A psalm of Asaph.
and show favoritism to the wicked? 7 (Selah)
Vindicate the oppressed and suffering!
82:4 Rescue the poor and needy!
Deliver them from the power 9 of the wicked!
They stumble 11 around in the dark,
while all the foundations of the earth crumble. 12
all of you are sons of the Most High.’ 14
you will fall like all the other rulers.” 16
1 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.
2 tn Or “presides over.”
3 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.
4 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).
7 tn Heb “and the face of the wicked lift up.”
8 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).
9 tn Heb “hand.”
10 sn Having addressed the defendants, God now speaks to those who are observing the trial, referring to the gods in the third person.
11 tn Heb “walk.” The Hitpael stem indicates iterative action, picturing these ignorant “judges” as stumbling around in the darkness.
12 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).
13 tn Heb “said.”
14 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).
15 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.
16 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).