What does Psalms 83 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Some psalms are considered "imprecatory:" they call on God to bring direct, literal, severe harm on some enemy. This is one such song. Other imprecatory psalms include Psalm 5, 10, 35, 58, 69, 109, and 140. God does not necessarily promise to deliver the results these passages request. Mostly, the imprecatory psalms are a window into the mindset of those suffering under the threat of evil and persecution.

This psalm is associated with the name Asaph, as are Psalms 50 and 73—82. However, it does not easily match any event in Old Testament history. The closest connection to this list of nations is the attack on Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20). If Psalm 83 refers to that exact moment, it would mean a successor to Asaph wrote this in his style (2 Chronicles 20:14), rather than it being written by Asaph himself. Some interpreters take this passage as a general statement: that Israel is perpetually surrounded by hateful enemies seeking her annihilation. Others believe this refers to a multinational invasion of Israel which had not yet occurred and will be fulfilled in or near the end times.

The psalm begins with a prayer that God would protect Israel. The appeal is for God to act, rather than to allow an attack to proceed. These aggressors are not acting at random. They are planning—plotting—and with murderous intent. They want more than victory. These enemies want to erase the Jewish people and dissolve even the memory of their existence (Psalm 83:1–4).

The ten groups listed as part of this coalition correspond to many of Israel's historic foes. Mentioned here are Edomites (Genesis 36:1), Ishmaelites (Genesis 16:3–¬4, 11–12), Moabites and Ammonites (Genesis 19:34–38; Numbers 25:1; Judges 10:7–8; 2 Samuel 12:26), Amalekites (Exodus 17:8; Judges 6:1; 1 Samuel 15:1–9; 30:1) and the city-state of Tyre (Joshua 19:29; Ezekiel 26:1–3). The region of Gebal (Ezekiel 27:9; 1 Kings 5:18; Joshua 13:5) and the Hagrites (1 Chronicles 5:10) are included, as well. Also noted are the infamous Philistines (Judges 3:1–3; 16:28–30; 1 Samuel 17:2–3; 2 Samuel 5:25). These nations represent threats from every direction, and in every part of Israel's history (Psalm 83:5–7).

The last assailant noted is Assyria—or Asshur—which became an especially powerful foe (Genesis 10:11; Jonah 1:1–2; 2 Kings 5:1–19; 17:6). That may be why Asaph refers to them as the "strong arm" of this coalition. Reference to the "children of Lot" probably means the Moabites and Ammonites, who originated in an incestuous incident between Lot and his own daughters (Genesis 19:34–38). Perhaps those two nations were leading this current campaign (Psalm 83:8).

Asaph's first request is that God echo the brutal judgments brought against enemies in Israel's past. His examples include Jabin and Sisera, Canaanite leaders who were defeated by Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:23–24). This led to Sisera's attempted escape and slaughter by a clever woman (Judges 4:17, 21). Asaph also mentions Midian, who survived when Israel failed to follow God's command just after leaving Egypt (Numbers 31:7ff). The same people later oppressed Israel (Judges 6:1) and were defeated by Gideon (Judges 7:12, 24–25). Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah, and Zalmunna were among the important Midianite leaders captured and executed in that campaign (Judges 8:3, 12) (Psalm 83:9–12).

The last portion of the psalm calls on God to bring justice to these nations, using the imagery of nature. Asaph asks that these attacking enemies be utterly destroyed and brought to shame. That sense of disgrace is not only a question of defeat. Asaph also recognizes that the better purpose of God's judgment is leading people to acknowledge Him as Most High (Psalm 83:13–18).
Verse Context:
Psalm 83:1–8 forms the first half of Asaph's psalm. He urges God to act against Israel's enemies, who plan to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. These aggressors deliberately plan their assault; they agree about annihilating God's people. Asaph lists ten groups, which include many of Israel's historic enemies.
Psalm 83:9–18 comes after Asaph's plea: that God will stop the coalition of enemies attempting to destroy Israel. Here, Asaph directly asks the Lord to punish these opponents. He asks God to disgrace them, annihilate them, and make them acknowledge that the Lord alone is the Most High over all the earth. These requests place this song among the "imprecatory psalms."
Chapter Summary:
Asaph prays for God to intervene in a conspiracy. Many nations cooperate to erase Israel and her legacy. He asks the Lord for protection, asking Him to repeat the harsh judgments brought on pagan nations in the past. Asaph extends this by asking God to bring destruction, ruin, and humiliation on these opponents. Despite this, Asaph recognizes that the proper goal is for these nations to recognize that God alone is Most High. This is one of several "imprecatory" psalms such as Psalm 5, 10, 17, 109, and 137, which request God to deliver severe harm on some enemy.
Chapter Context:
This is the last psalm identified with Asaph. It is one of the imprecatory psalms which call for harsh judgment from God. Other such psalms include 5, 10, 35, 109, and 137. The psalm is not explicitly connected to a historical event. It may refer to the attack on Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20). Others see this as a general reference to the Gentile world's relentless attacks on Israel. Still others interpret this as a prophecy about a large-scale attack set to occur in the end times.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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