Psalms 58, 59, 140, and 141: Honest Speech, Lies, and “Alternative Facts”   Leave a comment




Psalms 58, 59, 140, and 141


Psalms 58, 59, 140, and 141 are similar; they emphasize justice and honesty.  Prayers that the wicked will suffer the consequences of their actions also exist in all four texts.

The concepts of justice and righteousness require explanation in Biblical terms.  The two terms are interchangeable.  Also, righteousness denotes right relationship with God, self, others, and all creation.  So, O reader, I disagree when I read Psalm 58:11a (Robert Alter):

The just man rejoices when vengeance he sees….

Justice and righteousness may be interchangeable, but vengeance is neither just nor righteous.  Justice may entail punishment, but never revenge.

The superscription of Psalm 59 links that text to 1 Samuel 19:11, in which Michal helped David, her husband, escape from men whom her father, King Saul, had sent to kill David.  The superscription is dubious, for:

  1. Psalm 59, in the form in which we have it, is the product of authors and editors.  The content and the style are inconsistent.
  2. Psalm 59 refers to both individual and national foes, including “all the nations” (vers 6, Jewish versification).
  3. If we accept Robert Alter’s hypothesis, physical violence may be a metaphor for slander (verse 13, Jewish versification).

Psalm 59 likens the foes to a pack of wild dogs.  This reference comes from a cultural context in which dogs were unclean animals, not beloved pets.  The “dogs” of Psalm 59 are aggressive evildoers.  They are also arrogant and never satisfied.

Yet God is the haven of targeted righteous and the falsely accused.

The emphasis on honest speech is an evergreen issue, for it never ceases to be relevant.  It may be more important in the age of social media and the Internet.  Technology accelerates the speed of character assassination and the spread of lies and inaccurate information.  So, the prayer that slanderers will have no place in the land becomes more urgent with the march of time and the progress of technology.

A related issue is the spread of inaccurate information–not necessarily lies.  A lie is an intentional deception.  So, one may spread objectively false information while believing that it is true and accurate.  This matter is a major problem in the age of “alternative facts.”  A person’s motivation and perception filters aside,

the proof of the pudding is in the eating,

to quote an old saying.  Objective reality is what it is, regardless of what anyone thinks about it.  “Fake news” is objectively inaccurate information, not whatever is accurate and true yet politically inconvenient for a person, for example.

Discerning the liars and slanderers from the deluded fools may prove difficult sometimes.  The consequences of their words may be the same, though.

By grace, may we speak the truth, honestly.






Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: