Psalm 83


This is a psalm of Asaph, but no one really knows its historical background of it.

There are a couple of possibilities, it may be relating to the time when Israel’s enemies joined together to attack them during the reign of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20:1-17. It could also be earlier in history, relating to the time of the judges, Judges 7-8.


‘A song. A psalm of Asaph.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

Asaph was the singer and musician during the reign of David and Solomon, 1 Chronicles 15:17-19 / 1 Chronicles 16:5-7 / 1 Chronicles 25:6. 1 Chronicles 25:1 and 2 Chronicles 29:30 tell us that Asaph was a prophet in his musical compositions.

‘O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” Psalm 83:1-4

Asaph begins by asking God not to remain silent, Psalm 28:1, don’t turn a deaf ear and stand aloof. Because their enemies were growling around and rearing their heads, conspiring and plotting against God’s people.

Their enemies wanted to totally destroy Israel and remove them from the history books. Asaph knew that Israel will fall if God isn’t with them.

‘With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants.’ Psalm 83:5-8

Because their enemies plotted together in one mind and formed an alliance with other enemies, it’s clear they hated Israel and they hated the God of Israel, Luke 23:12.

This alliance of nations was a mixture of different races, some were descendants of Abraham, the Edomites, Genesis 19:37-38 / Isaiah 11:14, the Ishmaelites and the Moabites, Isaiah 15:1-9. The Hagrites were probably descendants of Hagar, Genesis 16:1 / Genesis 25:12.

There are ten nations mentioned here, Byblos is associated with Tyre, Joshua 13:5 / Joshua 23:5 / 1 Kings 5:18 / Ezekiel 27:9. Ammon, were descendants of Lot, Genesis 19:38 / 1 Samuel 11:1-11.

Amalek, Exodus 17:8-16 / Numbers 13:29 / Numbers 24:20 / 1 Samuel 15:7 / Judges 3:13 / Judges 6:3 / Judges 6:33 / Judges 12:15. The Philistines were residents of Philistia and were long-time enemies of Israel. Because these are mixed nations, they were doomed to fail because most nations have their own agendas.

You may notice at the end of verse eight, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine Asaph pausing for a breath as he contemplates all these nations joining together to destroy the nation of Israel.

‘Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground. Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.” Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind. As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. Cover their faces with shame, LORD, so that they will seek your name. May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.’ Psalm 83:9-18

Asaph asks God to destroy Israel’s enemies just as he destroyed the Midianites, God destroyed Jabin who was a king of Canaan, and Sisera was his general, Judges 4:4 / Judges 4:6 / Judges 4:14-15 / Judges 4:17-21 / Judges 5:21. It was at Endor, Joshua 17:11 / 1 Samuel 28:7, where Gideon defeated the Midianites, Judges 6:33 / Judges 7:1.

The nobles, Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna were like princes or rulers of the Midianites, Judges 7:1-8:13. Zebah and Zalmunna were kings of Midian and were also killed by Gideon, Judges 8:5 / Judges 8:21.

It was the Ammonites who wanted to take possession of the pasturelands of God, in the times of Jephthah, Judges 11:13, The Ammonites and the Moabites wanted to destroy Israel, in the times of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20:10.

Asaph wants them to become tumbleweed, like chaff before the wind, Isaiah 17:13 / Isaiah 22:18, in other words, he wants God to scatter them and totally destroy them. He wants God to consume Israel’s enemies with fire, the same way a forest catches fire and spreads quickly, bringing about their devastation, Isaiah 10:18.

He wants God to pursue them with His tempest and terrify them with His storm, in other words, he not only wants God to chase them but also frighten them with His power, Job 27:20.

Asaph wants God to cover their faces with shame, that is, totally humble them, in order that they will seek God’s Name, Isaiah 26:9. In this call for judgment on the nations, Asaph didn’t forget that Israel were a nation of priests who were responsible for leading people to God, Exodus 19:6.

Asaph asks God that Israel’s enemies be ashamed, dismayed and may they perish in disgrace, in order that they may know the LORD, Genesis 22:14 / Exodus 6:3 / Exodus 17:15 / Judges 6:24 / Isaiah 42:8 / Ezekiel 48:35 / Jeremiah 23:6 / Jeremiah 33:16.

That they may come to surrender to the Most High God who rules over the earth, Genesis 14:22.


In this psalm, Asaph wanted God to deal with all those nations who came together to defeat Israel, but He wanted it done in such a way, that they would come to know the Lord and come to submit to Him.

The principle of loving our neighbour fulfils all that the law would command concerning our duty toward our fellow man, Leviticus 19:17-18 / Matthew 22:35-40. The principle of loving our enemies is valid and binding upon everyone who follows Christ, Matthew 5:43-48.

There’s no room in the Christian’s heart, especially since they’ve had their sins forgiven, to have hatred towards anyone. The kind of love we must demonstrate towards our enemies is the love manifested by God Himself in that He sends rain on the good and evil, etc.

The implication is that Christians should treat their enemies with fairness and impartiality, doing unto them as they would desire people should do unto themselves.

God loves sinners, even dying for them while they were yet in sin, Romans 8:5, so, Christians should love all men, sinners included, even their own personal enemies! God’s love is impartial, He loved us when we were His enemies, Romans 5:10.

A true heart isn’t one of malice or hate, hearts of malice and hate, identify those individuals who are of the world. Luke adds that we should do good to and pray for our enemies, Luke 6:27-28. There is no reward in a love that acts out of selfish motives to do something for others for the purpose of receiving something in return.

In what way would Jesus’ teaching on loving and praying for our enemies help us in our outreach efforts? It certainly tells us that we will have enemies and we will be persecuted at times, but it also teaches us to continue to love them and pray for them.

Remember that prayer may not change their attitude towards you, but it may change your attitude towards them, John 15:18-21.

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