Psalms 83


The psalmist calls upon God for immediate help against a

multitude of confederate enemies who had risen up against

Judah, 1-5.

He mentions them by name, 6-8;

shows how they were to be punished, 9-17;

and that this was to be done for the glory of God, 18.


The title, A Song or Psalm of Asaph, contains nothing

particular. Among a multitude of conjectures relative to the time

and occasion of this Psalm, that which refers it to the

confederacy against Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, mentioned

2Ch 20:1-30, is the most likely. The following reasons make it

probable: 1. The children of Ammon, that is, the Ammonites and

Moabites, were the principal movers in the war. 2. The Idumeans

came to their assistance, 2Ch 20:22; with certain

Ammonites or Meonians, referred to here in Ps 83:8, and in

2Ch 20:1. 3. There were also in this confederacy many

strangers of Syria, and from beyond the sea, most likely the

Dead Sea, which seems to indicate the Assyrians, Hagaranes, and

Ishmaelites, designed expressly here, Ps 83:7, 8. 4. In that

transaction there was a prophet of the race of Asaph, named

Jahaziel, who foretold to Jehoshaphat their total overthrow,

2Ch 20:14, &c., and probably this

Jahaziel is the same with Asaph, the author of this Psalm. In

the course of the notes we shall see other circumstances relative

to the war of the Moabites and Ammonites against Jehoshaphat,

which illustrates several particulars in this Psalm. See Calmet.

Verse 1. Keep not thou silence] A strong appeal to God just as

the confederacy was discovered. Do not be inactive, do not be

neuter. Thy honour and our existence are both at stake.

Verse 2. Thine enemies make a tumult] They are not merely the

enemies of thy people, but they are the enemies of thyself, thy

worship, ordinances, and laws: "They make a tumult," they throng


They-have lifted up the head.] They have made an irruption into

the land of Judea, and encamped at En-gedi, by the Dead Sea,

2Ch 20:1, 2.

Verse 3. Consulted against thy hidden ones.]

tsephuneycha, Thy hidden things; places; persons. "The hidden

things in thy treasures."-CHALDEE. "Thy holy ones."-SYRIAC. "Thy

saints."-VULGATE and SEPTUAGINT; and so the AEthiopic and Arabic.

The people of Israel are probably meant. Or perhaps the temple,

the ark, and the treasures of the temple, are intended.

Verse 4. Let us cut them off] Let us exterminate the whole race,

that there may not be a record of them on the face of the earth.

And their scheme was well laid: eight or ten different nations

united themselves in a firm bond to do this; and they had kept

their purpose so secret that the king of Judah does not appear to

have heard of it till his territories were actually invaded, and

the different bodies of this coalition had assembled at En-gedi.

Never was Judah before in greater danger.

Verse 5. They have consulted together with one consent] With a

united heart, leb yachdav, Their heart and soul are in the


They are confederate against thee] "They have made a covenant,"

berith yachrithu, "they have cut the covenant

sacrifice." They have slain an animal, divided him in twain, and

passed between the pieces of the victim; and have thus bound

themselves to accomplish their purpose.

Verse 6. The tabernacles of Edom] The tents of these different

people are seen in the grand encampment. Tents are probably

mentioned because it seas the custom of some of these people,

particularly the Ishmaelites, to live a migratory or wandering

life; having no fixed habitation, but always abiding in tents.

Their posterity remain to the present day, and act and live in the

same manner.

Hagarenes] These people dwelt on the east of Gilead; and were

nearly destroyed in the days of Saul, being totally expelled from

their country, 1Ch 5:10, but afterwards recovered some strength

and consequence; but where they dwelt after their expulsion by the

Israelites is not known.

Verse 7. Gebal] The Giblites, who were probably the persons here

designed, were a tribe of the ancient inhabitants of the land of

Canaan, and are mentioned as unconquered at the death of Joshua,

Jos 13:5. They are called

stone-squarers or Giblites, 1Ki 5:18, and were of considerable

assistance to Hiram king of Tyre, in preparing timber and stones

for the building of the temple. They appear to have been eminent

in the days of Ezekiel, who terms them the "ancients of Gebal, and

the wise men-thereof," who were ship-builders, Eze 27:3. What is

now called Gibyle, a place on the Mediterranean Sea, between

Tripoli and Sidon, is supposed to be the remains of the city of

the Giblites.

Ammon and Moab were then descendants of the children of Lot.

Their bad origin is sufficiently known. See Ge 19:30, &c. Calmet

supposes that Ammon is put here for Men or Maon, the Meonians,

a people who lived in the neighbourhood of the Amalekites and

Idumeans. See the notes on 2Ch 20:1; 26:7.

Amalek] The Amalekites are well known as the ancient and

inveterate enemies of the Israelites. They were neighbours to the


The Philistines] These were tributaries to Jehoshaphat,

2Ch 17:11; but it seems they took advantage of the present

times, to join in the great confederacy against him.

The inhabitants of Tyre] These probably joined the confederacy

in hopes of making conquests, and extending their territory on the

main land.

Verse 8. Assur also is joined] The Ammonites might have got

those auxiliaries from beyond the Euphrates, against Jehosphaphat,

as formerly they were brought against David. See 2Sa 10:16.

They have holpen the children of Lot.] The Ammonites, who appear

to have been the chief instigators in this war.

Verse 9. Do unto them as unto the Midianites] Who were utterly

defeated by Gideon, Jud 7:21, 22.

As to Sisera] Captain of the army of Jabin, king of Canaan,

who was totally defeated by Deborah and Barak, near Mount Tabor,

by the river Kishon; and himself, after having fled from the

battle, slain by Jael, the wife of Heber, the Kenite. See

Jud 4:15, &c.

Verse 10. Perished at En-dor] This refers to the defeat of the

Midianites by Gideon, who were encamped in the valley of

Jezreel, at the foot of Mount Gilboa, and near to Tabor,

Jud 6:33; 7:1, and consequently in the environs of

En-dor. There Gideon attacked and defeated them; and, in various

places during their flight, they were destroyed, and left to rot

upon the earth. Jud 7:22-25.

Verse 11. Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb] They were

two of the chiefs, or generals, of the Midianites; and were slain

in the pursuit of the Midianites, by the men of Ephraim; and their

heads brought to Gideon on the other side of Jordan.

Jud 7:24, 25.

Yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna] These were

kings of Midian, who were encamped at Karkor with fifteen thousand

men, whom Gideon attacked there, and defeated, and took the kings

prisoners; and finding that they had killed his own brothers slew

them both. See Jud 8:10-21. Of the Midianites there fell at this

time one hundred and twenty thousand men.

Verse 12. Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in

possession.] Nearly the words spoken by the confederates when they

came to attack Jehoshaphat. They come (says the king in address to

God) to cast us out of thy possession which thou hast given us to

inherit. See 2Ch 20:11.

Verse 13. O my God, make them like a wheel] Alluding to the

manner of threshing corn in the east. A large broad wheel was

rolled over the grain on a threshing-floor, which was generally in

the open air; and the grain being thrown up by a shovel against

the wind the chaff was thus separated from it, in the place where

it was threshed.

Verse 14. The flame setteth the mountains on fire] This may

refer to the burning of the straw and chaff, after the grain was

threshed and winnowed. And as their threshing-floors were situated

often on the hills or mountains, to take the advantage of the

wind, the setting the mountains on fire may refer to the burning

of the chaff, &c., in those places. Let them be like stubble

driven away by the wind, and burnt by the fire.

Verse 15. So persecute them] In this and the two following

verses we find several awful execrations; and all this seems to be

done in reference to that ancient custom, "pouring execrations on

an enemy previously to battle." Of this I have already given

specimens in this work; and the reader is particularly requested

to refer to the case of Balaam being hired by the king of Moab to

curse Israel previously to his intended attack: see the note on

Nu 22:6, where the subject is treated at large.

This custom prevailed much among the Romans, and the ancient

Druids of Britain. In all cases the priests were employed to

utter the execrations, as they were supposed to have the greatest

influence with the gods, in whose name the curses were uttered.

Verse 16. That they may seek thy name] Let them be confounded in

all their attempts on Israel; and see, so manifestly, that thou

hast done it, that they may invoke thy name, and be converted to


Verse 17. Let them-perish] That is, in their present attempts.

Some have objected to the execrations in this Psalm, without due

consideration. None of these execrations refer either to their

souls or to their eternal state; but merely to their

discomfiture on their present attempts. Suppose the continental

powers should join together to subjugate Britain, and destroy the

Protestant religion; is there a Christian in the land that would

not be justified in meeting them with the same or similar

execrations? On the knees of my soul would I offer every one of

them to God against such invaders. Selah.-A. C.

Verse 18. That men may know] That they may acknowledge, and be

converted to thee. Here is no malice; all is self-defence.


This Psalm divides itself into four parts:-

I. A short ejaculation, Ps 83:1.

II. A complaint against God's enemies, which is the reason of

this prayer, Ps 83:2-10.

III. A fearful imprecation against them, Ps 83:12-17.

IV. The charitable ends proposed, Ps 83:18.

I. The ejaculation or prayer: "Keep not thou silence-be not

still." Thy enemies are loud in their threatenings, and active in

their endeavours, to destroy thy people and thy worship: "Hold not

thy peace!"

II. He complains-These are enemies, 1. To thy people, Ps 83:2.

2. To God himself, Ps 83:5. Then he describes them, Ps 83:6-8.

1. They were banditti-spoilers: They "make a tumult," Ps 83:2.

2. Proud and arrogant: "They have lifted up the head," Ps 83:2.

3. They were subtle and crafty: "They have taken crafty

counsel," Ps 83:3.

4. They carried their cunning counsel into acts of aggression:

"Come, and let us cut them off," &c., Ps 83:4.

5. They were conspirators,-1. Against God. 2. Against his

people. All the world against God and his Church! Not an uncommon


6. He gives us a catalogue of these conspirators, Ps 83:6-8:

Edom, &c.

III. He prays to God against them. In which there are four

particulars: 1. Their fall and ruin. 2. Their persecution. 3.

Their terror. 4. Their disgrace.

These he illustrates by five similitudes: 1. Of a wheel that,

running on, crushes all under it successively. 2. Of stubble or

chaff, easily driven away by the wind, Ps 83:13. 3. Of a

wood or forest in a state of general conflagration, Ps 83:14.

4. Of a flame that even consumes the mountains, Ps 83:14.

Their fall and ruin he wished to be-

1. Speedy and perpetual: "Do unto them as unto the Midianites,"

&c., Ps 83:9-13.

2. Sudden and violent: "As fire," Ps 83:13.

3. Terrible and shameful: "Fill their faces with shame,"

Ps 83:15, 16.

There are here three particulars of their punishment: 1. Flight.

2. Terror. 3. Shame and ignominy.

IV. The charitable ends proposed. These were two:-

1. That they might seek after God, be converted to him,

Ps 83:16.

2. That they might know him to be Jehovah, the only true God,

that they might be saved from all idolatry, Ps 83:18.

The spirit of this prayer is, 1. If they will not seek thee, and

be converted, let them be confounded in their attempts against thy

people. 2. If they will not acknowledge thee, let them be utterly

routed and overthrown: "Let them be put to shame, and perish!"

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