Psalm 80:8-13

8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast expelled the heathen, and planted it. 9. Thou hast cleansed the ground before it: thou hast rooted its roots, and it hath filled the land. 10. The mountains were covered with its shadow, and its branches were like the cedars of God.1 11. It extended its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the river.2 12. Why then hast thou broken down its hedges, so that all who pass by the way pluck [or tear] it in pieces? 13. The boar out of the forest3 hath wasted it;4 and the wild beast of the field hath eaten it up.


8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt. Under the figure of a vine, the singular grace which God was graciously pleased to exercise towards his people after he had redeemed them is celebrated; and this powerfully contributed to inspire them with the hope of being heard. For which of us can be so presumptuous as to dare to come into the presence of God until he himself has previously invited us? Now, he allures us to himself both by his benefits and by his word. The object in view in now presenting his liberality before him is, that he should not leave unfinished the work of his hands which he had commenced. It is indeed true that, without his word, the benefits which he has conferred upon us would make a faint impression upon our hearts; but when experience is added to the testimony of his word, it greatly encourages us. Now, the redemption of which mention is here made was inseparably connected with the covenant of God; for he had, even four hundred years before, entered into covenant with Abraham, in which he promised the deliverance of his seed. What is stated amounts in short to this, that it is unbecoming that God should now suffer the vine which he had planted and cultivated so carefully with his own hand to be wasted by wild beasts. God's covenant was not made to last only for a few days, or for a short time: when he adopted the children of Abraham, he took them under his keeping for ever. By the word vine, is intimated the high place which this people held in the estimation of God, who not only was pleased to hold them as his own inheritance, but who also distinguished them by peculiar honor, even as a vine excels all other possessions. When it is said that the land or ground was cleansed, this is a repetition of what had been previously stated, that the heathen were cast out to make room for the chosen people. Perhaps, however, the allusion is to the continual digging which vines require, in order to their being kept clean lest they should degenerate; this allusion being made with the view of showing how God had performed the part of a good husbandman towards his people, since, after having planted them, he did not cease to employ every means to cherish and preserve them. What is added immediately after, Thou hast rooted its roots, is not to be understood of the planting of it at first, but of the pains taken by God to propagate it,5 which is a part of the culture of the vine. Whence it follows that the mountains were covered with its shadow; for the whole country, although mountainous, was filled with inhabitants; so much did that people increase in number. The branches of this vine are compared to the cedars of God, that is, to the most beautiful and most excellent cedars; thereby to express still more vividly how eminently the seed of Abraham were blessed of God. The sea and the Euphrates, as is well known, were the divinely appointed boundaries of the land promised them for an inheritance.

12. Why then hast thou broken down its hedges? This is the application of the similitude; for nothing seems more inconsistent than that God should abandon the vine which he had planted with his own hand, to be rooted up by wild beasts. It is true that he often threatened and forewarned the people by his prophets that he would do this; but what constrained him to inflict upon them so strange and dreadful a species of punishment was, that he might render their ingratitude the more detestable. At the same time, it is not without reason that true believers are enjoined to take encouragement from such distinguished liberality on the part of God; that, even in the midst of this rooting up, they might at least hope that He, who never forsakes the work of his own hands, would graciously extend his care towards them, (Psalm 138:8.) The people were brought to desolation, on account of their own incurable obstinacy; but God did not fail to save a small number of shoots, by means of which he afterwards restored his vine. This form of supplicating pardon was, indeed, set forth for the use of the whole people, with the view of preventing a horrible destruction. But as very few sought to appease the wrath of God by truly humbling themselves before him, it was enough that these few were delivered from destruction, that from them a new vine might afterwards spring up and flourish. The indignity which was done to the Church is aggravated from the contrast contained in the words, when God, on the one hand, is exhibited to us as a vine-keeper, and when the destroyers of this vine, on the other, are represented to be not only all that pass by, but also the wild boars and other savage beasts. The word Mork, kiresem, which I have translated to waste, is taken by some for to fill the belly.6 This sense would very well agree with the present passage; but it is not supported by the ordinary meaning of the word.

1 The LXX. read this verse as follows. Eka>luyeno]rh hJ skia< aujth~v, kai< ai> ajnadendra>dev aujth~v ta<v ke>drouv tou Qeou~ . "The shadow thereof covered the hills, and the branches thereof [covered] the cedars of God." The LXX. seem to have read hok, casah, covered, instead of wok, cossu, were covered. With this agree the versions of the Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate; and this is the reading adopted by Hare, Houbigant, Lowth, and Horsley. "Is it an extravagant image of a flourishing vine," says Lowth, "to say, that it climbed up even the highest cedars, spread itself along the branches, and covered the very top of them?" "The image," says Merrick, "may, I think, well be allowed in the description of an allegorical vine, which is represented as stretching out her branches unto the sea, and her boughs unto the river; especially when compared with what Kaempfer says of some foreign vines. 'Maximum proventum vites tribuunt, quae nulla jutae cultura palmites per summa spargunt fastigia arborum.' -- Amoenitat. Exot. Fascic. 2, Relat. 9, § 2, page 390. The author of the History of the Piratical States of Barbary (published in 1750) informs us that some of the vines near Algiers 'climb to the tops of very lofty trees, and, extending themselves to others, form natural bowers,' page 163. And Beverley, in his History of Virginia, (page 116, ed. 2d,) affirms that he has seen great trees covered with single vines, and those vines almost hidden with grapes. . . . The vine's covering the cedars, in the Psalmist's description, might be intended to suggest an idea not only of its extent, but also of its sovereignty, (agreeably to what Musculus writes on the place: 'Operti fuerunt montes umbra ejus, et ramis ejus cedri Dei: Ponit haec de potentia regni Israelitici,' etc.,) as a Greek poet has, from this very circumstance, represented the vine as the mistress of the trees. (Nonnus, Dionysiac. L. 12, 278, 279.")

2 The sea -- the river -- i.e., the Mediterranean, which was the Western, and the Euphrates, which was the Eastern boundary of Palestine. The Divine promise respecting the extent of the territory of the chosen people runs in these terms, (Deuteronomy 11:24,) "From the river Euphrates to the uttermost sea shall your coast be." And it was fulfilled in the days of Solomon, (1 Kings 4:21; Psalm 72:8.) In his time there were Hebrew colonies and garrisons near the river Euphrates.

3 According to the Talmud, the middle letter of the word rendered forest in this verse, is the middle letter of the Hebrew Psalter.

4 The boar out of the forest hath wasted it. "This terrible animal is both fierce and cruel, and so swift, that few of the savage tribes can outstrip him in running. His chief abode, says Forbes, is in the forests and jungles; but, when the grain is nearly ripe, he commits great ravages in the fields and sugar plantations. That ferocious and destructive animal, not satisfied with devouring the fruit, lacerates and breaks with his sharp and powerful tusks the branches of the vine, or, with his snout, digs it up by the roots, pollutes it with his touch, or tramples it under his feet." -- (Paxton's Illustrations, volume 2, page 66.) Homer complains of the ravages of this animal, (Iliad, 9. 535;) and Mr Ward remarks, that the buffaloes and wild hogs make the like ravages in the orchards of the Hindoos; to prevent which, men are placed day and night in proper situations to guard against them. -- (Ward's Hindoos, volume 2, page 327.)

5 "Mais du travail qu'il avoit prins a la provigner." -- Fr.

6 "hnmorky, (jechar-semenna,) will destroy it. Targum, Will tear it up with its tusk. Fut. pih. From Morx, he cut off, cut down, consumed, a quadriliteral, same as the Chaldaic Mowq. Occurs here only in Scripture, and, according to others, is compounded of srk, a belly, as though srkw, will fill the belly from it." -- Bythner.