TEHILIM # 14: Men without God

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Pasuq 1. Of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their actions are vile;   no one of them does
good.

King David describes a society with no-God.  He calls a man who denies God, and acts upon it, “nabal”, a corrupt person.   The rabbis of the Talmud coined an expression which captures the sentiment of those who behave as if there is no God   לית דין ולית דיין, “There is no judgement, there is no judge.” In other words, any wrongdoing is fine, unless you are caught. But, if we are not caught by the law enforcers, or by those who are stronger or wilder than you, then you should not worry about any “Divine” punishment in this world or in the next life. Because there is “divine impunity”, no one judges your life, and probably there is no next-life to worry about… This “nabal” has followers who see him as their leader. The followers have no independent thinking. And because no-God leads to corruption, among this group of people, corruption becomes epidemic.

Pasuq 2 HaShem looks down from heaven on all of them to see if there is anyone who understands, anyone who seeks God.

Now King David says that HaShem watches over these men. Waits to see if among all the corrupt people he could find one exception, someone with the courage to think differently. Someone who might not be certain about his faith in God,  but instead of acting wickedly, he is still searching for the truth, trying to find out if there is God.

Pasuq 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

But the divine search finds no one. There are no men among that group looking for God. The influence of the “nabal” is too strong. And people are comfortable when someone thinks for them.

Pasuq 4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They consume my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord.

Who are these corrupt people? Those who deny God’s existence?  For some commentators, these people are the enemies of Israel, idol-worshipers who deny God. The idea that this Psalm refers to the enemies of Israel is based on the words “They devour (=destroy)  my people, as though eating bread”.  For other commentators, King David is referring to fellow jews, who have become corrupt because they have lost their faith in HaShem (or vice versa). King David says that their actions are destructive to the rest of Am Israel, i.e., they consume (harm, destroy) our people as though they consume food.

Pasuq 5-6
But they will be overwhelmed with dread, for God is in the circle of the righteous.  You, evildoers, devise plans to trick the poor, but HaShem is their refuge.

King David foresees that in the end, the evil-doers will get their punishment from the God they deny.  They try to trick the poor, the innocent, but HaShem will be helping them, protecting them against their enemies or against those who abuse them. Hashem has multiple ways of punishing the wicked.

7 The salvation of Israel will come out of Zion. When the Lord restores his people,  Jacob will  rejoice and Israel will be glad

HaShem will be always next to His people. Even after defeat,eventually, He will return to Zion and restore His people’s happiness.

One thought that comes to mind, when we analyze the “atheist turning corrupt” is what did really come first, corruption of disbelief in God? In other words, do people behave dishonestly  because they do not believe in God? Or, perhaps people first behave dishonestly, and then, to justify they behavior and excuse their wrongdoings, they stop believing in God.  If your believe in God does not stop you from behaving bad, it will kill you with feelings of guilt, therefore, if you are going to behave bad, you will be better off without God…. It seems that disbelief in God might be the consequence, and not just the reason  for corruption.