4

Some scholars date this Psalm to the period of the Judges, because of the many references to their victories (namely: Zevach and Tzalmuna, Sisera). Are there any other reasons why this Psalm should be dated to the period of the Judges? Which other dates have been suggested for the composition of this Psalm?

2

The many references to events mentioned in Judges don't necessarily mean that the psalm was composed contemporaneously with Judges - quite the opposite, if it follows closely the order of events in that book, the chances are higher that it was composed by someone who used the book of Judges as scripture, and not by someone who witnessed the events or knew them from an independent oral tradition. That would make the date of composition of Judges (which I won't pretend to know) the earliest possible date for the composition of the psalm. Since Psalms 83:10-12 (Eng. 9-11) lists a number of events that are known from the book of Judges, it could be that the psalm was composed by someone using the book of Judges. However, since En-dor is mentioned in 83:11, which isn't known from our book of Judges, the psalm could equally have been written by someone drawing on other traditions about the Judges period.

Here is a reason to date it well after the judges: Assyria (83:9) is mentioned as an enemy. Assyria never comes to Israel's territory the Bible's narrative until 2 Kings 15:19. If we trust that Judges isn't missing a very significant detail, there is no plausible reason for an author from that period to put Assyria in the list of enemies. This would bring the psalm's composition until the late pre-exilic period at earliest; even Amos (traditionally 8th century) has no interest in Assyria (discounting LXX Amos 3:9).

I doubt that it's possible to date this psalm to any particular time with as little evidence as there is, but with the caveat that other times could just as easily be argued, here is one possible narrative: An Israelite author might be implied by "name of Israel" (83:5) and knowledge of northern geography (Gebal, Tyre) beyond Israel's "traditional" literary/Pentateuchal enemies (83:7-8). In the last days of the Israelite kingdom, Assyria might have sent parties of the other nations to raid Israel as the Babylonians later did against Judah (2 Kings 24:2), but this is entirely conjecture. The terror of raiding parties would have reminded the author of the raiding parties in the time of the judges (Judges 6:1-6), which is why the psalm recalls the period of the judges rather than more traditional literary periods such as the exodus. This isn't as much an attempt at exact dating as an attempt to demonstrate how a late date for the psalm could possibly explain the references to the judges era better than an early date.

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With the single exception of Psalm 90, "A Prayer of Moses the man of God", all the Psalms with attributions were written during or after the time of David. Psalm 83 is no exception.

Psalm 83 has the superscription, "A Song. A Psalm of Asaph". So who was Asaph? Apart from the what is mentioned in the Psalms, there are four people (possible only 3) with the name "Asaph" who are:

  1. Son of Berachiah (1 Chron 6:39, 43) whop was appointed by David because he was a singer and a player of cymbals (1 Chron 15:19, 16:4-7). Apparently 11 Psalms have the superscription "of Asaph". 128 of Asaph descendants returned from Babylon to provide music for the second Temple.
  2. The father of Hezekiah's recorder (2 Kings 18:18)
  3. An official in charge of the royal forest in the time of King Artaxerxes (Neh 2:8)
  4. A son of Korah and also known as Ebiasaph (1 Chron 26:1, 6:37, 9:19).

Based on the above evidence, it appears that Psalm 83 was probably written during the reign of Kind David by one of his chief musicians a man called Asaph (#1 above) who lead the choir and played other instruments. Therefore, the Psalm would be about 3000 years old.

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