Psalm 52 -

A Psalm Against Evil

 

For the director of music. A maskil of David.

When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him:

"David has gone to the house of Ahimelech."

1Why do you boast of evil,

you mighty man?

Why do you boast all day long,

you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?

2Your tongue plots destruction;

it is like a sharpened razor,

you who practice deceit.

3You love evil rather than good,

falsehood rather than speaking the truth. Selah

4You love every harmful word,

O you deceitful tongue!

5Surely God will bring you down

to everlasting ruin:

He will snatch you up

and tear you from your tent;

He will uproot you

from the land of the living. Selah

6The righteous will see and fear;

they will laugh at him, saying,

7"Here now is the man

who did not make God his stronghold

But trusted in his great wealth

and grew strong by destroying others!"

8But I am like an olive tree

flourishing in the house of God;

I trust in God’s unfailing love

for ever and ever.

9I will praise you forever

for what you have done;

In your name I will hope,

for your name is good.

I will praise you

in the presence of your saints.

The occasion of this psalm, as noted in the inscription, is "when Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.’" When Saul was looking to kill David, David fled with some of his men. While fleeing, he went to Ahimelech the priest for rest and sustenance. Ahimelech was not told that David was fleeing from Saul. In fact, Ahimelech was led to believe that David was sent on a mission by Saul. (See I Sam. 21:1-9). Later, Doeg the Edomite, who was Saul’s head shepherd, told Saul that Ahimelech had helped David. However, Doeg did not tell Saul that Ahimelech was not aware that David was fleeing from Saul. Saul had Ahimelech and all of the priests put to death. The king’s officials would not slay the priests, so Doeg himself killed the eighty-five priests. (See I Sam. 22:6-23).

In this psalm, David rails against the evildoer Doeg: "Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?" (vs. 1). There is a bit of sarcasm in calling Doeg a "mighty man." Doeg, no doubt, did think he was a mighty man, a mighty servant of his king, as he killed the defenseless priests. But his feelings of "might" would have evaporated if he had realized the implications of his being "a disgrace in the eyes of God."

Doeg was not able to comprehend these implications, though, because he was thoroughly evil. He "boasts of evil…, boasts all day long." "One of the most decisive evidences of reprobacy is to glory in our shame" [Plumer, 568]. "It is bad enough to imagine and to do mischief; but far worse to boast of it" [Slade, in Plumer, 569]. Such boasting is short-lived. God is just, and in the end, He will bring justice.

David continues: "Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth" (vss. 2-3). Doeg’s tongue perpetrated much evil, bringing about the murder of eighty-five priests. Actually, it was what Doeg didn’t say that was evil. Doeg knew that Ahimelech was not aware that David was fleeing from Saul. He could have defended the priests. Doeg’s falsehood came from what he omitted.

The force behind Doeg’s sin was his hardened heart, which loved "evil rather than good." "Wicked men have a real love of sin. This is the secret of all their abominations. But for this they might easily be amended by instruction and example" [Plumer, 570]. Though we all sin, God’s people do not love evil, even the evil that they do. We feel as Paul did: "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing" (Rom. 7:18-19).

Destruction is in store for those who do love evil: "You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; He will uproot you from the land of the living" (vss. 4-5). Certainly any earthly benefit received from doing evil is not worth it, if one considers the "everlasting ruin" that evildoers face.

The ultimate fate of evildoers should be instructive to us: "The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him, saying, ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold, but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’" (vss. 6-7). "The end of every sinner teaches us some good lesson, which we ought carefully to ponder" [Plumer, 571]. We should "see and fear" what happens to the wicked. The temptation is great for us to trust in our "great wealth", and to "grow strong by destroying others." If we "see and fear", we may be able to withstand these temptations.

Also, we are more liable to withstand these temptations if we see and recognize what God is doing in our lives: "But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever" (vs. 8). The benefits we receive from God are far different than those received by those who "grow strong by destroying others." Ours are lasting benefits, not temporal—benefits such as joy, contentment, and peace with God.

Recognizing God’s eternal blessings should spur us on to praise Him, even though we may be experiencing temporary affliction: "I will praise You forever for what You have done; in Your name I will hope for Your name is good. I will praise You in the presence of Your saints" (vs. 9). Perhaps the greatest difference between God’s children and those who are not God’s children is that we can have "hope" even in the direst circumstances. We know what "God has done", and so we can have "hope" in what God will do. The fruit of this "hope" is the ability to "praise" Him in all circumstances.

Home | Previous Article | Next Article | Back Issues | Contents | Complete Index | Mailing List

To contact us:

ssper@scripturestudies.com