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Psalm chapter 58

What does Psalm chapter 58 mean?

This is one of several "imprecatory" psalms. These are songs which call on God, in emotional and often graphic terms, to bring justice to wicked people (Psalm 5; 10; 17; 59; 137). They are not appeals for other people to act, nor are they promises that the psalmist will make these events occur. Rather, they are prayers for the Lord to act, spoken out of deep pain and anger.

David's anger is directed at the leaders—probably politicians and judges—of Israel during what was probably his exile and escape from King Saul. Rather than applying truth and righteousness, these men plot evil. The result of such corruption is violence and harm (Psalm 58:1–2).

These evil men are described as inherently, thoroughly corrupt. Though all people are tainted by sin (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10, 23), the men criticized here are deliberate about their sin. They enthusiastically choose to ignore what God has said. David compares this to a venomous snake which purposefully ignores the music of a snake charmer. His point is that the evil men in question are not confused. Nor are they sincere. Rather, they know what they do is evil, yet they choose to do it all the same (Psalm 58:3–5).

What David seeks is God's harsh and immediate justice. This partly involves removing their ability to do further harm. David begins by referring to smashing teeth, breaking fangs, and cutting off the sharp tips of arrows. He also asks God to apply gruesome, graphic retaliation on these evil men. David uses the imagery of creatures who decompose into slime and even a miscarried infant to depict the end he desires for these evildoers. He asks for the Lord to act with speed, bringing this fate immediately (Psalm 58:6–9).

David presumes that when God's people see this dramatic justice, they will turn to praise God. He anticipates that the results will be as obvious as if one were walking through the bloody remnants of a battlefield. David's hope and prayer is that the world will see this judgment and acknowledge God's position of authority (Psalm 58:10–11).
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