Psalm 82

The Word Made Fresh

(A psalm of Asaph.)

1God takes a seat in the sacred council.
In the midst of all the rulers of the earth, God passes judgment:
2“How long will you be unfair, and favor the wicked?
3Give the powerless and the orphan justice.
Take up the cause of the handicapped and the poverty-stricken.
4Rescue the powerless and the poor,
and set them free from the control of crooked people.
5They are ignorant and don’t understand that they are walking in darkness
and threatening the very foundations of the world.
6I told them they are like gods. They are children of the Most High,
7but they will die like every mortal soul,
fallen like every ruler that has ruled.”
8Arise, O God! Judge the earth!
All the nations belong to you!


Superscription: the 11th psalm ascribed to Asaph.

1-4: The premise of this psalm is that God has given lesser beings authority over human affairs. The situation seems to be not unlike that described at the beginning of the 6th chapter of Genesis. Now a heavenly court is being convened and God demands an explanation for what is happening. The wicked are being vindicated and the weak, the orphan, the lowly, and the destitute are being ignored.

5: An accusation is aimed at those lesser “gods”: they don’t know what they’re doing.

6-7: They are therefore sentenced to mortality.

8: The psalmist entreats God to retake authority over the nations. The notion is that God can’t possibly agree with what’s going on in the land; therefore, if God will once again take charge, justice will once again prevail.


The scene in the opening verses is similar to the opening chapter of the book of Job. It goes on to surmise that divine beings are given responsibility to rule over the nations, but are failing, and will therefore become mortal. The lesson here is that we human beings can’t be divine like God, we simply don’t have the wherewithal. And when we “play God” we inevitably mess things up.