Why boast you yourself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endures continually.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Mighty man.—Better, hero, used sarcastically. LXX. and Vulg., “a mighty one at mischief.” (Comp. Isaiah 5:22 : “a hero at drinking.”) The order of the Hebrew is, however, against this, and in favour of the English, why dost thou exult in wickedness, O hero, i.e., perhaps, not only his own, but in the wickedness the people are led into by his means. This seems necessitated by the next clause. In spite of man’s folly and sin, God’s covenant favour endures all the day long.Psalm 52:1. Why boastest thou thyself &c. — As if thou hadst done a great exploit, which none else durst undertake; and thereby established the crown upon Saul’s head, and thyself in his favour; and frustrated all David’s designs, by striking a terror into all his friends, by this sad example; O mighty man? — He speaks ironically. O valiant captain! O glorious action! To kill a few weak and unarmed persons in the king’s presence, and under the protection of his guards. Surely thy name will be famous to all ages for such heroical courage! It seems probable that Doeg, after he had massacred the priests, boasted of his loyalty to Saul, and of 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 on account of it; and that this is the reason why the Psalm begins in thus expressing a kind of contempt of Doeg. See Dodd. The goodness of God endureth continually — Know, vain man, that 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; and, surely, that same goodness, together with his forbearance and long-suffering, is wonderfully displayed in sparing thee, amidst thy complicated crimes, who art continually doing evil; while he is continually doing good.
O mighty man - DeWette and Luther render this, "tyrant." The original word would be properly applied to one of rank or distinction; a man of "power" - power derived either from office, from talent, or from wealth. It is a word which is often applied to a hero or warrior: Isaiah 3:2; Ezekiel 39:20; 2 Samuel 17:10; Psalm 33:16; Psalm 120:4; Psalm 127:4; Daniel 11:3; Genesis 6:4; Jeremiah 51:30. So far as the "word" is concerned, it might be applied either to Saul or to any other warrior or man of rank; and Professor Alexander supposes that it refers to Saul himself. The connection, however, seems to require us to understand it of Doeg, and not of Saul, This appears to be clear
(a) from the general character here given to the person referred to, a character not particularly applicable to Saul, but applicable to an informer like Doeg Psalm 52:2-4; and
(b) from the fact that he derived his power, not from his rank and office, as Saul did, but mainly from his wealth Psalm 52:7. This would seem to imply that some other was referred to than Saul.
The goodness of God endureth continually - literally, "all the day." That is, the wicked man could not hope to prevent the exercise of the divine goodness toward him whom he persecuted, and whom he sought to injure. David means to say that the goodness of God was so great and so constant, that he would protect his true friends from such machinations; or that it, was so unceasing and watchful, that the informer and accuser could not hope to find an interval of time when God would intermit his care, and when, therefore, he might hope for success. Against the goodness of God, the devices of a wicked man to injure the righteous could not ultimately prevail.
Ps 52:1-9. Compare 1Sa 21:1-10; 22:1-10, for the history of the title. Ps 52:1 gives the theme; the boast of the wicked over the righteous is vain, for God constantly cares for His people. This is expanded by describing the malice and deceit, and then the ruin, of the wicked, and the happy state of the pious.
2 Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.
"Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man?" Doeg had small matter for boasting in having procured the slaughter of a band of defenceless priests. A mighty man indeed to kill men who never touched a sword! He ought to have been ashamed of his cowardice. He had no room for exultation! Honourable titles are but irony where the wearer is mean and cruel. If David alluded to Saul, he meant by these words pityingly to say, "How can one by nature fitted for nobler deeds, descend to so low a level as to find a theme for boasting in a slaughter so heartless and mischievous?" "The goodness of God endureth continually." A beautiful contrast. The tyrant's fury cannot dry up the perennial stream of divine mercy. If priests be slain their Master lives. If Doeg for awhile triumphs the Lord will outlive him, and right the wrongs which he has done. This ought to modify the proud exultations of the wicked, for after all, while the Lord liveth, iniquity has little cause to exalt itself.
"Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs." Thou speakest with an ulterior design. The information given was for Saul's assistance apparently, but in very deed in his heart the Edomite hated the priests of the God of Jacob. It is a mark of deep depravity, when the evil spoken is craftily intended to promote a yet greater evil. "Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully." David represents the false tongue as being effectual for mischief, like a razor which, unawares to the person operated on, is making him bald; so softly and deftly do Oriental barbers perform their work. Or he may mean that as with a razor a man's throat may be cut very speedily, under the pretence of shaving him, even thus keenly, basely, but effectually Doeg destroyed the band of the priests. Whetted by malice, and guided by craft, he did his cruel work with accursed thoroughness.
"Thou lovest evil more than good." He loved not good at all. If both had been equally profitable and pleasant, he would have preferred evil. "And lying rather than to speak righteousness." He was more at home at lying than at truth. He spake not the truth except by accident, but he delighted heartily in falsehood. "Selah." Let us pause and look at the proud, blustering liar. Doeg is gone, but other dogs bark at the Lord's people. Saul's cattle-master is buried, but the devil still has his drovers, who fain would hurry the saints like sheep to the slaughter. Doeg the Edomite; so called, either,
O mighty man! referring either to his office, being the chief of Saul's herdmen, and set over his servants, 1 Samuel 21:7; or ironically, to the mighty deed he had done, in slaying the unarmed priests, and putting to death the very sucklings at the breast, and even the innocent sheep, oxen, and asses; or to his great wickedness and power to commit it; though man has no power and free will to that which is good, yet he has to that which is evil; so the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and the eastern versions render it, "O thou! mighty in wickedness"; and to the same purpose the Targum paraphrases it, "mighty to shed innocent blood"; and the note of Aben Ezra is, "mighty to do evil". A learned writer (x) thinks this relates to Saul, and describes him as a man of power and dignity. The character well agrees with the little horn and Romish beast, Daniel 7:20;
the goodness of God endureth continually: that is, the love, grace, and mercy of God; this is observed as what is the matter of the saints' boasting, in opposition to the wicked boasting of Doeg; they glory in the love of God, and in that they know him who exerciseth lovingkindness, which is the source of all the blessings of grace and goodness; and in Christ, through whom all are communicated to them; and in him, as made every blessing to them, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: they ascribe the whole of their salvation, and all they have, to the grace of God, and glory in nothing as of themselves, and as though not received of the Lord. Moreover, the psalmist may take notice of this, as what was his support under all the persecutions he endured from men; that he had an interest in the grace and goodness of God, which is immutable and everlasting, invariably the same in all states and conditions; and that he was encompassed about with the favour of God as with a shield; and that it was not in the power of his most implacable enemies to separate him from the love of God; and therefore it was egregious folly in Doeg to boast himself in mischief; for, be he as mighty as he might, he could not prevent his sharing in the divine goodness, which always continues.<
(a) O Doeg, who half consider to be the tyrant Saul, and had the power to murder the saints of God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. This verse states the theme of the Psalm; the contrast between man’s wrongdoing and God’s lovingkindness. The two halves of the verse correspond to the two divisions of the Psalm. The statement of the second line is abruptly introduced, but it is virtually the answer to the question of the first. What avails it thee to boast of successful evil-doing (Psalm 10:3)? it is vain: the lovingkindness of God (endureth) all the day; that covenant love in which the Psalmist trusts (Psalm 52:8), and of which all His ‘saints’ (Psalm 52:9) are the object.
O mighty man] Perhaps simply, as P.B.V., thou tyrant, for power soon degenerates into tyranny: but rather perhaps with sarcastic irony, thou hero! Cp. Isaiah 5:22; Jeremiah 9:3.
God] El, ‘the strong one’ (cp. Psalm 50:1), is significantly used here. The braggart tyrant thinks himself strong, but there is a stronger than he, who will call him to account.
1–5. Denunciation of the evil-doer and prediction of his fate.Verse 1. - Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? Doeg was "the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul" (1 Samuel 21:7), or, according to another passage (1 Samuel 22:9), "set over the servants of Saul." The position would be a high one, and would imply the possession of much physical strength. A sense of tyranny or extreme arrogance seems to attach to the word translated "mighty one" (gibber); see Genesis 6:4; Genesis 10:8. The word translated "mischief" implies something worse. In Psalm 6:9 it is rendered "wickedness," and is thought to mean, in the Psalms generally, "ruinous, unfathomable evil - destructive malignity" (Canon Cook). The goodness of God endureth continually. Why not follow the Divine pattern, instead of setting thyself in direct antagonism to it? Canst thou expect to prosper when thou art thus opposed to the Almighty? Psalm 9:13; Psalm 106:38, and frequently). We have also met with הצּיל construed with מן of the sin in Psalm 39:9. He had given Uriah over to death in order to possess himself of Bathsheba. And the accusation of his conscience spoke not merely of adultery, but also of murder. Nevertheless the consciousness of sin no longer smites him to the earth, Mercy has lifted him up; he prays only that she would complete her work in him, then shall his tongue exultingly praise (רנּן with an accusative of the object, as in Psalm 59:17) God's righteousness, which, in accordance with the promise, takes the sinner under its protection. But in order to perform what he vowed he would do under such circumstances, he likewise needs grace, and prays, therefore, for a joyous opening of his mouth. In sacrifices God delighteth not (Psalm 40:7, cf. Isaiah 1:11), otherwise he would bring some (ואתּנה, darem, sc. si velles, vid., on Psalm 40:6); whole-burnt-offerings God doth not desire: the sacrifices that are well-pleasing to Him and most beloved by Him, in comparison with which the flesh and the dead work of the עולות and the זבחים (שׁלמים) is altogether worthless, are thankfulness (Psalm 50:23) out of the fulness of a penitent and lowly heart. There is here, directly at least, no reference to the spiritual antitype of the sin-offering, which is never called זבה. The inward part of a man is said to be broken and crushed when his sinful nature is broken, his ungodly self slain, his impenetrable hardness softened, his haughty vainglorying brought low, - in fine, when he is in himself become as nothing, and when God is everything to him. Of such a spirit and heart, panting after grace or favour, consist the sacrifices that are truly worthy God's acceptance and well-pleasing to Him (cf. Isaiah 57:15, where such a spirit and such a heart are called God's earthly temple).
(Note: The Talmud finds a significance in the plural זבחי. Joshua ben Levi (B. Sanhedrin 43b) says: At the time when the temple was standing, whoever brought a burnt-offering received the reward of it, and whoever brought a meat-offering, the reward of it; but the lowly was accounted by the Scriptures as one who offered every kind of sacrifice at once (כאילו הקריב כל הקרבנות כולן). In Irenaeaus, iv. 17, 2, and Clemens Alexandrinus, Paedag. iii. 12, is found to θυσία τῷ Θεῷ καρδία συντετριμμένη the addition: ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας τῷ Θεῷ καρδία δοξάζουσα τὸν πεπλακότα αὐτήν.)
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