Psalm 53


This psalm is basically the same as Psalm 14, the difference is that the word ‘Yahweh’, that is, God, is used in this psalm, whilst the word ‘Elohim’, that is, Lord is used in Psalm 14, in reference to Deity.

Although we don’t know the historical background to this psalm, it appears to be speaking about an event which took place, when God’s enemies made an attack against God’s people, Acts 9:4. The good news is that David is confident that God will deliver His people and give them a great victory over their enemies.


‘For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this psalm of David is for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

The word, ‘mahalath’ appears to be some kind of musical term, which may be related to a Hebrew root verb meaning ‘grow weak’ or ‘fall sick’. This suggests a gloomy and sad tone. The word also appears in the heading for Psalm 88.

No one really knows what the word ‘maskil’ means, some believe it’s a musical term or a literary term. The word is used thirteen times throughout the Psalms, Psalm 32 / Psalm 42 / Psalm 44 / Psalm 45 / Psalm 52 / Psalm 53 / Psalm 54 / Psalm 55 / Psalm 74 / Psalm 78 / Psalm 88 / Psalm 89 / Psalm 142. The word is also used in Amos 5:13.

‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.’ Psalm 53:1-3

David begins by telling us that those who don’t believe in the existence of God are fools, Psalm 14:1.

We can all be foolish sometimes and have foolish thoughts, 1 Samuel 25:25 / 1 Samuel 27:1, here, however, it’s not that fools don’t know that God exists, it’s just that they are morally depraved and wished that God didn’t exist, John 3:20 / Romans 1:22.

David says these fools are corrupt and vile and they don’t do good, which is the obvious end result of anyone who denies the existence of God.

While the fool wished that God didn’t exist and try to forget about God, God looks down from heaven and can’t help but remember mankind, Psalm 14:2. God is looking for anyone who understands and anyone who is seeking Him. God knows that we need Him because our very existence is reliant upon Him, Matthew 5:45 / Acts 17:28.

When God does look down from heaven, Psalm 14:3, He sees that everyone has turned away, Genesis 11:5, and as a result, they have become corrupt and there’s no one who does good, Romans 3:10. David is telling us that mankind is truly and deeply fallen.

‘Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on God. But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!’ Psalm 53:4-6

David now turns his attention to the fate of God’s people in such a fallen world. These evildoers have no true knowledge of God, otherwise, they wouldn’t do to God’s people what they are doing, Psalm 14:4.

At first glance, it appears to David that these evildoers are really strong, that is, they devour God’s people like bread, even though they don’t call upon God.

Notice that David says, ‘there they are, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread’. David appears to have slightly modified the words of Psalm 14:5-6, to meet the present crisis and used them to encourage God’s people.

Notice also that God ‘scattered the bones’ of those who attacked God’s people, which means they had been overthrown, and their bones had been scattered on the ground. This leads some to believe that this is speaking about an event which took place when God’s enemies made an attack against God’s people, Psalm 14:1-7.

God put His enemies to shame, which was seen in them being overthrown because they despised God. It appears that God’s enemies are fools in more ways than one, first they denied the existence of God and then they try to fight against God, no wonder they are fools.

Although David was a man of great faith, he like many of us, when facing difficult times, found it difficult to see how he was going to get through this. He longs that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion, he longs that God would bring about the victory against those who were attacking His people.

Notice, however, David’s faith in God as he ends this psalm, he says, when God restores His people, David is fully confident that God will deliver His people from the hands of his enemies, Psalm 14:7 / Job 42:10 / Ezekiel 16:53.

And when God does deliver His people, then God’s people will rejoice in what He has done for them.


David tells us that being a fool involves either refusing to believe that God exists or totally ignoring the fact that God exists. However, the fool needs to take a simple look up into the skies above and ask themselves, where did all this come from? Psalms 19:1-4.

The fool often looks around at the world, and questions if there is a God, because of all the pain and suffering they see in the world. Sometimes these same fools actually blame God, the God that they don’t believe exists for all the pain and suffering.

However, if that same fool only looked deep within themselves, they would see why is there so much suffering and pain in the world. They would see that deep down in their heart of hearts, they want to do their own thing, they want to live and do as they please and they hate good and love evil, Romans 1:18-20.

What is the opposite of being a fool? The opposite of being a fool is to be wise, but where does true wisdom come from? It comes from God, Proverbs 9:10. Maybe the fools of this world should pray to God and ask for wisdom, James 1:5.

Go To Psalm 54