53. The Foolish in Their Hearts Exclaim

Text Information
First Line: The foolish in their hearts exclaim
Title: The Foolish in Their Hearts Exclaim
Versifier: Marie J. Post (1982)
Meter: CM
Scripture: Psalm 53
Topic: Deliverance
Language: English
Copyright: Text © 1987, CRC Publications
Tune Information
Name: BRISTOL
Meter: CM
Incipit: 15431 32135 2345
Key: e minor


Text Information:

A denunciation of godless fools who oppress God's people.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = v. 1
st. 2 = v. 2
st. 3 = vv. 3-4
st. 4 = v. 5
st. 5 = v. 6

A slightly revised version of Psalm 14, this psalm is a denunciation of fools who devote themselves to evil and "devour" God's people as if there were no God to call them to account (v. 4). Although its original occasion is unknown, Psalm 53 appears to reflect a situation in which fools are crushed by the God they have disregarded. The psalmist describes their godlessness (st. 1) and how God examines the human race (st. 2) and finds "no one who does good," only "evildoers" who oppress God's people (w. 3-4; st. 3). He proclaims that God will judge such fools (st. 4) and prays longingly for Zion's deliverance from them (st. 5). Marie J. Post (PHH 5) versified this psalm in 1982 for the Psalter Hymnal.

Liturgical Use:
Occasions in which the church suffers from or laments the folly of unbelievers who act toward God's people as if there is no God.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

John Playford (b. Norwich, England, 1623; d. London, England, 1686) composed BRISTOL for his musical edition of The Whole Book of Psalms (1677). BRISTOL, named after the British city, was the only newly composed tune for that psalter. (Several other tunes use the same name.) BRISTOL was originally in three parts; the alto and tenor lines in the more typical four-part composition replaced the original middle part. The result is a rhythmically playful setting that moves into a triple meter on the last line. Emphasize the final stanza with a change in registration and a more stately tempo.

Playford was a bookseller, a clerk at the Temple Church, and choral vicar at St. Paul Cathedral. But he is primarily known for his music publishing. In order to publish in seventeenth-century England it was necessary to have the approval of the Stationers' Company, which Playford received. In 1603 King James I granted the Stationers' Company the privilege of being the sole printers of metrical psalters.

Because Playford was the primary publisher of the time, he published nearly all the psalters. Through his publishing he also encouraged better congregational singing of the psalms, especially in three-part harmony. Playford's best-known collection is his 1677 psalter, The Whole Book of Psalms; with the Usual Hymns and Spiritual Songs; together with all the Ancient and proper Tunes Sung in Churches, with some of Later Use. Composed in Three Parts, Cantus, Medius, and Bassus: In a More Plain and Useful Method than hath been formerly Published.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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