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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 9: Psalms, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at


This psalm being almost identical with the fourteenth, it has not been considered necessary to subjoin any distinct commentary.  284

To the chief musician upon Mahalath.  285
A Psalm of David for instruction.

Psalm 53:1-6

1. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God: they have become corrupt, they have done abominable works: there is none that doeth good. 2. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. 3. Every one of them has gone back; they have together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 4. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? eating my people as they eat bread:  286 they have not called upon God. 5. There were they in great fear where no fear was; for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them. 6. Who shall give the salvation of Israel out of Zion? When God bringeth back the captivity of his people,  287 Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall triumph.




Some slight differences will be found, on comparison, between this and the 14th psalm; the chief of which is in the 5th verse. For Calvin’s explanation of this verse, see volume 1, p. 199. It is not easy to say whether these variations are owing to transcribers, or whether they were made by some prophetic bard, who, during some afflictive period of Jewish history, adapted the 14th psalm, by a few alterations, to circumstances different from those for which it was originally composed. Theodoret is of this last opinion, and refers it to the alarm created by Sennacherib’s invasion under the reign of Hezekiah; others think it was written during the captivity — a conjecture which is founded on the last verse, “O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!”


What מהלת, mahalath, signifies, in the title of this and the 88th psalm, must be uncertain, the word not being found elsewhere. It is most probably the name of an instrument on which the psalm was to be sung; and it may fitly be deduced from חלל, perforavit, or incidit, either from the hollowness of the instrument, or farther, from the holes cut in it; in which respect חליל is ordinarily used for fistula, or tibia, a pipe.” — Hammond


C’est, n’en font non plus de conscience, que de manger un morceau de pain.” — Fr. marg. “That is, they have no more scruple in doing this than in eating a morsel of bread.”


C’est, son peuple captif.” — Fr. marg. “That is, his captive people.”

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