New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 82:1

A Psalm by Asaph-
This "Asaph" could be the Asaph of Hezekiah's time (Is. 36:3) who used the Psalms in the context of the events of the Assyrian invasion. The Asaph Psalms all have parts in them relevant to that context (Ps. 50, 73-83). Or the "Asaph" may have been the singers who were relatives of Asaph, prominent at the restoration (Neh. 7:44; 11:17,22). It could mean that the psalms were a part of a collection from the Asaphites, and the name "Asaph" was therefore simply used to identify the temple singers. And again, parts of the Asaph psalms also have relevance to the restoration. The fact the Asaph Psalms speak of elohim rather than Yahweh would support the idea that they were used in the exilic / restoration period. But Asaph was the "chief" of the Levites to whom David assigned the ministry of praise before the ark (1 Chron. 16:4,5). It seems he did compose his own Psalms, which were used by Hezekiah at his time (2 Chron. 29:30). So I would again suggest that all the Asaph Psalms were composed originally by David "for" [not necessarily "by"] Asaph, but were rewritten and edited for later occasions.

God presides in the great assembly. He judges among the gods-
"Elohim has taken His place in the divine council
In the midst of the elohim He holds judgment". This is a reference to the court of Heaven, into which we have a peek in 1 Kings 22. Elohim can refer to both Angels and men, such as the judges of Israel. They were intended to be a reflection of the court of heaven. And their assemblies were in turn judged by Yahweh, who was among them in judgment.

Psa 82:2

How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Selah-
God judges the judges of His people. Showing partiality in judgment was condemned under the Mosaic law (Dt. 1:17; 16:19). God's "How long...?" may be an echo of the "How long...?" common in the Asaph psalms at the time of the exile. The answer was "When you repent and start behaving rightly", and here God is making that same point.

Psa 82:3

Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed-
This psalm may have originated in David's lament at the unjust judgment of Saul or the men around Absalom, who fancied himself as judge of Israel (2 Sam. 15:3-6). David had seen himself as "poor and needy", needing grace after his sin with Bathsheba and its consequences (Ps. 40:17; 70:5; 86:1; 109:16,22). He wished Solomon to likewise have pity on the "poor and needy" amongst the Gentiles, those who had likewise repented (Ps. 72:13). And David was especially desirous to himself see the "poor and needy" blessed and accepted as he had been (Ps. 82:3,4; 113:7). It is our personal experience of needing grace which leads us to have a heart for those like us, the poor and needy. Any other motivation will ultimately not abide. Solomon appears to glorify his mother Bathsheba for likewise pitying the poor and needy (Prov. 31:9,20).

Psa 82:4

Rescue the weak and needy, deliver them out of the hand of the wicked-
This may have originated in his thoughts about Saul, then reapplied to David's need for salvation from Absalom and Ahithophel, but, it becomes the intended appeal of the exiles for deliverance from Babylon, then Haman, and indeed from all their captors. "The hand of the wicked / unrighteous" is the term used for the Babylonians in Ez. 7:21. Yet these are God's words to His people. They were not being delivered because they themselves were not delivering the weak from the wicked. It seems the Jews had some autonomy in Persia, and perhaps this is a criticism of how they operated their local courts in the exile. 

Psa 82:5

They don’t know, neither do they understand; they wander back and forth in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken-
The judges of Israel were living out their condemnation even in this life; for wandering in darkness is the language of condemnation at the last day.

Psa 82:6

I said, You are gods, all of you are sons of the Most High-
As explained on :1, the elohim who were the judges of Israel were to reflect the elohim of the divine court room above them in heaven. But lest this Psalm be seen as merely a judgment of the judges, the point is made that all Israel were intended to be elohim. All Israel were intended to be priests, who are also called elohim; for they were to be a "nation of priests". Ps. 135:19,20 parallels all Israel with the priestly family: “Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron: bless the Lord, O house of Levi: ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord... praise ye the Lord”. All Israel were to aspire to the spirit of priesthood. Indeed, the Psalms often parallel the house of Aaron (i.e. the priesthood) with the whole nation (Ps. 115:9,10,12; 118:2,3).

As it was God’s intention that Israel were to be a nation of priests to the rest of the world, so the new Israel likewise are to all discharge the priestly functions of teaching their brethren (Ex. 19:6 cp. 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6; 5:9,10). Under the new covenant, we should all teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). Further, Ps. 96:9 makes the paradigm breaking statement that even the Gentiles could come before Yahweh of Israel in holy, priestly array- they too could aspire to the spirit of priesthood (Ps. 96:9 RVmg.). Moses spoke of how all Israel should pray that God would establish the work of their hands (Ps. 90:17)- but this was in fact his special request for the blessing of Levi, the priestly tribe (Dt. 33:11).

The Lord Jesus quotes these words in Jn. 10:34: "Is it not written in your law: I said, you are gods?". The Lord Jesus is really saying ‘In the Old Testament men are called ‘gods’; I am saying I am the Son of God; so why are you getting so upset and claiming it is blasphemous if I use God's Name of Myself?’. The Lord Jesus is quoting from here in Ps. 82, where the judges of Israel were called ‘gods’. And yet the context is critical of those judges; to bear the name of 'God' didn't mean one was acceptable to God. And it is no accident that the Lord chose to quote an example of where Israel's leaders bear God's Name but are apostate. He was turning the tables on the Jewish leadership who were accusing Him of claiming to be God. It was in fact they who bore the name of God- and yet were to be condemned for not responding to the word / logos of God which had come to them.

The Lord continued in Jn. 10:35: "If he called those men gods, to whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken)..." The apostate leaders of Israel were the ones who bore the Name of God. The word / logos of God had come to them in that as pictured in the prologue to John's gospel, the logos of God in Jesus of Nazareth had 'come' to Israel and they had rejected it. The word of God came to the Old Testament judges of Israel [the context of Psalm 82] in that they were to judge according to His word. The Lord may also have in mind the LXX of 2 Chron. 19:6 where the judges of Israel are warned to judge rightly, because the logos of God is with them, had been given them, to judge rightly. The same idea is found in Dt. 1:17 where again the judges of Israel are warned in the LXX to judge according to the logos of God and not reject it in favour of human sympathies. In this sense perhaps Heb. 4:13 speaks of being judged by the logos of God. In the person of the Lord Jesus, the logos of God had come to the judges of Israel- and they were refusing to judge rightly because of their own agendas and personal investments.

Psa 82:7

Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the rulers-
"Thrown down" or "fall" was to be the fate of the unjust princes of Israel (s.w. Ps. 73:18) just as it had been the fate of Korah and the princes / rulers with him (Num. 16:2).

Psa 82:8

Arise, God, judge the earth, for You shall inherit all of the nations. A song-
This Psalm is of rebuke and is a moral appeal. Yet it was to be sung as a song. In days of mass illiteracy, this would have been appropriate way to get the message out. In the context of God's people judging unjustly, God Himself is invited to arise and judge. And at that time, people from "all nations" would become His people, because of the injustice of Israel.