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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 80

 

 

Verse 1

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Psalms 80:1-19.-Prayer for help for oppressed Israel (Psalms 80:1-3); complaint: their oppression (Psalms 80:4-7); Israel, the vine brought out of Egypt, planted and tended by God, is now a prey to beasts (Psalms 80:8-13); prayer that God would visit in mercy this vine (Psalms 80:14-19). Three times (like the Mosaic blessing, Numbers 6:24-26), at the turning points of the psalm, the fundamental prayer recurs, "Turn us again," etc. (Psalms 80:3; Psalms 80:7; Psalms 80:19), wherein "God," "God of hosts," "O Yahweh, God of hosts," form an ascending climax. The captivity of the Ten tribes is Assyria is the subject; Judah here and Psalms 77:1-20 offers prayer in sympathy for her sister. So the Septuagint prefix 'concerning the Assyrian.'

The Title, To the chief musician (not in Psalms 74:1-23; Psalms 79:1-13), shows the psalm was for the temple service; therefore the reference cannot be to the Chaldean invasion, which overthrew the temple and Jerusalem. The vine, though much destroyed, appears still standing in the Holy Land. The prayer, "Turn us again," or bring us back, implies that many were now exiles. "Joseph" (Psalms 80:1) represents the Ten tribes, not Judah (Psalms 78:67; Amos 6:6; Obadiah 1:8). Benjamin, in Psalms 80:2, cannot represent Judah: excepting the Benjamites inhabiting one side of Jerusalem, Benjamin was joined to Joseph (Numbers 2:17; Numbers 2:24; Numbers 10:21; Numbers 10:24; 2 Samuel 19:16; 2 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 22:7). Only a portion of Benjamin remained with Judah at the severance (1 Kings 12:2; 1 Kings 12:17; 1 Kings 11:13; 1 Kings 11:32; 1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 12:20 ). Simeon was a amalgamated with Judah (Joshua 19:1; Genesis 49:7) rather than Benjamin.

Upon Shoshannim - i:e., lilies (titles, Psalms 45:1-17; Psalms 60:1-12; Psalms 69:1-36). The 'lilies' express that which is lovely; the lovely salvation of the Lord. Compare the thrice-repeated, (Psalms 80:3; Psalms 80:6; Psalms 80:19) "we shall be saved;" and in Psalms 80:2, "save us."

Eduth , [ `eeduwt (Hebrew #5715)] - a testimony (Psalms 78:5; Psalms 81:5) or law. Thus, in respect to the previous "Shoshannim," it expresses a law which points out to the godly in trouble the way of obtaining salvation' or 'deliverance.' Compare Psalms 78:1.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel - (Psalms 23:1). Jacob, a shepherd himself, first employs the image (Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:24), "the Shepherd ... of Israel."

Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock - ordinarily: now that, alas! Joseph (i:e., the Ten tribes) is a captive exile, thy Shepherd-like care is sorely needed.

Thou that dwellest between the cherubims - sitting thereon as upon thy throne. In the former clause God's loving care as His people's shepherd, here His omnipotence, is made the ground of expecting deliverance. His sitting on the cherubim in the temple represents His absolute supremacy over the ruling powers and administrators of the world, which are represented by the cherubim (Psalms 18:10).

Shine forth - manifesting thy power, faithfulness, and love in behalf of thy people. So at Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2), the earnest of His future epiphany in glory (Psalms 50:2; Titus 2:13). The bright Shechinah cloud was the symbol of His manifestation as present among His people.


Verse 2

Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.

Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh - i:e., advancing at their head, as formerly thou didst advance in the pillar of cloud and of fire before Israel marching through the wilderness. In Numbers 2:17-24 Ephraim Manasseh, and Benjamin are represented as occupying the foremost place after the ark. Therefore they are joined here.

Stir up thy strength - I which now seems to slumber (Psalms 78:65).

And come and save us - Hebrew, 'come for salvation to us.'


Verse 3

Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Turn us again ie reverse our captivity (Psalms 126:1; Psalms 126:4 ) Bring us back from exile This is especially the sense Turn us again - i:e., reverse our captivity (Psalms 126:1; Psalms 126:4.) Bring us back from exile. This is especially the sense of the Hebrew Hiphil conjugation. Compare Genesis 28:15, where the words of God to the type, Jacob, about to go to exile beyond Euphrates, and afterward to be restored to Canaan, shadow forth the history of the past, the present, and the yet future of Israel - "I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places where thou goest, and will bring thee again (the same Hebrew as here) into this land; because I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of," Compare especially Jeremiah 12:15; Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 30:3.

And cause thy face to shine - in fulfillment of the Mosaic blessing (Numbers 6:25; Psalms 31:16).


Verse 4

O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?

O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry - literally, 'dost thou smoke?' Compare Psalms 18:8; Psalms 74:1; Deuteronomy 29:20. Smoke is the attendant of fire; the consuming fire of God's vengeance. Smoke was the symbol of prayer, and of the burnt offering which expressed self-dedication (Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4; Isaiah 6:4). The smoke of prayer should smother the fire of Gods wrath (Leviticus 16:13). But now, alas! God opposes the smoke of His anger to the smoke of prayer (Hengstenberg). The title LORD-Hebrew, Yahweh (Hebrew #3068) - expresses His covenant relation to Israel as His people's "Shepherd" (Psalms 80:1). "God of hosts" expresses the infinitude of His resources, His omnipotence as the God that dwells between the cherubims (Psalms 80:1).


Verse 5

Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.

Thou feedest them with the bread of tears - making tears their bread (Psalms 42:3).

And givest them tears to drink in great measure - rather, as the parallelism requires 'thou makest them to drink out of a measure (i:e., containing) tears' The "measure" was one for measuring liquids, the third (as the Hebrew means) of a larger measure. A sad contrast to the ordinary treatment which the "Shepherd of Israel" gives to His flock (Psalms 23:5), "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies ... my cup runneth over." Now, tears are Israel's both meat and drink.


Verse 6

Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours - i:e., an object of strife to the petty tribes on Israel's borders, so that they quarrel about the spoils which they have taken from us, availing themselves of the opportunity afforded by the more powerful nations, Assyria and Egypt, which oppress us.

And our enemies laugh among themselves - i:e., make us their laughing-stock.


Verse 7

Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Compare Psalms 80:3; Psalms 80:19. 'Let us learn, whenever the anger of God blazes forth, even in the midst of the flames, to cast our griefs into the bosom of God, who wonderfully revives His Church from destruction' (Calvin).


Verse 8

Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.

Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. The foundation of this image is laid in Genesis 49:22, where "Joseph," who, is before the Psalmist's mind (Psalms 80:1), is said to be "a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall" Isaiah 5:1-7 represents Israel as the vineyard of the Lord (cf. Hosea 14:7). The plea is, What thou hast once planted, thou cause not forsake, much less destroy. Compare God's promise (Isaiah 27:2-3). In Exodus 12:37; Exodus 15:17; Exodus 15:22, is described the bringing of the vine out of Egypt (Psalms 78:52), and the casting out of the pagan (Psalms 78:55). Psalms 44:2 contains the same image of planting (Exodus 23:28; Exodus 33:2).


Verse 9

Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.

Thou preparedst (room) before it - `Thou hast cleared out a place before it.' It answers to Isaiah 5:2, "He gathered out the stones thereof" (i:e., of the vineyard), and refers to the dislodging of the original inhabitants to make way for Israel.

And didst cause it to take deep root - rather, as Hebrew 'it struck its roots' (Hengstenberg).


Verse 10

The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.

The hills were covered with the shadow of it. "The hills" are the mountains on the Canaan, the hill country of Judah, in its southernmost part; originally the hill country of the Amorites, which first met those entering Canaan from the south as a stone barrier. So in Psalms 75:7, margin, 'the desert' is put for the south boundary.

And the boughs thereof (were like) the, goodly cedars - Hebrew, 'the cedars of God.' Translate the whole clause, and with its boughs the goodly cedars (were covered).' The English version would be an unnatural comparison as the boughs of the vine could hardly be compared to the tall and goodly cedars. The sense is, the whole land-north, south, east, and west-was occupied by the people of Israel. As "the hills" mark the southern boundary of the Holy Land; so 'the cedars of God' - i:e., "the goodly cedars" of Lebanon-mark the northern boundary (Psalms 29:5; Psalms 92:12; Psalms 104:16). So Lebanon on the north, and "the wilderness" of Kadesh on the south are contrasted in Psalms 29:1-11 :


Verse 11

She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.

She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. "The sea" is the Mediterranean, the western boundary of the Holy Land; "the river" is the Euphrates, the eastern boundary. The Psalmist has in view the original promise to Jacob (Genesis 28:14). (Compare Deuteronomy 11:24, "Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours, from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be;" also Joshua 1:4.


Verse 12

Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?

Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? - i:e., pluck off not merely the fruit, but the "branches" and "boughs," whose luxuriance he had just described in Psalms 80:11. The answer to the question is given in the threat, and the reason assigned by Yahweh in Isaiah 5:4-5. Compare also Psalms 89:40-41. Pul, Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, and Sennacherib were these who did "pluck" Israel.


Verse 13

The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.

The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. As "bulls" in, Psalms 68:30, symbolize Gentile enemies; the "dragon" or crocodile (Ezekiel 29:3), Pharaoh; the "eagle" (Ezekiel 17:3), Nebuchadnezzer; so hero the "boar" and "wild beast" represent the King of Assyria and his subject nations respectively.


Verse 14

Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;

Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts - (cf. Psalms 80:7.) The beginning of the second half is marked by "O God, of hosts;" but the close of the first half has not "Turn us again," etc., because the whole main division is bound together by the continued image of the vine. It is only when God first turns again toward us that we turn toward Him, by virtue of His turning us (cf. Lamentations 5:21).

Look down from heaven - (Isaiah 63:15)


Verse 15

And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.

And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted - i:e., (from Psalms 80:14 supply) 'and visit the vineyard which,' etc. [thus, kanaah (Hebrew #3657) comes from kuwn (Hebrew #3559), to set]. So Buxtorff translates, 'the seat' or 'place.' Compare Exodus 15:17. "Thou shalt plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in; the sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established." Hengstenberg translates instead of the vineyard, 'and maintain [from kaanan (Hebrew #3661)] that which thy right hand hath planted.'

And the branch (cf. Zechariah 3:8) that thou madest strong for thyself (Isaiah 44:14; Isaiah 49:5) - rather, as the Hebrew [ been (Hebrew #1121)] (for the passage Genesis 49:22 does not necessarily support the English version here), 'and the Son whom thou madest strong for thyself' (cf. Psalms 80:17). The "Son" is the spiritual vine, Israel (Hosea 11:1, "Israel ... my son"). Thus the poet passes from the figure to the thing signified (cf. also Psalms 80:17). The Hebrew is literally, 'and upon the Son.' 'Visit upon the Son' means, 'come upon him with a visitation of mercy.' In Hengstenberg's it is, 'spread thy maintaining protection over him.' The Chaldaic paraphrase refers it to Messiah, 'and this for the sake of King Messiah, whom thou hast confirmed.'


Verse 16

It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

They perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. "They" - i:e., the children of Israel. "At" - literally, from before the rebuke of thy countenance (Psalms 76:7).


Verse 17

Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

Let thy hand be upon the Man of thy right hand. "Benjamin" means 'son of the right hand:' as in Psalms 80:2, so here the Psalmist prays that God would lay His hand upon Benjamin to strengthen him (Daniel 10:18; Revelation 1:17). Benjamin here represents all Israel now prostrate, and needling to be strengthened by the Lord. Jacob, "his father, loved Benjamin," so also his Heavenly Father; whence Moses (Deuteronomy 33:12) said of Benjamin, 'the beloved of the Lord (Benjamin) shall dwell by Him (the Lord), and the Lord shall cover him all the day long.' Now the Psalmist prays the Lord to fulfill this promise of covering and strengthening him. The antitypical Israel, i:e., Messiah, is ultimately referred to, of whom God said, "mine arm shall strengthen him" (Psalms 89:21). Once, like Benjamin. He was Benoni, Son of my sorrow (Genesis 35:18, margin); but as Jacob, his father called him subsequently Benjamin, 'son of the right hand;' so Messiah, once "a men of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3), was "exalted by the right hand of the Father to be a Prince and Saviour" (Acts 5:31).

Upon the Son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself - "the branch that thou madest strong for thyself" (Psalms 80:15); primarily Israel, antitypically Messiah, the Son of Man, "THE BRANCH" (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12).


Verse 18

So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.

So will not we go back from thee. No longer can Israel say as in Psalms 44:18. But they promise not to "go back" from the Lord anymore, if only the Lord will first quicken them; i:e., give them new life.

Quicken us, and we will call upon thy name (Psalms 71:20). God must first breaths into us the spirit of adoption, before we can call on Him as our Father (Romans 8:15).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 80:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-80.html. 1871-8.

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