Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
Augustine takes Psalm 83:1 to refer directly to Christ. Who is like God? In the incarnation God is in our likeness, but in the last day, when Christ comes as the judge, we recognize that none can compare with Him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332960, par. 2). Yet, in verse 2, those who hate God raise themselves against Him. Augustine understands the haters of God to speak with one voice, hence lifting up their “head,” (singular) rather than “heads” (plural). In like manner, they attack God’s people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332970, par. 3). The goal, in verse 4, is to remove God’s people from their nation. Augustine relates this idea to a removal of even the memory of Christians (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332976, par. 4). The testimony of the critics of God becomes generally unified. They “disposed a testament” (v. 5) against God. Augustine goes on to speak of the allegorical meanings of various nations which are arrayed against God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332986, par. 5).
Why are these people enemies of God? Augustine sees this as inherent in the reference to Assur, “often used figuratively for the devil” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333001, par. 6). This is a movement he identifies as one “declining,” away from the truth. In verses 9-11, Augustine ses the opponents failing to accomplish their will (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333006 par. 7). However, in verse 12 it is clear that the opponents’ desire was to capture God’s sanctuary. Verse 13, using an image of a wheel, speaks of the instability of the plans. “A wheel is lifted up on the part of what is behind, is thrown down on the part of what is in front; and so it happens to all the enemies of the people of God” 333021, par. 9).
Augustine considers that the efforts to overcome God’s people are defeated in severe ways. Verses 14-15 speak of a fire and a tempest which bring the foes to ruin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333026, par. 10). The purpose of God’s judgment is clear in verse 16. God’s opponents are to come to repentance and seek His face. Augustine observes that it is much better that the people should repent than to face verse 17’s everlasting penalty (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333042, par. 11). The distinction he makes is between the temporary shame of repentance and the permanent shame of unrepentant. In the end, God will be shown as the most high God, regardless of our repentance or lack thereof (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333052, par. 12).