The array of proper names in this poem seems, at first sight, to promise an easy identification with some definite historical event. But our records nowhere speak of a confederation composed of all the tribes enumerated here; so that if we are to be governed by literal exactness, it is impossible to refer the psalm to any known period of Israelite history.
We must therefore, in any case, refer the mention of so many hostile tribes as combined in one confederacy to poetical exaggeration, and look for other indications which may guide us to the event most probable as the origin of the poem. This is the period of which we have a detailed and graphic account in 1 Maccabees 5. Before this there is no period at which, even poetically, Tyre could be enumerated among the active enemies of Israel, while the first words of this chapter are just a prose statement of what we have here poetically described. In the fact, too, that after his victorious progress Judas Maccabæus reviewed his troops in the great plain which had witnessed the slaughter of Sisera’s host, and in the comparison drawn between the conduct of the city of Ephron (1 Maccabees 5:46-49) with that of Succoth and Penuel, towards Gideon (Judges 8:4-9), we have enough to account for the selection of examples from the times of the judges rather than from later history. The difficulty of the mention of Assyria, in Psalm 83:8, as occupying a subordinate part in a confederacy with Moab and Ammon, is no greater if the psalm is referred to this period than to any other. Syria (even if we discard the derivation of the name by abbreviation from Assyria) might yet poetically bear the name of the older power, and “auxiliaries out of Syria,” of whom Josephus speaks in connection with the Maccabæan wars, would be not unnaturally in poetry described as “Assur, an arm to the children of Lot.” The poem has a regular rhythmic form.
Title.—See title, Psalms 48, 50.
Hidden ones—i.e., those under God’s close protection, as in Psalm 17:8; Psalm 27:5; Psalm 31:20.
Against thee.—God and “His hidden ones” are one, a truth preparing the way for that grander truth of the identification of the Son of man with all needing help or pity in Matthew 25
(6) The tabernacles—i.e., the tents of the nomad tribes.
Hagarenes.—A tribe mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:10; 1 Chronicles 5:19 (Hagarites), where see Note.
“Both Ammon and Amalek are joined together,
The Philistines (are joined) with the men of Tyre.”
They have holpen.—See margin. And for the importance of the form of the statement see Introduction.
Children of Lot.—Ammon and Moab, who thus appear as the leaders of the confederacy.
“May you be whirled like ‘akhûb before the wind!”
THOMSON: Land and Book, 563.