The Messiah Of Psalm 80 -- By: Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 174:696 (Oct 2017)
Article: The Messiah Of Psalm 80
Author: Walter C. Kaiser Jr.


The Messiah Of Psalm 80*

Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

* This is the fourth article in the four-part series “Using the Context of the Psalms to Interpret Their Message,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 2-5, 2016.

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. is President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Hamilton, Massachusetts.

The “Shepherd” theme that begins Psalm 80 connects this psalm with the previous psalms in a group of seven (Pss. 77-83). Psalm 79:13 ends with “We are your people, the sheep of your pasture,” while Psalm 80:1 opens with a cry to the shepherd of Israel: “Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.”

Psalm 80 is both the midpoint of the whole book of Psalms and the central psalm of the seven psalms of devastation and destruction that are Psalms 77-83. In this central position, Psalm 80 interacts with the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, also known as the house of Joseph. It reinforces this focus on the northern ten tribes by its clear references to “Joseph,” “Ephraim,” and “Manasseh.” Not only is Psalm 80 the midpoint of these seven psalms, but also Jewish scribes who counted the Hebrew letters (as a safeguard for maintaining accuracy in copying the text) of this book identified the Hebrew word “from-the-forest” (מִיָּעַר) in Psalm 80:13 as containing the middle letter of the book of Psalms. Thus, what at first glance appears to be an isolated psalm dealing with the northern capital city of Samaria is in fact closely aligned with the adjoining psalms.

Franz Delitzsch described Psalm 80 as consisting of

five eight-line strophes, of which the first, second and fifth [strophes] close with the refrain, “Elohim, restore us, let Thy countenance shine forth, then shall we be helped.” The refrain begins the first time with Elohim [5], the second time with Elohim Tsebaoth [7], and the third time with a threefold Jahve Elohim Tsebaoth [19], with which the second strophe (ver. 5 [4]) also opens.1

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