Verse 1. - God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; or, "in the congregation of God" - "the Divine assembly" (see Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Isaiah 6:1, 2, etc.). El, in the singular, can scarcely mean the "mighty ones of earth." He judgeth among the gods. He "holds a court of judgment in heaven, surrounded by the Divine ministers, who will execute his behests" (Canon Cook).
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
Verse 2. - How long will ye judge unjustly? "The cry of the impatient Jehovah" (Cheyne); comp. Exodus 10:3; Exodus 16:28; Numbers 14:11, 27. And accept the persons of the wicked? Accepting men's persons is favouring them unduly on account of their position or outward circumstances. It was strictly forbidden in the Mosaic Law (see Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Leviticus 19:15).
Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Verse 3. - Defend the poor and fatherless; literally, judge them. "Do not deny them justice; do not refuse to hear their cause" (comp. Isaiah 1:23; Jeremiah 5:28). Do justice to the afflicted and needy. After consenting to hear their cause, be sure thou doest them justice. These commands are covert reproaches.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
Verse 4. - Deliver the poor and needy. The poor were terribly oppressed, and needed "deliverance" (see Job 29:12; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 3:14, 15; Isaiah 58:6; Micah 3:2, 3). Rid them out of the hand of the wicked; or, rescue them.
They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
Verse 5. - They know not, neither will they understand. Scarcely "an aside from the indignant judge," as Professor Cheyne suggests, much less a remark interpolated by the poet (Ewald, Hitzig). Rather a complaint of human perversity, addressed by Jehovah to the angelic host who are present (ver. 1). It is not an accidental and excusable ignorance, but a wilful and guilty one that is spoken cf. They walk on in darkness. Loving darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:19), they walked in the way of darkness (Proverbs 2:13). All the foundations of the earth are out of course; rather, are shaken. The fundamental bases on which the life of man upon the earth rests, the very principles of morality, are shaken, and totter to their fail, when those whose place it is to administer justice pervert it and deal out injustice instead.
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
Verse 6. - I have said, Ye are gods; i.e. "in my Law I have called you gods" - I have given you this lofty name (see Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8, 9), since ye judge on my behalf, "as my representatives" (Deuteronomy 1:17; 2 Chronicles 19:6; Romans 13:1, 2). And all of you are children of the Most High. Not therefore "gods" in the strictest sense, but possessing a derived, and so a qualified, divinity.
But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Verse 7. - But ye shall die like men. The name of "gods," even the fact of your being representatives of God, shall not save you from condign punishment. Ye shall be punished with death, as other wicked men are punished (Psalm 73:18). And fall like one of the princes; i.e. come to an untimely end, as so many "princes" have done (see Joshua 12:9-24; Judges 1:7; Judges 3:21; Judges 7:25; Judges 8:21, etc.).
Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
Verse 8. - Arise, O God, judge the earth. The words of God (vers. 2-7) being ended, the psalmist calls upon him to proceed at once to judgment; but he does not limit the judgment to Israel's unjust judges. God is asked to "arise" and "judge the earth," i.e. the whole world (comp. Psalm 7:7, 8; Psalm 56:7; Psalm 59:5). For thou shalt inherit; or, "for thou dost inherit." "God is the King of all the earth" (Psalm 47:2), not of Israel only. All nations - the whole world - must be regarded as his possession or "inheritance."