Psalm 82 – Judgement

In Psalm 82 God calls the rulers to judgement. How will they fare? What is God looking for when he judges rulers? Let's find out.


Like Psalm 81, Psalm 82 alternates between words spoken by a narrator and words spoken by God.

The psalm is in a Menorah pattern: seven ideas in a 3 - 1 - 3 pattern, usually with the thoughts mirroring themselves from the middle outwards.

God, the Judge (Psalm 82:1)
You Are Unjust (Psalm 82:2)
Judge Rightly (Psalm 82:3-4)
You Are Useless gods (Psalm 82:5)
You Are gods (Psalm 82:6)
But You Will Be Judged (Psalm 82:7)
God, the Judge (Psalm 82:8)

The meaningful center is found in verse 5 which is also the center of the Menorah pattern. Referring to the "gods", the psalmist says,

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;

There are also two scenes or locations: heaven and earth. The divine council is held in heaven (Psalm 82:1-4) but the judgement occurs on earth (Psalm 82:5c-8).

The meaningful center leaves the "gods" dangling in darkness between heaven and earth.

God, the Judge

Psalm 82:1

The psalm begins with the narrator describing a "divine council" with God presiding as judge over the council. Who are the beings, called "gods", in this divine council?

There are three possible views: the "gods are" ...

  1. pagan gods,
  2. demonic rulers on earth, or
  3. human rulers on earth (who were often seen as gods by their subjects).

I find that all three interpretations work and it is even possible that God intended this to be read in any of these three ways.

No matter how you interpret the word "god", it is an awesome scene. All of these powerful beings - seen by others as gods - are standing before the only true God to receive His judgement.


You Are Unjust

Psalm 82:2

God, the supreme judge, declares the earthly gods to be unjust. They show favoritism in their judgments. Even worse, they favor those that are evil.

Judge Rightly

Psalm 82:3-4

What should the gods be doing? They should care for the weak and needy and rescue them from the wicked.

All of us have times when we are in leadership positions. God has made it clear what he seeks in a good leader. How are we doing?

When you have an opportunity to vote for someone to be placed into leadership consider how they would fare if judged by God's standards.

You Are Useless gods

Psalm 82:5

Now we reach the meaningful center of the psalm and center of the menorah pattern. In the original language this is only six words:

Not they-know, and-not they-understand, in-darkness they-go

Or simply translated: They know nothing and understand nothing, in darkness they walk.

The divine council begins in heaven, but in the center of the psalm the narrator dramatically declares them as nothing. Their thoughts are empty and they live in the emptiness between heaven and earth. They are nothing!

Notice how this declaration works for all three interpretations:

  1. The pagan gods are literally nothing.
  2. The demonic rulers are fallen and worthless. They should be of heaven, but they are now fallen to earth. They don't belong anywhere.
  3. The human rulers are worthless judges. They are not worthy of heaven or earth.

You Are gods

Psalm 82:6

God reminds the divine council that He called them "gods". Notice that this statement in the menorah pattern is in contrast to God's description, in verses 3-4, of what justice should look like.

If they are gods then they should act like God and judge fairly. Since they think they are gods, they will be judged accordingly.

But You Will Be Judged

Psalm 82:7

God gives His judgement: they shall fall like mere mortals. Their title of "gods" will not protect them from God's judgement.

God, the Judge

Psalm 82:8

God is the ultimate King. In the end He will rule over all nations.


God has given leadership roles to each of us. When we lead we become like little "gods" over those we lead. We temporarily become God's representative in that area. We need to ask ourselves, "Who am I leading? How would I stand up to God's judgement?"

We also often have the opportunity to choose local and national leaders. How do our local and national leaders stand up to God's standards?

Jerry Wyrick

This post is part of a series on the Psalms.

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory

Posted in Psalms and tagged , .