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The psalmist introduced his condemnation of certain unjust judges with two questions. He questioned the integrity of these men.
The Hebrew word elohim (lit. strong ones) sometimes refers to rulers in the Old Testament. Of course, it usually refers to God, the strongest of all beings. Sometimes it refers to false gods, i.e., idols. Here, as elsewhere, powerful human beings are in view (cf. Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:6). The context suggests that they were judges in Israel.
1. The marks of crooked judges 58:1-5
In this prophetic lament psalm, David called on God to judge corrupt judges so the righteous would continue to trust in the Lord. [Note: See Day, pp. 169-73.] This is also an imprecatory psalm.
David proceeded to answer his own questions. Instead of practicing justice, these rulers planned injustice and violence (cf. Micah 3:1-3; Micah 3:9-11; Micah 6:12). They spoke lies and did not respond to the warnings of others. Furthermore, they had a long history of destructive behavior.
David called on God to deal with these unjust men. Breaking the teeth symbolizes painfully removing their ability to devour the people they oppressed. David viewed them as lions and serpents whose teeth and fangs needed crushing. He also asked God to remove them like water rushing away. He requested that their words would lack the ability to penetrate. He wanted them to melt away as snails do in the heat. He wished they would die without any further influence, as a child who dies in its mother’s womb.
2. The punishment of crooked judges 58:6-9
The psalmist believed their destruction would be swift. Thorns used for firewood burn very quickly. David compared the unjust rulers to thorns. Their fiery evil would not last long enough to effect any change on the pot above them, a figure for other people whom they might influence. Regardless of whether these wicked men were young (green) or old (dry), their influence would be minimal because God would judge them.
When God judges crooked rulers by cutting them off, the upright will rejoice. David described their rejoicing in terms of a military victory in which the victors bathed their feet in the blood of their vanquished foes. This description is hyperbolic and symbolizes joy in victory.
3. The rejoicing of the just 58:10-11
Taking the longer view, the just would find encouragement to continue trusting in the Lord because He punished the wicked rulers. They would renew their purpose to continue to obey Him.
Why did David not punish the unjust judges in Israel himself? He certainly had the authority to do so since he was the king. Perhaps he did punish them. This psalm shows that as Israel’s king, David looked to Yahweh as the ultimate authority in Israel. David’s view of his own relationship to Yahweh was proper and admirable. Even though he had the authority to punish the wicked, he still looked to God as the Person who had final authority over them, and he appealed to Him to act.
Believers should pray about unjust rulers and ask God to deal with them righteously. Even when we have the authority to punish them, we should still look to God as the ultimate authority (sovereign) and express our submission to His will by praying.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 58". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
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