One of the most uncertain writings in the Bible is Psalm 83. I never used to hear anything about this Psalm a few years ago, but now, a few people are making reference to it. Some are going as far as to say this is a prophetic event that will happen.
Because it is a Psalm that was below my horizon, I never gave it any attention other than being a Psalm of Asaph, that great song leader in the Tabernacle/temple. Since the references to it are being made by some and pushed into the present, I thought I would look into it, especially as an RR reader asked me what my thoughts on it were.
LET US LOOK AT THE PSALM ITSELF AT FACE VALUE
. ITS INTRODUCTION
Psalm 83:1-4 1 “O God, do not remain quiet, do not be silent and, O God, do not be still, 2 for, behold, Your enemies make an uproar and those who hate You have exalted themselves. 3 They make shrewd plans against Your people and conspire together against Your treasured ones. 4 They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation that the name of Israel be remembered no more.'”
In those verses, Asaph earnestly prays to the LORD in a great need. In the first verse, he pleads three times for action from God. God hears when just one request is made; three of them are a deep, sincere pleading.
In verses 2 to 4, Asaph outlines to God (who already knew, of course) the reason for his great concern. The desire of Israel’s enemies was to wipe them out as a nation so that they be remembered no more. The plans they make are shrewd, and they make a lot of noise. In verse 3, there is a great conspiracy.
One of the reasons people like to consider Psalm 83 as prophetic for our times is because of the current situation, as I write this in November 2023. The purpose of Islamic terrorism and Jihad and all nations surrounding Israel is to destroy God’s people. It’s the same old Haman activity that sought the destruction of the Jews. It happened in 1947 and 1967.
However, bear in mind that this satanic opposition and destruction toward Israel has been operating for 4,000 years since God revealed his promises to Abraham. Satan did not know about the great promises to Abraham given by God because Satan is not omniscient and only knew of it when given to Abraham. Since then, his destruction has always been toward Israel and God’s earthly people. Think it not strange that the UN and the WEF and all other world bodies oppose and hate Israel? Biden practiced “double talk.” Seriously, he does not like Israel like all socialists and far-left people; they really hate and oppose Israel. Biden went to Israel, but it was to try to make them go easy on the Palestinian terrorists and have a cease-fire. The man understands nothing.
What I have to say here is very relevant. The situation Asaph describes has been played out over and over in Israel’s history. Enemies were always there; conspiracies to wipe out Israel have always been. So, is there anything special about what Asaph is describing? I don’t think so, even though he goes on to name certain peoples and nations of his time.
. ITS DEVELOPMENT – THE NATIONS
Psalm 83:5-8 5 “THEY HAVE CONSPIRED TOGETHER with one mind. Against You do they make a covenant: 6 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab, and the Hagrites, 7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre. 8 Assyria also has joined with them. They have become a help to the children of Lot. Selah.”
In verse 5, there is no surprise even there. Enemies may fight and disagree with each other, but when it comes to the hatred of Israel, and Christians for that matter, it is no surprise that they come together in a satanic harmony, come together in an evil conspiracy. It happened in the trial of Jesus – Luke 23:12 “Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day: for before they had been at enmity with each other.”
Edom, Moab, the Philistines, Assyria, and Ammon were nations at the time this Psalm was written. They had always been enemies of the Jews, and the other people mentioned in verses 6 and 7 were just attachments in warfare, every one of them malicious with demonic evil, just as Hamas and Hezbollah are today.
It is not good enough to take one of the nations, e.g., Moab, and try to find its modern counterpart, that is, the geographic location of old Moab, and then make this a nation for a supposed future war. That would be in central Jordan today. Edom is modern southern Jordan; Ammon is within Jordan.
Assyria was located in the northern part of Mesopotamia, which corresponds to most parts of modern-day Iraq, as well as parts of Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey. You just CANNOT make Jordan (territory of the old Moab) or any of the other nations in Psalm 83 be part of some fantasy of a future war according to Psalm 83.
. ITS ENDING – THE PLEA FOR JUDGMENT
The remainder of the Psalm is the request for judgment to fall on all those conspirators. This is consistent for that time in many Psalms for that particular request to be made. Keep in mind, there is no attack, no war, just conspiracy to overthrow the nation of Israel.
Psalm 83:9-18 9 “Deal with them as with Midian, as with Sisera and Jabin, at the torrent of Kishon, 10 who were destroyed at En-dor, who became as dung for the ground. 11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, 12 who said, ‘Let us possess for ourselves the pastures of God.’
13 O my God, make them like the whirling dust, like chaff before the wind, 14 like fire that burns the forest, and like a flame that sets the mountains on fire. 15 Pursue them with Your tempest, and terrify them with Your storm. 16 Fill their faces with dishonour that they may seek Your name, O LORD. 17 Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever and let them be humiliated and perish 18 that they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.”
When you read those verses, you see they begin with the request for God to deal with those enemies as He did with three other enemies (verse 9). Then you have in verse 11 four other enemies God dealt with. Faith is that which claims God’s working in the past as what we can expect in our own time and in the future. Asaph was exercising faith that God would grant the victory over the enemies in this Psalm as He did in the past.
It is obvious that his request was linked to his own time and not at all to any future prophetic event. There is no prophecy here.
. WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THE MISAPPLICATION OF PSALM 83?
What is the reason people want to link this Psalm to some proposed future war? The answer must surely be they are simply trying to draw parallels to our modern day. The Middle East has always been a tinderbox of aggression and warfare right through history, particularly since Islam came into prominence from the 600s. There is nothing new or strange about the current conflict. Because the land belongs to Israel, there will always be conflict, as Satan still wants to exterminate the Jews.
Israel will continue to fight against enemies right up until the time Antichrist signs the 7-year covenant with Israel that begins the Tribulation. When bible students and readers see what is currently happening in the Middle East, it is convenient to latch onto this Psalm and weave into it a prophecy for the end times.
. LOOKING FURTHER INTO PSALM 83
(a). Psalm 83 is not a prophetic Psalm, and you cannot make it so. It has no indicators of prophecy, such as the expressions of prophetic style – “In that day,” “At that time,” “It will come to pass,” “In the latter days,” “Thus says the Lord,” etc.
(b). Asaph was not a prophet but a musician. His great Psalm 73 was all about personal experience; so is Psalm 83. The psalmist was deeply concerned.
(c). Psalm 83 is typical of so many psalms of David, where he made his complaint, then explained the subject, then looked to God for deliverance. That is all this Psalm is. It had nothing to do with future prophecy relating to our time or to any time. It was about Asaph’s time THEN. If Israel had no enemies surrounding it, then the possibility of a prophetic Psalm would not even be raised. This Psalm could sit with Psalm 128.
(d). What is the Psalm speaking of? What was the event? There is nothing in the Bible to indicate this conflict (or any conflict) ever occurred. Yes, there was a conspiracy, but if there was ever any conflict, we don’t know about it. Asaph was dealing with conspiracy for war but not any war. The great David prayed for deliverance many times, and some of those reasons and situations we know, and some we do not know. That is the case here with Asaph.
(e). I can’t say I have seen anyone being dogmatic about “this war that has to happen!” but rather, mooting the possibility that the Psalm might be relevant to our time. Well, it is always good to look at sensible possibilities, but this Psalm is not even a possibility for our time. I looked at a lot of commentators and articles. I know some (just a few) advocate the future fulfillment of this Psalm, but it is not a prophecy. It is a request in prayer and nothing else.
(f). Most commentators tend to avoid making claims for the Psalm. To me, it is obvious that some event was triggering Asaph’s anxiety, and he resorted to prayer. That event is not recorded. In conclusion, I don’t think we should push this Psalm for some future fulfillment because there was/is nothing in it wanting fulfillment. It is just too convenient to try to twist and apply this Psalm.
To end, I hope this helps bring understanding to the one who asked me and brings some clarification to this misapplied Psalm.