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Psalm 83:13

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 13. O my God, make them like a wheel; like a rolling thing which cannot rest, but is made to move with every breath. Let them have no quiet. May their minds eternally revolve and never come to peace. Blow them away like thistle down, as the stubble before the wind. Scatter them, chase them, drive them to destruction. Every patriot prays thus against the enemies of his country, he would be no better than a traitor if he did not.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 13. A wheel. What sort of vegetable is this whose stems our muleteers are cutting up and chewing with so much relish? It is a wild artichoke. We can amuse ourselves with it and its behaviour for a while, and may possibly extract something more valuable than the insipid juice of which our men are so fond. You observe than in growing it throws out numerous branches of equal size and length in all directions, forming a sort of sphere or globe a foot or more in diameter. When ripe and dry in autumn, these branches become rigid and light as a feather, the parent stem breaks off at the ground, and the wind carries these vegetable globes whithersoever it pleaseth. At the proper season thousands of them come scudding over the plain rolling, leaping, bounding with vast racket, to the dismay both of the horse and his rider. Once, on the plain north of Hamath, my horse became quite unmanageable among them. They charged down upon us on the wings of the wind, which broke them from their moorings, and sent them careening over the desert in countless numbers. Our excellent native itinerant, A--- F---, had a similar encounter with them on the eastern desert beyond the Hauran, and his horse was so terrified that he was obliged to alight and lead him. I have long suspected that this wild artichoke is the gulgal, which, in Psalms 83:13 , is rendered wheel, and in Isaiah 17:13 , a rolling thing. Evidently our translators knew not what to call it. The first passage reads thus: O my God, make them like a wheel

second, Rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing -- gulgal -- before the whirlwind. Now, from the nature of the parallelism, the gulgal cannot be a wheel, but something corresponding to chaff. It must also be something that does not fly like the chaff, but in a striking manner rolls before the wind. The signification of gulgal in Hebrew and its equivalent in other Shemitic dialects, requires this, and this rolling artichoke meets the case most emphatically, and especially when it rolls before the whirlwind. In the encounter referred to north of Hamath, my eyes were half blinded with the stubble and chaff which filled the air; but it was the extraordinary behaviour of this rolling thing that riveted my attention. Hundreds of these globes, all bounding like gazelles in one direction over the desert, would suddenly wheel short round at the bidding of a counter blast, and dash away with equal speed on their new course. An Arab proverb addresses this "rolling thing" thus: "Ho! akkub, where do you put up tonight?" to which it answers as it flies, "Where the wind puts up." They also derive one of their many forms of cursing from this plant: "May you be whirled, like the akkub, before the wind, until you are caught in the thorns, or plunged into the sea." If this is not the wheel of David, and the rolling thing of Isaiah, from which they also borrowed their imprecations upon the wicked, I have seen nothing in the country to suggest the comparison. W. M. Thomson, in "The Land and the Book."

Verse 13. Make them like a wheel. That is, cause them to fall into such great calamities that they can find no counsel or remedy for their misfortunes, and that they may run hither and thither like a wheel or a ball, and yet see not where they ought to stop, ot whither they ought to escape. Such are the minds of wicked men in calamities, wherever they turn they find no harbour wherein to rest, no certain consolation can they discover. They are tossed with perpetual disquietude; by running hither and thither and seeking various remedies they but weary themselves the more and plunge themselves the more deeply in their woes. This must necessarily happen to those who seek to cure evil with evil. Therefore Isaiah also says, the wicked are like the troubled sea. Mollerus.

Verse 13. Like a wheel. Mortals, like cylinders, are rolled hither and thither, oppressed with innumerable ills. Aurea Carmina. -- Pythagoras

Verse 13. There is no greater evidence against error, than that it is not constant to itself, no greater argument against these pretended great spirits, than that they cannot sit, know not where to fix, are always moving, as if the psalmist's curse had taken hold of them, as if God had made them like a wheel and as stubble before the wind, that can sit nowhere, rest at nothing, but turn about from one uncertainty to another. The Holy Spirit is a spirit that will sit still, and be at peace, continue and abide. Mark Frank.

Verse 13-14. In imagery both obvious and vivid to every native of the gusty hills and plains of Palestine, though to us comparatively unintelligible, the psalmist describes them as driven over the uplands of Gilead like the clouds of chaff blown from the threshing floors; chased away like the spherical masses of dry weeds which course over the plains of Esdraelon and Philistia -- flying with the dreadful hurry and confusion of the flames, that rush and leap from tree and hill to hill when the wooded mountains of a tropical country are by chance ignited. William Smith, in "A Dictionary of the Bible." 1863.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 13-15. The instability, restlessness and impotence of the wicked; their horror when God deals with them in justice.

Read Psalm 83:13