On Psalm 52

(Psa 52:1) To the chief Musician, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech. Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.

The word translated "mighty man" means "strong man" and is typically used in military contexts to describe men that are well suited for military service. The word is simply translated "man" in verse 7. Further, the word translated "mischief" means "evil". Moreover, a better translation of the ending of the verse is "the kindness of God is every day". The verse speaks of people who not only practice evil but also boast about it. However, it raises for all people the question "Why rely on evil ways when God's kindness is available every day?".

(Psa 52:2) Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

A better translation of the first part of the verse would be "Thy tongue deviseth destruction ...".

(Psa 52:3) Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.
(Psa 52:4) Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.

In verse 3, the particles translated "more" and "rather" are identical. Related verses can be found in Rom 3:13-17.

(Rom 3:13) Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
(Rom 3:14) Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
(Rom 3:15) Their feet are swift to shed blood:
(Rom 3:16) Destruction and misery are in their ways:
(Rom 3:17) And the way of peace have they not known:

The next verse of the psalm speaks about judgment and death.

(Psa 52:5) God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.

A more literal translation of the beginning of the verse is "Also God shall pull down thee ...". The word translated "dwelling place" is the word for "tent". The Septuagint translates this word with a Greek word that appears also in 2Pe 1:13-14 and 2Co 5:1-4. This Greek word is translated "tabernacle" in the KJV. In the context of 2Pe 1:13-14 and 2Co 5:1-4, the "tabernacle" refers to the body, since the soul inhabits it. The apostle Peter wrote that "I account it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance, knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is speedily to take place ..." (2Pe 1:13-14)Darby. In 2Pe 1:14, "the putting off of my tabernacle" refers to physical death. Thus, referring again to Ps 52:5, we can conclude that the statement "God shall ... pluck thee out of thy dwelling place" speaks about physical death, as implied also by the statement "God shall ... root thee out of the land of the living".

(Psa 52:6) The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:

A more literal translation of the verse is "And the righteous will see, and fear, and laugh because of him". The statement that they will fear can be interpreted as follows. First, "the righteous are bold as a lion" (Pr 28:1). They do not fear man, for we read "In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me" (Psa 56:11). Thus, "fear" in Ps 52:6 is unlikely to refer to fear of unfavorable circumstances or to fear of people. Rather, it refers to the fear of God. "I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luk 12:4-5).

Ps 52:6 mentions also that the righteous will laugh. Clearly, they will not laugh as rejoicing at the calamity of the wicked, for "he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished" (Pr 17:5). "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth" (Pro 24:17). People rejoice when they are delivered from the power of wicked men. This could be a reason the verse mentions that the righteous will laugh. However, the psalm does not seem to indicate that it refers only to wicked men that are powerful. Thus, a better explanation of the statement that the righteous will laugh is that the verse does not refer primarily to the time of the death of the wicked but to the time of the last judgment, when the Lord will reveal sins and display his justice. At that time the righteous will rejoice because they will see God's justice. Scripture passages in which the righteous rejoice when they see God's justice include Rev 15:3-4 and Rev 19:1-5. As for the judgment of the wicked, we read that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecc 12:14). Moreover, in Rom 2:16 we read about a "day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ". There will be "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil" (Rom 2:8-9).

(Pro 1:24)Darby Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no one regarded;
(Pro 1:25) and ye have rejected all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
(Pro 1:26) I also will laugh in your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh;
(Pro 1:27) when your fear cometh as sudden destruction, and your calamity cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish come upon you:
(Pro 1:28) -- then will they call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me early, and shall not find me.
(Pro 1:29) Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of Jehovah;
(Pro 1:30) they would none of my counsel, they despised all my reproof:
(Pro 1:31) therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their way, and be filled with their own devices.

In Pro 1:26 we read "I also will laugh in your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh". This could be seen as a manifestation of the wrath of God. This does not mean that God takes pleasure in the punishment of the wicked. Indeed, he said "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Eze 33:11).

(Psa 52:7)Darby Behold the man that made not God his strength, but put confidence in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his avarice.

The verse above does not imply that the psalm speaks only of certain rich people, but rather provides an example of people to whom verses 1-6 apply. The Hebrew word rendered above "avarice" is usually translated "desire". Thus, the verse speaks of one who pursues his (selfish) desire and strengthens himself in his pursuit. Moreover, there are several different Hebrew words that literally mean "strength". None of these words is used in Ps 52:7, though "strength" appears in the English translation. According to lexicons, the literal meaning of the word translated "strength" is "refuge, stronghold, ...". Thus, the verse indicates that people should make God their refuge. One should not face the difficulties of life by means of evil ways but rather he should make God his refuge. In contrast to people who do not make God their refuge, those who rely on him will flourish (Jer 17:5-8).

(Psa 52:8) But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

The Hebrew word translated "mercy" in Ps 52:8 is the same as the one translated "goodness" in Ps 52:1. Its literal meaning is "kindness". Moreover, the word translated "green" has the meaning of "luxuriant". The Septuagint translates it with words that indicate trees full of leaves. The verb translated "put confidence" in Ps 52:7 is the same as the one translated "trust" in Ps 52:8. Thus, in the context of Ps 52:7, Ps 52:8 emphasizes that the righteous man trusts in God and makes God his strength.

(Psa 52:9) I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.

The statement that "thou hast done it" could be explained as follows. The righteous man does not rely on himself but trusts in God and makes God his strength. God provides for his needs and delivers him. Moreover, God also changes him and empowers him. Everything good that one has, everything good about him, and every good achievement are from God. Thus, every believer can confess to God that "thou hast done it". The fact that everything good comes from God can be seen from various passages. On their own, people cannot do good, for "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Ps 53:3). Moreover, apart from God's intervention, people are not good, "for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen 8:21). The "heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live" (Ecc 9:3). Thus, apart from God's intervention, people cannot be in right relationship with God. After the Lord intervenes and one becomes a believer, he confesses that "It is God that ... maketh my way perfect" (Psa 18:32). He confesses to God that "all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee" (1Ch 29:14). "... their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD" (Is 54:17). There are also New Testament passages related to the statement that "thou hast done it". Under the new covenant, a believer is born again and thus his inner man is created according to the image of God (Col 3:10) in righteousness and piety of the truth (Eph 4:24). "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27). Nonetheless, there is nothing good that a believer can do apart from the Lord (Jn 14:4-5, Lk 17:10) and there is nothing good that he can get apart from the Lord (Jas 1:17, 1Co 4:7). The good works of the believer are from God (Eph 2:10) and done in God, for we read that "he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (Joh 3:21). Thus, the believer has to confess that "thou hast done it". "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom 11:36).

We also read in Ps 52:9 that "I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints". Literally, the Hebrew verb for "wait on" means "wait for". Thus, the verse says "I will wait for thy name, for it is good before thy saints". One who waits bears patiently the difficulties of life. The verse does not speak about waiting for the intervention of the Lord but about waiting for the name of the Lord. The name of the Lord is placed on believers (Num 6:27) and is called upon them (2Ch 7:14). The time comes when the name of the Lord will be attached to the believer, for Christ says that "I will write upon him the name of my God ... and I will write upon him my new name" (Rev 3:12). The promise of Rev 3:12 is made to "him that overcometh". Thus, it is fulfilled for those who have passed through this life and have overcome, that is, they have persevered in the faith to the end. It is good in the eyes of the saints to wait patiently for the time when they will be with the Lord. The name of the Lord will be on them and they will praise him forever because he has done it.


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