Psalm 80:1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that lead Joseph like a flock; you that dwell between the cherubim, shine forth.
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(1) The reference to the shepherd, so characteristic of the Asaphic psalms, is, no doubt, here chosen especially in recollection of Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:24. “Shepherd” and “Rock” were Jacob’s especial names for God, as the “Fear” was that of Isaac, and the “Mighty” that of Abraham; but in the blessing of Joseph the patriarch seems to have made more than usually solemn pronunciation of it. It is, therefore, very doubtful whether we must press the selection of Joseph here as a distinct and intended reference to the northern tribes or kingdom, in distinction to Judah or the southern kingdom.

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,” 1Chronicles 28:18; Ecclesiasticus 49:8; also Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 1:26.)

Psalm 80:1. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel — O thou who hast undertaken to feed and govern thy people of Israel, as a shepherd doth his flock, now perform thine office, and rescue thy flock from those grievous wolves which devour and destroy them; thou that leadest — Or, didst lead, formerly; Joseph — That is, the children of Joseph, or of Israel, as he now said. The name of Joseph, the most eminent of the patriarchs, for his dignity and piety, as well as the right of primogeniture, transferred upon him from Reuben, is frequently elsewhere put for all the ten tribes. Thou that dwellest between the cherubim — Those two sacred emblematical figures, which were set in the most holy place, upon the mercy-seat, before which the high-priest sprinkled the blood upon the great day of atonement. By this title the psalmist prudently and piously reminds the ten tribes of their revolt from God, and of the vanity of their superstitious addresses to their calves, at Beth-el and Dan, and of the necessity of their returning to the true worship of God before the ark, at Jerusalem, if they desired or expected any relief from him. And by this title it seems more than probable that this Psalm was not written, as some have supposed, upon occasion of the Babylonish captivity, in and after which time there was no ark, nor cherubim; nor does Daniel, or any of the prophets, then address God by that title. Shine forth — Out of the clouds, wherein thou seemest to hide thyself. Show forth thy power and goodness to, and for, thy poor oppressed people, in the face of thine and their enemies.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 ends are not right, or there is some secret sin indulged in them, or he will try their patience and perseverance in prayer. 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 favour; there is no conversion to God but by his own grace.Give ear - Incline the ear; as if the ear of God was then turned away, or as if he was inattentive to what was occurring. See the notes at Psalm 5:1. O Shepherd of Israel. See the notes at Psalm 23:1.

Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock - Joseph, the father of Ephraim and Manasseh. See the notes at Psalm 78:67. The name Joseph seems here to be used poetically to represent the whole people of Israel, as he was a man so prominent in their history, and especially as Egypt is mentioned as the country from which the vine had been transplanted - a country where Joseph had acted so important a part, and in connection with which his name would be so naturally associated. The meaning is, that God had led the tribes of the Hebrew people as a shepherd leads or conducts his flock.

Thou that dwellest between the cherubims - See the notes at Psalm 18:10. The allusion here is to God as dwelling, by a visible symbol - the Shechinah - on the mercy-seat, between the cherubims. Exodus 25:18, Exodus 25:22; Exodus 37:7; 1 Samuel 4:4; 1 Kings 6:25. See the notes at Isaiah 37:16; and notes at Hebrews 9:5. "Shine, forth." Manifest thyself. Let light come from thy presence in the midst of our darkness and calamity.


Ps 80:1-19. Shoshannim—"Lilies" (see on [613]Ps 45:1, title). Eduth—Testimony, referring to the topic as a testimony of God to His people (compare Ps 19:7). This Psalm probably relates to the captivity of the ten tribes, as the former to that of Judah. Its complaint is aggravated by the contrast of former prosperity, and the prayer for relief occurs as a refrain through the Psalm.

1, 2. Joseph—for Ephraim (1Ch 7:20-29; Ps 78:67; Re 7:8), for Israel.

Shepherd—(Compare Ge 49:24).

leadest, &c.—(Ps 77:20).

dwellest … cherubim—(Ex 25:20); the place of God's visible glory, whence He communed with the people (Heb 9:5).

shine forth—appear (Ps 50:2; 94:1).

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

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 saved.

Psalm 80:1

"Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel." Hear thou the bleatings of thy suffering flock. The name is full of tenderness, and hence is selected by the troubled Psalmist: broken hearts delight in names of grace. Good old Jacob delighted to think of God as the Shepherd of Israel, and this verse may refer to his dying expression: "From thence is the Shepherd, the stone of Israel." We may be quite sure that he who deigns to be a shepherd to his people will not turn a deaf ear to their complaints "Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock." The people are called here by the name of that renowned son who became a second father to the tribes, and kept them alive in Egypt; possibly they were known to the Egyptians under the name of "the family of Joseph," and if so, it seems most natural to call them by that name in this place. The term may, however, refer to the ten tribes of which Manasseh was the acknowledged head. The Lord had of old in the wilderness led, guided, shepherded all the tribes; and, therefore, the appeal is made to him. The Lord's doings in the past are strong grounds for appeal and expectation as to the present and the future. "Thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth." The Lord's especial presence was revealed upon the mercy-seat between the cherubim, and in all our pleadings we should come to the Lord by this way: only upon the mercy-seat will God reveal his grace, and only there can we hope to commune with him. Let us ever plead the name of Jesus, who is our true mercy-seat, to whom we may come boldly, and through whom we may look for a display of the glory of the Lord on our behalf. Our greatest dread is the withdrawal of the Lord's presence, and our brightest hope is the prospect of his return. In the darkest times of Israel, the light of her Shepherd's countenance is all she needs.

Psalm 80:2

"Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us." It is wise to mention the names of the Lord's people in prayer, for they are precious to him. Jesus bears the names of his people on his breastplate. Just as the mention of the names of his children has power with a father, so is it with the Lord. The three names were near of kin; Ephraim and Manasseh represent Joseph, and it was meet that Benjamin, the other son of the beloved Rachel, should be mentioned in the same breath: these three tribes were wont to march together in the wilderness, following immediately behind the ark. The prayer is that the God of Israel would be mighty on behalf of his people, chasing away their foes, and saving his people. O that in these days the Lord may be pleased to remember every part of his church, and make all her tribes to see his salvation. We would not mention our own denomination only, but lift up a prayer for all the sections of the one church.

Psalm 80:3

"Turn us again, O God." It is not so much said, "turn our captivity" but turn "us." All will come right if we are right. The best turn is not that of circumstances but of character. When the Lord turns his people he will soon turn their condition. It needs the Lord himself to do this, for conversion is as divine a work as creation; and those who have been once turned unto God, if they at any time backslide, as much need the Lord to turn them again as to turn them at the first. The word may be read, "restore us;" verily, it is a choice mercy that "he restoreth my soul." "And cause thy face to shine." Be favourable to us, smile upon us. This was the high priest's blessing upon Israel: what the Lord has already given us by our High-priest and Mediator we may right confidently ask of him. "And we shall be saved." All that is wanted for salvation is the Lord's favour. One glance of his gracious eye would transform Tophet into Paradise. No matter how fierce the foe, or dire the captivity, the shining face of God ensures both victory and liberty. This verse is a very useful prayer. Since we too often turn aside, let us often with our lips and heart cry, "Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved." THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm was composed either,

1. Upon the same occasion with the former, to wit, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, as most conceive; which yet seems not probable, because here is no mention of the temple, nor of Jerusalem, as there is in the foregoing Psalm; nor of the tribe of Judah, which was most concerned in that desolation; but of Joseph, Psalm 80:1, and of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, which were carried captive long before that time; nor do the expressions of this Psalm import such a desolating judgment as those of the former do. Or,

2. Upon occasion of the captivity of the ten tribes, as some others think. But why then is Benjamin named, which is none of that number, nor went into captivity with them, but was joined with Judah? Or,

3. Upon occasion of some other calamity or calamities which befell the tribes of Israel after their division into two kingdoms, and before the captivity and destruction of either of them; in which time all the evils mentioned in this Psalm bid befall them, sometimes in one tribe or part, and sometimes an another, as is manifest from their history.

Shoshannim-Eduth seems to be the name of a musical instrument; though many separate the latter part of the word from the former, and expound Eduth, a testimony, or witness between God and his people, of his relation to them, and of their dependence upon him.

The psalmist bemoaneth the miseries and sad condition of the church, Psalm 80:1-7; that God’s past manifold mercies are changed into desolating judgments, Psalm 80:8-13. He prayeth for deliverance out of them, with a promise of that fulness, Psalm 80:14-19.

O Shepherd of Israel; thou who hast undertaken to feed and govern thy people of Israel, as a shepherd doth his flock, now perform thine office, and rescue thy flock from those grievous wolves which devour and destroy them.

That leadest; or didst lead formerly, though now thou hast forsaken them.

Joseph, i.e. the children of Joseph, or of Israel, as he now said, this clause being but a repetition, the former in other words. Compare Psalm 77:15. And the name of Joseph, the most eminent of the patriarchs both for his dignity and piety, and the right of primogeniture transferred upon him from Reuben, 1 Chronicles 5:1, is elsewhere put for all the ten tribes, as Ezekiel 37:6,19 Am 5:6,15 6:6 Zechariah 10:6; and for all the tribes, as Psalm 81:5 Obadiah 1:18.

Between the cherubims; which were the mercy-seat above the ark; by which title he prudently and piously minds the ten tribes of their revolt from God, and of the vanity of their superstitious addresses to their calves at Dan and Beth-el, and of the necessity of their returning to the true worship of God before the ark at Jerusalem, if they desired or expected any relief from him. And by this title it seems more than probable that this Psalm was not made upon occasion of the Babylonish captivity, in and after which time there was no ark nor cherubims, nor do I remember that Daniel or any prophets did then apply themselves to God by that title. See Da 9. Shine forth out of the clouds, wherein thou seemest to hide thyself. Show forth thy power and goodness to and for thy poor oppressed people in the face of thine and their enemies.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,.... The title of a shepherd for the most part belongs to the Messiah, and who is expressly called the Shepherd and stone of Israel, as distinct from the God of Jacob, Genesis 49:24 and may be so called because he was to be, and was of Israel, according to the flesh, and sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and appointed by his Father as a Shepherd over them; and it is on the mountains of Israel he provides a good fold, and pasture for his sheep, Romans 9:4 and it is for the spiritual Israel, his sheep, his elect, both among Jews and Gentiles, for whom he laid down his life; by which it appears that he is the good Shepherd, as he also is the great, the chief, the only one; though this character also may be given, and agrees unto God the Father, who rules, and governs, and feeds his people, his spiritual Israel, as a shepherd his flock; and who is addressed by his people, and is desired to "give ear" to their cries and prayers in their affliction 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, but answers sooner or later, and in his own way; and the consideration of his character as a shepherd may be an encouragement to their faith, that he will hear, and will not withhold any good thing from them, Psalm 23:1.

thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; the posterity of Joseph, the same with Israel, the spiritual Israel, who are like a flock of sheep, a separate people, distinguished by the grace of God, and purchased by the blood of Christ; and as there is but one Shepherd, so one fold, and one flock, and that but a little one neither; and which is sometimes called a flock of slaughter, because exposed to the rage and fury of men; yet a beautiful one in the eye of Christ, which he undertook to feed: and this he leads 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; which were over the mercy seat, and were either emblems of angels, among whom Jehovah dwells, and is surrounded by them; by whom Christ was ministered to on earth, and now in heaven, and among whom he was when he ascended thither, and where they are subject to him: or of the two Testaments, which look to Christ, the mercy seat, and agree with each other in their testimony of him, and in other things; and where these are truly opened and explained, there the Lord dwells: or rather 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 in his temple; though it seems best of all to consider them as emblems of Gospel ministers, since Ezekiel's four living creatures are the "cherubim", Ezekiel 10:20, and these the same with 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, Revelation 4:6 and among these the Lord dwells, and with them he has promised his presence shall be unto the end of the world:

shine forth; either God the Father, who dwelt between the cherubim, over the mercy seat, who sits upon a throne of grace, from whence he communes with his people and communicates to them; and then the request is, that he would shine forth in the perfections of his nature, as he has done in his Son, the brightness of his glory, and in redemption and salvation by him, where they are all illustriously displayed; and particularly in his lovingkindness through him, 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 and ordinances; see Psalm 1:2, or the Messiah, the Shepherd of Israel, and the Leader of his flock, and under whom the living creatures and cherubim are, Ezekiel 1:26, that he would shine forth in human nature; that this bright morning star would appear; that the dayspring from on high would visit men, and that the sun of righteousness would arise with healing in his wings; and that the glorious light of his Gospel would break forth, and the grace of God, the doctrine of it, appear and shine out unto all men, Jews and Gentiles.

<> Give ear, {a} O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the {b} cherubims, shine forth.

(a) This Psalm was made as a prayer to desire God to be merciful to the ten tribes.

(b) Move their hearts, that they may return to worship God properly, that is, in the place you have appointed.

1. The Psalmist addresses God (1) as the Shepherd of Israel, a title which is the correlative of the words in Psalm 79:13, thy people and the flock of thy pasture (cp. Psalm 74:1), and appeals to their claim on His protecting care: (2) as thou that leddest Joseph like a flock, recalling His providential guidance of them through the wilderness (Psalm 77:20; Psalm 78:52): (3) as thou that sittest enthroned upon the Cherubim, words which suggest the double idea of the King enthroned in heaven and yet dwelling in the midst of His people (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15), and are here clearly intended to recall the Presence of God with His people in the wilderness manifested from the ‘mercy-seat’ above the Ark (Exodus 25:22). Israel is the nation as a whole; Joseph represents the tribes of the Northern Kingdom, in which the Psalmist has a special interest. Cp. Jacob and Joseph, Psalm 77:15. The use of the title Shepherd may allude to the use of the word in Jacob’s blessings of Joseph, Genesis 48:15 (fed = shepherded), Genesis 49:24.

shine forth] Manifest Thyself in power and glory for our deliverance. Cp. Psalm 50:2; Psalm 94:1; Deuteronomy 33:2.

1–3. A prayer for the restoration of God’s favour to His people.Verse 1. - Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel. The title, "Shepherd of Israel," is a new one; but it follows naturally from the metaphor, so often employed (Psalm 74:1; Psalm 77:20; Psalm 78:52; Psalm 79:13), of Israel being God's "flock." Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock. "Thou that leddest" (Cheyne). The mention of "Joseph" shows at once that the thoughts of the psalmist are fixed on the northern kingdom. Thou that dwellest between the cherubims. The two cherubim that overshadowed the mercy seat seem to be meant. Shine forth; i.e. "show thyself - manifest thy might" (comp. Psalm 50:2). Out of the plaintive question how long? and whether endlessly God would be angry and cause His jealousy to continue to burn like a fire (Deuteronomy 32:22), grows up the prayer (Psalm 79:6) that He would turn His anger against the heathen who are estranged from the hostile towards Him, and of whom He is now making use as a rod of anger against His people. The taking over of Psalm 79:6-7 from Jeremiah 10:25 is not betrayed by the looseness of the connection of thought; but in themselves these four lines sound much more original in Jeremiah, and the style is exactly that of this prophet, cf. Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 2:3, and frequently, Psalm 49:20. The אל, instead of על, which follows שׁפך is incorrect; the singular אכל gathers all up as in one mass, as in Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 17:13. The fact that such power over Israel is given to the heathen world has its ground in the sins of Israel. From Psalm 79:8 it may be inferred that the apostasy which raged earlier is now checked. ראשׁנים is not an adjective (Job 31:28; Isaiah 59:2), which would have been expressed by עונותינו חראשׁנים, but a genitive: the iniquities of the forefathers (Leviticus 26:14, cf. Psalm 39:1-13). On Psalm 79:8 of Judges 6:6. As is evident from Psalm 79:9, the poet does not mean that the present generation, itself guiltless, has to expiate the guilt of the fathers (on the contrary, Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; Ezekiel 18:20); he prays as one of those who have turned away from the sins of the fathers, and who can now no longer consider themselves as placed under wrath, but under sin-pardoning and redeeming grace.
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