Psalm 58

Psalm 58

God Who Judges the Earth

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David.

58   Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
    Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
  No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
    your hands deal out violence on earth.
  The wicked are estranged from the womb;
    they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
  They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
    like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
  so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
    or of the cunning enchanter.
  O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
    tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
  Let them vanish like water that runs away;
    when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
  Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
    like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
  Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
    whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
  The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
    he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
  Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
    surely there is a God who judges on earth.”


Psalm 58 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Verses 1-6
We read a familiar description of those in leadership who deceive others. Consider the description. They are in a position of authority where they can judge others. Their hearts are pure evil. They speak venom and refuse to listen to anyone – even the most skilled orator. Their sins are “burning heat.” They mirror the serpent of the Earth who relentlessly deceives anyone he can.

Verses 6-9
Many of the psalms go on and on in their description of enemies. This one moves immediately into the predictive future for these false leaders. We know they will suffer defeat because we understand that God does not stand for such immorality in His Kingdom. Read the descriptions. Their lion jaws will be broken. They will vanish like the ebbing tide. They will burn like the snail in the sun. They will suffer like an untimely birth and will resemble a flame that quickly expires.

Verses 10-11
The end of the psalm flips back to the weary writer who is refreshed by the justice of God. Note the difference between human vengeance and God’s justice. We tend to take matters into our own hands in order to satisfy our desire for truth. But, this is completely different. This is the extraordinary zeal to have God’s character prevail over those who are willfully and pridefully violating God’s law.

This psalm could be labeled by some as un-Christian because of its harsh wishes and its gloating literally in the blood of the wicked. Its words are hard to hear, and its wishes certainly do not reflect an attitude of “love your enemies.” Instead, it reflects the reality of human systems that are so polluted that there is nowhere to turn for justice. The pain is so real that the least of the society wishes for the destruction and violent deaths of their oppressors.

The prayer truthfully tells what happens in a system of massive injustice when even the most patient and loving persons can express violent wishes when inhumanity and treachery are all that they see. In this psalm, the audience, if it can release its judgmental reading, can look for a moment through the eyes of persons forced to reside in such systems—to see into the wounded soul of a refugee, or a Palestinian, or any citizen who knows that the justice system is so perverted that justice will never be achieved for him.

Beth Tanner

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