316 – Psalm 17 – Vindication

We are working out way through Psalm 17. Last time we talked about identifying the Hebrew poetic structure. As a way to review, here’s a paragraph from last week.

Synonymous parallelism is when a subsequent thought communicates the same idea using different words. Antithetical parallelism is when a subsequent thought is the opposite or contrasting thought to the previous one. Synthetic parallelism is when a subsequent thought gives additional information to the previous thought. There are many more types of parallelism but these three are the easiest to recognize and are the most abundant in the Psalms.

Let’s launch right in starting in verse two.

Psalm 17:2 (LEB)

     2 Let my vindication come forth from you; 

     let your eyes see fairness. 

Though we are focused on determining the parallelism in these verses, let’s not forget to look up keywords in the Hebrew lexicon. What are the glosses for the word “vindication”? It’s the Hebrew word “mispat” and has the following range of possible meanings. Decision, judgment; dispute, case, claim; measure, law, a forensic cause; sentence of a judge; punishment; fault, crime, decision by arbitration, legal decision, etc. Remember that context helps us determine which gloss works well as the translation into English. We know that “punishment; fault, crime” doesn’t fit because according to the surrounding verses, David is not calling for Yahweh to punish him. 

After examining the glosses “vindication” seems a good word. David is calling for Yahweh to “make a legal ruling” on his behalf. Because it’s “legal” and Judge Yahweh is righteous, David and everyone around him can be confident David’s vindication is true and accurate.

What about the parallelism in verse two? Are the two thoughts synonymous, antithetical, or synthetic? I suggest Synonymous. The two thoughts communicate the same idea. What’s the main idea in the thought? Simply put, David is asking that Yahweh would rule in his favor.

Psalm 17:3 (LEB)

     3 You have tried my heart; 

     you have examined me by night; 

     you have tested me; you found nothing. 

Here we encounter the pronoun “you” three times so let’s make sure we know the antecedent. David is talking to someone, who is that someone? Working our way backward takes us all the way back to verse one. David is talking to Yahweh and hasn’t changed to a different person by verse three. Conclusion? “You” is the pronoun for Yahweh.

There are three thoughts in verse 3 (or 4) so let’s be careful to consider them together. Verse three is most definitely related to verse two. Verse two introduces the concept of David’s vindication and verse three gives some detail. David proclaims he is aware that Yahweh has him under the microscope when he says, “You have tried my heart”. The next thought is Synthetic because we learn additional information, namely, Yahweh has examined David at night. 

Next, “you have tested me” would be synonymous if we consider it separately from the remaining thought in the verse. Lastly, “you found nothing” is synthetic because we learn the conclusion to Yahweh’s examination, “you found nothing”. David is confident that Yahweh has indeed vindicated him.

  I can’t help wondering, what if Yahweh was to examine our hearts? Could we say confidently with David, “…You have tested me; you found nothing”? If the answer is no, then maybe we should spend some time repenting before Yahweh. The first scripture that comes to mind is 1 John 1:8-9.

1 John 1:8-9 (LEB)

 8 If we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our* sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Yahweh deserves our best but our best isn’t good enough. That’s why He sent Jesus to die for our sin and that’s why He provides us with repentance. 

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