The unknown instrument "Mahalath" (derived from the Ethiopic root 'to sing'), is here fixed on as the one to be used by "the chief Musician." And the music is to be sleected with care, for this Psalm is, like some others, one that has the mark "Maschil."
The state of earth ought to be deeply felt by us. The world lying in wickedness should occupy much of our thoughts. The enormous guilt, the inconceivable pollution, the ineffably provoking atheism of this fallen province of God's dominion, might be a theme for our ceaseless meditation and mourning.
To impress it the more on us, therefore, this Psalm repeats what has been already sing in Psalm 14. It is the same Psalm, with only a few words varied; it is "line upon line, precept upon precept;" the harp's most melancholy, most dismal notes again sounded in our ear.
Not that the Lord would detain us always or disproportionately long amid scenes of sadness, for elsewhere he repeats in like manner that most triumphant melody, Psalm 60:6-12, 113:6-13; but it is good to return now and then to the open field on which we all were found, cast out in loathsome degradation.
There is one variation of some interest. It is in verse 5. The words of 14:5 are referred to, but altered to express much more of triumph and victory on the part of God's despised ones; for the two passages run thus:
"There were they in great fear where no fear was,
For God has scatted the bones of the encamper against you.
You have put them to shame!
For God has despised them!" (Psalm 53)
"There were they in great fear,
For God is in the generation of the righteous.
You shamed the counsel of the poor,
Because the Lord is his refuge." (Psalm 14)
Besides substituting "Elohim" for the LORD throughout, the changes in the Psalm before us seem to have been made on purpose to declare emphatically the complete overthrow of the ungodly.
"You" is emphatic in verse 5, and like Isaiah 37:22, the verse expresses victory over the ungodly. The term in verse 6 is to be noted. In Psalm 14:6 it was, "O that the salvation were become" in this Psalm it is salvations. Full, entire deliverance.
On these grounds they may be right who suggest that Psalm 14 may be read as a report of the Son of man regarding the earth at his First Coming and 53 as his description of its state and prospects at his Second (see Ryland.)
There is certainly more said of the full victory; so that while we gave Psalm 14 the title of "The Righteous One's view of earth and its prospects" we are inclined to state the contents of this as- The Righteous One's view of earth, and the victory of God's people.