Psalms 58

1 Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation?

do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men?

2 Yea, in heart ye work wickedness;

ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb:

they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;

5 Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.

6 Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth:

 break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord.

7 Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces.

8 As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away:

like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.

9 Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.

10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

11 So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.


The link for the arrangement below is here ->

A    Do you indeed speak righteousness(a↓)  O gods? Do you judge uprightly,  (b↓)  O sons of men?

   2  No, in heart you work unrighteousness;

   [My translation:]  You ponder [Hebrew: revolve in your mind] violence [or damage] on earth.

D    3  The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.

E    4  They have venom like the venom of a serpent; Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear,  5  So that it does not hear the voice of charmers, Or a skillful caster of spells.

F    6  O God, shatter  /  their teeth in their mouth; Break out  the fangs of the young lions, O LORD.

G    Let them flow away like water that runs off;

F’   When he aims his arrows, let them be as headless shafts.

E’   8  Let them be as a snail which melts away as it goes along,

D’   Like the miscarriages of a woman which never see the sun.

C’   9  Before your pots can feel the fire of thorns, He will sweep them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.

B’   10  The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

A’   11  And  (b’↑)  men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely there is (a’↑)  a God who judges on earth!”



This chiasmus offers some strong imagery.  From “washing feet in the blood of the wicked” (B’), to “fire of thorns” and “whirlwind” (C’), to “miscarriates” (D’), to “serpent” and “cobra” and “lions” (E/F), to ‘shattering teeth’ and ‘breaking fangs’ (F).  In comparison, the center is quite mild:  “Let them flow away like water that runs off”.  In comparison, the center almost seems weak.  But in a sense, the center works.  In comparison to the strong imagery, the mildness of the center seems to illustrate the ease in which God can dispell the writers’ enemies, like “water that runs off”.   It’s easy, natural, in a sense, there’s ‘nothing to it’. 

F’ and E’ then follow naturally from the center:  ‘arrows with headless shafts” and “a snail which melts away”.  The blow to the “strong” (serpent, cobra, lions) has been delivered in G, F’, E’ (as easy as water running off, headless shafts, snails).

I had one problem with this chiasmus.  At the start I had difficulty finding a match for C’ (e.g., “whirlwind”).  It was only by checking the Greek that I noticed that the Greek word for “ponder” included the possibility of “revolving” (as in turning things around in the mind: pondering), which then produced a very nice match.  Similarly, “violence” could be translated as “damage”, as in damage that can be done by a whirlwind (“damage on earth” (C)).   This is perhaps a case where a chiasmus could help in translating a text.  Understanding that the writer is interested in producing a match for C’ could give the translator an advantage when choosing the correct words for C.