Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 53

Verses 1-3


The content of this psalm is largely the same as the content of Psalm 14. One notable difference is that where Psalm 14 has the name “LORD”, that name has been changed to “God” in Psalm 53. “LORD” is the translation of Yahweh, the name of God as the God of the covenant with His people. In both psalms God is called by different names: in Psalm 14 4 times Yahweh and 3 times Elohim; in Psalm 53 0 times Yahweh and 7 times Elohim.

In Psalm 53, the existence of God, the translation of Elohim, that is God as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and the God of all people, is denied. What is said of the single person Doeg in Psalm 52 applies according to Psalm 53 to all people.

There Is No One Who Does Good

For “for the choir director” (Psalms 53:1) see at Psalm 4:1.

It is a psalm “according to Mahalath”. It is probably the type of melody of this psalm. The tone is in minor and miserable. This expression also appears only in the heading of Psalm 88 (Psalms 88:1). It is believed that the word mahalath is derived from a word for “sickness”. This is also quite consistent with the content of the psalm, which describes the sickly and miserable condition of the end times, the great tribulation. It is the fulness of the sin of humanity and the reason for God to intervene (cf. Acts 12:21-Isaiah :).

This psalm is again “a Maskil of David”. Psalm 14 gives us the principles of sin (Psalms 14:1). Here in Psalm 53 it is a maskil psalm, that is, teaching from and for the wise, the maskilim. This teaching deals with the major characteristic of the antichrist, the man of sin, namely, denying the Creator-God, Elohim. Here the principles of Psalm 14 are applied to the antichrist and taught to the maskilim. The antichrist is here called the fool (Psalms 53:1). However, the spirit of antichrist is already blowing in the evolutionists and modern theologians who deny the Creator.

For “a Maskil” see at Psalm 52:1 and Psalm 32:1.

David not only knows what the fool is saying, he also knows where he is saying it (Psalms 53:1). Through the teaching of God, he knows that the fool has “said in his heart“ that there is no God. The fool is an ungodly one. He is not an atheist, but one who consciously disregards God in his life. He deliberately ignores God as not of interest. The antichrist is the fool in this psalm, for he has cast God aside and declared himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-Numbers :).

The heart is the source of all thoughts, which are worked out in life. “The fool” is not necessarily a stupid person. On the contrary, he can be very intelligent. Yet God calls such a person a fool because he denies in his heart the existence of God. It is a willful disregard of His existence.

He willfully refuses to acknowledge the truth of God’s existence because he hates the thought that there is a God Who knows him and to Whom he is accountable (cf. John 3:20). It is the opposite of the beginning of wisdom, which is the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7), by which the wise person takes God into account in everything. The fool lacks the slightest trace of wisdom.

Next, David describes the result of ignoring the existence of God. People who ignore the existence of God “are corrupt”. They also commit “abominable injustice”. They cannot do otherwise, for they despise the source of good, the source that alone is good and gives good. They have no other frame of reference than their own depraved heart. The Lord Jesus tells what all comes from such a heart (Matthew 15:19).

This is true of every human being. There is really “no one who does good”. The issue is not the tendency to do evil, but the inability to do good. Atheism, the denial of the existence of God, is not an innocent mistake, but an open and horrible sin. No excuse can be conceived that God can accept as an excuse.

God informed David that He has “looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God (Psalms 53:2). Man may shut God out, but God does not forget man. He is always looking down on man to see if there is anyone wise enough to seek Him.

It is a great folly of man to think that by his denial of God there is no God either. From His exalted dwelling place, God perceives everything that man thinks and does. We must learn to see everything from above, from the viewpoint of heaven, the place where God dwells. His assessment is perfectly pure, without clouding by earthly relationships or circumstances.

God has had to observe that “every one of them has turned aside” (Psalms 53:3). This has been done by every one individually. Every one has gone his own way, a way apart from God, with his back to God (Isaiah 53:6). The common result is that they “together have become corrupt”.

The word for “corrupt” is the word used for “turned sour”, as can happen with milk. Milk is there to be drunk. If that does not happen and one leaves it, it becomes sour. It is then no longer drinkable and must be thrown away. So it is with people who do not use their lives for the purpose for which God has given them, which is to serve and glorify Him. That life is corrupt.

The conclusion is a confirmation of what has already been said in Psalms 53:1 that there is no one who does good. By adding that there is “not even one”, it leaves no room for an exception. The judgment is general. It does not concern only the atheist of Psalms 53:1, but it applies to every man, whoever he may be. It is the death sentence of the human race, of humanity fallen into sin as a whole. Is there no escape? Yes, thankfully there is. Those who take refuge in God are saved from this situation.

Verses 4-5

Rejected by God

Having observed fallen humanity, David now moves on to speak of God’s people in the midst of that fallen humanity. In amazement, he wonders about the knowledge of those “who eat up my people” (Psalms 53:4). It seems as if these people, who have no knowledge of God and therefore no knowledge of those who are associated with Him, can do as they please, targeting in particular David’s “people”, which are God’s godly ones.

The fools gorge on his people, who they eat as if they were eating bread. It should not surprise us that these wicked people act this way. They are people who do not have the slightest connection to God. They do not call upon Him, for He does not exist for them. Therefore they behave even worse than beasts, for these still cry out to God when they are hungry and God hears them. But they do not need Him, because they trust in their wealth (cf. Proverbs 18:11).

Then David points to the fear that controls them as a result of God’s judgment (Psalms 53:5). This is a second difference from Psalm 14. We find in this verse God’s judgment on the enemies of God’s people at the end of the great tribulation. This is also education for the understanding, the maskilim.

Those who say they have no fear of God are therefore not without fear. They are “through fear of death … subject to slavery all their lives” (cf. Hebrews 2:15). For all their snobbery and boasting of their wealth and so-called wisdom, they are “in great fear [where] no fear had been” (cf. Leviticus 26:36; Job 15:21; Proverbs 28:1). He describes it as if they were already wandering in fear. By faith, he actually sees where things are heading with these pruners and boasters.

David sees a battlefield before him with the limbs of the assailants lying there scattered by God (cf. Isaiah 66:24; Ezekiel 39:11-Ezra :). They are not buried, whereby they are “put to shame” by God (cf. Isaiah 14:19-Proverbs :).

Verse 6

Longing for Salvation

The righteous hopes in God for the complete salvation of Israel. For this he looks to Zion, the dwelling place of God. From there salvation must come. The complete salvation means both the deliverance of the oppressed people and the return of the captives of God’s people from the dispersion.

Then the entire people will be blessed, which will be to the joy of Jacob and to the joy of Israel. The name Jacob reminds us of the promises of God that He made to Jacob and that He will fulfill, despite the unfaithfulness that Jacob often showed. The name Israel reminds us of what God has made of Jacob, of the position and privileges He has given him.

Copyright Statement
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 53". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.