The Meaning of Psalms 53:1 Explained

Psalms 53:1

KJV: {To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David.} The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

YLT: To the Overseer. -- 'On a disease.' -- An instruction, by David. A fool said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They have done corruptly, Yea, they have done abominable iniquity, There is none doing good.

Darby: {To the chief Musician. On Mahalath: an instruction. Of David.} The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God! They have corrupted themselves, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

ASV: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none that doeth good.

What does Psalms 53:1 Mean?

Study Notes

Mahalath Mahalath, apparently a temple choir.
Maschil Maschil, "instruction."

Verse Meaning

A fool in the ancient Hebrew view of life was a person who did not acknowledge God"s existence intellectually, practically, or both (cf. Romans 1). He lived as though God does not exist. Such a viewpoint leads to unrestrained behavior. The fool"s conduct is essentially corrupt, in addition to being abominable to God (i.e, vile). No one is completely or consistently good because everyone disregards God from time to time.

Context Summary

Psalm 53:1-6 - Sinners All-God Alone Can Help
That Psalms 53:1-6 should be a repetition of Psalms 14:1-7, with very few variations, suggests, as does the "verily, verily" of Christ, that the truths contained in these words are worthy of special attention. They supply the Apostle, in Romans 3:1-31, with his phraseology for describing the state of the ungodly before the searching eye of Omniscience.
We have here a photograph of the human heart. Jew and Gentile are alike in their innermost texture. There is nothing to choose between the Pharisee and the publican, except when either turns the balance by humble confession, as in Luke 18:9, etc.
Psalms 54:1-7 is probably founded on 1 Samuel 23:19. It is short, as if compressed by the urgency of David's need. Evidently he was in sore straits, though conscious of the rectitude of his cause. Notice how he makes his transition from prayer to praise, Psalms 54:4. He affirms, in spite of everything, that God is still his helper. He hears the approaching footsteps of those who are pledged to uphold Him, and God is with them. As he speaks thus in the confidence of faith, the storm clears away. He is delivered; his eye has seen the defeat of his foes. [source]

Chapter Summary: Psalm 53

1  David describes the corruption of the natural man
4  He convinces the wicked by the light of their own conscience
6  He glories in the salvation of God

What do the individual words in Psalms 53:1 mean?

To the Chief Musician Set to Mahalath a Contemplation of David Has said the fool in his heart [There is] no God They are corrupt and have done abominable iniquity [There is] none who does good
לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ עַֽל־ מָחֲלַ֗ת מַשְׂכִּ֥יל לְדָוִֽד אָ֘מַ֤ר נָבָ֣ל בְּ֭לִבּוֹ אֵ֣ין אֱלֹהִ֑ים הִֽ֝שְׁחִ֗יתוּ וְהִֽתְעִ֥יבוּ עָ֝֗וֶל אֵ֣ין עֹֽשֵׂה־ טֽוֹב

לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ  To  the  Chief  Musician 
Parse: Preposition-l, Article, Verb, Piel, Participle, masculine singular
Root: נָצַח  
Sense: to excel, be bright, be preeminent, be perpetual, be overseer, be enduring.
עַֽל־  Set  to 
Parse: Preposition
Root: עַל 
Sense: upon, on the ground of, according to, on account of, on behalf of, concerning, beside, in addition to, together with, beyond, above, over, by, on to, towards, to, against.
מָחֲלַ֗ת  Mahalath 
Parse: Noun, feminine singular
Root: מָחֲלַת  
Sense: Mahalath.
מַשְׂכִּ֥יל  a  Contemplation 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: מַשְׂכִּיל  
Sense: (Hiphil) poem, song or poem of contemplation.
לְדָוִֽד  of  David 
Parse: Preposition-l, Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: דָּוִד  
Sense: youngest son of Jesse and second king of Israel.
אָ֘מַ֤ר  Has  said 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: אָמַר 
Sense: to say, speak, utter.
נָבָ֣ל  the  fool 
Parse: Adjective, masculine singular
Root: נָבָל  
Sense: foolish, senseless, fool.
בְּ֭לִבּוֹ  in  his  heart 
Parse: Preposition-b, Noun, masculine singular construct, third person masculine singular
Root: לֵב 
Sense: inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding.
אֵ֣ין  [There  is]  no 
Parse: Adverb
Root: אַיִן 
Sense: nothing, not, nought n.
אֱלֹהִ֑ים  God 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
הִֽ֝שְׁחִ֗יתוּ  They  are  corrupt 
Parse: Verb, Hifil, Perfect, third person common plural
Root: שָׁחַת  
Sense: to destroy, corrupt, go to ruin, decay.
וְהִֽתְעִ֥יבוּ  and  have  done  abominable 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Hifil, Conjunctive perfect, third person common plural
Root: תָּעַב  
Sense: to abhor, be abominable, do abominably.
עָ֝֗וֶל  iniquity 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: עָוֶל 
Sense: injustice, unrighteousness, wrong.
אֵ֣ין  [There  is]  none 
Parse: Adverb
Root: אַיִן 
Sense: nothing, not, nought n.
עֹֽשֵׂה־  who  does 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Participle, masculine singular construct
Root: עָשָׂה 
Sense: to do, fashion, accomplish, make.
טֽוֹב  good 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: טָבַב 
Sense: good, pleasant, agreeable.