Psalm 83: Eternal Hatred versus Eternal Love
Article by Jacques Gabizon
Many prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures accuse the various Arab states of perpetually hating Israel and the Jewish people. This hatred began with Ishmael and has been seething ever since. A passage that summarizes this sentiment is Psalm 83. Yet, as this article will show, the perpetual hatred is met with God’s eternal love, offering protection to His people and redemption to anyone who will hear.
Psalm 83 speaks of a set of ten nations that will come together to make a covenant. In verse 4 of the psalm, the Spirit recorded their intentions: Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be remembered no more. These nations are different from the ones that are seen attacking Israel in Ezekiel 38-39. The ten nations in Psalm 83 are the immediate neighbors of Israel. The prophecy brings people from the south, west, east, and north of Israel together and showcases what other prophets described as eternal hatred. The beauty of Psalm 83 is that it contrasts this eternal hatred with God’s eternal love. This love is stronger than death, and it is calling every one of these nations to come to God. While they say, Let us come and destroy, Asaph, the author of this psalm, says, That they may seek Your Name, O LORD (v. 16). The nations are being misled by some passion they cannot explain, and so we also pray with Asaph, That they may seek Your Name, O Lord. This conduct is being like Yeshua, for while on the Tav, on the cross, and suffering as no other man has ever suffered, His thoughts were for others, for their welfare, for their salvation.
The extent of the nations’ mysterious animosity is seen in the first five verses of Psalm 83. This is a psalm of lament, as Asaph sees this coalition of nations ready to attack Israel and calls on God to respond. In verse 1, he addresses Him as Elohim, a plural name, before making a threefold request: do not be silent, do not hold your peace, do not be still. This is followed by God’s name El, which is in the singular. It is as if the author was calling on the fullness of God to comeand protect His people; and God, when He comes to the aid of His people–whether it is the nation of Israel or the individual believer–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit rise as one, as the echad of Deuteronomy 6:4.
Often, evil seems to grow without restraint; it looks like it is winning, plotting, and doing whatever it wishes. But this is only an illusion, for God is in control, restraining evil and eventually wiping it out completely. Evil interprets God’s patience and eternal love for weakness. Therefore, the nations in this psalm are bragging loudly, but El is coming back. The name El speaks of the power of God. Asaph is calling on the almighty God.
In verse 2, the Spirit tells us that the nations are making a tumult. In Hebrew, the word “tumult” means to “cry aloud,” “to mourn,” and “to rage.” The verse continues: those who hate You have lifted up their head. There is a noteworthy progression in this verse from hatred to the raising of heads, the exaltation of the self. This is where a lack of love leads. These nations act just like their leader, who still wants to take God’s place. He is not mentioned here by name, but the Hebrew reveals who he is. The Hebrew word for “head” is rosh, and the way the verse is written is unusual. It may very well suggest the name Rosh found in Ezekiel 38, the head, the great prince who will lead the war against Israel, because in the original language, the verb “lifted up” is plural, while rosh is singular. Grammar would require the verse to read: they lifted up their roshim, plural for “heads,” but it says, they lifted up Rosh, singular and without an article. Hence, the translation could read: they lifted up this one Rosh, making a direct connection with the great chief Gog, who is at the root of this instigation of rage against God and His people. It is as if all these nations worked together toward one goal under one leader.
The name Rosh is also seen in the first Messianic prophecy, in Genesis 3:15, where it says: He [the Messiah] shall bruise Rosh, And you shall bruise heel. If Rosh is a name, heel must also be a name, because the noun is also missing an article. In Hebrew, the word “heel” is rakev, the root of the name Jacob; and so, while the Messiah will bruise the head of Rosh, Rosh will bruise Jacob’s (or Israel’s) heel. What a great summary of the history of the Bible!
Verse 3 of Psalm 83 is beautifully designed, stating that these nations have taken crafty counsel against Your people. The expression “crafty counsel” means that these nations will craft a secret, confidently plotting against Israel. Their confidence may be the result of their numbers. After all, these are ten nations coming together against one. Yet, the Spirit responds to their confidence by speaking of Israel as His sheltered ones. Other translations render the expression as “treasured ones.” One hides a treasure and shelters it, and so the verse may be translated as: “those who are hidden in Your secret places.” While the forces of evil secretly devise plans to kill Israel, God will shelter His people.
The intention of the nations is seen in verse 4: Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be remembered no more. The world has been conspiring against Israel for a very long time. This can be seen in all of Scripture, and it can be seen in the two thousand years of Jewish Diaspora. In more recent times, such as in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, nations got together and pronounced these very words while planning their attacks on the newly birthed nation. The difference in Psalm 83 is that it speaks of an assembly of nations never seen before in history. We know of no period when all these nations gathered together in order to cut Israel off from being a nation. However, we are facing a wave of antiSemitism that will prepare the way for this attack. This anti-Semitism is different than previous forms of anti-Semitism. Phyllis Chesler writes: “What’s new about the new anti-Semitism is the speed and frequency at which anti-Semitic thoughts and deeds are displayed and repeated over and over again, 24/7, around the world.”1 Aided by the internet, politicians, the media, and many others spread unfiltered propaganda on a daily basis. Like the ten nations in Psalm 83, they see many people rising up against Israel and think that victory is at hand. Thus, they plot against God’s treasure but only to their own demise. This new anti-Semitism is even creeping into evangelical churches through replacement theology. But Psalm 83 is a powerful short chapter that denounces all these attempts and brings out God’s great love and protection of Israel. Verse 4 expresses nothing but the world’s wishful thinking, for in Jeremiah 31:35-36, the Lord has already confirmed that such a thing will never happen. God compares those who try the impossible as a hungry man who dreams of food (Isa. 29:8). In the Scriptures, He is called “the God of Israel” 203 times. Furthermore, the Word says that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel will be engraved on the gates of heaven forever. Israel is here to stay.
Verse 5 notes that these nations have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee. In normal times, these nations would not have agreed on much at all. Like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, they have a strong animosity toward one another. However, in their hatred of the Jews, they come together in one accord. Hatred is not a good glue. The subjects will eventually turn against each other.
Verses 6-8 reveal the identity of the nations who are saying such silly things. They are the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; They have helped the children of Lot.
The first nation mentioned is Edom, which is today’s southern Jordan. Edom was always among the fiercest of Israel’s enemies. In rabbinic writings, Edom has become the name of all the enemies of Israel, and the rabbis even called Rome “Edom.” The book of Obadiah is devoted to the Edomites, their pride, their wisdom, their riches, and their fall. We do not know when this book was written, and we know even less about the author; but it has become a very contemporary book, for it speaks of the final judgment of Edom and closes with the second coming of the Messiah. Of all the nations mentioned in Psalm 83, Edom is the closest to Israel. The father of Edom was Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. Throughout history, Esau tried, and is still trying, to regain his eldership. Edom’s thoughts toward Israel are laid out in Ezekiel 35:10 and 36:2. Edom wants the land and claims the ancient heights. Therefore, Edom represents all those who claim ownership of the land. Obadiah 10 predicts the demise of Edom, stating: For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. Edom will disappear and with it the spirit of Edom–the desire to possess Israel–will be gone forever and ever.
In Psalm 83, the tents of Edom are paired with the Ishmaelites. It is impossible to figure out who this people group is today but not impossible to see the strong connection with Edom. Originally, the Ishmaelites were roaming the southern part of Israel. Genesis 25:18 notes that they expanded their influence through all of Israel. But how can we understand their mention in Psalm 83? It is possible that like Edom (whose father Esau tried to regain his position as firstborn), the Ishmaelites (whose father Ishmael also lost his position as firstborn) is trying to regain his place. Edom and the Ishmaelites together sum up the argument of Israel’s neighbors today that they were there first, that the land is theirs, and that the covenant was made with Ishmael and not with Isaac. The God of the Bible, however, disagrees. After all, it is His land.
In Psalm 83, the Ishmaelites and the Hagrites are in the plural, perhaps to indicate their influence over all the Middle East. The Hagrites descended from Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. These two nations may represent the great influence and conviction of those in and around Israel who claim that Israel is a usurper and that the descendants of Isaac and Jacob are invaders. The Hagrites are believed to have lived to the east of Gilead, which today is central Jordan.
Also in modern central Jordan is the next nation mentioned: Moab. While less fierce than Edom, the Moabites were often at war with Israel, and the people today occupying their place have kept the same hatred.
Then comes a group of three: Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek. This brings us to the north of Israel. Gebal is in Lebanon, north of Beirut. This indicates Lebanon’s participation in the coming wars against Israel. Ammon is today’s northern Jordan, vis-à-vis the West Bank. The name of the capital of Jordan, Amman, comes from the name “Ammon.” At the time of David, the city was known as Ammon. The third nation mentioned is Amalek. Like Edom, the Amalekites were also descendants of Esau. In contrast to the other nations in the land, they were spread out and inhabited a vast territory. After separating from the Edomites, they were in Ephraim (Jdg. 12), at Ziklag (1 Sam. 30), and finally in the Negev (Num. 13). Haman was an Amalekite. At the time of Josephus, in the first century, the Amalekites were called “Idumea,” for Edom. Herod was called an Idumean.2 The Ammonites and the Amalekites often partnered against Israel. Their hatred against Israel became a type of the same hatred we find today.
Then comes Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre. Philistia is the Gaza Strip, where we find one of the fiercest enemies of Israel, Hamas. Tyre represents southern Lebanon; Hezbollah primarily operates from that part of the country. Hence, here we have the most vocal enemies of Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah, together. Hamas is a group of extremist Sunni Muslims, while Hezbollah is a group of extremist Shiite Muslims. The conflict between these two factions divides the Middle East, yet their hatred of Israel unites them—a fact that Psalm 83 predicted some 3,000 years ago.
Finally, verse 8 states that Assyria also has joined with them; They have helped the children of Lot. While Assyria primarily covers Iraq and parts of Syria, in Ezra 6:22 the Persian king Darius was called the king of Assyria. Hence, in Psalm 83, Assyria may well represent Iran. The country is mentioned not as an extra nation, but as the tenth nation, closing the circle. It is more like the leader, the instigator. Ten is usually the number of the perfection of divine order. Here, it is turned into a number of evil. Psalm 83 says that Assyria helped the children of Lot. In Hebrew, the verse reads: they have been an arm to the sons of Lot. The children of Lot are Moab and Ammon. Today, Iran helps the north, the west, and now the east, but we have known it for 3,000 years. Psalm 83 is that “contemporary.”
These are the ten neighbors of Israel that will unite in a war against the Jewish people. What follows is a series of six examples of people in history who rose against Israel and fell, with the six punishments for these nations:
9 Deal with them as with Midian,
As with Sisera,
As with Jabin at the Brook Kishon,
10 Who perished at En Dor,
Who became as refuse on the earth.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb,
Yes, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 Who said, “Let us take for ourselves
The pastures of God for a possession.”
13 O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
Like the chaff before the wind!
14 As the fire burns the woods,
And as the flame sets the mountains on fire,
15 So pursue them with Your tempest,
And frighten them with Your storm.
16 Fill their faces with shame,
Six is the number of man. It was the number that marked the height of Goliath who was destroyed by a single stone. It is the number of the Antichrist at its fullest: Three times 6, when he thought he was God. The examples are mentioned because the nations involved said the same thing as those ten nations: Let us take for ourselves The pastures of God for a possession (v. 12). The expression “pastures of God” refers both to Israel and to Jerusalem. The nations still want to take for themselves the land that God has given to His people.
There will be several sets of ten nations that will participate in future attacks on Israel. There are the ten nations mentioned in Ezekiel. These are nations north, south, east, and west of Israel. Another ten nations are mentioned in Psalm 83. They also come from the four corners, but these are very close to Israel, even within the land of Israel. Two other sets of ten nations are mentioned by Daniel and John. Daniel 2:41 speaks of ten toes and Revelation 13:1 of the ten horns of the beast. Combining the numbers, there are a lot of people who will come against Israel. While they show their eternal hatred and want to make war with heaven, God in turn shows them eternal love until they have consumed every attempt of grace and judgment follows. Love demands that sin be judged, either on the Tav (the cross) or by the unbeliever himself who will assume this judgment. But God’s eternal love is shown until the very end, even at Armageddon.
Yeshua is the Lamb of God. In the book of Revelation, He is called the “Lamb” 28 times, and the word is used exclusively of Him. However, the Greek word used in Revelation is different from the word used in the Gospels. It is arnion, which means “a little lamb.” Revelation 17:14 speaks of the moment when Yeshua will come to stop the wars against Israel. He will not come as a soldier but as an arnion, a little lamb, surely to offer the blessing of salvation for the last time. We read in this verse: These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them (Rev. 17:14a). A lamb is usually defenseless. Therefore, the nations will misinterpret His coming as a lamb for a sign of weakness, but it will be an act of grace, offering them salvation up to the very last moment. At the same time, the verse clarifies who the lamb really is: the Lord of lords and King of kings. Hence, the fact that Yeshua is called “lamb” in Revelation is yet another sign of His great patience and love, even toward His enemies. Such is our God, full of love, compassion, and patience.
Psalm 83 proves that anti-Semitism is hatred against the God of the Bible. Israel’s enemies in verse 2 are called Your enemies, God’s enemies. Those who plot against Israel hate You, meaning God. The equation is simple: Anti-Semitism is an attack on God, and it is the result of hating the God of the Bible. The question for believers is: What do we do with all this information? How can we put it to use, and what is expected of us?
The author of Psalm 83 listed the ten nations that will come against Israel. Then he listed six punishments that will in turn come on these nations. In verse 16, he ends with a prayer and says, That they may seek Your name, O LORD. God sends punishment as an act of grace, for He could wipe whole nations out with a word. Yet, He is persistent and wishes that they would wake up and repent. As believers, we ought to pray for the people who hate Israel. We ought to speak the words of Yeshua who said, Forgive them for they do not know what they do (Lk. 23:34). We need to pray that they accept the love of God in their lives so that they will see and grasp the truth about God. Love is a choice and a learning process. Let us accompany those who hate Israel in this process.
Jacques Isaac Gabizon is Director of Ariel Canada and the pastor and leader of Beth Ariel Messianic Congregation in Montreal. He frequently contributes to Ariel Magazine. He and his wife Sharon have four adult children and several beautiful grandchildren.
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