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  • ADAM CLARKE'S BIBLE COMMENTARY -
    PSALMS 83

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    PSALM LXXXIII

    The psalmist calls upon God for immediate help against a multitude of confederate enemies who had risen up against Judah, 1-5. He mentions them by name, 6-8; shows how they were to be punished, 9-17; and that this was to be done for the glory of God, 18.

    NOTES ON PSALM LXXXIII

    The title, A Song or Psalms of Asaph, contains nothing particular. Among a multitude of conjectures relative to the title and occasion of this Psalm, that which refers it to the confederacy against Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, mentioned 2 Chronicles 20., is the most likely. The following reasons make it probable:

    1. The children of Ammon, that is, the Ammonites and Moabites, were the principal movers in the war. 2. The Idumeans came to their assistance, 2 Chron. xx. 22; with certain Ammonites or Meonians, referred to here in ver. 8, and in 2 Chron. xx. 1. 3. There were also in this confederacy many strangers of Syria, and from beyond the sea, most likely the Dead Sea, which seems to indicate the Assyrians, Hagaranes, and Ishmaelites, designed expressly here, ver. 7, 8. 4. In that transaction there was a prophet of the race of Asaph, named Jahaziel, who foretold to Jehoshaphat their total overthrow, 2 Chron. xx. 14, &c., and probably this Jahaziel is the same with Asaph, the author of this Psalm. In the course of the notes we shall see other circumstances relative to the war of the Moabites and Ammonites against Jehoshaphat, which illustrates several particulars in this Psalm. See Calmet.

    Verse 1. "Keep not thou silence " - A strong appeal to God just as the confederacy was discovered. Do not be inactive, do not be neuter. Thy honour and our existence are both at stake.

    Verse 2. "Thine enemies make a tumult " - They are not merely the enemies of thy people, but they are the enemies of thyself, thy worship, ordinances, and laws: "They make a tumult," they throng together.

    "They-have lifted up the head. " - They have made an irruption into the land of Judea, and encamped at En-gedi, by the Dead Sea, 2 Chron. xx. 1, 2.

    Verse 3. "Consulted against thy hidden ones. " - ynwpx tsephuneycha, Thy hidden things; places; persons. "The hidden things in thy treasures." - CHALDEE. "Thy holy ones." - SYRIAC. "Thy saints." - VULGATE and SEPTUAGINT; and so the AEthiopic and Arabic. The people of Israel are probably meant. Or perhaps the temple, the ark, and the treasures of the temple, are intended.

    Verse 4. "Let us cut them off " - Let us exterminate the whole race, that there may not be a record of them on the face of the earth. And their scheme was well laid: eight or ten different nations united themselves in a firm bond to do this; and they had kept their purpose so secret that the king of Judah does not appear to have heard of it till his territories were actually invaded, and the different bodies of this coalition had assembled at En-gedi. Never was Judah before in greater danger.

    Verse 5. "They have consulted together with one consent " - With a united heart, wdjy bl leb yachdav, Their heart and soul are in the work.

    "They are confederate against thee " - "They have made a covenant," wtyrky tyrb berith yachrithu, "they have cut the covenant sacrifice." They have slain an animal, divided him in twain, and passed between the pieces of the victim; and have thus bound themselves to accomplish their purpose.

    Verse 6. "The tabernacles of Edom " - The tents of these different people are seen in the grand encampment. Tents are probably mentioned because it seas the custom of some of these people, particularly the lshmaelites, to live a migratory or wandering life; having no fixed habitation, but always abiding in tents. Their posterity remain to the present day, and act and live in the same manner.

    "Hagarenes " - These people dwelt on the east of Gilead; and were nearly destroyed in the days of Saul, being totally expelled from their country, 1 Chron. v. 10, but afterwards recovered some strength and consequence; but where they dwelt after their expulsion by the Israelites is not known.

    Verse 7. "Gebal " - The Giblites, who were probably the persons here designed, were a tribe of the ancient inhabitants of the land of Canaan, and are mentioned as unconquered at the death of Joshua, xiii. 5. They are called stone-squarers or Giblites, 1 Kings v. 18, and were of considerable assistance to Hiram king of Tyre, in preparing timber and stones for the building of the temple. They appear to have been eminent in the days of Ezekiel, who terms them the "ancients of Gebal, and the wise men-thereof," who were ship-builders, Ezek. xxvii. 3. What is now called Gibyle, a place on the Mediterranean Sea, between Tripoli and Sidon, is supposed to be the remains of the city of the Giblites.

    Ammon and Moab were then descendants of the children of Lot. Their bad origin is sufficiently known. See Gen. xix. 30, &c. Calmet supposes that Ammon is put here for Men or Maon, the Meonians, a people who lived in the neighbourhood of the Amalekites and Idumeans. See the notes on 2 Chron. xx. 1; xxvi. 7.

    Amalek ] The Amalekites are well known as the ancient and inveterate enemies of the Israelites. They were neighbours to the Idumeans.

    "The Philistines " - These were tributaries to Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xvii. 11; but it seems they took advantage of the present times, to join in the great confederacy against him.

    "The inhabitants of Tyre " - These probably joined the confederacy in hopes of making conquests, and extending their territory on the main land.

    Verse 8. "Asser also is joined " - The Ammonites might have got those auxiliaries from beyond the Euphrates, against Jehosphaphat, as formerly they were brought against David. See 2 Sam. x. 16.

    "They have holpen the children of Lot. " - The Ammonites, who appear to have been the chief instigators in this war.

    Verse 9. "Do unto them as unto the Midianites " - Who were utterly defeated by Gideon, Judg. vii. 21, 22.

    "As to Sisera " - Captain of the army of Jabin, king of Canaan, who was totally defeated by Deborah and Barak, near Mount Tabor, by the river Kishon; and himself, after having fled from the battle, slain by Jael, the wife of Heber, the Kenite. See Judg. iv. 15, &c.

    Verse 10. "Perished at En-dor " - This refers to the defeat of the Midianites by Gideon, who were encamped in the valley of Jezreel, at the foot of Mount Gilboa, and near to Tabor, Judges vi. 33; vii. 1, and consequently in the environs of En-dor. There Gideon attacked and defeated them; and, in various places during their flight, they were destroyed, and left to rot upon the earth. Judg. vii. 22-25.

    Verse 11. "Lake their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb " - They were two of the chiefs, or generals, of the Midianites; and were slain in the pursuit of the Midianites, by the men of Ephraim; and their heads brought to Gideon on the other side of JorDaniel Judges vii. 24, 25.

    "Yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna " - These were kings of Midian, who were encamped at Karkor with fifteen thoussand men, whom Gideon attacked there, and defeated, and took the kings prisoners; and finding that they had killed his own brothers slew them both. See Judg. viii. 10-21. Of the Midianites there fell at this time one hundred and twenty thousand men.

    Verse 12. "Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession. " - Nearly the words spoken by the confederates when they came to attack Jehoshaphat. They come (says the king in address to God) to cast us out of thy possession which thou hast given us to inherit. See 2 Chron. xx. 11.

    Verse 13. "O may God, make them like a wheel " - Alluding to the manner of threshing corn in the east. A large broad wheel was rolled over the grain on a threshing-floor, which was generally in the open air; and the grain being thrown up by a shovel against the wind the chaff was thus separated from it, in the place where it was threshed.

    Verse 14. "The flame setteth the mountains on fire " - This may refer to the burning of the straw and chaff, after the grain was threshed and winnowed.

    And as their threshing-floors were situated often on the hills or mountains, to take the advantage of the wind, the setting the mountains on fire may refer to the burning of the chaff, &c., in those places. Let them be like stubble driven away by the wind, and burnt by the fire.

    Verse 15. "So persecute them " - In this and the two following verses we find several awful execrations; and all this seems to be done in reference to that ancient custom, "pouring execrations on an enemy previously to battle." Of this I have already given specimens in this work; and the reader is particularly requested to refer to the case of Balaam being hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel previously to his intended attack: see the note on Num. xxii. 6, where the subject is treated at large.

    This custom prevailed much among the Romans, and the ancient Druids of Britain. In all cases the priests were employed to utter the execrations, as they were supposed to have the greatest influence with the gods, in whose name the curses were uttered.

    Verse 16. "That they may seek thy name " - Let them be confounded in all their attempts on Israel; and see, so manifestly, that thou hast done it, that they may invoke thy name, and be converted to thee.

    Verse 17. "Let them-perish " - That is, in their present attempts. Some have objected to the execrations in this Psalm, without due consideration.

    "None of these execrations refer either to their souls or to their eternal state; but merely to their discomfiture on their present attempts. Suppose the continental powers should join together to subjugate Britain, and destroy the Protestant religion; is there a Christian in the land that would not be justified in meeting them with the same or similar execrations? On the knees of my soul would I offer every one of them to God against such invaders. Selah. " - A. C.

    Verse 18. "That men may know " - That they may acknowledge, and be converted to thee. Here is no malice; all is self-defense.

    ANALYSIS OF THE EIGHTY-THIRD PSALM

    "This Psalm divides itself into four parts: " -

    I. A short ejaculation, ver. 1.

    II. A complaint against God's enemies, which is the reason of this prayer, ver. 2-10.

    III. A fearful imprecation against them, ver. 12-17.

    IV. The charitable ends proposed, ver. 18.

    I. The ejaculation or prayer: "Keep not thou silence-be not still." Thy enemies are loud in their threatenings, and active in their endeavours, to destroy thy people and thy worship: "Hold not thy peace!"

    II. He complains-These are enemies, 1. To thy people, ver. 2. 2. To God himself, ver. 5. Then he describes them, ver. 6-8.

    1. They were banditti-spoilers: They "make a tumult," ver. 2.

    2. Proud and arrogant: "They have lifted up the head," ver. 2.

    3. They were subtle and crafty: "They have taken crafty counsel," ver. 3.

    4. They carried their cunning counsel into acts of aggression: "Come, and let us cut them off," &c., ver. 4.

    5. They were conspirators, ] 1. Against God. 2. Against his people.

    All the world against God and his Church! Not an uncommon case.

    6. He gives us a catalogue of these conspirators, ver. 6-8: Edom, &c.

    III. He prays to God against them. In which there are four particulars:

    1. Their fall and ruin. 2. Their persecution. 3. Their terror. 4. Their disgrace.

    These he illustrates by five similitudes:

    1. Of a wheel that, running on, crushes all under it successively. 2. Of stubble or chaff, easily driven away by the wind, ver. 13. 3. Of awood or forest in a state of general conflagration, ver. 14. 4. Of a flame that even consumes the mountains, ver. 14.

    "Their fall and ruin he wished to be: " -

    1. Speedy and perpetual: "Do unto them as unto the Midianites," &c., ver. 9-13.

    2. Sudden and violent: "As fire," ver. 13.

    3. Terrible and shameful: "Fill their faces with shame," ver. 15, 16.

    There are here three particulars of their punishment:

    1. Flight. 2. Terror. 3.

    Shame and ignominy.

    IV. The charitable ends proposed. These were two: - 1. That they might seek after God, be converted to him, ver. 16. 2. That they might know him to be Jehovah, the only true God, that they might be saved from all idolatry, ver. 18.

    The spirit of this prayer is, 1. If they will not seek thee, and be converted, let them be confounded in their attempts against thy people. 2. If they will not acknowledge thee, let them be utterly routed and overthrown: "Let them be put to shame, and perish!"

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