Continuing my translation with comment of Psalms 73-89, the third book of psalms
Psalm80: To the choir leader, tune: Lilies. A testimony of Asaph. A Psalm
Listen, Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock!
From your chair amongst the Cherubim, shine out
on the tribes of Ephraim , Benjamin amd Manasseh!
rouse up your battle- strength and come to rescue us!
Bring us back, God;
let your face shine, and we shall be safe.
Yahweh God of armies, how long will your anger smoke
against your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
beakers of tears you gave them as drink.
You make us the reward of our neighbours’ warfare
the butt of our enemies’ mockery.
Bring us back, God of armies
let your face shine and we shall be safe.
You plucked out a vine from Egypt;
you expelled the nations and planted it;
You cleared the ground and it rooted;
It rooted and filled the whole land.
The mountains were mantled by its shade;
broad cedars by its canopy.
Its boughs reached out to the sea;
its suckers towards the Euphrates.
Why then did you break down its boundary hedges
so that every passerby can pluck its fruit?
The wild boar wastes it;
a swarm from the fields feeds on it.
Turn again, God of armies,
Oh look down from heaven and see
and value this vine,
the root which your right hand planted.
They have fired it with flames and flattened it:
they will die at the frown of your judgement.
But let your hand be upon your right-hand man,
the human child, whom you chose for yourself!
Then we will not turn back from you;
give us new life and we will call on your name.
Bring us back, Yahweh God of armies;
Let your face shine, and we shall be safe!
Ancient Assyrian musicians ( Pinterest)
The main feature of this psalm is its remarkable central section, the story of Israel, the vine planted by God.
This is a psalm of complaint to God, probably at the time of the Assyrian destruction of Israel, the northern kingdom of Israel/Judah. The psalm is quite clear that terrible defeats had taken place, and that the nation has almost ceased to exist. The theology of contemporary prophets such as Amos and Hosea saw these defeats as God’s punishment of the people for idolatry and social injustice.
There is none of that in this psalm: God has plucked a vine from Egypt, planted it in a good land, .and allowed it to grow and flourish magnificently. But now he has deprived it of protection, so that it has been pillaged by all comers. At no point does the psalmist confess any national sins which could justify God’s neglect – a neglect therefore presented as inexplicable: why would anyone build something up, only to tear it down again?
The psalm is less concerned with solving this mystery than it is in persuading God to think again. There is no animosity towards God. Perhaps he has his reasons. The important purpose of the psalm is to remind God that his people still exist and still want to be in that relationship in which God’s face shines upon them.
The beautiful refrain which occurs three times in the psalm carried its essential prayer.