Bible Commentaries
Psalms 53

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-6


THIs psalm is a repetition of Psalms 45:1-17; with certain not very important variations. The most remarkable is the substitution throughout of" Elohim" for "Jehovah." The only variations which alter the sense are in Psalms 45:5. These cannot be accounted for by corruption, and seem to indicate a retouching of the original composition in order to adapt it to a special occasion.

The expression, "upon Mahalath," or, "set to Mahalath," in the title, is thought to be a musical direction, and is explained by Dr. Kay as equivalent to the modern Maestoso.

Psalms 53:1 and Psalms 53:2

are identical with the same verses of Psalms 14:1-7; with the single exception that "Jehovah "is replaced by" Elohim," as the first word of Psalms 14:2.

Psalms 53:3

For "they are all gone aside" (הכּל סר) in Psalms 14:1-7; the present psalm has, "every one of them is gone back" (לּכּוֹ סג)—a difference which may be due to corruption, and which is, at any rate, of no importance.

Psalms 53:4

For "the workers of iniquity" in this verse, Psalms 14:1-7. has "all the workers of iniquity "—a difference wholly unimportant.

Psalms 53:5

There were they in great fear, where no fear was. So long a phrase as "where no fear was" (לא־היה כּחד) can scarcely have "fallen out," and must have been added intentionally to mark that, on the occasion in connection with which the revision was made, there had been no ground at all for the panic. For God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee. This clause takes the place of the following in Psalms 14:1-7.: "For God is in the generation of the righteous"—a very considerable change, which must certainly have been intentional. On the second occasion whereto the psalm was made applicable, there must have been a very great catastrophe—some vast slaughter of an enemy who had been at open war with Israel. Sennacherib is suggested (Canon Cook). Thou hast put them to shams, because God hath despised them. The clause in Psalms 14:1-7. which this replaces runs as follows: "Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his Refuge." Here again, both the phrases used, and the whole tenor of the thought in either case, are different.

Psalms 53:6

This verse is identical with Psalms 14:7, except in the substitution of "Elohim" for "Jehovah," and in the pointing of one word.


Psalms 53:1, Psalms 53:2

Atheism contrasted with godliness.

I. ATHEISM. "No God." This implies:

1. Denial of God's existence This is folly. The assertion proves nothing. Negatives are not arguments. Besides, there may be a God, though you, the denier, have not found him. You have not yet explored the universe.

2. Denial of God's moral government of the world. "No God!" if so, then there is nothing but chance. There can be no law without a lawgiver, no order without a controlling mind. "No God!" then we are free to do our own pleasure. "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."

3. Denial of God's grace in the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ. "No God]" then the Bible is a fable, heaven and hell are dreams, the benefits of the gospel are a delusion, faith in Christ and the resurrection is a mockery and a lie.

II. GODLINESS. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God;" but the wise man says that there is a God, and that "he is the Rewarder of all who diligently seek him." Godliness implies:

1. Faith in God as revealed in Christ Jesus. Here is the satisfaction of the soul.

2. Life ruled by the law of Christ, which is holy, just, and good. Here is the true ideal, and the Spirit, by the gospel, shows how it may be realized.

3. Prayer and holy endeavour to the end. We are not left to struggle alone, but have the Word to guide us, the promises to cheer us, the love of Christ to inspire us, that we may go from strength to strength, and that when called hence we may enter upon the blessed and perfect life beyond this world. Thus the godly witness for God. They testify to his being, for in him they live; to his character, for their aim is to be holy as he is holy; to his will and government, for they strive to do justly as he does justly, and to be merciful as he is merciful, who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." All the good in themselves, in society, in the world, is from God. What has been is in agreement with what is now. The progress of all things is towards a perfect end. The cross, which overthrew paganism, and triumphed over the eagles of Rome, is destined to win greater and vet greater victories. Yet a little while, and the great voices of heaven shall cry, "The kingdoms of this world arc become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).—W.F.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 53". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.