Why Do You Boast of Evil? – Psalm 52

How should we respond when we see people do great evil? David saw evil firsthand in the actions of King Saul and Doeg the Edomite. We see David as he responds to this evil in Psalm 52.


The psalm divides into two parts: one focuses on the evil person and the other on the righteous person. The central theme is found in verse 6:

The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you Psalm 52:6

There are some other interesting compositional devices that relate directly to the content of the psalm, so I will address them in each section rather than here.


Psalm 52 begins with a long title explaining the context in which David wrote the psalm. If you go to 1 Samuel 21-22 you can read the whole story, but here is a quick summary. David while escaping from Saul goes to the priests at the village of Nob and asks for their help (although he doesn't tell them he is fleeing from King Saul.) Ahimelech the priest gives David food and the sword of Goliath. Doeg the Edomite tells Saul that the priests of the house of Ahimelech have helped David. Saul then has Doeg slaughter everyone in the village of Nob where the priests live. The bible lists only one survivor of the massacre - a son of Ahimelech named Abiathar.

The Evil Person

Psalm 52:1-5

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
    The steadfast love of God endures all the day. Psalm 52:1

The first half of the psalm focuses on the evil person. David is obviously thinking of Doeg, but we can all think of an evil person we have met or read about. The central word in this section is the word translated "lying" or "falsehood" which apply summarizes the evil person. Most of this section is dedicated to describing this person.

There are 7 attributes of an evil person listed in verses 2-4:

  1. Plot destruction
  2. Razor sharp tongue
  3. Practice deceit
  4. Love evil more than good
  5. Love falsehood rather than truth
  6. Love harmful words
  7. Love deceitful tongue

Notice that central to this list is "love evil." The evil person is not someone who sins but struggles against it. The evil person loves to do evil. They plot to do evil.

There are also 7 effects of God's judgment listed in verses 5-6:

  1. Everlasting ruin
  2. Snatched up by God
  3. Tore from tent
  4. Uprooted from land of living
  5. Righteous see
  6. Righteous fear
  7. Righteous laugh

Notice that central to this list is "uprooted from land of living." In the end, in spite of all their planning and deceit, they will be uprooted by God. This list overlaps the first section about the evil person and the second section about the righteous.

The Righteous Person

Psalm 52:6-9

When the evil person is destroyed the righteous see and rejoice in God's justice but also respond with fear or awe. God's justice should always remind us that He can be experienced as either a God of justice or a God of love. When we choose to rebel against Him then we should rightly fear his justice.

Central to this section are the words "green olive tree." The righteous will flourish just as the evil person will be uprooted. Another key contrast is related to trust. The evil person trusted in his great wealth (Psalm 52:7) but the righteous trust in God's unfailing love.

David experienced firsthand the actions of evil people. King Saul tried to kill him. Doeg slaughtered a whole village of innocent people. David's response is to trust in God's justice and love.

I trust in the steadfast love of God
    forever and ever. Psalm 52:8

God is good. We may not always see it in this world of sin, but God is still good and He will punish the evil person. Like David we need to trust fully in God's goodness, unfailing love and justice.

I will thank you forever,
    because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
    in the presence of the godly. Psalm 52:9


Continue to trust God and praise His name. In the end the righteous will be rewarded and the evil person will be punished.

Jerry Wyrick

This post is part of a series on the Psalms.

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory

Posted in General Worship, Psalms and tagged , , .