The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 80

Psa 80:1


  1. The picture of national devastation (vv 4-6, 12-16).
  2. The tribulation is an expression of God's anger against His people (v 4, and "You... You..." in vv 5,6).
  3. The indications of helpless repentance ("Turn us again" in vv 3,7,19; and also v 18).
  4. The key to all hopes of national redemption: (1) "The lamb in the midst of the throne" (cp v 1 here) who will be the "Shepherd" of his people (Rev 7:17); (2) "the true vine" (Joh 15:1) to replace the discarded vine of Israel (Eze 15:6); (3) "the Son of Man whom thou madest (past tense!) strong for thyself... so (ie in him) shall we not go back." Instead of apostasy, the remnant of Israel may put their dependence on "thy name" -- God's expressed Purpose becomes an anchor of their faith.
  5. Note the terms, so fitting with ref to Messiah: "the Man (ish = a man of distinction) of thy right hand (cp Psa 110:1), the son of man (adam) (cp Psa 8:4,5) whom thou madest strong for thyself." Cp 2Co 5:19; 1Ti 3:16. In v 17: "Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand" may be compared with Isaiah's description of Messiah as "the Arm of the Lord" (Isa 53:1; cp Isa 51:9,10; 63:5).
  6. Observe how appropriate is the phrase "Turn us again" to the regathering of Israel: cp Gen 28:15 (Jacob's return from servitude), and Jer 23:3: "And I will gather the remnant of my flock..." -- all this in the days of the King who is a "Branch" (v 5; cp v 15 here), and who is called "the Lord our Righteousness".
The situation envisioned in this psalm is yet to materialize. But already in the Messianic Jews there are the first flickers of national repentance, the necessary preliminary to any Messianic salvation. The final crisis of Israel's helplessness will bring, overnight, the manifestation of Messiah in glory and the dissipation of every hostile threat.

O SHEPHERD OF ISRAEL: Observe the frequency of this lovely figure in the Asaph psalms: Psa 74:1; 77:20; 78:13-16,52-55,70-72; 79:13; and cp Isa 63:11.

YOU WHO SIT ENTHRONED BETWEEN THE CHERUBIM: Hezekiah's phrase, in his prayer of desperation: Isa 37:16; 2Ki 19:15. Note Deu 33:2 (God in glory on mount Sinai) and Lev 16:2,12,13 (the Glory of God in the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement). The orig cherubim, at the east of Eden, were accompanied by a flaming sword -- not so much to bar the way to the tree of life, as to keep or preserve it (Gen 3:24; cp Joh 14:6). This flaming sword would flash forth its fire for the consumption of the acceptable sacrifices offered by the family of Adam before the Lord (Elp 153) -- thus corresponding in a general way to the function of the "mercy-seat" above the Ark in the Most Holy.

SHINE FORTH: As in Psa 50:2 (the "detached" Asaph psalm).

Psa 80:2

EPHRAIM, BENJAMIN AND MANASSEH: All these three tribes were descended from Rachel (= "ewe"; hence the "Shepherd of Israel") (Gen 33:2). These tribes encamped together on the west side of the Tabernacle, hence the preposition "before". When Israel was on the march these tribes also followed immediately after the Ark (Num 2:17-24). Note here also the union of northern and southern tribes which Hezekiah encouraged so strongly.

COME AND SAVE US: Impl a people in great extremity, but not yet overwhelmed; this answers to a Jerusalem about to be besieged by an invincible Assyrian army and with few defensive resources.

Psa 80:3

As in vv 7,19 also. A conviction (Hezekiah's? Isaiah's?) that only repentance can save the city and what is left of the nation from being completely overrun.

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Pss, God's face.

Psa 80:4

HOW LONG WILL YOUR ANGER SMOLDER?: A frank acknowledgment of the nation's unworthiness (cp Psa 79:5).

Psa 80:5

THE BREAD OF TEARS: Implies, perhaps, that food supplies were very low (cp Isa 25:8).

Psa 80:6

OUR NEIGHBORS: Such psalms as Psa 83; 137, and various phrases in Isaiah, imply that Sennacherib in his invasion had the ready assistance of several peoples round about Judah (see also v 12: "all they which pass by"; cp Psa 79:6n).

Psa 80:7

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Pss, God's face.

Psa 80:8

YOU BROUGHT A VINE OUT OF EGYPT: The close resemblances between vv 8-16 here and Isaiah's parable of the vine (Isa 5:1-7) suggest the distinct likelihood that Isaiah wrote this psalm. The details which follow here describe the conquest and settling of the Land and the ensuing prosperity of the kingdom from the time of David onwards.

VINE: Jer 2:21; Eze 15:6; 17:6; 19:10; Hos 10:1; Deu 32:32,33.


AND PLANTED IT: What a ct in vv 12,13,16! See also 2Sa 7:10.

Psa 80:9

YOU CLEARED THE GROUND: By removing the stones and roots -- ie the seven Canaanite nations (Gen 15:18-21).

Psa 80:12

The present calamitous condition (ie in Isaiah's day) of the nation, invaded and ravaged by the Assyrians.

V 12: The Assyrian capture and destruction of Judah's "fenced cities" (cp Psa 89:40,41).

Psa 80:13

The boar (an unclean animal: Lev 11:7) and the "wild beast" (AV) are allusions perhaps to the standards or banners of some of the Assyrian army detachments. Or, more specifically, boar (singular) = Assyria itself, and beasts (most versions have the plural here) = the Assyrian servant nations.

BOARS FROM THE FORESTS RAVAGE IT: The sw (in LXX) describes the havoc the persecutor Saul of Tarsus (of Benjamin: v 2!) made in the early ecclesia (Act 8:3). Nevertheless God showed His favor upon the martyr Stephen by causing His face to shine upon him (cp Psa 80:3,7,19 with Act 6:15!).

Psa 80:14

RETURN TO US, O GOD ALMIGHTY!: This is reminiscent of Num 10:35,36, the wilderness trek of the Ark. Ct this with the "Turn again" in vv 3,7,19.

Psa 80:15

RIGHT HAND: Recalls "Benjamin" (v 2) -- which means "son of the right hand". Right hand = place of honor and blessing: 1Ki 2:19; Psa 45:9; 110:1; Mat 25:31-34; Mar 14:62; 16:19; Luk 20:42; 22:69; Act 2:34; 7:55,56; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1.

SON (OR BRANCH): The "branch" is primarily Hezekiah (cp v 17), the good king. The Heb for "branch" is, lit, son (a Heb idiom, as if the branch were "son" to its "father" the root); in v 17 the // phrase is "son of man", "the man at your right hand". This last phrase alludes to the fact that the palace of the king was immed south of the temple -- that is, at God's right hand (in the OT, north and south are left and right respectively -- with orientation toward the rising sun assumed).

Psa 80:16

YOUR VINE IS CUT DOWN, IT IS BURNED WITH FIRE: Meanwhile, the orig "vine" of Israel has been marked with the ax along its roots, and is now fit only for burning (Mat 3:10; cp Joh 15:6)!

Psa 80:19

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Pss, God's face.

SUBSCRIPTION: "FOR THE DIRECTOR OF MUSIC. ACCORDING TO GITTITH": "The winepress" (as in Psa 7; 80; 83; Jdg 6:11; Neh 13:15). The "winepress" psalms were to be sung in the autumn, in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:39-43). The treading of grapes was a figure of harvest joy (Isa 16:10) and a symbol of divine judgment (Isa 63:3-6).
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