Psalm 53: The Fool, the Wise Man, and the Messianic Motif -- By: Seth Postell

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 22:3 (Summer 2005)
Article: Psalm 53: The Fool, the Wise Man, and the Messianic Motif
Author: Seth Postell

Psalm 53:
The Fool, the Wise Man, and the Messianic Motif

Seth Postell

Master of Arts in Advanced Biblical Studies Student
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587


Psalm 53 is one of several synoptic portions in the Old Testament.1 Psalm 14 and 53 are virtually identical with the exception of the superscriptions, differences with the divine names, and other minute details. The most significant textual variant is found in 14:5b–6 and 53:6b-d.2 Overlooked by several commentaries, however, is the unique literary context into which these two psalms have been placed.3 Two important interpretive questions confront the exegete. First, why does the author of the Psalter reintroduce an almost verbatim psalm into a new literary context in his final composition? Second, how does this new literary context contribute to the meaning and theological contribution of Psalm 53 to the Psalter? This paper will argue that the author of the Psalter has deliberately reintroduced Psalm 53 within a narrative context from the life of King David in order to highlight the identities of the “fool” and the “wise man” of Psalm 14: The “fool” is the man (or nation) who does not believe God’s promise of the coming Davidic Messiah and the “wise man” is the man (or nation) who believes God’s promise of the coming Davidic Messiah. In addition to the contribution of the new literary context, it will be argued that the divergences of Psalm 53 from Psalm 14 emphasize the final judgment of the wicked nations who have viciously attacked God’s people and His Messiah. Ultimately God’s Messiah will put these nations to shame and mediate Israel’s eschatological redemption. This paper will begin with a commentary on the contents of Psalm 53 and will proceed to answer the above questions by addressing the psalm’s surrounding literary context.

By means of introduction it must be stated that this paper argues from a compositional and canonical perspective of the Psalter. That is, the final composer of the Psalter had at his disposal numerous individual psalms from which he ca...

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