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Psalms 53

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Psalm 53 1 

For the music director; according to the machalath style; 2  a well-written song 3  by David.

53:1 Fools say to themselves, 4  “There is no God.” 5 

They sin and commit evil deeds; 6 

none of them does what is right. 7 

53:2 God looks down from heaven 8  at the human race, 9 

to see if there is anyone who is wise 10  and seeks God. 11 

53:3 Everyone rejects God; 12 

they are all morally corrupt. 13 

None of them does what is right, 14 

not even one!

53:4 All those who behave wickedly 15  do not understand 16 

those who devour my people as if they were eating bread,

and do not call out to God.

53:5 They are absolutely terrified, 17 

even by things that do not normally cause fear. 18 

For God annihilates 19  those who attack you. 20 

You are able to humiliate them because God has rejected them. 21 

53:6 I wish the deliverance 22  of Israel would come from Zion!

When God restores the well-being of his people, 23 

may Jacob rejoice, 24 

may Israel be happy! 25 

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1 sn Psalm 53. This psalm is very similar to Ps 14. The major difference comes in v. 5, which corresponds to, but differs quite a bit from, Ps 14:5-6, and in the use of the divine name. Ps 14 uses “the Lord” (יְהוָה, yÿhvah, “Yahweh”) in vv. 2a, 4, 6, and 7, while Ps 53 employs “God” (אֱלֹהִים, ’elohim) throughout, as one might expect in Pss 42-83, where the name “Yahweh” is relatively infrequent. The psalmist observes that the human race is morally corrupt. Evildoers oppress God’s people, but the psalmist is confident of God’s protection and anticipates a day when God will vindicate Israel.

2 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term מָחֲלַת (makhalat, “machalath”) is uncertain; perhaps it refers to a particular style of music, a tune title, or a musical instrument. The term also appears in the heading of Ps 88.

3 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is uncertain. See the note on the phrase “well-written song” in the superscription of Ps 52.

4 tn Heb “a fool says in his heart.” The singular is used here in a collective or representative sense; the typical fool is envisioned.

5 sn There is no God. This statement is probably not a philosophical assertion that God does not exist, but rather a confident affirmation that he is unconcerned about how men live morally and ethically (see Ps 10:4, 11).

6 tn Heb “they act corruptly, they do evil [with] injustice.” Ps 14:1 has עֲלִילָה (’alilah, “a deed”) instead of עָוֶל (’aval, “injustice”). The verbs describe the typical behavior of the wicked. The subject of the plural verbs is “sons of man” (v. 2). The entire human race is characterized by sinful behavior. This practical atheism – living as if there is no God who will hold them accountable for their actions – makes them fools, for one of the earmarks of folly is to fail to anticipate the long range consequences of one’s behavior.

7 tn Heb “there is none that does good.”

8 sn The picture of the Lord looking down from heaven draws attention to his sovereignty over the world.

9 tn Heb “upon the sons of man.”

10 tn Or “acts wisely.” The Hiphil is exhibitive.

11 tn That is, who seeks to have a relationship with God by obeying and worshiping him.

12 tn Heb “all of it turns away.” Ps 14:1 has הָכֹּל (hakkol) instead of כֻּלּוֹ, and סָר (sar, “turn aside”) instead of סָג (sag, “turn away”).

13 tn Heb “together they are corrupt.”

14 tn Heb “there is none that does good.”

15 tn Heb “the workers of wickedness.” See Pss 5:5; 6:8. Ps 14:4 adds כֹּל (kol, “all of”) before “workers of wickedness.”

16 tn Heb “Do they not understand?” The rhetorical question expresses the psalmist’s amazement at their apparent lack of understanding. This may refer to their lack of moral understanding, but it more likely refers to their failure to anticipate God’s defense of his people (see vv. 5-6).

17 tn Heb “there they are afraid [with] fear.” The perfect verbal form is probably used in a rhetorical manner; the psalmist describes the future demise of the oppressors as if it were already occurring. The adverb שָׁם (sham, “there”) is also used here for dramatic effect, as the psalmist envisions the wicked standing in fear at a spot that is this vivid in his imagination (BDB 1027 s.v.). The cognate accusative following the verb emphasizes the degree of their terror (“absolutely”).

18 tn Heb “there is no fear.” Apparently this means the evildoers are so traumatized with panic (see v. 5b) that they now jump with fear at everything, even those things that would not normally cause fear. Ps 14:5 omits this line.

19 tn Heb “scatters the bones.” The perfect is used in a rhetorical manner, describing this future judgment as if it were already accomplished. Scattering the bones alludes to the aftermath of a battle. God annihilates his enemies, leaving their carcasses spread all over the battlefield. As the bodies are devoured by wild animals and decay, the bones of God’s dead enemies are exposed. See Ps 141:7.

20 tn Heb “[those who] encamp [against] you.” The second person masculine singular pronominal suffix probably refers to God’s people viewed as a collective whole. Instead of “for God scatters the bones of those who encamp against you,” Ps 14:5 reads, “for God is with a godly generation.”

21 tn Once again the perfect is used in a rhetorical manner, describing this future judgment as if it were already accomplished. As in the previous line, God’s people are probably addressed. The second person singular verb form is apparently collective, suggesting that the people are viewed here as a unified whole. Ps 14:6 reads here “the counsel of the oppressed you put to shame, even though God is his shelter,” the words being addressed to the wicked.

22 tn This refers metonymically to God, the one who lives in Zion and provides deliverance for Israel.

23 tn Heb “turns with a turning [toward] his people.” The Hebrew term שְׁבוּת (shÿvut) is apparently a cognate accusative of שׁוּב (shuv).

24 tn The verb form is jussive.

25 tn Because the parallel verb is jussive, this verb, which is ambiguous in form, should be taken as a jussive as well.



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