Psalm 58:1-11

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Michtam of David.

1 Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones?
Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men?

2 No, in heart you work wickedness;
You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth.

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb;
They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.

4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent;
They are like the deaf cobra that stops its ear,

5 Which will not heed the voice of charmers,
Charming ever so skillfully.

6 Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!
Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!

7 Let them flow away as waters which run continually;
When he bends his bow,
Let his arrows be as if cut in pieces.

8 Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes,
Like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun.

9 Before your pots can feel the burning thorns,
He shall take them away as with a whirlwind,
As in His living and burning wrath.

10 The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,

11 So that men will say,
“Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely He is God who judges in the earth.”

The psalm is against wicked rulers. It has been suggested that it was written on account of Abner and the rest of Saul’s princes, who judged David as a rebel and outlaw, and urged Saul to pursue him. — Meyer, page 72

The whole psalm will be misunderstood save as we carefully note its opening questions. The reason of the judgment is not personal wrong. It is rather the failure of the rulers to administer justice. They are silent when they should speak. Their judgments are not upright. Evil in heart, the lie in word, and poison like serpents, and no charming wins them. — Morgan, page 105.

you silent ones (v.1) = lit. “sheaf, aggregate of stalks.” The sense of David’s opening words (a rhetorical question) is thus: “Do you indeed speak righteousness, O throng (i.e., throng of people generally, parallel to “sons of men” in the next line)? — Wechsler, page 159

weigh out the violence (v.2) — Weighing is symbolic of justice, but these unrighteous judges weighed out violence instead.

estranged from the womb (v.3) — We are born with the fallen nature of Adam. (Psalm 51:5)

like the deaf cobra that stops its ear (v.4) — In the case of David’s persecutors, it was not so much their inability as their unwillingness to hear. Saul’s conscience was not dead, for he was on more than one occasion touched by David’s appeals (1 Samuel 19:6; 24:17-21; 26:21, 25). But he resisted the prompting of his better self. — Meyer, page 73

not heed the voice of charmers (v.5) — Jeremiah 8:17: “For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,” says the Lord.”

Break their teeth (v.6) — continuing the imagery from v.4, in which the wicked are described as having “venom like the venom of a serpent”; hence, just as a serpent’s ability to cause harm would be removed by shattering (i.e., removing) its teeth, so too is David imploring that God “shatter” the ability of the wicked to cause harm. — Wechsler, page 159

waters which run continually (v.7) — Water when conserved is powerful; when dispersed it is powerless. — Williams, page 345

snail (v.8) — A snail’s trail remains for a time marked by the slime which melts from its body, but the snail itself so effectually disappears that it cannot be found. — Williams, page 345

The righteous shall rejoice (v.10) — The response to God’s justice when it becomes manifest is that the righteous will rejoice—not that the wicked have been destroyed per se (for God takes no delight—and so neither should His people—in the death of the wicked; Ezekiel 18:23, 32), but rather that God Himself has been vindicated. Even more—the sovereignty of God upon all the earth will be manifest—hearkening to the earlier words of David in 1 Samuel 17:46 and grounded in the words of God Himself in His greatest of all promises to Abraham: “and in you all families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). — Wechsler, page160.

Williams’ take:

Israel being an earthly people to whom the government of the world will be committed, and who will be responsible to God therefor, has been, and will be, hated by the nations, and the predicted Divine way of delivering her from their oppression will be by their destruction. Hence her deliverance and their judgment will synchronize. She will, therefore, with spiritual intelligence, desire and pray for their punishment. These desires and petitions are voiced for her in the psalms by her Great High Priest.

But what will be proper to Israel in the coming day of the Lord as an earthly people with earthly promises, is not proper to the Church of God in the present day of grace. Her position and promises are heavenly. She is not to be delivered by the destruction of her persecutors, but by her being raptured to heaven from out of their midst; and the same Holy Spirit that will instruct Israel to pray for the destruction of her enemies, teaches the Church to bless them and to seek to save them. Thus the Church and Israel belong to two differing Divine economies. Confounding these leads to the confusion of thought and the misinterpretation of Scripture. This psalm belongs to the day described in Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19 when Messiah will come in the glory of His mighty angels to execute vengeance upon the oppressors of His people (vs. 9-11). — Williams, page 345.

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