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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 52

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


The psalmist points out the malevolence of a powerful enemy,

and predicts his destruction, 1-5.

At which destruction the righteous should rejoice, 6, 7.

The psalmist's confidence on God, 8, 9.


The title is, "To the chief Musician, an instructive Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and informed Saul, and said to him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech." The history to which this alludes is the following: David, having learned that Saul was determined to destroy him, went to take refuge with Achish, king of Gath: in his journey he passed by Nob, where the tabernacle then was, and took thence the sword of Goliath; and, being spent with hunger, took some of the shewbread. Doeg, an Edomite, one of the domestics of Saul, being there, went to Saul, and informed him of these transactions. Saul immediately ordered Ahimelech into his presence, upbraided him for being a partisan of David, and ordered Doeg to slay him and all the priests. Doeg did so, and there fell by his hand eighty-five persons. And Saul sent and destroyed Nob and all its inhabitants, old and young, with all their property; none escaping but Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, who immediately joined himself to David. The account may be found 1 Samuel 21:1-7; 1 Samuel 22:9-23. All the Versions agree in this title except the Syriac, which speaks of it as a Psalm directed against vice in general, with a prediction of the destruction of evil.

Though the Psalm be evidently an invective against some great, wicked, and tyrannical man, yet I think it too mild in its composition for a transaction the most barbarous on record, and the most flagrant vice in the whole character of Saul.

Verse Psalms 52:1. Why boastest thou thyself — It is thought that Doeg boasted of his loyalty to Saul in making the above discovery; but the information was aggravated by circumstances of falsehood that tended greatly to inflame and irritate the mind of Saul. Exaggeration and lying are common to all informers.

O mighty man? — This character scarcely comports with Doeg, who was only chief of the herdsmen of Saul, 1 Samuel 21:7; but I grant this is not decisive evidence that the Psalm may not have Doeg in view, for the chief herdsman may have been a man of credit and authority.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 52:2. Deviseth mischiefs — Lies and slanders proceeding from the tongue argue the desperate wickedness of the heart.

Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. — Which instead of taking off the beard, cuts and wounds the flesh; or as the operator who, when pretending to trim the beard, cuts the throat.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 52:3. Thou lovest evil — This was a finished character. Let us note the particulars:

1. He boasted in the power to do evil.

2. His tongue devised, studied, planned, and spoke mischiefs.

3. He was a deceitful worker.

4. He loved evil and not good.

5. He loved lying; his delight was in falsity.

6. Every word that tended to the destruction of others he loved.

7. His tongue was deceitful; he pretended friendship while his heart was full of enmity, Psalms 52:1-4. Now behold the punishment: -

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 52:5. God shall likewise destroy thee

1. God shall set himself to destroy thee; יתצך yittotscha, "he will pull down thy building;" he shall unroof it, dilapidate, and dig up thy foundation.

2. He shall bruise or break thee to pieces for ever; thou shalt have neither strength, consistence, nor support.

3. He will mow thee down, and sweep thee away like dust or chaff, or light hay in a whirlwind, so that thou shalt be scattered to all the winds of heaven. Thou shalt have no residence, no tabernacle: that shall be entirely destroyed. Thou shalt be rooted out for ever from the land of the living. The bad fruit which it has borne shall bring God's curse upon the tree; it shall not merely wither, or die, but it shall be plucked up from the roots, intimating that such a sinner shall die a violent death. Selah. So it shall be, and so it ought to be.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 52:6. The righteous also shall see, and fear — The thing shall be done in the sight of the saints; they shall see God's judgments on the workers of iniquity; and they shall fear a God so holy and just, and feel the necessity of being doubly on their guard lest they fall into the same condemnation. But instead of וייראו veyirau, "and they shall fear," three of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., with the Syriac, have וישמחו veyismachu, "and shall rejoice;" and, from the following words, "and shall laugh at him," this appears to be the true reading, for laughing may be either the consequence or accompaniment of rejoicing.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 52:7. Made not God his strength — Did not make God his portion.

In the abundance of his riches — Literally, in the multiplication of his riches. He had got much, he hoped to get more, and expected that his happiness would multiply as his riches multiplied. And this is the case with most rich men.

Strengthened himself in his wickedness. — Loved money instead of God; and thus his depravity, being increased, was strengthened.

Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecunia crescit.

"In proportion to the increase of wealth, so is the love of it."

Where is the religious man, in whose hands money has multiplied, who has not lost the spirit of piety in the same ratio? To prevent this, and the perdition to which it leads, there is no way but opening both hands to the poor.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 52:8. But I am like a green olive-tree in the house of GodI shall be in the house of God, full of spiritual vigour, bringing forth evergreen leaves and annual fruit, as the olive does when planted in a proper soil and good situation. It does not mean that there were olive-trees planted in God's house; but he was in God's house, as the olive was in its proper place and soil.

I trust in the mercy of God — The wicked man trusts in his riches: I trust in my God. He, like a bad tree, bringing forth poisonous fruit, shall be cursed, and pulled up from the roots; I, like a healthy olive in a good soil, shall, under the influence of God's mercy, bring forth fruit to his glory. As the olive is ever green, so shall I flourish in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

Verse 9

Verse Psalms 52:9. I will praise thee for ever — Because I know that all my good comes from thee; therefore, will I ever praise thee for that good.

I will wait on thy name — I will expect all my blessings from the all-sufficient Jehovah, who is eternal and unchangeable.

It is good before thy saints. — It is right that I should expect a continuation of thy blessings by uniting with thy saints in using thy ordinances. Thus I shall wait.


There are three parts in this Psalm: -

I. An invective against Doeg, and a prediction of his fall, Psalms 52:1-5.

II. The comfort which God's people should take in this, Psalms 52:6-7.

III. The security and flourishing state of those who trust in Good, and the psalmist's thanks for it, Psalms 52:8-9.

I. David begins with an abrupt apostrophe to Doeg: "Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, thou mighty man?" And answers that this boasting was but vain; because the goodness of God endureth continually. This was sufficient to quiet all those who might be afraid of his boasting. Having given a general character of this man, as having a delight in mischief, he enters into particulars; and especially he considers the bad use he made of his tongue.

1. Thy tongue deviseth mischief, like a razor working deceitfully. Perhaps there may be here a reference to a case where a man, employed to take off or trim the beard, took that opportunity to cut the throat of his employer. In this manner had Doeg often acted; while pretending by his tongue to favour, he used it in a deceitful way to ruin the character of another.

2. "Thou lovest evil more than good:" his wickedness was habitual; he loved it.

3. "Thou lovest lying more than righteousness:" he was an enemy to the truth, and by lies and flatteries a destroyer of good men.

4. This is expressed more fully in the next verse: "Thou lovest all deceitful words, O thou false tongue!" he was all tongue; a man of words: and these the most deceitful and injurious.

This is his character; and now David foretells his fall and destruction, which he amplifies by a congeries of words. 1. "God shall likewise destroy thee for ever." 2. "He shall take thee away." 3. "He shall pluck thee out of thy dwelling place." 4. "He shall root thee out of the land of the living." See the notes.

II. Then follows how God's people should be affected by Doeg's fall.

1. "The righteous shall see it and fear:" they shall reverence God more than formerly, as taking vengeance on this singularly wicked man.

2. They shall laugh at him, using this bitter sarcasm, "Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength," c. he trusted in his gold more than in his God.

III. But such a fearful end shall not fall on any good man: while the wicked is plucked up from the roots, the righteous shall flourish like a healthy olive-tree.

1. "As for me, I am like the green olive-tree;" ever fruitful and flourishing.

2. I am planted in the house of the Lord; and derive all my nourishment from him; through his ordinances.

3. The olive is perhaps one of the most useful trees in the world. Its fruit and its oil are of great use to the inhabitants of those countries where the olive is cultivated; and are transported to most parts of the world, where the culture of the olive is unknown.

4. The reason why he shall be like the olive: his faith in God: "I trust in the mercy of God for ever."

Hence, the psalmist's conclusion is full of confidence: -

1. "I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it."

2. "I will wait on thy name:" I will continue to use those means by which thou communicatest thy grace to the soul.

3. I shall do this because it is my duty, and because it is right in the sight of thy people: "For it is good before thy saints."

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 52". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-52.html. 1832.
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