July 16, 2006 Q & A

"Ye Are Gods" in Psalm 82:6


Psalm 82: 6 says, "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." Could you give me your understanding of this statement?


In the Hebrew Old Testament, the word translated here "gods" (elohim) is used in several different ways. Though plural in its grammatical form, it is used with singular verbs and pronouns when referring to the true and living God (as in Psalm 82:1, Genesis 1:1, Deuteronomy 4:24-25, 28-33, 39, and many other times). With plural verbs and pronouns it is used also of the false gods worshiped by the heathen (Deuteronomy 4:28, etc.), of the created angels (Psalm 8:5 as interpreted by the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 2:7), and of those men given authority from God to act for Him as judges and rulers (in Psalm 82:1, 6).

Context is all-important here. Vs. 1 depicts God standing "in the congregation of the mighty" and judging "among the gods." This might, by itself, refer to convening a heavenly court for the judgment of angels (see Job 1:6; 2:1), but the following verses make clear that what is meant by "the mighty ... the gods" is those human rulers who exercise power to judge in human affairs. They should do so in defense of the powerless (v. 3, 4), showing no partiality to the wicked (v. 2); but instead they judge unjustly, acting so in culpable ignorance (v. 5). Despite their presumption and their high calling—to act for God administering His justice (v. 6), they will die like the mere men they are. The truly righteous judge, God Himself, judges them.

Psalm 58:1 also speaks of the human civil authorities as "gods" in this manner. Without also calling them "gods", the apostle Paul in Romans 13 teaches that civil rulers receive their authority to rule from God and are appointed by God (vs. 1, all of this providentially, whether they acknowledge it or not, since Paul certainly had in mind the civil rulers of his own day who were almost all pagans), for the purpose of serving God in the exercise of punishing evil doers (vs. 4).

While Paul forbids us in Romans 12:19 to seek personal vengeance against any who wrong us, in Roman 13 he states that when civil rulers punish evil doers they are carrying out God's vengeance. Of course they do not do so perfectly and all rulers will answer to God for how they have used the power and authority granted them. That is the point of Psalm 82.

Our Lord Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 when he was accused of blasphemy for having declared "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30-36). His enemies said, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God." In reply, Jesus answered, "Is it not written in your law [law here meaning the entire Old Testament, including the Psalms], 'I said, "You are gods'? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?"

Our Lord appeals to their conviction (also his) that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, which cannot "be broken." If God could say of mere men, "You are gods," then it cannot be blasphemy when one who has been clearly revealed to be more than a mere man says "I and the Father are one" (v. 30) and "I am the Son of God" (v. 36). They were not convinced by our Lord's argument (v. 39), but it stands both as testimony to his heavenly origin (John 1:1,14) and to the identification of the "gods" in Psalm 82 as mere men.

Not knowing where you are coming from or what your larger interest may be in asking your question, I hope this is a helpful answer. Feel free to return for clarification or with further questions.



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