Psalm 82#sn Psalm 82. The psalmist pictures God standing in the “assembly of El” where he accuses the “gods” of failing to promote justice on earth. God pronounces sentence upon them, announcing that they will die like men. Having witnessed the scene, the psalmist then asks God to establish his just rule over the earth.
A psalm of Asaph.
1 God stands in#tn Or “presides over.” the assembly of El;#tn The phrase עֲדַת אֵל (’adat ’el, “assembly of El”) appears only here in the OT. (1) Some understand “El” to refer to God himself. In this case he is pictured presiding over his own heavenly assembly. (2) Others take אֵל as a superlative here (“God stands in the great assembly”), as in Pss 36:6 and 80:10. (3) The present translation assumes this is a reference to the Canaanite high god El, who presided over the Canaanite divine assembly. (See Isa 14:13, where El’s assembly is called “the stars of El.”) In the Ugaritic myths the phrase ’dt ’ilm refers to the “assembly of the gods,” who congregate in King Kirtu’s house, where Baal asks El to bless Kirtu’s house (see G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 91). If the Canaanite divine assembly is referred to here in Ps 82:1, then the psalm must be understood as a bold polemic against Canaanite religion. Israel’s God invades El’s assembly, denounces its gods as failing to uphold justice, and announces their coming demise. For an interpretation of the psalm along these lines, see W. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” EBC 5:533-36.
in the midst of the gods#sn The present translation assumes that the Hebrew term אֱלֹהִים (’elohim, “gods”) here refers to the pagan gods who supposedly comprise El’s assembly according to Canaanite religion. Those who reject the polemical view of the psalm prefer to see the referent as human judges or rulers (אֱלֹהִים sometimes refers to officials appointed by God, see Exod 21:6; 22:8-9; Ps 45:6) or as angelic beings (אֱלֹהִים sometimes refers to angelic beings, see Gen 3:5; Ps 8:5). he renders judgment.#sn The picture of God rendering judgment among the gods clearly depicts his sovereign authority as universal king (see v. 8, where the psalmist boldly affirms this truth).
2 He says,#tn The words “he says” are supplied in the translation to indicate that the following speech is God’s judicial decision (see v. 1). “How long will you make unjust legal decisions
and show favoritism to the wicked?#tn Heb “and the face of the wicked lift up.” (Selah)
3 Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless!#tn The Hebrew noun יָתוֹם (yatom) refers to one who has lost his father (not necessarily his mother, see Ps 109:9). Because they were so vulnerable and were frequently exploited, fatherless children are often mentioned as epitomizing the oppressed (see Pss 10:14; 68:5; 94:6; 146:9; as well as Job 6:27; 22:9; 24:3, 9; 29:12; 31:17, 21).
Vindicate the oppressed and suffering!
4 Rescue the poor and needy!
Deliver them from the power#tn Heb “hand.” of the wicked!
5 They#sn Having addressed the defendants, God now speaks to those who are observing the trial, referring to the gods in the third person. neither know nor understand.
They stumble#tn Heb “walk.” The Hitpael stem indicates iterative action, picturing these ignorant “judges” as stumbling around in the darkness. around in the dark,
while all the foundations of the earth crumble.#sn These gods, though responsible for justice, neglect their duty. Their self-imposed ignorance (which the psalmist compares to stumbling around in the dark) results in widespread injustice, which threatens the social order of the world (the meaning of the phrase all the foundations of the earth crumble).
6 I thought,#tn Heb “said.” ‘You are gods;
all of you are sons of the Most High.’#sn Normally in the OT the title Most High belongs to the God of Israel, but in this context, where the mythological overtones are so strong, it probably refers to the Canaanite high god El (see v. 1, as well as Isa 14:13).
7 Yet you will die like mortals;#tn Heb “men.” The point in the context is mortality, however, not maleness.sn You will die like mortals. For the concept of a god losing immortality and dying, see Isa 14:12-15, which alludes to a pagan myth in which the petty god “Shining One, son of the Dawn,” is hurled into Sheol for his hubris.
you will fall like all the other rulers.”#tn Heb “like one of the rulers.” The comparison does not necessarily imply that they are not rulers. The expression “like one of” can sometimes mean “as one of” (Gen 49:16; Obad 11) or “as any other of” (Judg 16:7, 11).
8 Rise up, O God, and execute judgment on the earth!
For you own#tn The translation assumes that the Qal of נָחַל (nakhal) here means “to own; to possess,” and that the imperfect emphasizes a general truth. Another option is to translate the verb as future, “for you will take possession of all the nations” (cf. NIV “all the nations are your inheritance”). all the nations.