on Psalms 17 :3
Thou hast proved mine heart - Thou well knowest whether there be any evil way in me. Thou hast given me to see many and sore trials; and yet, through thy mercy, I have preserved my integrity both to thee and to my king. Thou hast seen me in my most secret retirements, and knowest whether I have plotted mischief against him who now wishes to take away my life.
Thou hast tried me - צרפתני tseraphtani; Thou hast put me to the test, as they do metals in order to detect their alloy, and to purify them: well expressed by the Vulgate, Igne me examinasti, "Thou hast tried me by fire;" and well paraphrased in my old Psalter, - The examynd me the lykkenyng of the fournas, that purges metal, and imang al this, wykednes es nout funden in me: that es, I am funden clene of syn, and so ryghtwis. - He who is saved from his sin is right wise; he has found the true wisdom.
My mouth shall not transgress - This clause is added to the following verse by the Vulgate and Septuagint: "That my mouth may not speak according to the works of men, I have observed difficult ways because of the words of thy lips." That is, So far from doing any improper action, I have even refrained from all words that might be counted inflammatory or seditious by my adversaries; for I took thy word for the regulation of my conduct, and prescribed to myself the most painful duties, in order that I might, in every respect, avoid what would give offense either to thee or to man. Among the genuine followers of God, plots and civil broils are never found.
on Psalms 17 :3
Thou hast proved mine heart - In this verse he refers to his own character and life in the matter under consideration, or the consciousness of his own innocence in respect to his fellow-men who are persecuting and opposing him. He appeals to the Great Searcher of hearts in proof that, in this respect, he was innocent; and he refers to different forms of trial on the part of God to show that after the most thorough search he would find, and did find, that in these respects he was an innocent man, and that his enemies had no occasion to treat him as they had done. It is still to be borne in mind here that the trial which the psalmist asks at the hand of God was not to prove that he was innocent toward him, or that he had a claim to His favor on account of his own personal holiness, but it was that he was innocent of any wrong toward those who were persecuting him, or, in other words, that after the most searching trial, even by his Maker, it would be found that he had given them no cause for treating him thus. The word here rendered "proved" means "to try, to prove, to examine," especially metals, to test their genuineness. See Psalm 7:9-10, note; Job 12:11, note. The psalmist here says that God had tried or searched "his heart." He knew all his motives. He had examined all his desires and his thoughts. The psalmist felt assured that, after the most thorough trial, even God would not find anything in his heart that would justify the conduct of his enemies toward him.
Thou hast visited me - That is, for the purpose of inspecting my character, or of examining me. The English word "visit," like the Hebrew, is often used to denote a visitation for the purpose of inspection and examination. The idea is, that God had come to him for the very purpose of "examining" his character.
In the night - In solitude. In darkness. When I was alone. In the time when the thoughts are less under restraint than they are when surrounded by others. In a time when it can be seen what we really are; when we do not put on appearances to deceive others.
Thou hast tried me - The word used here - צרף tsâraph - means properly "to melt, to smelt," etc., metals, or separating the pure metal from the dross. The meaning is, that God, in examining into his character, had subjected him to a trial as searching as that employed in purifying metals by casting them into the fire.
And shalt find nothing - Thou wilt find nothing that could give occasion for the conduct of my enemies. The future tense is used here to denote that, even if the investigation were continued, God would find nothing in his heart or in his conduct that would warrant their treatment of him. He had the most full and settled determination not to do wrong to them in any respect whatever. Nothing had been found in him that would justify their treatment of him; he was determined so to live, and he felt assured that he would so live, that nothing of the kind would be found in him in time to come. "I am purposed." I am fully resolved.
My mouth shall not transgress - Transgress the law of God, or go beyond what is right. That is, I will utter nothing which is wrong, or which can give occasion for their harsh and unkind treatment. Much as he had been provoked and injured, he was determined not to retaliate, or to give occasion for their treating him in the manner in which they were now doing. Prof. Alexander renders this "My mouth shall not exceed my thought; "but the common version gives a better idea, and is sanctioned by the Hebrew. Compare Gesenius, Lexicon.
on Psalms 17 :3