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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 52

Verse 1

Psalms 52:0.

David, condemning the spitefulness of Doeg, prophesieth his destruction. The righteous shall rejoice at it. David, upon his confidence in God's mercy, giveth thanks.

To the chief musician, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.

Title. דוד לדוד׃אּבא משׂכיל למנצח lamnatseach maskill ledavid.—ba david. David is come David came. This Psalm consists of three parts; the first is a description of Doeg's character. He was one who gloried in his villainy, was fruitful in inventions to ruin others, of a smooth tongue, but of an extremely mischievous one; who delighted in malicious charges, supported them by lies, and took pleasure in acts of wickedness and cruelty. The share he had in the murder of the priests is a full proof of the truth of this character. The second part foretels the utter ruin of this man, his fortune and family, and the triumph of good men, when they saw him made an example of divine justice. In the third part, the Psalmist assures himself of protection, and future prosperity from God; and that his example in praising God, and patiently waiting for his salvation, would be a pleasing encouragement to all the saints. Chandler.

Psalms 52:1. O mighty man It seems probable, that Doeg, after he had massacred the priests, boasted of his loyalty to Saul in having prevented the treasonable schemes which he artfully insinuated had been concerted by David and the priests; and that he had been liberally rewarded by Saul upon account of it. Now the Psalm begins by expressing a kind of contempt of Doeg. "O mighty man! Saul's chief herdsman!—Man of wondrous prowess! thus to destroy a set of defenceless and innocent people:—boast no more; thy cruelty shall be amply repaid. As for me, I am out of the reach of thy malice. That goodness of God, which thou reproachest me for trusting in, is my sure protection, and will follow me day by day." Mr. Schultens remarks, that גבור gibbor, signifies in Arabic, a proud, impious man, a sense which well suits the place before us. Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that not Doeg only, but Saul also, is glanced at in this verse, which he renders thus, Why boastest thou thyself, O man of power, that thou canst do mischief? Whereas the goodness of God is from day to day, A king, says he, is the representative of God upon earth; and his duty, to imitate the divine goodness, and to protect and to bless. A tyrant reverses this glorious resemblance; and employs all that power to the purposes of mischief, which was only bestowed for those of beneficence.

Verse 2

Psalms 52:2. Thy tongue deviseth mischief I do not very well understand, says Dr. Chandler, the propriety of the tongue's devising mischief, and devising it like a sharp razor; but we may easily avoid this harsh comparison, which Mr. Le Clerc justly complains of, by rendering the words, Thou contrivest mischiefs with thy tongue, as with a sharp razor, O thou dealer in deceit! i.e. "Thou contrivest, with thy smooth and flattering tongue, to wound the reputation and character of others; as though thou wert cutting their throats with a smooth or sharp razor." Or, much to the same sense, Thou contrivest wickedness: thy tongue is like a sharp razor: thou dealest in deceit; or, O thou deceitful doer! The construction will bear either of these senses: the comparing a smooth, deceitful, murderous tongue to a sharp razor, is natural and lively. Chandler.

Verse 4

Psalms 52:4. Thou lovest all devouring words Hebrew. All the words of devouring, or destruction; O thou deceitful tongue! Or, repeating the word from the foregoing clause, Thou lovest the tongue of deceit; i.e. the deceitful tongue; or such calumnies as are the most pernicious in their nature, and as may most effectually involve others in utter destruction. Houbigant follows the last version.

Verse 5

Psalms 52:5. God shall likewise destroy thee The Psalmist makes use of four words to denote the utter vengeance which awaited this deceitful and bloody man: all of them have a very strong medium. The first signifies to pull down and break utterly to pieces; as when an altar or tower is demolished: Judges 8:9; Judges 8:9. The second signifies to twist any thing, or pluck it up by twisting it round, as trees are sometimes twisted up; see Schultens on Proverbs 6:27. The third signifies utterly to sweep away any thing, like dust or chaff; and the whole expression means, not "sweep thee away from thy tent," but "sweep thee away, that thou mayest be no longer a tent:" thyself, thy family, thy fortune, shall be wholly and entirely swept away, and dissipated for ever. To which the fourth verse answers, He shall root thee out from the land of the living. It is impossible for words to express a more entire and absolute destruction. Chandler.

Verse 6

Psalms 52:6. The righteous also shall see, and fear The peculiar judgments of God executed upon exemplary offenders, who have been guilty of treachery, rapine, and murder, good men will carefully observe, and observe with awful pleasure and thankfulness: not that they rejoice to see the punishments and miseries of mankind, in themselves considered; no person of humanity taking pleasure in the execution of the worst of criminals, as such. But as the administration of justice is always a right, and so far a pleasant thing; as instances of God's vengeance are sometimes necessary to keep men in tolerable order; and as the cutting off such kind of incorrigible offenders prevents them from doing farther mischiefs, and is so far a public and common blessing to mankind; it was impossible that any good man who had seen the crimes of this treacherous and bloody Edomite, retaliated on him by divine Providence, could do otherwise than approve so righteous a retribution; and, when he observed it, forbear in triumph to say, as at the next verse;

Verse 7

Psalms 52:7. Lo! this is the man, &c.— "See the fate of the haughty slanderer and murderer! Where are all his boasted riches and prosperity? He was too proud to place his safety in God: but trusted in the multitude of his riches; thinking his wealth would defend him from the punishment due to his villainies." Mr. Schultens renders the words, Ferociebat in vasta sua cupiditate: "He grew insolent and furious in his boundless appetite, viz. to heap up riches, and satisfy the malice and cruelty of his heart."

Verse 8

Psalms 52:8. But I am like a green olive-tree The olive-tree is an evergreen, not liable to decay, and therefore of a very long duration. To this the Psalmist compares himself, to denote the stability and perpetuity of his prosperity, and that of his family; the olive propagating itself by fresh shoots, and being thus far, as it were immortal. See Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. 17: cap. 30., and Theophrast. Hist. Plant. lib. 4: cap. 15. One principal part also of the happiness which David promised himself was, that he should have a constant admission to the house of God, and the solemnities of his worship there; notwithstanding he was now driven from it by the malice of his enemies: adding, I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. His promises shall never fail; nor shall those who hate me rejoice over me in my destruction. Chandler. Mr. Mede supposes, that though it was not lawful to plant trees near the altar of God, there were other places appointed for public worship, which might properly be called houses of God; and in particular proseuchas, or places where they met for prayer; which were inclosed round, but open at the top, and generally shaded with trees. And if we consider these places as consecrated to the purposes of religion, we may well imagine, that the trees there planted would be religiously preserved, and in process of time would challenge a venerable regard from their antiquity, their spacious extent, and lofty stature: so that in this view, when the Psalmist compares himself to an olive-tree, a cedar, or any other evergreen in the house of God, there is a particular emphasis in the allusion. Mr. Mede supposes, with great probability, that these proseuchas, and the synagogues, are the houses of God, the burning of which is lamented, Psalms 74:8. See his Discourse on Joshua 26:26. Fenwick eems to me to render the verse most consistently of any translator;

But as an olive, ever fresh and green, When planted in God's house, I hope to stand. I in God's mercy only ever trust.

Verse 9

Psalms 52:9. I will wait on thy name To wait on God's name, is, to wait or call upon, and expect aid from him, whose name is Jehovah, and who is every thing which that name implies. This is good before the saints as they would approve his piety and devotion, and as it would tend to confirm and establish them in their religious principles, practices, and hopes. Chandler. Fenwick renders the first clause of this verse,

Thou art my maker; thee I'll ever praise.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 52". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.