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This Psalm contains an admonition, either,
1. To the chief rulers of Israel, whether judges or kings, or their great council called the Sanhedrim. Or rather,
2. To all the rulers of the several nations of the world, to whom this word might come; as may be gathered, partly from the expressions here used, which are general, and not peculiar to the governors of Israel, and therefore not rashly and unnecessarily to be restrained; and partly from the last verse, where he mentions the whole earth and all nations as concerned in the contents of this Psalm.
The psalmist, exhorting and expostulating with the judges, Psalms 82:1-4, reproveth their want of judgment and negligence, Psalms 82:5-7, and prayeth the Lord to judge, Psalms 82:8.
Standeth, as a judge, diligently to observe all that is said or done there; and to give sentence accordingly. The judge sits when he heareth causes, but standeth up when he giveth sentence. Or standing doth not note the posture, but only the being or presence of a person, as Isaiah 11:10; Daniel 11:20; John 3:29; whence this Hebrew word is by some learned interpreters rendered is present, and by others, presideth, as this word is used, 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 22:9.
Of the mighty; or, of the gods, as it is explained and expressed in the next clause; the singular number being here, as it is frequently elsewhere, put for the plural. By gods, or the mighty, he understands kings, or other chief rulers, who are so called, because they have their power and commission from God, and act as his deputies, in his name and stead, and must give an account to him of all their actions. And by their congregation he understands not a convention or assembly of such persons which seldom meet together, but either,
1. All congregations or assemblies of people in which magistrates sit to execute justice. Or,
2. All persons whatsoever of this high and sacred order or number; for the Hebrew word here rendered
congregation doth not always signify an assembly of persons met together in one place, but sometimes notes all the particular persons of or belonging to such a sort and body of men, though dispersed in divers places, as Psalms 26:5, I have hated the congregation of evil-doers, i.e. all evil-doers; Proverbs 21:16, he shall remain in the congregation of the dead, i.e. shall be one of that number and state. See also Joshua 22:20; Psalms 74:19. Some render it as it is in the Hebrew, in the congregation of God, in his own congregation, the noun being put for the pronoun, as is usual in the Hebrew text, i.e. in the conventions or tribunals of princes or rulers, which he rightly calls his, because their authority is wholly derived from him. But the former exposition seems more agreeable, both to the following words, and to the scope and whole body of the Psalm. Judgeth; accurately observeth all their carriages, and passeth sentence upon them accordingly. Gods, i.e. judges and magistrates, who are called gods, below, Psalms 82:6; Exodus 12:12; Exodus 12:28, compared with Acts 23:5; Psalms 138:1, and of whom this is expounded, John 10:34,John 10:35.
The psalmist speaketh to them in God’s name, and reproves them for their continued and resolved unrighteousness in their public administrations.
Accept the persons, by overlooking the merits of the cause, and giving sentence according to your respect or affection to the person.
Defend the poor and fatherless; so far as justly you may; as this clause must be limited, by comparing this with Leviticus 19:15.
Do justice to, Heb. justify, to wit, when his cause is just, and he is oppressed by a potent adversary.
These he recommends to the special care and protection of magistrates, because such are commonly neglected and crushed by men in higher place and power, and they are unable to right themselves.
They, the magistrates, of whom this Psalm treats,
know not, to wit, the truth and right of the cause, nor the duty of their place. Men are oft said in Scripture not to know what they do not love and practise.
Neither will they understand: this their ignorance is wilful and afflicted; they will not search out the truth, and they shut their eyes lest they should see what they would not.
They walk on; they persist and proceed; it is not one rash and transient action, but their constant course.
In darkness; either,
1. In ignorance; or,
2. In their sinful and unrighteous courses, as darkness is taken, Ephesians 4:17,Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:6; being blinded by their corrupt affections and interests, Exodus 23:8.
All the foundations of the earth are out of course: this corruption of the supreme rulers doth flow from them to their inferior officers and members, and manifestly tends to the dissolution of all civil societies, partly by subverting that order and honesty by which they are supported, and partly by provoking God the Governor of the world to destroy them for their wickedness.
I have said, Ye are gods; I have given you my name and power to rule your people in my stead.
All of you; not only the rulers of Israel, but of all other nations; for all powers are ordained by God, Romans 13:1.
Children of the Most High; representing my person, and bearing both my name and lively characters of my majesty and authority, as children bear the name and image of their parents.
But ye shall die: but let not this make you insolent and secure; for though you are gods by name and office, yet still you are mortal men, you must die and give up your account to me your superior Lord and Governor; and you shall die and fall by the hands of my justice, if you persist in your unjust and ungodly courses.
Like men; or, like ordinary men, as the Hebrew word adam sometimes signifies, as it doth Psalms 49:2. If it be objected, that there adam is opposed to ish, which notes persons of a higher rank; in like manner it is here opposed to the same sort of men, who are here called gods.
And fall like one of the princes: so the sense is, You (who are esteemed by yourselves and others gods upon earth) shall fall (or die, as he said in the former branch; falling being oft put for dying, with this addition, that it notes not an ordinary, but a violent and judicial death, as Exodus 19:21; Jeremiah 39:18; Hosea 5:5)
like one (or, like other, or other’s, as this very word is rendered, Judges 16:7,Judges 16:11, which also is expounded there, Judges 16:17, like every, or any) of the princes, i.e. as other unrighteous or tyrannical rulers have done in all foregoing ages, and still do, your eyes seeing it; even in like manner shall you, to whom now I speak, fall and perish, if you do not learn by their examples. But these words are by some late learned interpreters translated otherwise, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew words and accents, And you, O ye princes, (or, you that are princes, before called gods.) shall fall like one, or like every, or any, of them, i.e. of the ordinary men last mentioned. So there is only an ellipsis of the pronoun, which is frequent in the Hebrew language. Or, shall fall together, as this word is translated, Ezra 2:64; Ezra 3:9; or alike, as it is rendered Ecclesiastes 11:6, in like manner, to wit, as ordinary men do. Your godhead shall be taken away from you, and your death shall show you to be but mortal men, as others are.
Seeing the state of the world is so universally corrupt and desperate, and thy vicegerents betray their trust, and oppress and ruin the nations of the earth, whom they were appointed to preserve, do thou therefore, O God, take the sword of justice into thine own hand, and maintain the cause and rights of the oppressed against their potent oppressors, and let truth and justice be established in all the parts of the earth. For as thou wast the Creator, so thou still art the supreme and unquestionable Lord, and Possessor, and Ruler of all nations, and therefore do thou protect and rescue them from all those who invade thine and their rights. And although at present thou seemest in some sort to confine thy care to Israel, and to neglect other nations; yet there is a time coming when thou wilt bring all nations to the knowledge of thyself, and the obedience of thy laws, and govern them by thy Son and Spirit, which thou wilt send into the world for that purpose. Do thou therefore preserve them in the mean time till that blessed day cometh, and hasten the coming of it.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 82". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany