MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Psalm 50

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God the Judge of the Righteous and the Wicked
MT Intro
A Psalm of Asaph
God the Righteous Judge A Liturgy of Divine Judgment True Worship Worship in Spirit and Truth
50:1-6 50:1-3 50:1-2 50:1-2 50:1-3a
    50:3-6 50:3-6 50:3b-4
  50:4-6      
        50:5-6
50:7-15 50:7-11 50:7-11 50:7-11 50:7
        50:8-9
        50:10-11
  50:12-15 50:12-15 50:12-15 50:12-13
        50:14-16a
50:16-21 50:16-21 50:16-18 50:16-18 50:16b-17
        50:18-19
    50:19-21 50:19-21  
        50:20-21
50:22-23 50:22-23 50:22-23 50:22-23 50:22-23

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This is another Psalm that contains a universal element (cf. Ps. 50:1,4,12; Ps. 45:16; 46:10; 47:2; 48:2,10; 49:1). This is another way of asserting YHWH as the Creator (Psalm 104), the only God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7).

 

B. Because His is the Creator, He is the only Judge. Humans will be judged by their relationship to God,

1. faith

2. obedience

3. worship

not just their fulfillment of ritual or liturgical forms. True faith is of the heart before the hand!

 

C. This Psalm is not about the judgment of all humans, but the judgment of the covenant people as heaven, earth, and all peoples watch. This judgment is for the purposes of

1. restoring some to heartfelt faith

2. revealing the false faith of some

 

D. This Psalm describes

1. those who are ritual-oriented followers (cf. Ps. 50:7-15)

2. those who are faithless followers (cf. Ps. 50:16-21)

3. brief summary in Ps. 50:22-23

 

E. There are many allusions to speaking. Notice

1. spoken, Ps. 50:1a

2-3. summoned (i.e., to witness or testify), Ps. 50:1b, 4

4. not in silence, Ps. 50:3, 21a

5-6. direct speech of YHWH, Ps. 50:5, 7

7. declare, Ps. 50:6a

8. I will speak, Ps. 50:7a

9. I will testify, Ps. 50:7b

10. reprove, Ps. 50:8,21

11. sacrifice of thanksgiving, Ps. 50:14a, 23a

12. YHWH says, Ps. 50:16a (much of the Psalm is YHWH speaking, Ps. 50:5, 7-15, 16-21, 22-23)

13. tell, Ps. 50:16b

14. My words, Ps. 50:17b

15. your mouth, Ps. 50:19a

16. your tongue, Ps. 50:19b

17. speak, Ps. 50:20a

18. slander, Ps. 50:20b

By their words you will know them for their words reveal their hearts (i.e., both groups, cf. Matt. 12:33-37; Luke 6:45).

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 50:1-6
 1The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken,
 And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
 2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
 God has shone forth.
 3May our God come and not keep silence;
 Fire devours before Him,
 And it is very tempestuous around Him.
 4He summons the heavens above,
 And the earth, to judge His people:
 5"Gather My godly ones to Me,
 Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."
 6And the heavens declare His righteousness,
 For God Himself is judge.  Selah.

50:1-6 This strophe characterizes YHWH as the righteous Judge (cf. Ps. 50:6). The imagery of much of this Psalm is a court scene.

1. summoned the earth, Ps. 50:1,4

2. the two eternal witnesses—heaven and earth (cf., Deut. 4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1), Ps. 50:4

3. God Himself is Judge, Ps. 50:5

4. I will testify against you, Ps. 50:7; notice the whole world, heaven and earth, are called to witness YHWH's accusations against His covenant people

 

50:1 Notice the names/titles of Deity used (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1):

1. El, Ps. 50:1 — BDB 42, general name for God in the ANE from the root, "to be strong"

2. Elohim, Ps. 50:1,2,3,6,7 (twice), 14,16,23 — BDB 43, God as creator, provider, and sustainer of all life

3. YHWH, Ps. 50:1 — BDB 217, the covenant-making God, God as Savior, Redeemer (Ps. 50:5)

4. Elyon, Ps. 50:14 — BDB 751 II, see full note at Ps. 46:5, "Most High" (cf. Deut. 32:8; Ps. 9:2; 21:7; etc.)

5. Eloah, Ps. 50:22 — BDB 42, singular of Elohim (mostly in Job)

It is possible that the first three are meant to form one title (cf. Jos. 22:22). The LXX, NJB, and AB (p. 304) suggest, "The God (El) of gods (Elohim) is YHWH." There was some literary/theological reason to link these three names in a series, but it is lost to moderns.

▣ "earth" This is the Hebrew word erets (BDB 75, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:2). A parallel term, "world" (BDB 385, cf. Ps. 9:8; 18:15; 19:4; 24:1; 33:8; 50:12), is used mostly in Psalms and Isaiah.

▣ "from the rising of the sun to its setting" The phrase (cf. Ps. 113:3) is an idiom of universality, as is "from the east to the west." All peoples are summoned to YHWH's court. This concept is brought into the NT as

1. the sheep and goat judgment of Matt. 25:31-46

2. the judgment seat of Christ of 2 Cor. 5:8

3. the great white throne judgment of Rev. 20:11-15

This is alluded to in 1 Cor. 15:25-28. Humans will give an account to God of their stewardship of the gift of life!

50:2 "Zion" Here the city of God, Jerusalem, is characterized as "the perfection of beauty." In Ps. 48:2 she is called, "beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth." Both of these descriptive phrases are combined in Lam. 2:15. See notes at Ps. 2:6; 9:11; 20:1.

▣ "God has shone forth" This same verb (BDB 422, KB 424, Hiphil imperative) is used in Ps. 80:1 (Hiphil imperative) and Ps. 94:1 (also Hiphil imperative). In Psalm 49:14 I have listed how the light imagery is used to refer to different things. God is the light of the world (cf. Ps. 27:1; Isa. 60:1-3,19-20) and so is His Son (cf. John 8:12; 12:35). Because of Them, so are Their faithful followers (cf. Matt. 5:14; 6:23; John 12:36).

50:3 This verse begins with two jussives ("may. . .").

1. may our God come — BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. may He not keep silence — BDB 361, KB 357, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

Judgment Day has arrived and the people of God are first to be charged (cf. Jer. 25:29; 1 Pet. 4:17).

▣ "Fire devours before Him" Fire is often associated with

1. the holiness/purity of God — Dan. 7:10

2. cleansing — Num. 31:23

3. judgment — Lev. 10:2; Num. 16:35

For a full listing of the imagery associated with "fire," see the Special Topic at Ps. 11:6.

In this context it is associated with the physical description on earth that occurs when a holy God approaches ("comes," Ps. 50:3a) His fallen creation (cf. Ps. 18:7-15; 97:1-6).

50:4 "heaven. . .earth" These are the two required witnesses (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15) for YHWH to take His people to court (cf. Ps. 50:4-5,7,16-21,22-23). These represent the first two created things (i.e., the planet and its atmosphere).

50:5 "gather" This verb (BDB 62, KB 74, Qal imperfect) is contextually parallel to "summoned" (Ps. 50:1,4). Notice it is "the godly ones" (i.e., the covenant people) who are gathered for Judgment Day (i.e., "the judgment seat of Christ" in 2 Cor. 5:10 is also for believers not unbelievers).

Notice how the ritual-oriented followers are described.

1. My godly ones, Ps. 50:5

2. those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice, Ps. 50:5

3. O My people, Ps. 50:7 (covenant terminology)

4. they are commanded to (Ps. 50:14-15)

a. offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Qal imperative)

b. pay your vows to the Most High (Piel imperative)

c. call upon YHWH in the day of trouble (Qal imperative)

 

▣ "My godly ones" This word/title (BDB 339) is used often in Psalms to refer to faithful followers (see notes at Ps. 4:3; 12:1; 16:10; 18:25; 30:4; 31:23; 32:6; 37:28; 43:1; 52:9, etc.). At Psalm 16:10 it refers by typology and NT quotes to the Messiah.

Here it denotes Israelites who focus too much on sacrificial rituals and not enough on personal faith and lifestyle godliness.

▣ "to Me" Even a judgment scene is a call to intimate fellowship. For the wicked it is a call to judgment and separation! To those ritual-oriented believers, it is a call to change.

50:5 "covenant" This crucial theological term (BDB 136) is not Hebraic. This concept best describes a sovereign God and a commanded, continuing, responsible choice on behalf of human creatures (see Special Topic at Ps. 25:10). 

▣ "by sacrifice" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SACRIFICES IN MESOPOTAMIA AND ISRAEL AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE

50:6 This is an idiomatic affirmation of YHWH as Creator and thereby His right to pass judgment.

▣ "the heavens declare His righteousness" This affirms "natural revelation" (cf. Ps. 8:3; 19:1-6; 97:6; also note John 12:7-10).

▣ "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 50:7-15
 7"Hear, O My people, and I will speak;
 O Israel, I will testify against you;
 I am God, your God.
 8I do not reprove you for your sacrifices,
 And your burnt offerings are continually before Me.
 9I shall take no young bull out of your house
 Nor male goats out of your folds.
 10For every beast of the forest is Mine,
 The cattle on a thousand hills.
 11I know every bird of the mountains,
 And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
 12If I were hungry I would not tell you,
 For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
 13Shall I eat the flesh of bulls
 Or drink the blood of male goats?
 14Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
 And pay your vows to the Most High;
 15Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
 I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me."

50:7-15 This strophe seems to have three foci.

1. a word to His ritual-oriented followers

2. an affirmation of His Lordship over His creation, whereby He does not need human sacrifices, especially if by giving them humans feel YHWH is obliged to act on their behalf!

3. the need for heart faith (cf. Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4), not just the ritual/liturgy of the sacrificial system (cf. Ps. 51:16-17; Isa. 1:10-15; Hos. 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8)

 

50:7 Covenant summons followers to hear YHWH speak.

1. Hear — BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative, the Judge is speaking

2. I will speak — BDB 180, KB 210, Piel cohortative

3. I will testify against you — BDB 729, KB 795, Hiphil cohortative

 

This verse has several phrases that are known as covenant terminology.

1. My people (cf. Exod. 19:5-6)

2. O Israel (cf. Deut. 6:4-5)

3. I am God, your God (cf. Exod. 20:2; often in Leviticus)

The issue being addressed is lifestyle covenant obedience, not just sacrifices. Sacrifice was a ritual means of a holy God forgiving and staying in fellowship with sinful mankind. The heart was as crucial (cf. Deut. 10:16) as the act itself!

50:10-12 YHWH is affirming His lordship over all creation. Notice the repeated use of "every," "everything" (cf. Deut. 10:14; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 103:19-22).

50:13 Sacrifices were never viewed in the OT as food for God.

1. In Mesopotamian theology the gods ate the offerings of humans.

2. In Canaanite theology, Anath did eat flesh and drink blood.

One wonders how much of the vocabulary (not theology) of Israel was affected first by Canaanite mythology and later Judaism by Zoroastrian theology.

50:11 "that moves in the field" This construct (BDB 260 I and BDB 961) is found only here and 80:14. It is parallel to "birds" and, therefore, must be some type of creature (cf. Gen. 1:24-25).

1. small animals (i.e., mice, rats, foxes, etc.)

2. insects

Whatever they are, they are one example of YHWH's ownership of all creatures on this planet (cf. Ps. 50:10a).

50:14-15 The last two verses of this strophe are characterization of what things ritual-oriented followers should do, which are not directly related to the sacrifices of Leviticus 1-7.

1. offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving — BDB 256, KB 261, Qal imperative; this may have been the expected fulfillment of a vow, cf. Ps. 66:13-15

2. pay your vows to the Most High — BDB 1022, KB 1532, Piel imperative (Numbers 30; Deut. 23:21; Ps. 22:25; 56:12; 61:8; 65:1; 71:11)

3. call upon Me (i.e., prayer) in the day of trouble — BDB 894, KB1128, Qal imperative

If they do these things, then YHWH will "rescue" (i.e., "deliver," BDB 322, KB 321, Piel imperfect) each one. In turn each one will "honor" God (BDB 457, KB 455, Piel imperfect).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 50:16-21
 16But to the wicked God says,
 "What right have you to tell of My statutes
 And to take My covenant in your mouth?
 17For you hate discipline,
 And you cast My words behind you.
 18When you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
 And you associate with adulterers.
 19You let your mouth loose in evil
 And your tongue frames deceit.
 20You sit and speak against your brother;
 You slander your own mother's son.
 21These things you have done and I kept silence;
 You thought that I was just like you;
 I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes."

50:16-21 This strophe is directed to the faithless follower, here called "the wicked" (BDB 957). These were men/women/youth of the covenant people who, by their words, deeds, and omissions, showed their rebellious, self-centered orientation (i.e., violated three of the Ten Commandments).

1. they speak of God and His covenant but ignore it, Ps. 50:16 (i.e., possibly the repeating of covenant verses or ritual but without faith and lifestyle)

2. they hate its requirements and ignore them (i.e., "cast My words behind you"; they were practical atheists), Ps. 50:17; cf. Neh. 9:26

3. not only are they not offended by evil deeds, they associate with those who do them, Ps. 50:18 ("by their fruits. . .," Matt. 7:16-20; 1 Cor. 15:33)

4. their words reveal their hearts, Ps. 50:19-20 (cf. Matt. 12:33-37)

5. they thought YHWH's patience with them was an affirmation (cf. Eccl. 8:11; Isa. 57:11)

But YHWH will act.

1. I will reprove you — BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

2. I will state the case in order before your eyes — BDB 789, KB 884, Qal cohortative, i.e., prepare a legal case, cf. Job 13:18; 23:4; 32:14; 33:5

50:18

NASB"you are pleased with him"
NKJV"you consented with him"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB"make friends with"
LXX"you would join him"
JPSOA"you fall in with him"
REB"you choose him as a friend"

The MT has "pleased" (BDB 953, KB 1280, Qal imperfect with waw). The LXX, Syrian, and Vulgate have, "run with" or "associate with," which seems to fit the parallelism better. The UBS Text Project gives the MT wording a "B" rating (some doubt).

50:19

NASB, NRSV "everything that moves in the field"
NKJV"the wild beasts of the field"
TEV"all living things in the field"
NJB"whatever moves in the fields"
JPSOA"creatures of the field"
REB"the teeming life of the plains"

The MT has "moving things of the field" (BDB 265 I construct BDB 961). The first word is used only here and in Ps.80:13. It would seem to refer to the "teeming things" of Gen. 1:24-26.

50:21 "You thought that I was just like you" This phrase is intensified by the verb "to be" in both an infinitive construct and an imperfect verb.

Peripheral believers always assume they are secure and their beliefs are the same as God's. Revelation is the final arbiter! Fallen humans, even covenant humans, do not understand God or His word, but they think they do! For me as a Bible teacher, it is crucial that I maintain a teachable, repentant, humble spirit. My theology is not God's theology. He is not part of my tradition. I must remember all humans are

1. historically conditioned

2. sinful, damaged humans

3. susceptible to dogmatism and arrogance

The more you know, the more you know you do not know!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 50:22-23
 22"Now consider this, you who forget God,
 Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.
 23He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
 And to him who orders his way aright
 I shall show the salvation of God."

50:22-23 This is a summary statement that has a message for both the ritual-oriented followers (by implication) and the faithless followers (direct address). Both are to "consider" (BDB 106, KB 122, Qal imperative).

1. to the wicked

a. those who forget God, Ps. 50:22a

b. judgment will come and no one can save, Ps. 50:22b

2. to the faithful in contrast

a. who offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, Ps. 50:23a (cf. Ps. 50:14a)

b. who honor Me, Ps. 50:23a (cf. Ps. 50:15b) 

c. who orders his way aright

YHWH will destroy the wicked (Ps. 50:22b), but deliver the faithful (Ps. 50:23c).

50:22b "Lest I tear you in pieces" This is imagery of YHWH as a lion (cf. Ps. 7:2; 17:12; Hos. 5:14; see Special Topic: Lions in the OT at Ps. 7:2). There is a painful consequence to rebellion and continuing unbelief! Justice is not without consequence!

▣ "there will be none to deliver" If God is against us, who can help us?! He and He alone can deliver. This same concept is expressed positively in Rom. 8:31-39.

50:23b This is an ambiguous line of poetry. Literally it is "set a way." The verb (BDB 962, KB 1321) has a wide semantical field. Most English translations take it as referring to a godly, covenant, obedient lifestyle. It is surely possible that it refers to an appropriate sacrifice!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How would you entitle this Psalm?

2. What two types of covenant people are discussed? (Ps. 50:7-15, 16-21)

3. Who is on trial?

4. Is sacrifice wrong?

5. What does it mean, "God kept silent?" Why does God keep silent? (Ps. 50:21)