- Note to music leader: A psalm of David.1 An enlightening psalm.2 To the tune of “Mahalath.”3
Everyone’s on the take
- 1 It takes a fool to say, “There is no God.”4
People that sour are crooks, despicable sinners.
They have no trace of goodness in them.
- 2 God in heaven sees people on earth.
He’s looking for anyone who gets it—
Anyone wise enough to seek him out.
- 3 Everyone’s a crook.
Not one person has a drop of goodness.
- 4 Are these wicked people stupid?
They destroy good people like eating a loaf of bread.
They treat me like I don’t exist.
- 5 Look at them now, terrified.
They have never been more afraid.
God has scattered the bones of my enemies.
He rejected them, shamed them, and buried them.
- 6 I’m praying that Zion5 shows Israel the way to salvation.
When the LORD restores the nation
Jacob’s family will celebrate, Israel will be happy again.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of David,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by David, about David, or was inspired by David. Almost half of the psalms are attributed to David in this way, 73 of 150. Ancient Jewish history tells of David playing a lyre and writing songs. For one, he wrote a song of mourning at the battlefield death of King Saul and his sons: “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19-27 New American Standard Bible). An ancient Jewish scroll from about the time of Jesus, discovered among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, reports that David wrote 3,600 songs.
“An enlightening psalm” is a guess. The original Hebrew word is maskil (mass-KEEL). Scholars say they aren’t sure what it means. They say they don’t even know if the word refers to the lyrics or the music. Maskil sounds a bit like another Hebrew word, askilkha, which means “let me enlighten you.” Some scholars associate maskil with a root word, sakal, which generates a lot of words with various meanings such as: thoughtful, instructive, wise, and proper. One theory is that the word relates to both lyrics and music. It could, for example, describe the lyrics as “thoughtful” and the music as a harmony fit for that theme.
It’s unknown what mahalath means. It could be the tune to which the song is sung or recited. It might be a style of music. It might be the name of the songwriter. Guesses are based mainly on context clues, which are few and not especially helpful.
From the first line to the last, this psalm is nearly identical to Psalm 14. Verse 5 is an exception. The meaning of that verse is unclear.
“Zion” is a term of endearment, and another name for Jerusalem. It’s a bit like “The Big Apple” for New York City.