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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 82

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


A Psalm of Asaph.

The person speaking in this psalm is God. He speaks to the rulers and judges, to whom is intrusted the administration of justice; or we may suppose it is the king who speaks in the name of God. The theocratic idea in this case must be kept in mind, and hence the king’s words are as God’s words, and his acts as God’s acts. The king himself, then, is one of the judges included in the address. He identifies himself with them, and speaks of the dignity, functions, and abuses of the office. The psalm applies to the civic-religious sphere, contemplating human government from the standpoint of the divine. God presides over all. The idea is given in 1 Chronicles 29:23, “Then Solomon sat on the throne of Jehovah as king.” So Moses gave the fundamental law to the judges, but “the judgment is God’s.” Deuteronomy 1:17. The idea of an Asiatic monarchy must be kept in view, where the king is removed from the people, knowing little of public affairs except through the officials, and where oppression, extortion, and bribes are commonly practised by satraps, pashas, or governors of provinces, and their subordinates. In such cases the public grievances are great, and redress generally impracticable. Thus the people of Israel often suffered, (as in Isaiah 3:12-15;) but now a king arises who gives personal attention to the details of government, and reforms the courts. For further illustration see the notes. The occasion of the psalm most naturally dates at the reformation of the courts by Jehoshaphat, and is a fitting accompaniment of 2 Chronicles 19:5-11

Verse 1

1. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty Literally, God is standing in the congregation of God, not only in the midst of the whole commonwealth of his people, (as Numbers 27:16-17,) but especially in the assizes, the assemblies he has commanded for justice. This presence of God is the central idea of this profoundly theocratic psalm, and a favourite doctrine of the Asaphic compositions. (Psalms 50:1.)

He judgeth among the gods That is, among the judges, or ruling magistrates. See Psalms 82:6

Verse 2

2. How long will ye judge unjustly God, who stands in the assembly, speaks to the ministers of justice. The “how long” is the first thundertone to the consciences of these corrupt office bearers, and calls their attention back to the law. Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17.

Accept the persons of the wicked Lift up the faces of the wicked; give them assurance and favour, having respect to their persons, which was forbidden in the law. Leviticus 19:15

Verse 3

3. Defend the poor Hebrew, Judge the poor; administer to them righteously; give them a fair trial; send them not away unheard because they are poor, and have no gift or bribe to offer, the crying sin of Asiatic governments to this day. The word, שׁפשׂ , ( shaphat,) to judge, give judgment, should here be understood generically of the manner of conducting a trial. Their whole code of procedure was corrupt and needed reform. The poor and fatherless describe a temporal condition without reference to moral character; but afflicted, in the next clause, often takes the accessory idea of meek, pious. Psalms 72:2; Psalms 140:12; Isaiah 66:2.

Do justice Hebrew, Make righteous; that is, acquit before the law, justify. This they are commanded to do to the meanest citizen, his cause being right, no less than to the greatest. This was the ideal perfection of the divine government. Psalms 72:12-14

Verse 4

4. Deliver… rid The charge given in Psalms 82:3 has relation to ordinary suits; this to cases of persecution and oppression. In those they were to pronounce justice; in these snatch the victims of avarice and malice out of the clutch of their tormentors. The two words are different, but they both have relation, not simply to arbitrative justice, but to power also the interference of the strong arm of legal protection.

Verse 5

5. They know not “The judges are ignorant of their duty.” Ainsworth. They consider not the high dignity of their office, the fundamental laws of the theocracy, and that the existence of the nation depends on their fidelity. For more than sixty years, since the death of Solomon, the government had declined fearfully. We must understand God as still speaking to the judges, and Psalms 82:5 refers to such as are described Psalms 82:2, and will not practise the injunctions of Psalms 82:3-4. Compare Micah 3:1: “And I said,… O… ye princes of the house of Israel, is it not for you to know judgment.”

All the foundations of the earth are out of course The principles of just government are the pillars of society, and when they are perverted by corrupt and ambitious rulers the foundations of the social fabric are shaken, and must fall. The figure is that of an earthquake shaking and heaving the solid earth, and demolishing human habitations. Compare note on Psalms 75:3

Verse 6

6. I have said, Ye are gods God still speaks to the judges. He calls them back to the time when their office was instituted, and they were called “gods,” as officially representing the divine majesty and functions. Thus, in Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9, where “judges” occurs in the common version, it is God in the Hebrew. He had further guarded the dignity of this office by commanding the people, “Thou shalt not revile the gods,” where the same awful name, Eloheem, God, again occurs. Exodus 22:28.

Children of the Most High Sons of the Most High, corresponding to gods in the preceding clause. The Saviour quoted this title as applied to men holding a divine commission, (John 10:34-36,) and contrasts his own claim, “whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world,” as incomparably greater, even on the principles which the Pharisees themselves admitted. His argument was simply ad hominem.

Verse 7

7. Ye shall die like men Your high office and titles will give you no immunity, from the common fate of mortal men. You “shall die” like those poor whose cause you have despised, (see Psalms 49:11-14,) and like all other princes of the earth. The form of speech is similar to Judges 16:7; Judges 16:11; Judges 16:17, “Then shall I be weak, and be as another man.”

Verse 8

8. Arise, O God, judge the earth The king now speaks. As the earth is full of misrule and violence, God is invoked, as the blessed and supreme “judge,” to take into his own hands the disordered affairs of the world.

For thou shalt inherit all nations A prophetic anticipation of Revelation 11:17. “We give thanks unto thee, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 82". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-82.html. 1874-1909.
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