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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 68


1 For the leader. A psalm of David; a song.


2 God will arise for battle; the enemy will be scattered; those who hate God will flee.


The wind will disperse them like smoke; as wax is melted by fire, so the wicked will perish before God.


Then the just will be glad; they will rejoice before God; they will celebrate with great joy.


3 Sing to God, praise the divine name; exalt the rider of the clouds. Rejoice before this God whose name is the LORD.


Father of the fatherless, defender of widows -  this is the God whose abode is holy,


4 Who gives a home to the forsaken, who leads prisoners out to prosperity, while rebels live in the desert.


God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the desert, Selah


The earth quaked, the heavens shook, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.


You claimed a land as your own, O God;


your people settled there. There you poured abundant rains, God, graciously given to the poor in their need.


5 The Lord announced the news of victory:


"The kings and their armies are in desperate flight.


All you people so numerous,


will you stay by the sheepfolds?


b) Every household will share the booty,


b) perhaps a dove sheathed with silver,


c) its wings covered with yellow gold."


6 When the Almighty routed the kings there, the spoils were scattered like snow on Zalmon.


You high mountains of Bashan, you rugged mountains of Bashan,


7 You rugged mountains, why look with envy at the mountain where God has chosen to dwell, where the LORD resides forever?


God's chariots were myriad, thousands upon thousands; from Sinai the Lord entered the holy place.


You went up to its lofty height; you took captives, received slaves as tribute. No rebels can live in the presence of God.


Blessed be the Lord day by day, God, our salvation, who carries us. Selah


Our God is a God who saves; escape from death is in the LORD God's hands.


God will crush the skulls of the enemy, the hairy heads of those who walk in sin.


8 The Lord has said: "Even from Bashan I will fetch them, fetch them even from the depths of the sea.


You will wash your feet in your enemy's blood; the tongues of your dogs will lap it up."


9 Your procession comes into view, O God, your procession into the holy place, my God and king.


The singers go first, the harpists follow; in their midst girls sound the timbrels.


In your choirs, bless God; bless the LORD, you from Israel's assemblies.


In the lead is Benjamin, few in number; there the princes of Judah, a large throng, the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali, too.


Summon again, O God, your power, the divine power you once showed for us.


Show it from your temple on behalf of Jerusalem, that kings may bring you tribute.


10 11 Roar at the wild beast of the reeds, the herd of mighty bulls, the lords of nations; scatter the nations that delight in war.


Exact rich tribute from lower Egypt, from upper Egypt, gold and silver; make Ethiopia extend its hands to God.


You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; chant the praises of the Lord, Selah


Who rides the heights of the ancient heavens, whose voice is thunder, mighty thunder.


Confess the power of God, whose majesty protects Israel, whose power is in the sky.


Awesome is God in his holy place, the God of Israel, who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!



1 [Psalm 68] The psalm is extremely difficult because the Hebrew text is badly preserved and the ceremony that it describes is uncertain. The translation assumes the psalm accompanied the early autumn Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), which included a procession of the tribes ( Psalm 68:25-28). Israel was being oppressed by a foreign power, perhaps Egypt ( Psalm 68:31-32) - unless Egypt stands for any oppressor. The psalm may have been composed from segments of ancient poems, which would explain why the transitions are implied rather than explicitly stated. At any rate, Psalm 68:2 is based on Numbers 10:35-36, and Psalm 68:8-9 are derived from Judges 5:4-5. The argument develops in nine stanzas (each of three to five poetic lines): 1. confidence that God will destroy Israel's enemies ( Psalm 68:2-4); 2. call to praise God as savior ( Psalm 68:5-7); 3. God's initial rescue of Israel from Egypt ( Psalm 68:8), the Sinai encounter ( Psalm 68:9), and the settlement in Canaan ( Psalm 68:10-11); 4. the defeat of the Canaanite kings ( Psalm 68:12-15); 5. the taking of Jerusalem, where Israel's God will rule the world ( Psalm 68:16-19); 6. praise for God's past help and for the future interventions that will be modeled on the ancient exodus-conquest ( Psalm 68:20-24); 7. procession at the Feast of Tabernacles ( Psalm 68:25-28); 8. prayer that the defeated enemies bring tribute to the temple (29-32); 9. invitation for all kingdoms to praise Israel's God (33-35).

2 [2] The opening line alluding to Numbers 10:35 makes clear that God's assistance in the period of the exodus and conquest is the model and assurance of all future divine help.

3 [5] Exalt the rider of the clouds: God's intervention is in the imagery of Canaanite myth in which the storm-god mounted the storm clouds to ride to battle. Such theophanies occur throughout the psalm: Psalm 68:2-3, 8-10, 12-15, 18-19, 22-24, 29-32, 34-35. See Deut 33:26; Psalm 18:8-16; Isaiah 19:1.

4 [7] While rebels live in the desert: rebels must live in the arid desert, whereas God's people will live in the well-watered land ( Psalm 68:8-11).

5 [12-15] The Hebrew text upon which the translation is based has apparently suffered dislocation and has been substantially rearranged for sense. The version of the defeat of the kings differs from that in the book of Joshua, where the people play a significant role. Here God alone is responsible for the victory (though the actual battle is not described); Israel only gathers the spoils. God alone is the source of Israel's success; human effort is not important.

6 [15] Zalmon: generally taken as the name of a mountain where snow is visible in winter, perhaps to be located in the Golan Heights or in the mountains of Bashan or Hauran east of the Sea of Galilee.

7 [17] The mountain: Mount Zion, the site of the temple.

8 [23] Even from Bashan . . . from the depths of the sea: the heights and the depths, the farthest places where enemies might flee.

9 [25-28] Your procession: the procession renews God's original taking up of residence on Zion, described in Psalm 68:16-19.

10 [31] The wild beast of the reeds: probably the Nile crocodile, a symbol for Egypt; see Psalm 68:32 and Ezekiel 29:2-5.

11 [31] Psalm 68:32[29-30] Lower Egypt is the delta area north of Cairo. Upper Egypt is the Nile-Valley from Cairo to Aswan. Ethiopia is still further south.

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