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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 53

Verse 1

A fool in the ancient Hebrew view of life was a person who did not acknowledge God’s existence intellectually, practically, or both (cf. Romans 1). He lived as though God does not exist. Such a viewpoint leads to unrestrained behavior. The fool’s conduct is essentially corrupt, in addition to being abominable to God (i.e., vile). No one is completely or consistently good because everyone disregards God from time to time.

Verses 1-3

1. Reflection on the human race 53:1-3

Verses 1-6

Psalms 53

This psalm is another version of the one that appears in Book 1 as Psalms 14. David wrote it, and "mahalath" is a tune name. One interesting difference between this psalm and Psalms 14 is that this one contains the name Elohim whereas Psalms 14 has Yahweh.

". . . Psalms 53’s position between Psalms 52, 54 favors an ancient tradition relating to the life of David. Psalms 52 relates to the story of Doeg (cf. 1 Samuel 22) and Psalms 54 to the incident of the Ziphites (cf. 1 Samuel 23; 1 Samuel 26). The term ’fool’ (nabal, Psalms 53:1) is suggestive of Nabal, who acted foolishly to David and his men (cf. 1 Samuel 25)." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 388.]

David reflected on the wickedness of the entire human race and voiced confidence that God would punish sinners. He longed for God to establish His kingdom on earth (cf. Matthew 6:10).

Verses 2-3

David pictured God looking down from His heavenly habitation and examining human beings individually. Wise people acknowledge God’s presence and pursue Him because He is the source of all goodness and blessing. Fools disregard Him and go their own way. God observed that everyone turns away from Him. The whole race has become sour like milk (Heb. ’alah; cf. Psalms 14:3; Job 10:10; Job 15:16). When people do not use milk for its intended purpose, namely, to drink, it turns sour. Likewise when people do not use their lives for their intended purpose, namely, to honor and glorify God, they spoil. No one is completely good. Every individual has fallen short of this standard of perfection (cf. Romans 3:10-12).

Verse 4

The psalmist may have had some specific instance of God’s deliverance in mind, or he may have spoken of His future judgment as having already taken place because of its certainty. God Himself would terrorize and shame His enemies. Evidently David saw God’s people as playing some role in their enemies’ defeat.

Verses 4-5

2. Anticipation of judgment 53:4-5

Verse 6

3. Yearning for God’s reign 53:6

David longed for the time when God would initiate salvation for Israel from Zion. When he wrote, Israel was at least partially under a hostile foreign power’s control. The psalmist believed God would one day restore His people and cause them to rejoice. Because of other revelation, we know that when Jesus Christ comes back to reign He will reestablish Israel as His favored nation and will punish her enemies (cf. Psalms 2; Isaiah 27:12; Isaiah 43:5-7; Jeremiah 12:15; Ezekiel 20:34-38; Ezekiel 20:42; Ezekiel 28:25-26; Daniel 7:13-14; Hosea 12:9; Joel 3:1-2; Amos 9:14-15; Micah 4:6; Zephaniah 3:20; Zechariah 10:10). [Note: See John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy, pp. 115-31.]

It is foolish to disregard God (cf. Proverbs 1:7). Those who do so will experience present futility in their lives and future judgment for their folly.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 53". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-53.html. 2012.