Psalm 80

To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Lilies.” A Testimony of Asaph. A Psalm.

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!

Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
Stir up Your strength,
And come and save us!

Restore us, O God;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

O Lord God of hosts,
How long will You be angry
Against the prayer of Your people?

You have fed them with the bread of tears,
And given them tears to drink in great measure.

You have made us a strife to our neighbors,
And our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
You have cast out the nations, and planted it.

You prepared room for it,
And caused it to take deep root,
And it filled the land.

10 The hills were covered with its shadow,
And the mighty cedars with its boughs.

11 She sent out her boughs to the Sea,
And her branches to the River.

12 Why have You broken down her hedges,
So that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit?

13 The boar out of the woods uproots it,
And the wild beast of the field devours it.

14 Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine

15 And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted,
And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.

16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.

17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.

18 Then we will not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.

19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

Lilies (intro) — the melody to which the psalm was to be sung.

testimony (intro) — a legal term that is probably used to indicate that the psalm testifies, like in a court of law, the just, historical basis for God’s chastisement of His people.

Written against the background of the Assyrian captivity of the northern tribes of Israel (2 Kings 17:6), this psalm reveals the shock that event had in Jerusalem (where the Asaph singers lived. — Ryrie, page 886.


Verses 1-7 — That God is chastising—as opposed to destroying)—Israel is immediately indicated by the psalmist’s description of God as the Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock, on the close association between imagery and paternal solicitude. This notion is further emphasized by the reference in v.4 to God being “angry” and, in v.7, to the intended goal of chastisement: that God restore them (i.e., to spiritual health and godliness). — Wechsler, page 199.


The awe-striking flame called the Shekinah which flashed between the cherubim upon the Mercy-seat in the Sanctuary (v.1) was the glory of God and symbolized His presence. In the opening chapters of Ezekiel that glory is seen withdrawing itself in stages, and reluctantly, but in chapter 43 it is viewed returning at once and with alacrity. Malachi 3:1 speaks of the same event, and this Psalm prays for it. Messiah will return (v.14); He will cause His people to return (vs. 3, 7, and 19); He will shine forth from the Sanctuary to their relief and to the discomfiture of their oppressors; and thus recover and replant His vine. — Williams, page 362.


When the cloud was taken up the Tribes journeyed, and immediately after the Kohathites (bearing the Sanctuary and the Ark) Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh marched, and Moses cried “Rise up, O Jehovah, and let Thine enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee” (Numbers 2:36). Accordingly, in this Psalm (v.2) they occupy this position in relation to the Ark. These tribes were the children of Rachel. — Williams, page 362.


The division [of the psalm] is clearly marked by the recurrence of the refrain [return/restore] in vs.3, 7, 14, and 19. The name of God being on an ascending scale: God (v.3); God of Hosts (v.7, 14); Jehovah, God of Hosts (v.19). — Meyer, page 98.


Verses 8-11 — The basis of God’s pruning is His unconditional, sovereign election of Israel, grounded in His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This point is vividly portrayed via the image of Israel as a vine, being passively transplanted by God from Egypt to Canaan (v.8), from which latter God also cleared the ground (v.9) of the Gentile nations that, like tares among wheat, sought to prevent and strangle the existence of God’s vine. — Wechsler, page 199.

“The hills” (v.10) may refer to the southern boundary of Canaan. “The cedars” represent Lebanon in the north. “The sea” (v.11) means the Mediterranean, and “the river,” the Euphrates. Solomon ruled over that extent of land.

Verses 12-19 — The goal of God’s pruning is not simply that the vine might flourish, but that, after going through the pruning process, being burned with fire and cut down (v.16), the vine might be inured against those parasites that would sap its spiritual energy—as the psalmist plainly concludes: then (i.e., after the pruning) we shall not turn back from Thee (v.18) and the light that shines from His face (i.e., presence), not the sun, will serve as the vine’s source of life. — Wechsler, page 200.

Williams says the man of the right hand even the Son of Man (v.17) is the Messiah. Ryrie says it is Israel. Guthrie says:

When Benjamin was born (Genesis 35:18) at the cost of his mother’s life, she, her mind full of her fatal travail, aptly named him Ben-oni, “son of my sorrow”; but his father, loving the child for the sake of the beloved Rachel, refused the name, calling him rather Benjamin, “Son of (my) right hand.” So is Israel, by grace, to the Lord. — Guthrie, page 502.

Meyer says “man of your right hand” is Benjamin, representing all Israel, and “son of man” is the Messiah.

Israel was the vine that God brought out of Egypt (v.8 with Isaiah 5). Having evicted the  Canaanites He planted it in the pleasant land of Palestine. It was ravaged by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans; but it will suffer its greatest injury at the hands of the future Anti-Christ. In his days this prophecy will be fulfilled. — Williams, page 363.

If, as some of my commentaries state, this psalm was written in response to the Assyrian captivity of the northern tribes, it brings up the question of why Benjamin is listed (v.2), since that tribe was generally associated with Judah in the southern kingdom. The answer, it seems to me, is that the psalm is referring to the condition of all Israel under God’s chastisement. Here’s the other view:

The house of Joseph always represents Israel, as distinct from Judah (Obadiah 18; Amos 6:6). The mention of Benjamin (v.2) does not militate against this view; for though the southern part of the tribe clung to the fortunes of Judah, it is probable [but not mentioned in Scripture?] that the bulk of the northern portion followed those of the ten tribes to whom they were bound by many ties (Genesis 43:29). — Meyer, page 98

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