The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 14

Psa 14:1


HISTORICAL SETTING: Psa 53 follows Psa 52, with an explicit historical title about Doeg the Edomite, and precedes Psa 54, about Saul's hunt for David the outlaw, suggests that Psa 14 (// Psa 53) also belongs to the same period in David's life. This hint yields results. Phrase after phrase makes an easy link with Doeg's betrayal of David and his vicious massacre, at Saul's command, of the priests of Nob (1Sa 21; 22).

In Hezekiah's day? In view of the likelihood of psalm revision in the days of Hezekiah, it is worthwhile also to read 14/53 against the backdrop of events in his time:
V 1. The fool hath said....There is no God. Rabshakeh's tirade against the God of Israel: Isa 37:23,28.
Vv 1,4. Corrupt... abominable works... who eat up my people. The enormities of the Assyrian invasion.
V 5 (and esp Psa 53:5). The siege of Jerusalem and its shattering outcome: Isa 37:36. In great fear, where no fear was (Psa 53:5) is wonderfully appropriate to the arrogant self-confident Assyrians.
V 6. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge. Rabshakeh's mockery: Isa 37:12,13.
V 7. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. This might even be Hezekiah's addition (like Psa 89:49-52), for assuredly Israel's salvation did come out of Zion then, and a great captivity did return home with gladness (WHez 85,86).

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PSA 14 AND PSA 53: Usually assumed that Psa 14 is the original. But this is not certain. Psa 53 has Elohim where Psa 14 has Jehovah (right through, according to the Sopherim). The same interesting phenomenon appears in Psa 40:13-17 (= Psa 70:1-5) and Jdg 5:4,5 (= Psa 68:7,8). But why? Bullinger guesses: A distinction between private and public use of the psalm. Waller guesses: The psalms were used at two different sanctuaries of the Lord: Gibeon (1Ki 3:4) and Zion.

THE FOOL SAYS IN HIS HEART, "THERE IS NO GOD": "Fool" = "nabal" (1Sa 25:25). This is not "atheism" in the modern sense of the term, but in the same sense as Psa 10:4,6,11-13; 97:7: 'God is inactive; He will take no notice; and if He does, He certainly won't punish.' This is precisely the attitude of many religious people today: they are willing to believe in God and follow religious observance so long as God leaves them alone and lets them run their affairs in their own way. Notice the change from "the fool" (singular: Saul?) to "they" (plural: Saul and Doeg?).

This designation, "fool", goes for those who doubt God's sovereignty as well as those who deny Him. Either He is sovereign, or He is not God. Therefore, when we become so preoccupied with and dismayed by circumstances and certain people that we doubt God's ability to handle things in His own way, and in His own time, then we, too, become fools.

An atheist complained to a friend because Christians had their special holidays such as Christmas, Easter and the like and Jews celebrated their national holidays as the Passover and Yom Kippur.

"But we atheists," he said, "have no recognized national holiday. It's unfair discrimination." To which his friend replied, "Why don't you celebrate April first?"

THEY ARE CORRUPT: Sw Gen 6:12; Jdg 2:19. But lit this Heb word means: they have caused to destroy, with ref to Doeg and the priests of Nob in 1Sa 22:18,19. Hence the phrase: abominable works (changed to the more specific "iniquity" in Psa 53:1). AV has "abominable": Some things may be abominable to God even though they are highly esteemed by men: eg covetousness (Luk 16:15). And men's works can be abominable even when they profess to know God: Tit 1:15,16.

THERE IS NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD: The worldly unscrupulousness, manifested in Saul and his minions, was even more marked in Caiaphas and the rulers of the Jews. "Good" = "chrestoteta" (LXX), suggesting "Christ-like". Paul applies these words and vv 2b, 3 to Jew and Gentile (like Saul and Doeg), alike impervious to the gospel (Rom 3:10-12). Cp the citation of Psa 2 in Act 4:25-28, where Jews = Herod and the priests, and Gentiles = Pilate and the Roman soldiers. CT the generation of the righteous (v 5), ie the new Israel in Christ (Rom 11:5).

Psa 14:2

THE LORD LOOKS DOWN: Sw "looked" in Gen 18:16, where the angels begin their investigation of Sodom. This is the language of direct Divine intervention, as at the time of the Flood: Gen 6:5,12.

THE SONS OF MEN: The sons of Adam. But, because of the absence of vowel pointing in the orig manuscripts, this could as easily read: the sons of Edom, with ref to Doeg the Edomite.


ANY WHO SEEK GOD: An ironic allusion to 1Sa 21:7, where Doeg was "detained before the Lord", poss for some ceremonial uncleanness, but certainly not to "seek God" in any meaningful sense!

Psa 14:3

For what kind of uncleanness was Doeg detained before the Lord (1Sa 21:7)?

ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE: Sw Exo 32:8. The repetition of "all" suggests the experience of Noah's day, when mankind was a lost race, except for one lone family.

CORRUPT: "Filthy" (AV): Heb "alach" = worthless, rancid, tainted, as sour milk; "stinking" (AV mg); "unprofitable" (Rom 3:12); "rotten to the core" (NEB). A word that graphically expresses character deterioration (cp idea in Isa 64:6,7).

THERE IS NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD, NOT EVEN ONE: From LXX and Rom 3:12, with ref to the extraordinary and absolutely unique "One".

Psa 14:4

THOSE WHO DEVOUR MY PEOPLE AS MEN EAT BREAD: Similar refs in Psa 79:6,7; Pro 30:14; Lam 2:16; Jer 10:25; Mic 3:3,4. "To eat", as the wild beast or gluttonous man does, eagerly devouring, without remorse or regret. Allusion to Doeg's ruthless massacre of the priests: 1Sa 22:18. Heb could read: 'Did they not know, those who eat up my people who eat the bread of God? They (ie my people, the priests) did not cry out.' Thus there are historical refs to priests, shewbread ('bread of God'), and the heathen ignorance and indifference of Doeg, in the enormity of his crime.

(NT) Cp Christ, the true priest, "devoured" by his enemies just after he ate the bread of God (at his Passover). Or, Christ (who is the bread of God: Joh 6:35, etc.) complacently "devoured" by his unheeding enemies. Like a lamb led to slaughter (Isa 53:7), he "did not cry out" (AV).

Psa 14:5

THERE THEY ARE, OVERWHELMED WITH DREAD: This was the ultimate outcome of Saul's mania for persecuting David and his friends: 1Sa 28:5. And the jealousy and hatred of God's enemies was finally turned to great fear before the Philistines.

Psa 14:6

THE PLANS: Given by Ahimelech the priest..

OF THE POOR: ... to David, in flight...


Psa 14:7

OH, THAT SALVATION FOR ISRAEL WOULD COME OUT OF ZION!: Apparently a highly-inappropriate v in this psalm, but how well it describes the climax of salvation in Christ and the bringing in of his kingdom! The one who was brutally slain (v 4) is now raised from the dead, at last to return to the scene of his death, but now in glorious triumph (cp with Isa 59:20, cited in Rom 11:26; see WIsa 512).

ZION: Zion was the home of Melchizedek. Nob, the location of the sanctuary and the priests, adjoined Zion (1Sa 21; Isa 10:32; cp 1Sa 17:54 with 1Sa 22:10. Is Nob = Golgotha? see Psa 8). After the murders of the priests, this sanctuary was prob left desolate until David took Jerusalem (2Sa 6). But then the memory of that gruesome slaughter might be partially erased, when God's glorious ark was at last brought to its secure resting place.

SALVATION: An intensive plural: "God's great salvation"!

WHEN THE LORD RESTORES THE FORTUNES OF HIS PEOPLE: Or "brings back the captivity" (cp AV). See Psa 85:1; Deu 30:3; and Isa 49.

JACOB... ISRAEL: Suggests allusion to Gen 32:24-32; 33:1, when Jacob's fear of Esau/Edom, the fool who had no fear of God, was removed.

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