Psalm 53

Psalm 53[a]

Foolishness of the Wicked

1 For the director.[b] According to Mahalath. A maskil of David.

2 [c]The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
Such are depraved and their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does what is right.
3 God looks down from heaven
upon the entire human race,
to see if there are any who act with wisdom,
if even a single one seeks God.
4 But they have all turned aside;
all alike are corrupt.
There is no one who does what is right,
not even one.
5 Have all these evildoers no understanding?
They devour my people as they eat bread,
and they never call out to God.
6 Later, they will be filled with terror,
and with good reason,[d]
although now they do not fear.
For God will scatter the bones
of those who attack you;
they will be put to shame,
for God has rejected them.
7 Who will bring about the salvation of Israel
that is to come out of Zion?[e]
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice and Israel will exult.


  1. Psalm 53:1 The psalmist stresses that when people banish God from their heart, they are led to renounce and exploit their neighbors. A generation turns away from God and erects injustice into a law, but the Lord of the poor and oppressed remains vigilant. The text reproduces Ps 14 with some variants: e.g., “God” is used for “the Lord” and verse 5 (which corresponds with vv. 5-6 of Ps 14) is different.
    In praying this psalm, we can recall that all the attacks of spiritual or physical tyrants upon us are futile. Christ is with his faithful till the end of time, with the whole Church and with every Christian, to enable them to overcome all external and internal adversities. And without ceasing Christ offers to his Father, out of gratitude for deliverance, a sacrifice of thanksgiving—the Eucharist.
  2. Psalm 53:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Mahalath: this word may signify a modulation indicating sadness. Maskil: see note on Ps 32:1a.
  3. Psalm 53:2 See notes on Ps 14:1b-4.
  4. Psalm 53:6 This verse corresponds with the theme of Ps 14:6-7 that God crushes evildoers who attack his people, but the text is quite different. Later . . . good reason: an alternative translation is: “Then they were overcome with fear, / where there was no reason to fear.” Scatter the bones: bodies left unburied (regarded as a horrible fate) in the wake of a devastating defeat—an allusion to Israel’s divine deliverance from the siege of Sennacherib in 701 B.C. as a sign of what happens to all who attack God’s people (see 2 Ki 19:35f; Isa 37:36f).
  5. Psalm 53:7 Who will . . . Zion?: another possible translation is: “Oh, if only salvation for Israel / would come forth from Zion.”

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