Psalm 14 – “Pedagogic Lesson: God Will End the Anarchy”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist describes a state of lawlessness and puts his trust in God.

II. Photo
God looks down from his abode: “The Lord looks down from heaven on mankind to find a man of understanding, a man mindful of God.” (v. 2)

III. Select Verses    
1b: The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God, they are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.”
2-3: The LORD looks down from heaven on mankind to find a man of understanding, a man mindful of God. All have turned bad, altogether foul; there is none who does good, not even one.
4-5: Are they so witless, all those evildoers, who devour my people as they devour food, and do not invoke the LORD? There they will be seized with fright, for God is present in the circle of the righteous.
7: O that the deliverance of Israel might come from Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of His people, Jacob will exult, Israel will rejoice.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b. Description of the fool
2-3. Description of anarchy
4-6. Pedagogic lesson about the wicked
7. Wish

V. Comment
Psalm 14, which is almost identical to Psalm 53, is one of the most enigmatic psalms in the entire Psalter. According to Gerstenberger, even “Gunkel openly admits that the explanation of this psalm is impossible, apart from a preconceived notion of what the text could mean” (219). The psalm, which has features of the wisdom genre, might also be classified as a lament. Support for interpreting it as a pedagogic lesson can be drawn from the fact that Paul uses it in one of his sermons (Romans 3:10-18).  Gerstenberger believes that the Psalm’s message is about social inequality: “[The psalm is] aimed at justifying and strengthening the miserable peasants and craftsmen organized in precarious groups who had to pay the bills for the luxurious life of the high society” (220).

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
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