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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Psalms 80

Prayer for Jahve's Vine

With the words We are Thy people and the flock of Thy pasture, Psalms 79:1-13 closes; and Psalms 80 begins with a cry to the Shepherd of Israel. Concerning the inscription of the Psalm: To be practised after the “Lilies, the testimony...,” by Asaph, a Psalm, vid., on Psalms 45:1, supra, p. 45f. The lxx renders, εἰς τὸ τέλος (unto the end), ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀλλοιωθησομένων (which is unintelligible and ungrammatical = אל־שׁשּׂנים ), μαρτύριον τῷ Ἀσάφ (as the accentuation also unites these words closely by Tarcha ), ψαλμός ὑπὲρ τοῦ Ἀσσυρίου (cf. Psalms 76:1), perhaps a translation of אל־אשׁור , an inscribed note which took the “boar out of the forest” as an emblem of Assyria. This hint is important. It solves the riddle why Joseph represents all Israel in Psalms 80:2, and why the tribes of Joseph in particular are mentioned in Psalms 80:3, and why in the midst of these Benjamin, whom like descent from Rachel and chagrin, never entirely overcome, on account of the loss of the kingship drew towards the brother-tribes of Joseph. Moreover the tribe of Benjamin had only partially remained to the house of David since the division of the kingdom,

(Note: It is true we read that Benjamin stood on the side of Rehoboam with Judah after the division of the kingdom (1 Kings 12:21), Judah and Benjamin appear as parts of the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:3, 2 Chronicles 11:23; 2 Chronicles 15:8., and frequently); but if, according to 1 Kings 11:13, 1 Kings 11:32, 1 Kings 11:36, only שׁבט אחד remains to the house of David, this is Judah, inasmuch as Benjamin did not remain entirely under the Davidic sceptre, and Simeon is to be left out of account (cf. Genesis, S. 603); the Benjamitish cities of Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho belonged to the northern kingdom, but, as in the case of Rama (1 Kings 15:21.), not without being contested (cf. e.g., 2 Chronicles 13:19); the boundaries were therefore fluctuating, vid., Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel (3rd ed.), S. 439-441.)

so that this triad is to be regarded as an expansion of the “Joseph” (v. 20. After the northern kingdom had exhausted its resources in endless feuds with Damascene Syria, it succumbed to the world-wide dominion of Assyria in the sixth year of Hezekiah, in consequence of the heavy visitations which are closely associated with the names of the Assyrian kings Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmaneser. The psalmist, as it seems, prays in a time in which the oppression of Assyria rested heavily upon the kingdom of Ephraim, and Judah saw itself threatened with ruin when this bulwark should have fallen. We must not, however, let it pass without notice that our Psalm has this designation of the nation according to the tribes of Joseph in common with other pre-exilic Psalms of Asaph (Psalms 77:16; Psalms 78:9; Psalms 81:6). It is a characteristic belonging in common to this whole group of Psalms. Was Asaph, the founder of this circle of songs, a native, perhaps, of one of the Levite cities of the province of the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh?

The Psalm consists of five eight-line strophes, of which the first, second, and fifth close with the refrain, “Elohim, restore us, let Thy countenance shine forth, then shall we be helped!” This prayer grows in earnestness. The refrain begins the first time with Elohim , the second time with Elohim Tsebaôth , and the third time with a threefold Jahve Elohim Tsebaôth , with which the second strophe (Psalms 80:5) also opens.

Verses 1-3

The first strophe contains nothing but petition. First of all the nation is called Israel as springing from Jacob; then, as in Psalms 81:6, Joseph, which, where it is distinct from Jacob or Judah, is the name of the kingdom of the ten tribes (vid., Caspari on Obadiah 1:18), or at least of the northern tribes (Psalms 77:16; Psalms 78:67.). Psalms 80:3 shows that it is also these that are pre-eminently intended here. The fact that in the blessing of Joseph, Jacob calls God a Shepherd ( רעה ), Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:24, perhaps has somewhat to do with the choice of the first two names. In the third, the sitting enthroned in the sanctuary here below and in the heaven above blend together; for the Old Testament is conscious of a mutual relationship between the earthly and the heavenly temple ( היכל ) until the one merges entirely in the other. The cherûbim, which God enthrones, i.e., upon which He sits enthroned, are the bearers of the chariot ( מרכבה ) of the Ruler of the world (vid., Psalms 18:11). With הופיעה (from יפע , Arab. yf‛ , eminere , emicare , as in the Asaph Psalms 50:2) the poet prays that He would appear in His splendour of light, i.e., in His fiery bright, judging, and rescuing doxa, whether as directly visible, or even as only recognisable by its operation. Both the comparison, “after the manner of a flock” and the verb נהג are Asaphic, Psalms 78:52, cf. Psalms 26:1-12. Just so also the names given to the nation. The designation of Israel after the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh attaches itself to the name Joseph; and the two take the brother after the flesh into their midst, of whom the beloved Rachel was the mother as well as of Joseph, the father of Ephraim and Manasseh. In Num. 2 also, these three are not separated, but have their camp on the west side of the Tabernacle. May God again put into activity - which is the meaning of עורר ( excitare ) in distinction from חעיר ( expergefacere ) - His גבורה , the need for the energetic intervention of which now makes itself felt, before these three tribes, i.e., by becoming their victorious leader. לכה is a summoning imperative.

(Note: Not a pronoun: to Thee it belongs to be for salvation for us, as the Talmud, Midrash, and Masora (vid., Norzi) take it; wherefore in J. Succa 54 c it is straightway written לך . Such a לכה = לך is called in the language of the Masora, and even in the Midrash ( Exod. Rabba, fol. 121), לכה ודאית (vid., Buxtorf, Tiberias, p. 245).)

Concerning ישׁעתה vid., on Psalms 3:3; the construction with Lamed says as little against the accusative adverbial rendering of the ah set forth there as does the Beth of בּחרשׁה (in the wood) in 1 Samuel 23:15, vid., Böttcher's Neue Aehrenlese, Nos. 221, 384, 449. It is not a bringing back out of the Exile that is prayed for by השׁתבנוּ , for, according to the whole impression conveyed by the Psalm, the people are still on the soil of their fatherland; but in their present feebleness they are no longer like themselves, they stand in need of divine intervention in order again to attain a condition that is in harmony with the promises, in order to become themselves again. May God then cause His long hidden countenance to brighten and shine upon them, then shall they be helped as they desire ( ונוּשׁעה ).

Verses 4-7

In the second strophe there issues forth bitter complaint concerning the form of wrath which the present assumes, and, thus confirmed, the petition rises anew. The transferring of the smoking ( עשׁן ) of God's nostrils = the hard breathing of anger (Psalms 74:1, Deuteronomy 29:19), to God Himself is bold, but in keeping with the spirit of the Biblical view of the wrath of God (vid., on Psalms 18:9), so that there is no need to avoid the expression by calling in the aid of the Syriac word עשׁן , to be strong, powerful (why art Thou hard, why dost Thou harden Thyself...). The perfect after עד־מתי has the sense of a present with a retrospective glance, as in Exodus 10:3, cf. עד־אנה , to be understood after the analogy of חרה בּ (to kindle = to be angry against any one), for the prayer of the people is not an object of wrath, but only not a means of turning it aside. While the prayer is being presented, God veils Himself in the smoke of wrath, through which it is not able to penetrate. The lxx translators have read בתפלת עבדיך , for they render ἐπὶ τὴν προσευχήν τῶν δούλων σου (for which the common reading is τοῦ δούλου σου ). Bread of tears is, according to Psalms 42:4, bread consisting of tears; tears, running down in streams upon the lips of the praying and fasting one, are his meat and his drink. השׁקה with an accusative signifies to give something to drink, and followed by Beth, to give to drink by means of something, but it is not to be translated: potitandum das eis cum lacrymis trientem (De Dieu, von Ortenberg, and Hitzig). שׁלישׁ (Talmudic, a third part) is the accusative of more precise definition (Vatablus, Gesenius, Olshausen, and Hupfeld): by thirds (lxx ἐν μέτρῳ , Symmachus μέτρῳ ); for a third of an ephah is certainly a very small measure for the dust of the earth (Isaiah 40:12), but a large one for tears. The neighbours are the neighbouring nations, to whom Israel is become מדון , an object, a butt of contention. In למו is expressed the pleasure which the mocking gives them.

Verses 8-19

The complaint now assumes a detailing character in this strophe, inasmuch as it contrasts the former days with the present; and the ever more and more importunate prayer moulds itself in accordance therewith. The retrospective description begins, as is rarely the case, with the second modus, inasmuch as “the speaker thinks more of the bare nature of the act than of the time” (Ew. §136, b). As in the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:22) Joseph is compared to the layer ( בּן ) of a fruitful growth ( פּרת ), whose shoots ( בּנות ) climb over the wall: so here Israel is compared to a vine (Genesis 49:22; גּפן פּריּח , Psalms 128:3), which has become great in Egypt and been transplanted thence into the Land of Promise. הסּיע , lxx μεταίρειν , as in Job 19:10, perhaps with an allusion to the מסעים of the people journeying to Canaan (Psalms 78:52).

(Note: Exod. Rabba, ch. 44, with reference to this passage, says: “When husbandmen seek to improve a vine, what do they do? They root ( עוקרין ) it out of its place and plant ( שׁותלין ) it in another.” And Levit. Rabba, ch. 36, says: “As one does not plant a vine in a place where there are great, rough stones, but examines the ground and then plants it, so didst Thou drive out peoples and didst plant it,” etc.)

Here God made His vine a way and a place ( פּנּהּ , to clear, from פּנה , to turn, turn aside, Arabic fanija , to disappear, pass away; root פן , to urge forward), and after He had secured to it a free soil and unchecked possibility of extension, it (the vine) rooted its roots, i.e., struck them ever deeper and wider, and filled the earth round about (cf. the antitype in the final days, Isaiah 27:6). The Israelitish kingdom of God extended itself on every side in accordance with the promise. תּשׁלּח (cf. Ezekiel 17:6, and vegetable שׁלח , a shoot) also has the vine as its subject, like תּשׁרשׁ . Psalms 80:11-12 state this in a continued allegory, by the “mountains” pointing to the southern boundary, by the “cedars” to the northern, by the “sea” to the western, and by the “river” (Euphrates) to the eastern boundary of the country (vid., Deuteronomy 11:24 and other passages). צלּהּ and ענפיה are accusatives of the so-called more remote object (Ges. §143, 1). קציר is a cutting = a branch; יונקת , a (vegetable) sucker = a young, tender shoot; ארזי־אל , the cedars of Lebanon as being living monuments of the creative might of God. The allegory exceeds the measure of the reality of nature, inasmuch as this is obliged to be extended according to the reality of that which is typified and historical. But how unlike to the former times is the present! The poet asks “wherefore?” for the present state of things is a riddle to him. The surroundings of the vine are torn down; all who come in contact with it pluck it ( ארה , to pick off, pluck off, Talmudic of the gathering of figs); the boar out of the wood ( מיער with עין תלויה , Ajin )

(Note: According to Kiddushin, 30 a, because this Ajin is the middle letter of the Psalter as the Waw of גחון , Leviticus 11:42, is the middle letter of the Tôra. One would hardly like to be at the pains of proving the correctness of this statement; nevertheless in the seventeenth century there lived one Laymarius, a clergyman, who was not afraid of this trouble, and found the calculations of the Masora (e.g., that אדני ה occurs 222 times) in part inaccurate; vid., Monatliche Unterredungen, 1691, S. 467, and besides, Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, S. 258f.))

cuts it off ( כּרסם , formed out of כּסם = גּזם

(Note: Saadia appropriately renders it Arab. yqrḍhâ , by referring, as does Dunash also, to the Talmudic קרסם , which occurs of ants, like Arab. qrḍ , of rodents. So Peah ii. §7, Menachoth 71 b, on which Rashi observes, “the locust ( חגב ) is accustomed to eat from above, the ant tears off the corn-stalk from below.” Elsewhere קירסם denotes the breaking off of dry branches from the tree, as זרד the removal of green branches.))

viz., with its tusks; and that which moves about the fields (vid., concerning זיז , Psalms 50:11), i.e., the untractable, lively wild beast, devours it. Without doubt the poet associates a distinct nation with the wild boar in his mind; for animals are also in other instances the emblems of nations, as e.g., the leviathan, the water-serpent, the behemoth (Isaiah 30:6), and flies (Isaiah 7:18) are emblems of Egypt. The Midrash interprets it of Seîr-Edom, and זיז שׂדי , according to Genesis 16:12, of the nomadic Arabs.

In Psalms 80:15 the prayer begins for the third time with threefold urgency, supplicating for the vine renewed divine providence, and a renewal of the care of divine grace. We have divided the verse differently from the accentuation, since שׁוּב־נא הבּט is to be understood according to Ges. §142. The junction by means of ו is at once opposed to the supposition that וכּנּה in Psalms 80:16 signifies a slip or plant, plantam (Targum, Syriac, Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, and others), and that consequently the whole of Psalms 80:16 is governed by וּפקד . Nor can it mean its (the vine's) stand or base, כּן (Böttcher), since one does not plant a “stand.” The lxx renders וכנה : καὶ κατάρτισαι , which is imper. aor. 1. med., therefore in the sense of כּוננה .

(Note: Perhaps the Caph majusculum is the result of an erasure that required to be made, vid., Geiger, Urschrift, S. 295. Accordingly the Ajin suspensum might also be the result of a later inserted correction, for there is a Phoenician inscription that has יר (wood, forest); vid., Levy, Phönizisches Wörterbuch, S. 22.)

But the alternation of על (cf. Proverbs 2:11, and Arab. jn ‛lâ , to cover over) with the accusative of the object makes it more natural to derive כנה , not from כּנן = כּוּן , but from כּנן Arab. kanna = גּנן , to cover, conceal, protect (whence Arab. kinn , a covering, shelter, hiding-place): and protect him whom...or: protect what Thy right hand has planted. The pointing certainly seems to take כנה as the feminine of כּן (lxx, Daniel 11:7, φυτόν ); for an imperat. paragog. Kal of the form כּנּה does not occur elsewhere, although it might have been regarded by the punctuists as possible from the form גּל , volve, Psalms 119:22. If it is regarded as impossible, then one might read כנּה . At any rate the word is imperative, as the following אשׁר , eum quem , also shows, instead of which, if כנה were a substantive, one would expect to find a relative clause without אשׁר , as in Psalms 80:16. Moreover Psalms 80:16 requires this, since פּקד על can only be used of visiting with punishment. And who then would the slip (branch) and the son of man be in distinction from the vine? If we take בנה as imperative, then, as one might expect, the vine and the son of man are both the people of God. The Targum renders Psalms 80:16 thus: “and upon the King Messiah, whom Thou hast established for Thyself,” after Psalms 2:1-12 and Daniel 7:13; but, as in the latter passage, it is not the Christ Himself, but the nation out of which He is to proceed, that is meant. אמּץ has the sense of firm appropriation, as in Isaiah 44:14, inasmuch as the notion of making fast passes over into that of laying firm hold of, of seizure. Rosenmüller well renders it: quem adoptatum tot nexibus tibi adstrinxisti .

The figure of the vine, which rules all the language here, is also still continued in Psalms 80:17; for the partt. fem. refer to גּפן ot refer , - the verb, however, may take the plural form, because those of Israel are this “vine,” which combusta igne, succisa (as in Isaiah 33:12; Aramaic, be cut off, tear off, in Psalms 80:13 the Targum word for ארה ; Arabic, ksḥ , to clear away, peel off), is just perishing, or hangs in danger of destruction ( יאבדוּ ) before the threatening of the wrathful countenance of God. The absence of anything to denote the subject, and the form of expression, which still keeps within the circle of the figure of the vine, forbid us to understand this Psalms 80:17 of the extirpation of the foes. According to the sense תּהי־ידך על

(Note: The תהי has Gaja, like שׂאו־זמרה (Psalms 81:3), בני־נכר (Psalms 144:7), and the like. This Gaja beside the Shebâ (instead of beside the following vowel) belongs to the peculiarities of the metrical books, which in general, on account of their more melodious mode of delivery, have many such a Gaja beside Shebâ, which does not occur in the prose books. Thus, e.g., יהוה and אלהים always have Gaja beside the Shebâ when they have Rebia magnum without a conjunctive, probably because Rebia and Dechî had such a fulness of tone that a first stroke fell even upon the Shebâ -letters.)

coincides with the supplicatory כנה על . It is Israel that is called בּן in Psalms 80:16, as being the son whom Jahve has called into being in Egypt, and then called out of Egypt to Himself and solemnly declared to be His son on Sinai (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1), and who is now, with a play upon the name of Benjamin in Psalms 80:3 (cf. Psalms 80:16), called אישׁ ימינך , as being the people which Jahve has preferred before others, and has placed at His right hand

(Note: Pinsker punctuates thus: Let Thy hand be upon the man, Thy right hand upon the son of man, whom, etc.; but the impression that ימינך and אמצתה לך coincide is so strong, that no one of the old interpreters (from the lxx and Targum onwards) has been able to free himself from it.)

for the carrying out of His work of salvation; who is called, however, at the same time בּן־אדם , because belonging to a humanity that is feeble in itself, and thoroughly conditioned and dependent. It is not the more precise designation of the “son of man” that is carried forward by ולא־נסוג , “and who has not drawn back from Thee” (Hupfeld, Hitzig, and others), but it is, as the same relation which is repeated in Psalms 80:19 shows, the apodosis of the preceding petition: then shall we never depart from Thee; נסוג being not a participle, as in Psalms 44:19, but a plene written voluntative: recedamus, vowing new obedience as thanksgiving of the divine preservation. To the prayer in Psalms 80:18 corresponds, then, the prayer תּחיּנוּ , which is expressed as future (which can rarely be avoided, Ew. §229), with a vow of thanksgiving likewise following: then will we call with Thy name, i.e., make it the medium and matter of solemn proclamation. In v. 20 the refrain of this Psalm, which is laid out as a trilogy, is repeated for the third time. The name of God is here threefold.

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Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 80". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.