Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
A Song or Psalm of Asaph
2 Keep not thou silence, O God:
Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.
3 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult:
And they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
4 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people,
And consulted against thy hidden ones.
5 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.
6 For they have consulted together with one consent
They are confederate against thee:
7 The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites;
Of Moab, and the Hagarenes;
8 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek;
The Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;
9 Assur also is joined with them:
They have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.
10 Do unto them as unto the Midianites;
As to Sisera, as to Jabin at the brook of Kison:
11 Which perished at En-dor:
They became as dung for the earth.
12 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb:
Yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:
13 Who said, Let us take to ourselves
The houses of God in possession.
14 O my God, make them like a wheel:
As the stubble before the wind.
15 As the fire burneth a wood,
And as the flame setteth the mountain on fire;
16 So persecute them with thy tempest,
And make them afraid with thy storm.
17 Fill their faces with shame;
That they may seek thy name, O LORD.
18 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever;
Yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:
19 That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH,
Art the Most High over all the earth.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION. The first half of the Psalm, marked by Selah, contains a prayer to God that He would not remain inactive against attacks of those tribes, which, armed with strength and cunning, had risen up to destroy Israel until its very name should become extinct. (Psalm 83:2–5). These are then enumerated as leagued together (Psalm 83:6–9). The second half gives a positive turn to this prayer, namely that God would prepare for these enemies of Israel the same overthrow and disgrace which He had inflicted upon similar foes of former times (Psalm 83:10–13); that He would utterly disperse them and bring them to shame, so that they might learn to seek God (Psalm 83:14–17). This thought is expressed again (Psalm 83:18, 19), and presented in a Messianic aspect. With regard to the time of composition, the following difficulty meets us. The ten nations who are here enumerated as being combined against Israel, are never mentioned elsewhere as enemies allied at the same time and for the purpose of annihilating Israel. And yet the expressions are of such a nature, that we cannot be inclined to consider this enumeration as only a poetical individualizing of the general idea: enemies from all sides (De Wette, Hupfeld). The position of Assyria as an auxiliary of the sons of Lot, that is, of the Moabites and Ammonites, is especially unfavorable to this view. The same circumstance, alluding as it does to a special historical instance, opposes also any attempt to refer the composition to the age of the Maccabees (for which many since Van Till decide, referring to 1 Macc. 5. and Josephus, Ant. 12:8). For even if it be admitted that the name Assyria could be transferred to Syria under the Seleucidæ, we must remember that the latter country had assumed a position of prominence in history just in the age of the Maccabees, and formed the chief power against which the Asmonæan princes contended. We cannot reconcile with this fact the subordinate position assigned in the Psalm to the power designated as Assyria, if respect be had to the predominant character of that age, so well known in history. But if we turn to the special case 1 Macc. 5. we will find that the Syrians are not mentioned there at all, any more than the Amalekites, who had disappeared from history. We are therefore compelled to go back to a time, when Assyria had not yet become the great world-power that threatened Israel. Accordingly the Persian period Neh. 4:1 f.; 4:1 (Köster, Maurer, Ewald) is to be excluded, as also the Chaldean (Hassler). We would therefore be disposed to assume one of the wars of David with the neighboring nations leagued against him, 2 Sam. 8. or 10. (Grotius, J. H. Michaelis, Clauss). But the enumeration given in the text does not correspond with sufficient exactness to any of them. It agrees best with the alliance formed against Jehoshaphat, at the head of which were the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites (since Kimchi, especially Venema and most of the recent commentators). Yet it must be confessed that even under this assumption there is much to be supplied and left to pure conjecture. For Josephus (Ant. 10:1, 2), gives a multitude of Arabs instead of the Meunim mentioned by the Chronicler. These may possibly be identical with the Ishmaelites and the Hagarenes here mentioned. The latter pitched their tents from the Persian Gulf as far as the country east of Gilead towards the Euphrates (1 Chron. 10:10), while the former spread themselves (Gen. 25:18), through the Sinaitic peninsula over the Arabian Desert as far as the countries under the sway of the Assyrians in the remote north-east. Now, since in 2 Chron. 20:2, we must read מֵאֶדְֹם instead of מֵאֲרָם, as indicating the place of departure of these hordes, Edom appears to have been their place of rendezvous, and is given the first place by the Psalmist for this reason, unless we prefer to assume that the hostile nations were enumerated according to their relative geographical positions (Delitzsch). Further we can find a place for Gebal, which is not to be sought to the east of Jordan (Rosenm., De Wette), but south of the Dead Sea, (Gesenius) among the inhabitants of Mt. Seir mentioned by the Chronicler. We can certainly assume also, that Amalek, which was still existing in his time was included by him among the Edomites in the same way as Josephus (Ant. 2:1, 2), reckons ᾼμαληκῖτις as part of Idumæa. In Amos 1:6, too (comp. Joel 4:4,) the tribes along the Mediterranean coast, the Philistines and Phœnicians, appear as combined against Israel. Nor, if the same event is referred to as the one dwelt upon in the Psalm, does it appear in this instance also why the Chronicler omitted them as well as Assyria in his enumeration of the allies. If we assume, then, the identity of the events, the conjecture is at least worth mentioning, that the Levite and Asaphite Jahaziel named in 2 Chron. 20:14, was the author of this Psalm. (Dathe, Hengst., Delitzsch).
[Alexander: “To the general description (Mizmor) there is here prefixed a more specific one (shîr) which designates the composition as a song of praise or triumph. The same combination occurs above in the title of Ps. 48. a composition which as we have there seen, was probably occasioned by the victory of Jehoshaphat over the Moabites, Ammonites and their confederates as described in 2 Chron. 20. This agrees well with the hypothesis, conclusively maintained by Hengstenberg, that the Psalm before us has relation to the same event, and that as Ps. 47. was probably sung upon the field of battle, and Ps. 48. after the triumphant return to Jerusalem, so Ps. 83. was composed in confident anticipation of the victory.”—J. F. M.]
Psalm 83:10. As Midian. That is, as Thou hast done to Midian by means of Gideon (Judges 7:8, comp. Is. 9:3; 10:26; Hab. 3:7). Sisera was the general of Jabin, king of Hazor, whose army was smitten by Barak and Deborah so that the river Kishon was strown with the dead (Judges 4:5, 21). Endor lay in the midst of the battle-ground not far from Taanah and Megiddo mentioned in Judges 5: 19, (Robinson, III. 468, 477). Oreb, mentioned in Is. 10:26, and Zeeb were שָׂרִים and therefore probably generals of the Midianites (Judges 7:25); Zebah and Zalmunneh their kings (Judges 8:5ff). On the signification of these names, comp. Nöldeke, Ueber die Amalekiter, p. 9. [In Is. 10:26 it is the rock Oreb that is mentioned, so called from the death of the Midianite lord in that place. See Judges 7:25 also.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 83:14ff. Whirlwind [E.V.: wheel].—Comp. Ps. 77:19; Isa. 17:3. Wheel (Hupfeld with the ancient versions, Calvin, and others) is unnecessary here also. The fire, because it is the fire of God, devours not the covering of the mountains (most), but the mountains themselves (Hupfeld) which melt away before God like wax (Ps. 97:15; Micah 1:4; comp. Deut. 32:23, where the earth, and Ps. 78:21, 63; 106:18, where men are devoured by it). The image is more highly colored in Isa. 10: 16–19.—The knowledge spoken of in Psalm 83:19 is, it is true, a practical knowledge gained by actual painful experience of God’s power. But, still, as related to the design of the chastisement expressed in Psalm 83:17 (that they may seek God’s name) it is not compulsory recognizing, submitting, and bestowing homage (Calvin, Rudinger, Clericus, Hengstenberg), but an acknowledgment of the exclusive divinity of Jehovah, to which the nations seeking mercy and help shall be brought. We are not to translate: Thou, whose name is Jehovah (Geier, Rosenmüller) or: Thou, according to Thy name (J. H. Michaelis, Hengst.) The subject is repeated, and, as in Ps. 44:3; 69:11, the repetition makes the reference more clear. [The last view is undoubtedly correct: “Thou, Thy name is Jehovah,” etc. The sense, however, remains unchanged by the first-mentioned rendering. The second is forced and unnecessary to the elucidation. Calvin has explained the object of the repetition of the subject, laying emphasis, as it does, upon the divinity of Jehovah. He says that a comparison is made between that God and all false gods. “Lord, make them feel that the idols which they have made for themselves are nothing.”—J. F. M.] As an illustration of the meaning of the passage, comp. Isa. 37:16–20; 2 Kings 19:19.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The Church of God on earth has many enemies, and powerful and cunning ones among them. Sometimes they band themselves together, and then their purpose is to destroy the Church. But God has reversed the relation of affairs more than once. He has preserved His Church, but put her enemies to shame. For her enemies are His enemies. And even if God seems to look on for a while, to observe the conduct of men, He does not remain an idle spectator; but if He lets loose the storm and the fire of His wrath, then are felt the severity and the power of His judgment.
2. The recollection of the Divine judgment in the history of the world is to be no less frequent and lively than the remembrance of His dealings of mercy. For in both of them does God manifest His incomparable majesty, and make it clear to the whole world, that men have equal reason to fear His name and to confide in it. For this name Jehovah has a significance in the history of redemption, and a power in the history of the world.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The designs of men and the purposes of God.—If our enemies are God’s also, then we need not fear either their number, craftiness, or strength.—God proves Himself to be God alone, by glorifying His name in friend and foe.—God will not merely overthrow His own enemies and those of His Church; He will subdue them also: and so He causes them not only to feel His might, but also to know His name.—God not only rules the world, but He will be acknowledged also throughout its bounds as the Supreme Majesty.
CALVIN: God’s punishments do not always effect a change in men for the better, but they do in the end compel an acknowledgment of His supremacy to the glorifying of His name among those who are justly condemned.
STARKE: If God keeps silence, do not thou: but keep crying to Him until He ceases to be silent.—Let tyrants say what they will, they do not gain what they would; the hope of the wicked must perish.—Combinations which are formed without God, yea, against God and His Church, cannot last.—Members of God’s Church have, from the beginning, found enemies even in their blood-relations, Abel in Cain, Isaac in Ishmael, Jacob in Esau.—It is far better for men to be brought by God’s blessings to a knowledge of Him, than to be only compelled by His punishment to confess that God alone is the Lord.
RENSCHEL: Strength, counsel, and craft are of no avail; when God begins to smite, then fall chariots, horses, and men.—ARNDT : God often conceals from our sight the tokens of His help and counsel, and yet is helping wondrously, though secretly, and preserving His own.—If God alone is called Lord, and the Highest in the universe, it is good to rely upon Him alone, and it is right that we should fear, and stand in awe, and humble ourselves before Him, and that we call upon Him, honor Him, love Him, and praise Him.—FRISCH: The less the world knows thee, the better is it for thee, and this alone is sufficient for thee: God knows His own.—Hidden, yet not lost, is the emblem of the Christian.—Roos: It is indeed a great advantage, when the enemies of a nation or of an individual are also enemies of God, provided also that the pretext or primary cause of the injury does not lie with ourselves.—THOLUCK: Israel has a God who has spoken to His people, not only in words, but also in deeds.—GUENTHER: Thy impatience must not proceed from unwillingness to bear the cross any further, but from thy zeal to prove to thy enemies the vanity of their attempts. They would destroy the children of God from the earth.—DIEDRICH: We, the feeblest creatures, triumph if we have God with us, and the mightiest are dashed to the ground, if they have God against them.—We are so well shielded and cared for in God, that we can wish even for our bitterest foes the highest good at last, the knowledge of God Himself.—TAUBE: He whose vital breath is God’s word and ways and works, offers his prayers also from out of this atmosphere. And God is ever the same, as He was of old, disposed, just as He had ever been, towards His friends and towards His foes.
[BARNES: What it is right for men to attempt it is right for them to pray for; what it would be right for them to do if they had the power, it is right to ask God to accomplish; what is far from malignity in the act and in the design, may be far from malignity in the desire and in the prayer; and if men can carry with them the idea that what they are endeavoring to do is right, they will have very little difficulty in regard to the so-called imprecatory Psalms.—J. F. M.]
A Song or Psalm of Asaph. Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.