He Will Judge the World in Righteousness

In the last post, I drew a handful of connections between the first eight Psalms, using the first two Psalms as a framework for understanding. Psalms 1 and 2 established the contrast between the righteous and the wicked that pervades the book and the promise of an "Anointed One" who would execute God's judgments on the conspiring nations. The two Psalms are bookended by the term "How blessed," indicating that those who are righteous and those who take refuge in Yahweh would be "blessed." (Psalms 1:1; 2:12).

Psalms 3-7 are all similar, and thus should probably be grouped together, as they all portray the Psalmist's complaint that the wicked seem to be doing the opposite of what was detailed in Psalms 1-2. The wicked are not being punished and the righteous are not being blessed. The Psalmist has "taken refuge" (Psalms 7:1) in God, and he now calls for God to keep His former promises. In short, Psalms 3-7 are a collective call for God's judgment to fulfill the former promises, namely that, "the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous" (Psalms 1:5).

I also mentioned that Psalm 8 was bookended not only by "O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth" (Psalms 8:1, 9), but also by similar calls to praise in Psalms 7:17 and Psalms 9:1. It may be possible then that there are either other parallels extending backwards into Psalm 7 and forward into Psalm 9, or else there is an element that will change between Psalms 3-7 and between Psalms 9 and forward.

First of all, Psalms 9 and 10 put together are actually a loose acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet. Granted the acrostic does not comprise the complete alphabet, as the letters mem ?, nun ?, samekh ?, and tsadhe ?, are all missing (They would normally be expected to appear in 10:2-6). This does not invalidate the acrostic of course, as there are several cases in the Psalms where an acrostic omits a letter, such as when Psalm 25 omits qoph ?, or when Psalm 34 omits waw ?. In fact, the Septuagint, treats Psalms 9 and 10 as if they were one Psalm, thus creating a numbering misalignment between the LXX Psalms and the MT Psalms.

It appears from an initial reading that Psalm 9 is basically the answer to Psalms 3-7. In the initial set, the Psalmist was calling upon God to defeat the enemies. However, in Psalm 9, the writer now rejoices and praises God for defeating the enemies. Consider Psalms 9:3-6:

"When my enemies turn back,
They stumble and perish before You.
For You have maintained my just cause;
You have sat on the throne judging righteously.
You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins,
And You have uprooted the cities;
The very memory of them has perished.

Of particular interest is Psalms 9:5, which places the "nations" and the "wicked" in a synonymous parallel. This would be even further evidence of the tie between Psalms 1-2, as the writer is now calling on the promises of those two psalms to show them as fulfilled. The promised "judgment" of Psalms 1:5 is also a huge theme throughout Psalm 9.

  • "You have maintained my just cause;
    You have sat on the throne judging righteously
    " (Psalms 9:4).
  • "But the Lord abides forever;
    He has established His throne for judgment,
    And He will judge the world in righteousness;
    He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity
    " (Psalms 9:7-8).
  • "Yahweh has made Himself known;
    He has executed judgment.
    In the work of His own hands the wicked is snared
    " (Psalms 9:16).
  • "Arise, O Yahweh, do not let man prevail;
    Let the nations be judged before You
    " (Psalms 9:19).

In light of this though, while Psalm 9 is dealing with God's justice, Psalm 10 appears to reiterate the apparent problem of God's justice, thus returning to the ideas of 3-7. The Psalmist calls for the wicked to be "caught in the plots which they have devised" (Psalms 10:2). This is similar to Psalm 2, where the nations are conspiring and plotting, but God overthrows them.

Another dimension is added by the statement:

"The wicked in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.
All his thoughts are, 'There is no God'
" (Psalms 10:4).

This phrase becomes the basis for Psalm 14, where the fool says this in his heart. (Psalm 14 is also identical to Psalm 53 in most respects). That said, I do not see this statement as directly applicable to atheism. Are we to interpret the statement of "There is no God" at face value and suggest that the enemies of the Psalmist are merely denying God's existence? Or should we allow the context of everything else we have been reading to interpret and define this statement?

The real problem is not people denying God's existence so much as refusing to acknowledge Him in planning. This is the problem of Psalms 2, 10, and 14 together. Reading Psalms 10:5-11, the Psalmist defines the enemies thoughts more concisely by saying:

"His ways prosper at all times;
Your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them.
He says to himself, "I will not be moved;
Throughout all generations I will not be in adversity."
His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression;
Under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.
He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
In the hiding places he kills the innocent;
His eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate.
He lurks in a hiding place as a lion in his lair;
He lurks to catch the afflicted;
He catches the afflicted when he draws him into his net.
He crouches, he bows down,
And the unfortunate fall by his mighty ones.
He says to himself, 'God has forgotten;
He has hidden His face; He will never see it.

In the eyes of the Psalmist, to plan things as if God were not involved is no different than saying "there is no God." To think that God will not judge or hold us accountable is no different than denying His very existence. (This message stands in striking contrast to a religious culture that wants to deny or downplay the existence of God's justice and judgment.) Isaiah 29 (Isaiah 29:15-16 in particular) also focuses on this concept.

Psalms 10:16-18 resolves the dilemma of Yahweh's justice in the Psalm by declaring Him to be "King" forever and ever. This is now the third Psalm in the book to refer to the "King" (Psalms 2 and 5 being the others). In Psalm 2, He swore to establish His king on the holy mountain of Zion. However, in Psalm 5, the Psalmist calls Yahweh King. Here, Yahweh is declared king yet again. By this chain of reasoning, God's ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic covenant to seat one of David's servants on the throne is going to be Himself. (In fact, this is the question Jesus gave the Pharisees -- if the Christ is the son of David, "then how does David in the Spirit call him 'Lord'" (Mattjew 22:43).) This depiction of Yahweh's kingship is also implicit in Psalms 9:11, where Yawheh is said to dwell in Zion. If Yahweh installs His king in Zion (Psalms 2:6), but Yahweh is the one ruling in Zion, then it appears that Yahweh has actually installed Himself as King.

Aditionally, the Psalmist says, "Nations have perished from His land" (Psalms 10:16) while earlier he said, "The way of the wicked shall perish" (Psalms 1:6). The writer is carrying on the contrast between the righteous ones who take refuge in God, and the wicked nations who pretend that God is not watching.

My studies have still not managed to break out of book one, and I am trying to make these posts both insightful and relevant.