The People Of Psalm 83 -- By: Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 174:695 (Jul 2017)
Article: The People Of Psalm 83
Author: Walter C. Kaiser Jr.


The People Of Psalm 83*

Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

* This is the third article in the four-part series “Using the Context of the Psalms to Interpret Their Message,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 2-5, 2016.

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. is President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Psalm 83 is the last of the twelve psalms by Asaph (Pss. 50, 73-83) that are part of the collection of seventeen psalms in Book III of the Psalter, a collection focused on foreign invaders of Israel and Judah. Psalm 83 does not indicate when it will be fulfilled; it contains no formula about “the latter days,” “in that day,” or “that day.” The motivation for this attack on Israel is clear, however, with words of bravado that still can be heard in hostility and disdain for the nation of Israel: “ ‘Come,’ they say, ‘Let us destroy them [the Israelites] as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more’ ” (v. 4).

Here the “enemy” is no longer a single nation that is bent on attacking Israel, as was commonly the case in Books I and II and for most of the history of conflict in the Middle East. It is now a coalition of ten nations, all of which closely surround the territory occupied by Israel, that band together with the unified purpose of eradicating the nation of Israel so that her name is remembered no more and so that these nations can occupy what Israel once held as her own territory.

Something else is unusual about Psalm 83. The seven psalms that fall toward the midpoint of Book III (Pss. 77-83) feature the unusual teaming up of nations in hostile alliance against the people of God, but this psalm addresses the redemptive work that God would accomplish, not just for the northern ten tribes or for the southern two tribes of Israel; rather, this deliverance was for the two patriarchal figures mentioned as long ago as the book of Genesis—Joseph and Jacob. By the time of the psalmist of Psalm 83, their descendants had already for several centuries (since 931 BC)

been separated into two nations. But in Psalm 83, they were challenged to recall the magnificent deliverance these two kingdoms had experienced from bonda...

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