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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 52

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



The superscription for this psalm has this:

`For the Chief Musician. Maschil of David; when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Abimelech.’

Contrary to some current critical opinion, there is absolutely nothing in this psalm that does not fit the scandalous conduct of Doeg the Edomite as the occasion that prompted the writing of it.

Oh yes, Addis wrote that, “(1) The reference to the Temple (Psalms 52:8), and (2) the silence regarding Doeg’s massacre of the priests show that the superscription gives an impossible explanation of the Psalm.”(F1) Neither of these objections has any value.

(1) Psalms 52:8, which has, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God,” refers to the `tabernacle,’ not to the Temple which, in David’s day, had not then been constructed. “It is commonly known that the word `house’ is used with reference to the Tabernacle,”(F2) in the times before Solomon who constructed the Temple. Exodus 34:26; Deut. 23:28; Judges 18:31; and 1 Samuel 1:24 are just a few of the many scriptural references in which “the tabernacle” is called “the house of the Lord.” It seems incredible to us that alleged “scholars” apparently do not know this. Perhaps if they read the Bible more and the radical critics less, they might catch on to this!

(2) The objection that this psalm does not also include the record of Doeg’s massacre of the priests of Nob is also worthless. In the first place, “Who lays down the rules for what must, or must not be included, in a poem like this?”(F3) Shall we accept the dictum of Bible critics on such a matter? David here included a prophecy of God’s utter destruction of Doeg, and is that not enough? The author of the Psalm thought so; and his judgment is good enough for us.

(3) In addition to the objections of Addis, just cited, there are some who would apply the psalm to Saul instead of Doeg. Leupold stated that, “All the words here apply to Saul,” adding that, “What Doeg said was not said with `a lying tongue.’“(F4) Our opinion is that Doeg did indeed speak with `a lying tongue’; he concealed from Saul the fact that Abimelech was truly loyal to King Saul and that his helping David was no act of treason whatever. That type of report by Doeg was as malicious and unprincipled a lie as any man ever told, despite the fact of what he said having been true. The falsehood consisted in the implications of what he slanderously reported. It was like the Mate who had charge of the ship’s log during a brief illness of the Captain; and he wrote, “The Captain was sober today.”

As stated in the beginning, there are no valid objections for receiving the words of the superscription as historically true.

The organization proposed by Rawlinson will be followed here.

I. Doeg’s wickedness (Psalms 52:1-4).

II. Prophecy of God’s Destruction of Him (Psalms 52:5-7).

III. Three Marks of David’s Gratitude (Psalms 52:8-9).

Verses 1-4


“Why boasteth thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? The lovingkindness of God endureth continually. Thy tongue deviseth very wickedness, Like a sharp razor working deceitfully. Thou lovest evil more than good, And lying, rather than to speak righteousness. (Selah) Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.”

“O mighty man” Who was this character? Perhaps this explanation from the Bible will make it clear.


The Bible gives the following. When David, learning of Saul’s intention to kill him, fled from Jerusalem toward Achish, he stopped at Nob, on the way, where he was befriended by Abimelech the High Priest, who gave him the showbread for food, and also the sword of Goliath, which David had deposited “in the house of God,” there at Nob, following his victory over the Giant of Gath.

Abimelech inquired of David about his being alone and about his having left without sufficient food or any weapon, and David merely said, “The King’s business required haste,” leaving the impression that he was still in Saul’s service. Thus, when Abimelech befriended and aided David, he was totally unaware of any rift between Saul and David. Doeg the Edomite, saw his opportunity to ingratiate himself with Saul, and reported the incident in such a manner as to make it appear that Abimelech was in league with David against the king. A more diabolical falsehood was never concocted.

Of course, based on Doeg’s false report, Saul summonsed Abimelech and his followers to appear before him, upon which occasion he commanded Doeg to slay them all. Eighty-five priests were massacred. This is only another example from history of where slander and murder are equivalent terms. The Biblical account of all this is in 1 Samuel 21-22.

Let the reader judge whether or not these first four verses fit Doeg. Our view is that they fit like the glove fits the hand.

As for the objection that Doeg was not really a “Mighty Man,” although he was not the king of Israel; he was indeed one of Saul’s most important deputies having charge of all the king’s herdsmen, indeed all of the servants of Saul (1 Samuel 22:9). His position was as “mighty” as one could have found in Israel, except that of the king. Besides all that, there is, as many have noted, an element of sarcasm in the words of Psalms 52:1. An evidence of sarcasm is in the original Hebrew here, which for `mighty man,’ “Has the word `hero.’“(F5) Doeg was indeed some fantastic kind of a `hero.’

“Why boasteth thyself in mischief” “The word translated `mischief’ implies something worse. It means ruinous, unfathomable evil, destructive malignity.”(F6)

“Thy tongue deviseth very wickedness” Throughout this part of the psalm, Doeg’s skillful lie dominates the thought.

“Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully” Oh yes, Doeg’s lie was a skillful job, all right; he really said nothing that was not true, yet his deception of King Saul was as masterful as any ever perpetrated.

We like what Spurgeon said about this:

“The smooth adroit manner of executing a wicked device neither hides not abates its wickedness. A lie ingeniously framed and rehearsed in an oily manner is as great a sin and in the end will be seen to be as great a folly as the most bungling attempt at deception. Murder with a razor is as wicked as murder with a meat-ax or a bludgeon. Let us pause and look at Doeg, the proud blustering liar.”(F7)

“Thy tongue deviseth wickedness… working deceitfully… lying… thou lovest devouring words… O thou deceitful tongue” Clearly, the artful deception perpetrated upon King Saul by Doeg fits all this perfectly.

“Throughout the psalm, the tongue is offered as primary evidence of character. As a man speaketh, so is he. These verses indicate that the love of evil displays itself in a lying tongue.”(F8)

“Thou lovest evil… thou lovest all devouring words” “To love evil is to have reached the lowest depth of depravity, and to say with John Milton’s Satan `Evil, be thou my good.’“(F9)

“The word `boast’ that stands at the head of this paragraph is not necessarily a reference to outward `show’; the real point is the man’s satisfaction with himself. He thinks of himself as clever; he is absorbed in his intrigues; he has given himself to evil. The repeated `You love’… `you love’ implies choice as well as attraction.”(F10)

Verses 5-7


“God will likewise destroy thee forever; He will take thee up, and pluck thee out of thy tent, And root thee out of the land of the living. (Selah) The righteous also shall see it and fear, And shall laugh at him, saying, Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And strengthened himself in his wickedness.”

“God will likewise destroy thee” “The word `likewise’ introduces the corresponding behavior of another. Destroyers shall be destroyed. `With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again’“ (Matthew 7:2).(F11)

“Pluck thee out of thy tent” This is another sarcastic word in the psalm. Saul’s mighty deputy, in all probability, was not living in a tent, but in a palace; but it was as vulnerable to the judgment of God as the flimsiest kind of a tent could have been. “This is a reference to the psalmist’s own dwelling.”(F12)

“The righteous shall laugh at him” “Laugh over him” is the rendition favored by some. “These words indicate delight in God’s moral government of the world, rather than personal vindictiveness.”(F13)

“Trusted in the abundance of his riches” This is a recurring theme in the psalms, anticipating, as it does the teaching of the New Testament. We observed in Psalms 49 that riches can last only until certain and impending death, and not always that long. The apostle’s warning on riches is as follows:

“They that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). “Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

“And strengthened himself in his wickedness” “Doeg’s high position under Saul led to an excessive trust in riches and greediness for more gain. To procure wealth he became Saul’s unscrupulous tool, the willing instrument of his cruelty. Saul no doubt richly rewarded him; and thus, `He strengthened himself in his wickedness.’“(F14)

Verses 8-9


“But as for me I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. I will give thanks forever, because thou hast done it; And I will hope in thy name, for it is good, in the presence of thy saints.”

“A green olive tree in the house of God” Some scholars have questioned whether or not olive trees were actually planted upon the tabernacle grounds, or later upon the temple grounds; but the great likelihood is that they were indeed planted there. This verse seems to say as much.

“Herodotus tells us that there was an abundance of trees in the courts of Egyptian temples; and till this day on the site of the ancient temple there are a number of magnificent cypress, olive, and lemon trees.”(F15) As a metaphor of the safety of God’s child, such a tree was very appropriate. It would have been protected from vandalism and would have received the very best of care.

As a consequence of God’s wonderful blessing, in spite of Doeg’s shameful deeds, David makes three pledges to God in these final two verses.

“I trust in the lovingkindness of God” (Psalms 52:8).

“I will give thee thanks forever” (Psalms 52:9).

“I will hope… in the presence of thy saints” (Psalms 52:9).

We have often observed that the word “lovingkindness” is almost a Davidic signature in the psalms attributed to him.

As McCaw wrote, “The three marks of David’s reaction are: (1) his gratitude that God had intervened for him, (2) a testimony to the loveliness of God’s character, and (3) a projected fellowship with God’s people.”(F16)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 52". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-52.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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