Psalm 82:1
God stands in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the gods.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Standeth.—In the Hebrew a participle, with an official ring about it. (See Isaiah 3:13.) It is used to designate departmental officers (1Kings 4:5; 1Kings 4:7; 1Kings 4:27; 1Kings 9:23. Comp. 1Samuel 22:9; Ruth 2:5-6). Thus the psalm opens with the solemn statement that God had taken His official place as president of the bench of judges.

Congregation of the mighty.—Rather, assembly of God, or divine assembly; elsewhere, “the congregation of Jehovah” (Numbers 27:17; Numbers 31:16; Joshua 22:16-18), i.e., “Israel in its religious character.”

He judgeth among the godsi.e., He is among the judges as presiding judge. For “gods,” applied to men delegated with office from God, see Exodus 21:6, and, possibly, Exodus 22:8-9. (See also Note, Psalm 8:5, and comp. Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:1.) The custom of designating God’s vicegerents by the Divine name was a very natural one. The whole point of Psalm 82:6 lies in the double meaning the word can bear. (See Note.)

Psalm 82:1. God standeth in the congregation — As a judge, diligently to observe all that is said or done there, and to give sentence accordingly. The judge sits when he hears causes, but stands up when he gives sentence. Or standing may here be intended, not to denote the posture of the person, but only his being present. Whence this Hebrew word נצב, nitzab, is by some learned interpreters rendered, is present, and by others, presideth, as this word is used, 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 22:9. Of the mighty — Or, of the gods, as it is expressed and explained in the next clause, the singular number, אל, eel, being here, as it is frequently elsewhere, put for the plural. He judgeth among the gods — Accurately observeth all their conduct, and passes sentence upon them accordingly. By gods or, the mighty, he understands kings, or other chief rulers, judges, and magistrates, called gods below, Psalm 82:6; Exodus 12:12; Exodus 22:28. compared with Psalm 138:1, and John 10:35. They are called gods, because they have their power and commission from God, and act as his deputies, in his name and stead, and must give an account to him of their conduct in their high office and station. And by their congregation he means not a convention or assembly of such persons who seldom meet together, but either, 1st, All congregations or assemblies of people in which magistrates sit to execute justice. Or, 2d, All persons whatsoever of this high and sacred order or number; for the word here rendered congregation, doth not always signify an assembly of persons met together in one place, but sometimes denotes all the particular persons of, or belonging to, such a sort or body of men, though dispersed in divers places: see Psalm 26:5; Proverbs 21:16. Some render it as it is in the Hebrew, in the congregation of God; in his own congregation, that is, in the conventions or tribunals of princes or rulers, which he rightly calls his, because their authority is wholly derived from him. But the former exposition seems more agreeable, both to the following words, and to the scope and whole body of the Psalm.82:1-5 Magistrates are the mighty in authority for the public good. Magistrates are the ministers of God's providence, for keeping up order and peace, and particularly in punishing evil-doers, and protecting those that do well. Good princes and good judges, who mean well, are under Divine direction; and bad ones, who mean ill, are under Divine restraint. The authority of God is to be submitted to, in those governors whom his providence places over us. But when justice is turned from what is right, no good can be expected. The evil actions of public persons are public mischiefs.God standeth in the congregation of the mighty - In the assembly of the rulers and judges; among those of most exalted rank and station. He is there to observe them; to give them law; to direct their decisions; to judge them. He is supreme over them; and he holds them responsible to himself The word rendered congregation is that which is commonly applied to the assembly of the people of Israel, considered as an organized body, or as a body politic. It here, however, refers to magistrates considered as a body or class of people; as those who have assemblages or meetings, with special reference to their duties as magistrates. The word rendered "mighty" - אל 'Êl - is in the singular number, and is one of the names which are given to God; hence, the literal rendering is, "God standeth in the assembly of God." The Septuagint renders it, In the synagogue of the gods. So also the Latin Vulgate. The reference, however, is undoubtedly to magistrates, and the idea is, that they were to be regarded as representatives of God; as acting in his name; and as those, therefore, to whom, in a subordinate sense, the name gods might be given. Compare Psalm 82:6. In Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9, Exodus 22:28, also, the same word in the plural is applied to magistrates, and is properly translated judges in our common version. Compare the notes at John 10:34-35. The idea is, that they were the representatives of the divine sovereignty in the administration of justice. Compare Romans 13:1-2, Romans 13:6. They were, in a sense, gods to other people; but they were not to forget that God stood among them as their God; that if they were exalted to a high rank in respect to their fellowmen, they were, nevertheless, subject to One to whom the name of God belonged in the highest sense.

He judgeth among the gods - As they to whom the name gods is thus given as the representatives of the divine sovereignty judged among people, so God would judge among them. If they were, in some sense (in consequence of their representing the divine majesty, and deriving their power and appointment from God), independent of people, they were in no sense independent of God himself.

PSALM 82

Ps 82:1-8. Before the great Judge, the judges of the earth are rebuked, exhorted, and threatened.

1. congregation—(Compare Ex 12:3; 16:1).

of the mighty—that is, of God, of His appointment.

the gods—or, "judges" (Ex 21:6; 22:9), God's representatives.

1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.

4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

Psalm 82:1

"God standeth in the congregation of the mighty." He is the overlooker, who, from his own point of view, sees all that is done by the great ones of the earth. When they sit in state he stands over them, ready to deal with them if they pervert judgment. Judges shall be judged, and to justices justice shall be meted out. Our village squires and country magistrates would do well to remember this. Some of them had need go to school to Asaph till they have mastered this Psalm. Their harsh decisions and strange judgments are made in the presence of him who will surely visit them for every unseemly act, for he has no respect unto the person of any, and is the champion of the poor and needy. A higher authority will criticise the decision of petty sessions, and even the judgments of our most impartial judges will be revised by the High Court of heaven. "He judgeth among the gods." They are gods to other men, but he is God to them. He lends them his name, and this is their authority for acting as judges, but they must take care that they do not misuse the power entrusted to them, for the Judge of judges is in session among them. Our puisne judges are but puny judges, and their brethren who administer common law will one day be tried by the common law. This great truth is, upon the whole, well regarded among us in these times, but it was not so in the earlier days of English history, when Jeffries, and such as he, were an insult to the name of justice. Oriential judges, even now, are frequently, if not generally, amenable to bribes, and in past ages it was very hard to find a ruler who had any notion of justice apart from his own arbitrary will. Such plain teaching as this Psalm contains was needful indeed, and he was a bold, good man who, in such uncourtly phrases, delivered his own soul.

Psalm 82:2

"How long will ye judge unjustly and accept the persons of the wicked?" It is indirectly stated that the magistrates had been unjust and corrupt. They not only excused the wicked, but even decided in their favour against the righteous. A little of this is too much, a short time too long. Some suitors could get their claims settled at once, and in their own favour, while others were wearing out their lives by waiting for an audience, or were robbed by legal process because their opponents had the judge's ear: how long were such things to be perpetrated? Would they never remember the Great Judge, and renounce their wickedness? This verse is so grandly stern that one is tempted to say, "Surely an Elijah is here." "Selah." This gives the offenders pause for consideration and confession.

Psalm 82:3

"Defend the poor and fatherless." Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Look not to the interests of the wealthy whose hands proffer you bribes, but protect the rights of the needy, and especially uphold the claims of orphans whose property too often becomes a prey. Do not hunt down the peasant for gathering a few sticks, and allow the gentlemanly swindler to break through the meshes of the law. "Do justice to the afflicted and needy." Even they can claim from you as judge no more than justice; your pity for their circumstances must not make you hold the scales unfairly: but if you give them no more than justice, at least be sure that you give them that to the full. Suffer not the afflicted to be further afflicted by enduring injustice, and let not the needy long stand in need of an equitable hearing.

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm contains an admonition, either,

1. To the chief rulers of Israel, whether judges or kings, or their great council called the Sanhedrim. Or rather,

2. To all the rulers of the several nations of the world, to whom this word might come; as may be gathered, partly from the expressions here used, which are general, and not peculiar to the governors of Israel, and therefore not rashly and unnecessarily to be restrained; and partly from the last verse, where he mentions the whole earth and all nations as concerned in the contents of this Psalm.

The psalmist, exhorting and expostulating with the judges, Psalm 82:1-4, reproveth their want of judgment and negligence, Psalm 82:5-7, and prayeth the Lord to judge, Psalm 82:8.

Standeth, as a judge, diligently to observe all that is said or done there; and to give sentence accordingly. The judge sits when he heareth causes, but standeth up when he giveth sentence. Or standing doth not note the posture, but only the being or presence of a person, as Isaiah 11:10 Daniel 11:20 John 3:29; whence this Hebrew word is by some learned interpreters rendered is present, and by others, presideth, as this word is used, 1 Samuel 19:20 22:9.

Of the mighty; or, of the gods, as it is explained and expressed in the next clause; the singular number being here, as it is frequently elsewhere, put for the plural. By gods, or the mighty, he understands kings, or other chief rulers, who are so called, because they have their power and commission from God, and act as his deputies, in his name and stead, and must give an account to him of all their actions. And by their congregation he understands not a convention or assembly of such persons which seldom meet together, but either,

1. All congregations or assemblies of people in which magistrates sit to execute justice. Or,

2. All persons whatsoever of this high and sacred order or number; for the Hebrew word here rendered

congregation doth not always signify an assembly of persons met together in one place, but sometimes notes all the particular persons of or belonging to such a sort and body of men, though dispersed in divers places, as Psalm 26:5, I have hated the congregation of evil-doers, i.e. all evil-doers; Proverbs 21:16, he shall remain in the congregation of the dead, i.e. shall be one of that number and state. See also Joshua 22:20 Psalm 74:19. Some render it as it is in the Hebrew, in the congregation of God, in his own congregation, the noun being put for the pronoun, as is usual in the Hebrew text, i.e. in the conventions or tribunals of princes or rulers, which he rightly calls his, because their authority is wholly derived from him. But the former exposition seems more agreeable, both to the following words, and to the scope and whole body of the Psalm. Judgeth; accurately observeth all their carriages, and passeth sentence upon them accordingly. Gods, i.e. judges and magistrates, who are called gods, below, Psalm 82:6 Exodus 12:12 12:28, compared with Acts 23:5 Psalm 138:1, and of whom this is expounded, John 10:34,35.

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty,.... The Syriac version renders it, "in the congregation of angels"; they are mighty, and excel in strength, and there is a large company of them, even an innumerable one, and who surround the throne of the Majesty on high. Christ, who is God over all, was among those on Mount Sinai, and when he ascended to heaven; and with these he will descend when he comes a second time, Psalm 68:17. The Targum interprets it of the righteous thus,

"God, whose majesty (or Shechinah) dwells in the congregation of the righteous that are strong in the law.''

It may be better understood of such as are strong in the Lord, in the grace that is in Christ, and in the exercise of grace upon him; who are gathered out of the world unto him, and unto distinct societies and congregations; in the midst of which God is, where he grants his presence, bestows the blessings of his grace, and affords his divine aid and protection; and where Christ the Son of God is, and will be to the end of the world. The words may be rendered, "God standeth in the congregation of God" (a): that is, in his own congregation, his church and people; but it seems best of all to understand the words of rulers and civil magistrates, of the cabinet councils of princes, of benches of judges, and courts of judicature; in all which God is present, and observes what is said and done; perhaps reference may be had to the Jewish sanhedrim, the chief court of judicature with the Jews, consisting of seventy one persons; in the midst of which Christ, God manifest in the flesh, God in our nature, stood, and was ill used, and most unjustly judged by them, of whose unjust judgment complaint is made in the next verse:

he judgeth among the gods: which the Syriac version renders "angels" again; and so Aben Ezra interprets it of them, who are so called, Psalm 8:5, but rather civil magistrates are meant, the rulers and judges of the people, who go by this name of "elohim", or gods, in Exodus 21:6, and are so called because they are the powers ordained of God, are representatives of him, are his vicegerents and deputies under him; should act in his name, according to his law, and for his glory, and are clothed with great power and authority from and under him; and therefore are before styled the "mighty". Among these Christ, the Son of God, judges, to whom all judgment is committed; he qualifies these for the discharge of their office, he directs them how to judge, and all the right judgment they make and do is from him, "by" whom "kings"

reign, and princes decree justice; by whom princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth; and to whom they are all accountable, and will be themselves judged by him another day, Proverbs 8:15 so the Targum,

"in the midst of the judges of truth he judges.''

(a) "in congregatione Dei", Pagninus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis; so Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Ainsworth.

<> God standeth in the congregation of the {a} mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

(a) The prophet shows that if princes and judges do not do their duty, God whose authority is above them will take vengeance on them.

1. A vision of God as the Judge of judges.

God] Originally no doubt Jehovah, for which the Elohistic editor has substituted Elôhîm. standeth] Or, taketh his stand: solemnly takes His place as president. Cp. Isaiah 3:13 a; Amos 7:7; Amos 9:1.

in the congregation of the mighty] I.e., as P.B.V., of princes. But we must rather render, in the assembly of God (El), i.e., not the congregation of Israel, though this is called the congregation of Jehovah (Numbers 27:17; cp. Psalm 74:2), but an assembly summoned and presided over by God in His capacity of Almighty Ruler.

he judgeth &c.] In the midst of gods (Elôhîm) will he judge. According to the view adopted above, the judges and authorities of Israel are meant by gods. It might indeed be supposed that the poet intended to represent God as holding His court surrounded by angels, like an earthly king in the midst of his courtiers (cp. 1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:2); and so probably the Syriac translator understood the verse: “God standeth in the assembly of the angels, and in the midst of the angels will He judge.” But Elôhîm can hardly have a different meaning from that which it has in Psalm 82:6, where it clearly refers to the judges who are put on their trial; and the address in Psalm 82:2 would be unintelligible if the persons addressed had not already been mentioned.Verse 1. - God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; or, "in the congregation of God" - "the Divine assembly" (see Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Isaiah 6:1, 2, etc.). El, in the singular, can scarcely mean the "mighty ones of earth." He judgeth among the gods. He "holds a court of judgment in heaven, surrounded by the Divine ministers, who will execute his behests" (Canon Cook). The Passover discourse now takes a sorrowful and awful turn: Israel's disobedience and self-will frustrated the gracious purpose of the commandments and promises of its God. "My people" and "Israel" alternate as in the complaint in Isaiah 1:3. לא־אבה followed by the dative, as in Deuteronomy 13:9 ([8], ου ̓ συνθελήσεις αὐτῷ). Then God made their sin their punishment, by giving them over judicially (שׁלּח as in Job 8:4) into the obduracy of their heart, which rudely shuts itself up against His mercy (from שׁרר, Aramaic שׁרר, Arabic sarra, to make firm equals to cheer, make glad), so that they went on (cf. on the sequence of tense, Psalm 61:8) in their, i.e., their own, egotistical, God-estranged determinations; the suffix is thus accented, as e.g., in Isaiah 65:2, cf. the borrowed passage Jeremiah 7:24, and the same phrase in Micah 6:16. And now, because this state of unfaithfulness in comparison with God's faithfulness has remained essentially the same even to to-day, the exalted Orator of the festival passes over forthwith to the generation of the present, and that, as is in accordance with the cheerful character of the feast, in a charmingly alluring manner. Whether we take לוּ in the signification of si (followed by the participle, as in 2 Samuel 18:12), or like אם above in Psalm 81:9 as expressing a wish, o si (if but!), Psalm 81:15. at any rate have the relation of the apodosis to it. From כּמעט (for a little, easily) it may be conjectured that the relation of Israel at that time to the nations did not correspond to the dignity of the nation of God which is called to subdue and rule the world in the strength of God. השׁיב signifies in this passage only to turn, not: to again lay upon. The meaning is, that He would turn the hand which is now chastening His people against those by whom He is chastening them (cf. on the usual meaning of the phrase, Isaiah 1:25; Amos 1:8; Jeremiah 6:9; Ezekiel 38:12). The promise in Psalm 81:16 relates to Israel and all the members of the nation. The haters of Jahve would be compelled reluctantly to submit themselves to Him, and their time would endure for ever. "Time" is equivalent to duration, and in this instance with the collateral notion of Prosperity, as elsewhere (Isaiah 13:22) of the term of punishment. One now expects that it should continue with ואאכילהוּ, in the tone of a promise. The Psalm, however, closes with an historical statement. For ויּאכילהו cannot signify et cibaret eum; it ought to be pronounced ויאכילהו. The pointing, like the lxx, Syriac, and Vulgate, takes v. 17a (cf. Deuteronomy 32:13.) as a retrospect, and apparently rightly so. For even the Asaphic Psalm 77 and 78 break off with historical pictures. V. 17b is, accordingly, also to be taken as retrospective. The words of the poet in conclusion once more change into the words of God. The closing word runs אשׂבּיעך, as in Psalm 50:8, Deuteronomy 4:31, and (with the exception of the futt. Hiph. of Lamed He verbs ending with ekka) usually. The Babylonian system of pointing nowhere recognises the suffix-form ekka. If the Israel of the present would hearken to the Lawgiver of Sinai, says v. 17, then would He renew to it the miraculous gifts of the time of the redemption under Moses.
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