To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of David when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, “David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.”
1 Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man?
The goodness of God endures continually.
2 Your tongue devises destruction,
Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
3 You love evil more than good,
Lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah
4 You love all devouring words,
You deceitful tongue.
5 God shall likewise destroy you forever;
He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place,
And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
6 The righteous also shall see and fear,
And shall laugh at him, saying,
7 “Here is the man who did not make God his strength,
But trusted in the abundance of his riches,
And strengthened himself in his wickedness.”
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
9 I will praise You forever,
Because You have done it;
And in the presence of Your saints
I will wait on Your name, for it is good.
This is one of eight psalms which are associated by their titles with David’s experiences as an exile from Saul. The others are Psalm 7 (concerning Cush); Psalm 59 (Saul seeks to kill David); Psalm 34 (David at the court of Abimelech); Psalm 57 (he flees to the cave of Adullam); Psalm 142 (a prayer in the cave); Psalm 54 (David is almost betrayed by the people of Ziph). Psalm 52 is one of the earlier poems. It relates to David’s flight to the tabernacle at Nob. The help given him by Ahimelich the priest was reported to Saul (1 Samuel 21:1-9; 22:9-23). This psalm is an expression of David’s righteous indignation at Doeg’s betrayal. — Guthrie, page 484.
a contemplation (introduction) — Considering the etymology of this term (conveying the basic notion of “imparting or expressing wisdom”) as well as it’s usage in the Psalms (14:2; 53:2; 41:1) and elsewhere (e.g., Proverbs 10:19; 16:20; 17:2; 21:12), it may be reasonably deduced that a maskil is a type of psalm focusing specifically on instruction in practical wisdom, based on the revelation and unchanging character of God. — Wechsler, page 97
[This psalm is a] “theodicy,” which concerns the “vindication” of God’s justice in the face of what would seem to be His allowance and, on occasion, even enacting of injustice (see Romans 9:14-29). In this case the seeming injustice in view is, according to the heading, that which resulted when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul … “David has come to the house of Abimelech” (see 1 Samuel 22:9, 22) — the injustice being (1) God allowing Doeg to communicate David’s whereabouts, thereby placing him in greater danger and distress, and (2) the resultant massacre of the priests at Nob (also at the hand of Doeg) when they admitted to harboring David, who had by then left. (See 1 Samuel 22:18-19; that Saul turned to Doeg — an unconverted Gentile — when none of his other soldiers were willing to kill the priests, underscores the resultant folly [caused by] God withdrawing from him the empowerment/ability to lead effectively. [See note on Psalm 51:11] — Wechsler, page 148.
O mighty man (v.1) — David is using this term ironically, referring to Doeg’s opinion of himself
Lying rather than speaking righteousness (v.3) — The word “lying” here can also mean “deception” or “treachery.” Technically, what Doeg reported about David was true. David is referring, rather, to his intent (v.4 speaks to this) and the fact that he meant both David and Abimelech evil. He certainly wasn’t speaking righteousness. While lying is never justified in Scripture, saying nothing can sometimes be the proper course.
Eternal separation from God, which is unquestionably the essence of the final torment of the wicked is signaled by David’s assertion that God “will snatch you up, and tear you away from the tent” (v.5). Though some translations insert the pronoun “your” (which is not on the Hebrew text) before “tent” here, it is much more likely that David is referring here to “His (i.e., God’s) tent,” since (1) it is not in fact true that God always “tears away” the wicked from their “tent” (Hebrew ohel, which can only refer to a physical structure), though He will, ultimately, tear down their “house” (i.e., Temple; Hebrew bayit; see v.8 and Psalm 27:4). — Wechsler, pages 149-150.
fear (v.6) = awe, fear of God, which indicates worship and honor and respect
green olive tree (v.8) — a figure of prosperity and longevity
Just as God’s justice is ultimately vindicated by the eternal separation of the wicked from His presence, so too is it vindicated by the commensurate establishment (v.8: “like an olive tree”) of the righteous in His presence — i.e., in the house of God (referring to the “tabernacle” of the New Creation), where David will rest in God’s lovingkindness forever, and praise (or “thank”) Him forever in the company of His godly ones (i.e., the righteous, like him). — Wechsler, page 150.
Williams, as always, takes a Messianic approach:
Doeg hated David and desired his destruction. He falsely accused the High Priest and his family, who were true to David, and at Saul’s command, willingly slaughtered them. he is therefore a type of Anti-Christ, and David a type of Christ.
The last verse contrasts with the first: Anti-Christ boasts of himself; Messiah praises God. Anti-Christ acclaims the success of his malignity; Messiah points to God’s judgment upon it. Anti-Christ abuses the goodness of God; Messiah rejoices in it. — Williams, pages 340-341.