it them in reversion, little in hand, that they may learn to live upon the promise, and by faith to depend upon the goodness and faithfulness of their Father for their heavenly inheritance; that they, walking not by sight but faith (which is a Christian’s work and condition here), may “not look at the things which are seen, “etc. 2 Corinthians 4:18… This discovers that rotten foundation upon which many men build their hopes of heaven. Surely (are many ready to argue) if God did not love me he would not give me such a portion in the world. Deceive not thyself in a matter of so great concernment. Thou mayest as well say God loved Judas, because he had the bags, or Dives, because he fared deliciously, who are now roaring in hell. John Frost.

The word which denotes the belly may have been fixed, by the divine Spirit, to indicate the fact, that a very great proportion of the sin of worldly and depraved characters is connected with the indulgence of base and degrading lusts; and that they abuse the very bounty of heaven, in riveting the chain of sense upon their unhappy souls. But let them remember, that their sensual idolatries will, at last, be followed up by the most fearful visitations of divine wrath. John Morrison.

Whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure. Wicked men may abound in earthly things. They may have the earth and the fulness of it, the earth, and all that is earthly; their bellies are filled by God himself with hidden treasure. Precious things are usually hidden, and all that’s named treasure, though it be but earthly, hath a preciousness in it. Hidden treasures of earth fill their bellies who slight the treasures of heaven, and whose souls shall never have so much as a taste of heavenly treasures: riches and honour are the lots of their inheritance who have no inheritance among those whose lot is glory. They have the earth in their hands (Job 9:24), who have nothing of heaven in their hearts; they bear sway in the world who are slaves to the world; they govern and order others at their will who are led captive by Satan at his will. Be not offended and troubled to see the reins of government in their hands who know not how to govern themselves, or to see them rule the world who are unworthy to live in the world. Joseph Caryl.

Whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure. The hearts of saints only are filled with the “hidden manna, “but the bellies of the wicked are often filled with hidden treasure; that is, with those dainties and good things which are virtually hidden in, and formally spring out of, the belly and bowels of the earth. The Lord easily grants them their wish in such things, and gives them their portion, which is all their portion, in this life. For as they are but common professors, so these are but common mercies, such as many of his enemies receive, who are but fatted as oxen for the slaughter, and fitted for destruction. True happiness is not to be judged by lands or houses, by gold or silver. The world is a narrow bound: unless we get beyond the creature, and set our hopes above this world, we cannot by happy. As hypocrites desire, so they obtain much of the world, but they shall attain no more, how much soever they seem to desire it. Joseph Caryl.

Whose belly thou fillest. That is, their sensual appetite, as oftentimes that term is used (Romans 16:18 Philippians 3:19), with thy hid treasures; namely, the riches which either God is wont to hide in the bowels of the earth, or lock up in the repository of providence, dispensing them at his own pleasure. John Howe.

Whose belly thou fillest, etc.:—

Thou from thy hidden store,

Their bellies, Lord, hast filled; Their sons are gorged, and what is over,

To their sons’ sons they yield.

Richard Mant.

They are full of children. So it appears by that which follows, it ought to be read, and not according to that gross, but easy (Greek) for (Greek) mistake of some transcribers of the seventy. As if in all this he pleaded thus: “Lord, thou hast abundantly indulged those men already, what need they more? They have themselves, from thy unregarded bounty, their own vast swollen desires sufficiently filled, enough for their own time; and when they can live no longer in their persons, they may in their posterity, and leave not strangers, but their numerous offspring, their heirs. Is it not enough that their avarice be gratified, except their malice be also? that they have whatsoever they can conceive desirable for themselves, unless they may also infer whatever they can think mischievous on me?” To this description of his enemies, he ex opposito, subjoins some account of himself in this his closure of the Psalm. As for me, here he is at his static point; and, after some appearing discomposure, his spirit returns to a consistency, in consideration of his own more happy state, which he opposes and prefers to their, in the following respects. That they were wicked, he righteous. “I will behold thy face in righteousness.” That their happiness was worldly, terrene, such only as did spring from the earth; his heavenly and divine, such as should result from the face and image of God. Theirs present, temporary, compassed within this life; his future, everlasting, to be enjoyed when he should awake. Theirs partial, defective, such as would but gratify their bestial part, fill their bellies; his adequate, complete (the εὐδαιμονὶα του ουνετου… a happiness of proportion), such as should satisfy the man. “I shall be satisfied, “etc. John Howe.

They are full of children. Margin, their children are full. The margin probably expresses the sense of the Hebrew better than the text. The literal rendering would be, “satisfied are their sons; “that is, they have enough to satisfy the wants of their children. The expression, “they are full of children, “is harsh and unnatural, and is not demanded by the original, or by the main thought in this passage. The obvious signification is, that they have enough for themselves and for their children. Albert Barnes.

Hints to the Village Preacher

Men of the world, which have their portion in this life. Who they are? What they have? Where they have it? What next?

Men which are thy hand. Providential control and use of wicked men.
The Treasury of David.

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