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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 58

Verses 1-5

Unrighteous Judges

The words of this heading we also find in the heading of three other psalms (Psa 58:1a; Psa 57:1; Psa 59:1; Psa 75:1).

For “for the choir director” (Psa 58:1a) see at Psalm 4:1.

For “[set to] Al-tashheth” or “Do not destroy” see at Psalm 57:1a.

For “a Mikhtam of David” see at Psalm 56:1.

David calls the unjust judges to account (Psa 58:1b). He asks the “gods”, with whom judges are meant, so to speak the supreme court, the penetrating question of whether they “indeed speak righteousness”. He also asks a second question: whether they judge uprightly, in accordance with truth and justice.

Here it is about the leaders, the judges of the people. Prophetically, it are the leaders at the time of the great tribulation who submit to the leadership of the antichrist. The Lord Jesus says that in this period lawlessness will increase and the love of the multitude – whereby we must think especially of the apostate mass of Israel led by the antichrist – will grow cold (Mt 24:12).

Thereby he addresses the college as “sons of men”, literally ‘sons of Adam’. These noble men are in themselves nothing more than ordinary “sons of men”. This is evident from the fact that they judge according to the depraved deliberations and prejudices that characterize the sons of men who live without God.

David himself answers his questions and does so in no unmistakable way (Psa 58:2). The judges do not render justice or judge fairly. “No”, they abuse their position. They wrong other sons of men in the name of justice in order to benefit themselves. This injustice is in their hearts. This is where it is conceived, and what God sees as committed there.

Their hands, that is, their actions, follow the injustice that is in their hearts. They weigh out the violence with their hands. It is presented in such a way, that the matter on which they have to decide is placed by them on one side of a scale, while on the other side of the scale lies justice. This is how things should be in a fair administration of justice in any case: there should be a balance between the crime and the verdict (cf. Job 31:6; Dan 5:27).

But these judges – and indeed also judges today – do not apply the law, but violence. Instead of weighing out a just punishment, they weigh out violence. They apply what they consider to be necessary violence in order to profit as much as possible from a trial. This is done by them “on earth”. That is their sphere of activity, just like that of all the sons of men. As judges, they feel exalted above the earth and look down on people with contempt.

The judges are part of a society where the wicked call the shots (Psa 58:3). The judges partake in this fiercely and even lead the way by their unjust judgments. They “are estranged” from God (cf. Eph 4:17-19). The judges are detached from God, the supreme Judge, and act according to their own will and play god.

This behavior did not come about suddenly, but it characterizes them “from the womb”, that is, from the very beginning. This makes clear the character of (original) sin. It is the sinful nature. The power of original sin has been put to an end by God in Christ for every one who acknowledges that he was brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psa 51:5).

They “speak lies”. They can do nothing but tell lies, just like the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). They have no connection to the truth and therefore they wander. This is so “from birth”. They cannot be trusted in anything. Whatever they say or claim or promise, it is all false. The cause is not that they are deceived or have had a wrong upbringing, but the conscious and guilty acting according to what they devise in their depraved hearts from the time they were able to think consciously.

Their speaking is “venom” which is “like the venom of a serpent” (Psa 58:4). Just as of the serpent the mouth is the most dangerous weapon – a serpent’s bite from a poisonous serpent is deadly because of the poison (cf. Num 21:6) – so too of the judges their mouth is the most dangerous. They speak like the serpent, that is the devil, the father of lies. Thus they perform their pernicious and deadly work.

They themselves are “like a deaf cobra, that stops up its ear”. They shut themselves off from everything that points out to them their wrong actions and lying words. They are therefore dangerous and uncorrectable, just like a poisonous serpent that is no longer correctable to the charmer because it stops up its ears. They do not want to hear the truth under any circumstances. That they are true children of their father, the devil, is evident from what comes out of their mouths and for what they stop up their ears.

They do not want to “listen to the voice of charmers” (Psa 58:5). They shut themselves off from every sound of warning. The person performing the charming may be very skilled, but if there is pertinent unwillingness, he cannot do anything with his charming. We can apply this to the conscience that every person has. When a person wants to do something that is not right, his conscience speaks like a “charmer”. The wicked judge silences his conscience and sears it (1Tim 1:19; 1Tim 4:2).

Verses 6-9

Punishment for the Unjust Judges

In a powerful way, introduced with the calling to God, “O God”, David makes known his desire with God that He puts an end to these terrible practices. Only God can do that. It is a cry for justice (cf. Rev 6:10). He proposes to God some appropriate punishments that will render these judges harmless.

Anyone who finds these proposals inappropriate and harsh shows an unhealthy compassion for depraved, incorrigible rebels against God. They willingly and knowingly stand with their fists raised against God. Such a person shows great indifference to the great injustice that these wicked judges do to God and men.

Because the mouth is their most dangerous weapon, David first asks that God shatters “their teeth in their mouth” (Psa 58:6). With broken teeth, it is not possible to seize and eat prey. His weapon and thus his power is then disabled. Let Him “break out the fangs” – the Hebrew word means, first of all, ‘jaws’ – of these predatory and voracious “young lions”. Then they can no longer devour prey, that is, they can no longer exercise their wicked justice and make more victims (cf. Job 29:17).

David goes on to ask if God will make the wicked judges flow away like water that runs off (Psa 58:7). Then they are gone forever. God must also let the arrows that the wicked judge lays on, that is, the deadly words he utters, be “as headless shafts”. Such arrows never hit target and thus do not cause damage.

God must also let them be “as a snail which melts away as it goes along” (Psa 58:8). From a melting snail there is no threat whatsoever. The snail is also called a “slime worm” in Hebrew. When a snail is trampled, it turns into a slimy goo. God should never let them see the sun “[like] the miscarriages of a woman”. They must be like premature and stillborn children, which means that they have never seen the light of the sun (cf. Job 3:16; Ecc 6:3-5).

A final comparison to illustrate the judgment on them is that of cooking pots placed above a fire of thorns (Psa 58:9). Before the flame enters the thorns to bring the pots to a boil, the wind has swept the thorns away.

With that speed, God will sweep away the wicked judges alive as in burning anger (cf. Job 27:21). It indicates that the wicked are as worthless as thorns and that judgment on them will be sudden and complete.

Verses 10-11

There Is a God Who Judges on Earth

It becomes the righteous, Old Testament believer to rejoice “when he sees the vengeance” that God exercises on the wicked (Psa 58:10). The righteous person is not bloodthirsty, but longs for justice (Mt 5:6). God will satisfy that desire by bringing vengeance on the wicked and especially on the ungodly judges and their bloodshed (cf. Isa 63:1-6; Rev 14:19-20; Rev 19:13-14).

As a result, the righteous will “wash his feet in the blood of the wicked” (cf. Psa 68:23a). “The blood of the wicked” indicates that he dies a violent death. This is his just punishment. He has committed violence (Psa 58:2) and perishes by violence. In his blood the righteous one washes his feet. Washing the feet is a refreshment for a weary pilgrim. In this context, it means that the death of the wicked refreshes him. He receives new strength because he has seen that God has judged.

The earth is the dwelling place of the righteous. Now injustice reigns there and he suffers greatly from it. Through the vengeance of God, the injustice and his suffering come to an end and at the same time a change is brought. The righteous is no longer oppressed, but will live in peace on earth and enjoy the blessing that God has promised him.

This change is for men, for everyone, the visible evidence that there is “reward for the righteous” (Psa 58:11). It has long seemed that the unjust judges could go about their business unhindered, that there was no justice for the righteous and that he received punishment instead of reward. But the death of the wicked will make it clear to “men” that there is indeed reward for the righteous. God gives him what he is entitled to, but what he has always been denied by the prevailing injustice.

This also reveals – and this is also acknowledged by everyone with an assenting “surely” – that “there is a God who judges on earth”. People often say as an excuse for not considering God: ‘If there is a God, why doesn’t He intervene?’ It shows the arrogance of men who think they can judge everything.

God is not guided in His actions by the opinions of men. He determines the time to intervene and do justice on earth. That time is certainly coming. When that time comes, God Himself will judge on earth. Then justice will be done in a way that everyone will acknowledge: “The judgment is God’s” (Deu 1:17).

For the New Testament believer, things are different. Certainly he also looks forward to the time when God judges on earth. There is even a special reward for him in looking forward to the appearance of Christ as the righteous Judge (2Tim 4:8). His destination, however, is not earth, but heaven. That is where he belongs. His deliverance from the affliction of this world does not happen through the judgment God brings on his enemies, but by taking him out of the world. That happens at the coming of Christ to take His church to Himself.

There is a lesson in what David says for the believer today. No one can explain the events on earth by attributing them to chance or fate or to mere physical processes, as if everything takes care of itself. The clear proof that God controls everything will be provided when He judges openly, perceptibly for all.

We cannot explain events without God. If we involve Him in the events, we will see, sometimes already now, but in any case later, their true purpose, His purpose. That gives us peace of mind to accept certain events, even if we do not always understand why things had to go the way they did.

This faith is also the faith of the believing remnant in the great tribulation and also their experience at the coming of Christ to earth. They know that God is still doing justice on earth and will experience that when Christ comes with reward for them (Rev 22:12). In the light of the prophecies, Psa 58:11 of this psalm only becomes reality when the Lord Jesus establishes the millennial realm of peace. Then He will reward the righteous for their faithfulness.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 58". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.