What does Psalms 58 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Psalm 58:1–5 contains David's accusation of Israel's rulers and judges for their injustice. This was probably written during the rule of King Saul when David was still a fugitive. David indicates that these officials are guilty of injustice and violence. He says that evil originates in their hearts from birth and compares them to poisonous snakes. Further, their sin is deliberate as they purposefully ignore God's will and His goodness.
Psalm 58:6–11 follows a description of Israel's wicked rulers and judges with David's prayer for divine punishment. His words are emotional and somewhat graphic. David prays the Lord will obliterate these violent, evil people. He anticipates the joy the righteous will experience when the unscrupulous rulers and judges succumb to the Lord's punishment. When humanity sees God's justice done, they will celebrate and recognize the Lord's authority.
Chapter Summary:
David begins this psalm with an indictment aimed at Israel's corrupt leaders, likely Israel's rulers and judges. He asks them whether they decree what is right and judge uprightly. He answers his own questions with a resounding "no." He blames them for plotting evil, committing violence, and lying. He portrays them as poisonous snakes. David asks God to destroy them to the point that they quickly vanish from the earth. When God punishes the wicked rulers and judges, the righteous will rejoice and declare that there is a God who rewards the righteous and does what is just.
Chapter Context:
David decries the injustice of wicked rulers and judges, likely during the later years of Saul's reign. David would have been in exile when he wrote this psalm. He prayed for deliverance from wicked leaders and for God's vengeance to be done. This is one of several "imprecatory" psalms which ask God to bring harsh punishment on His enemies.
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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