Psalms 82: Elohim?
Psalms 82 is certainly a controversial one. It starts in the first verse.
Psa 82:1 A Psalm of Asaph. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
Are we talking about polytheism here? Who are these other gods that we are talking about? Well, when we look at the original text, we have the word Elohim. This word has several different translations, and one of them certainly is gods. It is also used in Genesis 1:1 to refer to the supreme God, and the plurality is an interesting affirmation of Trinitarian doctrine. However, that is not the issue today.
This word can also mean magistrates or judges as it does in Exodus 22:9. Now, the entire context of the chapter seems to indicate that we are talking about some kind of earthly power in this case. God is judging the judges as it were.
Psa 82:2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
Psa 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Psa 82:4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
Basically, why are the judges not doing their job? The courts are not fair, and the poor people are not receiving the justice that they need. We spend a lot of time talking about God being a just God, and if He is just, then this would be entirely in character. This type of injustice by those who are supposed to administer fair treatment to all people would anger God and would certainly create this kind of reaction.
Judges seems like a fair translation of Elohim in that first verse if we consider the context. Of course, what would controversy be if we didn’t run into it again? It didn’t take very long.
Psa 82:6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
Psa 82:7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Psa 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
Here it is again, and that same word Elohim has appeared in verse six. The context is what is important. If the beginning of this chapter was referring to judges, then why would that not continue? Basically, God was telling them that they will not receive any privileges. They are going to die like normal people, and they will fall like the princes. That is even stronger evidence that we are talking about earthly judges in this context. Even if you are technically above the people in terms of earthly hierarchy, everything is going to end the same way. Your earthly position does not mean very much even if you are a judge.
I think it is certainly plausible in this case that we are talking about an earthly judge. Even though there are alternate translations of that word Elohim that some people have tried to use, I think that this one fits them together in a much more coherent way.