A psalm by Asaph.
50:1 El, God, the Lord 2 speaks,
and summons the earth to come from the east and west. 3
50:2 From Zion, the most beautiful of all places, 4
God comes in splendor. 5
50:3 Our God approaches and is not silent; 6
consuming fire goes ahead of him
and all around him a storm rages. 7
50:4 He summons the heavens above,
as well as the earth, so that he might judge his people. 8
50:5 He says: 9
“Assemble my covenant people before me, 10
those who ratified a covenant with me by sacrifice!” 11
50:6 The heavens declare his fairness, 12
for God is judge. 13 (Selah)
50:7 He says: 14
“Listen my people! I am speaking!
Listen Israel! I am accusing you! 15
I am God, your God!
50:8 I am not condemning 16 you because of your sacrifices,
or because of your burnt sacrifices that you continually offer me. 17
50:9 I do not need to take 18 a bull from your household
or goats from your sheepfolds.
50:10 For every wild animal in the forest belongs to me,
as well as the cattle that graze on a thousand hills. 19
50:11 I keep track of 20 every bird in the hills,
and the insects 21 of the field are mine.
50:12 Even if I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all it contains belong to me.
50:13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls?
Do I drink the blood of goats? 22
50:14 Present to God a thank-offering!
Repay your vows to the sovereign One! 23
50:15 Pray to me when you are in trouble! 24
I will deliver you, and you will honor me!” 25
50:16 God says this to the evildoer: 26
“How can you declare my commands,
and talk about my covenant? 27
50:17 For you hate instruction
and reject my words. 28
50:18 When you see a thief, you join him; 29
you associate with men who are unfaithful to their wives. 30
50:19 You do damage with words, 31
and use your tongue to deceive. 32
50:20 You plot against your brother; 33
you slander your own brother. 34
50:21 When you did these things, I was silent, 35
so you thought I was exactly like you. 36
But now I will condemn 37 you
and state my case against you! 38
50:22 Carefully consider this, you who reject God! 39
Otherwise I will rip you to shreds 40
and no one will be able to rescue you.
50:23 Whoever presents a thank-offering honors me. 41
To whoever obeys my commands, I will reveal my power to deliver.” 42
1 sn Psalm 50. This psalm takes the form of a covenant lawsuit in which the Lord comes to confront his people in a formal manner (as in Isa 1:2-20). The Lord emphasizes that he places priority on obedience and genuine worship, not empty ritual.
2 sn Israel’s God is here identified with three names: El (אֵל [’el], or “God”), Elohim (אֱלֹהִים [’elohim], or “God”), and Yahweh (יְהוָה [yÿhvah] or “the
3 tn Heb “and calls [the] earth from the sunrise to its going.”
4 tn Heb “the perfection of beauty.”
5 tn Or “shines forth.”
sn Comes in splendor. The psalmist may allude ironically to Deut 33:2, where God “shines forth” from Sinai and comes to superintend Moses’ blessing of the tribes.
6 tn According to GKC 322 §109.e, the jussive (note the negative particle אַל, ’al) is used rhetorically here “to express the conviction that something cannot or should not happen.”
7 tn Heb “fire before him devours, and around him it is very stormy.”
8 tn Or perhaps “to testify against his people.”
sn The personified heavens and earth (see v. 1 as well) are summoned to God’s courtroom as witnesses against God’s covenant people (see Isa 1:2). Long before this Moses warned the people that the heavens and earth would be watching their actions (see Deut 4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1).
9 tn The words “he says” are supplied in the translation for clarification. God’s summons to the defendant follows.
10 tn Or “Gather to me my covenant people.” The Hebrew term חָסִיד (khasid, “covenant people”) elsewhere in the psalms is used in a positive sense of God’s loyal followers (see the note at Ps 4:3), but here, as the following line makes clear, the term has a neutral sense and simply refers to those who have outwardly sworn allegiance to God, not necessarily to those whose loyalty is genuine.
11 tn Heb “the cutters of my covenant according to sacrifice.” A sacrifice accompanied the covenant-making ceremony and formally ratified the agreement (see Exod 24:3-8).
12 tn Or “justice.”
13 tn Or “for God, he is about to judge.” The participle may be taken as substantival (as in the translation above) or as a predicate (indicating imminent future action in this context).
14 tn The words “he says” are supplied in the translation for clarification. God’s charges against his people follow.
15 tn Heb “Israel, and I will testify against you.” The imperative “listen” is understood in the second line by ellipsis (note the preceding line).
16 tn Or “rebuking.”
17 tn Heb “and your burnt sacrifices before me continually.”
18 tn Or “I will not take.”
19 tn Heb “[the] animals on a thousand hills.” The words “that graze” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The term בְּהֵמוֹה (bÿhemot, “animal”) refers here to cattle (see Ps 104:14).
20 tn Heb “I know.”
21 tn The precise referent of the Hebrew word, which occurs only here and in Ps 80:13, is uncertain. Aramaic, Arabic and Akkadian cognates refer to insects, such as locusts or crickets.
22 tn The rhetorical questions assume an emphatic negative response, “Of course not!”
23 tn Heb “Most High.” This divine title (עֶלְיוֹן, ’elyon) pictures God as the exalted ruler of the universe who vindicates the innocent and judges the wicked. See especially Pss 7:17; 9:2; 18:13; 21:7; 47:2.
24 tn Heb “call [to] me in a day of trouble.”
25 sn In vv. 7-15 the Lord makes it clear that he was not rebuking Israel because they had failed to offer sacrifices (v. 8a). On the contrary, they had been faithful in doing so (v. 8b). However, their understanding of the essence of their relationship with God was confused. Apparently they believed that he needed/desired such sacrifices and that offering them would ensure their prosperity. But the Lord owns all the animals of the world and did not need Israel’s meager sacrifices (vv. 9-13). Other aspects of the relationship were more important to the Lord. He desired Israel to be thankful for his blessings (v. 14a), to demonstrate gratitude for his intervention by repaying the vows they made to him (v. 14b), and to acknowledge their absolute dependence on him (v. 15a). Rather than viewing their sacrifices as somehow essential to God’s well-being, they needed to understand their dependence on him.
26 tn Heb “evil [one].” The singular adjective is used here in a representative sense; it refers to those within the larger covenant community who have blatantly violated the
27 tn Heb “What to you to declare my commands and lift up my covenant upon your mouth?” The rhetorical question expresses sarcastic amazement. The
28 tn Heb “and throw my words behind you.”
29 tn Heb “you run with him.”
30 tn Heb “and with adulterers [is] your portion.”
31 tn Heb “your mouth you send with evil.”
32 tn Heb “and your tongue binds together [i.e., “frames”] deceit.”
33 tn Heb “you sit, against your brother you speak.” To “sit” and “speak” against someone implies plotting against that person (see Ps 119:23).
34 tn Heb “against the son of your mother you give a fault.”
35 tn Heb “these things you did and I was silent.” Some interpret the second clause (“and I was silent”) as a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer, “[When you do these things], should I keep silent?” (cf. NEB). See GKC 335 §112.cc.
sn The Lord was silent in the sense that he delayed punishment. Of course, God’s patience toward sinners eventually runs out. The divine “silence” is only temporary (see v. 3, where the psalmist, having described God’s arrival, observes that “he is not silent”).
36 tn The Hebrew infinitive construct (הֱיוֹת, heyot) appears to function like the infinitive absolute here, adding emphasis to the following finite verbal form (אֶהְיֶה, ’ehyeh). See GKC 339-40 §113.a. Some prefer to emend הֱיוֹת (heyot) to the infinitive absolute form הָיוֹ (hayo).
37 tn Or “rebuke” (see v. 8).
38 tn Heb “and I will set in order [my case against you] to your eyes.” The cohortative form expresses the
39 tn Heb “[you who] forget God.” “Forgetting God” here means forgetting about his commandments and not respecting his moral authority.
40 sn Elsewhere in the psalms this verb is used (within a metaphorical framework) of a lion tearing its prey (see Pss 7:2; 17:12; 22:13).
41 sn The reference to a thank-offering recalls the earlier statement made in v. 14. Gratitude characterizes genuine worship.
42 tn Heb “and [to one who] sets a way I will show the deliverance of God.” Elsewhere the phrase “set a way” simply means “to travel” (see Gen 30:36; cf. NRSV). The present translation assumes an emendation of וְשָׂם דֶּרֶךְ (vÿsam derekh) to וְשֹׁמֵר דְּרָכַּי (vÿshomer dÿrakhay, “and [the one who] keeps my ways” [i.e., commands, see Pss 18:21; 37:34). Another option is to read וְשֹׁמֵר דַּרְכּוֹ (vÿshomer darko, “and [the one who] guards his way,” i.e., “the one who is careful to follow a godly lifestyle”; see Ps 39:1).