We do not know who wrote this psalm, or when. It is a picture of God leading a meeting in *heaven, where he lives. He is telling the gods what he has decided to do. Who are these gods? Bible students suggest four answers:
· the rulers of countries on the earth, *like kings
· *angels that have authority over countries on earth
Now the first three of these are either human, or gods made by human people. But verses 6 and 7 of the psalm may tell us that these gods are not human. They are "sons of the *Most High (who will) die like Adam". We could translate "Adam" here as "men". In verse 6, "sons of the *Most High" means "sons of God". This either means *angels (who live with God in *heaven) or his people Israel (Exodus 4:22). It is easiest to read the psalm with two meanings. At first, "the gods" meant "the people of Israel". Now it means "*angels with authority over countries of the earth" (Ephesians 6:10).
There is a picture in the first chapter of the Book of Job in the Bible. The picture shows the *angels meeting God in *heaven.
There was a day when the sons of God came to show themselves to the *LORD. And *Satan came also among them. And the *LORD said to *Satan, "Where have you come from?" And *Satan answered the *LORD and said, "From going here and there in the earth and walking about in it". And the *LORD said to *Satan, "Have you thought about my servant Job. There is nobody like him on the earth. He is good, so good; and he obeys God and does nothing wrong". Then *Satan answered the *LORD. He said, "Job has a good reason to obey God. Have you not made him safe, him and his house and all that belongs to him? You have made everything that he does work well. He gets more and more things in the land. But if you lift up your hand and hit him, he will say bad things to your face!" And the *LORD said to *Satan, "Look, you can do what you like with everything that he has. But do not hurt Job himself". So *Satan went out from where God was.
This is the story of something that happened in *heaven. The sons of God came to where God was. *Satan was with them. They talked together. Then *Satan went and did bad things to Job. The whole story is in the book of Job. The important thing for us to understand from this is: God has meetings in *heaven with people that are not men but *angels! *Satan is the leader of the bad *angels.
Psalm 82 may be about another meeting like this. God is meeting some of the *angels that have power in the world. They get the rulers of the world to do bad things. These *angels are not good *angels like Gabriel. They are bad *angels *like *Satan. Bible students call them "fallen *angels" or "bad *spirits". In the psalm, God says that he wants the rulers of the world to be good to poor people. There are two more questions to answer:
1. Why are these fallen *angels called "gods"? Every *Hebrew word that we translate "god" (or "God") means something. The word "*adonai" means "ruler"; the word "*yahweh" means "alive"; the word "*elyon" means "most important"; and the word "*elohim" means "powers". So these *angels are "gods" because they have "powers". But they are not more powerful than God is. They must obey him! The Bible tells us that "the god of this world" is a bad god (2 Corinthians 4:4). He tries to stop people asking Jesus for help.
2. Who are the "*godless" in the psalm? In the meeting, verse 1, they may be Israel’s rulers. But also, they may be the bad *angels that make other rulers and kings do bad things. It is important to understand that Israel in the psalm is the Israel of 2500 years ago, not of today.
What Psalm 82 means
Verse 1: The word we translated "meeting" is one that the Bible uses to describe Israel. That is why some Bible students think "the powerful" means Israel’s leaders. Some of them are hurting God’s people. "The powerful" may also mean "bad *angels". They make rulers do bad things to God’s people and other poor people.
Verse 2: God asks two questions. The answer to both is ‘Until God decides to give help to poor people that need it’. ‘You’ means the rulers of Israel, and the bad *angels that have authority on earth.
Verses 3 – 4: God gives help by making the rulers and important people obey him.
Verse 5: This tells us that the *godless do not know what they are doing. They are *like men who cannot see their way in the dark. As they walk, they think that the ground is moving under their feet!
Verses 6 – 7: God tells the gods that they will die like men. The reason is the same: they have not obeyed God. Just because they are important people or *angels, that will not save them from death.
Verse 8: Here is a *prayer that we can all say!
Something to do
1. Learn to say Psalm 82:8 by heart. This means that you can say it without looking at the words. When bad things happen, pray these words to God.
2. If you have a Bible, read: John 10:31-39; Ephesians 6:12.
adonai ~ *Lord or master; (or better, my *Lord or my master) in *Hebrew.
angels ~ *spirits that live in *heaven with God.
Asaph ~ look in the Introduction to the Psalms of David Book 3.
covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the covenant.
darkness ~ when there is no light.
elohim ~ one of God’s names in *Hebrew. It means very powerful.
elyon ~ one of God’s names in *Hebrew. It means very important.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the Psalms of David.
Jehovah ~ how some languages say *Yahweh, one of the names of God in *Hebrew.
Jew ~ someone who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
like ~ another word for ‘as’.
Lord ~ a name for God; it means he has authority, or 'master'; *Adonai in *Hebrew. Look also at *LORD below.
LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the *covenant name of God. In *Hebrew it is *Yahweh or *Jehovah. Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the names of God.
Most High ~ a name for God.
prayer ~ words that you say when you pray.
Satan ~ the leader of the bad *spirits, known also as the Devil and Lucifer.
SELAH ~ a place to pray or think or make music.
spirits ~ they are alive, but we cannot see them. There are good spirits usually known as *angels. Bad spirits (known also as evil spirits, or demons) do not live in *heaven now, but in the air round us. *Satan is their leader.
yahweh ~ the *covenant name for God. Most Bibles translate it *LORD with 4 capital letters. It means something *like ‘I am’ or ‘always alive’.