That this plaintive cry for restoration to a state which should be indicative of the Divine favour, arose from Israel when groaning under foreign oppression which it was powerless to resist, is plain and incontestable. And if, with the almost unanimous consent of critics, we are right in rendering Psalm 80:6, “Thou makest us an object of strife to our neighbours,” we should be able to approximate very nearly to the date of the poem. For there are only two periods when Palestine became an object of dispute between rival powers: when Assyria and Egypt made it their battleground; and, at a much later date, when it was the apple of discord between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ. But at the earlier of these two periods the language of the poet descriptive of utter prostration and ruin (Psalm 80:16) would hardly have been suitable. We hear, too again, in Psalm 80:4, the pathetic “how long?” of the Maccabæan age. No argument for date or authorship can safely be drawn from the mode in which the tribes are mentioned and arranged in Psalm 80:2. (See Note.) The refrain at Psalm 80:3; Psalm 80:7; Psalm 80:19 indicates the structure of the poem.
Title.—See Psalms 45, 60, and comp. title of Psalms 69.
Dwellest.—Rather, sittest (enthroned). (Comp. Psalm 99:1.) That this is not a merely poetical idea drawn from clouds (as possibly in Psalm 18:10), but is derived from the throne, upheld by the wings of the sculptured cherubim in the Temple, is proved by Exodus 25:22. (Comp. Numbers 7:89. Comp. also “chariot of the cherubim,” 1 Chronicles 28:18; Ecclesiasticus 49:8; also Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 1:26.)
Cause thy face to shine.—The desert encampment and march is still in the poet’s thought. As in Psalm 67:1 (see Note) we have here a reminiscence of the priestly benediction.
Saved.—Or, helped. This verse constitutes the refrain.
Against the prayer.—Literally, in, i.e., during the prayer. The smoke of the Divine anger is, perhaps, conceived of as a cloud through which the prayer (often symbolised by an ascending incense) cannot penetrate.
In great measure.—Heb., shalîsh, i.e., a third part. (Comp. Isaiah 40:12, Margin.) Probably meaning a third part of an ephah. (See Exodus 16:36; Isaiah 5:10, LXX.) But here evidently used in a general way, as we say “a peck of troubles.”
Laugh among themselves.—Literally, for themselves. But LXX. and Vulg. read, “at us.”
The vine (or vineyard), as an emblem of Israel, is so natural and apt that we do not wonder to find it repeated again and again in the Old Testament, and adopted in the New. Probably Isaiah 5:1-7 was the parent image, unless the Patriarchal benediction on Joseph (Genesis 49:22) suggested that song.
Didst cause . . .—Rather, it struck its roots deep; literally, rooted its roots.
“In vengeance of neglected sacrifice,
On Oencus’ fields she sent a monstrous boar,
That levell’d harvests and whole forests tore.”
HOMER: Iliad (Pope’s Trans.).
Wild beast.—It seems natural, at first, to take this beast as the emblem of some particular power or oppressor, as the crocodile is of Egypt, the lion of Assyria, &c. But the general term—literally, that moving in the field (see Ps. 1:11)—makes against such an identification.
“The boar out of the wood doth waste it
And the wild beast of the field doth devour it:
It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
Let them (the beasts) perish at the rebuke of thy
(See also Note to next verse.)
“Protect what thy right hand hath planted,
The branch which thou hast made strong for thyself:
Let thy hand be over the man of thy right hand,
Over the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.”
A fine instance of the mode in which the thought can pass naturally from the figurative to the literal. The man of God’s right hand is evidently the man protected by the right hand, but the expression introduces such a tautology that we suspect a misreading.
In the words “son,” “son of man,” some see a reference to the Messiah. But the parallelism and context show that the poet is thinking of Israel as a community, of which the vine is the emblem.
“God’s ways seem dark, but soon or late
They touch the shining hills of day.
The evil cannot brook delay;
The good can well afford to wait.”