2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 82:2–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
God’s Expectations of Justice (82:3–4)
3–4 The four imperatives—“defend [lit., judge] … maintain the rights … rescue … deliver”—summarize what God expects. The Lord accuses the gods of irresponsibility with respect to his just rule. They are charged because they have not shown concern for justice (v. 3). The gods of the nations have failed.
These verses may also be considered to be a didactic poem in which Israel is reminded of God’s expectations of his covenantal people (cf. Isa 1:16–17; Zec 7:7–10; Mal 3:9; Jas 1:27). Failure to observe God’s decrees inevitably leads to his condemnation (cf. Isa 10:1–3).
82:2–4 / In the oracle of verses 2–7, we hear God’s speech to the gods (note esp. v. 6). Verses 2–4 imply the task of administering justice had been committed to these ʾelohîm. Judgment is a leitmotif (recurring motif) throughout: the phrases he gives judgment (v. 1), defend (vv. 2, 3), and judge (v. 8) all translate the same Hebrew verb (špṭ, “to judge”). We now detect the irony that the judges have now become the judged: the ʾelohîm, who have been judges, are now on trial. More specifically, the administration of justice—in God’s view—includes rescuing and delivering the weak and the poor. Judgment in the ot is not merely a legal term confined to the courtroom (cf. the prophets, esp. Amos). Because the powerful can ensure their own fair treatment, it is the particular task of God’s appointed authorities to protect the powerless. The Hebrew idiom for show partiality to the wicked is literally “lift the face of the wicked” (as in a legal acquittal). (Note these ʾelohîm are not identified with the wicked in vv. 2, 4.)
82:3, 4 Then the Judge of all the earth reminds them once more of their responsibilities in the area of social justice. They are to champion the rights of the poor and fatherless, … the afflicted and needy. They should be the helpers of all who are dispossessed and downtrodden.
3–4 The law. The prosecuting counsel opens by reminding his Lordship how the law stands: this is what the ‘gods’ should have done: to uphold the rights of the defenceless, Weak … fatherless, those without earthly resources, of either wealth or people; poor, the downtrodden, those at the bottom of life’s heap; oppressed, the impoverished; needy, people who can be exploited by stronger, vested interests. Such are not to be favoured by the law but protected by the due operation of their legal rights and (4) they must be protected by law from the power (hand) of law-breakers.
82:3 God expects all judges to administer true justice. do justice: These words summarize the teaching of the Law and indicate God’s basic desire that the defenseless would find a haven of justice in the courts.
82:2–4 judge unjustly. God accuses the lesser human judges of social injustices which violate the Mosaic law (e.g., Dt 24).
82:3 God expects all judges to administer true justice. Do justice: These words summarize the teaching of the Law and indicate God’s basic desire that the defenseless would find a haven of justice in the courts.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 674). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 539). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 82:2–4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.