Friday, April 6, 2012

Divine Judgment on Unrighteous Judges

[To the chief Musician, Altas'chith, Michtam of David]

1 Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men?

2 Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.

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

4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;

5 Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.

6 Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD.

7 Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces.

8 As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.

9 Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.

10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

11 So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.

—Psalm 58 KJV Bible

This is a psalm of David. In the song, David accuses unrighteous judges and calls for their swift destruction so the righteous can rejoice in God’s justice. While it is not certain who David is describing, it has been suggested that these individuals were the judges and counselors of King Saul who met to consult in what Saul should do regarding David.

This is one of the imprecatory psalms. An imprecation is the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil. The imprecatory psalms contain an invocation of judgment, calamity, or curse against one's enemies who are viewed as enemies of God. The Major Imprecatory Psalms include psalms 69 and 109. Others are psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139 (some include in this list psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 83, and 143). It is thought that the purposes of these imprecations are, depending on the psalm, to do one or more of the following: (1) to demonstrate God's just and righteous judgment toward the wicked, (2) to show the authority of God over the wicked, (3) to lead the wicked to seek the Lord, or (4) to cause the righteous to praise God. In the New Testament, Jesus quoted from them in John 15:25 (Psalms 35 and 69), the Apostle John references Psalm 69 in John 2:17, and the Apostle Paul quoted from Psalm 69 in his Letter to the Romans (Romans 11:9-10; Romans 15:3).

The psalm superscription says that it is to be set to " Altas'chith"—Hebrew, meaning “do not destroy.” It is thought to be the title of a melody to which the psalm was to be performed. The reference appears in Psalms 57, 58, 59 and 75.

The psalm superscription states it is a “Mikhtam.” The Hebrew meaning is uncertain. It is apparently derived from a verb meaning "to cover," and may indicate that the psalm deals with protection (covering) from one's enemies or that the psalm is to be recited silently—for example, with lips covering the mouth. This word is used in the superscriptions of Psalms 16 and 56 through 60.

In verses 1 through 5, David is accusing unrighteous judges. In verse 1, David describes the judges using the Hebrew “elem,” literally meaning “congregation,” but also translated as “rulers,” and “gods.” David is mocking this group of individuals that sit in power and judge others by one standard while living their own lives by another. David then calls these judges “sons of men” to remind them that they are just men and must themselves answer to a higher Judge. In verses 3 through 5, David reminds the judges that “from the womb” we all are sinful and unrighteous. Because of this, mankind by nature is lying, poisonous, and may be deaf to all appeals for reason or mercy, like a snake who will not obey its snake charmer.

In verses 6 through 9, David asks for the swift destruction of these judges. David does not pull any punches in his request, asking that the mighty judges be stripped of their power, that they melt away like a snail in the hot sun, and that they might even be as a child that was never born—no one would even recall that they had been. In verse 9, David compares the judges to firewood that God sweeps away. God will not even bother to separate the good burning dead wood from the green wood. All will be destroyed.

In verses 10 and 11, David explains that once the unrighteous judges are gone, the righteous will be able to rejoice in God’s justice. The righteous will take the destruction of the judges as an earthly reminder that God blesses the righteous and condemns the wicked.

Father, I pray for those whom You have appointed as judges over myself and other. I ask that they recognize the great significance and responsibility of their roles and that they seek You for guidance in every decision.


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