1 To the chief Musician
A Psalm of Asaph. Give
ear, O Shepherd of
Israel, thou that leadest
Joseph like a flock; thou
that dwellest between
the cherubims, shine
2 Before Ephraim and
Benjamin and Manasseh
stir up thy strength, and
come and save us.
3 Turn us again, O God,
and cause thy face to
shine; and we shall be
4 O LORD God of hosts,
how long wilt thou be
angry against the prayer
of thy people?
5 Thou feedest them
with the bread of tears;
and givest them tears to
drink in great measure.
6 Thou makest us a strife
unto our neighbours:
and our enemies laugh
7 Turn us again, O God
of hosts, and cause thy
face to shine; and we
shall be saved.
8 Thou hast brought
a vine out of Egypt:
thou hast cast out the
heathen, and planted it.
9 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
11 She sent out her
boughs unto the sea, and
her branches unto the
12 Why hast thou then
broken down her hedges,
so that all they which
pass by the way do pluck
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
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
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
19 Turn us again, O
LORD God of hosts,
cause thy face to shine;
and we shall be saved.
The above English version is from the King James Bible, Cambridge 1769 Text.
We find Psalm 80 at an interesting
place in the book
of Psalms. In the numbering
of the whole, it is Psalm 80. In
the numbering of the individual
books of the Psalms, it is the 8th
one in book three. I see this as signifi
cant, since the number eight
points to Jesus. The number value
of the name of Jesus in the Greek
is 888. The full title of Jesus is
"Lord Jesus Christ". In Hebrew
this is Adon Yeshua Hamesheach
whose numeric value totals 810.
Eight is the number one above
the perfection of the law, which
is 7. It was also the day the Lord
was raised from the dead. Jesus
was raised the fi rst day of the new
week, but also the day after the seventh.
The Torah also commanded
to circumcise a male child on his
eighth day after birth. Though the
circumcision was the sign of the
old covenant, circumcision was a
type of removing the hardness of
the heart and being broken before
God, which Psalm 80 expresses.
In my study on the sections of
Psalm 119, the eighth letter section
is Cheth - Giving the Perfect
Testimony. This theme also lies at
the heart of this psalm. Psalm 80
addresses the foundation of salvation
and is messianic in pointing
at the "Son of Man" who is to
come as God's answer for man's
desperate need. God's arrangement
of the psalms is not simply
This psalm confirms the basic
framework of the gospel message.
Though this may tend to make you
think this is to be a pleasant psalm,
it is found in a rather sad position
as well. In the sequence of things,
it follows Psalm 79, which is a very
sad psalm. Psalm 80 follows 79 to
complete the wail. It comes from
the position of suffering, "Why are
You allowing such evil to befall us
God?" It is in Psalm 81 and Psalm
82 that presents God's direct answer
to the grief posed in Psalms
79 and 80.
Psalm 80 repeats a common
chorus of seeking for God to make
His "face to shine" upon Israel.
This expression of "face to shine"
is only found in the psalms seven
times. Three of those times are
found in this psalm alone.
I believe the following will help
see why this is a significant phrase:
15 And wine that maketh glad
the heart of man, and oil to make
his face to shine, and bread which
strengtheneth man's heart.
As far as man is concerned,
it is the use of oil that makes a
man's face to shine. The Israelites
used oil, such as olive oil, to
make themselves beautiful. The
use would clearly be noticeable
and it was a sign of blessing. If
one was mourning, they wouldn't
put the oil on their faces. In the
time of Christ, they also wouldn't
use it when fasting, so everyone
would notice their "religious"
devotion in fasting. Jesus condemned
this particular twist in
the lack of usage.
Oil also represents annointing
which shows both God's choice
and is a type of the Holy Spirit.
In the comparison of how the
oil makes the face to shine from
a man, we can take a lesson. The
oil reflects the light that shines
upon it to those around. So likewise,
we see that the Holy Spirit
reflects the light back from God's
face. It speaks of blessing and it
speaks of light. It is that which
the Holy Spirit does. It is also the
will of the Holy Spirit (for He is a
person) that we look at the beauty
of the one upon whom He adorns.
Like we look at the beauty of the
man with the oil on his face, we
don't focus on the oil, so it is the
Holy Spirit's will that we look at
the beauty of the Father and of
the Son, both of whom he adorns
for their glory.
In the following, the top verses and breaks follow the Hebrew construction. The top line is a literal
word for word translation. The line under each literal, in blue, is the King James Bible reading.
1. To the chief musician to lillies testimonies to Asaph melodying.
To the chief Musician upon Shoshannimeduth, A Psalm of Asaph.
The introductory line is detailing
for the temple use in the
hands of the chief musician.
The "lillies testimonies" has
been attributed to indicate a
song to be used at the changing
of workers in the temple. This is
only speculative. Psalm 60 is the
only other psalm that has a similar
use description. Another possible
meaning would be in relation
to the instrument or style of
performance used in performing
The last piece of introductory
information relates to the Levitical
ministers whose specific work
was in song. The Hebrew term I
translated as "melodying" indicates
this is a song whose music
was performed on some kind of
plucking string instrument to
form the melody. It was not designed
to be sung accapella.
2. Shepherd Israel to hear
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
lead as sheep Joseph
thou that leadest Joseph like a flock;
dwell the cherubim to shine forth.
thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.
I find it interesting this opening
verse launches with the mention
of Joseph. As we just saw,
this psalm was directed towards
Asaph. Asaph means "gatherer"
and Joseph means "Yah has added".
The name Joseph is a build
upon Asaph in the Hebrew. The
one is to "add", the other is to
have "Yah do the adding".
From the following, I believe
we see in what sense the psalmist
67 Moreover he refused the
tabernacle of Joseph, and chose
not the tribe of Ephraim: 68
But chose the tribe of Judah, the
mount Zion which he loved.
We can see "Joseph" was another
way of saying the northern
tribes of Israel, as separate from
the southern kingdom of Judah.
The heart of this psalm is a request.
The singer is requesting
the "Shepherd of Israel" to lead
Joseph like a flock of sheep. It
does not say He is doing it. The
reason is not because THE Shepherd
has no interest to do so. The
problem is due to the hearts of
these human sheep, as we shall
see in later verses.
The reference to the "cherubim"
comes from the picture
drawn by the Arc of the Covenant
and the details of the holy of holies
as built in the Temple of Solomon.
There we find a cherub on
each side of the place the glory of
the Lord abode upon. This "shine
forth" is a theme line we find flowing
throughout this psalm.
We should also note the one
who is dwelling between the
cherubim is THE Shepherd. This
identifies this Shepherd as God
for only God abides over the Arc!
3. To the face of Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh
to arouse oneself your might
stir up thy strength,
and to come to salvation to us.
and come and save us.
The psalmist goes on to request
the Shepherd to shine
forth before "Ephraim and Benjamin
and Manasseh". Ephraim
and Manasseh draw our attention
to the northern tribes.
Benjamin draws our attention
to the smallest tribe. Now Benjamin
remained with Judah, Jerusalem
was a city of Benjamin,
but in the mind of the psalmist
I would conclude the thought is
the largest and the smallest of
As I said about the running
theme in this psalm of the Shepherd
shining forth, so we see
such a request is to call upon God
to arouse Himself to save them.
To see His face to shine is to see
Him arise to save us.
4. Elohim turn back us
Turn us again, O God,
and to illumine your face and to be saved.
and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
This is the first place we actually
find the term of God, found
in "Elohim", in this psalm. So far
He has been identified as God via
descriptive means. "God" also is
the term for His supremacy, but
not the choice name of revealed
Savior. The cry for God to save us
must start in the place of seeing
his ultimate supremacy.
In considering the first line of
verse 4, I want to look at a comparison
from the New Testament:
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as
ye have always obeyed, not as in
my presence only, but now much
more in my absence, work out
your own salvation with fear and
trembling. 13 For it is God which
worketh in you both to will and
to do of his good pleasure.
As the apostle Paul mentioned,
to be able to return to God, we
must approach Him with the
right heart of "fear and trembling"
seeking His face to work
in us the necessary change of
turning and doing His good pleasure.
Apart from God's doing it,
it won't ultimately be done.
It is also in this fourth verse we
see the first "chorus", as it were
to this psalm. We will see it in
developing variation in verses 8
In brief summary here, we see
three points of request:
1. Turn us back to God.
2. Illuminate Your face to us.
3. Save us.
5. Yahowah Elohim hosts
O LORD God of hosts,
until when you be angry in the intercessions your people?
how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?
The psalmist now adds the
name revealed to Moses of Yahowah.
This coupled with the
previous title of deity in Elohim.
The addition of hosts draws our
attention to the psalmists clear
view of God as a mighty warrior.
In his "fear and trembling", which
we saw Paul mention, he recognizes
God as Judge. In beginning
to turn, that fear and trembling
has to become reality. That perception
of God as Yahowah Elohim
of hosts, shows God has
begun to answer the psalmist's
prayer for God to turn him.
The second line of verse 5
shows us the important position
of already being one of God's
people. The psalmist isn't seeking
some ‘initial' conversion. He
is seeking restoration.
You may wonder how it is the
psalmist perceived God was angry
in the prayers of His people.
I cannot say it was exactly the
same, but I do know of one type
I presently see in the United
States. I see people calling for
such as a national day of prayer.
They gather and pray for God's
favor to be poured on the land.
They want to see His salvation
from the increased suffering that
is coming our way. What I see
lacking, is the attitude of repentance
in "fear and trembling".
There is little acknowledgement
that our nation is walking in the
way of God's wrath. Next to no
acknowledgment that our nation
is walking in many grievous sins
and those who call themselves
"Christians" likewise cleave to
many grievous iniquities. It is
such prayers that seek God's
grace, but fail to deal with the
item of repentance from wickedness
that God gets angry over
from His people.
6. You to cause to consume them bread weep
Thou feedest them with the bread of tears;
and to give them to drink in tears measure of a third part.
and givest them tears to drink in great measure.
Verse 6 takes us to the food and
drink God was serving to the people
of Israel. They were feeding
upon a consuming sorrow. A sorrow
founded in suffering due to the
sin they had turned after. Initially,
they obviously perceived that path
of sinfulness was the path of joy
and happiness. As is ultimately the
case though, they discovered such
a course brings just the opposite,
as ordained by God Himself.
7. To appoint us object of contention to our neighbor
Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours:
and our enemies will deride him to themselves.
and our enemies laugh among themselves.
This verse turns from "them"
to "us". This takes on the more
personal note of including "self"
in the place of those suffering.
It is important to note the
psalmist is recognizing the scorn
has come upon them because of
God's decree. A true repentance
will confess that God is ultimately
behind the suffering we undergo
when we have turned our backs
on Him. The psalmist knows God
not only allowed the scorn and
derision, but actually appointed
such to come upon them. God
warned through Moses that such
would come upon them if they
8. Elohim hosts return us
Turn us again, O God of hosts,
and to illumine your face and to be saved.
and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
At verse 8, we pick up the chorus
again we found in verse 4. We
should take special note of the singular
addition here. This time the
psalmist adds "hosts". This adds
the development of both "fear and
trembling", but also of hope. Hope
that upon being turned by God back
to Him, He will also turn back the
scorning neighbors. History tells
us that scorning neighbors usually
advance to destroying neighbors.
9. Vine from Egypt to bring out
Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt:
to drive out nations and to plant.
thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.
Following the chorus, the
psalmist does what is called for
often in the psalms, he "recalls".
Israel is being compared to
a vine God brought from Egypt
and planted in the promised land
of "Israel". This recalling brings
to memory the Lord's salvation
from Egyptian slavery, and His
clearing the promised land of the
previous inhabitants for the sake
of planting this vine.
10. You remove out of the way to her face (double word)
Thou preparedst room before it,
and you to strike her root out (double word) and to fill the land.
and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.
Verse 10 uses a double-word
play in the Hebrew. Being in the
middle, I would hazard to guess
it was part of the musical pattern.
Another distinct possibility,
is it would cause the listener
of the original Hebrew to ponder
this verse just a little more.
The heart of this psalm focuses
on God's providing the promise of
the land to Israel. It wasn't just the
promise the psalmist is looking at,
it is the fulfillment! It also recalls
all of this fulfillment and prospering
was due to God's working.
11. Cover them mountains shadow
The hills were covered with the shadow of it,
and her bough cedar trees of these.
and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.
Verse 11 continues with the
blessing of the vine's (Israel)
growth in the promised land.
This figurative vine grew to become
great as it filled all the land.
The branches of the vine became
massive, likened to the branches
of the cedars.
12. To send forth her fruit until sea
She sent out her boughs unto the sea,
and into river her young shoots.
and her branches unto the river.
Israel had continued to grow.
This verse speaks of the goal of
planting a vine: to bring forth
fruit. She had born fruit, as she
covered the land to its borders.
The whole was fruitful.
The young shoots into the river
reminds me of a vine I once read
about. In London, England there
was this very large and fruitful
vine that was apparently quite a
distance from the River Thames.
They wondered how this vine
was doing so wonderfully with
no visible means of water. Somehow,
or other, they found that
this vine had sent out an underground
root that covered the
great distance to the river. That
distant river was its thriving lifeline
In a symbolical comparison, it
is noteworthy the scriptures often
use the "sea" as a symbol of the
nations. The river's also show us
the living water that comes from
the heavens. So with this vine of
the fruitful Israel, it received its
water for fruitfulness from that
God-given living water and bore
fruit right up to the nations. You
see, it was not possible that Israel
bare fruit in the sea, for God
had purposely taken Israel out of
the world (of Egypt), for the very
purpose of becoming fruitful.
13. To what you break down her wall
Why hast thou then broken down her hedges,
and to pluck her all cross over path?
so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?
Now the psalmist takes a turn
of wondering inquiry. A private
vineyard was fenced off to protect
it from being trampled and killed.
God had taken down this wall of
protection for His vineyard. The
psalmist wonders why He would
do all He did for her fruitfulness,
then destroy its protection. The
result of God's removal of protection
was resulting in Israel's
wasting and destruction.
14. Will tear apart swine from the forest
The boar out of the wood doth waste it,
and moving creatures field of will feed her.
and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.
The destruction of the vine was
being done by those symbolizing
the pagan nations. The swine and
the moving creatures of the field
represented the "unclean" animals
that Jews were to separate themselves
from. Since the Jews weren't
walking faithfully with God, He
determined the very types they
should have separated themselves
from would come upon them. Poetic
justice, as it were.
15. Elohim hosts return I beseech thee
Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts:
to look from heaven and see
look down from heaven, and behold,
and attend to vine this.
and visit this vine;
The psalmist cries for the God
who has the ability (military
might) to set things right again
for His vine, to take action. His
appeal is for God to no longer
leave this vine of Israel at a distance.
He pleas for God to begin
the process of "shining" His face
upon them. The look must come
first, then the labor for care and
restoration to follow.
The first line of verse 15 sounds
almost identical, in the Hebrew,
to the first half of verse 8. It plays
on the chorus line we have seen
running through this psalm. What
is also of interest, is the turning is
not for God to cause Israel to turn
but for God Himself to do the
turning. Though the second half
varies from the chorus we have
seen in verse 8, I have highlighted
the first line since it would have
served as a match.
16. And support of a tree which to plant your right hand
And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted,
and upon son you strengthen to you.
and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.
The first half of verse 16 continues
this cry to God to attend to the
care of this vine He abandoned.
There is an interesting dance
of feminine/masculine usage we
see through this and the following
few verses. The vine takes the
feminine. God naturally takes the
masculine. Such usage helps to
see who is being referred to. Now
one may wonder why the psalmist
would speak in the cross-over of
gender while still addressing the
"you". I have seen such a switch in
the middle of verses in the psalms
in the spirit of prophesying. The
psalmist is speaking one moment,
then suddenly God is the one who
is speaking. The reason such a
switch would be significant here,
is due to the very prophetic nature
of the passage. It is clearly messianic.
The heart of this psalm lies
in the seeking to have God's face
shine upon His people. The reason
He was no longer doing so was
because of their unrepentant sin.
The answer to the prayer of the
vine, would be in the coming of a
son. This son, we will see shortly,
is the "Son of Man". You might
remember that Jesus repeatedly
told those around Him that He
was the "Son of Man". The "Son of
Man", who was to come from the
vine to strengthen it, is the very
purpose we see the specific feminine/
masculine word usage we
find in these verses. God's answer
to the psalmist's prayer begins to
shine through in the second half
of verse 16.
17. Burn in fire to cut down her
It is burned with fire, it is cut down:
from rebukes your face will perish them.
they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.
The psalmist continues to a
view of what God was actually going
to do upon their rejection of
the "Son of Man". Such a destruction
literally swept over the land
of Israel in 70 A.D. The Jewish
historian Josephus recorded the
destruction that came upon the
land at the time of the destruction
of the temple. Such cutting
down didn't just hit Jerusalem.
It was nation-wide.
18. To be your hand upon man your right hand
Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand,
upon son man you strengthen to you.
upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.
The Hebrew actually groups the
first two sets of words together like
so: "To be-your hand" "upon-man"
your right hand ("your right hand"
is a single word). It also groups
"upon-son-man". Such grouping
helps us to follow the thought.
God's answer of the "shining face"
is to be found in the very right hand
of God personified in the "Son of
Man". The right hand of God is
not only in a manifestation of His
strength, which is included, but in
one who is a "son of man" and one
who is from the vine of Israel.
An interesting thing to note is
the feminine/masculine change
that follows in the second half of
verse 18. Such a structure shows
the reference of who "thou madest
strong for thyself" is refering to, is
the vine. The first three quarters of
verse 18 are all in the masculine.
That majority portion refers to God
and this "Son of Man". I believe
the change in gender is to show the
"Son of Man" is an offshoot of the
vine itself. God's answer in making
His face to shine upon Israel was to
be found in the "Son of Man".
19. And not backslide from you
So will not we go back from thee:
they to have life and in your name will call.
quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.
20. Yahowah Elohim hosts turn back us
Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts,
to illumine your face and to be saved.
cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
This verse shows the hope of
Israel. There were to be those
who would continue wayward
from God, but a portion would
turn in response to the coming
of this "Son of Man". Those who
were to hearken, would be the
fulfilment of the request we saw
in the initual chorus line of this
psalm, "Elohim turn back us".
Verse 19 parallels back onto the
chorus as it brings this psalm to
its close and fulfillment. Nineteen,
in the first line, parallels over 20's
first line. You see, at the time of
the writing of the psalm, the desire
of the chorus was unfulfilled,
so in the final verse the looking
forward still remained future.
In verse 19, the psalmist finds
the confident sight of God's answer
to that prayer. God was going
to answer that prayer of turning
back His people to Him. This
was particularly the work of John
The second half of 19 and 20
likewise parallel the answer to
the prayer for "to illumine your
face and to be saved". The request
of this second half is twofold.
The answer of "God's illumining
His face" was to be "they
to have life". The answer to "and
to be saved" was to be "in your
name will call". Folks, this is the
Yahowah God of hosts has
provided the answer of turning
us, sending His right hand as the
Son of Man from the vine of Israel.
This Son of Man being the
literal shining of God's face upon
us in response to beseeching His
saving help. It is His shining
face that gives us life. It is calling
in His name by which we are
Some Concluding Thoughts
I began preparing the study of
this psalm with the expectation
it was to be a cheery psalm. After
all, the chorus was a "Shine
Your face on us God!" This psalm
turned out to be far from it. Dealing
with God's salvation is a joyous
thing, but the very need,
dealing with the hardness of our
hearts and the suffering such has
brought, brings the touch of grief
These days the levity found
in the church often goes beyond
safe bounds. The Gospel of salvation
is something to rejoice
greatly in, but remember the new
birth cannot but come through
the initial gate of the pangs of
birth. Only after that is the child
brought forth. Following that,
the neglect of so great a salvation
simply leaves us like the psalmist,
crying in sorrow of suffering
when God turned from those who
scorned His deliverance from the
bondage of Egypt. Oh, they enjoyed
their deliverance, but they
did not consider what it was they
were delivered unto. It was not
to simply live their lives in being
in the "land of the free". That
freedom from the slavery of this
world never left them free from
obedience to God. That was a
lie of the wicked one!
The call of this psalm goes out
to both those lost in this world, as
well as those who have come into
a saving relationship with God.
The unsaved can rejoice that God
can and will turn them, if they
call upon Him to do so. Those
already part of the church can
likewise see the call upon them.
Consider this whole psalm was
written from the position of one,
as well as for the nation, who
had already been redeemed
by God. They already had gone
through the redemption of the
Passover, but had fallen. They too
needed to cry out the chorus:
Turn us again, O LORD God
of hosts, cause thy face to shine;
and we shall be saved.
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