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Psalms 53:1-3

Context
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!

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.”



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