PSALM 83 OVERVIEW
Title. A Psalm or Song of Asaph. This is the last occasion upon which we shall meet with this eloquent writer. The patriotic poet sings again of wars and dangers imminent, but it is no godless song of a thoughtless nation entering upon war with a light heart. Asaph the seer is well aware of the serious dangers arising from the powerful confederate nations, but his soul in faith stays itself upon Jehovah, while as a poet preacher he excites his countrymen to prayer by means of this sacred lyric. The Asaph who penned this song was in all probability the person referred to in 2 Chronicles 20:14 , for the internal evidence referring the subject of the Psalm to the times of Jehoshaphat is overwhelming. The division in the camp of the confederate peoples in the wilderness of Tekoa not only broke up their league, but led to a mutual slaughter, which crippled the power of some of the nations for many years after. They thought to destroy Israel and destroyed each other.
Division. An appeal to God in a general manner fills Psalms 83:1-4 ; and then the psalmist enters into details of the league, Psalms 83:5-8 . This leads to an earnest entreaty for the overthrow of the enemy, Psalms 83:9-15 , with an expression of desire that God's glory may be promoted thereby.
Verse 1. Keep not thou silence, O God. Man is clamorous, be not thou speechless. He rails and reviles, wilt not thou reply? On word of thine can deliver thy people; therefore, O Lord, break thy quiet and let thy voice be heard.
Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. Here the appeal is to EL., the Mighty One. He is entreated to act and speak, because his nation suffers and is in great jeopardy. How entirely the psalmist looks to God; he asks not for "a leader bold and brave," or for any form of human force, but casts his burden upon the Lord, being well assured that his eternal power and Godhead could meet every difficulty of the case.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. "A Song or Psalm." When the two words (Shir, Mizmor,) occur together, the meaning seems to be, a lyric poem appointed to be sung. John Jebb.
Title. This Psalm, according to the title, was composed by Asaph. In accordance with this, we read, in 1 Chronicles 20:14 , that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jehasiel, of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. This Jehasiel is probably the author of the Psalm. Our Psalm is a true picture of the state of feeling which prevailed throughout the people during the danger under Jehoshaphat. According to the history of Chronicles, they praised God at that time, in the midst of their danger, with loud voice, 2 Chronicles 20:19 ; and here in the title, which is an appendage to that of Psalm 48, the Psalm is called a song of praise; and it is such in reality, although it bears the form of a prayer, -- a song of triumph sung before the victory, -- no contest, no doubt, the distress is simply committed to God. The mention of the Amalekites among the enemies of Israel, in Psalms 83:7 , renders it impossible to come down to times later than that of Jehoshaphat. The last remains of the Amalekites were, according to 1 Chronicles 4:43 , rooted out by the Simeonites, under Hezekiah. From that time they disappear altogether from history. Ewald's assertion that Amalek stands here "only as a name of infamy applied to parties well known at the time," is to be considered as a miserable shift. The Psalm must have been composed previous to the extension of the empire of the Assyrians over Western Asia. For the Assyrians named last, in the eighth verse, appear here in the very extraordinary character of an ally of the sons of Lot. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 1. Keep not thou silence, O God. In Scripture there are three reasons why the Lord keeps silence when his people are in danger, and sits still when there is most need to give help and assistance. One is, the Lord doth it to try their faith, as we clearly see, Matthew 8:24 , where it is said that our Lord Christ was asleep: There arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. We read more fully in Mark 4 and Luke 8, he left them, when the ship was covered with waves, and they were rowing for their lives, their Lord was asleep the while, and he said to them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that you have no faith? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Truly, the Lord will not suffer his people to be overwhelmed, that is certain, but he will suffer them to come very near, that the waves cover them, and fear and horror shall cover their souls, and all to try their faith. ... 2. I find another reason in Isaiah 59, and that is, the Lord doth keep silence in the midst of the troubles of his people, to try men's uprightness of heart. For if God should always appear for his cause, God and his cause should have many favourites and friends; but sometimes God leaves his cause, and leaves his people, and leaves his gospel, and his ordinances to the wide world, to see who will plead for it and stick to it... 3. There is a third reason: God, as it were, keeps silence in the midst of the greatest troubles, that he may, as it were, gather the wicked into one faggot, into one bundle, that they may be destroyed together. There is a great deal of ado to "gather the saints" in this world; and truly there is some ado to gather the wicked. So God withdraws himself from his people, yet he hath a hook within their hearts, he holds them up secretly by his Spirit, that they shall not leave him; yet the world shall not see but that God hath quite left them, and all their ordinances and his gospel and everything; and there the wicked come together and insult, whereby God may come upon them at once, and destroy them, as we find ten nations in the Psalm. And so in Genesis God stirs up the nations against Abraham and his posterity, and there are ten nations that God promised to cut off before Abraham at once, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Canaanites, etc. So God heaps them together, and burns them like stubble. Those that burn stubble have rakes, and they gather it to heaps, and then they fire it. This is the way of God's keeping silence among his people, and sitting still in the midst of their miseries, thus God gathers their enemies in heaps as stubble, that he may burn them together. Gualter (Walter) Cradock, in "Divine Drops." 1650.
Verse 1. Keep not thou silence, etc. The Hebrew words have great emphasis, and express the main causes of silence -- closing the mouth, deafness of the ears, and a tranquility maintained to such an extent as to reject all disquietude. The first clause, let not thy mouth be closed, and thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, immovably, properly denotes, from the inherent force of the word jqv whose root means to fix to and compact firmly, what is fastened with lime or daubed with plaster...
The second clause, be not thou deaf, properly pertains to the ears, as Micah 7:16 , Their ears shall be deaf. The third, be not still, suggests the course of the thoughts of the mind when it is brought to a state of clear tranquility, all cares and commotions being laid aside. The word (Heb.) is properly to settle, to settle down, as when the disturbed dregs of liquor settle down and seek the bottom, whence it is applied to the mind when freed from a great fermentation of cares and the sediments of anxieties and bitterness, a mind serene, clear, and refined...
Let us now see what the poet had in mind when he poured out these prayers, or what he wished to indicate. He hinted, that the people were reduced to these earnest entreaties, because unless God should speedily bring help to them, it might seem that Jehovah, the God of Israel, is like the false gods, a sort of deity, either mute, or deaf, or at his ease. Hermann Venema.
Verse 1. Is the Lord silent? Then be not thou silent; but cry unto him till he breaks the silence. Starke, in Lange's Bibelwerk.
Verse 1. The reference to tumult in the following verse gives force to the earnest appeal in this. Amidst all the tumult of gathering foes, he earnestly calls on God to break his silence, and to speak to them in wrath. W. Wilson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The long silence of God, the reasons for it, and our reasons for desiring him to end it.
WORK ON THE EIGHTY-THIRD PSALM
"Expositions and Observations on Psalm LXXXIII.," in "Divine Drops distilled from the Fountain of Holy Scriptures: delivered in several Exercises before Sermons, upon Twenty and Three Texts of Scripture. By that worthy Gospel Preacher, GUALTER CRADOCK, late Preacher at All Hallows Great in London... 1650."