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Psalms 53:1-6

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!

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 

Psalms 88:1-18

Context
Psalm 88 26 

A song, a psalm written by the Korahites; for the music director; according to the machalath-leannoth style; 27  a well-written song 28  by Heman the Ezrachite.

88:1 O Lord God who delivers me! 29 

By day I cry out

and at night I pray before you. 30 

88:2 Listen to my prayer! 31 

Pay attention 32  to my cry for help!

88:3 For my life 33  is filled with troubles

and I am ready to enter Sheol. 34 

88:4 They treat me like 35  those who descend into the grave. 36 

I am like a helpless man, 37 

88:5 adrift 38  among the dead,

like corpses lying in the grave,

whom you remember no more,

and who are cut off from your power. 39 

88:6 You place me in the lowest regions of the pit, 40 

in the dark places, in the watery depths.

88:7 Your anger bears down on me,

and you overwhelm me with all your waves. (Selah)

88:8 You cause those who know me to keep their distance;

you make me an appalling sight to them.

I am trapped and cannot get free. 41 

88:9 My eyes grow weak because of oppression.

I call out to you, O Lord, all day long;

I spread out my hands in prayer to you. 42 

88:10 Do you accomplish amazing things for the dead?

Do the departed spirits 43  rise up and give you thanks? (Selah)

88:11 Is your loyal love proclaimed in the grave,

or your faithfulness in the place of the dead? 44 

88:12 Are your amazing deeds experienced 45  in the dark region, 46 

or your deliverance in the land of oblivion? 47 

88:13 As for me, I cry out to you, O Lord;

in the morning my prayer confronts you.

88:14 O Lord, why do you reject me,

and pay no attention to me? 48 

88:15 I am oppressed and have been on the verge of death since my youth. 49 

I have been subjected to your horrors and am numb with pain. 50 

88:16 Your anger overwhelms me; 51 

your terrors destroy me.

88:17 They surround me like water all day long;

they join forces and encircle me. 52 

88:18 You cause my friends and neighbors to keep their distance; 53 

those who know me leave me alone in the darkness. 54 

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.

26 sn Psalm 88. The psalmist cries out in pain to the Lord, begging him for relief from his intense and constant suffering. The psalmist regards God as the ultimate cause of his distress, but nevertheless clings to God in hope.

27 tn The Hebrew phrase מָחֲלַת לְעַנּוֹת (makhalat lÿannot) may mean “illness to afflict.” Perhaps it refers to a particular style of music, a tune title, or a musical instrument. The term מָחֲלַת also appears in the superscription of Ps 53.

28 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is uncertain. The word is derived from a verb meaning “to be prudent; to be wise.” Various options are: “a contemplative song,” “a song imparting moral wisdom,” or “a skillful [i.e., well-written] song.” The term occurs in the superscriptions of Pss 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, and 142, as well as in Ps 47:7.

29 tn Heb “O Lord God of my deliverance.” In light of the content of the psalm, this reference to God as the one who delivers seems overly positive. For this reason some emend the text to אַלֹהַי שִׁוַּעְתִּי (’alohay shivvatiy, “[O Lord] my God, I cry out”). See v. 13.

30 tn Heb “[by] day I cry out, in the night before you.”

31 tn Heb “may my prayer come before you.” The prefixed verbal form is understood as a jussive, indicating the psalmist’s desire or prayer.

32 tn Heb “turn your ear.”

33 tn Or “my soul.”

34 tn Heb “and my life approaches Sheol.”

35 tn Heb “I am considered with.”

36 tn Heb “the pit.” The noun בּוֹר (bor, “pit,” “cistern”) is sometimes used of the grave and/or the realm of the dead.

37 tn Heb “I am like a man [for whom] there is no help.”

38 tn Heb “set free.”

39 tn Heb “from your hand.”

40 tn The noun בּוֹר (bor, “pit,” “cistern”) is sometimes used of the grave and/or the realm of the dead. See v. 4.

41 tn Heb “[I am] confined and I cannot go out.”

42 tn Heb “I spread out my hands to you.” Spreading out the hands toward God was a prayer gesture (see Exod 9:29, 33; 1 Kgs 8:22, 38; 2 Chr 6:12-13, 29; Ezra 9:15; Job 11:13; Isa 1:15). The words “in prayer” have been supplied in the translation to clarify this.

43 tn Heb “Rephaim,” a term that refers to those who occupy the land of the dead (see Isa 14:9; 26:14, 19).

44 tn Heb “in Abaddon,” a name for Sheol. The noun is derived from a verbal root meaning “to perish,” “to die.”

45 tn Heb “known.”

46 tn Heb “darkness,” here a title for Sheol.

47 tn Heb “forgetfulness.” The noun, which occurs only here in the OT, is derived from a verbal root meaning “to forget.”

sn The rhetorical questions in vv. 10-12 expect the answer, “Of course not!”

48 tn Heb “[why] do you hide your face from me?”

49 tn Heb “and am dying from youth.”

50 tn Heb “I carry your horrors [?].” The meaning of the Hebrew form אָפוּנָה (’afunah), which occurs only here in the OT, is unclear. It may be an adverb meaning “very much” (BDB 67 s.v.), though some prefer to emend the text to אָפוּגָה (’afugah, “I am numb”) from the verb פוּג (pug; see Pss 38:8; 77:2).

51 tn Heb “passes over me.”

52 tn Heb “they encircle me together.”

53 tn Heb “you cause to be far from me friend and neighbor.”

54 tn Heb “those known by me, darkness.”



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