The term “exegesis” is mostly used in reference to a critical examination of biblical text in order to determine exactly what the text means. It is by no means flippant or casual. It does not just take another person’s word for it. It seeks, it probes, it searches and it uses the appropriate tools of interpretation to arrive at its conclusion.
So, imagine what my excitement would be if someone walked up to me and assured me that I can be like God, in fact, that I can exercise godlike authority on earth over my circumstances. I mean, if you know my “wahalas” (as a father of 3 kids with one of them about to start secondary school in september) I could really do with some godlike powers. Wow! Such powers could help with my mounting electricity bills, I could get my wife her new car, and save up enough for a holiday.
But, because of the seriousness of these persons’ claims, I would not just take their word for it.
I would ask them to show me EXACTLY where God promised us these godlike powers, and I would critically examine the text (particularly since the person has made the claim that God Himself has promised us that). Because I claim to fear and love God, I would want to “see” this for myself so that it can begin to shape the tenor of my life. Afterall, I am what I think about God. So, off to Psalm 82; but I will not just read verses 5-7 but all the other verses so as to have a proper context for such a great promise (if it is a promise)
Why would I do that?
Well imagine if you had a person who was stalking you and writing romantic letters to you. You were able to ignore him (I am assuming you are female) for a while, but after some time you were no longer willing to stand the harassment. So, one day you decided to write “A LETTER TO END ALL LETTERS” to this pest. You go ahead and write a very lengthy letter, the summary of which was “Look, stop stalking me, I DO NOT LOVE YOU NOW OR FOREVER”. But this stalker decided to remove the “DO NOT” so that the letter now meant, “I LOVE YOU, NOW AND FOREVER” and chose that to be his reality? Imagine how pathetic that would be?
So, it is always important to read things in their context. Especially those things that have both temporal and eternal consequences;
Like Psalm 82:1-8 ESV
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!
One thing that should not escape our notice is that this psalm was written by an Israelite and if there is one thing there is to know about a Jew, is the Shema. What is the Shema?
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Immediately, this helps me understand that whatever was meant in Psalm 82, cannot in anyway contradict the Shema. So, lets follow the text and see whether it has something else to say. The text opens with God accusing “gods” for judging unjustly; this ought to supply us with a clue to whom he has in mind. Judge unjustly? Partiality to the wicked? All this judicial language, widows, fatherless, etc. must be referring to men. But what sort of men? This question should cause me, to search the scriptures for instances where men were referred to by God as gods. And those instances would necessarily predate Psalm 82 (for the obvious reason that it is used as a starting point by the psalmist, so that it must have been an acceptable terminology)
The first instance in Scripture where God alluded to man being “as God” (that is apart from the sad episode of the fall, which by the way should be a caution to those seekers of Godlike powers/influence) is in Exodus 4:16 and the text yields the very obvious intention of that statement:
Exodus 4:10-16 ESV
But Moses said to the Lord , “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord ? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.
The text above is self explaining.
Also, Deuteronomy 17:1-13 gives a clear explanation of those leaders in Israel whom the Lord had appointed as judges and whose words “in office” were final as though they were the very words of God. It would therefore make sense for the Psalmist in Psalm 82 to refer to these representatives of God (in respect to judicial matters only) as gods. Since they acted on God’s behalf before his people.
So you see, a careful examination of the text starts to dim my prospects of godlike status.
The Psalm itself is broken into clearly discernible parts:
1. The Problem is identified and brought to Heaven’s council.
God’s judicial representatives are perverting justice!
They are perverting Justice against the defenseless and taking up the cause of wicked men.
A double tragedy if you ask me. But God isn’t going to sit back and let justice remain perverted for ever…Oh no! He is going to do something about it.
2. So God declares his righteous standard for justice in verses 3 and 4
3. But these “gods” fell woefully short of the standard and the consequences of their perversion of justice are of cosmic proportions (verse 5).
4. Now, God passes his Sentence on these Judges; these unjust judges, in verse 6 and 7; they would not only lose their privileged positions, they will die like uncelebrated and ordinary men..
5. And because they were no longer fit to Judge, the Psalmist (or some other unspecified third party) pleads for God himself to judge in the place of these unjust men.
The text is not an allusion to humans attaining godlike rights or powers. The only promiser of such an illusion was Satan in Genesis 3. And Adam and Eve found out soon enough how much of a liar the devil was: They never became gods.
The truth is, becoming a god is an appealing proposal. Especially when we are convinced that the only reason we have to deal with all the stuff we deal with is because we are just mere humans. But nothing is further from the truth than that. Our biggest problem isn’t that we are just human, our biggest problem is that we are sinful. And what we need is not to shed our humanity, but to have our sins forgiven.
You see, God is good and we are not! This creates a huge problem for us as the Almighty God who is the righteous judge must needs judge sinful humanity. We are sinners who dwell in a sinful world. And even when the issue of our sin has been dealt with, we still have to dwell in a world affected by the sin of others. Remember Psalm 82:5? The sins of a few judges affect the entire earth to its foundations.
So, we are best served by being made to realize that as long as we are in this world, we would have tribulations but our hope should not dim, nor our resolve fail because Christ has overcome the world. It may not look that way, as we go through tough times, but we can trust the one who not only gave up his life as a ransom for many, but was raised from the dead, as infallible proof of mission accomplished!
I will not bother with the other scripture references because I trust that if this one thing is clear, then the others cannot piece together coherently; as all of them depend on the misreading of Psalm 82:5-7