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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 80

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 80:0


God Implored to Rescue His People From Their CalamitiesMT IntroFor the choir director; set to El Shoshannim; Eduth. A Psalm of AsaphPrayer for Israel's RestorationPrayer for Deliverance From National EnemiesA Prayer for The Nation's RestorationPrayer for the Restoration of Israel
Psalms 80:1-3Psalms 80:1-2Psalms 80:1-2Psalms 80:1-2Psalms 80:1-2
Psalms 80:3Psalms 80:3Psalms 80:3Psalms 80:3
Psalms 80:4-7Psalms 80:4-6Psalms 80:4-6Psalms 80:4-6Psalms 80:4-6
Psalms 80:7Psalms 80:7Psalms 80:7Psalms 80:7
Psalms 80:8-13Psalms 80:8-11Psalms 80:8-13Psalms 80:8-15Psalms 80:8-9
Psalms 80:10-11
Psalms 80:12-13 Psalms 80:12-13
Psalms 80:14-19Psalms 80:14-18Psalms 80:14-18 Psalms 80:14-16
Psalms 80:16-18
Psalms 80:17-18
Psalms 80:19Psalms 80:19Psalms 80:19Psalms 80:19

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.


A. Notice the different names/titles of Israel's Deity.

1. Shepherd of Israel, Psalms 80:1 (see note at Psalms 23:1)

2. O God (Elohim), Psalms 80:3

3. Lord (YHWH), Psalms 80:4, Psalms 80:19

4. God of hosts, Psalms 80:4, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:14, Psalms 80:19


B. There is a chorus phrase that concludes several strophes: Psalms 80:1-3; Psalms 80:1-3, Psalms 80:4-7, Psalms 80:14-19. It has two imperatives and one cohortative. It is a prayer for mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.

C. There may be a “Messianic” reference related to

1. “shoot” (BDB 488), which may have theological connections to “Branch” (BDB 666, cf. Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 23:5) and for “sprout” (BDB 855, cf. Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12)

2. “the man of Your right hand”

3. “the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself”

4. and even possibly “Shepherd of Israel,” which would bring connotations of a Davidic seed

The other option is that all the imagery relates to national Israel or Judah.

D. Because of the placement of this Psalm (i.e., in the Psalms of Asaph) and Psalms 80:12-13 pointing toward an invasion of Judah, the date is possibly 586 B.C.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 80:1-3 1Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth! 2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your power And come to save us! 3O God, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

Psalms 80:1-3 This strophe is made up of a series of imperatives of request.

1. give ear, Psalms 80:1 - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

2. shine forth, Psalms 80:1 - BDB 422, KB 424, Hiphil imperative

3. stir up, Psalms 80:2 - BDB 734, KB 802, Polel imperative

4. come to save, Psalms 80:2 - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

5. restore us, Psalms 80:3 - BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil imperative

6. cause to shine, Psalms 80:3 - BDB 21, KB 24, Hiphil imperative (this may reflect the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:25, also note Psalms 31:16)

7. we will be saved, Psalms 80:3 - BDB 446, 448, Niphal cohortative

Psalms 80:1 “Shepherd of Israel” This phrase denotes God's presence and tender care (cf. Genesis 49:24; Psalms 23:1-3) and also links to David, who was called by God from tending the sheep. This makes the Messianic allusion in Psalms 80:15-17 more probable (see Contextual Insights, C).

Notice how God is characterized.

1. Who led Joseph like a flock (Joseph is also mentioned in Psalms 77:15; Psalms 78:67)

2. Who is enthroned above the cherubim. This is an allusion to Exodus 25:22. YHWH symbolically dwelt above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant between the two cherubim (cf. 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; Psalms 99:1). This was where heaven and earth met in the place of mercy and revelation!

For “cherubim” see Special Topic: Cherubim.

“shine forth” This emphasis on God's involvement in the earthly, daily affairs of Israel is described as a light coming from above the ark. Notice the refrain in this Psalm (cf. Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19) has another imperative verb (BDB 21, KB 24) denoting light. Light in the ANE was a symbol of revelation, health, goodness. In the OT it often relates to the brightness of a theophany (physical appearance of God). Note Psalms 50:2; Psalms 94:1, as well as the Shekinah cloud of glory during the exodus and wilderness wandering period (i.e., Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 33:9).

God is light - Psalms 27:1; Isaiah 60:20; Micah 7:8; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5

Jesus is light - Isaiah 9:2; John 1:4; John 8:12; John 12:35, John 12:46

believers are light - Matthew 5:14-16; John 8:12b

Psalms 80:2 There is some question why only these tribes are mentioned. From Numbers 2:18-24 we know they camped together on the west side of the tabernacle as they traveled through the wilderness.

Ephraim and Manasseh were the children of Joseph. Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel.

Joseph's children were fully adopted by Jacob (i.e., thirteen tribes) and became the largest tribe when the united monarchy (i.e., Saul, David, Solomon) split in 922 B.C. They became the leaders of the northern coalition known as Israel, Samaria, or Ephraim. The first leader/king was an Ephraimitic labor leader, Jeroboam I.

Benjamin became part of the southern coalition of Judah along with most of the Levites. Simeon had earlier been incorporated into Judah, therefore, it may be a way of referring to all the covenant people.

Psalms 80:3 This refrain (cf. Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19) shows that this Psalm was written during a time of national difficulty. If Psalms 77-80 by Asaph come from the same historical period, then this is possibly related to the invasion of Judah by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. He invaded several times (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 B.C.), but it is possible to see this Psalm as relating to the fall of Israel in 722 B.C., when Samaria fell after a three year siege by Assyria. The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1372) suggests that it was originally written for the fall of Samaria but was reworked to refer to the fall of Jerusalem because of the proximity and phrasing connections to Psalms 79:0, which is obviously 586 B.C.

Because Psalms 80:14 uses the same imperative (BDB 996, KB 1427), some scholars see it as an additional refrain, thereby having each strophe close the same. However, Psalms 80:14 is not the same, even the same verb is a Qal not Hiphil.

Verses 4-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 80:4-7 4O Lord God of hosts, How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people? 5You have fed them with the bread of tears, And You have made them to drink tears in large measure. 6You make us an object of contention to our neighbors, And our enemies laugh among themselves. 7O God of hosts, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

Psalms 80:4-7 This strophe is a plea for God to intervene on behalf of His people.

1. how long will You be angry - the question of God's action or inaction is recurrent (cf. Psalms 74:10; Psalms 90:13; Psalms 94:3; Proverbs 1:22)

2. You have fed them with the bread of tears (powerful imagery, cf. Psalms 42:3; Psalms 102:9)

3. You have made them to drink tears in large measure (lit. “third part,” BDB 1026 I, only here and Isaiah 40:12)

4. You make us an object of contention to our neighbors (cf. Psalms 44:13; Psalms 79:4; Ezekiel 5:14; Ezekiel 22:4; Daniel 9:16)

5. You have made it so our enemies laugh among themselves (at us). The TEV and NJB follow the LXX, “our enemies mock us.”

These consequences of Israel/Judah's covenant disobedience and idolatry are exactly the opposite of what God wanted them to do in relation to their Gentile neighbors of the ANE. They were meant to be a light (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-23) but became a joke (cf. Psalms 79:10; Psalms 115:2).

Verses 8-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 80:8-13 8You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. 9You cleared the ground before it, And it took deep root and filled the land. 10The mountains were covered with its shadow, And the cedars of God with its boughs. 11It was sending out its branches to the sea And its shoots to the River. 12Why have You broken down its hedges, So that all who pass that way pick its fruit? 13A boar from the forest eats it away And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.

Psalms 80:8-13 This strophe uses the vineyard as a metaphor for the covenant people.

1. YHWH brought them out of Egypt (as He promised in Genesis 15:12-21)

2. YHWH defeated the Canaanite tribes (i.e., Joshua's conquest)

3. YHWH planted them in the good soil of the Promised Land

Even with all these divine blessings they were unfaithful (cf. Nehemiah 9:0; Psalms 78:0). So the curses of Leviticus 26:0 and Deuteronomy 27-30 came into effect.

1. His protection (i.e., the wall of the vineyard) was removed

2. He allowed invaders to take Canaan (Psalms 80:12-13). As the Israelites drove out the sinful Canaanites (i.e., Genesis 15:12-21) so now the sinful covenant people are removed.

Psalms 80:8 “vine” This could refer to all of the covenant people (cf. Isaiah 5:0; Hosea 10:1) or be a specific reference to the northern kingdom (cf. Genesis 49:22).

Psalms 80:11 “sea. . .the River” This refers to the Mediterranean to the west and the head waters of the Euphrates River to the northeast (cf. Exodus 23:31).

Verses 14-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 80:14-19 14O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, 15Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted, And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself. 16It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. 17Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. 18Then we shall not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. 19O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

Psalms 80:14-19 This strophe is a concluding prayer (3 Qal imperatives of request in Psalms 80:14) for YHWH to have mercy on the descendants of Abraham.

The real question of interpretation is how they view this divine action to occur.

1. restore a strong nation (i.e., the shoot [BDB 488, only here in the OT] or vine of Psalms 80:8, Psalms 80:14)

2. send a special Davidic seed (Psalms 80:15, Psalms 80:17)

a. the son whom You have strengthened or secured (BDB 54)

b. Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, the son of man whom You have made strong (BDB 54, parallel to Psalms 80:15) for Yourself (cf. Psalms 110:1)

It is obvious this imagery could refer to

1. national Israel/Judah

2. a Davidic king/Messiah (cf. 2 Samuel 7:0 and Aramaic Targums)

Psalms 80:16 Notice that Israel/Judah's difficulties are a direct result of God's actions, not the power of the invader. God used pagan nations to judge His people (cf. Habakkuk). This was shocking to Jewish people. He had fought on their side (cf. Psalms 76:6) but now He was on the side of the invaders (i.e., a reversal of “holy war” imagery).

Psalms 80:17 “Your hand” See Special Topic: Hand.

“the son of man” This phrase is recurrent in Ezekiel. See my commentary notes below from Ezekiel 2:1.

Ezekiel 2:1 “Son of man” This is literally “ben-Adam” (BDB 119 construct, BDB 9). This is used often in Ezekiel as a way of referring to Ezekiel as a human being (93 times, cf. Psalms 8:4). In Ezekiel it is the way God addresses Ezekiel. This same phrase is found in Job and Psalms. In Daniel 7:13 this term takes on divine characteristics as one likened to “a son of man” coming before the Ancient of Days (i.e., deity) riding on the clouds of heaven. Daniel 7:13 is the background for Jesus' use of this term for himself, which combines humanity and deity (i.e., 1 John 4:1-3). The phrase had no nationalistic or militaristic rabbinical overtones.

Psalms 80:18 This verse lists several promises spoken by the psalmist but on behalf of the covenant people.

1. then (i.e., after God turns again to them, cf. Psalms 80:14) we shall not turn back (i.e., backslide, BDB 690, KB 744, Qal imperfect) from You

2. give us life/revive us (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel imperfect)

3. if God acts on their behalf they will call upon (BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperfect) His name in the temple

Notice this use of imperfects, which denotes an ongoing action.

Psalms 80:19 See note at Psalms 80:3.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this Psalm refer to an invasion? If so, which historical period fits best?

2. Is this Psalm written about Israel or Judah?

3. List and explain the different terms and allusions to “light.”

4. Why does the refrain of Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19 add to God's name each time?

5. Why are nations often referred to in plant metaphors?

6. Are there “Messianic” hints in this Psalm or do they all refer to the nation as a whole?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 80". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-80.html. 2021.
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