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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 58


1 2 For the leader. Do not destroy. A miktam of David.


3 Do you indeed pronounce justice, O gods; do you judge mortals fairly?


No, you freely engage in crime; your hands dispense violence to the earth.


The wicked have been corrupt since birth; liars from the womb, they have gone astray.


4 Their poison is like the poison of a snake, like that of a serpent stopping its ears,


So as not to hear the voice of the charmer who casts such cunning spells.


O God, smash the teeth in their mouths; break the jaw-teeth of these lions, LORD!


Make them vanish like water flowing away; trodden down, let them wither like grass.


5 Let them dissolve like a snail that oozes away, like an untimely birth that never sees the sun.


Suddenly, like brambles or thistles, have the whirlwind snatch them away.


Then the just shall rejoice to see the vengeance and bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.


Then it will be said: "Truly there is a reward for the just; there is a God who is judge on earth!"



1 [Psalm 58] A lament expressing trust in God's power to dethrone all powers obstructing divine rule of the world. First condemned are "the gods," the powers that were popularly imagined to control human destinies ( Psalm 58:2-3), then "the wicked," the human instruments of these forces ( Psalm 58:4-6). The psalmist prays God to prevent them from harming the just ( Psalm 58:7-10). The manifestation of justice will gladden the just; they will see that their God is with them ( Psalm 58:11). The psalm is less concerned with personal vengeance than with public vindication of God's justice now.

2 [1] Do not destroy: probably the title of the melody to which the psalm was to be sung.

3 [2] Gods: the Bible sometimes understands pagan gods to be lesser divine beings who are assigned by Israel's God to rule the foreign nations. Here they are accused of injustice, permitting the human judges under their patronage to abuse the righteous. Cf Psalm 82.

4 [5-6] The image is that of a poisonous snake that is controlled by the voice or piping of its trainer.

5 [9] A snail that oozes away: empty shells suggested to ancients that snails melted away as they left a slimy trail.

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