God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.”
In this psalm we enter a different world of thought from what one seems to encounter in most of the other psalms, though it has affinities with a number of other Old Testament texts. It is not a psalm that has been significant in the history of piety or worship. For Psalm 82 is one of the most overtly mythological texts in Scripture, which in its form and content seems to touch base hardly at all with anything familiar to most persons in the community of faith. There is no “I” or “we” uncovering the anguish of a troubled heart or lifting exultant praise to the glory of God. The psalm is not even set in the world we know. It has its setting in the divine council or the heavenly assembly,1 a mythological motif common to the religious world of the ancient Near East, in which the gods gather together as a political or judicial assembly or on occasion as a military entourage, often, if not usually, under the direction or leadership of one of the high gods. In Psalm 82 one enters that world, encountering at the very beginning the heavenly assembly with the gods seated all about. The psalm looks as if it could have come straight out of Canaanite mythology. It has very little, if any point of contact with the contemporary reader of the psalms for whom the whole notion of a heavenly assembly or a council of the gods is only a mythopoeic way of speaking, an image that seems out of place in the modern world, even in the modern theological world where the most obvious demythologization of the notion of God has eliminated at the first stage the idea of God on a heavenly throne surrounded by other divine beings.
1. On this motif see E. T. Mullen, Jr., The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council in Ca-
naanite and Early Hebrew Literature (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1980).