Psalm 68 — God is Victorious

Defining the Gospel, Pt 2

God Establishes His Rule (vv. 1–6)

David begins with a promise of God’s victory. God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered, and his people shall be glad (cf. table 3). God brings salvation through judgment. This is reason to praise God. [1]

Table 3 — The contrasts in vv. 1–6

The Ascent of God (vv. 7–14)

Then the Psalmist describes the “march” of God through the desert. Just as God, after saving his people from Egypt, ascended to Mount Sinai, so now, after defeating his enemies, he ascends to Mount Zion. [2] The Psalmist uses this analogy not by directly referring to the account in Exodus, but to the song of Deborah found in Judges 5 (cf. table 4).

Table 4 — The song of Deborah and Barak and its citation in the psalm.

God has established his rule by defeating the (pagan) enemies. He has ascended to the throne, and has settled his majestic presence among his people.

However, there is of course the more profound reference within the reference, namely to the ascent of God to Mt Sinai after the defeat of the pagan Egyptians in the Red Sea. This involved fire, smoke, trembling, and thunder (cf. Exo 19:17–20). Furthermore, God sustained his people in the wilderness with rain (v. 8; cf. Ps 77:17) and brought them to their promised inheritance.

Bashan and the Forces of Darkness (vv. 15–18)

Then we move to a part of the psalm which is perplexing at first, but which becomes clear when we have some ancient context. Mountains in general were associated in the Ancient Near East with the abode of the gods and the divine council. In these verses, there is a confrontation between Mt Sinai and the ‘mountain of Bashan’. The latter probably refers to Mt Hermon. Bashan literally meant ‘the place of the serpent.’ This could be a conceptual link to the serpent of Genesis 3, the famous rebellious angel who became lord of the dead. Bashan was regarded as the entrance to the realm of the dead. Furthermore, Mt Hermon was regarded in Jewish tradition as the place where the rebellious angels of Genesis 6 descended. All in all, Bashan and Mt Hermon were associated with demonic forces and death. [4]

Defeat of Enemies (vv. 19–23)

Our analysis of Bashan and God’s victory over pagan enemies, demons and death is confirmed in the next section. God delivers his people from death. Furthermore, his enemies cannot escape him, even if they have died. He will get them back from the realm of the dead (here referred to as Bashan and the depths of the sea) and let his people humiliate them.

The Procession of God (vv. 24–31)

Then we come to the “procession” of God “into the sanctuary” (v. 24). The people sing, they make music, and all the princes of the tribes join the throng. Kings are bringing gifts to him, even from Cush and Egypt. God’s rule is recognized from over all the earth.

Final Call to Praise (vv. 32–35)

Moreover, God receives praise from all the nations of the earth. He is the only true God, the Creator of all the earth, and he is the God of Israel. He has established his royal presence in the Temple at Jerusalem, and he gives power and strength to his people.


This Psalm is strongly monotheistic. YHWH is the only God, the Creator, the King of the whole world. Everyone will bow his knee before him, recognize his rule and bring tribute to him. He is faithful to his promises, saving his people and establishing his Kingdom. He defeats the enemies, political and spiritual, and delivers his people from death. That constitutes the Psalmist’s royal message of victory. And the kings? They flee.


[1] This is similar to Isaiah 40, which we will come back to later in another article: ‘Behold, YHWH God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him’ (Isa 40:10). For this theme in general, see Jim Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment.



Thoughts on Pauline theology and the Christian life

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