PSALM 52 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician. Even short Psalms, if they record but one instance of the goodness of the Lord, and rebuke but briefly the pride of man, are worthy of our best minstrelsy. When we see that each Psalm is dedicated to "the chief musician," it should make us value our psalmody, and forbid us to praise the Lord carelessly. Maschil. An Instructive. Even the malice of a Doeg may furnish instruction to a David. A Psalm of David. He was the prime object of Doeg's doggish hatred, and therefore the most fitting person to draw from the incident the lesson concealed within it. When Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and saith unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech. By this deceitful tale bearing, he procured the death of all the priests at Nob: though it had been a crime to have succoured David as a rebel, they were not in their intent and knowledge guilty of the fault. David felt much the villany of this arch enemy, and here he denounces him in vigorous terms; it may be also that he has Saul in his eye.
Division. We shall follow the sacred pauses marked by the Selahs of the poet.
Verse 1. Why boasteth thyself in mischief, O mighty man? Doeg had small matter for boasting in having procured the slaughter of a band of defenceless priests. A mighty man indeed to kill men who never touched a sword! He ought to have been ashamed of his cowardice. He had no room for exultation! Honourable titles are but irony where the wearer is mean and cruel. If David alluded to Saul, he meant by these words pityingly to say, "How can one by nature fitted for nobler deeds, descend to so low a level as to find a theme for boasting in a slaughter so heartless and mischievous?" The goodness of God endureth continually. A beautiful contrast. The tyrant's fury cannot dry up the perennial stream of divine mercy. If priests be slain their Master lives. If Doeg for awhile triumphs the Lord will outlive him, and right the wrongs which he has done. This ought to modify the proud exultations of the wicked, for after all, while the Lord liveth, iniquity has little cause to exalt itself.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. That Maschil means a sacred composition, is evident from Psalms 47:7 , where the passage which we render, "Sing ye praises with understanding," is literally, "Sing ye a Maschil," or song of instruction. This word occurs as a title in thirteen places; and six times is prefixed to compositions of David's. In several instances it occurs in consecutive Psalms; i.e., in the 42nd (of which the 43rd is the sequel), the 44th and 45th, the 52nd, 53rd, 54th, and 55th, the 88th and 89th. A circumstance which favours the notion that the term was one peculiarly used by some particular editor or collector of a certain portion of the Psalter. John Jebb.
Verse 1. (first clause). Why doth he glory in malice that is mighty? that is, he that in malice is mighty, why doth he glory? There is need that a man be mighty, but in goodness, not in malice. Is it any great thing to glory in malice? To build a house belong to few men, any ignorant man you please can pull down. To sow wheat, to dress the crop, to wait until it ripen, and in that fruit on which one has laboured to rejoice, doth belong to few men: with one spark any man you please can burn all the crop...
What art thou about to do, O, mighty man, what are thou about to do, boasting thyself much? Thou art about to kill a man: this thing also a scorpion, this also a fever, this also a poisonous fungus can do. To this is thy mightiness reduced, that it be made equal to a poisonous fungus! Augustine.
Verse 1. By mischief is understood not simply what evil he had done, but the prosperity which he now enjoyed, obtained through mischief; as is clear both from the word boasting and from the seventh verse ... Formerly he was the chief of Saul's shepherds 1 Samuel 21:8 , but by that wicked destruction of the priests of God by Saul, and the execution of the cruel sentence, he obtained the chief place near to the king 1 Samuel 22:9 . Hermann Venema.
Verse 1. O mighty man. These words may be added by way of irony, as if he had said, A great deal of valour and prowess you have shown in slaying a company of unarmed men, the priests of the Lord, yea, women and children, no way able to resist you or else to imply the ground of his vain boasting, to wit, either his present greatness, as being a man in great place, and of great power with Saul; or the great preferments he expected from Saul. Arthur Jackson.
Verse 1. The goodness of God endureth continually. He contrasts the goodness of God with the wealth and might of Doeg, and the foundation of his own confidence as widely different from that of Doeg, his own placed upon the goodness of God, enduring for ever and showing itself effectual. It is as if he had said, The goodness of God to which I trust, is most powerful and the same throughout all time, and in it I shall at all times most surely rejoice that goodness of God, since now it sustains me, so it will exalt me in its own good time; it therefore is, and will be above me. ...
Not without emphasis does he say the goodness la of the strong God, a contrast to Doeg the hero, and the ruinous foundation of his fortune. Hermann Venema.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The confidence of faith.
- The circumstances were distressing.
- David was misjudged.
- David exiled.
- A bad man in power.
- God's priests slain.
- The consolation was abiding.
- There is a God.
- He is good.
- His goodness continues.
- Good will therefore overcome.
- The rejoinder was triumphant. Why boasteth thou?
- The mischief did not touch the main point.
- It would be overruled.
- It would recoil.
- It would expose the perpetrators to scorn.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE FIFTY-SECOND PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
CHANDLER'S "Life of David," contains an Exposition of this Psalm. Vol. 1., pp. 140-143.