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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 53

Verse 1

Psalms 53:0.

David describeth the corruption of a natural man: he convinceth the wicked by the light of their own conscience: he glorieth in the salvation of God.

To the chief musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David.

Title. לדוד משׂכיל מחלת על למנצח lamnatseach al machalath maskiil ledavid.] The occasion of this Psalm, which varies but little from the 14th, and for which variation it is not easy to account, is supposed to have been the next revolt which the Israelites in general made immediately after the rebellion of Absalom, before David had quite recovered Jerusalem, and upon the quarrel which arose between the men of Judah and the men of Israel about precedency in bringing back the king; when Sheba blew the trumpet of rebellion afresh; and, it is said, every man of Israel left David. See 2 Samuel 20:2. מחלת על al machalath, Upon Mahalath, is rendered by some, Upon the hollow instruments; and by Houbigant, Upon the chorus. Mudge says, Mahalath is probably a kind of music, denominated from a song, in which was that word; which signifies a malady or illness; designed, if one may guess from Psalms 88:0 to raise in the mind a melancholy, or sort of pensive gloominess. Fenwick is nearly of the same opinion. See his Thoughts, p. 57. The Syriac title informs us, that the Psalm was occasioned by Achitophel's advising Absalom to pursue David, and put him to death: but, with respect to Christians, it intimates the revelation of our Saviour, and deliverance from atheistic people. There was, most probably, more of it in the original Syriac copy. See the notes on the 14th Psalm.

Verse 5

Psalms 53:5. For God hath scattered the bones of him This is generally referred to Sheba; who, being left at last to shift for himself, was shut up in the city of Abel, and there taken and beheaded; (see 2 Samuel 20:22.) after which his body, most probably, was exposed to the fowls of the air, or the wild beasts, insomuch that his bones were indeed at last scattered. Mudge renders this and the foregoing verse thus: Do not they observe, the dealers in vanity, devourers of my people? They eat bread: they called not upon God: Psalms 53:5. They were upon the spot in a great fear, where no fear was. Yes, God hath scattered the bones of the vile wretch; thou confoundest them; for God had spurned them off.

Verse 6

Psalms 53:6. Oh that the salvation, &c.— David here, making a review of the 14th Psalm, in which his distress in the time of Absalom's rebellion is described, desires of God to give his people a still further and new salvation; for the word ישׁעות ieshuoth, here is in the plural number, but in Psalms 14:0 it is in the singular; and therefore here it may be fitly rendered a complete salvation, or deliverance. The word captivity, in the next clause, is no objection to the interpretation above given of this Psalm; for it sometimes signifies no more than a great desolation, such as was that of Job's estate and family. See Job 42:10.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

1. The practical atheism of the natural heart. We first leave God far above out of our sight, and then dare sin securely.
2. The universal guilt of mankind is asserted. Not some, or a few in one age or nation, but all in every age, in every nation, have come short of the glory of God.
3. The greatness of this guilt is noticed, as flowing from that deep and desperate corruption in the nature of man, which produces abominable iniquity in the practice; particularly selfishness, covetousness, oppression, and habitual neglect of prayer. Note; Sin is the abominable thing which God hates: the least spot of it, uncleansed, must eternally exclude us from his presence.

4. The folly, as well as the wickedness, of sinners is great: they live without consideration; they have no knowledge of themselves, or of God; of their guilt here, or their ruin hereafter; the god of this world hath blinded their eyes.
5. Their security will be shortly at an end, and terrors overtake the finally impenitent. They shall be in great fear, where before they laughed at danger; ruin unavoidable shall destroy them, everlasting confusion cover them, and God shall despise their impotent resistance.
6. The Psalmist concludes with an earnest wish, that God would hasten the salvation of his faithful people, rescue them from amid the world which lieth in wickedness, and cause them to rejoice in Jesus, their glorious Redeemer and Saviour. Note; (1.) Though we are all by nature formed from the same mass of corruption, they who have justifying and sanctifying faith in the blood of Jesus, are saved from the pollutions which are in the world. (2.) All sinners, of whatever rank or degree, and especially those who in the spirit of Antichrist oppose the power of true religion, and persecute its professors, will perish together, in the day when the triumphs of God's saints shall be completed. (3.) We shall assuredly join the Psalmist's prayer, if our hearts possess his hopes, and cry, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 53". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.