A warning to corrupt judges, 1,2; an exhortation to them to dispense justice without respect of person, 3-5; they are threatened with the judgments of the Lord, 6-8.
NOTES ON PSALM LXXXII
This Psalm, which, in the title, is attributed to Asaph, was probably composed in the time when Jehoshaphat reformed the courts of justice throughout his states; see 2 Chronicles 19:6,7, where he uses nearly the same words as in the beginning of this Psalm.
God standeth in the congregation of the mighty
The Hebrew should be translated, "God standeth in the assembly of God." God is among his people; and he presides especially in those courts of justice which himself has established. The Court of King's Bench is properly the place where the king presides, and where he is supposed to be always present. But the kings of England seldom make their appearance there. King James I. sometimes attended: at such times it might be said, "The king is in the king's court." I believe the case above to be similar. Judges! beware what you do! God is in his court, and in the midst (of the assembly) God will judge. See Parkhurst under.
Accept the persons of the wicked?
"Lift up their faces," encourage them in their oppressions.
"Mark this:" ye do it, and sorely shall ye suffer for it.
Defend the poor
You are their natural protectors under God. They are oppressed: punish their oppressors, however rich or powerful: and deliver them.
They know not
The judges are not acquainted with the law of God, on which all their decisions should be founded.
Neither will they understand
They are ignorant and do not wish to be instructed. They will not learn; they cannot teach. Happy England! How different from Judea, even in the days of Jehoshaphat! All thy judges are learned, righteous, and impartial. Never did greater men in their profession dignify any land or country.-(1822.)
All the foundations of the earth
"All the civil institutions of the land totter." Justice is at the head of all the institutions in a well regulated state: when that gets poisoned or perverted, every evil, political and domestic, must prevail; even religion itself ceases to have any influence.
Ye are gods
Or, with the prefix of ke, the particle of similitude, keelohim, "like God." Ye are my representatives, and are clothed with my power and authority to dispense judgment and justice, therefore all of them are said to be children of the Most High.
But ye shall die like men
keadam, "ye shall die like Adam," who fell from his high perfection and dignity as ye have done. Your high office cannot secure you an immortality.
And fall like one of the princes.
Justice shall pursue you, and judgment shall overtake you; and you shall be executed like public state criminals. You shall not, in the course of nature, fall into the grave; but your life shall be brought to an end by a legal sentence, or a particular judgment of God.
Arise, O God, judge the earth
Justice is perverted in the land: take the sceptre, and rule thyself.
For thou shalt inherit all nations.
Does not this last verse contain a prophecy of our Lord, the calling of the Gentiles, and the prevalence of Christianity over the earth? Thus several of the fathers have understood the passage. It is only by the universal spread of Christianity over the world, that the reign of righteousness and justice is to be established: and of whom can it be said that he shall inherit all nations, but of Jesus Christ?
ANALYSIS OF THE EIGHTY-SECOND PSALM
There are three parts in this Psalm:-
I. The prophet's proclamation, Psalms 82:1.
II. God's controversy with the judges of the land, Psalms 82:2-7.
III. The prophet's prayer that God would rise and judge, Psalms 82:8.
I. God's presence proclaimed in court. At an assize the judge sits in the midst of the justices: "God standeth in the congregation," Psalms 82:1.
II. 1. He reproves them, Psalms 82:2. 1. For their unjust judgment: "Ye judge unjustly." 2. For their obstinate continuance in it: "How long will ye," For their partiality: "they accepted persons," Psalms 82:2.
2. He exhorts them to do their duty. 1. "Defend the poor and fatherless." Do right to every man. 2. "Deliver the poor and needy," Psalms 82:3.
3. He acquaints them with the events that shall follow where justice is not done: all is out of order; and the judges are the cause of it.
1. Through ignorance: "They know not the law," Psalms 82:5.
2. Through obstinacy: "They will not learn it," Psalms 82:5.
3. Through their determination to walk in their own way, Psalms 82:5: "They walk on in darkness."
4. They shall in consequence be brought, 1. To an untimely death: "Ye shall die like men." 2. To a shameful death: "Ye shall fall like one of the princes," ye shall have a mighty fall, Psalms 82:7.
III. The prophet's prayer. Since judgment and justice have failed in the land, he says, 1. "Arise, O Lord! " He does not say, Arise, O people, and put down those unjust judges. No; their function is from God, and God alone is to reform, or strip, or punish them. 2. "Judge the earth." Take the state of all people into thy consideration: there is much injustice in the earth. 3. For this petition he gives a reason: "For thou shalt inherit all nations," Psalms 82:8. Publish thy own laws, appoint thy own officers and let them in thy name dispense righteousness and true holiness throughout the world.