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The sentiments of atheists and deists, who deny Divine Providence; their character: they are corrupt, foolish, abominable, and cruel, Psalm 53:1-4; God fills them with terror, Psalm 53:5; reproaches these for their oppression of the poor, Psalm 53:5. The psalmist prays for the restoration of Israel, Psalm 53:6.
The title, To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, an instructive Psalm of David. The word מחלת (machalath), some translate the president; others, the master or leader of the dance; others, hollow instruments; others, the chorus. A flute pipe, or wind instrument with holes, appears to be what is intended. “To the chief player on the flute;” or, “To the master of the band of pipers.”
The fool hath said in his heart - The whole of this Psalm, except a few inconsiderable differences, is the same as the fourteenth; and, therefore, the same notes and analysis may be applied to it; or, by referring to the fourteenth, the reader will find the subject of it amply explained. I shall add a few short notes.
Have done abominable iniquity - Instead of עול (avel), evil or iniquity, eight of Kennicott‘s and De Rossi‘s MSS. have עלילה (alilah), work, which is nearly the same as in Psa xiv.
Have the workers of iniquity - For פעלי, (poaley), workers seventy-two of Kennicott‘s and De Rossi‘s MSS., with several ancient editions, the Chaldee, though not noticed in the Latin translation in the London Polyglot, the Syriac, Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and the Arabic, with the Anglo-Saxon, add the word כל (col), all, - All the workers of iniquity; which is the reading in the parallel place in Psalm 14:1-7: It may be necessary to observe, that the Chaldee, in the Antwerp and Paris Polyglots, and in that of Justinianus, has not the word כל col, All.
Have not Called upon God - אלהים (Elohim); but many MSS. have יהוה (Jehovah), Lord.
For God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them - The reader will see, on comparing this with the fifth and sixth verses of Psalm 14:1-7, that the words above are mostly added here to what is said there; and appear to be levelled against the Babylonians, who sacked and ruined Jerusalem, and who were now sacked and ruined in their turn. The sixth verse of Psalm 14:1-7, “Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge,” is added here by more than twenty of Kennicott‘s and De Rossi‘s MSS.
O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! - I have already shown that the proper translation is, “Who shall give from Zion salvation to Israel?” The word salvation is in the plural here, deliverances: but many MSS., with the Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon, have it in the singular.
When God brinyeth back - When Jehovah bringeth back, is the reading of more than twenty of Kennicott‘s and De Rossi‘s MSS., with the Septuagint, Syriac, and Chaldee, and Justinianus‘ Polyglot Psalter.
For larger notes and an analysis, the reader is requested to refer to Psalm 14:1-7; and for a comparison of the two Psalms he may consult Dr. Kennicott‘s Hebrew Bible, where, under Psalm 14:1-7, in the lower margin, the variations are exhibited at one view.