In The Vine and the Son of Man (my review), Andrew Streett reveals Psalm 80 as an overlooked but important contribution to the Messianic portrait in both the Old and New Testaments. He considers the role of the Psalm within the Psalter, as an influence behind Daniel 7, its interpretation in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism, and then the New Testament in Mark’s Gospel, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mk 12) and Jesus’ true vine discourse in John 15.
In this post, I want to focus on some of Psalm 80’s connections within the Psalter that develop Messianic expectation.
Psalm 80 and Messianic Expectation
Psalm 80 is a lament pleading that the Lord respond to a national disaster of some kind (Ps 80:6-7). Using the language of a vine, Asaph recounts Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the Lord “planting” her in the land (Ps 80:8-11). However, now this vineyard has been ravaged by beasts (Ps 80:12-13, 16), that is, foreign nations. Her only hope is if Lord has pity on the vine and the king (Ps 80:14-15, 18).
Andrew Streett identifies five unique contributions that Psalm 80 makes to the messianic profile in the Psalter.
- A purely future hope. Other Psalms are interpreted as future either in light of their placement in the Psalter (Ps 132 in Book V) or in light of contrasting the ideal language of the Psalm and the historical reality of Israel’s kings (Ps 2, 72, 110). However, the king of Psalm 80 is clearly projected into the future.
- Association with national revival. The connection between the king and Israel in this Psalm is so close that they appear to blur together . Is the vine the king or the nation (Ps 80:14-15)? What happens to Israel’s king happens to Israel. No other Psalm so clearly links Israel’s national restoration with the restoration of her king.
- Human viceregent over paradise. Also unique to Psalm 80 is Eden-like language being applied to the king. Since Israel is presented as a vineyard, and her enemies as wild animals, it is fitting that the king be presented as a new Adam (=“son of Adam”, Ps 80:17). Streett goes so far as to say Psalm 80 presents the king “as a type of second Adam figure who will be set up over a restored vine/vineyard” (pg. 80).
- The king and plant imagery. No other Psalm clearly describes the Davidic kingdom as a vine. This provides a bridge to the language of the prophets (Isa 11:1, 10; 53:2; etc).
- The Twelve Tribes Reunified. Only Psalm 80 specifies that the king will reign over the twelve unified tribes of Israel as they were under Solomon and David (Ps 801-3, 11). Ezekiel 36-37 develops this idea.
Psalm 80 and the King
In addition to presenting unique messianic features, Psalm 80 also is connected to other key messianic Psalms.
Along with Psalm 1, Psalm 2 establishes the key themes of the Psalter. Psalm 2 anticipates an anointed coming king (Ps 2:2) who the Lord will establish (Ps 2:6) and who will subdue foreign nations and rule the world (Ps 2:8). As the king, he is in a father-son relationship with YHWH (Ps 2:7; 2 Sam 7).
Psalm 80 refers to the “man of your right hand” and “the son of man” (Ps 80:17), also calling him simply “the son” (Ps 80:15). Only Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 72:1 identify the king as “son”, emphasizing the uniqueness of Psalm 80. This makes the petitions in Psalm 80 a request for the Psalm 2/72 king.
Psalm 8 is probably not directly about the king, but rather about mankind’s role as kings over the earth. In Psalm 8, the synonymous parallelism, a common feature in Hebrew poetry, identifies the “son of man” with “man(kind)” (Ps 8:4). “Son of man” is a common expression for mankind elsewhere in the OT. However, Psalm 80 is about the king, and he is called “son of man” (Ps 80:17). Why is this? Following the imagery of Psalm 80, by the king restoring the garden and defeating the beasts (symbolic for foreign nations and possibly evil divine beings), he would restore God’s Psalm 8 creation order. Given the creation theme of Psalm 8, the connection is clear.
Within Book II of the Psalter, Psalm 72 sets forth the picture of the ideal king. He is either expected to be Solomon, or the Psalm is written by Solomon (depending on how one translates the first verse). Either way, Solomon, the greatest of Israel’s kings, does not meet the Messianic hope. One of the hopes for the king would be that he rules over the whole earth (Ps 2:8). Psalm 72:8 presents this hope also, and Psalm 80:11 alludes to it.
Within Book III, Psalm 89 presents the failure of Israel’s kings that eventually led to exile. Within the Psalm, the hope for the king, in light of God’s covenant with David, is recounted. Psalm 89:25 points back to Psalm 72:8 and thus connects also to Psalm 80:11. Other connections that speak of the Ps 89 national desolation are Ps 80:12=Ps 89:40 and Ps 80:13=Ps 89:41.
The hope-filled Psalm 110 (Psalm 2 on steroids) is also connected to Psalm 80. Psalm 110:1 famously speaks of the king as being at God’s right hand. Though having God at one’s right hand often speaks of His protection and support (Ps 18:35; 20:7), only Psalm 80 and 110 use that idea to communicate shared rule (Ps 80:17).
Beyond the Psalter, Psalm 80 appears to have influenced Daniel 7 and New Testament teaching of Jesus. It is surprising that this Psalm is so often overlooked considering its unique contribution to the Messianic hope, and even moreso given its connection to other Messianic Psalms!