A Psalm of Asaph. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.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.
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.Psalm 82:2. How long will ye judge unjustly? — The psalmist speaks to them in God’s name, and reproves them for their continued unrighteousness in their public administrations; and accept the persons of the wicked — By overlooking the merits of the cause, and giving sentence according to your respect or affection to the person. It appears from Isaiah 1:23, that the courts of justice were very corrupt in Hezekiah’s reign, at which time probably this Psalm was written.
Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.Psalm 82:3-4. Defend the poor and fatherless — As far as justly you may: for so this clause must be limited, as appears by comparing it with Leviticus 19:15. Do justice to the afflicted and needy — Hebrew, הצדיקו, hatzdiku, justify him, namely, when his cause is good, and he is oppressed by a potent adversary. Deliver the poor and needy — These he recommends to the special care and protection of magistrates, because such are commonly neglected and crushed by men in higher place and power, and are unable to relieve or right themselves.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.Psalm 82:5. They know not — That is, the magistrates, of whom this Psalm treats, are not acquainted with, and will not be at the pains to learn the truth and right of the causes which come before them, nor the duty of their place. Neither will they understand — This their ignorance is wilful and affected: they will not search out the truth, and they shut their eyes lest they should see what they do not love to see. They walk on — They persist and proceed: it is not one rash and transient action, but their constant course; in darkness — In ignorance, or in their sinful and unrighteous courses; being blinded by their corrupt affections and interests. All the foundations of the earth are out of course — This corruption of the supreme rulers flows from them to their inferior officers and members, and manifestly tends to the dissolution of all civil societies, partly by subverting that order and honesty by which they are supported, and partly by provoking God, the governor of the world, to destroy them for their wickedness. Green translates this verse, They are ignorant of their duty, and will not attend to it; but go on in the dark; all the foundations of the land are in a tottering state. The general meaning is, “Those that should rule the several nations of the earth uprightly, and preserve justice among men, are themselves the most unjust, and thereby the authors of all mischief to the world.” Respecting the word foundations, see on Psalm 11:3.
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.Psalm 82:6-7. I have said, Ye are gods — I have given you my name and power to rule your people in my stead; and all of you — Not only the rulers of Israel, but of all other nations; (for the powers that be are ordained of God, Romans 13:1;) are children of the Most High — Representing my person, and bearing both my name and lively characters of my majesty and authority, as children bear the name and image of their parents. But ye shall die like men — Like ordinary men. As if he had said, Let not either your honourable title or exalted station make you insolent or secure, for though you are gods by name and office, yet still you are mortal men; you must die, and give up your account to me your supreme Lord and Governor; and you shall die by the hands of my justice if you persist in your ungodly courses. And fall like one of the princes — Like every, or any of the princes; that is, as other unrighteous or tyrannical rulers have done in all former ages, and still do, your eyes seeing it. Or, as the Hebrew may be rendered, and you, O ye princes, (or you that are princes, before termed gods,) shall fall like one, or like every, or any of them, that is of the ordinary men last mentioned. It is well observed by Dr. Hammond, that when our Lord cites these words, John 10:34, they are introduced thus: Is it not written in your law? From whence it is necessarily concluded that this book of Psalms was looked upon among the Jews as part of the divine law, that is, of God’s word, declaring his will to mankind as truly and authoritatively as the books of Moses themselves. In which light we are to view the writings of the prophets and of all who were inspired by God. They all reveal his will with authority from him.
But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.Psalm 82:8. Arise, O God, judge the earth — Seeing the state of the world is so universally corrupt and desperate, and the vicegerents betray their trust, and oppress the nations of the earth, which they were appointed to preserve, do thou, therefore, O God, take the sword of justice into thine own hand, and maintain the cause and right of the oppressed against their potent oppressors, and let truth and justice be established in all parts of the earth. For thou shalt inherit all nations — For, as thou wast the Creator, so thou still art the supreme and unquestionable Lord, Possessor, and Ruler, of all nations, and therefore do thou protect and rescue thy people from all those who invade thine and their rights. This prayer will in due time be fully answered; or, rather, it is a prophecy which shall be perfectly accomplished at the proper season. A time is coming when God will bring all nations to the knowledge of himself, and to obedience to his laws; and then he will govern them by his Son, to whom he has committed all judgment, and by his Spirit, the one source of truth, justice, and mercy, and of all righteousness and peace.