Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Battle-Cry to God against Allied Peoples
The close of this Psalm is in accord with the close of the preceding Psalm. It is the last of the twelve Psalms of Asaph of the Psalter. The poet supplicates help against the many nations which have allied themselves with the descendants of Lot, i.e., Moab and Ammon, to entirely root out Israel as a nation. Those who are fond of Maccabaean Psalms (Hitzig and Olshausen), after the precedent of van Til and von Bengel, find the circumstances of the time of the Psalm in 1 Macc. 5, and Grimm is also inclined to regard this as correct; and in point of fact the deadly hostility of the ἔθνη κυκλόθεν which we there see breaking forth on all sides,
(Note: Concerning the υίοὶ Βαΐάν (Benı̂ Baijân), 1 Macc. 5:4, the difficulty respecting which is to the present time unsolved, vid., Wetzstein's Excursus II, pp. 559f..)
as it were at a given signal, against the Jewish people, who have become again independent, and after the dedication of the Temple doubly self-conscious, is far better suited to explain the Psalm than the hostile efforts of Sanballat, Tobiah, and others to hinder the rebuilding of Jerusalem, in the time of Nehemiah (Vaihinger, Ewald, and Dillmann). There is, however, still another incident beside that recorded in 1 Macc. 5 to which the Psalm may be referred, viz., the confederation of the nations for the extinction of Judah in the time of Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20), and, as it seems to us, with comparatively speaking less constraint. For the Psalm speaks of a real league, whilst in 1 Macc. 5 the several nations made the attack without being allied and not jointly; then, as the Psalm assumes in Psa 83:9, the sons of Lot, i.e., the Moabites and Ammonites, actually were at the head at that time, whilst in 1 Macc. 5 the sons of Esau occupy the most prominent place; and thirdly, at that time, in the time of Jehoshaphat, as is recorded, an Asaphite, viz., Jahazil, did actually interpose in the course of events, a circumstance which coincides remarkably with the לאסף. The league of that period consisted, according to Ch2 20:1, of Moabites, Ammonites, and a part of the מעוּנים (as it is to be read after the lxx). But Ch2 20:2 (where without any doubt מאדם is to be read instead of מארם) adds the Edomites to their number, for it is expressly stated further on (Ch2 20:10, Ch2 20:22, Ch2 20:23) that the inhabitants of Mount Ser were with them. Also, supposing of course that the "Ishmaelites" and "Hagarenes" of the Psalm may be regarded as an unfolding of the מעונים, which is confirmed by Josephus, Antiq. ix. 1. 2; and that Gebl is to be understood by the Mount Ser of the chronicler, which is confirmed by the Arab. jibâl still in use at the present day, there always remains a difficulty in the fact that the Psalm also names Amalek, Philistia, Tyre, and Asshur, of which we find no mention there in the reign of Jehoshaphat. But these difficulties are counter-balanced by others that beset the reference to 1 Macc. 5, viz., that in the time of the Seleucidae the Amalekites no longer existed, and consequently, as might be expected, are not mentioned at all in 1 Macc. 5; further, that there the Moabites, too, are no longer spoken of, although some formerly Moabitish cities of Gileaditis are mentioned; and thirdly, that אשׁור = Syria (a certainly possible usage of the word) appears in a subordinate position, whereas it was, however, the dominant power. On the other hand, the mention of Amalek is intelligible in connection with the reference to 2 Chr. 20, and the absence of its express mention in the chronicler does not make itself particularly felt in consideration of Gen 36:12. Philistia, Tyre, and Asshur, however, stand at the end in the Psalm, and might also even be mentioned with the others if they rendered aid to the confederates of the south-east without taking part with them in the campaign, as being a succour to the actual leaders of the enterprise, the sons of Lot. We therefore agree with the reference of Psalms 83 (as also of Psa 48:1-14) to the alliance of the neighbouring nations against Judah in the reign of Jehoshaphat, which has been already recognised by Kimchi and allowed by Keil, Hengstenberg, and Movers.
The poet prays, may God not remain an inactive looker-on in connection with the danger of destruction that threatens His people. דּמי (with which יהי is to be supplied) is the opposite of alertness; חרשׁ the opposite of speaking (in connection with which it is assumed that God's word is at the same time deed); שׁקט the opposite of being agitated and activity. The energetic future jehemajûn gives outward emphasis to the confirmation of the petition, and the fact that Israel's foes are the foes of God gives inward emphasis to it. On נשׂא ראשׁ, cf. Psa 110:7. סוד is here a secret agreement; and יערימוּ, elsewhere to deal craftily, here signifies to craftily plot, devise, bring a thing about. צפוּניך is to be understood according to Psa 27:5; Psa 31:21. The Hithpa. התיעץ alternates here with the more ancient Niph. (Psa 83:6). The design of the enemies in this instance has reference to the total extirpation of Israel, of the separatist-people who exclude themselves from the life of the world and condemn it. מגּוי, from being a people = so that it may no longer be a people or nation, as in Isa 7:8; Isa 17:1; Isa 25:2; Jer 48:42. In the borrowed passage, Jer 48:2, by an interchange of a letter it is נכריתנּה. This Asaph Psalm is to be discerned in not a few passages of the prophets; cf. Isa 62:6. with Psa 83:2, Isa 17:12 with Psa 83:3.
Instead of לב אחד, Ch1 12:38, it is deliberant corde unâ, inasmuch as יחדּו on the one hand gives intensity to the reciprocal signification of the verb, and on the other lends the adjectival notion to לב. Of the confederate peoples the chronicler (2 Chr. 20) mentions the Moabites, the Ammonites, the inhabitants of Mount Ser, and the Me(unim, instead of which Josephus, Antiq. ix. 1. 2, says: a great body of Arabians. This crowd of peoples comes from the other side of the Dead Sea, מאדם (as it is to be read in Psa 83:2 in the chronicler instead of מארם, cf. on Psa 60:2); the territory of Edom, which is mentioned first by the poet, was therefore the rendezvous. The tents of Edom and of the Ishmaelites are (cf. Arab. ahl, people) the people themselves who live in tents. Moreover, too, the poet ranges the hostile nations according to their geographical position. The seven first named from Edom to Amalek, which still existed at the time of the psalmist (for the final destruction of the Amalekites by the Simeonites, Ch1 4:42., falls at an indeterminate period prior to the Exile), are those out of the regions east and south-east of the Dead Sea. According to Gen 25:18, the Ishmaelites had spread from Higz through the peninsula of Sinai beyond the eastern and southern deserts as far up as the countries under the dominion of Assyria. The Hagarenes dwelt in tents from the Persian Gulf as far as the east of Gilead (Ch1 5:10) towards the Euphrates. גּבל, Arab. jbâl, is the name of the people inhabiting the mountains situated in the south of the Dead Sea, that is to say, the northern Seritish mountains. Both Gebl and also, as it appears, the Amalek intended here according to Gen 36:12 (cf. Josephus, Antiq. ii. 1. 2: Ἀμαληκῖτις, a part of Idumaea), belong to the wide circuit of Edom. Then follow the Philistines and Phoenicians, the two nations of the coast of the Mediterranean, which also appear in Amo 1:1-15 (cf. Joel 3) as making common cause with the Edomites against Israel. Finally Asshur, the nation of the distant north-east, here not as yet appearing as a principal power, but strengthening (vid., concerning זרוע, an arm = assistance, succour, Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 433b) the sons of Lot, i.e., the Moabites and Ammonites, with whom the enterprise started, and forming a powerful reserve for them. The music bursts forth angrily at the close of this enumeration, and imprecations discharge themselves in the following strophe.
With כּמדין reference is made to Gideon's victory over the Midianites, which belongs to the most glorious recollections of Israel, and to which in other instances, too, national hopes are attached, Isa 9:3 , Isa 10:26, cf. Hab 3:7; and with the asyndeton כּסיסרא כיבין (כּסיסרא, as Norzi states, who does not rightly understand the placing of the Metheg) to the victory of Barak and Deborah over Sisera and the Canaanitish king Jabin, whose general he was. The Beth of בּנחל is like the Beth of בּדּרך in Psa 110:7 : according to Jdg 5:21 the Kishon carried away the corpses of the slain army. ‛Endôr, near Tabor, and therefore situated not far distant from Taanach and Megiddo (Jdg 5:19), belonged to the battle-field. אדמה, starting from the radical notion of that which flatly covers anything, which lies in דם, signifying the covering of earth lying flat over the globe, therefore humus (like ארץ, terra, and תבל, tellus), is here (cf. Kg2 9:37) in accord with דּמן (from דמן), which is in substance akin to it. In Psa 83:12 we have a retrospective glance at Gideon's victory. ‛Oreb and Zeēb were שׂרים of the Midianites, Jdg 7:25; Zebach and Tsalmunna‛, their kings, Jdg 8:5.
(Note: The Syriac Hexapla has (Hos 10:14) צלמנע instead of שׁלמן, a substitution which is accepted by Geiger, Deutsch. Morgenlnd. Zeitschr. 1862, S. 729f. Concerning the signification of the above names of Midianitish princes, vid., Nldeke, Ueber die Amalekiter, S. 9.)
The pronoun precedes the word itself in שׁיתמו, as in Exo 2:6; the heaped-up suffixes ēmo (êmo) give to the imprecation a rhythm and sound as of rolling thunder. Concerning נסיך, vid., on Psa 2:6. So far as the matter is concerned, Ch2 20:11 harmonizes with Psa 83:13. Canaan, the land which is God's and which He has given to His people, is called נאות אלהים (cf. Psa 74:20).
With the אלהי, which constrains God in faith, the "thundering down" begins afresh. גּלגּל signifies a wheel and a whirling motion, such as usually arises when the wind changes suddenly, then also whatever is driven about in the whirling, Isa 17:13.
(Note: Saadia, who renders the גּלגּל in Psa 77:19 as an astronomical expression with Arab. 'l-frk, the sphere of the heavens, here has professedly Arab. kâlgrâblt, which would be a plural from expanded out of Arab. grâbı̂l, "sieves" or "tambourines;" it is, however, to be read, as in Isa 17:13, Codex Oxon., Arab. kâlgirbâlt. The verb Arab. garbala, "to sift," is transferred to the wind, e.g., in Mutanabbi (edited with Wahidi's commentary by Dieterici), p. 29, l. 5 and 6: "it is as though the dust of this region, when the winds chase one another therein, were sifted," Arab. mugarbalu (i.e., caught up and whirled round); and with other notional and constructional applications in Makkarı̂, i. p. 102, l. 18: "it is as though its soil had been cleansed from dust by sifting," Arab. gurbilat (i.e., the dust thereof swept away by a whirlwind). Accordingly Arab. girbâlat signifies first, as a nom. vicis, a whirling about (of dust by the wind), then in a concrete sense a whirlwind, as Saadia uses it, inasmuch as he makes use of it twice for גּלגּל. So Fleischer in opposition to Ewald, who renders "like the sweepings or rubbish.")
קשׁ (from קשׁשׁ, Arab. qšš, aridum esse) is the cry corn-talks, whether as left standing or, as in this instance, as straw upon the threshing-floor or upon the field. Like a fire that spreads rapidly, laying hold of everything, which burns up the forest and singes off the wooded mountain so that only a bare cone is left standing, so is God to drive them before Him in the raging tempest of His wrath and take them unawares. The figure in Psa 83:15 is fully worked up by Isaiah, Isa 10:16-19; לחט as in Deu 32:22. In the apodosis, Psa 83:16, the figure is changed into a kindred one: wrath is a glowing heat (חרון) and a breath (נשׁמה, Isa 30:33) at the same time. In Psa 83:17 it becomes clear what is the final purpose towards which this language of cursing tends: to the end that all, whether willingly or reluctantly, may give the glory to the God of revelation. Directed towards this end the earnest prayer is repeated once more in the tetrastichic closing strain.
The aim of the wish is that they in the midst of their downfall may lay hold upon the mercy of Jahve as their only deliverance: first they must come to nought, and only by giving Jahve the glory will they not be utterly destroyed. Side by side with אתּה, v. 19a, is placed שׁמך as a second subject (cf. Psa 44:3; Psa 69:11). In view of Psa 83:17 וידעוּ (as in Psa 59:14) has not merely the sense of perceiving so far as the justice of the punishment is concerned; the knowledge which is unto salvation is not excluded. The end of the matter which the poet wishes to see brought about is this, that Jahve, that the God of revelation (שׁמך), may become the All-exalted One in the consciousness of the nations.