|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
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).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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.
The Treasury of David
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
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