The Psalms of David

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The Story of Psalm 53

Psalm 53 is nearly the same as Psalm 14. There are two differences:

   ·   You will find the word *LORD 4 times in Psalm 14 and the word God 3 times. In Psalm 53, the word *LORD is nowhere, but God appears 7 times.

   ·   Verse 5 in Psalm 53 is not the same as in Psalm 14.

Why are there these differences?

There is an English hymn (or Christian song) that starts "Eternal Father, strong to save". It is a hymn that asks God to give help to sailors. W. Whiting wrote it in 1860. There were no planes in 1860. Since people have travelled by plane, we have needed a new hymn. So, someone has written "Eternal Father, strong to save" again. This time it asks God to give help to airmen. We describe the hymn as "rewritten" (or "somebody wrote it again".) This happened to Psalm 14.

In Psalm 14, David wrote about Moses bringing the Israelites through the Red Sea. God had saved them from Egypt. But now, nearly 300 years after David died, God saved them again. This time he saved them from Assyria. So, Psalm 14 was "rewritten". It became Psalm 53. It was still David’s psalm, but they had to make two changes:

1) They put the name God instead of *LORD. Perhaps this was because they wanted everyone to know that he was God of the whole world. *LORD is a name that only God’s people use.

2) They changed verses 5 and 6 in psalm 14 to verse 5 in Psalm 53. This says that God threw away the bones of the people that attacked Judah. Those people were the Assyrians.

What Psalm 53 means

Verse 1: There are two groups of fools:

   ·   those that make us laugh

   ·   those that are stupid.

This psalm is about the second group. "Thinks", in Hebrew is "says in his *heart". The Jews believed that you thought with your *heart. But you also feel in your *heart. It makes you do things good or bad.

Verse 2: "The people on earth" in Hebrew is "sons of men". This probably means not the people, but the leaders of the enemies of God. But they make the people do what they want them to do. In this verse, we find the Hebrew word "*maskil". We translate this "teaching psalm" when it is at the top of a psalm (*like this one). Here we say that it means "understands". In other words, people have learned something!

Verse 4: "Eat my people as they eat bread" means that bad men kill God’s people. They do it as easily as they eat a meal. They do not feel that they have done something that is bad.

Verse 5: This is about the way that God’s *angel killed 185 000 Assyrian soldiers. The story is in 2 Kings 19 and Isaiah 37. The Assyrians were winning the war. So they went to sleep one night and they were not afraid. In the morning, when they awoke, 185 000 of them were dead! Then the others that did not die "were afraid, very much afraid". They went home to Assyria and Jerusalem was free!

Verse 6: So, Jacob sang and Israel danced! Jacob and Israel are names for God’s people.

*LORD and God

Psalm 25 explains these names. But there is more. Think about these facts:


Book 1 (Psalms 1-41)

Book 2 (Psalms 42-72)

God (elohim)

49 times

189 times

LORD (yahweh)

275 times

26 times

Books 1 and 2 of the Psalms came from different places and times. We call Book 2 Elohistic because it usually uses the word God (elohim) and not *LORD. Book 1 is Yahwehistic because it usually uses *LORD (yahweh) and not God.

Why is this important? There are two possible reasons:

   ·   They used Elohim (God) because they began to see (understand) that he was God of everybody. The *LORD was only God of the Jews.

   ·   They used Elohim in *Exile because they did not want to use the name Yahweh in a foreign land.

Both of these reasons make us think that they wrote Book 1 of the Psalms (1-41) before Book 2 (42-72).

Something to do

1.    Read the story of the way the *Angel of the *Lord killed 185 000 Assyrians in one night. You will find it in 2 Kings 19 and Isaiah 37.

2.    The fool in Psalm 14 is one of God’s people. Who is he in Psalm 53? (The answer is in verse 5.)

Snakes in the Grass

Psalm 54

Jesus said, "You children of snakes, you are *evil. How can you say anything that is good?" (Matthew 12:34)

Psalm 54

        (This is) for the music leader.
   (He must use) *musical instruments.
   (It is) a *maskil for David.
   (It was) when the men that lived in Ziph went to Saul.
   They told him, "David is hiding with us".

v1      God, give me help because of your name.
     Use your power to make me safe.

v2      God, hear my *prayer and listen to what I am saying.

v3      Because my enemies are fighting against me
     and *cruel people are trying to kill me.
     They do not think about God.   *SELAH

v4      But God, listen and give me help!
     *Lord, it is you that keeps me alive!

v5      Send back this *evil to my enemies.
     Because you (love what) is true, destroy them.

v6      I want to *sacrifice to you because I am free to do it.
     I want to *praise your name, *LORD, because it is good.

v7      (Your name) saved me from all my trouble.
     When I looked at my enemies I saw (that I had won the battle).

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