Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Arise and Save

[A Song or Psalm of Asaph]

1 Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.

2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.

3 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.

4 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.

5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:

6 The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes;

7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;

8 Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.

9 Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison:

10 Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.

11 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:

12 Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.

13 O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind.

14 As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;

15 So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.

16 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD.

17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:

18 That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

—Psalm 83 KJV Bible

In this psalm, the psalmist is surrounded by enemies and pleads with God for help. The psalmist describes the confederacy against Israel and prays for vengeance.

There does not seem to be an agreement as to when this psalm was written. This is because of the enemies listed in the psalm were not all enemies of Israel at the same time. Some were enemies in 800 BC, some in 600 BC and some in 400 BC. Because of this, some speculate that the psalm was written in pieces over time.

Some include this as one of the imprecatory psalms. An imprecation is the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil. The imprecatory psalms contain an invocation of judgment, calamity, or curse against one's enemies who are viewed as enemies of God. The Major Imprecatory Psalms include psalms 69 and 109. Others are psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139 (some include in this list psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 83, and 143). It is thought that the purposes of these imprecations are, depending on the psalm, to do one or more of the following: (1) to demonstrate God's just and righteous judgment toward the wicked, (2) to show the authority of God over the wicked, (3) to lead the wicked to seek the Lord, or (4) to cause the righteous to praise God. In the New Testament, Jesus quoted from them in John 15:25 (Psalms 35 and 69), the Apostle John references Psalm 69 in John 2:17, and the Apostle Paul quoted from Psalm 69 in his Letter to the Romans (Romans 11:9-10; Romans 15:3).

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 8 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 4, the psalmist pleads with God for help. Thinking that God is indifferent or sleeping, the psalmist tries to get God’s attention by describing what is about to happen to Israel.

In verses 5 through 8, the psalmist lists the nations and peoples that have conspired against God and Israel. They are Edom (descendants of Esau, the grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac and the twin of Jacob/Israel), Ishmaelites (the descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham by Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar), Moab (descendants of Moab, the son of Abraham’s nephew Lot by Lot’s elder daughter), Hagrites (peoples living in the Aramean and northern Arabian desert, not necessarily descendants of Hagar), Gelab (an area between the Dead Sea and Petra), Ammon (descendants of Ammon, the son of Abraham’s nephew Lot by Lot’s younger daughter), Amalek (descendants of Amalek, Esau’s grandson), Philistia (the eastern Mediterranean coast, occupied by the Philistines, who migrated there from Crete and other Aegean islands), Tyre (an ancient Phoenician city-state on the Mediterranean Sea, between Acre and Sidon), Assyria (a nation centered on the Upper Tigris river, named after its original capital, the ancient city of Assur). Assyria is described as assisting Moab and Ammon (the children of Lot).

In verses 9 through 18, the psalmist prays for vengeance. In verses 9 through 12, the psalmist asks that God make the fate of the enemies the same as some previous enemies of God. Midian was was destroyed by the judge Gideon, who lead people from the tribe of Ephriam (Judges 6-8). Oreb and Zeeb were princes of Midian. Gideon killed Zebah and Zalmunna, who were kings of Midian. Judges 4 tells the story of Jabin, king of Hazor, and Sisera, the leader of Jabin’s army. The woman Jael killed Sisera as he hid in her tent, and the judge Deborah, with her general Barak, destroyed Jabin’s army at the river Kishon. In verses 13 through 17, the psalmist then asks that God pursue the enemies, separate them from the living—like chaff from grain—and burn them in a firestorm. The psalmist asks not only that they be destroyed, but that theirs be a humiliating defeat, so as to be an example to other nations that do not honor God or Israel. In verse 18, the psalmist desires that all the other nations know tat God is “the Lord” (“Yahweh,” the proper name of the God of Israel) and “the Most High” (“elyown,” the Supreme; the Most High; the Greatest).

Father, forgive me when I am impatient for your deliverance. Remind me that You are always with me, whatever may come. I thank You and I praise You.


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