New American Bible (Revised Edition)
The Exodus and Conquest, Pledge of Future Help
1 For the leader. A psalm of David; a song.
2 [b]May God arise;
may his enemies be scattered;
may those who hate him flee before him.(A)
3 As the smoke is dispersed, disperse them;
as wax is melted by fire,
so may the wicked perish before God.(B)
- Psalm 68 The Psalm is extremely difficult because the Hebrew text is badly preserved and the ceremony that it describes is uncertain. The translation assumes the Psalm accompanied the early autumn Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), which included a procession of the tribes (Ps 68:25–28). Israel was being oppressed by a foreign power, perhaps Egypt (Ps 68:31–32)—unless Egypt stands for any oppressor. The Psalm may have been composed from segments of ancient poems, which would explain why the transitions are implied rather than explicitly stated. At any rate, Ps 68:2 is based on Nm 10:35–36, and Ps 68:8–9 are derived from Jgs 5:4–5. The argument develops in nine stanzas (each of three to five poetic lines): 1. confidence that God will destroy Israel’s enemies (Ps 68:2–4); 2. call to praise God as savior (Ps 68:5–7); 3. God’s initial rescue of Israel from Egypt (Ps 68:8), the Sinai encounter (Ps 68:9), and the settlement in Canaan (Ps 68:10–11); 4. the defeat of the Canaanite kings (Ps 68:12–15); 5. the taking of Jerusalem, where Israel’s God will rule the world (Ps 68:16–19); 6. praise for God’s past help and for the future interventions that will be modeled on the ancient exodus-conquest (Ps 68:20–24); 7. procession at the Feast of Tabernacles (Ps 68:25–28); 8. prayer that the defeated enemies bring tribute to the Temple (Ps 68:29–32); 9. invitation for all kingdoms to praise Israel’s God (Ps 68:33–35).
- 68:2 The opening line alluding to Nm 10:35 makes clear that God’s assistance in the period of the exodus and conquest is the model and assurance of all future divine help.