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God’s Word for You

Psalm 52:1-2 An evil man

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 1, 2022

52 For the director of music.
    A maskil of David.

When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: “David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.”

In the Hebrew text, headings like this have always been included; they are part of the original text written by David. This is a remarkable example because it actually is counted as two verses in Hebrew, so although this Psalm has just 9 verses in our English way of numbering, there are 11 verses in Hebrew, and yet the text is the same.

A maskil is a song meant for teaching or meditation. There are thirteen of these in the Scriptures. This Psalm teaches the same lesson as Psalm 1 and the First Commandment.

David recalls an incident with a man named Doeg (this word is pronounced as we would say “dough-egg”). This man was King Saul’s chief shepherd, and he shared his master’s hatred of David. Perhaps in his own petty way he felt just as threatened as Saul did by David; Doeg fearing for his paycheck as chief shepherd and Saul (seeing a little more clearly and a little farther ahead) fearing for his crown, his throne, and even his head.

Outside of this Psalm, Doeg is mentioned just five other times in four verses of the Bible, all in 1 Samuel 21 and 22.

  • Doeg was there at the tabernacle when David received the holy bread for his men and took the sword of Goliath as a weapon for himself (1 Samuel 21:7). There Doeg is described as “detained before the Lord,” either because he had become ceremonially unclean due to blood, sex or leprosy, or else he was attempting to become an Israelite and had to receive instruction.
  • Doeg reported to Saul that David had been helped by the priests at the tabernacle, which at that time was at the village of Nob (1 Samuel 22:9-10).
  • Doeg was ordered to kill the priests (1 Samuel 22:18a)
  • Doeg did indeed go, and he killed the 85 priests serving at Nob at the tabernacle and killed their families living in the village. Abiathar, the son of the high priest, escaped (1 Samuel 22:18b).
  • David lamented what happened and took responsibility for it, because he had seen Doeg there and feared what would happen. David invited Abiathar to remain with him and his men for protection (1 Samuel 22:22-23).

Did Doeg see his act as a triumph? Did Saul? Since Doeg had actually been present, “detained,” at the shrine, doesn’t that mean that he rejected and murdered the very men who were instructing him in the word of God? This sets the stage for David’s Psalm:

  Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?
  Why do you boast all day long,
  you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?

What a contrast between these two men, the author and subject of this Psalm. David was a shepherd who became a mighty warrior and a true hero; Doeg was a shepherd who became a murderer and was a villain. David was the true servant of King Saul, never daring to raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Doeg said nothing to object but ran eagerly to obey his master’s wicked command to murder the Lord’s anointed.

David is using more than irony here. His words sting with sarcasm. Doeg, do you think you’re a hero? Do you brag about what you’ve done, murdering the high priest of God, Aaron’s descendant, the son of Levi who wore the white linen ephod and made the morning and evening sacrifices, praying to God for the sake of Israel? His blood is on your sword, on your hands, on your clothes mixed together with all the excrement of your master’s sheep, Doeg. You are a disgrace to God.

2 Your tongue plots destruction;
  it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. (NIV)

Those who read this Psalm want to rush to verses 8 and 9, where this criticism and judgment of the wicked comes to an end and there is a little taste of God’s grace for the faithful and a promise to live an obedient life. But these verses that come before are a vital part of the word of God. How can we truly taste the sweetness of the gospel if we have not known the bitterness of the law?

David also said, “The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3). And in the Proverbs we are told: “A man tormented by the guilt of murder will be a fugitive till death; let no one support him” (Proverbs 28:17). What was Doeg thinking he would do, with all the sons of Levi after him for revenge of their high priest, the head of their holy family? What other men murdered priests as they served their altars? Cain’s name comes quickly to my mind. Surely even Doeg the surly Edomite had heard of Cain. Even Doeg the Edomite hireling should have known that to slaughter the men who served at the altar of the Lord in the Lord’s own tabernacle would be an outrage in Israel. What would an Edomite have done if Saul had ordered David to slaughter the priests of Chemosh as they served at their altars in the desert of Zin?

Doeg didn’t think about this when he spilled his gossip out at Saul’s feet or spilled the blood of the Lord’s priests at Nob. But David would remember. He would strike down eighteen thousand Edomite men in the Valley of Salt (2 Samuel 8:13-14), and he occupied Edom; their women and children became his servants. David struck at Edom because they were Israel’s enemies and they had attacked his nation, not because of the slaughter at Nob.

David says that Saul’s servant has a tongue like a “sharpened razor.” This is the Bible’s term for the most destructive men, like the Assyrians (Isaiah 7:20), and with similar words, the Babylonians (Jeremiah 11:19, 36:29). This is because the words of the wicked are Satan’s weapons to destroy faith through false doctrine, preaching that leads people away from Christ and ever closer to the devil and his bride, the sinful world. He hacks and slashes at the word of God, hating it and everything in it. For this reason we want to hold the word, grasp it, clutch it, and never let go of it. The devil will hurl his Doegs our way because he wants to kill us and all who love the Lord Jesus. Let him be caught in his own net, hoist on his own petard. No matter how the devil tries to burn the Scriptures in his little stove, it will be he who is burned, based on those same eternal scriptures (Isaiah 66:24). The same word of God is rescue and relief for all of us who have faith in Christ. Meditate on his word every day, always.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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