Psalms 52

Psalm 52

Psalm 52. The psalmist confidently confronts his enemy and affirms that God will destroy evildoers and vindicate the godly.

For the music director; a well-written song
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.
by David. It was written when Doeg the Edomite went and informed Saul: “David has arrived at the home of Ahimelech.”
Heb “when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul and said to him, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech.’”
According to the superscription, David wrote this psalm during the period when Saul was seeking his life. On one occasion Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd (1 Sam 21:7), informed Saul of David’s whereabouts (see 1 Sam 21–22).

1 Why do you boast about your evil plans,
Heb “Why do you boast in evil?”
O powerful man?
God’s loyal love protects me all day long!
Heb “the loyal love of God [is] all the day.” In this context, where the psalmist is threatened by his enemy, the point seems to be that the psalmist is protected by God’s loyal love at all times.

2 Your tongue carries out your destructive plans;
Heb “destruction your tongue devises.”

it is as effective as a sharp razor, O deceiver.
Heb “like a sharpened razor, doer of deceit.” The masculine participle עָשָׂה (’asah) is understood as a substantival vocative, addressed to the powerful man.

3 You love evil more than good,
lies more than speaking the truth.
Or “deceit more than speaking what is right.”
4 You love to use all the words that destroy,
Heb “you love all the words of swallowing.” Traditionally בַּלַּע (bala’) has been taken to mean “swallowing” in the sense of “devouring” or “destructive” (see BDB 118 s.v. בָּלַע). HALOT 135 s.v. III *בֶּלַע proposes a homonym here, meaning “confusion.” This would fit the immediate context nicely and provide a close parallel to the following line, which refers to deceptive words.

and the tongue that deceives.
5 Yet
The adverb גַּם (gam, “also; even”) is translated here in an adversative sense (“yet”). It highlights the contrastive correspondence between the evildoer’s behavior and God’s response.
God will make you a permanent heap of ruins.
Heb “will tear you down forever.”

He will scoop you up
This rare verb (חָתָה, khatah) occurs only here and in Prov 6:27; 25:22; Isa 30:14.
and remove you from your home;
Heb “from [your] tent.”

he will uproot you from the land of the living. (Selah)
6 When the godly see this, they will be filled with awe,
and will mock the evildoer, saying:
Heb “and the godly will see and will fear and at him will laugh.”

7 “Look, here is the man who would not make
The imperfect verbal form here draws attention to the ongoing nature of the action. The evildoer customarily rejected God and trusted in his own abilities. Another option is to take the imperfect as generalizing, “[here is the man who] does not make.”
God his protector!
He trusted in his great wealth
and was confident about his plans to destroy others.”
Heb “he was strong in his destruction.” “Destruction” must refer back to the destructive plans mentioned in v. 2. The verb (derived from the root עָזַז, ’azaz, “be strong”) as it stands is either an imperfect (if so, probably used in a customary sense) or a preterite (without vav [ו] consecutive). However the form should probably be emended to וַיָּעָז (vayyaaz), a Qal preterite (with vav [ו] consecutive) from עָזַז. Note the preterite form without vav (ו) consecutive in the preceding line (וַיִּבְטַח, vayyivtakh, “and he trusted”). The prefixed vav (ו) was likely omitted by haplography (note the suffixed vav [ו] on the preceding עָשְׁרוֹ, ’oshro, “his wealth”).

8 But I
The disjunctive construction (vav [ו] + subject) highlights the contrast between the evildoer’s destiny (vv. 5–7) and that of the godly psalmist’s security.
am like a flourishing
Or “luxuriant, green, leafy.”
olive tree in the house of God;
I continually
Or, hyperbolically, “forever and ever.”
trust in God’s loyal love.
9 I will continually
Or, hyperbolically, “forever.”
thank you when
Or “for.”
you execute judgment;
Heb “you have acted.” The perfect verbal form (1) probably indicates a future perfect here. The psalmist promises to give thanks when the expected vindication has been accomplished. Other options include (2) a generalizing (“for you act”) or (3) rhetorical (“for you will act”) use.

I will rely
Or “wait.”
on you,
Heb “your name.” God’s “name” refers here to his reputation and revealed character.
for your loyal followers know you are good.
Heb “for it is good in front of your loyal followers.”

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