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Psalms 58:1-2

Context
Psalm 58 1 

For the music director; according to the al-tashcheth style; 2  a prayer 3  of David.

58:1 Do you rulers really pronounce just decisions? 4 

Do you judge people 5  fairly?

58:2 No! 6  You plan how to do what is unjust; 7 

you deal out violence in the earth. 8 

1 sn Psalm 58. The psalmist calls on God to punish corrupt judges because a vivid display of divine judgment will convince observers that God is the just judge of the world who vindicates the godly.

2 tn Heb “do not destroy.” Perhaps this refers to a particular style of music, a tune title, or a musical instrument. These words also appear in the heading to Pss 57, 59, and 75.

3 tn The precise meaning of the Hebrew word מִכְתָּם (miktam) which also appears in the heading to Pss 16 and 56-57, 59-60 is uncertain. HALOT 582-83 s.v. defines it as “inscription.”

4 tn Heb “Really [in] silence, what is right do you speak?” The Hebrew noun אֵלֶם (’elem, “silence”) makes little, if any, sense in this context. Some feel that this is an indictment of the addressees’ failure to promote justice; they are silent when they should make just decisions. The present translation assumes an emendation to אֵלִם (’elim), which in turn is understood as a defectively written form of אֵילִים (’elim, “rulers,” a metaphorical use of אַיִל, ’ayil, “ram”; see Exod 15:15; Ezek 17:13). The rhetorical question is sarcastic, challenging their claim to be just. Elsewhere the collocation of דָּבַר (davar, “speak”) with צֶדֶק (tsedeq, “what is right”) as object means “to speak the truth” (see Ps 52:3; Isa 45:19). Here it refers specifically to declaring what is right in a legal setting, as the next line indicates.

5 tn Heb “the sons of mankind.” The translation assumes the phrase is the object of the verb “to judge.” Some take it as a vocative, “Do you judge fairly, O sons of mankind?” (Cf. NASB; see Ezek 20:4; 22:2; 23:36.)

6 tn The particle אַף (’af, “no”) is used here as a strong adversative emphasizing the following statement, which contrasts reality with the rulers’ claim alluded to in the rhetorical questions (see Ps 44:9).

7 tn Heb “in the heart unjust deeds you do.” The phrase “in the heart” (i.e., “mind”) seems to refer to their plans and motives. The Hebrew noun עַוְלָה (’avlah, “injustice”) is collocated with פָּעַל (paal, “do”) here and in Job 36:23 and Ps 119:3. Some emend the plural form עוֹלֹת (’olot, “unjust deeds”; see Ps 64:6) to the singular עָוֶל (’avel, “injustice”; see Job 34:32), taking the final tav (ת) as dittographic (note that the following verbal form begins with tav). Some then understand עָוֶל (’avel, “injustice”) as a genitive modifying “heart” and translate, “with a heart of injustice you act.”

8 tn Heb “in the earth the violence of your hands you weigh out.” The imagery is from the economic realm. The addressees measure out violence, rather than justice, and distribute it like a commodity. This may be ironic, since justice was sometimes viewed as a measuring scale (see Job 31:6).



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