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Psalms 83:13-17

Context

83:13 O my God, make them like dead thistles, 1 

like dead weeds blown away by 2  the wind!

83:14 Like the fire that burns down the forest,

or the flames that consume the mountainsides, 3 

83:15 chase them with your gale winds,

and terrify 4  them with your windstorm.

83:16 Cover 5  their faces with shame,

so they might seek 6  you, 7  O Lord.

83:17 May they be humiliated and continually terrified! 8 

May they die in shame! 9 

1 tn Or “tumbleweed.” The Hebrew noun גַּלְגַּל (galgal) refers to a “wheel” or, metaphorically, to a whirling wind (see Ps 77:18). If taken in the latter sense here, one could understand the term as a metonymical reference to dust blown by a whirlwind (cf. NRSV “like whirling dust”). However, HALOT 190 s.v. II גַּלְגַּל understands the noun as a homonym referring to a “dead thistle” here and in Isa 17:13. The parallel line, which refers to קַשׁ (qash, “chaff”), favors this interpretation.

2 tn Heb “before.”

3 sn The imagery of fire and flames suggests unrelenting, destructive judgment.

4 tn The two imperfect verbal forms in v. 15 express the psalmist’s wish or prayer.

5 tn Heb “fill.”

6 tn After the preceding imperative, the prefixed verbal form with prefixed vav (ו) indicates purpose or result (“then they will seek”).

7 tn Heb “your name,” which stands here for God’s person.

8 tn Heb “and may they be terrified to perpetuity.” The Hebrew expression עֲדֵי־עַד (’adey-ad, “to perpetuity”) can mean “forevermore” (see Pss 92:7; 132:12, 14), but here it may be used hyperbolically, for the psalmist asks that the experience of judgment might lead the nations to recognize (v. 18) and even to seek (v. 16) God.

9 tn Heb “may they be ashamed and perish.” The four prefixed verbal forms in this verse are understood as jussives. The psalmist concludes his prayer with an imprecation, calling severe judgment down on his enemies. The strong language of the imprecation seems to run contrary to the positive outcome of divine judgment envisioned in v. 16b. Perhaps the language of v. 17 is overstated for effect. Another option is that v. 16b expresses an ideal, while the strong imprecation of vv. 17-18 anticipates reality. It would be nice if the defeated nations actually pursued a relationship with God, but if judgment does not bring them to that point, the psalmist asks that they be annihilated so that they might at least be forced to acknowledge God’s power.



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