Psalms 82 and 83


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Bible study on Psalms 82 and 83 from Harvest Time Church, Greenwich, CT.

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Psalms 82 and 83

  1. 1. Psalm 82: A Warning to the Judges of the Earth This is another Psalm of Asaph, but with a different focus than the ones we have seen recently. This Psalm is directed at rulers or magistrates, and contains a forceful rebuke to them, and an admonition that they should do justice. He concludes by asking God, who is the Judge of Judges, to judge the earth. (1) A Psalm of Asaph. God stands in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the gods. • In verse 1 we read that Elohim stands… An important feature of this Psalm is the use of the word Elohim to refer to God and others. This was a commonly used word for God and is the plural of the word Eloah, which means the Deity. The word is made plural – some say as a plural of majesty, but others say this indicates more than one person within the Divine Being. In Genesis 1:26 it is Elohim who says, “Let us make man in our image…” • The proper Name of God in Hebrew is not Elohim but is YHWH. This is usually rendered in English as Jehovah or Yahweh. On some occasions it seems to have been shortened simply to “Yah.” It is thought in Hebrew to mean “He Who Is” or “He Who Causes To Exist.” This requires some thought for us, for in English God does not have a personal name – He is simply known as “God.” But in Hebrew, the two are quite different. • We do not know how the Name YHWH was pronounced; it is often suggested that the Jews through reverence actually forgot how to say the Name. Nowadays many Jewish people refer to the Almighty as Ha Shem, which simply means “the
  2. 2. Psalms Bible Study Psalms 82-83 Name.” Some glimpses of the pronunciation of the Name can be seen in the formation of Hebrew names which incorporate the Name of God: for example, the name Elijah, meaning Yah is God, is in Hebrew Eliyahu; the name Jehoshaphat, meaning YHWH has judged, is in Hebrew Yehoshaphat. Many Hebrew names are constructed in such a way; the many biblical names which in English end in –iah end in –yahu in Hebrew. We can see this in the name of the current Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, a name which appears in English Bibles as Nethaniah, and means “given by YHWH.” • God is pictured here as standing among the mighty and judging among the gods, which is also elohim in the text. Who are these other elohim? One group of elohim are the earthly judges, the judges of Israel in particular. Another group often suggested, is the angels. Why? A common idea is that what takes place on the Earth is reflective of what takes place in Heaven. The Jews believed that there were 70 nations of the Gentiles, based on the names of Noah’s descendants listed in Genesis 10. Each of these nations can be supposed to have an angelic prince over it, giving another 70. In addition, the Jews’ Sanhedrin court also had 70 members and a President – beginning with Moses and the 70 elders of Israel. • It is therefore possible that the true meaning of this verse is a warning to the Sanhedrin of Israel, or all the judges of Israel and the world, to be in fear of the God who presides in Heaven over the Heavenly Council. (2) How long will you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. (3) Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and 2
  3. 3. Psalms Bible Study Psalms 82-83 needy. (4) Deliver the poor and needy; rid them out of the hand of the wicked. • Important considerations at any time, these were especially important in a society where the creditor had so many rights and could take a person’s liberty to work off a debt. Unsupported widows and orphans were particularly vulnerable in a society without the elaborate safety nets we have constructed in our day. (5) They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are out of course. (6) I have said, “You are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (7) But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. • The disorder that occurs when justice is perverted is so severe that it is as if the world itself is shaken. • God had given them the lofty title of being elohim – they acted as His representatives and their decisions were binding on the earth as His is in Heaven. Yet for all that they needed to be reminded that they were still under authority and would die as all men do, even men of high rank such as the princes. (8) Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall inherit all nations. • The Psalmist concludes by asking the Lord to judge the world, for it is indeed His possession and ultimately only He can judge it perfectly. When judgment is perverted we have no recourse but to ask the Highest Judge of all to intervene. 3
  4. 4. Psalms Bible Study Psalms 82-83 Psalm 83: Help from the Most High God This is the final Psalm in the series of psalms of Asaph, and it describes a threatened invasion of Israel by its near neighbors, helped by Assyria. We do not know the circumstances under which it is written. Asaph describes the situation and then prays that God will act against the enemies as He has done in the past, giving biblical examples of prior victories. (1) A Song or Psalm of Asaph. Do not keep silence, O God; do not hold your peace, and do not be still, O God. (2) For, lo, your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate you have lifted up the head. (3) They have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted against your hidden ones. • The idea here is of a secret plot or confederacy against the people of God. The phrase “hidden ones” means those who are protected by God and therefore safe. (4) They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.” (5) For they have consulted together with one consent; they are confederate against you: (6) The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; (7) Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; (8) Assyria also is joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot. Selah. • Ironically, the sentiment of verse 4 has been promulgated by anti-Israeli leaders of modern times such as Nasser and Ahmedinejad. 4
  5. 5. Psalms Bible Study Psalms 82-83 • A map may be needed in order to understand that these nations are the nearest neighbors of Israel. They are for the most part smaller peoples, aided and abetted by the powerful nation of Assyria. Throughout its history, Israel had fought and continues to fight numerous battles with these nations. God in fact had said that He would wage war with Amalek in every generation. These wars are driven by hatred and jealousy but are expressed many times in a refusal to accept God’s placement of Israel in her land. • Some commentators may be confused at the inclusion of Tyre, in modern Lebanon, but if this passage is prophetic of our day, as many surmise, it becomes clear. Regions such as the Land of the Philistines and Lebanon are united by their shared, radical Islam. Some see Psalm 83 as a future war which will occur before the famous war described in Ezekiel 38, because the listing of nations is different. The Ezekiel 38 war seems to involve larger and more powerful powers such as the modern-day regions of Turkey, Libya, Iran (Persia) and the southern regions of the former USSR. • Assyria helps the children of Lot (Ammon and Moab). Assyria was a world power, but is not to be confused with modern-day Syria. The Assyrian Empire at its height in fact encompassed all or part of modern-day Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. Biblical references to “the Assyrian” are thought by many scholars to be symbolic of the future Antichrist, who will make the Assyrian territory the nucleus of his evil empire. Here in Psalm 83, there are 10 evil nations attacking Israel; perhaps there is an echo of this in the ten kingdoms which give their authority to the Antichrist. 5
  6. 6. Psalms Bible Study Psalms 82-83 (9) Do to them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: (10) who perished at Endor; they became as dung for the earth. (11) Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb; yes, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna: (12) who said, “Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.” • Here Asaph lists some famous victories of Israel and asks God to perform the same deliverance for them as He did then. The enemies of God lusted after the possessions of Israel. (13) O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. (14) As the fire burns a wood, and as the flame sets the mountains on fire; (15) So persecute them with your tempest, and make them afraid with your storm. • A pray for calamities to be released against them in the form of natural disasters. (16) Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek your name, O LORD. (17) Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yes, let them be put to shame, and perish, (18) That men may know that you, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, are the most high over all the earth. • The result of their defeat is that these enemies will have to seek and serve God, if only grudgingly. • When this occurs, people will know that God alone is King and deserves to be acclaimed as God (as YHWH = the One who makes all things exist). 6