21 July 2011

Psalm 52 (Part 1- The Introduction)

I find the Psalms abit puzzling. It seems that for most of them there is a central theme and yet, they tend to strike me as somewhat incoherent. I often wonder how each part of the given Psalm fits into the overall portrait the Psalmist is painting.

Psalm 52 is also puzzling except in a different way. Or maybe even in the same way.

David wrote Psalm 52 after an incident that is recorded in 1 Samuel 21 & 22.

David had just confirmed that his king and father-in-law, whose bodyguard he led, wanted him dead. Thus David hits the road. When he reached the town of Nob, hungry and tired, he needed to be refreshed. David went to Ahimelek the head priest. You'll notice from the text that Ahimelek is shaken to see this high ranking soldier walk into his abode unattended and unarmed. The man after God's own heart lies to Ahimelek telling him that he is about the king's business on a secret assignment. David then asks for food and weapons, he is given bread and the sword of Goliath.

If it wasn't for the presence of a man named Doeg, an Edomite and head of Saul's shepherds, at the temple, Psalm 52 would never be written. Doeg saw everything that happened. Infact, if Doeg wasn't there, an entire town would have been saved from the sword.

Later, Saul is in the town of Nob. He is looking for David and is both paranoid and cranky. He accuses everyone around him for being joint conspirators with David against him. As he asks the men of Nob where David is, Doeg, the man who was at the temple when Ahimelek helped David, steps up and 'rats out' Ahimelek.

Saul finally has a lead. He calls for Ahimelek who soon goes to him. "Why have you been conspiring with David against me?" is Saul's question to Ahimelek. Ahimelek, who is taken aback by such an audacious accusation, gives an unassailable answer in his defence:

Ahimelek answered the King, "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? Was that the first time I inquired of God for him? Ofcourse 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." ~1 Samuel 22:14

Well Saul wasn't listening to a word he said. He wasn't open to reason, a trait of most paranoid men. The words "Ahimelek helped David" were still ringing in his ears. To put it in the words of one of the commentators I checked out, "a paranoid man with power is a dangerous man". Saul ordered his men to kill Ahimelek. None of them were stupid enough to lay a hand on a priest of Yahweh except one. Saul turned to the only man who had helped him thus far and enthusiastic Doeg, killed not only Ahimelek but also his family, all the other priests numbering eighty five (85), all the men, women and children of the town and even the sheep and cattle. Doeg eliminated an entire town.

Only one of Ahimelek's family escaped, namely, his son. Abiathar son of Ahimelek escaped and went straight to David. David remembered catching the traitor observing everything that transpired in the temple from the corner of his eye. "I knew it!" David said, "I knew he'd be sure to tell Saul." Obviously David hoped that he would not. But he did and an entire town was annihilated. David blamed himself for it.

The introduction of Psalm 52 tells us that David penned the words therein after that dreadful incident.

The Psalm can be split into 3 or 4 parts, the first being about this evil man who boasts in his evil and is deceitful and is some sort of hero or mighty man. The second part speaks of this man's destiny. The next speaks of the perception that the righteous will have of this man when he is finally destroyed (which, incase you were wondering, is his destiny) and finally the last part speaks of how the righteous man differs from this evil man.

In my second post (part 2- the puzzle), I'll explain the puzzle of this Psalm and in my last post (part 3- a solution & lesson) I'll propose a solution to the puzzle and perhaps a lesson or two that can be drawn from this Psalm of David.

Thanks for reading.