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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 80



Verse 1

1. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel— “The previous psalm closed withWe thy people and sheep of thy pasture;’ and this begins with a cry to theShepherd of Israel.’”Delitzsch.

Between the cherubim—The word “between” is not in the original, but is inserted on the authority of Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89. But in Ezekiel 1:4-26; Ezekiel 10:1, the “cherubim” are represented as under the throne of God. So, also, in 2 Samuel 22:11; Psalms 18:10. The explanation seems to be, that as the “cherubim” or “living creatures” are symbolic beingsnot messengers, as angels, but emblems of God’s living agency, his knowledge, patience, strength, and swiftness in executing his purposesso when Deity is represented as sitting on his throne, (as Revelation 4:6,) or abiding in a local place, giving oracles, (as in the Hebrew tabernacle, Exodus 25:22,) the “cherubim” stand “round about” him. But when he executes his judgments, the “cherubim” are represented as his “chariot” under the throne, moving “straight forward,” “running and returning as the appearance of a flash of lightning.” Ezekiel 1:14. See notes on Psalms 18:10; Psalms 68:17. Compare Psalm 67:17; Deuteronomy 33:2; Daniel 7:9. This latter sense may suit the text better. Delitzsch renders it, “Thou who sittest enthroned above the ‘cherubim,’ oh appear!”

Verse 2

2. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh—These tribes constituted the western division in the grand desert march. Numbers 2:18-24. “Ephraim and Manasseh,” here, represent the alienating jealousy of the “ten tribes,” as Benjamin does the internal division of the kingdom of Judah through the political adherents of the house of Saul. See introduction.

Stir up thy strength—Compare “Take to thee thy great power,” Revelation 11:17. This awaking to action stands opposed to indifference and delay. The language is anthropopathic in accommodation to our weakness, speaking of God according to what we know of men.

Verse 3

3. Turn us again—Bring us back, or, cause us to return. Here, again, is the office of the “Shepherd of Israel.” In Psalms 80:1, he “leads Joseph like a flock;” now he is called to bring back the strayed ones. Thus the same word Psalms 23:3, “He restoreth [bringeth back] my soul.” It was the first want of the nation, and the first specified act of that saving strength invoked in the previous verse. Unquestionably the word שׁוב, (shoobh,) “turn,” is to be taken in the fullest sense of restoration, politically and spiritually. Nothing less than this would be equal to the national want or the impassioned language of the psalm. The word is often used spiritually in the sense of convert, as Psalms 19:7 ; Psalms 51:13; Isaiah 4:7; Ezekiel 18:21; Ezekiel 18:28; Malachi 2:6

Verse 4

4. Angry against the prayer of thy people—Hebrew, smoke against the “prayer.” So Psalms 74:1. An intensive form of representing anger or displeasure. As the judgment was not abated, notwithstanding the “prayer” of his “people,” the “prayer” seemed repulsed by the divine displeasure.

Lamentations 3:8; Habakkuk 1:2

Verse 5

5. Bread of tears… tears to drink—Hyperbole for great affliction, as Psalms 6:6; Psalms 42:3; Isaiah 30:20.

In great measure—Hebrew, in שׁלשׁ, (shalish,) a liquid measure holding about two and a half gallons. The idea of giving “tears to drink” in a shalish is another hyperbole for abundantly.

Verse 6

6. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours—Thou makest us an object, or butt, of contention. We appear to our neighbours as though thou hadst a controversy with us. Or, it may mean, that by not coming to their help, and turning them back to a better state, God held up to the scorn and derision of the neighbouring nations the intestine quarrels of the Hebrew family, thus prolonging the shame of their dissensions. But whether the “strife” lay between the people and their God, or between the different branches of their own brotherhood, the petty nations around them, who always wished them evil, looked on and laughed among themselves. So is it ever with the world when the Church is distracted with divisions and factions.

Verse 7

7. Turn us again, O God of hosts—Three times is this plaintive prayer repeated, and once, “Return, we beseech thee, O God!” occurring as refrains at head of strophes. (Psalms 80:3; Psalms 80:7-14; Psalms 80:19.) In chanting, the effect must have been indescribably solemn.

Verse 8

8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt—Not two vines, as they were now two kingdoms. Here the unity of the whole Hebrew family is beautifully represented, and God’s gracious care of it confessed, showing that this prayer-psalm was in behalf of the whole nation. A largehearted patriotism and true piety should go together. With this verse begin the details of the providential history of the Hebrew people.

Verse 9

9. Thou preparedst room before it—This Hebrew vine came not to an unprepared place. The miracles of Egypt and the wilderness had caused the terror of God to fall upon the corrupt nations, and multitudes had fled from their country. The rest were cast out for their abominations. The Israelites entered the land in the opportune month, the forepart of April, just before harvest, (Joshua 3:15; Joshua 5:10; Joshua 5:12,) and the land was full of supplies. For the force of the word prepare, see Genesis 24:31; Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1

Verse 11

11. She sent out her boughs unto the sea—The Mediterranean. And…

unto the river—The Euphrates.

Verse 13

13. The boar out of the wood doth waste it—Wild hogs are numerous in the East, and their destructiveness a terror to the husbandman and vine-dresser. They go in herds, led by old boars, and move with great speed and fierceness. No ordinary fence will resist them, and they soon devastate a garden, or turn up a plot or field of turf to get the roots. They are very ferocious, never hesitating to attack a man or beast if obstructed. They still inhabit northern Palestine. The wild “boar” in the text may fitly point to Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrian king, who had already “wasted” Israel, and carried away numerous captives. 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26. See note on the title of the psalm. The moral application of the figure is easily seen.

Verse 15

15. And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted— כנה, (kannah,) translated “vineyard,” signifies a layer-plant, or shoot. Its etymological sense, figuratively applied, takes us back to the germ life of the nation, when first planted in Canaan. Adopting the version of Gesenius we may read: “Behold and visit this vine; even the tender shoot which thy right hand hath planted.” The appeal is pathetic, like that of the infant child to the parent, and the successive pleas, “look down,” “behold,” “visit this vine,” indicate the earnestness of the prayer.

And the branch that thou madest strong for thyself—The Hebrew reads, The son that thou hast strengthened; but though the figure is changed the sense is “branch,” or vine.

Verse 16

16. It is burned with fire… cut down—As the tender vines are devoured by fire, so the nation had been wasted by foreign war and internal broils. The twofold figure of cutting and burning seems borrowed from Isaiah 33:12, “As thorns cut up, shall they be burned with fire.” The predominant figure of the vine here begins to yield to the literal application, which further discovers itself in Psalms 80:17-18

Verse 17

17. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand—That is, upon the man thou hast chosen for the first place of honour and confidence. The allusion is to the ancient custom of placing the first in honour at the right hand. 1 Kings 2:19; Psalms 45:9. As to the supposed doubtfulness whether the Hebrew phrase “thy hand be upon the man,” etc., is to be taken in a good or in an evil sense, the connexion clearly shows the former, which is not unusual, as in such passages as Ezra 7:9; Ezra 8:22; Nehemiah 2:8; Nehemiah 2:18; Isaiah 1:25. Some have taken אישׁ ימינךְ, the man of thy right hand, to refer to Christ.

Upon the son of man—The same as the man of thy right hand. The words “right hand” and “son,” in these two members of the verse, put together, make the Hebrew name Benjamin, (son of the right hand,) which some suppose was intentional, “on account of the connexion of that tribe with both the rival kingdoms, its central position, its possession of the sanctuary, [Moriah was within its tribal limits,] and its historical relation to the infant monarchy under Saul the Benjamite.” Viewed in this light it is a delicate compliment to the tribe of Benjamin. But the descriptive titles may apply to any person whom God might choose to act in his name as the restorer and saviour of his people, or, as in the preceding figure of the vine, as personifications of the Hebrew nation itself, which ranked as a prince at the right hand of God. The imagery is explained in the next verse.

Verse 18

18. So will not we go back—With these earnest petitions graciously answered we shall no more backslide.

Quicken us—Cause us to live; equal to, “Preserve alive thy work.” Habakkuk 3:2

Verse 19

19. Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts—The closing refrain. See Psalms 80:7. In this wonderful prayer a noticeable rising in the titles of deity appears: “Shepherd of Israel,” “God,” “God of hosts,” “Jehovah, God of hosts;” and with the endearing and awful names of deity, urged in the agony of desire and the imminence of ruin, rises the psalmist’s earnest, tender, and appealing pathos. With the good King Hezekiah and the prophets Isaiah, (now in his vigour,) Micah, and Hosea, to cooperate in the movements of the reformation, as in the spirit of this psalm, how could they fail of success? Yet most of the people of the northern tribes mocked at the preachers and heralds, though many were brought back to God. 2 Chronicles 30:10-11. After this by Hezekiah, no great effort was made to reclaim the wasted “ten tribes,” or kingdom of Israel. At the restoration of Judah from the Babylonian captivity, all of Israel, of whatsoever tribe, who could prove their genealogical descent, were welcomed back to the fellowship of the Hebrew family; but beyond this no restoration of the lost “ten tribes” has ever been made, nor has history preserved any record of their distinct existence. We know that in later times the Galileans, Samaritans, and those east of Jordan were largely of mixed heathen and Hebrew blood.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 80:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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