Week of 19 October 2017 – Psalm 52

This comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Chapter 52: Psalm 52 is attributed to David and is referred to as a Psalm of Trust in the Almighty’s assistance. Its theme is the accusation and indictment of a perpetrator whose crime was so great it precluded forgiveness. This Psalm warns of the immense evil of tale-bearing and slander, and bemoans those who misuse their G-d given talents.

The tragic story of Ahimelek and the priests of Nob betrayed by Doeg the Edomite is told in I Samuel Chapters 21-22. An exhausted David, who’d fled the irrational King Saul, sought help from a priestly city, where  Ahimelekh innocently provided David with 5 loaves of bread and Goliath’s sword.

בְּבוֹא, דּוֹאֵג הָאֲדֹמִי- וַיַּגֵּד לְשָׁאוּל: וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ- בָּא דָוִד, אֶל-בֵּית אֲחִימֶלֶךְ. When Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, ‘David is come to the house of Ahimelech.’ (Psalms 52:2)

Unbeknown to Ahimelekh (who was a direct descendant of Eli), David was a fugitive. Shortly afterwards, Doeg betrayed this deed to King Saul. And in his wrath, Saul commanded Doeg to kill all the priests (85) and then obliterate the town of Nob.

אָהַבְתָּ רָּע מִטּוֹב; שֶׁקֶר, מִדַּבֵּר צֶדֶק סֶלָה. You love evil more than good; falsehood rather than speaking righteousness. Selah (Psalms 52:5)

Rashi comments that Doeg was well-versed in Torah. Maimonides, referring to those who can never achieve repentance, lists Doeg as an example.

גַּם-אֵ-ל, יִתָּצְךָ לָנֶצַח: יַחְתְּךָ וְיִסָּחֲךָ מֵאֹהֶל; וְשֵׁרֶשְׁךָ מֵאֶרֶץ חַיִּים סֶלָה. G-d will likewise break you forever, taking you up, and plucking you out of your tent; and rooting you out of the land of the living. Selah (Psalms 52:7)

הִנֵּה הַגֶּבֶר- לֹא יָשִׂים אֱ-לֹהִים, מָעוּזּוֹ: וַיִּבְטַח, בְּרֹב עָשְׁרוֹ; יָעֹז, בְּהַוָּתוֹ. Behold, this is the man who didn’t make G-d his stronghold; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.’ (Psalms 52:9)

The sole surviving child of Ahimelekh, Aviatar, escaped, finding David and bringing with him the priestly regalia (Ephod with Urim & Thumim). David felt great remorse for the calamity caused and appointed Aviatar as their priest.

אוֹדְךָ לְעוֹלָם, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ;    וַאֲקַוֶּה שִׁמְךָ כִי-טוֹב, נֶגֶד חֲסִידֶיךָ. I give thanks for ever, because You’ve done it; and I give hope in Your name, for it’s good, in the presence of Your saints. (Psalms 52:11)

When David was anointed King, Aviatar was made High Priest, proving his loyalty to the King when David’s son Abshalom tried to usurp the throne. But later, Aviatar was deposed and banished to his home for attempting to support the appointment of Adoniah rather than Solomon.