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Psalm 83

Seeking God’s salvation

Like the ancient Israelites, the Church is up against great odds. We’re increasingly attacked by the secular media, entertainment industry, and intelligentsia in a materialistic society with no moral compass.

An Asaph psalm.

God, don’t stay silent on me!
Don’t sit there voiceless—
don’t hold back mute, God!
2 See what an uproar your enemies are in
how those who hate you
rear their heads in revolt.
3 Making cunning plans against your people
conspiring against those you treasure
4 they say, “Come on!
Let’s obliterate them as a nation
so the very name Israel is forgotten!”
5 With that one goal in mind
they’ve formed an alliance against you.
6 Edomites, Ishmaelites, Moabites, Hagrites
7 together with the people of Byblos
Ammon, Amalek, Philistia and Tyre.
8 Assyria has joined in too
as the powerhouse
behind Lot’s descendants.

9 Deal with them
as you did the Midianites—
Sisera and Jabin at the Wadi Kishon
10 destroyed at Endor
and left lying like dung on the ground.
11 Treat their generals like Oreb and Zeeb
all their leaders like Zebah and Zalmunna
12 who said, “Let’s take possession
of the pasturelands of God!”
13 My God, make them like tumbleweed
like stubble in the wind.
14 Like a wildfire devouring the forest
an inferno that sets mountains ablaze
15 pursue them with your hurricane
and terrify them with your tempest.
16 Cover their faces with shame
so they call on your name, Yahveh.
17 May shame and panic be their constant lot
until they disband disgraced.
18 May they acknowledge that you alone
whose name is Yahveh
reign supreme over all the earth.

This psalmist urges a silent God to speak and act against an international mob in uproar, God-haters engaged in a genocidal war against his people. While the nations listed virtually encircled Israel and often threatened its existence, this particular alliance matches nothing recorded in biblical history.[1] The reference to Lot’s descendants—Moabites and Ammonites—makes the alliance even more bitter since these peoples were related to the Israelites through Abraham. And the Israelites had tried to maintain the relationship, just as Abraham had treated his grasping nephew Lot generously.

The psalm’s second half mentions events in which God gave the Israelites resounding victories over oppressive nations, despite Israel’s extreme vulnerability.[2] The psalmist hyperbolically seeks a rout so complete the vanquished army won’t even get to bury their dead. Because like the enemies mentioned, this current alliance is treating God and his people with utter contempt.

Facing such an existential threat, the psalmist asks God to crush those hellbent on destroying Israel—chase them hard enough to leave them panic-stricken and disgraced, their alliance destroyed. The surprising twist comes in the psalmist’s request not that these nations be obliterated, but rather that they acknowledge God’s supremacy and seek the mercy he’s well known for and serve him too.[3]

Lord, while we’re not fighting for our lives like the ancient Israelites, our faith is in an existential struggle, attacked on every hand. Yet you reign supreme over all. Show your enemies that you’re sovereign over all so they humbly seek your grace. Turn us back to you, O God our savior. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray this prayer:

May the nations acknowledge that you alone
whose name is Yahveh
reign supreme over all the earth.


[1] The Assyrian empire existed from the 9th to the 7th century BC. So the psalm was likely written during that period.

[2] Judges 4-5, 7-8.

[3] Verses 17-18 ask only that the nations’ defeat force them to acknowledge God’s lordship. But verse 16 asks him to make the nations seek him—literally, “seek your name”—that is, that God’s judgment would bring the nations to know and serve him too.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.