Verse 12. "Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey. " - This is the picture of Saul. While his huntsmen were beating every bush, prying into every cave and crevice, and examining every foot of ground to find out a track, Saul is ready, whenever the game is started, to spring upon, seize, and destroy it. The metaphors are well connected, well sustained, and strongly expressive of the whole process of this persecution.
In the ninth verse the huntsmen beat the forest to raise and drive in the game. In the tenth they set their nets, and speak confidently of the expected success. In the eleventh, they felicitate themselves on having found the slot, the certain indication of the prey being at hand. And in the twelfth, the king of the sport is represented as just ready to spring upon the prey; or, as having his bow bent, and his arrow on the string, ready to let fly the moment the prey appears. It is worthy of remark, that kings and queens were frequently present, and were the chiefs of the sport; and it was they who, when he had been killed, broke up the deer:
1. Slitting down the brisket with their knife or sword; and, 2. Cutting off the head.
And, as Tuberville published the first edition of his book in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, he gives a large wood-cut, p. 133, representing this princess just alighted from her horse- the stag stretched upon the ground-the huntsman kneeling, holding the fore foot of the animal with his left hand, and with his right presenting a knife to the queen for the purpose of the breaking up. As the second edition was published in the reign of James the First, the image of the queen is taken out and a whole length of James introduced in the place.
The same appears in Tuberville's Book of Falconrie, connected with the above. In p. 81, edition 1575, where the flight of the hawk at the heron is represented, the queen is seated on her charger: but in the edition of 1611 King James is placed on the same charger, the queen being removed.
The lion is the monarch of the forest; and is used successfully here to represent Saul, king of Israel, endeavouring to hunt down David; hernoming him in on every side; searching for his footsteps; and ready to spring upon him, shoot him with his bow, or pierce him with his javelin, as soon as he should be obliged to flee from his last cover. The whole is finely imagined, and beautifully described.
ANALYSIS OF THE SEVENTEENTH PSALM
David's appeal to God in justification of himself; and his petition for defense against his enemies.
There are THREE parts in this Psalm: - I. A petition. 1 For audience, ver. 1, 6. 2. For perseverance in good, ver. 5.
3. For special favour, ver. 7, 8. 4. For immediate deliverance, ver. 13, 14.
II. A narration; in which we meet with, 1. His appeal to God, and his own justification, ver. 2-4. 2. The reasons of it; his enemies and their character, ver. 9-14.
III. A conclusion; which has two parts. 1. One belonging to this life; and, 2. One belonging to the life to come, ver. 15.
I. 1. He begins with petition for audience. And he urges it for two reasons:
1. The justness of his cause: "Hear the right, O Lord." 2. The sincerity of his heart: "That goeth not out of feigned lips." 2. Again, there were other reasons why he desired to be heard:
1. He felt himself prone to slip, and fall from God: "Hold up my goings," &c. 2. He was in great danger, and nothing but a miracle could save him: "Show thy marvellous lovingkindness." 3. His enemies were insolent and mighty, and God's sword only could prevail against them: "Arise, O Lord," ver. 13, 14.
II. A narration: His appeal to God. Since a verdict must pass upon him, he desired that God should pronounce it: "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence." I know that thou art a righteous Judge, and canst not be swayed by prejudice: "Let thine eyes behold the thing that is equal," and then I know it must go well with me: "Thou hast proved my heart. Thou hast tried me before on this busiess, and hast found nothing.
1. Nothing in my HEART: "Thou hast proved my heart." 2. Nothing in my TONGUE: "For I am purposed that my mouth shall not offend." 3. Nothing in my HAND: "For, concerning the works of men," which are mischievous; by the words of thy lips, I have had so great a regard to thy commandments that "I have kept myself from the paths of the wicked;" of him who, to satisfy his own desires, breaks all laws.
4. He confesses that he was poor and weak, and liable to fall, unless sustained by the grace of God: "Hold up my goings in thy paths." And this first petition he renews, and takes courage from the assurance that he shall be heard: "I will call upon thee, for thou wilt hear me." And he puts in a special petition, which has two parts: - 1. "Show thy marvellous lovingkindness;" let me have more than ordinary help. And this he urges from the consideration that God saves them who trust in him from those who rise up against them.
2. That he would save him with the greatest care and vigilance, as a man would preserve the apple of his eye, or as a hen would guard her young: "Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me," &c.
And to prevail in this special petition, he brings his arguments from his present necessity. He was encompassed with enemies, whom he describes: - 1. They were capital enemies; they hemmed him in on every side.
2. They were powerful, proud, and rich: "Men enclosed in their own fat, speaking proudly with their tongues," ver. 10.
3. Their counsels were fixed, and bent to ruin him: "They set their eyes, bowing down to the earth," ver. 11.
4. They were such enemies as prospered in their designs, ver. 14. 1.
Men of the world. 2. They had their portion in this life, and sought for none other. 3. They fed themselves without fear: "Their bellies were full." 4. They had a numerous offspring, and therefore more to be dreaded because of their family connections. 6. They left much substance behind them, so that their plans might be all continued and brought to effect.
III. The conclusion, containing the expectation of David, opposed to his enemies' felicity.
1. In this life: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness." 2. In the life to come: "When I awake," rise from the dead, "after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it." On each of these divisions the reader is referred to the notes.