March 15, 2017

Tom Lowe



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

Title: A Prayer of Remembrance 


Theme: The King Prays for the Lord to deliver them and punish their captors.



Psalm 80 (KJV)


1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.

Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?

Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.

Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves.

Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.

Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.

10 The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.

11 She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.

12 Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?

13 The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.

14 Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;

15 And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.

16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

18 So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.

19 Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.



Introduction to Psalm 80


(80:1-7) He that dwelleth upon the mercy-seat, is the good Shepherd of His people. But we can neither expect the comfort of His love, nor the protection of His arm, unless we partake of His converting grace. If He is really angry at the prayers of His people, it is because, although they pray, their intentions are not right, or they indulged in some secret sin. When God is displeased with His people, we must expect to see them in tears, and their enemies in triumph. There is no salvation but from God's favor; there is no conversion to God but by His own grace.


(80:8-16) The church is represented as a vine and a vineyard. The root of this vine is Christ, the branches are believers. The church is like a vine, needing support, but spreading and fruitful. If a vine does not bring forth fruit, no tree is so worthless. And are not we planted as in a well-cultivated garden, with every means of being fruitful in works of righteousness? But the useless leaves of profession, and the empty boughs of notions and forms, abound far more than real piety. It was wasted and ruined. There was a good reason for this change in God's way of dealing with them. And it is good or bad with us, depending on whether we are under God’s smiles or frowns. When we consider the state of the purest part of the visible church, we cannot help but notice the sharp corrections applied by God. They request that God would help the vine. Lord, it is formed by thyself, and for thyself, therefore it may, with humble confidence, be committed to thyself.


(80:17-19) The Messiah, the Protector and Savior of the church, is the Man of God's right hand; he is the Arm of the Lord, for all power is given to him. In him is our strength, by which we are enabled to persevere to the end. The vine, therefore, cannot be ruined, nor can any fruitful branch perish; but the unfruitful will be cut off and cast into the fire. The end of our redemption is that we should serve Him who hath redeemed us, and not go back to our old sins.





1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.


“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,”

For the most part, the title of “Shepherd” belongs to the Messiah, who is expressly called the Shepherd and Stone of Israel, in order to make a distinction between Him and the God of Jacob―“But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel” (Genesis 49:24)―and He may be given this title because He was to be that Shepherd, and was “of Israel”, according to the flesh. He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and appointed by His Father to be a Shepherd over them; and it is on the mountains of Israel that He provides a good fold―[fold: an enclosure for sheep or, occasionally, other domestic animals]―and pasture for His sheep―“the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises” (Romans 9:4)―and it is for the spiritual Israel, His sheep, His elect, both among Jews and Gentiles that He laid down His life; by which it appears that He is the good Shepherd. He is also the Great, the Chief, the only One who rules, and governs, and feeds His people, His spiritual Israel, as a shepherd feeds His flock; and who is in touch with His people, who desire Him to “give ear” [listen] to their cries and prayers in their hardship and distress. God has an ear to hear His people's prayers, though sometimes they think he does not hear them; but He not only hears, He answers sooner or later, and in His own way. Giving consideration to His character as a shepherd may be an encouragement to the faith of His sheep; that He will hear, and will not withhold any good thing from them―“….The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).


“thou that leadest Joseph like a flock;”

Here “Joseph” is put for the posterity of Joseph, who are like “a flock” of sheep, a separate people, distinguished by the grace of God, and purchased by the blood of Christ; and just as there is only one Shepherd, there is only one fold, and one flock. That flock is not a little one; and it is sometimes called a “flock of slaughter,” because it is exposed to the rage and fury of men. However, it is beautiful in the eyes of Christ, and He took upon Himself to feed them, and He leads them on gently and softly, gradually, and proportionate to their strength, or as they are able to bear. He leads in and out, and they find pasture; He leads them out of their former state and condition, in which he finds them, out of the pastures of sin and self-righteousness into the green pastures of His love, grace, word, and ordinances.


“thou that dwellest between the cherubim;”

“The cherubim” were over the mercy seat, and were either:

  1. symbols of angels―Jehovah dwells “between the cherubim, and is surrounded by them; Christ was ministered to by them when He was on earth; and He was among them when he ascended to Heaven, and in heaven they are subject to Him―or,
  2. symbols of the two Testaments (old and new)―which look to Christ, the greatest mercy seat, and agree with each other in their testimony of Him, and in other things; and the Lord dwells where these things are truly opened and explained―or,
  3. symbols of the saints of both dispensations―who look to Christ alone for salvation, and expect to be saved by His grace; are both partakers of it, as they will be of the same glory; and among these the Lord dwells as if He were in his temple―or,
  4. it seems best of all to consider them as symbols of Gospel ministers, since Ezekiel's four living creatures are the “cherubim”“These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim” (Ezekiel 10:20)―and these are the same as John’s four beasts, or living creatures, who were certainly men, being redeemed by the blood of Christ; and were ministers, being distinguished from the four and twenty elders―“Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back” (Revelation 4:6)― and among these the Lord dwells, and He has promised that His presence shall be with them until the end of the world:


“shine forth;”

“Shine Forth,” as used here means to become conspicuous, and reveal Oneself, and it refers either to God the Father, who dwelt between the cherubim, over the mercy seat, who sits upon a throne of grace, from where He sympathizes and communicates with His people.  Their request is that He would “shine forth” in the perfections of His nature, as He has done through His Son, the brightness of His glory, and in His grand plan for the redemption and salvation of mankind; and particularly in His lovingkindness which is seen in Christ, and which has appeared and “shone forth” in the mission of Christ, and in giving Him up for us all, and by granting His gracious presence unto His people in Zion, in His house  (Temple) and ordinances―“but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:2)―or the two words “shine forth” refer to the Messiah, the Shepherd of Israel, and the Shepherd of His flock, and under whom are the living creatures and cherubim―“Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man” (Ezekiel 1:26). It was His Father’s will that He would “shine forth” in human nature; and that the glorious light of His Gospel would break forth, and the grace of God, the doctrine of it, would appear and shine out unto all men, Jews and Gentiles.


Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.


“Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up thy strength,”

During His public ministry, Christ spoke like one having authority, and not like the Scribes and Pharisees; and when He performed miracles, He did it openly and in the sight of all; and in His sufferings and death for the salvation of His people, he appeared to be the mighty God, travelling in the greatness of His strength, and mighty to save. These tribes―“Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,” stand for all Israel, before whom the above things were done; and the inference made here is to these three tribes marching immediately after the *Kohathites, who carried the ark on their shoulders during Israel’s wilderness journeying―“Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard” (Numbers 2:17)―which is called the Lord's strength, and the ark of his strength―“And delivered his strength (the ark of the covenant)  into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand” (Psalm 78:61).  


“and come and save us”

That is to say, come from heaven to earth, not by changing places, but by the assumption of His nature upon salvation; this was promised and expected, and here it is prayed for. Christ has now come in the flesh, and to deny that is antichristian; and His purpose in coming was to save His people from their sins, from the curse and condemnation of the law, and wrath to come; and by coming on this errand, He has become the author of eternal salvation, and by working it out He has shown His great strength.



The descendants of Kohath, the second son of Levi, and ancestor of Moses and Aaron (Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16-20; Numbers 3:17; 1 Chronicles 6:1; etc.). They formed the first of the three divisions of the Levites (Exodus 6:16, 18; Numbers 3:17). In the journeyings of the Israelites they were in charge of the most holy portion of the vessels of the tabernacle, including the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary. Their place in the order of marching and encampment was south of the tabernacle (Numbers 3:29, 31). Samuel was of this division. The Kohathites consisted of four families, the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites, and the Uzzielites (Numbers 3:19, 27, etc.). The number of Kohathites is given (from a month old) as 8,600 (Numbers 3:28).


Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.


“Turn us again, O God”

This phrase would seem to mean, “Turn us again from our sins,” or, “Bring us back to our duty, and to thy love;” or, “Turn us again, O God, from our captivity and bring us once more into our own land,” or, “Return us backsliding sinners to thyself by repentance.” Any of these requests could have been made by those who were in captivity or exile;and this idea is commonly attached to the phrase by the readers of the Bible. Though in itself, this is an appropriate prayer, it is not the idea expressed here, which is simply, Bring us back; cause us to return; restore us. The prayer shows that it was not in their power to turn themselves, and they understood that  such major changes as these can only be produced by the grace of God.


“And cause thy face to shine”

The psalmist asked only for the favor of God; the light of the divine countenance. The phrase, “cause thy face to shine” occurs frequently in the Scriptures, and is an expression of favor and friendship. When we are angry or displeased, the face seems covered with a dark cloud; when pleased, it brightens up and expresses affection. There is undoubtedly an allusion in this expression to the sun as it rises free from clouds and storms, and seeming to smile upon the world. The language here was not improbably derived from the benediction which the high priest was commanded to pronounce when he blessed the people of Israel―“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).  While the world is busy seeking happiness in other things―in wealth, pleasure, gaiety, ambition, sensual delights―the child of God feels that true happiness is to be found only in religion, and in the service and friendship of the Creator.


“And we shall be saved”

It is also true that when God causes His face to shine upon us, we shall be saved from our sins, saved from our downfall, saved from our dangers, saved from our troubles, and be in a very happy and comfortable condition (see Psalm 4:6). It is only by his smile and favor that we can be saved in any sense, or from any danger.


O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?


“O Lord God of hosts”

The “God” of the armies in heaven, the angels, and of all the inhabitants of the earth, and mystically of all the elect of God, Jews and Gentiles; who are all under Him, and at His disposal, and He can do whatsoever He pleases among them and with them. His name is Immanuel, which is, by interpretation, "God with us", (Matthew 1:23). He is King of kings, and Lord of lords; He has all the creatures in heaven and earth at his command, and all the hosts of angels obey Him. He is the God of the people of Israel and He is on the side of His people, and therefore they have nothing to fear from all the hosts and armies of men; seeing that more are they that are for them than they that are against them.


There is a special significance in the repeated appeals to Jehovah (4, 14, 19) by the title which denotes His universal sovereignty―”Lord God of hosts,”―and therefore His ability to help Israel in its humiliation, and also recalls the days when He went forth with Israel’s armies to victory.


“How long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?”

Their prayers must have been offered up in a wrong manner, in a very cold or lukewarm way, without faith and love, and with anger and doubting; or otherwise God is not angry with, nor sets Himself against the prayer of His people; but is highly delighted with it. It may be the case that He is not angry at their prayers, but with the people themselves.  The question then becomes, “How long wilt Thou be angry with Thy people, and continue to  impose upon them the tokens of Thy displeasure, even though they pray, and keep praying, unto Thee?” Could it be that God was angry with them because their prayers were not offered up through the mediation of Christ, and by faith in him; such were the prayers of the Pharisees―“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5).


Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.


“Thou feedest them with the bread of tears”

 Literally, “Thou causest them to eat the bread of tears,” or of weeping. That is, their food was accompanied with tears; even when they ate, they wept. Their tears flowed so freely and so abundantly it they seemed to moisten their bread―“My tears have been my food day and night, while people keep asking me all day long, “Where is your God?” “Where is your god?” (42:3, 10) was a standard question the Gentile idolaters asked the Jews (79:10; 115:2; Joel 2:17; Micah 7:10; see Matthew 27:43).  It is what the chief priests meant when they said of the crucified Messiah, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have him . . . ” (Matthew 27:43). However, the question indicates that the writer must have been a devout believer who wasn’t ashamed of his faith; otherwise, his tormentors wouldn’t have questioned him.


“And givest them tears to drink”

There are at least three meanings to this clause: first, their tears were so abundant that they might fill-up the cup from which they drink; or second, tears ran down his cheeks, and mixed with the wine in his cup, and have become a part of his drink; or third, he alludes to the custom of mingling their wine with water. 


“In great measure”

That is, “in abundance.” The word rendered “great measure” means “a third,” and is usually applied as a measure for grain―a third part of another measure―such as, the third part of an ephah. Then the word is used for any measure, perhaps because this was the most common measure in use. The idea seems to be, not so much that God gave tears to them in great measure, but that He measured them out to them, as one measures drink to others; that is, the cup, or bottle, or jug, or pitcher in which their drink was served to them appeared to be filled with only tears.


Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves.


“Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours”

“Thou makest us (the nation Israel)an occasion for strife or bickering; that is, strife among themselves to see who will get most of our possessions (the spoils of war); or they are having a heated discussion over which of them could do the most to heighten our sufferings, and to bring disgrace and contempt upon us. “Our neighbours” (the surrounding nations) were at odds with each other over who shall do to Israel the work of desolation and ruin. In no other sense could Israel be “a strife” to neighboring nations.


“and our enemies laugh among themselves”

They “laugh” at us because of our calamities, or they do not imagine that God will help us, or they laugh at God Himself, saying He cannot save us. They are perpetually quarrelling with us, or looking for an opportunity to do so. Our neighbors, who used to and ought to live peaceably and kindly with us, laugh among themselves; insult us, and take pleasure in our miseries.


Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.


“Turn us again, O God of hosts”

 This verse is the same as Psalm 80:3, except that here the appeal is to the “God of hosts”; there, it is simply to “God." This indicates greater earnestness; a deeper sense of the need for the intervention of God, indicated by the reference to his attribute as the leader of “hosts” or armies, and therefore able to save them. The repetition of these words (verse 3) shows what was uppermost on the minds of God's people; what they were longing for, and most desirous of, namely, the light of God's countenance.


“and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”

Because redemption only comes from God, they repeatedly call upon Him, for it is a means by which they shall be saved.


Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.


“Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt”

The nation of Israel is often compared to a vine or vineyard―“I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside” (Isaiah 5:1). Someone might ask, “In what ways is Israel like a ‘vine out of Egypt?’” They became a nation while in Egypt, but at the same time they were badly oppressed and trampled upon, and yet the more they were afflicted, the more they grew and multiplied. They became a nation of over three million people. Then in due time, the Lord brought them out, with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. Israel is like a vine in several ways: The vine tree is fruitful, and bears fruit in clusters but its wood is very useless and unprofitable (Ezekiel 15:2), and it is a very weak tree, for it cannot rise and support itself, but must be propped up. Much the same can be said of many believers in Christ, for though they are fruitful through the grace of God, yet they are unprofitable to Him, and very weak in themselves, and must be supported by the right hand of His righteousness, on which they lean and support themselves. In this their natural state, they are in a situation worse than Egyptian bondage―darkness, and idolatry―out of which they are brought, through the Spirit’s effectual calling, into the marvelous light of Gospel liberty, and one day all the Lord's people will be brought out of antichristian Egypt to serve and worship Him.


“thou hast cast out the Heathen”

 “Thou hast cast out the Heathen,” out of the land of Israel (Canaan) is an allusion to the expulsion of the seven nations to make way for the Israelites―“When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations--the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you” (Deuteronomy 7:1)―and was also a representation of the ejection of Satan out of the Gentile world, and out of the souls of men through the ministry of the word of God, when the King of glory enters into the heart of a new believer, so that sin shall never again have dominion. But the Israelites did not do as the Lord told them, but instead, let the Canaanites remain in the land to be pricks and thorns in the eyes and sides of the Israelites. Likewise, indwelling sin remains in God's people to bring misery to their souls.


“and planted it”

The Lord settled the vine, the Israelites, in the land of Canaan―“You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance―the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established” (Exodus 15:17). Likewise, saints are planted in Christ, the true vine, of which they are branches; where they flourish and become fruitful and pleasant plants, plants of distinction. Since they are planted by the Lord, He is glorified by them, and they shall never be rooted up, nor wither, but prosper and thrive―“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither―whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3).


Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.


“Thou preparedst room before it”

The Israelites didn’t follow the instructions God had given them, so God acted on His own by sending hornets into Canaan ahead of the Israelites to drive the Canaanites out of the land―“I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way” (Exodus 23:28)―and make room for them. Similarly, the Lord prepared room for His church, and people, in the Gentile world, during the early years of Christianity, by sending the Gospel into all parts of it, and making it successful, and still there is room―“Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room’” (Luke 14:22).


“and didst cause it to take deep root”

This denotes the settlement of the people of Israel in Canaan. The Hebrew reads, “And didst cause it to root roots;” that is, its roots pushed deep into the soil, and the plant became firmly entrenched. Thou gavest them a firm settlement in that land, and likewise, believers, being rooted in Christ, are grounded, settled, and established in Him, and in a Gospel preaching church, where they become, “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7).


“and it filled the land”

….with people, who, in the days of Solomon, were as the sand of the sea (1 Kings 4:20), and so the Gentile world was filled with Christian converts in the early years of the Gospel; and the interest in Christ and in the church of Christ will fill the whole world at some future time―“They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).


10 The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.


“The hills were covered with the shadow of it”

There are at least three plausible interpretations of this clause:

  1. Israel overshadows kingdoms and kings. The psalmist continues to speak of Canaan, which was a mountainous and hilly country, at least some parts of it; that's why we read of the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39), and the nature of vines, which delight to grow on hills and mountains. In a symbolic sense this may denote the subjection of kings and kingdoms, which correspond here to hills, to the Israelites in the times of David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:1), and the exaltation of the church of Christ, during the end times, over the hills and mountains―“In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2).
  2. Israel is analogous to the goodly cedars. 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 in this sense the branches (Israelites) were like the goodly cedars—very different from those of ordinary vines, whose branches 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 valor.
  3. The great cedar trees of Israel. I don’t know about you, but when I think of great cedar trees, I think of the cedars of Lebanon, which were used in building the Temple. Here in America, we have the Giant redwoods of California, which may be even more impressive. However, the hills of Canaan were also covered with the shadows of cedar trees― that is, they made shade with their luxuriant foliage on the hills in every part of the land; it seemed to cover all the hills. It is probable that the “hills” intended are probably those in the south―the hill country of Judea―since the clauses which follow designate the boundaries towards the north, west, and east.


“and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars”

These words may be rendered, “the boughs thereof” (or vines)COVER “the goodly cedars,” or “cedars of God”; that is, they overrun and form a canopy over the top of “the goodly cedars”; alluding to vines climbing up and growing upon high “goodly” trees; and so may indicate, as before, the power of Israel over the kingdoms and kings of the earth. The righteous are compared to “goodly cedars” in Psalm 92:13―“planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” The most excellent things, such as these lofty, majestic cedars, often had the name of God added to them―“The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted” (Psalm 104:16). The cedars of Lebanon are among the most majestic objects known to the Hebrews. They grew so numerous, that they filled not only the fruitful valleys, but even the barren mountains. 

11 She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.


“She sent out her boughs unto the sea”

The Mediterranean, or midland sea, was the western border of the land of Canaan. They possessed or subdued the whole land from the midland sea to the river Euphrates; which were the bounds allotted to them by God―“On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates’” (Genesis 15:18). These boundaries were approximately realised in the time of David and Solomon.


“And her branches”

 The word “branches” (twigs, shoots, sucklings) is usually applied to little children, and means here “the little branches that are nourished by the parent vine.”


“Unto the river”

“The river” usually means “the Euphrates,” in the Scriptures. The Euphrates on the one side (east side), and the Mediterranean Sea on the other (west side), were the natural and correct boundaries of the land promised to Abraham―“Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea” (Deuteronomy 11:24). (also see Psalm 72:8; 1 Kings 4:21). This, in the spiritual sense, will have its accomplishment in the church of Christ, when He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth (Psalm 72:8).


12 Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?


“Why hast thou then broken down her hedges?”

Why “hast thou” dealt with thy people as one would with a vineyard; that is, break down all its enclosures, and leave it open to wild beasts? The word rendered “hedges” means wall or enclosure. In Isaiah 5:2, the prophet wrote, “And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the middle of it, and also made a wine press therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. In this metaphor, the vineyard is the Jewish nation, which God surrounded or enclosed with angels. By gathering out the stones is meant the removal of idols; by the tower, the temple erected in the midst of Judea; by the wine-press, the altar. The general meaning is that God had chosen the Jewish people; had conferred great care on them; giving them His law, defending them, providing for them. He had omitted nothing that was adapted to produce piety, obedience, and happiness. Having gone to such great lengths to protect and provide for His people, it seems only natural to ask the question, Why hast thou then broken down her hedges?”


“So that all they which pass by the way do pluck her”

Since the hedges enclosing the vineyard have been ‘broken down,’ all travelers who pass by the vineyard “pluck,” or pick off the grapes; all wild beasts eat off the leaves and branches of the vine.


13 The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.


The boar out of the wood doth waste it”

“The boar out of the wood” may describe all those men who come in and ravage the land of Canaan, whose character may be compared with the wild boar. The word rendered boar” means simply swine. The addition of the phrase “out of the wood” determines its meaning here, and shows that the reference is to wild or untamed swine; swine that roam the woods and are always extremely fierce and savage, and destroy fields, and vineyards.


The “boar,” according to some Bible scholars, is Antiochus Epiphanes, a Hellenistic Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. History reveals that his persecution of the Jews of Judea and Samaria was especially severe; but the Jews say that “the boar” refers to the fourth beast in Daniel 7:7, which represents the Roman Empire.


The word translated “Doth waste it” occur nowhere else in Scripture. It means to cut down or cut off; to devour; to lay waste.


“and the wild beast of the field doth devour it”

“The wild beast of the field” (unenclosed field) are the animals which roam at large; lions, panthers, tigers, wolves, and may represent the ravaging Assyrian and the boar the other heathen; that is, they who hate our religion, as well as they who hate our persons.


This “wild beast” is thought to be Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who took the two tribes captive, and who for a while lived among beasts and as “the beasts of the field”―who wasted and devoured the people of Israel―“Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones.” (Jeremiah 50:1).


“The wild beast” represents Rome, in the opinion of some Bible scholars. They say that the whole passage points to the Roman captivity; but this section could also describe the persecutors of the Christian church in general, for they are comparable to wild boars and wild beasts for their fierceness and cruelty; but perhaps, “The wild beast” is used here for Pagan Rome and Papal Rome; though the latter is signified by two beasts, one that rose out of the sea, and the other out of the earth; which have made dreadful havoc of the church of Christ, His vine, and have shed the blood of the saints in great abundance.


“Doth devour it” concerns the people from abroad (invaders), who consumed all that the land produced, or in some cases they laid it waste.


14 Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;


“Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts”

The Lord had been with His vine, the people of Israel, when he brought them out of Egypt, and planted and settled them in the land of Canaan, and made them a flourishing people; but had departed from them when He allowed the hedges―which He had placed all around them―to be broken down, and the boar and wild beast to enter and devour them.


Now, the people of Israel pray for Him to return and restore them to their former prosperity. In like manner, the Lord sometimes departs from His church and people, and hides His face from them; and it may be said that He has returned, when He manifests Himself, shows His face and His favor again, and grants them His gracious presence. Nothing is more desirable than that; and if He, the Lord of hosts and armies, above and below, is with His people, nothing and nobody can stand against them, or hurt them; they have nothing to fear from any enemy:


“look down from heaven”

“Heaven” is His home, the high and holy place where He dwells. It is from there, while seated on His throne that He observes men and things. While there in heaven He was a great distance from His people―He had returned to His place in resentment, and, once there He covered Himself with a cloud―and from there it would be condescending of Him to look on them on earth, for they were so very undeserving of a look of love and mercy from Him.


“and behold”

He was aware of the affliction and distress His people were in, because, in the past He beheld the affliction of Israel in Egypt, and sympathized with them, and brought them out of there.


“and visit this vine”

The “vine,” of course, is the people of Israel, for whom He had done such great things, and now they were in such a ruinous condition. The visit desired is, in a way, one of mercy and kind divine intervention. It is a visitation of mercy and not of wrath that is asked for; the coming of one who is able to save, and without whose coming there could be no deliverance. Subsequently, the Lord visited His chosen people by the mission and incarnation of His Son, and by the redemption of them by Him, and by the effectual calling of them by His Spirit and grace through the witness of the Gospel―“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them” (Luke 1:68).


15 And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.


“And the vineyard”

According to most modern scholars, the word rendered here as vineyard,” has been translated from an imperative of a verb, meaning protect: And protect what thy right hand hath planted. This wordhas also been translated as,“the stock,” the root, or plant. That is, “establish, protect (sustain) or defend what thy right hand hath planted.” This is doubtless the true idea. It is a prayer that God would guard, sustain, and defend what he had planted; to wit, the vine which he had brought out of Egypt.


“which thy right hand hath planted”

And the vineyard “which thy right hand hath planted,” would be understood by the Israelites to refer to the bringing of this vine out of Egypt, and the great things done for it in the land of Israel; and perhaps it would keep in perpetual remembrance the oppression of this vine by various calamities. Others interpret it to mean a habitation or dwelling place; and so, it may refer to Jerusalem, or the temple. And in that sense “planted” would signify “prepared” or “established,” which is the meaning here. The clause carries in it a reason or argument, enforcing the above petition (14), that this vine has been planted by the Lord, and therefore His own honor and glory were connected with it.


“And the branch”

Literally, the son; that is, the offspring or shoots of the vine (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1). Not merely the original plant―the parent stock―but all the branches which had sprung from it and which had spread themselves over the land. Israel was a son and firstborn, to the Lord; but some say that “Christ,” the Son of Man” is the “branch” the psalmist has in mind here (80:17).


“That thou madest strong for thyself”

The branch “that thou madest strong for thyself,” like the branch in the preceding clause, can refer to the nation of Israel as well as the Son of God, or both.


The Lord established Israel in the land of Canaan, and made them strong for His service and glory, so that no power can prevail against it. He caused them to grow vigorously for His own use and honor. On that account, the people of Israel called on Him to defend what belonged to Him. Perhaps the royal family of David is 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 Lord sent Christ to the lost sheep of Israel with the mission of reconciling them to Himself, and to be His representatives on earth; and He made them strong for His service and glory; some becoming disciples and starting His church.


The Son of man is an expression actually used by the psalmist (80:17). Israel was accustomed to looking forward in times of affliction to the advent of this Son of man; on His second and glorious advent the Christian Church must fix her eye on Him.


16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.


“It is burnt with fire, it is cut down”

That is, the vine of Israel, and the branch spoken of in the above verses, denote a vine, and its branches; which, when they become unprofitable, are cut down or cut off, and cast into the fire―“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:6); so Jerusalem and the temple were burnt with fire by Nebuchadnezzar, and afterwards by Vespasian.


“It is burned with fire”―That is, the vineyard. This is a description of the desolations that had come upon the nation, such as would come upon a vineyard if it were consumed by fire.


“It is cut down”―It has been made desolate by fire and by the axe.


“they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance”

That is, the Israelites, signified by the vine, whose destruction was due to the wrath of God coming upon them for their sins. God frowned upon them, and rebuked them in His hot displeasure, and that is what led to Him punishing them. Those who dished out the punishment were Israel’s enemies, the neighboring nations; but they were only instruments in His hands. Some understand this to be a wish or curse―let them that cut down the vine, and burn it with fire, perish at the rebuke of thy countenance (see Psalm 68:1).


17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.


“Let thy hand”

“Let Thy hand”(power) “be upon the man of thy right hand” to protect and strengthen Him. The “right hand” is the place of honor; and the phrase "the man of thy right hand" means one who occupies such a position of honor. The phrase “Let thy hand be upon” is ambiguous. It may denote either favor or wrath; let it be upon him either to protect him, or to punish him. The connection, however, evidently demands the former interpretation, for it is in reference to the “man whom God had made strong for himself.”


“be upon the man of thy right hand

Who is “the man of thy right hand?There are several answers that have been suggested for this question.


The first answer is that “king” (whoever he was) of the house of David―go in and out before them. He calls him “the man of God’s right hand,” because he was the representative of their nation, which was dear to God, as dear 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. Give him strength because he was in-charge of their affairs, and an instrument in God’s right hand who brought 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. 


The second answer is “the people of Israel.”Luther renders this, "Let thy hand guard the folks of thy right hand, and the people whom thou hast powerfully chosen."


The third answer is “Jesus Christ.”“The Son of man” was a favorite designation which the Lord Jesus applied to Himself to denote that He was truly a man, and to indicate His connection with human nature.


Most probably the first answer is the correct answer and correct interpretation; and the prayer is, that God would intervene on behalf of the ruler of the people―the king of the nation―whom He had exalted to so great an honor, and whom He had placed in such a position of responsibility. Now He would endow him properly for his work by giving him wisdom to give advice, and valor in battle, in order that the nation might be delivered from its foes. It is, therefore, a prayer for the civil and military ruler of the land, that God would give him grace, firmness, and wisdom, in a time of great emergency.


“Upon the son of man”

In the words “son,” and “son of man,” some see a reference to the Messiah. To others, this means simply man, But the parallelism and context show that the poet is thinking of Israel as a community, of which the vine is the emblem; or that king of David’s race, just mentioned, who was involved in the safety and prosperity, the welfare and happiness of the whole kingdom. Here it refers to the king or civil ruler.


whom thou madest strong for thyself”

That is, to serve the interest of thy kingdom among men refers to the man whom thou hast raised up to that exalted position of king, and whom thou hast endowed to do a work for thee in that position; him, “thou madest strong for thyself.”


18 So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.


“So will not we go back from thee”

That is, if thou will intercede for us; if thou will deliver the nation; if thou will help him whom thou hast placed over it, giving him wisdom and courage, we will, from now on, be obedient to thy law; we will not worship other gods. It is a solemn promise or pledge of future obedience made by the psalmist, and expressing the purpose of the people if God would be merciful and would withdraw His judgments; a proper pledge that is often made by the Hebrew people only to be disregarded; a proper pledge for all who are being afflicted, and often made when under such circumstances as have been mentioned, but in the case of the Hebrews, often made only to be forgotten.


“quicken us, and we will call upon thy name”

The people of God are sometimes dead and lifeless in their bodies, and in the exercise of grace and discharge of duty. They need the quickening influences of the Spirit and grace of God, which are necessary to a fervent calling upon the name of the Lord in prayer, and without which no one will stir up themselves to do so. For no one can call on God but such as are raised up as it were from death to life, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.


“Quicken us”―literally, Give us life. Restore life to us as a people; save us from ruin, and reanimate us with thy presence, and restore us to our former tranquility and happiness. And we will call upon thy name―We will worship thee; we will be faithful in serving thee.

19 Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.


“Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts”

The psalm is closed by the refrain in its third and most perfect form. First we had, “Turn us again, O God” (ver. 3); then, “Turn us again, O God of hosts” (ver. 7); now, “Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts” (the title expressive of universal sovereignty)―the appeal to God continually increasing in intensity. Some have thought that the doctrine of the Trinity is suggested here, while others suppose that three captivities of Israel are pointed at. Having made his third appeal by the covenant Name, the psalmist seems to feel that he has done all he can, and ends his poem. 


“O Lord God of hosts” There is a climax in the use of divine names in the refrains (3, 7, 19). The Psalmist clenches his appeal by the use of the covenant name Jehovah, along with the title expressive of universal sovereignty, God of hosts.


“cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved”

 It appears that this was the gist of their song, being in darkness and distress, that they might have the light of God's countenance, and therefore they repeat it again and again.