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Psalm chapter 52

What does Psalm chapter 52 mean?

This psalm is tied to Doeg, the Edomite herdsman who sided with Saul over David. Doeg saw David speaking with Ahimelech when David was first a fugitive from Saul (1 Samuel 21:1–9). Supplied by the priest, David continued to flee from Saul. Saul heard David had been found and asked his servants why they had not told him about David's covenant with Saul's son Jonathan. Doeg answered by telling Saul about David's interaction with Ahimelech (1 Samuel 22:9–10). Saul called Ahimelech and his family (the other priests). Ahimelech defended his support of David, who had always been a faithful servant of the king, but Saul ordered the execution of the priests. Saul's own men refused his order to execute the priests, but Doeg agreed, slaughtering eighty-five priests plus countless innocents in their city (1 Samuel 22:17–19). For this, David mockingly calls him a "mighty man," and condemns his murderous words. Whether Doeg lied, exaggerated, or merely spoke unwisely, he is reviled for his role in this atrocity (Psalm 52:1–4).

David is confident God will counter to Doeg's evil with retribution. He uses vivid language to depict God "snatching" and "tearing" the evil person into death, like someone ripping a plant out by the roots. In response, David anticipates godly people revering the Lord. They will see this as an example of what happens when someone trusts their own resources, rather than in God (Psalm 52:5–7).

For his part, David expects to be blessed by God. While Doeg will be "uprooted" (Psalm 52:5), David is firmly planted in God's will. He compares this to an olive tree, which can live a long, productive life (Psalm 1:3). Scripture does not include any resolution to Doeg's story; we are not told if or when he suffered retribution for his crimes. Yet such judgment is inevitable—either in earthly life or in eternity (Proverbs 11:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10; Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 20:11–15). Anticipating this, though it had not yet happened, David resolves to join other believers in praise and worship (Psalm 52:8–9).

This song is identified with the Hebrew word maskiyl. This appears to be a type of pensive, somber song of self-reflection (Psalm 32; 52; 89). It is directed to a "choirmaster," a minister of music in the tabernacle or temple; this role is mentioned in the early text of fifty-five psalms.
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