The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 52

Psa 52:1


MASKIL: "Causing to understand". See notes on Psa 32, title. Is this title included here because the experience it commemorates taught David a lesson about Saul and his intentions, or because there is an important truth for all to learn from the behavior and fate of Doeg? The LXX reads: sunesis, understanding: sw Col 1:9; 2:2; Eph 3:4; 2Ti 2:7.

DOEG THE EDOMITE...: When David came, in the course of his flight from Saul, to Ahimelech the high priest at Nob (1Sa 21:1-10), the presence there of Doeg, a high official at Saul's court, spelled worse danger. Hence David's eagerness not only for food but also for weapons and a quick departure. Later (1Sa 22:9-23), Doeg not only told Saul of the encounter at Nob but also showed a considerable willingness (ct the rest of Saul's men: v 17) to slaughter all the priests at Nob and their families. It was one of the vilest deeds described in the OT. But Edomites were ever ready to express their spite against men of Israel, ever since the time of Esau and Jacob.

(NT) In place of David there is the Beloved Son, and in place of Doeg the men of power ruling the Jews at the time of Christ. Vv 2-4 are immed obvious in their application to these evil men. Saul and his henchman Doeg stand for Jewish priests and Roman governor (or Edomite Herod?): "Jew and Gentile... both under sin" in the matter of the death of Christ (Rom 3:10-12; Act 4:25-28; cp Psa 2:1,2, notes).

WHY DO YOU BOAST OF EVIL, YOU MIGHTY MAN?: There is a marked irony about this. Doeg, the butcher of defenseless priests, women, and children, is called "gibbor", a great hero! (Cp the men mighty" --sw, "gibbor"! -- in drinking wine in Isa 5:22.) Yet in another sense Doeg was a mighty man, for he was "chiefest of the herdmen of Saul" -- not a mere shepherd in charge of other shepherds, but quite prob a high official, just as the Chief Butler and Chief Baker were top men in Pharaoh's cabinet.

Psa 52:2

YOUR TONGUE PLOTS DESTRUCTION: 1Sa 22:9,10. The language of this and the next few verses... "mischiefs", "deceitfully", "evil", "lying", "devouring words", "deceitful tongue"... easily suggests the serpent in Eden. Doeg is a rightful "seed of the serpent" (Mat 3:7; 12:34; 23:33). On the evil of the tongue in general, see Jam 1:26; 3:2-12; Pro 12:19; 18:21.

LIKE A SHARPENED RAZOR: A strange figure of speech. Why not "a sharp sword"? 1Sa 21:7 explains: "detained before the Lord" implies a Nazarite vow (Num 6:9,18) or the need for a priestly decision concerning leprosy or some similar disease (Lev 13:33-37), either of which would require the removal of the hair. Prob not the former, for how could an Edomite of all people be a Nazarite unto the Lord? Instead, prob some communicable disease. (Poole: "Like a man pretending only to shave off the hair... suddenly and unexpectedly cuts one's throat.")

YOU WHO PRACTICE DECEIT: At Nob there was no open hostility from Doeg, but David knew human nature.

Psa 52:3

FALSEHOOD: "He inquired of the Lord for him (ie, by Urim and Thummim)" (1Sa 22:10) seems to be Doeg's invention. Is it at all likely that a divine instruction would bid David flee to the court of Achish the Philistine?

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 52:4

YOU LOVE EVERY HARMFUL WORD: "All devouring words" (AV): "words of swallowing". Suggests Psa 5:9: "Their throat is an open sepulchre." With such a mouth he swallows up the people of God (Psa 53:4, the same incident).

Psa 52:5

"God shall likewise destroy thee" (AV). This "likewise" is meaningless, except with ref to the "devouring" of the priests of Nob.

(NT) The complete and permanent elimination of the Jewish priesthood in the first century.

TO EVERLASTING RUIN: The fate of the wicked is eternal destruction (Psa 37:34,36,38, and refs there).

HE WILL SNATCH YOU UP AND TEAR YOU FROM YOUR TENT: The Heb is "ohel" (tent), appropriate both to the tabernacle at Nob and to the Chief of the Shepherds. With "pluck out" (sw Deu 28:63) ct v 8a: David is a green and fruitful tree, well-rooted in the Lord and not about to be plucked out!

(NT) See Mat 15:13. As Jesus spoke of the fig tree being plucked up and cast into the sea (Luk 17:6), so the Jewish nation -- and esp the temple and the priesthood -- would soon be overthrown (Mar 11:20-23; 13:1,2; Jud 1:12).

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 52:6

THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SEE AND FEAR: An impressive play on two nearly identical Heb words. Note the emphasis in the Law on "hear and fear" (Deu 13:11; 17:13; 19:20; 21:21).

Psa 52:7

HERE IS THE MAN WHO...TRUSTED IN HIS GREAT WEALTH: What a ct with v 8b: "I (David) trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever." Doeg was assuredly a very important (and wealthy) member of Saul's court (see on v 1).

(NT) This is the only kind of "faith" these evil men could muster. Luk 12:15-21 is an intended parabolic prophecy of the fate of these men.

Psa 52:8

AN OLIVE TREE FLOURISHING IN THE HOUSE OF GOD: A sad reminiscence by David of the sanctuary at Nob, once green and fruitful with worship of the Lord, but now decimated? A good guess is that the ancient Nob was located on the mount of Olives, on or near the later site of the garden of Gethsemane (which signifies an oil press -- for olives!).

OLIVE TREE: Sym light, prosperity, peace, and joy (Jer 11:16; Hos 14:6). This alludes to an olive tree planted in the sanctuary enclosure; later it was replaced by the twin pillars of Jachin (established) and Boaz (strength) (1Ki 7:21) and was itself fashioned into a gold-covered cherub of glory (1Ki 6:23-28). The righteous will be like pillars in God's temple (Rev 3:12). See also Psa 1:3; 92:12,13; Eze 47:12; Rev 22:1,2.

(NT) A green olive tree suggests Christ kneeling amongst the olive trees of Gethsemane. All around him was "wilderness", but he was fully rooted in faith.

GOD'S UNFAILING LOVE: "All the flowers in God's garden are double. There is no single mercy. You may think you have but one mercy, but you shall find it to be a whole cluster of mercies. It is abounding mercy. Millions have received it, yet far from its being exhausted; it is as fresh, as full, and as free as ever. It is unfailing mercy. It will never leave thee" (CHS).

Psa 52:9

SUBSCRIPTION: "FOR THE DIRECTOR OF MUSIC. ACCORDING TO MAHALATH." Mahalath means "dancings" (Song 7:1; Exo 15:20; 32:19; Jdg 11:34; 21:21), and calls to mind the song of the women in praise of David's exploits: see 1Sa 18:6,7). This earlier incident is recalled in 1Sa 21:11, during the incident to which the title refers (1Sa 21:7-22:23). (The word "mahalath" also occurs in the subscription of Psa 87: "Mahalath-Leannoth".)

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