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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 80

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 80:1. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel — O 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; thou that leadest — Or, didst lead, formerly; Joseph — That is, the children of Joseph, or of Israel, as he now said. The name of Joseph, the most eminent of the patriarchs, for his dignity and piety, as well as the right of primogeniture, transferred upon him from Reuben, is frequently elsewhere put for all the ten tribes. Thou that dwellest between the cherubim — Those two sacred emblematical figures, which were set in the most holy place, upon the mercy-seat, before which the high-priest sprinkled the blood upon the great day of atonement. By this title the psalmist prudently and piously reminds the ten tribes of their revolt from God, and of the vanity of their superstitious addresses to their calves, at Beth-el and Dan, 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 written, as some have supposed, upon occasion of the Babylonish captivity, in and after which time there was no ark, nor cherubim; nor does Daniel, or any of the prophets, then address God by that title. 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

Psalms 80:2. Before Ephraim, &c. — That is, before all the tribes; in the face of all the people assembled at Jerusalem. These three, indeed, in some sense included the whole, Benjamin being incorporated with Judah, and the greatest part of Jerusalem, and the temple being in its lot, Manasseh comprehending the country beyond Jordan; and Ephraim, which was the head of the ten tribes, including all the rest. Some think, however, that these three are named in allusion to their ancient situation in the wilderness, where these tribes were placed on the west side of the tabernacle, in which the ark was, which, consequently, was before them: and they followed it immediately in their marches. So that, as before them the ark of God’s strength arose to scatter their enemies, with a reference thereto, the sense here is, O thou who didst of old go forth before those tribes, do so again at this time. Perhaps, also, these tribes had a greater share of the calamities here referred to than the others, though this be not mentioned in the sacred history: and therefore the psalmist prays that God would appear particularly on their behalf.


Verse 3

Psalms 80:3. Turn us again — He means, either to our former quiet and flourishing state; or, to thyself, from whom Ephraim and Manasseh, with the rest of the ten tribes, have apostatized. See a similar prayer of Elijah for them, 1 Kings 18:37. Instead of, Turn us, Mudge reads, Restore us, which is equally agreeable to the original word, השׁיבנו, hashibenu. “There are evidently four parts in this Psalm; all of which conclude with this verse, or with one varying very little from it. In the first, the psalmist entreats God to assist them, as he formerly did their forefathers. In the second, he beseeches him to have compassion upon their miserable condition. In the third, not to forsake those now for whom he had already done so much; and in the fourth, concludes with a prayer for their king, and a promise of future obedience, as a grateful return for God’s favours.” — Dodd.


Verses 4-6

Psalms 80:4-6. How long wilt thou be angry, &c. — Thou art so far from answering our prayers, whereby we seek thy favour, that, by thy continuing and increasing our miseries, thou seemest to be more incensed against us by them. But the words may be rendered, How long dost thou preserve thy wrath during the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears — With tears instead of bread, which they either want, or cannot eat because their grief hath taken away their appetites: or they eat their meat from day to day in tears. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours Who used, and ought, to live peaceably and kindly with us. Thou makest us the object or matter of their strife and contention. He means, either, 1st, They strive one with another who shall do us the most mischief, or who shall take our spoils to themselves: or, 2d, They are perpetually quarrelling with us, and seeking occasions against us. Our enemies laugh among themselves — Insult over us, and take pleasure in our calamities.


Verse 8-9

Psalms 80:8-9. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt — Israel, or the church of God, is often compared to a vine: see Isaiah 5:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 17:6; Matthew 21:33. He alludes to the custom of transplanting trees for their more advantageous growth. Thou hast cast out the heathen — The nations of Canaan, to make room for it; seven nations to make room for that one; and planted it — In their place. Thou preparedst room before it — Hebrew, פנית לפניה, pinnita lepaneiah, thou didst prepare, or, prepare the way, before it; that is, thou didst purge or cleanse the soil, removing the stones, or roots, or plants, which might have hindered its growth or fruitfulness. Thou didst root out those idolatrous and wicked nations which would either have corrupted or destroyed thy church. And didst cause it to take deep root — By so firm a settlement in that land, and such a happy establishment of their government, both in church and state, that though their neighbours about them often attempted it, yet they could not prevail to pluck it up. And it filled the land — It flourished and spread itself over all the country. The whole land of Canaan was fully peopled by them. At first indeed they were not so numerous as perfectly to replenish it, Exodus 23:29. But in Solomon’s time Judah and Israel were as many as the sand of the sea; the land was filled with them, and yet was so fruitful that it was not overstocked.


Verse 10-11

Psalms 80:10-11. The hills were covered with the shadow of it — Its branches extended themselves over all the hills and mountains of Canaan; that is, the people multiplied so much, and became so numerous, that they filled not only the fruitful valleys, but even the barren mountains. And the boughs whereof were like the goodly cedars — Very different from those of ordinary vines, whose boughs are weak and small, and creep upon the walls, on other trees, or on the ground. Israel not only had abundance of men, but those mighty men of valour. She sent out her boughs unto the sea That is, to the Mediterranean sea; and her branches unto the river — The river Euphrates, alluding to the extent of the Israelitish dominions in the time of David and Solomon.


Verse 12-13

Psalms 80:12-13. Why hast thou broken down her hedges — That is, taken away thy protection, which was to thy people for walls and bulwarks: so that all they which pass by do pluck her — Pluck off her grapes, or tear off her boughs, as the word ארוה, aruah, implies. Thus “the psalmist, having described the exaltation of Israel, under the figure of a vine, proceeds, under the same figure, to lament her depression. She is now represented as deprived of the protection of God, the counsels of the wise, and the arms of the valiant; of all her bulwarks and fortifications, and whatever else could contribute to her defence and security; so that, like a vineyard without a fence, she lay open, on every side, to the incursion and ravages of her neighbouring adversaries, who soon stripped her of all that was valuable, and trod her under foot.” — Horne. The boar of the wood doth waste it — By which he means some one of their most fierce and furious enemies; and the wild beasts of the field doth devour it — Some other potent enemy that made war upon and wasted them. Theodoret says, that Nebuchadnezzar was intended, and that he is very properly termed, The wild beast of the field, because he was more fierce than any other monarch. But the psalmist seems rather to refer to times antecedent to the period in which the Jews suffered so much from Nebuchadnezzar, and to intend some of their other cruel and unrelenting heathen enemies, who, like wild beasts, issuing out of a forest, invaded their country, resolved not only to spoil and plunder, but, if possible, to eradicate and extirpate this vine for ever. The metaphor of the vine is thus continued to a considerable length, and carried on very happily through the several particulars. “Among the many elegances with which this allegory abounds, that nicety, observable both in the beginning and close of it, is not the least; the author sliding, as it were, from the comparison into the subject itself, and from thence into the comparison, by an almost insensible gradation.” See Bishop Lowth’s Tenth Prelection.


Verse 15

Psalms 80:15. And the vineyard — Hebrew, כנה, channah, which Buxtorf translates, surculus, planta, a branch, or plant, but which Dr. Hammond says “may be most fitly rendered a root, or stock, such as is wont to be planted. For this we know,” proceeds he, “that a branch of a vine, being laid in the ground, will take a root to it, and so be fit to be planted.” And after many critical remarks on the sense of the word, as used in other places, he adds, “by all this it appears that כנהhere, having in its original meaning somewhat of strength and stability, (being used for a foot, or basis,) and being by the context confined to vines, must signify such a slip, or young stock, or plant, as is fit to be set, or grow by itself. And being by the Masorites (Jewish rabbins) written with a large כ, (caph,) signifies this eminent plant, the whole people of the Jews whom God had chosen; and so his right hand is truly said to have planted it.” And the branch that thou madest strong for thyself — Hebrew, בן, ben, the son, namely, the son of the root or stock, according to the Hebrew phraseology, which terms any thing, that is produced by another, its son or daughter. Thus branches are called בנות, benoth, daughters, Genesis 49:22. The royal family of David is evidently intended here, which God had raised and established for himself, to accomplish his eternal purpose of saving mankind by the Messiah, who was one day to spring from the root of Jesse. The Chaldee paraphrast expounds the branch of Messiah himself; “On King Messiah, whom thou hast established,” &c. So do the rabbins, Aben Ezra and Obadiah, cited by Dr. Hammond. And the LXX. have rendered the clause, επι υιον ανθρωπου, on the Son of man, an expression actually used by the psalmist, Psalms 80:17. “To the advent of this Son of man.” says Dr. Horne, “Israel was ever accustomed to look forward, in time of affliction; on his second and glorious advent the Christian Church must fix her eye, in the day of her calamities.”


Verse 16

Psalms 80:16. It is burned with fire, &c. — Namely, thy vineyard or branch; since, upon our provoking sins, thou hast withdrawn thy mercy from us, the enemies have broken in upon us, and great numbers of us are destroyed already, and may be compared to the numerous branches of a remaining stock, which, being cut off, are burned with fire. They perish — Namely, thy people of Israel, signified by the vine. So now he passes from the metaphor to the thing signified by it. At the rebuke of thy countenance — Through the effects of thine anger, without which our enemies could do us no hurt.


Verse 17-18

Psalms 80:17-18. Let thy hand — Thy power, to protect and strengthen him; be upon the man of thy right hand — That king (whoever he was) of the house of David, that was now to rule and go in and out before them. He calls him the man of God’s right hand, because he was the representative of their state, which was dear to God, as a man’s right hand is dear to himself, and as Benjamin, whose name signifies the son of the right hand, was dear to his father Jacob; and because he was president in their affairs, and an instrument in God’s right hand of much good to them, defending them from themselves, and from their enemies, and directing them in the right way; and was under-shepherd to him who was the great Shepherd of Israel. Upon the son of man — That king of David’s race, just mentioned, in whose safety and prosperity he considered the welfare and happiness of the whole kingdom as being involved; whom thou madest strong for thyself That is, to serve the interest of thy kingdom among men. So will we not go back from thee — This glorious favour of thine will oblige us to love and serve thee, and trust in thee so long as we have a being, and will preserve us from relapsing into idolatry and wickedness, as we have too often done. Quicken us — Revive and restore us to our former tranquillity and happiness; revive our dying interests, and our drooping spirits, and we will call upon thy name — We shall be encouraged, and will continue to do so upon all occasions, having found, by experience, that it is not in vain. But many interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, apply this to the Messiah, the Son of David, the protector and Saviour of the church, and the keeper of the vineyard. He is the man of God’s right hand; to whom he has sworn by his right hand, as the Chaldee interprets it; whom he has exalted to his right hand, and who is indeed the right hand and arm of the Lord, invested with all power in heaven and on earth. And he is that Son of man whom the Father made strong for himself for the glorifying of his name, and the advancing of the interests of his kingdom among men. God’s hand was upon him throughout his whole undertaking, to support and strengthen, to protect and animate him, that the good pleasure of the Lord might prosper in his hand. And the stability and constancy of believers, in his work and service, are owing to his grace upholding and strengthening them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 80:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-80.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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