What does Psalms 52 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Psalm 52:1–4 depicts a "mighty man." The description is probably sarcastic: it refers to the herdsman Doeg (1 Samuel 22:9–10) who betrayed David and murdered priests (1 Samuel 22:17–19). David's song portrays Doeg as someone who brags about his own sin and whose words are maliciously dangerous. He practices evil despite God's unfailing, endless love. That love will lead to judgment for those who practice such evil (Psalm 52:5).
Psalm 52:5–9 closes the song condemning Doeg, the herdsman who betrayed innocent priests to their deaths (Psalm 52:1; 1 Samuel 22:9–10, 17–19). David predicts God's punishment of the evil man. He expects the Lord to snuff out Doeg's life, to the satisfaction of the righteous. In contrast, David is confident God will prosper him, because he prefers what is good and right. In response to God's goodness, David will thank and praise Him.
Chapter Summary:
David addresses "mighty man," possibly with a touch of sarcasm. This person brags about his intentions, and his words destroy others. However, God will punish this wicked person by bringing about his death. The righteous will see this judgment and mock those who trusted in their resources instead of trusting in the Lord. By contrast, David trusts God's unfailing love forever, resulting in his continuous praise of the Lord. This song was written in response to the treachery of Doeg, who betrayed one of David's allies (1 Samuel 22:9–10) and killed many priests (1 Samuel 22:17–19).
Chapter Context:
This psalm describes the wicked character of someone addressed as "mighty man." This was Doeg, a herdsman who supported King Saul against David. Doeg slaughtered the household of Ahimelech because Ahimelech helped David by giving him provisions (1 Samuel 21:1–9; 22:6–23). While not as famous as others, this is one of the "imprecatory psalms" which call for God's judgment against evildoers (Psalm 35; 69; 109).
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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