The Exodus and Conquest, Pledge of Future Help
1For the leader. A psalm of David; a song.
2*May God arise;
may his enemies be scattered;
may those who hate him flee before him.a
3As the smoke is dispersed, disperse them;
as wax is melted by fire,
so may the wicked perish before God.b
4Then the just will be glad;
they will rejoice before God;
they will celebrate with great joy.
5Sing to God, praise his name;
exalt the rider of the clouds.*
Rejoice before him
whose name is the LORD.c
6Father of the fatherless, defender of widowsd—
God in his holy abode,
7God gives a home to the forsaken,
who leads prisoners out to prosperity,
while rebels live in the desert.*
8God, when you went forth before your people,e
when you marched through the desert,
9The earth quaked, the heavens poured,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
10You poured abundant rains, God,
your inheritance was weak and you repaired it.
11Your creatures dwelt in it;
you will establish it in your goodness for the poor, O God.
12The Lord announced:
“Those bringing news are a great Army.
13The kings of the armies are in desperate flight.f
Every household will share the spoil,
14though you lie down among the sheepfolds,g
you shall be covered with silver as the wings of a dove,
her feathers bright as fine gold.”
15When the Almighty routs the kings there,
it will be as when snow fell on Zalmon.*
16You mountain of God, mountain of Bashan,
you rugged mountain, mountain of Bashan,
17You rugged mountains, why look with envy
at the mountain* where God has chosen to dwell,
where the LORD resides forever?h
18God’s chariots were myriad, thousands upon thousands;
from Sinai the Lord entered the holy place.
19You went up to its lofty height;
you took captives, received slaves as tribute,i
even rebels, for the LORD God to dwell.
20Blessed be the Lord day by day,
God, our salvation, who carries us.j
21Our God is a God who saves;
escape from death is the LORD God’s.
22God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy scalp of the one who walks in sin.k
23The Lord has said:
“Even from Bashan I will fetch them,
fetch them even from the depths of the sea.*
24You will wash your feet in your enemy’s blood;
the tongues of your dogs will lap it up.”l
25*Your procession comes into view, O God,
your procession into the holy place, my God and king.
26The singers go first, the harpists follow;
in their midst girls sound the timbrels.m
27In your choirs, bless God;
LORD, Israel’s fountain.
28In the lead is Benjamin, few in number;
there the princes of Judah, a large throng,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali, too.n
29Summon again, O God, your power,
the divine power you once showed for us,
30From your temple on behalf of Jerusalem,
that kings may bring you tribute.
31Roar at the wild beast of the reeds,*
the herd of mighty bulls, the calves of the peoples;
trampling those who lust after silver
scatter the peoples that delight in war.
32Let bronze be brought from Egypt,o
Ethiopia hurry its hands to God.p
33You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;q
chant the praises of the Lord,
34Who rides the heights of the ancient heavens,
Who sends forth his voice as a mighty voice?
35Confess the power of God,
whose majesty protects Israel,
whose power is in the sky.
36Awesome is God in his holy place,
the God of Israel,
who gives power and strength to his people.r
Blessed be God!
* [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 (Ps 68:25–28). Israel was being oppressed by a foreign power, perhaps Egypt (Ps 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, Ps 68:2 is based on Nm 10:35–36, and Ps 68:8–9 are derived from Jgs 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 (Ps 68:2–4); 2. call to praise God as savior (Ps 68:5–7); 3. God’s initial rescue of Israel from Egypt (Ps 68:8), the Sinai encounter (Ps 68:9), and the settlement in Canaan (Ps 68:10–11); 4. the defeat of the Canaanite kings (Ps 68:12–15); 5. the taking of Jerusalem, where Israel’s God will rule the world (Ps 68:16–19); 6. praise for God’s past help and for the future interventions that will be modeled on the ancient exodus-conquest (Ps 68:20–24); 7. procession at the Feast of Tabernacles (Ps 68:25–28); 8. prayer that the defeated enemies bring tribute to the Temple (Ps 68:29–32); 9. invitation for all kingdoms to praise Israel’s God (Ps 68:33–35).
* [68:2] The opening line alluding to Nm 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.
* [68:5] 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: Ps 68:2–3, 8–10, 12–15, 18–19, 22–24, 29–32, 34–35. See Dt 33:26; Ps 18:8–16; Is 19:1.
* [68:7] While rebels live in the desert: rebels must live in the arid desert, whereas God’s people will live in the well-watered land (Ps 68:8–11).
* [68:15] 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.
* [68:17] The mountain: Mount Zion, the site of the Temple.
* [68:23] Even from Bashanâ€¦from the depths of the sea: the heights and the depths, the farthest places where enemies might flee.
* [68:25–28] Your procession: the procession renews God’s original taking up of residence on Zion, described in Ps 68:16–19.
* [68:31] The wild beast of the reeds: probably the Nile crocodile, a symbol for Egypt; see Ps 68:32 and Ez 29:2–5.
b. [68:3] Ps 97:5; Jdt 16:15; Wis 5:14; Mi 1:4.
c. [68:5] Ps 18:10; 104:3; Dt 33:26; Is 19:1.
d. [68:6–7] Ps 103:6; 146:7, 9; Ex 22:20–22; Bar 6:37.
e. [68:8–9] Ps 44:10; 114:4, 7; Jgs 5:4–5; Heb 12:26.
h. [68:17] Ps 132:13–14; Ez 43:7.
i. [68:19] Ps 47:8; Eph 4:8–10.
j. [68:20] Ps 34:2; 145:2; Is 46:3–4; 63:9.
l. [68:24] Ps 58:11; 1 Kgs 21:19; 22:38; Is 63:1–6.
m. [68:26] Ps 81:2–3; 87:7; 149:3; 150:3–5; 2 Sm 6:5.