August 30, 2015

Tom Lowe





(To the choirmaster.  A Maskil of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.”)


Theme: The prosperity of the wicked, as contemplated by the righteous.



Psalm 52 (KJV)


1 Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.

2 The tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.

4 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.

5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the. Selah.

6 The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:

7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

9 I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.






Psalm 52 begins a series of four psalms (52-55) which give a prophetic picture we get nowhere else of the coming of Antichrist, the Man of Sin, who will be a world dictator and dominate Israel during the Tribulation.  Our Lord refers to him in the Olivet discourse.  The prophet Daniel and the apostle Paul both speak of him.


This is a wisdom psalm reminiscent in some ways of Psalm 1 in the sharp contrast into which it throws the wicked and the righteous.  Its tone, however, is much sharper than Psalm 1, expressing as it does the resentment felt by the guilty against those who have no fear of (or, “respect for”) God, and giving expression to the doctrine of divine retribution.  It is a poetic lesson about the futility of evil, the final triumph of righteousness, and the sovereign control of God over the moral events of history.  Its superscription identifies it as a Maskil or instruction psalm (they give us deep spiritual truths concerning the future), and associates it with the disastrous report of Doeg to Saul; but it could also be applied to Saul himself, to whom many of the allusions of the Psalm are applicable. 


Now here this cluster of four psalms gives us accurate instructions relative to this “Man of Sin,” the Antichrist who is coming.


Let me remind you that the superscription of the psalm is inspired; it is part of the psalm itself.  It was written, “TO THE CHOIRMASTER.  A MASKIL OF DAVID, WHEN DOEG THE EDOMITE CAME AND TOLD SAUL, ‘DAVID HAS COME TO THE HOUSE OF AHIMELECH.’” In other words, here is a man who betrayed David.  David was hurt and betrayed by many men who professed to be his friends.  We will see one of them in this particular section. 


Boasting is a mark of the Antichrist.


Doeg was an Edomite, a black mark on any man’s name in Israel in later years, for the Edomites, although close kin to the Israelites—descendents of Esau, Jacob’s brother—were bitter enemies of the people of God.  Herod the Great, who massacred the babies of Bethlehem was an Edomite.  Doeg is called an Edomite, either, (1), because he was born or bred in Edom; or, (2), because of his treacherous and bloody disposition, for which the Edomites are infamous in Scripture.  Yet somehow, despite his alien background, he had attained high rank in Israel, for he was Saul’s chief herdsmen.  Any hatred King Saul harbored against David was magnified and intensified in the heart of Doeg.  It was an excellent way to ingratiate himself with the king.  Since his loyalty was always open to question, he must be more loyal to Saul than Saul’s own sons.  A dangerous and ungodly man was Doeg.  It speaks ill of Saul that he would keep a man with Doeg’s disposition around him.  But he did and that highlights one of the great differences between Saul and David.  David kept some rough characters around him, too, but David had a way with men and contact with David transformed them.  Contact with Saul just brought out the worst in those around him.


The subject of this psalm is the prosperity of the wicked, as contemplated by the righteous.  This was a frequent cause of wonder to Hebrew thinkers (compare Psalm 37).  Many have asked the question, “Why do the wicked prosper, and the righteous suffer.” The psalmist presents to us the only consolation within the reach of those times—that the glory and success of the ungodly were only temporary, and would pass away like a shadow; while the righteous may count upon an eternity of unbroken blessedness in the presence of God. 


In many of David’s psalms, it is difficult to match his comments with a specific Biblical event.  But beginning with Psalm 51, several of the superscriptions throughout this section describe what is taking place in David’s life as he writes the psalm.  The superscription (heading) tells us of the particular moment in question—see 1 Samuel 21:7-22 through 22:23—in David’s experience into which the psalm could fit. The psalm can be divided into three parts:

       Part 1. Sarcasm (vs. 1-4)

       Part 2.  Malicious laughter (vs. 5-7)

       Part 3.  Deep satisfaction (vs. 8, 9)


We will comment on each part as we delve into the psalm verse by verse.


In the case of Psalm 52, David had been trying to hide from Saul; he had fled to the temporary sanctuary of Ahimelech in Nob, and had sought shelter among the priests.  In those days the ancient Tabernacle rested at Nob in the shade of the olive trees which clothed the slopes and summit of Olivet.  In those days too, the high priest of Israel resided there— Ahimelech, a descendant of Eli and a man with a healthy fear of king Saul.  Abimelech saw David coming and was not eager to meet him.  We know what happened next.  David asked for help from the priest and the priest gave it reluctantly, looking over his shoulder, wishing David would go away.  He gave David the consecrated loaves from the table of shewbread in the holy place of the Tabernacle—loaves set aside by divine decree for the use of the priests alone.  He gave them to David—but anything to get rid of him.  He gave David the sword of Goliath of Gath, the sword that David himself had wrestled from the giant in the valley of Elah.  The whole thing had been seen by one of Saul’s shepherds—Doeg. Saul was irate to hear that the priests had assisted David, and ordered them killed, but none of Israel’s soldiers would respond.  Doeg volunteered for the vile assignment and slaughtered not only 85 priests but also the entire population of the city where they lived—men, women, and children (1 Samuel 21:1-9, 22: 6-19).







1 Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness [mercy] of God endureth continually.


The psalm opens with a challenge to the “MIGHTY MAN,” whose actions reveal his wickedness. The phrase “MIGHTY MAN” is the equivalent of our “big shot” and was spoken sarcastically.  The enemy views himself as a “MIGHTY MAN” but is nothing next to God, whose enduring “GOODNESS” prevails over the evil of men.  Doeg and Saul were mighty in their own eyes but insignificant in God’s eyes; David was insignificant in their eyes but important to God.  David’s fiery words are for the ears of Doeg. He was a “MIGHTY MAN” (speaking ironically) by virtue of the office he held, for he was King Saul’s chief shepherd.  “O MIGHTY MAN”!  O valiant captain!  O glorious action! to kill a few weak and unarmed persons in the king’s presence, and under the protection of his guards!  Surely thy name will be famous in all ages for such heroic courage.


Not content with the ground he had gained by reporting to the king, Doeg paraded his triumph before all.  He was publicly boasting of his wickedness and among Saul’s cronies and toadies were many who congratulated him.  When David sinned, he kept quiet because he was under conviction.  When the man of the world sins, he loves it and boasts about it.  A mark of the Antichrist is that he will brag about his sin.  This is the big difference between the child of God and the child of the devil. The child of God may sin just like the man of the world, because they both have an old nature.  The difference is that the man of God will not boast about it. He will hang his head in shame.  He will hate himself.  But the sinner brags about what he does, and the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, will be the epitome of that type of man.  And all the sinners will love him for it, you see. There are times when wickedness seems to triumph.  God seems to sleep, blind and deaf to the evil deeds of men.  But it is not so, he has his own purposes for waiting.


“MISCHIEF” is much too weak to convey the meaning of the Hebrew ra, a generic term for evil.  “Why do you boast of evil, you wicked tyrant?” is how one commentator renders it.


How stupid you are to boast of your own destructive ideas in the face of God’s faithful love.  Do you really think your evil plotting can win against God’s creative plan? One way of showing your contempt for God is through the deceitfulness of your tongue (v. 4).  A terrible description of an evil bully such as this man seems to be is found at Micah 3:2-3: “Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.” They hated to do good, and loved to do evil, as men do who are opposed to good, and prone to evil; they hated a good man, and loved the evil man; they not only delighted in committing sin themselves, but took pleasure in those that did it; and they could not endure the company of holy and good men:



2 The tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.


David probably had Doeg specifically in mind, but the opening description in verses 1-4 can apply to any number of people.  Most believers attempting to live godly lives can identify the type—oppressors who boast of evil, plot destruction, practice deceit, and love lying more than speaking the truth.  They are good at what they do, unfortunately what they do is evil. Such people may appear to be securely entrenched in a community, and it may seem that no one is able to reason with them.  But God is also affected by their actions, and righteous people can count on Him to act.


The fact that David makes mention only of Doeg’s “TONGUE” is proof enough that the wretched man had not yet gone on to his crowning act of wickedness—the massacre of the high priest and his sons.  But what came out of Doeg’s mouth was enough.  “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Jesus warned that “every idol word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof at the Day of Judgment.”


“DEVISETH MISCHIEFS”—meaning “destruction, ruin”—is different from the word used in verse 1. The “TONGUE” of the evil man is like a “RAZOR, WORKING DECEITFULLY.” Doeg had a poisoned “TONGUE.” This treacherous prototype of the Antichrist had a razor sharp “tongue” that cut people down with its slander.  A few words whispered in the ear of the king, then repeated publicly when the king’s rage was aroused—and the damage was done.


God draws up high-level charges against Doeg in the courts of heaven, as He had against Ahimelech in Saul’s court (vs. 2-4).  There were four charges in all:

(1)   Malice.  His “TONGUE” does “MISCHIEF,” (evil to others) not only pricking like a needle, but cutting like a “SHARP RAZOR.”  Scornful battering words would not satisfy him; he loved devouring words, words that would ruin the priest of the Lord, whom he hated.

(2)   Falsehood.  It was with a “DECEITFUL TONGUE” that he did this “MISCHIEF” (v. 4). He loved “LYING” (v. 3), and this “SHARP RAZOR” did work “DECEITFULLY” (v. 2), that is, before he had this opportunity given him to demonstrate his malice against the priests, he had acted very friendly toward the priests.  He was an Edomite, but he worshipped at the altars, and brought his offerings, and paid his respects to the priests, as decently as any Israelite.

(3)   Subtlety in sin. “THY TONGUE DEVISETH MISCHIEFS”; that is, it speaks the mischiefs which thy heart devises. The more there is of deceit and cunning in any wickedness the more there is of the devil in it.

(4)   Liking to sin. “THOU LOVEST EVIL MORE THAN GOOD”; that is, thou lovest evil, and hast no love at all for that which is good; thou takest delight in lying, and thy conscience does not require that thou do right.  Thou would rather please Saul by telling a lie than please God by speaking the truth.



3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.


The character of Doeg is summed up in three words—“THOU LOVEST EVIL.” This denunciation is directed toward an arrogant tyrant whose tongue seems to be his weapon.  His greed, treachery, and lies all stem from this razor-like tongue. I knew a man who would lie even when the truth would serve him better; perhaps you have met him too.


The meaning of “SELAH” is not known, though there has been much speculation among Bible scholars. It is probably either a liturgico-musical mark or an instruction on the reading of the text, something like "stop and listen." “SELAH” can also be used to indicate that there is to be a musical interlude at that point in the Psalm. The Amplified Bible translates “SELAH” as "pause, and think of that." It can also be interpreted as a form of underlining in preparation for the next paragraph.


The Psalms were sung accompanied by musical instruments and there are references to this in many chapters. Thirty-one of the thirty-nine psalms with the caption "To the choir-master" include the word “SELAH.” “SELAH” notes a break in the song and as such is similar in purpose to Amen in that it stresses the importance of the preceding passage. Alternatively, “SELAH” may mean "forever," as it does in some places in the liturgy. Another interpretation claims that “SELAH” comes from the primary Hebrew root word Salah which means "to hang," and by implication to measure (weigh).



4 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.


Both Doeg and Saul issued orders and told lies without considering the consequences (see 5:9; 55:21; 57:4; 59:7; 64:3).  Even when they told the truth—as Doeg did about David—they did it with evil intent because they were possessed by a malignant spirit. What a terrible power there is in the tongue!  (James 3:4-11).



5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.


“GOD SHALL LIKEWISE DESTROY THEE,” or, as you have done to others, God will do to you (Psalm 18:27). Our bully (v. 1) is stupid because he does not realize he can’t win against God. God will have no trouble separating him from the source of his power, He will simply destroy him—“FOR EVER”!  Retribution is certain—God will “TEAR YOU FROM YOUR TENT,” (v. 5) and “HE WILL UPROOT YOU FROM THE LAND OF THE LIVING” (v. 5); reflecting the life of the community which has settled in their land.  As for Doeg, he was to be pounded down, plucked out, and pulled up.  It is a threefold statement of doom.  God will break him down to the ground like a building reduced to rubble.  Such people may appear to be securely entrenched in a community, and it may seem that no one is able to reason with them.  But God is also affected by their actions, and righteous people can depend upon Him to act. 


Here David reveals to Doeg that he faces a horrible future—he will pay a high price for his evil act—for God, he says, is going to remove you “OUT OF THY DWELLING PLACE,” from thy house and lands, and from all you have gained from your wicked ways.



6 The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:


David’s reaction to Doeg’s acts of treachery impressed the men in his camp.  They saw David turn away to pray, saw his instant reaction of absolute confidence in God.  Moreover, David, it would seem, did something they perhaps did not expect.  He called for his harp and he struck up a lively tune.  Indeed, it was a tune so full of beat and rhythm, so full of joy and triumph that, in spite of themselves, they began to clap and then to dance.  What a sight that must have been!  David’s mighty men dancing for joy as they caught the infection of David’s absolute confidence in God!


The “RIGHTEOUS” are those who have been put right with God.  They shall see the disaster that falls upon the wicked, and shall be filled with awe.  That very human character, David—who here is more sinner than saint—declares that God’s people will “LAUGH” at this “bully type” for three reasons (v. 7).  “LAUGH” probably does not refer to malicious joy (Proverbs 24:17) but gladness that God has vindicated the godly (54:7) and that evil has not triumphed. 


“THE RIGHTEOUS . . . SHALL . . . FEAR,” that is to say, they shall either, (1), reverence the justice of God, and stand in awe of Him as a God with almighty power, before whom the proudest sinner cannot stand; or, (2), respond with solemn awe inspired by the suddenness of the tyrant’s downfall.  Every one of us ought to humble ourselves before Him.



7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.


God’s people will have the last “laugh” at the expense of this “bully type” for three reasons:

(1)   His ego is too big to admit his need of God.

(2)   He trusts instead in the power of his bank balance.

(3)   He seeks refuge, not in God, but in his own lusts. 


They will “laugh,” and utter a taunt with regard to “THE MAN THAT MADE NOT GOD HIS STRENGTH; BUT TRUSTED IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS RICHES.” He did not think that the continuance of his prosperity depended upon the favor of God, and therefore he did not take care to keep himself in God’s love.  He ruled out God and relied on gold.  For these two fatal mistakes he would soon pay with his life and with his soul.  The thought of it strengthened David’s friends.



8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.


The psalmist’s character is in glaring contrast to that of Doeg: the wicked are like uprooted trees, but the godly are like flourishing olive trees that are fruitful and beautiful.  He compares himself to a “GREEN OLIVE TREE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD.”  Verse 8 reverses the tone of verse 5.  Instead of breaking down and tearing up, here we have a picture of quiet growth.  This is because “I” (David) (a) worship “IN THE HOUSE OF GOD” (in the temple), and (b) “TRUST IN” God’s hesed, His unchanging, steadfast and loyal covenantal love.  David is therefore not boasting here of his own faith and commitment to God, but is instead speaking against the stupidity of the great egotist. He is boasting like Paul (1 Corinthians 1:31) in the unchangeableness of God.


In the story of Doeg, David is the one on the run.  Yet in contrast to the wicked, who will be uprooted, David compares himself to an “OLIVE TREE”—securely rooted, productive, and anticipating long life (“OLIVE TREES” can live for centuries)—more importantly he is flourishing in his relationship with God. In the second clause, he explains why he feels so blessed by God: “I TRUST IN THE MERCY OF GOD FOR EVER AND EVER.” When Doeg and his brethren wither and die, I, who have made God my refuge, I, whom he despised and persecuted, I, whom he had thought to be in a desperate condition, shall be blessed and flourish in the house of God.


The righteous man will be like a green “OLIVE TREE”, flourishing and fruitful (1:3), trusting the eternal “MERCY OF GOD,” and praising Him (v. 9).  Now what must we do to make sure that we too are like green olive-trees?  Three things have been suggested:

(1)   We must live a life of faith and holy confidence in God and his grace.

(2)   We must live a life of thankfulness and holy joy in God (v. 9): “I WILL PRAISE THEE FOR EVER, BECAUSE THOU HAST DONE IT,” has avenged the blood of thy priests upon their bloody enemy.”

(3)   We must live a life of expectation and humble dependence upon God.



9 I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.


All the Psalmist can do, since it is God who “HAST DONE IT,” who saved him from the stupid workers of treachery (v.2), is to thank Him “FOR EVER.”  “I have trusted in His unchanging love,” (v. 8) he adds.  So the righteous, unlike people who practice treachery, place their confidence in God’s love, for there abide justice and blessing. He had destroyed Doeg and all of David’s (and God’s) enemies, and placed him on the throne and in God’s house, of which he is no less assured than if it were already done. Consequently we can all be deeply gladdened by the content of this last verse:

(a)    God is as gracious to this gleeful, rejoicing poet—whether he is David (or me, or you)—in all his narrow-mindedness, because he is the most gracious-hearted of believers.

(b)   In light of this wonderful reality, he can say, “I will wait expectantly for all eternity for God to reveal Himself to His covenant people, for that will also be good for us!”

(c)    His trust in God makes all the difference, and he promises to continue to praise the Lord and place his hope in Him.


Doeg’s influence with Saul, his wealth and power would not save him.  He was a dead man.  He was spiritually dead, soon he would be eternally dead.  But David enjoyed spiritual life, he was a green olive tree in the house of God. He might be a fugitive, but he enjoyed spiritual life, and was in fellowship with God.


The phrase “WAIT ON THY NAME” (v. 9) means to hope and depend on the character of God as expressed in His great name.  The psalm ends with David vowing to praise the Lord in the congregation as soon as God established him in His kingdom.  The private victories God gives us should be announced publicly for the encouragement of God’s people.  Meanwhile, though evil may seem to triumph, we must continue to obey and serve the Lord and not get discouraged.  The “last laugh” belongs to the Lord’s people.


This brief psalm gives us a prophetic picture of the Antichrist and of the believing remnant who will suffer under his persecution, then will worship and praise God when he is dethroned.