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Psalm 52

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Futility of Boastful Wickedness
MT Intro
For the choir director. A Maskil of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said to him, "David has come to the house of Ahimelech."
The End of the Wicked and the Peace of the Godly God's Imminent Judgment Against a Tyrant God's Judgment and Grace The Fate of Cynics
52:1-4 52:1-4 52:1-4 52:1-4 52:1-2
        52:3-4
52:5-7 52:5-7 52:5-7 52:5-7 52:5
        52:6-7
52:8-9 52:8-9 52:8-9 52:8-9 52:8
        52:9

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. Notice this Psalm is addressed to wicked people (use of collective singular). Most Psalms are addressed to God.

 

B. This Psalm is a series of strophes that contrast the plight of the wicked with the security of the righteous.

 

C. Notice it is the speech of the two groups that reveals their hearts (motives, cf. Matt. 12:34-37).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 52:1-4
 1Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man?
 The lovingkindness of God endures all day long.
 2Your tongue devises destruction,
 Like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit.
 3You love evil more than good,
 Falsehood more than speaking what is right.  Selah.
 4You love all words that devour,
 O deceitful tongue.

52:1 This is antithetical parallelism. Throughout the Psalm the wicked and the righteous are contrasted (JPSOA). The Peshitta reverses the MT and comes up with "against the innocent every day."

The LXX makes the whole verse refer to the "wicked." The second line has "of lawlessness all day long." AB (p. 11) makes the second line sarcasm, "O devoted of El."

▣ "boast" This verb (BDB 237, KB 248, Hiphil imperfect) in the Hiphil is often used of self praise (cf. 1 Kgs. 20:11; Ps. 49:6; Pro. 20:14; 27:1; Jer. 49:4). In Jer. 9:23-24 the term has both negative (false boasting) and positive (true grounds for boasting) aspects.

▣ "O mighty man" This is one of three vocatives used to describe wicked people.

1. O mighty man — BDB 150, they are mighty in their boasting about their sin; this is biting sarcasm

2. O worker of deceit — BDB 793 I construct BDB 941 I

3. O deceitful tongue — BDB 546 construct 941; not the same root as #2, but very close (i.e., personified evil speech)

 

▣ "lovingkindness" See Special Topic at Ps. 5:7.

▣ "all day long" This denotes an extended period of time (i.e., forever). The concept of "forever" is repeated several times in this Psalm.

1. God's judgment — Ps. 52:5a

2. the righteous' trust in God's lovingkindness — 52:8b

3. the righteous' thanksgiving to God — 52:9a

 

52:2 We need to remember that words matter. They can bless or curse (cf. James 3:1-12). There is power in words (cf. Ps. 52:4). We will give an account to God for our words (cf. Matt. 12:34-37). Speech reveals the heart.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SPEECH

52:3 These are shocking parallel lines of poetry. Just think how far humans made in the image and likeness of God have fallen! They have become polar opposites of what they were intended to be!

The word "love" (BDB 12) is used twice in shocking ways.

1. they love evil more than good, Ps. 52:3

2. they love all words that devour, Ps. 52:4

 

NASB"than speaking what is right"
NKJV"than speaking righteousness"
NRSV"than speaking the truth"
TEV"than truth"
NJB"to uprightness"
JPSOA"to speaking truthfully"
REB"than truthful speech"
LXX"than speaking justice"

The reason there is such variety in the translations is because this is an unusual use of "righteousness" (BDB 841). It is often used in the sense of "right" (cf. Ps. 23:3) but here in the sense of "true" (cf. Ps. 58:1).

52:4 "devour" This noun (BDB 118 I) basically means to swallow and is used as an image for destruction.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 52:15-7
 5But God will break you down forever;
 He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent,
 And uproot you from the land of the living.  Selah.
 6The righteous will see and fear,
 And will laugh at him, saying,
 7"Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge,
 But trusted in the abundance of his riches
 And was strong in his evil desire."

52:5-7 This strophe contrasts what God will do with the wicked and the response of the righteous.

1. God's actions toward the wicked result in their death.

a. He will break (lit. "pull down") them down forever — BDB 683, KB 736, Qal imperfect

b. He will snatch up — BDB 367, KB 363, Qal imperfect; this is a rare word only here in the Psalms, but note its other three occurrences refer to "fire taken to oneself," cf. Pro. 6:27; 25:22; Isa. 30:14)

c. He will tear you away from your tent — BDB 650, KB 702, Qal imperfect

d. He will uproot them from the land of the living — BDB 1057, KB 1658, Piel perfect with waw

2. The reaction of the righteous to God's acts of judgment:

a. will see — BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperfect

b. will fear (i.e., repent in awe) — BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect

c. will laugh at their judgment — BDB 965, KB 1315, Qal imperfect; God laughs in Ps. 2:40; 37:13; personified wisdom laughs in Pro. 1:26; here the righteous laugh when the judgment of God falls on those who have rejected Him and persecuted them. They "laugh" in the sense of "they reap what they sowed." Justice defeats injustice!

 

52:5 This imagery of "tear you away from your tent" is an idiom related to the days of Israel's nomadic living in tents (nomadic and later the Exodus). This same imagery can be seen in

1. Saul — 1 Sam.13:2 (i.e., to your homes)

2. Sheba — 2 Sam. 20:1 (i.e., to your homes)

3. Jeroboam I — 1 Kgs. 12:16; 2 Chr. 10:16 (i.e., to our own country)

4. Paul — 2 Cor. 5:1-10 (tent as metaphor for the human body)

 

▣ "forever" The concept of "forever" is mentioned in the Psalm's three lines.

1. God's judgment is "forever," Ps. 52:5 (BDB 664, cf. Job 4:20; 14:20; 20:7; 23:7; Ps. 9:7)

2. God's blessing is "forever and ever," 52:8

a. forever — BDB 761 (see Special Topic at Ps. 9:5)

b. ever — BDB 723 I (compound of them both in Ps. 9:5; 10:16; 21:4; 45:6,17; 48:14; 104:5; 119:44; 145:1,2,21)

3. faithful followers' thanksgiving is "forever," Ps. 52:9 — BDB 761

 

▣ "the land of the living" This construct (BDB 75, BDB 313) is an idiom for life (cf. Job 28:13; Ps. 27:13; 116:9; 142:5; Isa. 38:11; Jer. 11:19). It is in contrast to "the land of the dead," which would be Sheol or the Pit (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:6).

▣ "Selah" See note at Psalm 3:2 and Intro. to Psalms, VII.

52:7 Verse 7 is a description of the person referred to in verses 1-4.

1. he would not make God his refuge

2. he trusted in the abundance of his riches, cf. Job 31:24-28; Ps. 49:6-9; Pro. 11:28

3. he was strong in his evil desire

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 52:8-9
 8But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
 I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.
 9I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,
 And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.

52:8-9 As verse 7 characterized the wicked person (i.e., uprooted), verse 8 characterizes the righteous person (i.e., planted).

1. He is like a green olive tree in the house of God, cf. Ps. 1:3; 92:12-14; 128:3; Jer. 11:16; 17:5-8.

2. He trusts in God's lovingkindness forever, cf. Ps. 13:5; this lovingkindness is forever, cf. Ps. 52:16; the wicked "trust" in their own riches.

3. He gives thanks to God forever — BDB 392. KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense.

4. He will wait on His name — BDB 875, KB 1082, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense.

 

52:9 "Your name" It is characterized as "it is good." See Special Topic at Ps. 5:11-12.

▣ "in the presence of Your godly ones" This could refer to

1. angels

2. faithful followers at the temple (cf. Ps. 52:8, "house of God")

 

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. What is unusual about this Psalm?

2. List the different vocatives used to describe or personify the wicked.

3. Compare what God will do to the wicked versus the righteous in verses 5-6.

4. What do the wicked do that alienates them from God?

5. Who are "the godly ones" of verse 9?