Theme: A Description of the Wicked
In this week’s lessons, Psalm 58 teaches us that although evildoers continue to do great harm, God will eventually intervene both in judgment against sinners and the vindication of the righteous.
Scripture: Psalm 58:1-11
The second stanza of Psalm 58 moves from a description of the wicked to a prayer that they and their evil might be overthrown by God. It contains five images for what David is asking God to do. They move from what is powerful to what is increasingly weak, from what is awe-inspiring to what is merely tragic or sad.
The teeth of a lion. The most awe-inspiring image is that of a lion which is fierce and able to kill and do great damage. David had used the image earlier, in fact, in the immediately preceding psalm where he described himself as being “in the midst of lions…among ravenous beasts” (Ps. 57:4). Here he is asking God to defang his fierce enemies, to break the teeth of those who would consume him. God did this when he caused the armies of Saul to be defeated by the Philistines in the battle that preceded the call of David to be king.
Water that flows away. Water can also be very destructive when it comes in large quantities as in a flood. It can wash away houses, even whole villages, and claim lives. But it also a characteristic of water that it flows downhill and therefore quickly flows away and vanishes. David uses this image to ask that God will cause the workers of evil to pass by quickly and vanish into the earth like water into parched soil.
Blunted arrows. Arrows are less destructive than masses of water, but in the hands of a skilled archer they can wound and kill. David has used this image in the previous psalm too, describing his enemies as “men whose teeth are spears and arrows” (Ps. 57:4). He knew the piercing, wounding, killing power of evil words. But God can blunt words’ effects. David knew that too. So he prays in these verses, “When they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted” (v. 7). At the time of Absalom’s rebellion against his father David, David prayed that the wise counsel of Ahithophel might fall on deaf ears and so be disregarded. It was. Absalom listened to Hushai instead of Ahithophel and eventually lost the war (cf. 2 Sam. 16, 17).
A melting slug. A slug does not actually melt away as it moves along the ground leaving its slimy trail behind. But it seems to, and it is this low image that David creates to describe the self-destructing pathway of the wicked. As Alexander Maclaren says, “Opposition to God’s will destroys itself by its own activity.”1 David expressed the same thought in Psalm 57 when he said by another image, “They dug a pit in my path—but they have fallen into it themselves” (v. 6).
A stillborn child. That last image is of a child born dead, what we call a stillbirth. So it is David’s prayer that the lives of these evil ones might be nipped at the beginning. This image corresponds closely to his statement in verse 3 that the wicked have gone astray “from birth.” If they have been evil from birth, his thinking is that they should be cut off at birth.
1Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 2, Psalms 39-89 in “The Expositor’s Bible,” ed. W. Robertson Nicol (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), p. 194.
What is the focus of this stanza of the psalm?
Describe each of the five images David uses in this psalm?
With each image, what is David asking God to do?
What is the progression of these requests? How did God answer David’s plea?
Reflection: How else does the Bible describe the wicked?