Biblical Audio Commentary – Psalm 83 as Future Prophecy; The Uncertainty Continues

Biblical Audio Commentary – Psalm 83 as Future Prophecy; The Uncertainty Continues




The question came up to me in comments to something I’d written: What is it that makes Psalm 83 a potential prophecy that may predict a future war?  A recent Rapture Ready article argued that it’s not prophetic in nature; rather it’s simply a lament by the musician Asaph.

Since I got canceled from Rapture Ready a while back, I can’t respond in that forum in order to provide my views, but I thought the issue pertinent enough that I should revisit it here and dispute – in a brotherly manner – with the author of that article titled: Why Do Some People Promote Psalm 83 In These Days?

I guess I meet the criteria of “some people” because I do happen to promote Psalm 83 as a potential event in our current time.  However, just as the article’s author states, I – like him – wasn’t aware of Psalm 83 being anything possibly special some years ago.  As far as I know, it was Bill Salus who first presented the idea of a Psalm 83 War that hadn’t yet been fought – thus a prophecy not yet fulfilled.  When I read Salus’ book, his arguments convinced me that he was on to something.

Our RR author makes a couple of statements:

However, bear in mind that this satanic opposition and destruction toward Israel has been operating for 4,000 years since God revealed his promises to Abraham.

 What I have to say here is very relevant. The situation Asaph describes has been played out over and over in Israel’s history. Enemies were always there; conspiracies to wipe out Israel have always been. So, is there anything special about what Asaph is describing? I don’t think so, even though he goes on to name certain peoples and nations of his time.

It’s true that from the very beginning, Israel has been under attack by various enemies.  This is a spiritual war and it started when God decreed it in Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

However, the fact that Asaph is very specific in naming the ten nations in the conspiracy is quite telling.  How can he name them, and they not be relevant?  That makes no sense.  Bible prophecy is a genre of specifics.  God gives us the information He wants us to know in the future so that we can identify the prophecy as being relevant to that time.

Continuing on with our analysis of the arguments presented in this article, the author notes:

Edom, Moab, the Philistines, Assyria, and Ammon were nations at the time this Psalm was written. They had always been enemies of the Jews, and the other people mentioned in verses 6 and 7 were just attachments in warfare, every one of them malicious with demonic evil, just as Hamas and Hezbollah are today.

If I understand this correctly, these five enemies our RR author names are among the many that Israel had, but the other five had no importance, despite being deliberately listed by name by the psalm writer.  Asaph apparently threw their names into the mix because . . . they were just attachments?  Say what?

Then we come to this statement:

It is not good enough to take one of the nations, e.g., Moab, and try to find its modern counterpart, that is, the geographic location of old Moab, and then make this a nation for a supposed future war. That would be in central Jordan today. Edom is modern southern Jordan; Ammon is within Jordan.

If we were to adhere to this belief, then we can’t identify nations like Elam with the prophecy in Jeremiah 49:35-39 as a future combatant which will experience something terrible, but have a happy ending; nor can we place Persia, Put, and Cush as future Ezekiel 38 adversaries of Israel.  As it happens, Edom, Moab, and Ammon DO comprise the territory of modern Jordan.  We DO identify Elam with southern Iran, Persia with northern Iran, Cush with Ethiopia, and Put with Libya.

You just CANNOT make Jordan (territory of the old Moab) or any of the other nations in Psalm 83 be part of some fantasy of a future war according to Psalm 83.

Then we might just as well hang up our prophetic hats because we’ll never figure out which ancient nations play a role in ANY of these OT prophecies.

The remainder of the Psalm is the request for judgment to fall on all those conspirators. This is consistent for that time in many Psalms for that particular request to be made. Keep in mind, there is no attack, no war, just conspiracy to overthrow the nation of Israel.

 When you read those verses [Psalm 83:9-18], you see they begin with the request for God to deal with those enemies as He did with three other enemies (verse 9).

In other words, the specificity in the psalm doesn’t matter.  For Asaph to essentially curse these make-believe enemies such that they fall to defeat like the ones in prior times has no meaning.

It is obvious that his request was linked to his own time and not at all to any future prophetic event. There is no prophecy here.

Does anyone else besides me see that it’s actually NOT OBVIOUS?

[Psalm 83] has no indicators of prophecy, such as the expressions of prophetic style – “In that day,” “At that time,” “It will come to pass,” “In the latter days,” “Thus says the Lord,” etc.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see any such prophetic declarations in Isaiah 53.  Does that mean it’s not prophetic?  I guess we’ve misunderstood Isaiah all these years to think that chapter refers to Jesus.  Apparently not.

Asaph was not a prophet but a musician. His great Psalm 73 was all about personal experience; so is Psalm 83.

It may be that the author of the article missed 2 Chronicles 29:30 in his analysis:

And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped.

According to Got Questions:

A seer is a person who “sees.” In the Bible, a seer is another name for a prophet (see 1 Samuel 9:9). But, more specifically, a seer was a prophet who saw visions—pictures or scenes seen in the mind’s eye, in dreams, or even with one’s natural eye. God spoke to His people through prophets in different ways, and one way was through visions. Accompanying the ability to see visions, a seer was given insight into what God was saying by these visions.

Perhaps some of you in Pentecostal/charismatic churches have experienced a worship leader lead the congregation with praise, and in the process, prophesy in song.  I certainly have.

Interestingly, Asaph’s sons were also seers as noted as 1 Chronicles 25:1:

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. 

Asaph isn’t the only person in the Bible who had such God-given abilities and had gifted children.  FYI – Phillip the evangelist in Acts 21:9 had four daughters who prophesied.

What is the Psalm speaking of? What was the event? There is nothing in the Bible to indicate this conflict (or any conflict) ever occurred. 

That would be true because those of us who consider this psalm important see it as a future prophecy.  Thus, Asaph could include some very detailed specifics, even as Ezekiel 38 does.  The prophet – or seer – wouldn’t know anything about the future event other than what God revealed to him.

Just as Daniel was told to seal up the prophecy he was given until the time of the end, so we have similar circumstances.  Ezekiel could never have occurred UNTIL Israel was re-gathered as a nation AND her enemies – specifically Russia, Iran, and Turkey – conspired against her.  Before May 14, 1948, many Bible teachers thought this Ezekiel prophecy was only symbolic.

In the same manner Asaph’s probable Psalm 83 War prophecy couldn’t have included “the tents of Edom” which are likely so-called Palestinian refugees, until the circumstances surrounding the 1948 War of Independence occurred.  In that war, the surrounding Arab nations urged their fellow Arabs – the few living in Israel at the time – to vacate their homes until Israel was destroyed.  That obviously didn’t happen, and those wandering Arabs – not Palestinians, because there were none – effectively became refugee pawns, i.e. the tents of Edom.

Well, it is always good to look at sensible possibilities, but this Psalm is not even a possibility for our time.

I wish I could be that dogmatic.  I think there is a great possibility that the current Israel-Hamas War could turn into the Psalm 83 War, but I try to hedge my bets a little by saying: “I believe” or “I think.”  But to say it’s not even a possibility . . . ?  It must be nice to have such certainty.

To me, it is obvious that some event was triggering Asaph’s anxiety, and he resorted to prayer. That event is not recorded. 

To that end, it’s not recorded because it probably didn’t happen in the time period that the Bible was written

Hopefully, this provides a reasonable counter to our friend’s resolution that Psalm 83 has no possible place in today’s conversations.  As I’ve said all along, time will tell if the other conspirators noted in the psalm jump into the fray.  We have to watch and use our God-given wisdom to see if the conflict develops according to that psalm.  If it doesn’t, then I was wrong and I’ll be happy to admit I misread it.  On the other hand, it’ll be interesting to see what – anyone who has steadfastly denied the possibility of a Psalm 83 War – will do if all the noted adversaries that Asaph listed do join in.

In the meantime, we’ll just keep praying for the Peace of Jerusalem, and God’s hand upon Israel for total and

6 Responses to “Biblical Audio Commentary – Psalm 83 as Future Prophecy; The Uncertainty Continues”

  1. Reply Bambi R

    Thanks Gary for addressing this article. I read it the other day and was a little upset by it. I wondered why they even put it on RR.

  2. Reply Robin McCann

    Israel will prevail. There has to be some kind of a huge win for Israel to ‘bask’ in undefeat and confidence in peaceful living (Peace and Safety) until the war of Ezekiel smacks them, and God jumps into the fray and puts a quick end to it.

    • Reply Gary Ritter

      Absolutely. There has to be something that significantly changes the circumstances on the ground for the Ezekiel War set-up – then some time for things to settle down. If prophecy is to be accurately fulfilled – which it will be – then an outcome similar to Psalm 83 must take place (whether it’s the Psalm 83 War or not). Ultimately it doesn’t matter if it’s Psalm 83 or not – although I believe it is – it’s the outcome that’s most important.

  3. Reply Joe Elmore

    Hi Gary,
    Thoroughly enjoy reading your commentaries. Why have you been canceled from Rapture Ready? I have books that you and Terry James co-wrote. Do you no longer write together?

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