This month we’re back to the Psalms. In case you weren’t around for it, I had decided a few years ago to work through the psalms every April. There are 150 of them and that’s a lot all in a row. We’ve gotten through 67 of them so far and it’s been slow going on the most part. Psalm 68 is part of what is referred to as “Book 2” of the psalms, which is from Psalm 42-72, and is about the deliverance of God.
Here is Psalm 68:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.
1God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
and those who hate him shall flee before him!
2As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;
as wax melts before fire,
so the wicked shall perish before God!
3But the righteous shall be glad;
they shall exult before God;
they shall be jubilant with joy!
4Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!
5Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
7O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
8the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God,a the God of Israel.
9Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished;
10your flockb found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.
11The Lord gives the word;
the women who announce the news are a great host:
12“The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!”
The women at home divide the spoil—
13though you men lie among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with shimmering gold.
14When the Almighty scatters kings there,
let snow fall on Zalmon.
15O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peakedc mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?
17The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands;
the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
18You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
19Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation. Selah
20Our God is a God of salvation,
and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
21But God will strike the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
22The Lord said,
“I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23that you may strike your feet in their blood,
that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe.”
24Your procession isd seen, O God,
the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
25the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them virgins playing tambourines:
26“Bless God in the great congregation,
the LORD, O youe who are of Israel’s fountain!”
27There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in their throng,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
28Summon your power, O God,f
the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.
29Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings shall bear gifts to you.
30Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.g
31Nobles shall come from Egypt;
Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.
32O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord, Selah
33to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
34Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.
35Awesome is God from hish sanctuary;
the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
As the title suggests, this psalm is primarily about God’s might. I’m back to using Robert Alter’s Book of Psalms that has his translations and notes on the psalms in quite a bit more detail than the ESV Bible that I normally use. It has notes that point out details like v. 14 is a citation from the Song of Debra in Judges 5:16 where she is shaming the tribe that didn’t show up to the battle. Honestly, it reads like a Battle Hymn, one meant to motivate by inspiring confidence in what God is capable of.
That kind of usage makes sense to me with the way points seem to fall off sometimes (v13) or even the way the women are mentioned. In a time and place where women weren’t marching off to battle, mentioning that we will “divide up the spoils” and “announce the news”. Later (v25) there is a mention of virgins or young women celebrating with the musicians and singers as the ark comes back from the battlefield but it keeps the idea that this is what will come. There is also the mention of God as “the protector of widows”.
That said, Alter has this as a liturgical psalm, meaning that it was used in worship service to remind the people of what God had done for them and therefore inspire devotion.