Thought to have been written during the time of captivity, the community lament of Psalm 80 makes pleas to the “Shepherd of Israel” to come and save them. Verse 2’s mention of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh serves to include the whole of Israel. Ephraim and Manasseh represent the northern kingdom, while the tribe of Benjamin remained with Judah after the division. The phrase “let your face shine” in verses 3 and 7 remind of Aaron’s blessing in Numbers 6:24-25. The psalm speaks of Israel as a vine, a metaphor that the Scriptures use often (Isaiah 5:1-3, Jeremiah 2:21, Jeremiah 12:10, Ezekiel 17:6). Then in John 15:1-5, Jesus speaks of Himself as the true vine.
Psalm 120 is the first of 15 psalms with the superscription “a song of ascents” (Psalms 120-134). They are a widely varied collection of psalms, ranging from laments to thanksgiving psalms to royal psalms. We are unsure what is the significance of the word, although many say that these were songs that were sung on “the steps,” which is one meaning for the word.
The best guess we have read is that they were songs that were sung during pilgrimage to the various feasts of the year, which would indicate the “ascent” to Jerusalem for worship. Still, the most interesting view is the belief of some Jews that there are 15 of them because there were 15 steps from the “Court of the Women” to the “Court of the Men” in the Temple.
This one is an individual lament from someone who has been living among ungodly people who are hostile to him. In verse 5, Meschech and Kedar are thought by most to represent places of barbarians. Meshech was in Asia Minor near the Black Sea, and Kedar was in the Syrian desert to the south of Damascus.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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