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Deeper Commentary

Psa 83:1

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, don’t keep silent. Don’t keep silent and don’t be still, God-
The statement that God will not "rest" for Zion's sake (Is. 62:1) must be understood in the context of the faithful at that time urging God not to "be still" [same Hebrew word translated "rest"] for His people (Ps. 83:1; Is. 64:12). This is an allusion to Boaz not being at rest until he had redeemed Ruth and Naomi. God is not at rest, He is not distant from us; and yet His people in Babylon felt that He was. It's no wonder that we are tempted to feel the same. Yet we must give Is. 62:1 it's full weight- God is answering the complaint of His people by stating that no, He will never rest for them. In this same context we read that He that keeps Israel will "neither slumber nor sleep" (Ps. 121:4). The fact that God will never 'hold His peace' for His people's sake (Is. 62:1) means that we should likewise not 'hold our peace' for them (the same Hebrew is used in Is. 62:6). In our prayers for them, we are to give God no rest (Is. 62:7).

Psa 83:2

For, behold, Your enemies are stirred up, those who hate You have lifted up their heads-
I suggest that Psalm 83 originated at the time of David's war with Ammon (2 Sam. 10:1-19). It was at this time that the children of Lot (Ammon) were helped by Assyria (2 Sam. 10:16; 1 Chron. 19:6,16), as required by :8. Although nations like Amalek and Assyria passed away, their political and geographical descendants continued. The Psalm could therefore also apply to the confederacy of Moab, Ammon and Edom in the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:1-37). It could also apply to the attempt to destroy the revived Judah by Sanballat, Geshem and Tobiah. And relevance can also be seen to the confederacy of attacked described in 1 Macc. 5, which was put down by Judas Maccabaeus.

The Psalm has much language appropriate to a latter day fulfilment; the fact it had multiple primary fulfillments leads us to expect this. The revival of Arab nationalism and its organization in the P.L.O. and the succesors of the P.L.O. seems especially appropriate. They are to lift up / exalt the rosh, the head- they set up an individual leader over them. This could be “Gog… the chief prince” of Ezek. 38, “the king of the north” of Daniel, “the man of sin” of 2 Thess. 2, and all the other references to a latter day Nebuchadnezzar / antiChrist figure.

"Stirred up" is hamah, recalling 'Hamas', the terrorist organization prominent in leading opposition to Israel. The word literally means 'rage', and the Palestinians often talk of 'days of rage' against Israel. AV "make a tumult" exactly captures the spirit of the Palestinian rage against Israel. 

Psa 83:3

They conspire with cunning against Your people, they plot against Your cherished ones-
There could be an application of this to Isaiah's time. Rezin's invasions were a result of 'taking evil counsel against' Israel (Is. 7:5), just as Assyria and her supporters were to do:  "They have taken crafty counsel against thy people" (Ps. 83:3). Rezin's plan was to "set a king in the midst of (Judah), even the son of Tabeal" (Is. 7:6), meaning 'pleasing to God'. This supports the suggestion that the "fierce anger" of the invaders, both then and in the future, will be fuelled by quasi-religious reasoning- in this case 'You Jews are so displeasing to God, we're going to put a truly God-pleasing Muslim ruler in the holy city of Jerusalem.' The double emphasis on "Damascus" as being the nerve centre of Rezin's operations (Is. 7:8), may also be significant in that this very city is now a centre for terrorism against Israel.

Psalm 83 provides a list of ten areas around Israel who will form a covenant against her in the last days. It’s tempting to associate them with the ten toes of the Daniel 2 image and the ten horns of the beasts we meet in Daniel 7 and Revelation. What’s significant about the specific areas listed in Psalm 83 is that the list roughly corresponds to the places where exiled Palestinians have settled. The ‘covenant’ which is mentioned in Psalm 83 would therefore be the Palestinian Covenant, which calls for the destruction of Israel. The way the Islamists will seek to bind together their divided state is made clear in Psalm 83, where we have ten neighbouring nations, mostly in Al-Sham, Greater Syria, who unite themselves with a common aim of capturing the holy places in Jerusalem and blotting out the name of Israel:

“They conspire with cunning against Your people, they plot against Your cherished ones. Come, they say, and let’s destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.  For they have conspired together with one mind, they form an alliance against You. The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also is joined with them” (Ps. 83:3-8). Note that ‘Philistine’ and ‘Palestinian’ are the same word…

This ‘conspiring together with one mind’ and ‘forming an alliance’ is exactly what we see coming out of the uniting of the disparate Islamist factions in Syria and elsewhere. “Form an alliance” translates a Hebrew phrase more commonly translated ‘to cut a covenant’ (Ps. 83:5). The Palestinian Covenant unites these groups, and that covenant emphasizes the aim of overrunning Israel. Psalm 83 mentions ten nations- perhaps corresponding with the ten toes of Daniel’s image, and the ten horns on the beast which will dominate God’s people in the last days (Daniel 7, Revelation 13). Joel 3:9 is another prophecy of the invasion which happens just before Christ’s return, and it speaks of how the invaders will make a ‘proclamation’ to “sanctify war”- a jihad, a holy war. And that is exactly the rhetoric of the groups now calling for Islamist unity based around a jihad against Israel in order to establish Al-Sham. Syria, then known as Aram, frequently invaded Israel in Bible times. The invasions under the Syrian king Rezin were a result of 'taking evil counsel against' Israel (Is. 7:5), just as Assyria and her supporters are to do in Ps. 83:3: "They have taken crafty counsel against Your people”. The double emphasis on "Damascus" as being the nerve centre of Rezin's operations (Is. 7:8), may also be significant in that this very city is now a centre for terrorism against Israel.

The intentions of the P.L.O. are “crafty” in that there is the impression given that they seek co-existence with Israel; they are plotting the destruction of Israel and the Jews under the guise of humanism and peaceful intentions. But the Confederacy  seeks to destroy Israel, as is evident:

“The Palestinian Covenant declares as its central themes a total repudiation of the existence of Israel… the claim that Israel should not exist is implied in almost half of its 33 articles… the demand for the demise of Israel becomes a matter of inevitable necessity... Israelis are barely human creatures who may be tolerated in the Palestinian state as individuals, with their numbers reduced... The question of how to reduce the number of Jews in a Palestinian state… is highlighted by the use of murderous terms against the Israelis” (Y. Harkabi, The Palestinian Covenant And It’s Meaning (Totowa, N.J: Valentine, Mitchell & Co., 1979) pp.11,13,48). Article 8 of the Palestinian Covenant: “The conflicts among the Palestinian national forces are secondary, and should be ended for the sake of the basic conflict that exists between Zionism… and the Arab people”. Article 9:  “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. It is the overall strategy”. Yet a willfully naïve world overlooks these statements because they prefer to believe the “crafty counsel” of the Arabs- that they seek for peaceful co-existence with the Jews in Israel.

Psa 83:4

Come, they say, and let’s destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more-
The Muslims argue that Israel / the Jews are not a people: “Israeli Jews… can only be nationals of (other) states, where nationality is not Jewish. The demand for the liquidation of Israel thus also stems directly as a necessary conclusion from the definition that the Jews are (already) not a nation… since the state of Israel is not based on true nationalism, it is often described in Arabic as an ‘artificial entity’…the theory that the Jews do not constitute a nation is also recited for the claim of exclusive Arab nationality of the Palestinian state” (Naji Alush, The Road To Palestine p.141).  

“Victory for the Arabs is possible only in the liquidation of Israel; anything else is capitulation... The Jews are not a nation and thus on principle do not deserve to have a state of their own…there is no atrocity that cannot be justified in order to bring about the liquidation of Israel” (Y. Harkabi, The Palestinian Covenant And It’s Meaning (Totowa, N.J: Valentine, Mitchell & Co., 1979) p.12). The desire to “cut them off from being a nation” runs counter to God’s clear statement in Gen. 25:23: “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people…”. Note that they were not to be of a different ethnicity, as both Jews and Arabs often claim [for they were from the same parents], but different types of people.

Psa 83:5

For they have conspired together with one mind, they form an alliance against You-
The nations are listed here according to their geographical position, starting in the East and then passing around clockwise to the south and up to the north east. The idea is that all the nations surrounding Israel are involved in this confederacy- which is exactly the situation Israel is currently in.

The surrounding Muslims will unite themselves against Israel. The ‘Palestinian National Covenant’ uses the Arab word Qawmi for ‘National’ – i.e. pan-Arab. Note the RV of Ps. 83:5: “Against thee do they make a covenant”. “The Palestinian National Authority will strive to achieve a union of the confrontation countries [i.e. “all nations around about” Israel]… or a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity” – Political Programs of the P.L.O., Article 8. “The Palestinian National Council calls upon the Arab nation [singular!] to shoulder its pan-Arab responsibilities and to pool all its energies to confront… Zionism” – Political Resolution of the 13th Palestinian National Council, Article 4. The Palestinian Liberation Army is under an “inter-Arab High Command” (Y. Harkabi, The Palestinian Covenant And It’s Meaning (Totowa, N.J: Valentine, Mitchell & Co., 1979) p.1) p. 62. “The Palestinians will have three mottoes:  national unity, pan-Arab mobilization, and liberation” (Are these the three unclean spirits of Rev. 16 that gather the nations around Israel to battle?) – Political Resolution of the 13th Palestinian National Council, Article 11.

“Nasser used to argue that Arab unity is a pre-requisite for …enabling the initiation of an all-out war against Israel”... “The Arab ‘nation’ is made up of ‘peoples’ and the (one) Arab homeland comprises the national homeland of these peoples…the relationship of the people and the individual to the overall Arab homeland and nation is called in modern Arabic Qamwiyya (nationalism)…like the trunk of a tree that branches off into offshoots of local patriotism…the splitting up of the Arab region into separate states carved out by the colonial powers.  However, once Arab unity is achieved and the frontiers wiped out…” (Harkabi, pp. 70,31). “As for the Egyptians, the Iraqis… they are nothing but the peoples and branches of one nation, the Arab nation” (Sati Al-Husri, Arabism First, (Beirut Lebanon: P.L.O. Research Centre) p. 13). “Colonialism shattered the unity of our Arab nation and the unity of our Arab homeland…but this has not prevented the masses… from feeling they are one people” -Resolution of Palestinian National Council, 1971 (As recorded in Anne Zahlan, International Documents on Palestine (Beirut, Lebanon:  Institute for Palestine Studies, 1974) p. 398).

The intention is to create a single nation which is home for all the Arab peoples. This may include not only Palestine but all of the land promised to Abraham. “Palestine is inseparable from the Arab homeland”... “King Hussein’s plan for the establishment of a so-called United Arab Kingdom”... “This crisis has captivated the whole Arab nation throughout the greater Arab homeland” (Harkabi, pp. 99,135,136) – i.e. the earth/land promised to Abraham.

It could well be that the entire area promised to Abraham is briefly confederated into one Arab super state once Israel is over-run. In this sense all the prophecies about the eretz (the land / earth) being dominated by Israel’s enemies would then come true. Not only will the Arabs unite amongst themselves but they will unite many other world forces in their anti-Judaism. This must be, for if there is to be a time of trouble for Jacob such as never was, the millions of Jews living in North America are going to have to be persecuted even worse than they were by Nazi Germany. Things are going to have to change- dramatically, and in a very short time. The god of this world is humanism, and it seems that all the world will be united by the Arabs against Israel under this guise. “The enemy of humanity’ is a phrase  found in Arab writing to designate Israel... Such a description is designed to mobilize support from all peoples, because Zionism is portrayed as an imperialist base that threatens them too” (Harkabi, p. 90). Article 16 of the P.L.O. National Covenant:  “The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual point of view, will provide the Holy Land with an atmosphere of safety and tranquility, which in turn will safeguard the country’s religious sanctuaries…. accordingly, the people of Palestine look to all spiritual forces in the world for support.”

Psa 83:6

The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites-
The way the Islamists will seek to bind together their divided state is made clear in Psalm 83, where we have ten local nations (cp. the ten invading nations of Ez. 38, the ten horns of the beast and ten toes of the Dan. 2 image), mostly in Al-Sham, Greater Syria, who unite themselves with a common aim of capturing the holy places in Jerusalem and blotting out the name of Israel.

Psa 83:7

Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre-
Note that ‘Philistine’ and ‘Palestinian’ are the same word… Tyre and Gebal speak of present day Lebanon. All the strong differences and rivalries will for a moment be forgotten in the common hatred of Israel.

Psa 83:8

Assyria also is joined with them. They have helped the children of Lot. Selah-
See on :1 for the primary fulfilment of this in Assyria helping Ammon at the time of David. The prophecies of Assyria clearly have a latter day fulfilment. It seems "Assyria" refers to an umbrella state or coalition which gives power and identity to these various disparate factions.

Psa 83:9

Do to them as You did to Midian, as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the river Kishon-
In these incidents, the surrounding invaders destroyed themselves. As Sisera was the leader of the confederacy at this time, so there will be a rosh or head over the latter day confederacy (see on :2). There is plenty of evidence that the Islamist solidarity against Israel is very shallow; they are deeply fractured, and a victory against the Jews could well bring out those differences immediately, in a very bitter and self-destructive way. This final destruction is likely that spoken of in Revelation, where after a brief period of unity against God’s people,
“The horns hate the whore”- the final form of the coalition against Israel. The final phase of domination of the land of Israel foretold in Daniel 2 was by a confederacy of “iron and clay”, nations that don’t mix together well; although in the context of dominating Israel, they are united. Particularly the Palestinians and other Arabs are mutually suspicious of each other; and there is ample tension between Iraq [latter day Babylon] and its Arab neighbours. “Expressions of suspicion toward the Arab states abound in Palestinian writings. They contain sharp criticism of discrimination against the Palestinians in the form of restrictive decrees in employment and travel. Expressions of hatred can even be found against the Arab states”... “The P.L.O. will retaliate against the Arab states… if they take a line of policy which the P.L.O. regards as inimical to it’s cause”... “Arab governments (are) suspicious of the plan to organize the Palestinians into the Palestinian entity” (Harkabi, pp. 72,96,10).

Psa 83:10 who perished at Endor, who became as dung for the earth-
Even "dung for the earth" is a condemnation still pregnant with hope. For the intention is that through the judgment of this confederacy, the "earth" / land promised to Abraham will again become fertile. For dung is spread upon the earth to make it fertile.

Psa 83:11

Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb; yes, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna-
They were defeated as a result of God making their troops turn on each other (Jud. 7:22-25). As noted on :10, self-condemnation and self judgment is God's preferred way of dealing with His enemies. "Zeeb" is the word for "wolf"; let's not forget that the final picture of the Kingdom is of the wolf living at peace with the lamb on mount Zion, referring to the wild animals of the surrounding nations being reconciled to God and His people (Is. 11:6; 65:25). See on :16.

Psa 83:12

who said, Let us take possession of God’s pasturelands-
Ps. 83:11,12 records how the leaders of the Midianite invasion said, " Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession" (AV). The raw lust of the surrounding peoples for Israel's riches is currently camouflaged in the same way. And we see a similar focus upon the holy places of Jerusalem, which is attaining an ever higher status in Islamist theology, beginning to replace Mecca in their thinking as the most holy city of Islam. Before the final onslaught in Gideon's time, those nations had "encamped against" Israel. The Hebrew literally meaning 'to incline a pole' has an uncanny relevance to the pointing of missiles towards them. There can be little doubt that the vast arsenals of missiles will come into use soon.

"The Chaldeans... shall... possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs" (Hab. 1:6) sounds like Ps. 83:12, concerning the latter-day confederacy saying, "Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession" (AV). The implication is that Babylon, too, wished to possess the holy places of Jerusalem for religious reasons.

Clearly enough, the specific focus of the P.L.O. has been on taking control of Jerusalem’s holy places. This was evident in all of Arafat’s speeches. The P.L.O. refuses to cease hostilities against God’s people until they are in possession of Jerusalem. It seems that the ideal of the P.L.O. is to establish a fake Kingdom of God in the land promised to Abraham, with Jerusalem as the capital, a new ‘temple’ built there, and some antiChrist figure ruling there. Their dream is of a land of plenty and true tolerance and equality, glorifying all the principles of humanism- and yet excluding God’s people. All Arabs and Muslims world-wide would be encouraged to return and live in this Arab superstate, mimicking how the true seed of Abraham will be gathered home in the last days. The P.L.O. plan to send the Jews out of the land into captivity- Saddam Hussein once said just the same.

The Babylonian captivity will be re-enacted, and then in a ‘second exodus’ the Jews will return and perhaps build the temple which they were instructed to build in Ez. 40-48. This expulsion of the Jews from the land is foretold in Dt. 28- where disobedient Israel are to be taken into Egypt again by ships, something which has never yet occurred; and also in Zech. 14, where in the last days Jerusalem is to be captured by her enemies and half the city go off into captivity. And then, the Lord returns to the Mount of Olives from which He left. “Only Jews who undertake to be loyal to the Palestinian state shall be recognized… the recurring motif in Palestinian literature which insists that the Jews who would be allowed (to remain) should relinquish Zionism” (Harkabi, p. 46). “Peace in the land of Palestine and the neighboring countries is our heart’s desire.  Above all, a precondition for this is the liberation of Palestine” (Fayez Sayegh, A Handful of Mist (Beirut, Lebanon: P.L.O. Research Centre) p.19). “The right to return includes the right to get back all former Arab property, the return of which will cause the mass eviction of Israelis from Jaffa, Nazareth, etc. ... The establishment of the Palestinian state is bound up with a mass evacuation of Jews from their homes, and they will be thus forced to emigrate” (Harkabi, pp. 157,56).

 Shuqairy, founder of the P.L.O., often made the proposal to send the Jews back to their countries of origin.  Naji Alush repeats the proposal and asks, “Why not ask the U.N. to finance this plan?” (p. 219) . If accepted, this would unite “all nations” against Israel and her Messiah. Article 11 of the Constitution of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party read:  “Whoever emigrated to the Arab homeland (Palestine) with a colonialist aim shall be expelled”. Naji Alush defines “the stand of the Arab national movement on Palestine concerning the Jews” as being that the same number of Jews that were in Palestine before 1914 (i.e. 20,000) should be allowed to remain, and own the 1% of the land they then owned – and the rest be extradited (Naji Alush, The Palestinian National Movement (Beirut, Lebanon, 1969) p. 170).  “Permission to stay in Palestine should be granted to the Jews who shall declare that they are giving up the idea of the Jewish state” (Niqula Al-Dor (one time member of the P.L.O. Executive), Thus Lost and Thus to be Returned (Beirut, Lebanon: Al-Hawadith Press)).

It is significant that the Arabs demand that the minority of Jews who they would let remain become ‘Arabs’. “Such a state… should be explicitly & emphatically an Arab state with a minority of Jews, who from a national viewpoint, would become Arabs” (Harkabi, p.52). It could be that this meant they accepted Islam. In this case we would have an analogous situation to that in countless historical types of the last days: Israel accept the idols of the surrounding Arab world and are judged because of it.

Psa 83:13

My God, make them like tumbleweed; like chaff before the wind-
The idea of a whirlwind sweeping away Israel's enemies is the picture of Daniel 2, where the image is broken and swept away at the return of Christ. The image therefore seems to speak of a latter day domination of Israel by her surrounding enemies who for a brief time dominate eretz Israel.

Asaph lived at the time of the restoration (Ezra 2:41). All his Psalms draw on the past dealings of God with His people and encourage them on this basis to make the wilderness journey back  to the land, just as they had done at the Exodus. In this context, Psalms 83 concerns the neighbouring nations who were wanting to cut off the people of Judah who had returned at the restoration. Verse 13 asks for the prophecy of Dan. 2:44 to be fulfilled against them in the form of Messiah’s coming. But this prophecy has been deferred to our last days, when a returned Israel seek the same deliverance. 

Psa 83:14

As the fire that burns the forest, as the flame that sets the mountains on fire-
It would only be supernaturally intense heat which could melt and destroy a mountain. This is the language of the last days, used in Rev. 8:8 about the burning mountain of the latter day invader of Israel being cast into the sea in permanent destruction. This intense heat, approaching like a forest fire, is intended to elicit repentance from Israel's latter day abusers; see on :16,17.

Psa 83:15

so pursue them with Your tempest, and terrify them with Your storm-
The purpose of this pursuit and terror is intended to elicit repentance from Israel's latter day abusers; see on :16,17. Those who do not want this will be swept away like chaff by the wind of God's judgments; which is exactly the scene of the destruction of the image in Dan. 2. See on :13.

Psa 83:16

Fill their faces with confusion, that they may seek Your name, Yahweh-
The intention of these judgments is always so that God's enemies may repent. See on :11. Confusion or "dishonour" (AV) is required, being shamed for sin, before people guilty of this level of abuse will really repent.

Psa 83:17

Let them be disappointed and dismayed forever. Yes, let them be confounded and perish-
The emphasis upon "let them..." may suggest they are to be faced with condemnation right before their face, but in order that they seek Yahweh (:16). Their being confounded is the "confusion" of :16 which is intended to elicit their repentance. As ever, there is positive intention in God's judgments, and not at all the explosion in wrath of an offended deity. Only those who face condemnation in the face and say "yes" to it will be condemned. See on :18.

Psa 83:18 that they may know that You alone, whose name is Yahweh, are the Most High over all the earth-
There is no conscious survival of death taught in the Bible. The judgments of :17 are therefore intended not to be carried out; for after 'perishing' (:18) they can hardly know or recognize Yahweh. The description of judgment in :17 is therefore so that they might repent and accept Yahweh as king, and willingly submit to His Kingdom throughout the entire eretz promised to Abraham.

For the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm by the sons of Korah-
"By" can as well be "for", so the Psalm may still be Davidic, but is dedicated to the memory of the sons of Korah. Korah had died in rebellion against God, but his children had been preserved (Num. 26:9-11); they therefore became representative of all who had overcome bad background to worship Yahweh independently, regardless of the sins of their fathers. They were therefore inspirational to the righteous remnant amongst the exiles in Babylon. Or these "sons of Korah" may refer to a group of musicians who were to perform the Psalm, the Levitical singers mentioned in 1 Chron. 26:1,2; 2 Chron. 20:19. Or if we insist on reading "by", it could have been a Davidic Psalm edited and as it were released by a group called "the sons of Korah" during the captivity in Babylon.