Psalm 68:1-6–A Harry Potter Kind of Celebration



When the fictional Harry Potter caused the death of the wicked Lord Voldemort, J. K. Rowling describes the scene with these words:

Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of his scarlet eyes rolling upward … Voldemort was dead … then the tumult broke around Harry as the screams and the roars of the watchers rent the air. The fierce new sun dazzled the windows as they thundered toward him … and Harry could not hear a word that anyone was shouting, nor tell whose hands were seizing him, pulling him, trying to hug some part of him, hundreds of them pressing in, all of them determined to touch the Boy Who Lived, the reason it was over at last … The sun rose steadily over Hogwarts, and the Great Hall blazed with life and light … the innocent [prisoners] of Azkaban were being released at that very moment … 

(J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (USA: Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., 2007), 744-745.)

Why was there such rejoicing? The wicked wizard Voldemort had oppressed the people by fear, intimidation, torture, maiming, imprisonment, death, and separation of families. Harry’s victory over him ended all this, and freed from captivity, the people’s outcry of joy was magnificent.

Notice that Rowling divides the action quoted above into three parts: 1) the death of the enemy, 2) the victory celebration, and 3) the reason for the joy.

While the Harry Potter series is fiction, the Bible is not. Psalm 68:1-6 describes God’s victory over the forces of darkness in a way that could serve as a model for Rowling. Verses 1-2 describe the victorious battle:

God springs into action! His enemies scatter; his adversaries run from him.
2 As smoke is driven away by the wind, so you drive them away. As wax melts before fire, so the wicked are destroyed before God. (Psalm 68:1-2 NET)

Next comes the victory celebration:

3 But the godly are happy; they rejoice before God and are overcome with joy.
4 Sing to God! Sing praises to his name! Exalt the one who rides on the clouds! For the LORD is his name! Rejoice before him! (Psalm 68:3-4 NET)

And finally, the biblical author gives the reason for the joyful celebration:

5 He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows. God rules from his holy palace.
6 God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes; he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity. But sinful rebels live in the desert. (Psalm 68:5-6 NET)

In other words, God is good! The people are so glad he freed them from the tyranny of those seeking their own power, of those who delight in causing others to suffer.

Harry Potter is a fictional character, yet he has a large fan following.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I pray that all who read this will know that you exist, that you are love, that you hear the heart cries of us all (Pslam 65:2), and that you answer and give relief to all who turn to you. Thank-you, amen.


Technical note of further interest regarding Psalm 68:6c and the Malfoy family in the Harry Potter series.

6a God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes; 6b he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity. 6c But sinful rebels live in the desert. (Psalm 68:5-6 NET)

Those who have read this blog for awhile know how highly I regard the Septuagint edition of Scripture. There are two interesting English translations of this Greek version of Psalm 68:6 that I find interesting.

6a God settles the solitary in a house; 6b leading forth prisoners mightily, 6c also them that act provokingly, even them that dwell in tombs. (Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.)

6a God settles the solitary in a house; 6b With courage He leads out those in bondage, 6c Likewise those who rebel, who dwell in tombs. (Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.)

I. Context

It appears to me that the Septuagint version of verse 6c matches the near and surrounding contexts of Psalm 68 far better than the English versions based upon the Masoretic Hebrew texts, such as the NET quoted above.

First, verse 6 is naming God’s benefits to those who are rejoicing in his victory, not the bad consequences for those who are still his enemies.

Second, the large bulk of the entire psalm is focused on God’s victory, the response of his supporters, and the benefits awarded to them. Nowhere else remotely near this portion of verse 6 are the results for the enemies of God described. Further, statements concerning his enemies form a small portion of the entire psalm.

It seems unlikely, therefore, that a single phrase inserted in a context bearing no resemblance to that phrase would be the correct meaning of Psalm 68:6c.

II. New Testament Relevance

Psalm 68:18 sheds light on the identity of God in this psalm.

You ascend on high, you have taken many captives. You receive tribute from men, including even sinful rebels. Indeed the LORD God lives there! (Psalm 68:18 NET)

Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for man, yea, for they were rebellious, that thou mightiest dwell among them. (Brenton, The Septuagint Version)

You ascended on high, You led captivity captive; You received gifts for mankind, Truly for the disobedient, so they may dwell there. The Lord God is blessed; (Psalm 68:19 The Orthodox Study Bible)

Paul quotes a variant of the Greek Psalm 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8, where in its context, he solidly makes reference to Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8 NET)

According to The Orthodox Study Bible (Psalm 68, pages 724-725), Psalm 68 in its entirety is about the resurrection and ascension of Christ. This conclusion follows the principles of ordinary literary interpretation. If one verse of a text block clearly points to a particular referent, then, if the contextual flow of language is contiguous and no other referents are introduced, then the entire textual block must be about the same referent. This is the case for Psalm 68:18 and its context. Reading prophetic scripture in context makes far more sense than yanking verses out of context in order to interpret them as isolated islands of meaning.

Therefore, if we consider that Psalm 68 makes reference to Christ and his victories, we should look to the New Testament, and especially to the gospels, to make sense of verse 6c, Likewise those who rebel, who dwell in tombs. Verse 6 tells the reader that Christ is helping three groups of people: 1) the solitary, those who have been deserted by humanity and live alone, 2) the prisoners, and 3) the rebellious, who live as though dead, or among tombs. Where can we find a New Testament reference to the rebellious living among tombs?

First, the New Testament, and Paul specifically in Romans 3:23 and Romans 5:8, teaches that God died for sinners, enemies, and we were all such at one time. Since humankind was not created as enemies of God, they became enemies through rebellion. The New Testament also teaches that humankind was dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Metaphorically, dead people live in tombs.

Second and literally, the gospel of Mark 5:1-20 relates how Jesus met a demon-possessed man of the Gerasenes, who actually lived among the tombs. Further, when Jesus approached him, the man called out provokingly to Jesus in a loud voice, saying, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God– do not torment me!” (Mark 5:7 NET) Likewise, Psalm 68:6c in Brenton’s translation talks about those who act provokingly, even those who live in tombs.

Third, as if by chance, verse 18 in Psalm 68, the verse that identifies Jesus as the victorious actor, also mentions that his gifts were either received from or given to rebels:

You ascended on high, You led captivity captive; You received gifts for mankind, Truly for the disobedient, so they may dwell there. The Lord God is blessed; (Psalm 68:19 The Orthodox Study Bible)

God is indeed merciful, as this verse and this psalm show.

III. Harry Potter

Compared to knowing that the most high God is extremely merciful through his Son Jesus Christ, knowledge of the fictional mercy of Harry Potter seems trivial, except as a means of illustration. The Malfoy family, especially Draco the son and Lucius his father, were rebellious, having chosen the dark lord to serve. And metaphorically, as time progressed, it became more and more apparent that they felt miserable and that living under the dark lord’s power was like living among the dead. Further, both Lucius and Draco provoked Harry with their actions and speech throughout the series, just as Psalm 68:6c describes the provoking action of the rebellious ones living in tombs. Nevertheless, Harry and his companions, including Dumbledore and Ron, showed Draco and his parents extreme mercy, until finally, the Malfoy family left the wicked Valdemort’s side just before it would be too late for them to do so.

IV. What Is the Point?

Once again, what is the point of comparing the Harry Potter series with Psalm 68? Harry Potter is a gripping story to read and Rowling does a great job both of contrasting good and evil and of presenting the joy of regular folk in the ultimate victory of goodness, as represented by Harry Potter and his friends. If readers love Harry Potter, then I implore that the same readers would give the Lord Jesus Christ a chance, since in many ways Rowling appears to have modeled her heroic character and plot after the good news of the one and only Savior under heaven, Jesus Christ, who does exist in the real world.


6 thoughts on “Psalm 68:1-6–A Harry Potter Kind of Celebration

  1. Not only was this one great, I’m a BIG POTTER fan. I love you.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. As the author of this post, I encountered a bit of flak in response. Offensive language and stuff like that. Funny…this evening I re-watched Star Wars Episode VI, the Return of the Jedi. (This is because my son is revisiting Star Wars and introducing my 5 year old granddaughter to it as well, in case I need an excuse.) The victory celebration when the good guys won far outdid anything in H.P. The whole universe practically was celebrating the destruction of the new death star, the bad Darth Vader, and the Emperor himself. They were happy and rejoicing because their misery had ended. What is wrong with using popular films as analogies to the kind of celebration that Psalm 68 foretells when Christ the King will be finally triumphant over all manner of evil and rid the world of it? If we as movie goers can cheer when the good guys win, why is it offensive for a Christian to point out that we will be cheering even more than when the Real Good Guy finally wins? It’s not my intent to endorse wizardry or the Force. I simply want to urge Harry Potter and Star Wars fans to look into who the real Lord of All is and to know that his name is L-O-V-E.

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