There are numerous historical and geographical references, but this Psalm does not refer to a literal historical event. Rather, it’s similar in purpose to John’s Armageddon: a parable indicating a moral condition that never changes.
In a series of Hebrew parallelisms, the psalmist throws at us contrasts and comparisons drawn from the well known lore of Israel’s troubles. He begins by throwing at us three different images of God taking His time. Keep in mind that speaking is often a symbol for action. Thus, he depicts Jehovah as quiet, as holding back when people are begging for Him to act, and as taking a rest. Contrast this with the rowdy and raucous behavior of those who have always been quick to blaspheme the God of Israel. Does He not hear their insults?
Nations have fought each other since human memory, but it seems there is one thing they can all agree on: Israel and her God had to go. The author lists all the neighbors on every side, including Israel’s cousins: Ammon, Moab and Edom. Some of these nicknames are unfamiliar to most readers: Hagrites are the descendants of Hagar AKA Ishmaelites. Gebal refers to a Phoenician city north of Tyre and Sidon on the modern Lebanese coast (Byblos, Lebanon today). And we can’t leave out Assyria, of course, the brutal empire centered in today’s northern Iraq. At any given time in Israel’s history up to the time this psalm was published, one or more of those nations was agitating to humble her. The psalmist insists this is driven by a hatred for Jehovah, and hints at the envy for His rich provision to His people.
But for all these threats, there is an equal number of historical incidents where God’s rich provision included crushing some of them. The psalm cites some of the more famous victories under Joshua and Gideon and others during the period of Judges when Israel’s possession of the land was none too certain. So the psalmist calls on God to reduce them to dust or chaff in the rather stiff and constant winds blowing across Israel. Burn them until there is nothing left! Turn their own nature deities against them, as it were. We are given an image of great armies and their leaders standing defeated, disarmed, naked and ashamed.
Why? The only valid cause is the reputation of Jehovah, the One who claims to be Creator of all things.