Psalm 83:13-18

13. O my God! make them like a whirling ball,1 like stubble before the wind. 14. As fire burns a forest2 and as the flame kindles the mountains,3 15. So pursue them with thy tempest,4 and terrify them with thy whirlwind. 16. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Jehovah! 17. Let them be ashamed, and terrified perpetually, and let them be confounded, and perish. 18. And let them know that thou art, thy name Jehovah, thou alone the Most High over all the earth.5


13. O my God! make them like a whirling ball. As the ungodly, when they gird and prepare themselves for destroying the Church, are usually inflated with intolerable pride, the inspired bard beseeches God to put them to shame, it being impossible to abate their pride until they are laid prostrate, confounded, and shamefully disappointed. When he declares (verse 16) that, as the result of this, they will seek the name of God, he is not to be understood as speaking of their being brought to true repentance, or of their genuine conversion. I indeed admit that the first step to genuine repentance is when men, brought low by affliction, willingly humble themselves. But what is here meant is nothing more than a forced and slavish submission like that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. It is a case of frequent occurrence for the wicked, when subdued by adversity, to give glory to God, for a short period. But they are soon again carried away with a frantic madness, which clearly discovers their hypocrisy, and brings to light the pride and rebellion which lurked in their hearts. What the prophet desires is, that the wicked may be compelled by stripes to acknowledge God, whether they will or no, in order that their fury, which breaks forth because they escape with impunity, may at least be kept under restraint. This is more clearly apparent from the 17th verse, where he distinctly prays that they may be destroyed for ever; which would not at all correspond with his previous statement, were it regarded as a prayer for their being brought to repentance. Nor does he needlessly heap together such a multiplicity of words. He does this partly because the reprobate, though often chastised, are nevertheless so incorrigible that ever and anon they are mustering up new strength and courage; and partly because there is nothing which it is more difficult to be persuaded of than that such as wallow at ease in great outward prosperity will soon perish. The cause to which this is to be attributed is just our not sufficiently apprehending the dreadful character of the vengeance of God which awaits the oppressors of the Church.

18. And let them know that thou art, thy name Jehovah. It is not the saving knowledge of God which is here spoken of, but that acknowledgement of him which his irresistible power extorts from the wicked. It is not simply said that they will know that there is a God; but a special kind of knowledge is laid down, it being intimated that the heathen who before held the true religion in contempt, would at length perceive that the God who made himself known in the Law, and who was worshipped in Judea, was the only true God. Still, however, it must be remembered, that the knowledge spoken of is only that which is of an evanescent character, having neither root nor the living juice to nourish it; for the wicked will not submit to God willingly and cordially, but are drawn by compulsion to yield a counterfeit obedience, or, being restrained by him, dare not break forth into open outrage. This, then, is an experimental recognition of God which penetrates not to the heart, but is extorted from them by force and necessity. The pronoun hta, atah, thou, is emphatic, implying a tacit contrast between the God of Israel and all the false gods which were the product of men's invention. The prayer amounts to this: Lord, make them to know that the idols which they have fabricated for themselves are no gods, and in fact are nothing. The despisers of God may indeed shun the light, and at one time may overcast themselves with clouds, while at another their may plunge into the deep and thick shades of darkness; but He pursues them, and draws them forth to the knowledge of himself, which they would fain bury in ignorance. And as the world indiscriminately and disgracefully applies his sacred name to its own trifling inventions, this profanation is corrected when it is added, thy name Jehovah. This implies that being, or really to be, is in the strict sense applicable to God alone; for although unbelievers may attempt to tear his glory to pieces, he continues perfect and unchanged. The contrast of which I have spoken, must be kept in mind by the reader. A nation has never existed so barbarous as not to have worshipped some deity; but every country forged particular gods for itself. And although the Moabites, the Edomites, and the rest of these nations, admitted that some power and authority belonged to the God of Israel, yet they conceived that this power and authority did not extend beyond the boundaries of Judea. Thus the king of Syria called him, "the God of the hills," (1 Kings 20:23.) This preposterous and absurd division of God's glory, which men make, is disproved by one word, and all the superstitions which at that time prevailed in the world are overthrown, when the Prophet attributes to the God of Israel, as well the essence of Deity as the name; for unless all the idols of the heathen are completely abolished, he will not obtain, alone and unshared, the name of Jehovah. Accordingly, it is added, Thou alone art the Most High over all the earth; a statement which is worthy of our most careful attention. The superstitious commonly think it enough to leave God his name, that is to say, two or three syllables; and in the meantime they fritter away his power, as if his majesty were contained in an empty title. Let us then remember that God does not receive that honor among men to which he is entitled, if he is not allowed to possess his own inherent sovereignty, and if his glory is obscured by setting up other objects against him with antagonist claims.

1 "Globum," -- Lat. "Une boule," -- Fr. The word lglg, galeggal, thus translated, is interpreted by Lowth, "any light thing whirled by the wind, chaff, thistle-down, etc." "lglg seems here," says Archbishop Secker, "especially on comparing Isaiah 17:13, to be not a wheel, but some light matter, which the wind whirls round and blows away; chaff." In that passage of Isaiah, where the same Hebrew word occurs, the rendering in our English Bible is "a rolling thing;" and the marginal reading, "thistle-down." This verse affords a striking exhibition of the nothingness of combined nations before the Almighty. He can make them "like the thistle-down; like the stubble before the wind."

2 The allusion in this verse is to the fires, either accidental or designed, which frequently occur in hot and wooded countries, and which spread to a vast extent, devouring all before them, and continuing their ravages for a long time. Many Eastern and African travelers describe these formidable and alarming fires from personal observation; and such descriptions serve to give a more adequate idea than would otherwise offer itself to an European mind of the Psalmist's meaning. This language is an expressive image for wide and quick destruction.

3 "Kindleth the mountains, that is, the produce of the mountains, trees, plants, etc." -- Walford.

4 "Pursue them with thy tempest, is an evident reference to the dissipation of the chaff, and what follows relates clearly to the expansion of the flame." -- Note of Henley, in Lowth's Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, volume 1, page 277.

5 "The construction of the words in the close of the psalm lies most probably thus, wedyw, and they shall know, i.e., it shall be known by this means, hwhy Kms hta yk, thou art thy name Jehovah, i.e., that thou art what thy name Jehovah imports; and what that is, is expounded in the remainder of the verse, Nwyle Kdbl, thou only the Most High over all the earth; that being indeed the meaning of Jehovah, the infinite, eternal, and so the only supreme power over all the world.". -- Hammond.