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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 52

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


To the chief Musician, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.

The title sufficiently indicates the occasion of the psalm in the tragic story found in 1 Samuel 22:6-19. Though the psalm wears a personal aspect, it is of general application. The wicked man who is the hero of the song, is the impersonation of the cruelty, falsehood, and hypocrisy which in all ages have betrayed the living Church into the hands of its persecutors; and what Doeg does to David and to the priests of Nob has been repeated throughout the world upon a larger scale. The psalm is the beginning of three maschils, (Psalms 52, 54, 55,) written by David in a similarly didactic style, and belonging to the Sauline period. Its matter falls into three divisions. Psalms 52:1-4 are a description of the falsehood and hypocrisy of his persecutor; Psalms 52:5-7, of his downfall; Psalms 52:8-9, of the psalmist’s assured prosperity and trust in God.


Doeg the Edomite How this foreigner came to acquire such influence and rank in the councils of Saul is not known. Nothing is known of him beyond the statements of 1 Samuel 22:0, except that in 1 Samuel 21:7, we learn that he was “the chiefest of the herdmen.” From the fact that it is there said that he was “detained before the Lord” at Nob, it has been inferred he might have been a proselyte, detained for the fulfilment of some vow. See further on Psalms 52:1; Psalms 52:7 of the psalm.

Verse 1

1. Why boastest thou This must be understood as an address to Doeg, not to Saul, to whom David ever observed a respectful and loyal deference. “It is bad enough to behave wickedly, but bad in the extreme to boast of it as a heroic act.” Delitzsch. He that boasts of success in evil doing boasts of evil doing.

O mighty man Hebrew, O hero! A hero in crime. He had gained the title by slaying eighty-five priests of Nob and betraying David. This had brought him into favour with Saul as a supple tool for the accomplishment of his purposes. He was also chief of Saul’s servants. 1 Samuel 22:9.

Goodness of God endureth continually Therefore trusting in it, I shall triumph at last.

Verse 3

3. Evil more than good The sense is, evil and not good, falsehood and not speaking “righteousness.” The good and the true were not loved at all.

Verse 4

4. All devouring words Literally, all words that gulp down. Words which swallow a man, as a voracious animal gulps his food without mastication. All such words of falsehood this “hero” in crime and perfidy loved, and none others. It is evident that Doeg was a man of marked ability, and of artful, insinuating address.

Verses 5-7

5-7. These verses describe the downfall of this wicked man. God shall…

destroy thee Literally, God shall break thee down: cause thee to fall with a crash. Sudden and irretrievable ruin would end his boastful career of crime.

For ever The fall of the wicked is without relief or hope.

Pluck thee out of thy dwellingplace… root thee out of the land Descriptions of the utter extirpation of his plans and social standing.

Verse 6

6. The righteous… shall see, and fear They shall be filled with awe and reverence at the signal judgments of God, whereby the turpitude of sin and the holiness and justice of God are made manifest. To deter men from sin, and to inspire confidence in the rewarding government of God towards the righteous, are the chief exemplary ends of moral punishment. See Deuteronomy 13:11; Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 19:20; Revelation 15:4.

And shall laugh at him Not as a vanquished enemy, which the Old Testament morality forbade, (Job 31:29-30; Proverbs 17:5; Proverbs 24:14,) but at the impotence of his futile schemes as against the rule of God. See on Psalms 2:4; Psalms 58:10-11

Verse 7

7. The righteous now speak. Lo, this is the man Literally, Behold the strong man, or the hero. The same word is rendered, in Psalms 52:1, “mighty man.” The moral points in the history of this fallen man are, He made not God his strength; he trusted in the abundance of his riches, for acquiring which his office and rank gave great opportunity, 1 Samuel 21:7; 1 Samuel 22:9; and he strengthened himself in his wickedness; that is, in the success of his wicked devices. Worldly men might ascribe his downfall to political causes, as the death of Saul and the transfer of the kingdom to David, but faith discerns in it the avenging hand of God.

Verse 8

8. But I am like a green olive tree The contrast now appears between the psalmist and his enemies. These had been uprooted, (Psalms 52:5,) he had taken deeper root and had sent out a more fruitful branch. The olive was the emblem of peace, riches, prosperity and beauty, Genesis 8:11; Habakkuk 3:17; Hosea 14:6.

In the house of God The idea of the “olive tree in the house of God,” Stanley suggests, is borrowed from the choice trees, (among which was “the venerable olive,”) planted of old in the sacred enclosure of the temple, and then, as now in the same place, (the Harem es-Sherif, or noble Sanctuary of the Moslems,) proverbial for their beauty and sanctity. David knew no piety that was not rooted in God, and fed by the ordinances of his house. Though now exiled and persecuted, he was in union and fellowship with all lovers of the true Church.

Verse 9

9. Because thou hast done it Because thou hast done what I had hoped for, namely, overthrown the wicked and vindicated and upheld the righteous. This was cause of praise and rejoicing, as it is in all ages with all lovers of God and the well-being of society.

I will wait on thy name Parallel to, I trust in the mercy of God, Psalms 52:8. The “name” of God is often used for God himself; to “wait on” his “name,” is to wait for him, for the manifestation of his glory. It is good before thy saints That is, that men should “trust” and hope in God, and “wait” the unfolding of his plans and the rewards of his righteousness.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 52". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-52.html. 1874-1909.
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