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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Psalms 80


Psalms 80:0


This Psalm was composed either,

1. Upon the same occasion with the former, to wit, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, as most conceive; which yet seems not probable, because here is no mention of the temple, nor of Jerusalem, as there is in the foregoing Psalm; nor of the tribe of Judah, which was most concerned in that desolation; but of Joseph, Psalms 80:1, and of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, which were carried captive long before that time; nor do the expressions of this Psalm import such a desolating judgment as those of the former do. Or,

2. Upon occasion of the captivity of the ten tribes, as some others think. But why then is Benjamin named, which is none of that number, nor went into captivity with them, but was joined with Judah? Or,

3. Upon occasion of some other calamity or calamities which befell the tribes of Israel after their division into two kingdoms, and before the captivity and destruction of either of them; in which time all the evils mentioned in this Psalm bid befall them, sometimes in one tribe or part, and sometimes an another, as is manifest from their history.

Verse 1

Shoshannim-Eduth seems to be the name of a musical instrument; though many separate the latter part of the word from the former, and expound Eduth, a testimony, or witness between God and his people, of his relation to them, and of their dependence upon him.

The psalmist bemoaneth the miseries and sad condition of the church, Psalms 80:1-19.80.7; that God’s past manifold mercies are changed into desolating judgments, Psalms 80:8-19.80.13. He prayeth for deliverance out of them, with a promise of that fulness, Psalms 80:14-19.80.19.

O Shepherd of Israel; thou who hast undertaken to feed and govern thy people of Israel, as a shepherd doth his flock, now perform thine office, and rescue thy flock from those grievous wolves which devour and destroy them.

That leadest; or didst lead formerly, though now thou hast forsaken them.

Joseph, i.e. the children of Joseph, or of Israel, as he now said, this clause being but a repetition, the former in other words. Compare Psalms 77:15. And the name of Joseph, the most eminent of the patriarchs both for his dignity and piety, and the right of primogeniture transferred upon him from Reuben, 1 Chronicles 5:1, is elsewhere put for all the ten tribes, as Ezekiel 37:6,Ezekiel 37:19 Amos 5:6,Amos 5:15; Amos 6:6; Zechariah 10:6; and for all the tribes, as Psalms 81:5; Obadiah 1:18.

Between the cherubims; which were the mercy-seat above the ark; by which title he prudently and piously minds the ten tribes of their revolt from God, and of the vanity of their superstitious addresses to their calves at Dan and Beth-el, and of the necessity of their returning to the true worship of God before the ark at Jerusalem, if they desired or expected any relief from him. And by this title it seems more than probable that this Psalm was not made upon occasion of the Babylonish captivity, in and after which time there was no ark nor cherubims, nor do I remember that Daniel or any prophets did then apply themselves to God by that title. See Daniel 9:0. Shine forth out of the clouds, wherein thou seemest to hide thyself. Show forth thy power and goodness to and for thy poor oppressed people in the face of thine and their enemies.

Verse 2

i.e. Before all the tribes of Israel; for whom he mentions only these three tribes, either,

1. Because of their special relation to Joseph here named, Psalms 80:1; Ephraim and Manasseh being his sons, and Benjamin his brother both by his father and mother. Or,

2. Because these were eminent tribes:

Ephraim, the head of the kingdom of the ten tribes;

Manasseh was planted and powerful on both sides of Jordan; and Benjamin, because the greatest part of Jerusalem and the temple was in its lot. Or,

3. With respect and allusion to the ancient situation of the tabernacle in the wilderness, where these tribes were placed on the west side of the tabernacle, Numbers 2:18, &c., in which the ark was, which consequently was before them. So the sense is, O thou who didst of old go forth before these tribes, &c., do so again at this time. Or,

4. Because these tribes had a greater share of the calamities here designed than others; which might be very true, though it be not expressed in the sacred history, in which we have only the substance of things, and such circumstances are commonly omitted.

Stir up thy strength; which seems now to be asleep, or idle and useless.

Verse 3

Turn us again; either,

l. To our former quiet and flourishing estate; or,

2. To thyself, from whom Ephraim and Manasseh with the rest of the ten tribes have apostatized. See the like prayer of Elijah for them, 1 Kings 18:37.

Verse 4

Thou art so far from answering our prayers whereby we seek to appease thee, that by thy continuance and increase of our miseries thou seemest to be the more incensed against us by them.

Verse 5

With the bread of tears; either with tears instead of bread, which they either want, or cannot eat because their grief hath taken away their appetites; or with tears as frequent and constant as their eating it. See the like phrase Psalms 42:3.

Verse 6

A strife, i.e. the object or matter of their strife or contention; either,

1. They strive one with another who shrill do us most mischief, or take our spoils to themselves; or,

2. They are perpetually quarrelling with us, and seeking occasions against us. Our neighbours, who used and ought to live peaceably and kindly with us. Laugh among themselves; insult over us, and take pleasure in our miseries.

Verse 8

A vine; to which the Israel or church of God is oft compared; as Isaiah 5:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 17:6; Matthew 21:32.

Out of Egypt; he alludes to the custom of transplanting trees for their more advantageous growth.

The heathen; the nations of Canaan.

Verse 9

Thou preparedst room; or, didst purge or cleanse the soil; taking out stones or sticks, or other roots or plants, which might hinder its growth or fruitfulness. Thou didst root out those idolatrous and wicked nations which might either corrupt or destroy them.

Didst cause it to take deep root; thou gavest them a firm settlement in that land.

Verse 10

They grew so numerous, that they filled not only the fruitful valleys, but even the barren mountains.

Goodly cedars; far differing from ordinary vines, whose boughs are weak and small, and creep upon the walls or ground.

Verse 11

They possessed or subdued the whole land from the midland sea to the river Euphrates; which were the bounds allotted to them by God, Genesis 15:18.

Verse 12

Broken down her hedges; taken away thy protection, which was to them for walls and bulwarks.

Pluck her; pluck up her grapes and boughs, and strike at her very root.

Verse 13

The wood; where boars use to lodge, as it is noted by many authors; by which he understands their fierce and furious enemies.

Verse 15

The vineyard; or, the root, or stock, or plant, as others render it. Thy right hand hath planted; which thou hast planted or fixed with thy might and power; whereof the right hand is both a sign or symbol and an instrument. The branch, Heb. the son, i.e. either,

1. The son of man, as it is more fully expressed, Psalms 80:17. Or rather,

2. The branch; for as yet he continues the metaphor; which is called the son, to wit, of the root or stock mentioned in the former clause, as the branches are called daughters in the Hebrew text, Genesis 49:22.

Thou madest strong; either,

1. By supporting it with stakes or walls, upon which the vine groweth up or rather,

2. By causing it to grow in bulk and thickness, and consequently in strength. For thyself; for thy own especial delight, and service, and honor.

Verse 16

It is burned with fire, to wit, thy vineyard or branch.

They perish; thy people of Israel, signified by the vine. So now he passeth from the metaphor to the thing designed by it.

At the rebuke of thy countenance; through the effects of thine anger, without which their enemies could do them no hurt.

Verse 17

Upon the man, to protect and strengthen him.

Of thy right hand; whom thy right hand planted, Psalms 80:15; whom thou hast loved and respected even as thy right hand, which is very dear to us, Matthew 5:30; Matthew 18:8; compare Zechariah 13:7; thy Benjamin, whom he mentioned

Psalms 80:2, to whose name he seems to allude, which signifies

the son of the right hand, i.e. a dearly beloved son, as Benjamin was to Jacob. Son of man: by man, or son of man, he understands either,

1. The Messias, oft called in Scripture the Son of man: let him come, and let his kingdom be established, and so thine Israel shall be saved and delivered out of all its troubles. Or,

2. The royal family, the house of David, in whose safety and welfare. the happiness of the whole nation was wrapt up. Or rather,

3. The people of Israel, who are oft spoken of as one person, as God’s son and first-born, Exodus 4:22, and here as one vine. And seeing all the foregoing complaints have been concerning the calamities of the people of Israel, it seems most reasonable to understand this prayer to be made for them; the rather, because the following clause here applied to the man and son of man,

who thou madest strong for thyself, is used of the root or branch of the vine, Psalms 80:15.

Verse 18

This glorious favour of thine shall oblige us to love and serve thee, and trust in thee so long as we have a being, and no more to revolt from thee to idolatry or wickedness, as we have too oft done.

Quicken us; revive and restore us to our former tranquillity and happiness.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 80". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.