(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל מָחֲלַת מַשְׂכִּיל לְדָוִד: (ב) אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ אֵין אֱלֹקִים הִשְׁחִיתוּ וְהִתְעִיבוּ עָוֶל אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב:
(1) For the musician on the machalas instrument, a song of enlightenment by David. (2) The villainous fool says in his heart, “There is no G-d.” They have acted corruptly and committed despicable wrongdoings. There is not one who does good.
NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 4]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 053 – Exposing Evil
In Mizmor 053 of Tehillim David exposes the presence of evil in the world. He emphasizes that wickedness is the direct result of a failure to recognize the presence of G-d. If man is not accountable to G-d for his actions he is liable to give in to his selfish interests and urges.
Navigating Tehillim. This mizmor is almost identical to Mizmor 014, but the language used here is slightly harsher. Hashem has shown patience to the evildoers in the past but whereas Mizmor 014 referred to Him by the Name of His attribute of mercy, He is now referred to by His attribute of justice (Elokim).
Exploring the Mizmor
David composed the mizmor to be understood by Jews of the present day. We have seen mass political and cultural movements that appear on the scene from time to time in the interest of improving the lot of mankind, but end up failing to respect basic morality and human life. Sadly these movements affect large portions of the Jewish people as well as the nations of the world.
The mizmor has three parts. First, David challenges the people who have succumbed to corrupted attitudes and wicked behavior. He then speaks about how these people are driven to persecute the Jewish nation and rebukes them for their cruelty and unfairness. Finally, he expresses the hope that Hashem will initiate the process leading to a return to peace and righteousness in the world.
PART 1. CHALLENGE TO THE WICKED. David addresses the “villainous fool” who leads a mass political or cultural movement. This individual has set in place the framework by which Jews and non-Jews reject the idea of G-d. Those who follow him cannot resist the tide and they behave unthinkingly. If they would only pause and reflect they would realize that their entire system of thought is based on a fallacy.
(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל מָחֲלַת מַשְׂכִּיל לְדָוִד: (ב) אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ אֵין אֱלֹקִים הִשְׁחִיתוּ וְהִתְעִיבוּ עָוֶל אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב: (ג) אֱלֹקִים מִשָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁקִיף עַל בְּנֵי אָדָם לִרְאוֹת הֲיֵשׁ מַשְׂכִּיל דֹּרֵשׁ אֶת אֱלֹקִים: (ד) כֻּלּוֹ סָג יַחְדָּו נֶאֱלָחוּ אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב אֵין גַּם אֶחָד:
(1) For the musician on the machalas instrument, a song of enlightenment by David. (2) The villainous fool says in his heart, “There is no G-d.” They have acted corruptly and committed despicable wrongdoings. There is not one who does good. (3) From Heaven G-d looks down upon mankind to see if there is an enlightened man seeking G-d. (4) But all have become [worthless] like dross. They have gone foul together. There is no doer of good; there is not even one.
PART 2. REBUKE TO THE NATIONS. David cries out to the nations of the world who have turned their distorted world-view against Yisrael. They seek a victim and the people of Yisrael fall prey to their cruelty. Instead of appreciating the moral beacon of devotion to the Creator that Yisrael carries, they deride our commitment to the holiness of Hashem and the Torah.
(ה) הֲלֹא יָדְעוּ פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן אֹכְלֵי עַמִּי אָכְלוּ לֶחֶם אֱלֹקִים לֹא קָרָאוּ: (ו) שָׁם פָּחֲדוּ פַחַד לֹא הָיָה פָחַד כִּי אֱלֹקִים פִּזַּר עַצְמוֹת חֹנָךְ הֱבִשֹׁתָה כִּי אֱלֹקִים מְאָסָם:
(5) Don’t they know, all the wrongdoers, the devourers of my people, devouring them like bread? They do not call upon G-d. (6) They will be stricken with terror. Never has there been such terror, for G-d has scattered the bones of those encamped against you. You put them to shame for G-d has spurned them.
PART 3. HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. David sings of the hoped for time when Hashem will show us the way forward and get us started again on the steps we need to take to deserve His active help in restoring us to what we were in days of old.
(ז) מִי יִתֵּן מִצִּיּוֹן יְשֻׁעוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּשׁוּב אֱלֹקִים שְׁבוּת עַמּוֹ יָגֵל יַעֲקֹב יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל:
(7) May Yisrael’s rescue come from Tzion! When Hashem restores the exiles of His people, Yaakov will exult, Yisrael will rejoice.
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1: CHALLENGE TO THE WICKED.
(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל מָחֲלַת
This mizmor has been prepared for the musician — לַמְנַצֵּחַ , who will perform it on the machalas instrument — עַל מָחֲלַת . It is a song of enlightenment composed by David — מַשְׂכִּיל לְדָוִד .
(ב) אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ אֵין אֱלֹקִים
הִשְׁחִיתוּ וְהִתְעִיבוּ עָוֶל
אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב:
The villainous fool, who promotes misguided political and cultural movements, says in his heart — אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ , “There is no judgment of G-d — אֵין אֱלֹקִים – for me to worry about!” He has persuaded the people who follow him to reject basic morality. They have acted corruptly — הִשְׁחִיתוּ – and committed despicable wrongdoings — וְהִתְעִיבוּ עָוֶל . There is not one among his followers who does truly good — אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב – and holds faithfully to time-honored moral standards. Even when they can satisfy their desires in a moral way, they prefer depravity.
The phrase used here for “they committed despicable wrongdoings” ( וְהִתְעִיבוּ עָוֶל ) is slightly more severe than that used in Mizmor 014 ( (הִתְעִיבוּ עֲלִילָה , “they committed despicable acts” (14:1). The implication of the word עֲלִילָה there is to something not initially evident as being evil, but which becomes so only at the end. The word עָוֶל used here implies something evidently evil from the beginning.
(ג) אֱלֹקִים מִשָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁקִיף עַל בְּנֵי אָדָם
לִרְאוֹת הֲיֵשׁ מַשְׂכִּיל דֹּרֵשׁ אֶת אֱלֹקִים:
However, Hashem sees all. From Heaven G-d looks down — אֱלֹקִים מִשָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁקִיף – upon mankind — עַל בְּנֵי אָדָם . This is the same G-d that the villainous fool denied. With G-d’s all-encompassing view He sees the detailed actions and thoughts of every person. And so He is constantly looking to see if there is an enlightened man — לִרְאוֹת הֲיֵשׁ מַשְׂכִּיל – like Avraham Avinu, someone using his intelligence to sincerely seek G-d — דֹּרֵשׁ אֶת אֱלֹקִים , to understand what G-d wants from us.
From time to time Hashem probes for a response by afflicting men with illness and misfortune. Those who deny G-d’s existence pretend that they only accept what they see with their senses. They say everything else is coincidence. But they readily accept the laws of nature even though they are just as invisible to the eye as the spiritual laws. If they would just reflect upon the meaning of our existence as Avraham Avinu did they would realize the fallacy of their thinking.
(ד) כֻּלּוֹ סָג
אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב
אֵין גַּם אֶחָד:
But instead of responding to Hashem’s probing of mankind all the foolish people have become like dross [a worthless scum formed on the surface of cooled metal] — כֻּלּוֹ סָג . After having turned away from the good path [see Tehillim 14:3], they have gone foul together — יַחְדָּו נֶאֱלָחוּ , encouraging each other to become further immersed into materialism. There is no doer of good — אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב – because an individual tempted to do good is embarrassed to be seen by his fellows as being too virtuous. There is not even one — אֵין גַּם אֶחָד – who will stand up and call his fellows to task.
PART 2: REBUKE TO THE NATIONS.
(ה) הֲלֹא יָדְעוּ כָּל פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
אֹכְלֵי עַמִּי אָכְלוּ לֶחֶם
אֱלֹקִים לֹא קָרָאוּ:
Don’t they know — הֲלֹא יָדְעוּ – all those wrongdoers — כָּל פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן – of the nations, the devourers of my people — אֹכְלֵי עַמִּי , oppressing them and devouring them like bread — אָכְלוּ לֶחֶם ? Surely they must know that the power they have to persecute others comes from G-d, and yet they do not take to heart the holy message carried by My people and call upon G-d — ה’ לֹא קָרָאוּ .
(ו) שָׁם פָּחֲדוּ פַחַד
לֹא הָיָה פָחַד
כִּי אֱלֹקִים פִּזַּר עַצְמוֹת חֹנָךְ
הֱבִשֹׁתָה כִּי אֱלֹקִים מְאָסָם:
Don’t they know that there in their own lands where they feel masters of their fate they will be stricken with terror — שָׁם פָּחֲדוּ פָחַד ? Never has there been such terror — לֹא הָיָה פָחַד , for G-d has scattered the bones of those encamped against you — כִּי אֱלֹקִים פִּזַּר עַצְמוֹת חֹנָךְ . You will put them to shame — הֱבִשֹׁתָה , for G-d has spurned them — כִּי אֱלֹקִים מְאָסָם .
PART 3: HOPE FOR THE FUTURE.
(ז) מִי יִתֵּן מִצִּיּוֹן יְשׁוּעַת יִשְׂרָאֵל
בְּשׁוּב ה’ שְׁבוּת עַמּוֹ
יָגֵל יַעֲקֹב יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל:
May Yisrael’s rescue come speedily from the One Who dwells in Tzion — מִי יִתֵּן מִצִּיּוֹן יְשׁוּעַת יִשְׂרָאֵל ! Even if its sins make the current generation of Yisrael unworthy, may Hashem initiate the Geulah for the sake of Tzion and all those who were faithful to it. When Hashem restores the exiles of His people — בְּשׁוּב ה’ שְׁבוּת עַמּוֹ , the core faithful of Yaakov will exult, and then the full nation of Yisrael will rejoice — יָגֵל יַעֲקֹב יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל – for they will return to the ways of their fathers.
Living the Mizmor
Listed below are some of the lessons that you can draw from this mizmor, as well as some of the thoughts you might have in mind when you say the words of the mizmor as a tefillah, expressing your devotion to Hashem.
Lessons for Life – Your Attitude.
[53:2] GUARD YOUR HEART. – אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ אֵין אֱלֹקִים, הִשְׁחִיתוּ הִתְעִיבוּ עָוֶל אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב – “The villainous fool says in his heart, ‘There is no G-d.’ They have acted corruptly and committed despicable wrongdoings. There is not one who does good.” It is not enough to behave properly. You must have a good attitude and emunah in Hashem; otherwise you will end up like the villainous fool.
Lessons for Life – Your Behavior.
[53:4] STRENGTH OF CHARACTER. – כֻּלּוֹ סָג יַחְדָּו נֶאֱלָחוּ אֵין עֹשֵׂה טוֹב אֵין גַּם אֶחָד – “But all have become [worthless] like dross. They have gone foul together. There is no doer of good; there is not even one.” When your generation is being tested, stand up for what you believe in and do the right thing, even if it means going against everyone else.
Tefillos for Life – Geulah.
[53:7] RESTORATION. – מִי יִתֵּן מִצִּיּוֹן יְשֻׁעוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּשׁוּב אֱלֹקִים שְׁבוּת עַמּוֹ – “May Yisrael’s rescue come from Tzion! When Hashem restores the exiles of His people.” Ask Hashem to bring the Geulah now. May He restore the Jewish people to Tzion and the service of Hashem as in ancient times.”
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the pesukim of this mizmor are listed below.
א -מצודות, רשר”ה
ב – אבן עזרא, רד”ק, בן־רמוך, באר אברהם, דעת סופרים, נר לרגלי
ג – אבן עזרא, בן־רמוך, מצודות, מלבי”ם, רשר”ה
ד – דעת סופרים, נר לרגלי
ה – רד”ק, רשר”ה
ו – רש”י, אבן עזרא, המאירי, בן־רמוך
ז – רש”י, ספורנו, אלשיך, באר אברהם