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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 50

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 50:0


God the Judge of the Righteous and the Wicked MT Intro A Psalm of Asaph God the Righteous Judge A Liturgy of Divine Judgment True Worship Worship in Spirit and Truth
Psalms 50:1-6 Psalms 50:1-3 Psalms 50:1-2 Psalms 50:1-2 Psalms 50:1-3a
Psalms 50:3-6 Psalms 50:3-6 Psalms 50:3-4
Psalms 50:4-6
Psalms 50:5-6
Psalms 50:7-15 Psalms 50:7-11 Psalms 50:7-11 Psalms 50:7-11 Psalms 50:7
Psalms 50:8-9
Psalms 50:10-11
Psalms 50:12-15 Psalms 50:12-15 Psalms 50:12-15 Psalms 50:12-13
Psalms 50:14-16a
Psalms 50:16-21 Psalms 50:16-21 Psalms 50:16-18 Psalms 50:16-18 Psalms 50:16-17
Psalms 50:18-19
Psalms 50:19-21 Psalms 50:19-21
Psalms 50:20-21
Psalms 50:22-23 Psalms 50:22-23 Psalms 50:22-23 Psalms 50:22-23 Psalms 50:22-23

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This is another Psalm that contains a universal element (cf. Psalms 50:1, Psalms 50:4, Psalms 50:12; Psalms 45:16; Psalms 46:10; Psalms 47:2; Psalms 48:2, Psalms 48:10; Psalms 49:1). This is another way of asserting YHWH as the Creator (Psalms 104:0), the only God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM).

B. Because His is the Creator, He is the only Judge. Humans will be judged by their relationship to God,

1. faith (see Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT)

2. obedience (see Special Topic: Keep)

3. worship (see Special Topic: Worship)

not just their fulfillment of ritual or liturgical forms. True faith is of the heart before the hand!

C. This Psalm is not about the judgment of all humans, but the judgment of the covenant people as heaven, earth, and all peoples watch. This judgment is for the purposes of

1. restoring some to heartfelt faith

2. revealing the false faith of some

D. This Psalm describes

1. those who are ritual-oriented followers (cf. Psalms 50:7-15)

2. those who are faithless followers (cf. Psalms 50:16-21)

3. brief summary in Psalms 50:22-23

E. There are many allusions to speaking. Notice

1. spoken, Psalms 50:1; Psalms 50:1a

2-3. summoned (i.e., to witness or testify), Psalms 50:1b, Psalms 50:4

4. not in silence, Psalms 50:3; Psalms 50:3, Psalms 50:21a

5-6. direct speech of YHWH, Psalms 50:5; Psalms 50:5, Psalms 50:7

7. declare, Psalms 50:6; Psalms 50:6a

8. I will speak, Psalms 50:7a

9. I will testify, Psalms 50:7b

10. reprove, Psalms 50:8; Psalms 50:8, Psalms 50:21

11. sacrifice of thanksgiving, Psalms 50:14a, Psalms 50:23a

12. YHWH says, Psalms 50:16a (much of the Psalm is YHWH speaking, Psalms 50:5, Psalms 50:7-15, Psalms 50:16-21, Psalms 50:22-23)

13. tell, Psalms 50:16b

14. My words, Psalms 50:17b

15. your mouth, Psalms 50:19a

16. your tongue, Psalms 50:19b

17. speak, Psalms 50:20a

18. slander, Psalms 50:20; Psalms 50:20b

By their words you will know them for their words reveal their hearts (i.e., both groups, cf. Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:45).

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 50:1-6 1The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken, And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. 2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth. 3May our God come and not keep silence; Fire devours before Him, And it is very tempestuous around Him. 4He summons the heavens above, And the earth, to judge His people: 5”Gather My godly ones to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6And the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is judge. Selah.

Psalms 50:1-6 This strophe characterizes YHWH as the righteous Judge (cf. Psalms 50:6). The imagery of much of this Psalm is a court scene.

1. summoned the earth, Psalms 50:1, Psalms 50:4

2. the two eternal witnessesheaven and earth (cf., Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28; Deuteronomy 32:1), Psalms 50:4

3. God Himself is Judge, Psalms 50:6

4. I will testify against you, Psalms 50:7; notice the whole world, heaven and earth, are called to witness YHWH's accusations against His covenant people

Psalms 50:1 Notice the names/titles of Deity used (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY):

1. El, Psalms 50:1 BDB 42, general name for God in the ANE from the root, “to be strong”

2. Elohim, Psalms 50:1, Psalms 50:2, Psalms 50:3, Psalms 50:6, Psalms 50:7 (twice), 14,16,23 BDB 43, God as creator, provider, and sustainer of all life

3. YHWH, Psalms 50:1 BDB 217, the covenant-making God, God as Savior, Redeemer (Psalms 50:5)

4. Elyon, Psalms 50:14 BDB 751 II, see full note at Psalms 46:4b, “Most High” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8; Psalms 9:2; Psalms 21:7; etc.)

5. Eloah, Psalms 50:22 BDB 42, singular of Elohim (mostly in Job)

It is possible that the first three are meant to form one title (cf. Joshua 22:22). The LXX, NJB, and AB (p. 304) suggest, “The God (El) of gods (Elohim) is YHWH.” There was some literary/theological reason to link these three names in a series, but it is lost to moderns.

“earth” This is the Hebrew word erets (BDB 75, see SPECIAL TOPIC: LAND, COUNTRY, EARTH). A parallel term, “world” (BDB 385, cf. Psalms 9:8; Psalms 18:15; Psalms 19:4; Psalms 24:1; Psalms 33:8; Psalms 50:12), is used mostly in Psalms and Isaiah.

“from the rising of the sun to its setting” The phrase (cf. Psalms 113:3) is an idiom of universality, as is “from the east to the west.” All peoples are summoned to YHWH's court. This concept is brought into the NT as

1. the sheep and goat judgment of Matthew 25:31-46

2. the judgment seat of Christ of 2 Corinthians 5:10

3. the great white throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15

This is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 15:25-28. Humans will give an account to God of their stewardship of the gift of life!

Psalms 50:2 “Zion” Here the city of God, Jerusalem, is characterized as “the perfection of beauty.” In Psalms 48:2 she is called, “beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth.” Both of these descriptive phrases are combined in Lamentations 2:15. See notes at Psalms 2:2; Psalms 9:11; Psalms 20:1. See Special Topic: Moriah. Salem, Jebus, Jerusalem, Zion.

“God has shone forth” This same verb (BDB 422, KB 424, Hiphil imperative) is used in Psalms 80:1 (Hiphil imperative) and Psalms 94:1 (also Hiphil imperative). In Psalms 49:14 I have listed how the light imagery is used to refer to different things. God is the light of the world (cf. Psalms 27:1; Isaiah 60:1-3, Isaiah 60:19-20) and so is His Son (cf. John 8:12; John 12:35). Because of Them, so are Their faithful followers (cf. Matthew 5:14; Matthew 6:23; John 12:36).

Psalms 50:3 This verse begins with two jussives (“may. . .”).

1. may our God come BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. may He not keep silence BDB 361, KB 357, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

Judgment Day has arrived and the people of God are first to be charged (cf. Jeremiah 25:29; 1 Peter 4:17).

“Fire devours before Him” Fire is often associated with

1. the holiness/purity of God Daniel 7:10

2. cleansing Numbers 31:23

3. judgment Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16:35

For a full listing of the imagery associated with “fire,” see the Special Topic: Fire.

In this context it is associated with the physical destruction on earth that occurs when a holy God approaches (“comes,” Psalms 50:3a) His fallen creation (cf. Psalms 18:7-15; Psalms 97:1-6).

Psalms 50:4 “heaven. . .earth” These are the two required witnesses (cf. Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15) for YHWH to take His people to court (cf. Psalms 50:4-5, Psalms 50:7, Psalms 50:16-21, Psalms 50:22-23). These represent the first two created things (i.e., the planet and its atmosphere).

Psalms 50:5 “gather” This verb (BDB 62, KB 74, Qal imperfect) is contextually parallel to “summoned” (Psalms 50:1, Psalms 50:4). Notice it is “the godly ones” (i.e., the covenant people) who are gathered for Judgment Day (i.e., “the judgment seat of Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:10 is also for believers not unbelievers).

Notice how the ritual-oriented followers are described.

1. My godly ones, Psalms 50:5

2. those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice, Psalms 50:5

3. O My people, Psalms 50:7 (covenant terminology)

4. they are commanded to (Psalms 50:14-15)

a. offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Qal imperative)

b. pay your vows to the Most High (Piel imperative)

c. call upon YHWH in the day of trouble (Qal imperative)

“My godly ones” This word/title (BDB 339) is used often in Psalms to refer to faithful followers (see notes at Psalms 4:3; Psalms 12:1; Psalms 16:10; Psalms 18:25; Psalms 30:4; Psalms 31:23; Psalms 32:6; Psalms 37:28; Psalms 43:1; Psalms 52:9, etc.). At Psalms 16:10 it refers by typology and NT quotes to the Messiah (see Special Topic: Messiah).

Here it denotes Israelites who focus too much on sacrificial rituals and not enough on personal faith and lifestyle godliness.

“to Me” Even a judgment scene is a call to intimate fellowship. For the wicked it is a call to judgment and separation! To those ritual-oriented believers, it is a call to change.

“covenant” This crucial theological term (BDB 136) is not Hebraic. This concept best describes a sovereign God and a commanded, continuing, responsible choice on behalf of human creatures (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT).

“by sacrifice” See Special Topic below.


Psalms 50:6 This is an idiomatic affirmation of YHWH as Creator and thereby His right to pass judgment.

“the heavens declare His righteousness” This affirms “natural revelation” (cf. Psalms 8:3; Psalms 19:1-6; Psalms 97:6).

“Selah” See note at Psalms 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

Verses 7-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 50:7-15 7”Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. 8I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, And your burnt offerings are continually before Me. 9I shall take no young bull out of your house Nor male goats out of your folds. 10For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. 11I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. 12If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains. 13Shall I eat the flesh of bulls Or drink the blood of male goats? 14Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving And pay your vows to the Most High; 15Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

Psalms 50:7-15 This strophe seems to have three foci.

1. a word to His ritual-oriented followers

2. an affirmation of His Lordship over His creation, whereby He does not need human sacrifices, especially if by giving them humans feel YHWH is obliged to act on their behalf!

3. the need for heart faith (cf. Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4), not just the ritual/liturgy of the sacrificial system (cf. Psalms 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:10-15; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8)

Psalms 50:7 Covenant summons followers to hear YHWH speak.

1. Hear BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative, the Judge is speaking

2. I will speak BDB 180, KB 210, Piel cohortative

3. I will testify against you BDB 729, KB 795, Hiphil cohortative

This verse has several phrases that are known as covenant terminology.

1. My people (cf. Exodus 19:5-6)

2. O Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

3. I am God, your God (cf. Exodus 20:2; often in Leviticus)

The issue being addressed is lifestyle covenant obedience, not just sacrifices. Sacrifice was a ritual means of a holy God forgiving and staying in fellowship with sinful mankind. The heart was as crucial (cf. Deuteronomy 10:16) as the act itself!

Psalms 50:10-12 YHWH is affirming His lordship over all creation. Notice the repeated use of “every,” “everything” (cf. Deuteronomy 10:14; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalms 103:19-22).

Psalms 50:11

NASB, NRSV “everything that moves in the field” NKJV“the wild beasts of the field” TEV“all living things in the field” NJB“whatever moves in the fields” JPSOA“creatures of the field” REB“the teeming life of the plains”

The MT has “moving things of the field” (BDB 265 I construct BDB 961). The first word is used only here and in Psalms 80:13. It would seem to refer to the “teeming things” of Genesis 1:24-26.

1. small animals (i.e., mice, rats, foxes, etc.)

2. insects

Whatever they are, they are one example of YHWH's ownership of all creatures on this planet (cf. Psalms 50:10a).

Psalms 50:12 Sacrifices were never viewed in the OT as food for God.

1. In Mesopotamian theology the gods ate the offerings of humans.

2. In Canaanite theology, Anath did eat flesh and drink blood.

One wonders how much of the vocabulary (not theology) of Israel was affected first by Canaanite mythology and later Judaism by Zoroastrian theology.

Psalms 50:14-15 The last two verses of this strophe are characterization of what things ritual-oriented followers should do, which are not directly related to the sacrifices of Leviticus 1-7.

1. offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving BDB 256, KB 261, Qal imperative; this may have been the expected fulfillment of a vow, cf. Psalms 66:13-15

2. pay your vows to the Most High BDB 1022, KB 1532, Piel imperative (Numbers 30:0; Deuteronomy 23:21; Psalms 22:25; Psalms 56:12; Psalms 61:8; Psalms 65:1)

3. call upon Me (i.e., prayer) in the day of trouble BDB 894, KB1128, Qal imperative

If they do these things, then YHWH will “rescue” (i.e., “deliver,” BDB 322, KB 321, Piel imperfect) each one. In turn each one will “honor” God (BDB 457, KB 455, Piel imperfect).

Verses 16-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 50:16-21 16But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth? 17For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you. 18When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers. 19You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit. 20You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother's son. 21These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”

Psalms 50:16-21 This strophe is directed to the faithless follower, here called “the wicked” (BDB 957). These were men/women/youth of the covenant people who, by their words, deeds, and omissions, showed their rebellious, self-centered orientation (i.e., violated three of the Ten Commandments).

1. they speak of God and His covenant but ignore it, Psalms 50:16 (i.e., possibly the repeating of covenant verses or ritual but without faith and lifestyle)

2. they hate its requirements and ignore them (i.e., “cast My words behind you”; they were practical atheists), Psalms 50:17; Psalms 50:17; cf. Nehemiah 9:26

3. not only are they not offended by evil deeds, they associate with those who do them, Psalms 50:18 (“by their fruits. . .,” Matthew 7:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:33)

4. their words reveal their hearts, Psalms 50:19-20 (cf. Matthew 12:33-37)

5. they thought YHWH's patience with them was an affirmation (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:11; Isaiah 57:11)

But YHWH will act.

1. I will reprove you BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

2. I will state the case in order before your eyes BDB 789, KB 884, Qal cohortative, i.e., prepare a legal case, cf. Job 13:18; Job 23:4; Job 32:14; Job 33:5

Psalms 50:18

NASB“you are pleased with him” NKJV“you consented with him” NRSV, TEV, NJB“make friends with” LXX“you would join him” JPSOA“you fall in with him” REB“you choose him as a friend”

The MT has “pleased” (BDB 953, KB 1280, Qal imperfect with waw). The LXX, Syrian, and Vulgate have, “run with” or “associate with,” which seems to fit the parallelism better. The UBS Text Project gives the MT wording a “B” rating (some doubt).

Psalms 50:21 “You thought that I was just like you” This phrase is intensified by the verb “to be” in both an infinitive construct and an imperfect verb.

Peripheral believers always assume they are secure and their beliefs are the same as God's. Revelation is the final arbiter! Fallen humans, even covenant humans, do not understand God or His word, but they think they do! For me as a Bible teacher, it is crucial that I maintain a teachable, repentant, humble spirit. My theology is not God's theology. He is not part of my tradition. I must remember all humans are

1. historically conditioned

2. sinful, damaged humans

3. susceptible to dogmatism and arrogance

The more you know, the more you know you do not know!

Verses 22-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 50:22-23 22”Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. 23He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”

Psalms 50:22-23 This is a summary statement that has a message for both the ritual-oriented followers (by implication) and the faithless followers (direct address). Both are to “consider” (BDB 106, KB 122, Qal imperative).

1. to the wicked

a. those who forget God, Psalms 50:22; Psalms 50:22a

b. judgment will come and no one can save, Psalms 50:22b

2. to the faithful in contrast

a. who offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, Psalms 50:23; Psalms 50:23a (cf. Psalms 50:14a)

b. who honor Me, Psalms 50:23a (cf. Psalms 50:15b)

c. who orders his way aright

YHWH will destroy the wicked (Psalms 50:22b), but deliver the faithful (Psalms 50:23c).

Psalms 50:22b “Lest I tear you in pieces” This is imagery of YHWH as a lion (cf. Psalms 7:2; Psalms 17:12; Hosea 5:14; see Special Topic: Lions in the OT). There is a painful consequence to rebellion and continuing unbelief! Justice is not without consequence!

“there will be none to deliver” If God is against us, who can help us?! He and He alone can deliver. This same concept is expressed positively in Romans 8:31-39.

Psalms 50:23b This is an ambiguous line of poetry. Literally it is “set a way.” The verb (BDB 962, KB 1321) has a wide semantical field. Most English translations take it as referring to a godly, covenant, obedient lifestyle. It is surely possible that it refers to an appropriate sacrifice!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How would you entitle this Psalm?

2. What two types of covenant people are discussed? (Psalms 50:7-15, Psalms 50:16-21)

3. Who is on trial?

4. Is sacrifice wrong?

5. What does it mean, “God kept silent?” Why does God keep silent? (Psalms 50:21)

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 50". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-50.html. 2021.
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