The Psalms for a New Day website has just been redesigned and the website has moved to a new location. The page you are looking for has moved. Try the link below:
Looking for content on a specific topic?

Psalm 14

Of scoundrels and fools

A David psalm.

Fools tell themselves
“God is of no concern!”
Their actions are corrupt, repulsive.
No one does what’s good.
2 Yahveh peers down from heaven on humankind
to see if he can find
anyone with the good sense to seek God.
3 But everyone has gone astray—
we’re all are morally tainted.
There’s no one who does good.
Not even one.

4 Have these scoundrels no clue
who wolf down my people like fast food
and then think they can evade me?a
5 They’ll be panic-stricken
when they see that God sides
with those who seek him.
6 You think you can trash
the hopes of the humble poor
but Yahveh will protect them.

7 O, how I wish Israel’s rescue
were already on the way from Zion!
When Yahveh turns everything around
for Jacob’s daughters and sons
they’ll sing and celebrate and jump for joy!

Rude and crude, the fools David speaks of live like there’s no God. They prey on the vulnerable, sabotaging good in their lives. While it isn’t initially apparent, they sabotage good in their own lives too. They’re thus as stupid as they are morally repugnant, though the world may deem them smart. David has in mind scoundrels like Nabal, the wealthy narcissist who held him in the same contempt as Saul, proverbially kicking him in the teeth when he was down.b

Having described the godless, David goes on to address the universal human condition. He pictures God searching for even one person with the wisdom to seek him as we should and finding none. We’ve all gone astray and become morally tainted, embracing the fool’s folly to varying degrees.

The fools’ contempt for the vulnerable goes unchecked because they think they can get away with their deplorable acts without having to answer to God. But David assures us they’ll be panic-stricken on the day when God demonstrates he’s on the side of the weak. This makes David long for and pray for God’s restoration of his people and the joyful celebration it will bring.

Deliver me from the folly of thinking I can figure life out without you, Lord, as if making up my own rules doesn’t lead me to hurt and ruin. Help me believe you’ll protect the weak and vulnerable. Come quickly to rescue your people and right the wrongs done to them. Amen.


a Irvine suggests that the verb is from qara’ II, “encounter.” Stuart A. Irvine, “A Note on Psalm 14:4,” Journal of Biblical Literature 114 (1995):463-66. Thus, fools think they won’t encounter God—i.e., they can evade him.

b His name means “fool” (Heb. nabal), a word that appears in the psalm’s first line. 1 Samuel 25 tells the story of this biblical Scrooge.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.