Psalm 68sn Psalm 68. The psalmist depicts God as a mighty warrior and celebrates the fact that God exerts his power on behalf of his people.
For the music director; by David, a psalm, a song.
1 God springs into action!tn Or “rises up.” The verb form is an imperfect, not a jussive. The psalmist is describing God’s appearance in battle in a dramatic fashion.
His enemies scatter;
his adversariestn Heb “those who hate him.” run from him.sn The wording of v. 1 echoes the prayer in Num 10:35: “Spring into action, Lord! Then your enemies will be scattered and your adversaries will run from you.”
2 As smoke is driven away by the wind, so you drive them away.tn Heb “as smoke is scattered, you scatter [them].”
As wax melts before fire,
so the wicked are destroyed before God.
3 But the godlytn By placing the subject first the psalmist highlights the contrast between God’s ecstatic people and his defeated enemies (vv. 1-2). are happy;
they rejoice before God
and are overcome with joy.tn Heb “and they are happy with joy” (cf. NEB). Some translate the prefixed verbal forms of v. 3 as jussives, “Let the godly be happy, let them rejoice before God, and let them be happy with joy!” (Cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV; note the call to praise in v. 4.)
4 Sing to God! Sing praises to his name!
Exalt the one who rides on the clouds!tn Traditionally the Hebrew term עֲרָבוֹת (’aravot) is taken as “steppe-lands” (often rendered “deserts”), but here the form is probably a homonym meaning “clouds.” Verse 33, which depicts God as the one who “rides on the sky” strongly favors this (see as well Deut 33:26), as does the reference in v. 9 to God as the source of rain. The term עֲרָבָה (’aravah, “cloud”) is cognate with Akkadian urpatu/erpetu and with Ugaritic ’rpt. The phrase rkb ’rpt (“one who rides on the clouds”) appears in Ugaritic mythological texts as an epithet of the storm god Baal. The nonphonemic interchange of the bilabial consonants b and p is attested elsewhere in roots common to Hebrew and Ugaritic, though the phenomenon is relatively rare.
For the Lord is his name!tc Heb “in the Lord his name.” If the MT is retained, the preposition -בְ (bet) is introducing the predicate (the so-called bet of identity), “the Lord is his name.” However, some prefer to emend the text to כִּי יָהּ שְׁמוֹ (ki yah shÿmo, “for Yah is his name”). This emendation, reflected in the present translation, assumes a confusion of bet (ב) and kaf (כ) and haplography of yod (י).
Rejoice before him!
5 He is a father to the fatherless
and an advocate for widows.sn God is depicted here as a just ruler. In the ancient Near Eastern world a king was responsible for promoting justice, including caring for the weak and vulnerable, epitomized by the fatherless and widows.
God rules from his holy palace.tn Heb “God [is] in his holy dwelling place.” He occupies his throne and carries out his royal responsibilities.
6 God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes;tn Heb “God causes the solitary ones to dwell in a house.” The participle suggests this is what God typically does.
he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity.tn Heb “he brings out prisoners into prosperity.” Another option is to translate, “he brings out prisoners with singing” (cf. NIV). The participle suggests this is what God typically does.
But sinful rebels live in the desert.tn Or “in a parched [land].”sn God delivers the downtrodden and oppressed, but sinful rebels who oppose his reign are treated appropriately.
7 O God, when you lead your people into battle,tn Heb “when you go out before your people.” The Hebrew idiom “go out before” is used here in a militaristic sense of leading troops into battle (see Judg 4:14; 9:39; 2 Sam 5:24).
when you march through the desert,sn When you march through the desert. Some interpreters think that v. 7 alludes to Israel’s exodus from Egypt and its subsequent travels in the desert. Another option is that v. 7, like v. 8, echoes Judg 5:4, which describes how the God of Sinai marched across the desert regions to do battle with Sisera and his Canaanite army. (Selah)
8 the earth shakes,
yes, the heavens pour down rain
before God, the God of Sinai,tn Heb “this one of Sinai.” The phrase is a divine title, perhaps indicating that the Lord rules from Sinai.
before God, the God of Israel.sn The language of vv. 7-8 is reminiscent of Judg 5:4-5, which tells how the God of Sinai came in the storm and annihilated the Canaanite forces led by Sisera. The presence of allusion does not mean, however, that this is a purely historical reference. The psalmist is describing God’s typical appearance as a warrior in terms of his prior self-revelation as ancient events are reactualized in the psalmist’s experience. (For a similar literary technique, see Hab 3.)
9 O God, you cause abundant showers to falltn The verb נוּף (nuf, “cause rain to fall”) is a homonym of the more common נוּף (“brandish”). on your chosen people.tn Heb “[on] your inheritance.” This refers to Israel as God’s specially chosen people (see Pss 28:9; 33:12; 74:2; 78:62, 71; 79:1; 94:5, 14; 106:40). Some take “your inheritance” with what follows, but the vav (ו) prefixed to the following word (note וְנִלְאָה, vÿnil’ah) makes this syntactically unlikely.
When theytn Heb “it [is],” referring to God’s “inheritance.” are tired, you sustain them,tn Heb “it,” referring to God’s “inheritance.”
10 for you live among them.tn The meaning of the Hebrew text is unclear; it appears to read, “your animals, they live in it,” but this makes little, if any, sense in this context. Some suggest that חָיָּה (khayah) is a rare homonym here, meaning “community” (BDB 312 s.v.) or “dwelling place” (HALOT 310 s.v. III *הַיָּה). In this case one may take “your community/dwelling place” as appositional to the third feminine singular pronominal suffix at the end of v. 9, the antecedent of which is “your inheritance.” The phrase יָשְׁבוּ־בָהּ (yashvu-vah, “they live in it”) may then be understood as an asyndetic relative clause modifying “your community/dwelling place.” A literal translation of vv. 9b-10a would be, “when it [your inheritance] is tired, you sustain it, your community/dwelling place in [which] they live.”
You sustain the oppressed with your good blessings, O God.
11 The Lord speaks;tn Heb “gives a word.” Perhaps this refers to a divine royal decree or battle cry.
many, many women spread the good news.tn Heb “the ones spreading the good news [are] a large army.” The participle translated “the ones spreading the good news” is a feminine plural form. Apparently the good news here is the announcement that enemy kings have been defeated (see v. 12).
12 Kings leading armies run away – they run away!tn The verbal repetition draws attention to the statement.
The lovely ladytn The Hebrew form appears to be the construct of נוּה (nuh, “pasture”) but the phrase “pasture of the house” makes no sense here. The translation assumes that the form is an alternative or corruption of נצוה (“beautiful woman”). A reference to a woman would be appropriate in light of v. 11b. of the house divides up the loot.
13 Whentn Or “if.” you lie down among the sheepfolds,tn The meaning of the Hebrew word translated “sheepfolds” is uncertain. There may be an echo of Judg 5:16 here.
the wings of the dove are covered with silver
and with glittering gold.tn Heb “and her pinions with the yellow of gold.”sn The point of the imagery of v. 13 is not certain, though the reference to silver and gold appears to be positive. Both would be part of the loot carried away from battle (see v. 12b).
14 When the sovereign judgetn The divine name used here is שַׁדַּי (“Shaddai”). Shaddai/El Shaddai is the sovereign king/judge of the world who grants life, blesses and kills, and judges. In Genesis he blesses the patriarchs with fertility and promises numerous descendants. Outside Genesis he both blesses (protects) and takes away life and/or happiness. scatters kings,tn The Hebrew text adds “in it.” The third feminine singular pronominal suffix may refer back to God’s community/dwelling place (v. 10).
let it snowtn The verb form appears to be a Hiphil jussive from שָׁלַג (shalag), which is usually understood as a denominative verb from שֶׁלֶג (sheleg, “snow”) with an indefinite subject. The form could be taken as a preterite, in which case one might translate, “when the sovereign judge scattered kings, it snowed on Zalmon” (cf. NIV, NRSV). The point of the image is unclear. Perhaps “snow” suggests fertility and blessing (see v. 9 and Isa 55:10), or the image of a snow-capped mountain suggests grandeur.sn Zalmon was apparently a mountain in the region, perhaps the one mentioned in Judg 9:46 as being in the vicinity of Shechem. on Zalmon!
15 The mountain of Bashansn The mountain of Bashan probably refers to Mount Hermon. is a towering mountain;tn Heb “a mountain of God.” The divine name is probably used here in a superlative sense to depict a very high mountain (“a mountain fit for God,” as it were). Cf. NIV “are majestic mountains”; NRSV “O mighty mountain.”
the mountain of Bashan is a mountain with many peaks.tn The meaning of the Hebrew term, which appears only here in the OT, is uncertain. HALOT 174 s.v. גַּבְנוֹן suggests “many-peaked,” while BDB 148 s.v. גַּבְנִן suggests “rounded summit.”
16 Why do you look with envy,tn The meaning of the Hebrew verb רָצַד (ratsad), translated here “look with envy,” is uncertain; it occurs only here in the OT. See BDB 952-53. A cognate verb occurs in later Aramaic with the meaning “to lie in wait; to watch” (Jastrow 1492 s.v. רְצַד). O mountainstn Perhaps the apparent plural form should be read as a singular with enclitic mem (ם; later misinterpreted as a plural ending). The preceding verse has the singular form. with many peaks,
at the mountain where God has decided to live?tn Heb “[at] the mountain God desires for his dwelling place.” The reference is to Mount Zion/Jerusalem.
Indeedtn The Hebrew particle אַף (’af) has an emphasizing function here. the Lord will live theretn The word “there” is supplied in the translation for clarification. permanently!
17 God has countless chariots;
they number in the thousands.tn Heb “thousands of [?].” The meaning of the word שִׁנְאָן (shin’an), which occurs only here in the OT, is uncertain. Perhaps the form should be emended to שַׁאֲנָן (sha’anan, “at ease”) and be translated here “held in reserve.”
The Lord comes from Sinai in holy splendor.tc The MT reads, “the Lord [is] among them, Sinai, in holiness,” which is syntactically difficult. The present translation assumes an emendation to אֲדֹנָי בָּא מִסִּינַי (’adonay ba’ missinay; see BHS note b-b and Deut 33:2).
18 You ascend on high,tn Heb “to the elevated place”; or “on high.” This probably refers to the Lord’s throne on Mount Zion.
you have taken many captives.tn Heb “you have taken captives captive.”
You receive tributetn Or “gifts.” fromtn Or “among.” men,
including even sinful rebels.
Indeed the Lord God lives there!tn Heb “so that the Lord God might live [there].” Many take the infinitive construct with -לְ (lamed) as indicating purpose here, but it is unclear how the offering of tribute enables the Lord to live in Zion. This may be an occurrence of the relatively rare emphatic lamed (see HALOT 510-11 s.v. II לְ, though this text is not listed as an example there). If so, the statement corresponds nicely to the final line of v. 16, which also affirms emphatically that the Lord lives in Zion.
19 The Lord deserves praise!tn Heb “blessed [be] the Lord.”
Day after daytn It is possible to take this phrase with what precedes (“The Lord deserves praise day after day”) rather than with what follows. he carries our burden,
the God who delivers us. (Selah)
20 Our God is a God who delivers;
the Lord, the sovereign Lord, can rescue from death.tn Heb “and to the Lord, the Lord, to death, goings out.”
21 Indeed God strikes the heads of his enemies,
the hairy foreheads of those who persist in rebellion.tn Heb “the hairy forehead of the one who walks about in his guilt.” The singular is representative.
22 The Lord says,
“I will retrieve themtn That is, the enemies mentioned in v. 21. Even if they retreat to distant regions, God will retrieve them and make them taste his judgment. from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 so that your feet may stomptc Some (e.g. NRSV) prefer to emend מָחַץ (makhats, “smash; stomp”; see v. 21) to רָחַץ (rakhats, “bathe”; see Ps 58:10). in their blood,
and your dogs may eat their portion of the enemies’ corpses.”tn Heb “[and] the tongue of your dogs from [the] enemies [may eat] its portion.”
24 Theytn The subject is probably indefinite, referring to bystanders in general who witness the procession. see your processions, O God –
the processions of my God, my king, who marches along in holy splendor.tn The Hebrew text has simply “in holiness.” The words “who marches along” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
25 Singers walk in front;
musicians follow playing their stringed instruments,tn Heb “after [are] the stringed instrument players.”
in the midst of young women playing tambourines.sn To celebrate a military victory, women would play tambourines (see Exod 15:20; Judg 11:34; 1 Sam 18:6).
26 In your large assemblies praise God,
the Lord, in the assemblies of Israel!tn Heb “from the fountain of Israel,” which makes little, if any, sense here. The translation assumes an emendation to בְּמִקְרָאֵי (bÿmiqra’ey, “in the assemblies of [Israel]”).
27 There is little Benjamin, their ruler,sn Little Benjamin, their ruler. This may allude to the fact that Israel’s first king, Saul, was from the tribe of Benjamin.
and the princes of Judah in their robes,tc The MT reads רִגְמָתָם (rigmatam), which many derive from רָגַם (ragam, “to kill by stoning”) and translates, “[in] their heaps,” that is, in large numbers.
along with the princes of Zebulun and the princes of Naphtali.
28 God has decreed that you will be powerful.tn Heb “God has commanded your strength.” The statement is apparently addressed to Israel (see v. 26).
O God, you who have acted on our behalf, demonstrate your power,
29 as you come out of your temple in Jerusalem!tn Heb “Be strong, O God, [you] who have acted for us, from your temple in Jerusalem.”map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4.
Kings bring tribute to you.
30 Sound your battle crytn The Hebrew verb גָּעַר (ga’ar) is often understood to mean “rebuke.” In some cases it is apparent that scolding or threatening is in view (see Gen 37:10; Ruth 2:16; Zech 3:2). However, in militaristic contexts such as Ps 68 this translation is inadequate, for the verb refers in this setting to the warrior’s battle cry, which terrifies and paralyzes the enemy. See A. Caquot, TDOT 3:53, and note the use of the verb in Ps 106:9 and Nah 1:4, as well as the related noun in Job 26:11; Pss 18:15; 76:6; 104:7; Isa 50:2; 51:20; 66:15. against the wild beast of the reeds,sn The wild beast of the reeds probably refers to a hippopotamus, which in turn symbolizes the nation of Egypt.
and the nations that assemble like a herd of calves led by bulls!tn Heb “an assembly of bulls, with calves of the nations.”
They humble themselvestn Heb “humbling himself.” The verb form is a Hitpael participle from the root רָפַס (rafas, “to trample”). The Hitpael of this verb appears only here and in Prov 6:3, where it seems to mean, “humble oneself,” a nuance that fits nicely in this context. The apparent subject is “wild beast” or “assembly,” though both of these nouns are grammatically feminine, while the participle is a masculine form. Perhaps one should emend the participial form to a masculine plural (מִתְרַפִּם, mitrapim) and understand “bulls” or “calves” as the subject. and offer gold and silver as tribute.tc Heb “with pieces [?] of silver.” The meaning of the Hebrew term רַצֵּי (ratsey) is unclear. It is probably best to emend the text to בֶּצֶר וְכָסֶף (betser vÿkhasef, “[with] gold and silver”).
Godtn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity. scatterstn The verb בָּזַר (bazar) is an alternative form of פָּזַר (pazar, “scatter”). the nations that like to do battle.
31 They come with red clothtn This noun, which occurs only here in the OT, apparently means “red cloth” or “bronze articles” (see HALOT 362 s.v. חַשְׁמַן; cf. NEB “tribute”). Traditionally the word has been taken to refer to “nobles” (see BDB 365 s.v. חַשְׁמַן; cf. NIV “envoys”). Another option would be to emend the text to הַשְׁמַנִּים (hashmannim, “the robust ones,” i.e., leaders). from Egypt,
Ethiopiatn Heb “Cush.” voluntarily offers tributetn Heb “causes its hands to run,” which must mean “quickly stretches out its hands” (to present tribute). to God.
32 O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God!
Sing praises to the Lord, (Selah)
33 to the one who rides through the sky from ancient times!tc Heb “to the one who rides through the skies of skies of ancient times.” If the MT is retained, one might translate, “to the one who rides through the ancient skies.” (שְׁמֵי [shÿmey, “skies of”] may be accidentally repeated.) The present translation assumes an emendation to בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִקֶּדֶם (bashamayim miqqedem, “[to the one who rides] through the sky from ancient times”), that is, God has been revealing his power through the storm since ancient times.
Look! He thunders loudly.tn Heb “he gives his voice a strong voice.” In this context God’s “voice” is the thunder that accompanies the rain (see vv. 8-9, as well as Deut 33:26).
34 Acknowledge God’s power,tn Heb “give strength to God.”
his sovereignty over Israel,
and the power he reveals in the skies!sn The language of v. 34 echoes that of Deut 33:26.
35 You are awe-inspiring, O God, as you emerge from your holy temple!tn Heb “awesome [is] God from his holy places.” The plural of מִקְדָּשׁ (miqdash, “holy places”) perhaps refers to the temple precincts (see Ps 73:17; Jer 51:51).
It is the God of Israeltn Heb “the God of Israel, he.” who gives the people power and strength.
God deserves praise!tn Heb “blessed [be] God.”