Background of Psalm 52

The background of this Psalm (in the inscription) is found in 1 Samuel 22

  • David was running for his life because of Saul’s jealousy and desire to kill him.  When Doeg told Saul that Ahimelech (a priest) had given David bread and a sword, Saul was furious.
  • Upon calling Ahimelech and his sons to himself, Saul questioned him but Ahimelech responded with 1 Samuel 22:14-15: “Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? 15 Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.”  
  • Saul didn’t care.  His jealousy had driven him mad.  He ordered his guards to kill the priest Ahimelech and his family but they wouldn’t do it. 
  • Saul commanded Doeg, the betrayer, to do it and he killed Ahimelech, and his sons.  1 Samuel 22:18 tells us “85 men who wore the linen ephod”—that is, the Lord’s priests were killed. 
  • Additionally, Doeg went to the town of Nob where these priests had ministered and killed the men, women, children, infants, cattle, donkeys, and sheep.
  • 1 Samuel 22:20-23 records the epilogue.  20 But Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, escaped and fled to join David. 21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 Then David said to Abiathar: “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family. 23 Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.”

This is the backdrop for David’s composition we know as Psalm 52.

Psalm 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.”


1     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?

2     Your
tongue plots destruction;

it is like a sharpened razor,

you who practice deceit.

3     You
love evil rather than good,

falsehood rather than speaking the truth.        Selah


4     You
love every harmful word,

O you deceitful tongue!

5     Surely
God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:

He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent;

he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah


6     The
righteous will see and fear;

they will laugh at him, saying,

7     “Here
now is the man

who did not make God his stronghold

but trusted in his great wealth

and grew strong by destroying others!”

8     But
I am like an olive tree

flourishing in the house of God;

I trust in God’s unfailing love

for ever and ever.

9     I
will praise you forever for what you have done;

in your name I will hope, for your name is good.

I will praise you in the presence of your saints.


David warns us of…

The Arrogance of Sin (verses 1-4)

There are two sins we notice in these four verses.  First, is…

  • The sin of pride
    (verse 1)
    • Doeg and Saul thought
      they were “big shots”.  They thought they
      were in control.  Saul thought he could
      kill David and be done with the whole matter and yet it was his pride that was
      his undoing.
    • Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before
      destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
    • They sinned against
      God with their pride.
    • But we also see the
      sin of presumption.
  • Second is the sin of presumption
    (verses 2-4)
    • These wicked men
      planned evil schemes and talked a big game. 
      They planned for David’s destruction and plotted with others to help
      secure this.
    • But this was against
      God.  By setting themselves against God’s
      anointed one, David, they were setting themselves against God Himself.

Do you boast in yourself or in your plans or do you heed to
advice of the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 9:24:
“but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord,
who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I
delight,” declares the Lord.”

Not only do we see
the arrogance of sin, we also see the…

The Assurance of God’s Judgment (verses 5-7)

Sin has its
consequences and David is claiming that promise against those who pridefully
stood against the Lord.

  • The wages of sin is death
    (verse 5). 
    • Never forget
    • Sin results in death and apart
      from the work of Jesus Christ, we know of no way to escape the penalty of sin.
  • Verses 6-7 teach us
    the righteous will be vindicated.

Hold on, your
deliverance is coming, my brother and sister. 
God has not forgotten you.

 Lastly, we see David
reminding us to have…

The Attitude of Praise (verses 8-9)

  • Be planted in
    the Lord (verse 8)
    • Like the olive tree
      (always a symbol for purity), we as New Testament believers truly can flourish
      “in the house of God”. 
    • Therefore, trust the
      heart of God for how long?  Forever and ever!
  • Be peaceful in
    the Lord (verse 9)
    • We can be at peace
      because our deliverance and hope
      come from the Lord. 
    • We can be at peace
      because we know the Lord’s forgiveness of our sins and are promised eternal
    • His name is good—His
      word is absolute and sure!

This is truly reason
to praise the Lord “in the presence of” His saints.

When you face
circumstances that feel overwhelming, go back and read Psalm 52 and maintain
your “uplook”!