Psalms 52 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The title prefixed to this Psalm ascribes it to David, and connects it with the occasion when Doeg informed Saul that David had been received by Ahimelech at Nob, and assisted with the means for his flight (1 Samuel 21, 22). The character denounced in the Psalm is in some respects such as we may suppose Doeg to have been. He was a man of wealth and importance as the chief of Saul’s herdmen (or, according to the LXX, the keeper of his mules). His tongue was “a deceitful tongue,” because although the facts he reported were true, he helped to confirm Saul in a false and cruel suspicion. It “devised destruction” and “loved all devouring words,” for his story was told with malicious intent and fatal result. Just sufficient appropriateness may be traced to account for the title having been prefixed by the compiler of this division of the Psalter, or for the Psalm having been connected with the story of Doeg in some historical work from which the compiler took it.
But the entire absence of any reference to the cold-blooded and sacrilegious murder of the priests at Nob, in which Doeg acted as Saul’s agent, when all his other officers shrank from executing his brutal order, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to suppose that the Psalm was really written by David on that occasion, unless we could assume that it was composed after Doeg’s information was given but before the massacre was perpetrated, which is wholly improbable.
To judge from its contents, the Psalm is a denunciation of some wealthy and powerful noble, who had been guilty of ruining innocent persons by malicious slanders or false evidence. As reference is made to his wealth ( Psa 52:7), and his wrongdoing is contrasted with the loving-kindness of God, it seems probable that he was one of those magnates so frequently denounced by the prophets, who, in defiance of their duty of lovingkindness to their neighbours, enriched themselves by impoverishing the poor, and did not scruple to ruin their victims by the use of false evidence and the subservience of venal judges. See for example, Mic 2:1 ff; Mic 3:1 ff; Mic 6:12; Mic 7:3. The Psalmist speaks as the representative of the sufferers, who will rejoice at their oppressor’s fall as a proof of God’s righteous judgement.
As to the particular occasion and date of the Psalm little can be said. The evils to which it refers were rife in the eighth century, but they had existed before and continued to exist after. A couple of parallels in Jeremiah ( Psa 52:1 ; Psa 52:8) are insufficient to establish its dependence upon that book. Its author may have been a prophet. His tone of authority and vigorous denunciation of evil in high places recall Isaiah’s denunciation of Shebna (Isa 22:15 ff), and, in a less degree, Jeremiah’s denunciation of Pashhur (Psa 20:3 ff), and Hananiah (Psa 28:5 ff). Evidently it is directed against some conspicuous individual, and is not merely a general denunciation.
The Psalm falls into two divisions.
i. The unscrupulous evil-doer is called to account; his character is described; and his fate foretold (Psa 52:1-5).
ii. With awe the righteous contemplate his fall, and rejoice over the judgement of this self-confident braggart: while the Psalmist contrasts his own security under the protection of God, and makes vows of public thanksgiving (Psa 52:6-9).
On the title, For the chief Musician, Maschil of David, see Introd. pp. xix f. It is the first of four ‘Maschil’ Psalms.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".