SV: Elohim -- human or divine in Psalm 82?

Annika Stacke annika.stacke at
Thu Aug 31 04:26:30 EDT 2000

Oh, what a coincidence! Just a few hours before this mail arrived I happened to read the article by Simon B. Parker: "The Beginning of the Reign of God - Psalm 82 as Myth and Liturgy", Revue Bible 102 (1995), pp 532-559. Parker has, among other things, a very good general exposition on the mythological assumption that each nation had its own god, or that each god had a nation to which it had been allotted. 

Parker has two interesting points concerning Ps 82: First, YHWH is not the one presiding the assembly of gods; it is El or Elyon. It is, however, YHWH who charges the other gods with maladministration and annonces their downfall, and after that he takes over and exercises a righteous rule over the world.

Secondly, the narrative section of the psalm (vv 1-7), reflecting a Canaanite origine, "explains" in the form of the myth the unrighteousness in the world. Nevertheless, YHWH has predicted the downfall of the gods, though this is not yet realized. Therefore, in vers 8, the Israelite community prays in the form of a liturgical cry to YHWH to exercise his rule over the world. In this sense, this psalm is properly Israelite, and quite compatible with the strict monotheistic teaching of Second Isaiah.


Från: 	George Athas
Skickat: 	den 29 augusti 2000 16:59
Till: 	Biblical Hebrew
Angående: 	Elohim -- human or divine in Psalm 82?

|  As I understand it, Satan's promise to make them "gods" was as specious as all
|  his other words to Eve in the garden. In the BHS, 'e:LoHiYM can be used of
|  human beings, but it nearly always refers to "judges" sitting to judge cases
|  by the Law of Moses. The much discussed 'e:LoHiYM of Psalm 82 are a case in
|  point. That Psalm is a call to human judges to dispense right judgment: not to
|  "gods" in some sort of supernatural pantheon on high. They will die like the
|  puny humans that they are (verse 7). Their vain pretension to godlike status
|  was due to the Serpent's deception.

The only humans to be called 'gods' in the Hebrew Bible are Moses (and even that is just a
simile) and the king to whom Psalm 45 is addressed. Psalm 82 makes much more sense as a sitting of the divine court. Note that "Elohim" takes his stand in the counsel of "El" --
a very direct word meaning "deity". The Psalm ends asking "Elohim" to judge or govern the
earth in place of the other gods (who are barely worthy of that title) and so to take
possession of all the nations. That is, the Psalmist asks for the overthrow of all
national deities who each govern their own national domain because they are inept, and
instead asks for "Elohim" to take the reigns as a single autocratic ruler who is able to
restore order. This certainly has repercussions for human judges, but it is the divine
court which is in view in Psalm 82 -- not the average city gate court.

Best regards,
- Anglican Chaplaincy, UNSW;
- Southern Cross College,
Sydney, Australia
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