Psalm 82 says:

1 God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”.
2 How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?

Who is "you" in this context?

  • This question is potentially a duplicate for this reason I’m refraining from responding but supposing it’s not, this link and the selected answer provides much insight, consider reading it. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/34974/… sons of God cannot be humans and historically were not considered humans. Dec 18, 2020 at 4:43

5 Answers 5


The Bible often used the word אֱלהִים (elhohim = literally "gods") in the sense of human judges. Here is a sample:

  • Ex 21:6 - then his master is to bring him before the judges [אֱלהִים]. And he shall take him to the door or doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he shall serve his master for life.
  • Ex 22:8 - If the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges [אֱלהִים] to determine whether he has taken his neighbor’s property.

... etc. See also Judges 5:8, Ps 138:1, etc. This same theme is continued in the NT in places like 1 Cor 6:2, 3

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

Now, Ps 82 displays an interesting chiastic pattern:

God's Example in heaven

1 God presides in the divine assembly; He renders judgment among the gods:

Human courts follow the divine example

2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

  The actions of Justice

  3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; uphold the rights of the afflicted and oppressed.

  4 Rescue the weak and needy; save them from the hand of the wicked.

  5 They do not know or understand; they wander in the darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

Human courts follow the divine example

6 I have said, ‘You are gods/judges; you are all sons of the Most High.’

7 But like mortals you will die, and like rulers you will fall.”

God's Example in heaven

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are Your inheritance.


Thus, the judges (elhohim = literally "gods") are the human judges who are encouraged to imitate divine justice in deciding cases.


Whom is God talking to in Psalm 82:2?

"You" refers to the human judges of Israel that make unjust Judgments and are rebuked.

Psalm 82:1-2,6-7 NASB

God stands in[b] the assembly of El; in the midst of the gods he renders judgment. 2 He says, “How long will you make unjust legal decisions and show favoritism to the wicked? 6 I thought, ‘You are gods; all of you are sons of the Most High. 7 Yet you will die like mortals; you will fall like all the other rulers.”

In this psalm, the Most High God speaks to the unjust judges on earth, mere men, and calls them “gods,” or elohím in the Hebrew, and he tells them to correct their legal practice. Because those judges fail in their duty, it becomes necessary for the Most High God to arise and judge the peoples of the earth.

God’s word was against them in adverse judgment. It was human gods like these, among the Jews, that caused Jesus to be put to death at the hands of the Romans.


In Psalm 82, You are Angels [judges] - "children of the Most High" ( בְנֵ֖י עֶלְי֣וֹן ).

Psalm 82:1

"A song of Asaph. God stands in the congregation of God; in the midst of [judges] He will judge." (מִזְמ֗וֹר לְאָ֫סָ֥ף אֱלֹהִ֗ים נִצָּ֥ב בַּֽעֲדַת־אֵ֑ל בְּקֶ֖רֶב אֱלֹהִ֣ים יִשְׁפֹּֽט)
  • "In-the midst [of] judges" ( Be-Qerev Elohim, בְּקֶ֖רֶב אֱלֹהִ֣ים )

Psalm 82:2

How long will **you** judge unjustly and favor the wicked forever? (עַד־מָתַ֣י תִּשְׁפְּטוּ־עָ֑וֶל וּפְנֵ֥י רְ֜שָׁעִ֗ים תִּשְׂאוּ־סֶֽלָה )
  • "will You judge" ( Tishpetu , תִּשְׁפְּטוּ ) refers to [the judges] in Psalm 82:1.

Psalm 82:6

"I said, "Angels you are children of the Most High - all of you." (אֲֽנִ֣י אָ֖מַרְתִּי אֱלֹהִ֣ים אַתֶּ֑ם וּבְנֵ֖י עֶלְי֣וֹן כֻּלְּכֶֽם)

Angels are [the] judges.

  • Impossible that these referred here are angels, for angels, the bodiless intellectual creatures always praising and serving God, cannot have done the things for which those who are referred here are rebuked by God: namely, showing partiality and favoritism in judgment and not caring for poor people. Only human judges can be such. Dec 18, 2020 at 17:25
  • 1
    @Levan Gigineishvili - When you read [John 13:27], does an Angel influence a mortal to make a judgement? * Is the judgement ultimately accredited to a mortal or the Angel? Dec 18, 2020 at 20:31
  • A fallen angel, one of the demons or rather their very leader, indeed influences Judas to commit sin, so what? What reference does it have with Psalm 82 in which God rebukes judges for practicing favoritism and for not practicing mercy; God cannot rebuke demons for that, for the rebuke clearly has here the purpose of correcting the deviant judges, and demons cannot be in such class, neither angels, nor animals, nor plants and stones, what remains is, humans. Dec 18, 2020 at 20:32

The features of those "gods" show that they can and indeed have committed misjudgment and did not fulfil their duty of judges in a just way, practicing partiality and ignoring plight of the lowly and poor; for which reason they receive a reprimanding and rebuke from God. Thus, they cannot be angels, the bodiless intellectual substances ceaselessly praising and serving God, for it is impossible that angels may treat people with partiality and favouritism, to say nothing about giving no heed to the poor.

Martin Luther, I guess correctly, says that here human kings are referred to, who are invested with the authority of judgment over their subjects.

Interesting is how Jesus interprets this passage: He does not deny that He refers to Himself as "God", but seeing that this scandalises the Jews, tells them that David calls them "to whom God's word came as 'gods' and the Scripture is not abolished by this" (John 10:35); how wonderful! For Jesus gives the foundation and reason for why and how one can be a judge of human affairs: the foundation of judgment is truth, wisdom, which is not a human feature, but a divine feature in which men must participate in order to qualify for judging. Thus, good judges are such only in virtue of participating in divine feature of truth and wisdom and thus through this participation can be called "gods in virtue of participation in the divine uncreated feature of truth and wisdom - this is the meaning of the words that 'the word of God came to them'", just like a wire can become a source of light only through participation in electric current itself being not by nature the electric current, but only a participant in it by conducting it.

Now, seemingly Jesus reduces also Himself to such a "god in virtue of participation", but immediately He clearly separates from and puts Himself above such participatory gods by saying in continuation: "Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, 'Thou blasphemest'; because I said, I am the Son of God?". Thus, He says that He is not in the class of "gods in virtue of receiving divine word", but somebody whom "Father has sanctified and sent", thus "has sanctified" here has a totally different semantics than the letting the humans participate in His (Father's) word, i.e. the Father's uncreated/divine features of wisdom and truth.

In fact, humans who, as creatures, possess a capacity to act not according to God's word and truth, but according to their own desires, are indeed sanctified by divine correcting word and it is this sanctification that makes them 'gods'. But from what could Logos Himself be sanctified when He was with the Father before the world was even made? (John 17:5) Perhaps Logos could be sanctified or cleansed from His self-will that could be different and worse than that of the Father (for "sanctification" means that worse is improved to a better and impure to purer)? A foolish blasphemy even to entertain such an outlandish thought that Logos' will differed from the Father's will, to the effect that when the Father decided to create the world through His Logos, the Latter needed to be coerced or persuaded by the Father, that is to say, "be sanctified" by the Father through this coercion and persuasion, for then the Logos would be coerced or invited to choose to comply with the Father's will and thus get sanctified. Outright absurdity!

To dispel possibility of such misjudgements, Jesus clearly states in the immediate sequel that He does the deeds of the Father, this giving Him a ground to assert: "the Father is in Me"; but to show that He is not just like any other human person who would comply with the Father's will and act accordingly, He adds: "and I am in the Father"; the parallel syntax of those two sentences indicates the same semantics of Father's and Son's mutual being in Each-Other to the effect that as Logos cannot do the Father's deeds without Father being in Him, absolutely similarly neither the Father can do any deed without the Son-Logos co-doing this deed together with Him. This He says elsewhere also, that His and the Father's deeds are always common deeds: "My Father works until now and I work" (John 5:17), that is to say, it is an ontological impossibility that Father acts separately from the Son or the Son separately from the Father.

Moreover, since we know and worship God in virtue of His deeds manifested to us (for otherwise "God" will be an empty thing totally unknown and unrelated to us, and as such also un-worshipped by us, for worship implies a notion of knowledge and understanding of what and whom you worship), and since those deeds are always and eternally done by both Father and the Son simultaneously, then we necessarily worship Both when we worship God.

  • @Down-voter: No bitterness, just a request: if you have found any theological-textological mistake in my answer, would you please communicate it to me? I do not think I have made any, but will be interested to discuss. If you will not, then have a nice day! Dec 18, 2020 at 6:01
  • I thought it was a good answer.
    – Dottard
    Dec 18, 2020 at 20:00
  • @Dottard Thanks indeed. I agree with your interpretation that these are human judges and just am out of my wits to see that this banal obviosity eludes people's minds. I am not embittered by down-votings but by silence of down-voters as to their grounds. The points and up-down-votes will be abolished, but a sincere philsophical-theological (both being the same) search for correct cognition of ultimate realities of God, of Incarnation, of human participation in divine life etc. will never be abolished. Dec 18, 2020 at 20:09
  • Levan Gigineishvili: . Like you and Dottard, I am certain that it refers to human Judges. . Judgements in heaven are made by God and are not unjust, further angels do not die like mortals. The answer accepted as correct is obviously incorrect.Like you "the points and up-down-votes should be abolished., Apr 9, 2021 at 20:04
  • Thanks dear @OzzieOzzie for reading and estimating my post! As to "the points and up-down-votes should be abolished", I did not say "should be abolished", but "will be abolished" in eternity, when not points and ratings of the participants of this noble site will matter, but the truthfulness/soundness or untruthfulness/unsoundness of ideas expressed here. Otherwise, I am not against the option of up-vote-down-vote, simply it is very indiscreet and ugly even to down-vote somebody, without explaining why, without giving helpful remarks and arguments. Apr 9, 2021 at 20:26

From a logical viewpoint, the ‘human theory’ (gods = earthly judges) is untenable.

All things considered, I think it is more probable that the terms אל, אלהים [al, aleim] (on Psa 82:1, 6), as well as the expression עליון בני [bni Oliun] (on Psa 82:6), refers to angelic (wicked) individuals, an interpretation “maintained by Hupfeld; and Bleek, followed by Cheyne, goes the full length of regarding them as patron angels of the nations” (Expositor’s Bible; bold is mine).

This conclusion is supported also by the Syriac version, which it renders (bold is mine): “God standeth in the assembly of the angels, and in the midst of the angels will He judge” (cit. in the ‘Cambridge Bible’). Interestingly, John Gill comments (bold is mine): “he judgeth among the gods: which the Syriac version renders ‘angels’ again; and so Aben Ezra interprets it of them, who are so called, Psa 8:5.”

The passage cited by Gill is in full harmony with the equivalence aleim = angels.

Another comment (bold is mine): “The first mention of Elohim in Psalm 82:1 must be translated as a singular, in that is the subject of a singular verb: ‘Elohim stands’. This is consistent with the Hebrew language. The second mention of Elohim in the Psalm must be read as a plural, as the preposition in front of it (‘in the midst of’) requires more than one. It is impossible to be ‘in the midst of’ one person. […] Verse 6 of the Psalm makes it very clear that the Elohim are the very same characters as the Sons of God mentiones in Genesis 6:4, in that he addresses them as other elohim, and calls them the ‘Sons of the Most High’, addressing them, point black, saying ‘you are gods [elohim], all of you’ [Scott Alan Roberts, The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim, 2012, chapt. 8]

Too, the Hebrew phraseology itself of a couple of verses - in the same core context - could give further light to the matter. In fact, the verses 6-7 state: “I said, ‘You are gods’; all of you are the sons of the Most High [bni oliun]. But you will come to death like [-כ] men, falling like [-כ] one of the rulers [srim] of the earth.” (The Bible in Basic English)

6 אֲֽנִי־אָמַרְתִּי אֱלֹהִים אַתֶּם וּבְנֵי עֶלְיֹון כֻּלְּכֶֽם׃ 7 אָכֵן כְּאָדָם תְּמוּתוּן וּכְאַחַד הַשָּׂרִים תִּפֹּֽלוּ

So, the aleim weren’t men, but notwithstanding, they will die like men. The particle -כ [k-] denotes here not an equality but a similitude (Isa 40:6 uses the adverbial prefixal particle -כ [k-] in the same manner, pointing the same a similitude, not an equality, between the terms here and there the prefixal particle -כ).

Moreover, if the aleim rebuked by God were mere men, it not seems to me a very striking sentence by God simply recalling them that they ‘will die like (that is, in the claimed sense of ‘as such’) men’. Why? Well, the Bible and the mankind experience itself teach that all the living “know that they will die” (Qoeleth 9:5), don’t they?

It is a very different matter – instead - to promulgate a death-sentence to some spiritual beings, created with the prospect of an endless life (if they would remain in the God’s grace), to die like mere men!

But we may find another remarkable point that backs the conclusion of ‘heavenly judges’.

This point revolves itself around a peculiar (and frequent) poetic structure in the Hebrew Bible, namely, chiasmus.

As prof. Peter J. Gentry explains – better than me – in his How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets (2017; bold is mine), “we cannot read the text in a linear manner, like we read scientific texts derived from a Greek and Roman heritage. Only when we grasp the literary methods of ancient Hebrew writers can we properly understand the text.” (3. The Function… > Chiasm in Hebrew Literature)

In other words, we may draw information from the Bible not only through the semantic level of its reading, but also through the peculiar poetic structures inside the Hebrew text. And the chiasmus is really one of these structures.

For the sake of some readers that could be unfamiliar with this poetic device we say that chiasmus is an artificial wording structure in which the logical group of terms (in a talk) are placed in a symmetrical mirrored frame, with a central fulcrum (X) that represents the main concept the writer wants to enhance. (Though this rhetorical device is also referred to as reverse parallelism, I prefer distinguish between chiasmus and parallelism. Parallelism has no fulcrum inside it, whereas a real chiasmus has it. Without a fulcrum, we lose the indication of the main concept the writer wants to enhance to us.)

Graphically, the difference is:

Parallelism structures: A : A, or A : A<, or A- : A+.

Chiasmus structures: A X A’, or A B X B’ A’, or A B C X C’ B’ A’, and so on.

But, it’s time to get back to the point. Since we have yet established the heavenly nature of the ‘gods’, or the ‘sons of God’, we have now to understand if the judges (of vs. 2-4) also have a heavenly nature.

Well, now it’s time to think about the characters mentioned in Psa 82:1-8, try to fixing the addresser (who speaks) and the addressee (who hears) of the logical groups of this Bible passage.

The logical groups here (Psa 82:1-8) are 5:

I - v. 1

II - vs. 2-4

III - v. 5

IV - vs. 6-7

V - v. 8.

Again, we are to ask ourselves: Who is the addresser (who speaks) and the addressee (who hears) of each of these logical groups?


v. 1 - God [addresser] (via the inspired psalmist) > to > God’s earthly servants [addressee].

vs. 2-4 - God [addresser] > to > a Rebellion assembly (human? angelic?) [addressee].

v. 5 - God [addresser] > to > loyal servants of Him (heavenly & earthly) [addressee].

vs. 6-7 - God [addresser]> to > a Rebellion assembly (angelic) [addressee].

v. 8 - God’s earthly servants [addresser] (via the inspired psalmist) > to > God [addressee].

In this manner we are disclosed clearly the inner chiastic structure of the passage of Psa 82-1-8. How?

In this way:

to the LG #1 we may assign the symbol A;

to the LG #2 we may assign the symbol B;

to the LG #3 we may assign the symbol X (= the chiasmus' fulcrum).

to the LG #4 we may assign the symbol B’

to the LG #5 we may assign the symbol A’.

Summing up, we stay before a chiasmus of A B X B’ A’ structure.

At face value, however, even if we have yet fixed that the Logical Group # 4 refers to some heavenly individuals, it seems that the identification of the nature of the Logical Group # 2’s addressee cannot be cleared. This is right, but only if we remain in what prof. Gentry named, namely, “read the text in a linear manner”.

Now, the real chiasmus here included will give us a pivotal information that the ‘linear manner’ reading has not delivered us.

Do give again a glance - please - to the chiasmus.

Since we have have yet fixed previously that the Logical Group # 4 (identified by the symbol B’) refers to some heavenly individuals – on the basis of the arguments above presented, as well as those presented by a lot of scholars – we are forced to conclude that the mirrored Logical Group # 2 (identified by the symbol B), has to relate to the same heavenly characters, not to earthly individuals, at all!

I hope these notes will be useful for your research development.

P.S. Interestingly, the abovementioned prof. Gentry wrote about the ‘sons of God’ issue too (bold is mine): “In a number of places in the Bible, we are given a glimpse of the court of heaven, where God is surrounded by angels, or the heavenly host, who are called in the earlier parts of the OT ‘sons of God’ or simply ‘gods’. One example occurs in the book of Job [1:6]. […] Another example is found in Psa 82 […][so] in 1 Kin 22:19 […] (idem, chapt. 5 > The Nature of Hebrew Prophecy).

  • I agree structure is important in understanding the meaning. At the same time, one has to acknowledge what scholars closest to the original text understood in their translation: ψαλμὸς τῷ Ασαφ ὁ θεὸς ἔστη ἐν συναγωγῇ θεῶν ἐν μέσῳ δὲ θεοὺς διακρίνει...literally God stood in the congregation of gods; in the midst and of gods he examines. May 5, 2022 at 7:48

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