Psalm 83: Speaking out

‘ Do not be silent nor hold your peace.’ (1)

This is the last of the songs by Asaph, typically and consciously historical. The song calls for action against evil. Well, it’s actually against Israel’s enemies; but it’s hard to take a prayer for violent destruction of opponents too literally in the politically correct twenty-first century, especially in light of the new commandments of love.

After many verses of indignant anger, Asaph in verse 16 takes a missionary turn and trusts that enemies will eventually acknowledge God — a rule of love, a peaceful world?


Psalm 83 is not in the Lectionary. Why, indeed, find tuneful ways to string together a score of names of people and tribes from a millennia ago, the character and significance of which are largely irrelevant to most of us?

Settings both classical and contemporary are few and far between — surprise! One musical interpretation appears in PFAS; the notes say: ‘Sing angrily’ — and it is quite true that we should be angry against injustice and inaction.