Psalm 80:4
O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry against the prayer of your people?
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(4) How long wilt thou be angry?—Literally, until when hast thou fumed? A pregnant construction combining two clauses. Thou hast been long angry; how long wilt thou continue to be angry? (Comp. Psalm 13:2, Note, and Exodus 10:3.) Others say the preterite here has the sense of a future perfect, which comes to the same thing: “How long wilt thou have fumed? (See Müller’s Syntax, § i. 3, rem. (a), Prof. Robertson’s trans.)

Against the prayer.—Literally, in, i.e., during the prayer. The smoke of the Divine anger is, perhaps, conceived of as a cloud through which the prayer (often symbolised by an ascending incense) cannot penetrate.

Psalm 80:4-6. How long wilt thou be angry, &c. — Thou art so far from answering our prayers, whereby we seek thy favour, that, by thy continuing and increasing our miseries, thou seemest to be more incensed against us by them. But the words may be rendered, How long dost thou preserve thy wrath during the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears — With tears instead of bread, which they either want, or cannot eat because their grief hath taken away their appetites: or they eat their meat from day to day in tears. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours — Who used, and ought, to live peaceably and kindly with us. Thou makest us the object or matter of their strife and contention. He means, either, 1st, They strive one with another who shall do us the most mischief, or who shall take our spoils to themselves: or, 2d, They are perpetually quarrelling with us, and seeking occasions against us. Our enemies laugh among themselves — Insult over us, and take pleasure in our calamities.80:1-7 He that dwelleth upon the mercy-seat, is the good Shepherd of his people. But we can neither expect the comfort of his love, nor the protection of his arm, unless we partake of his converting grace. If he is really angry at the prayers of his people, it is because, although they pray, their ends are not right, or there is some secret sin indulged in them, or he will try their patience and perseverance in prayer. When God is displeased with his people, we must expect to see them in tears, and their enemies in triumph. There is no salvation but from God's favour; there is no conversion to God but by his own grace.O Lord God of hosts - Yahweh, God of armies. That is either

(a) the God who rules among the hosts of heaven - the inhabitants of that holy world; or

(b) God of the hosts of the sky - the worlds above - the stars, that seem marshalled as hosts or armies, and that are led forth each night with such order and grandeur; or

(c) God of the hosts on earth - the armies that are mustered for war. The phrase is one which is often applied to God. See the notes at Psalm 24:10; and at Isaiah 1:24.

How long wilt thou be angry - Margin, as in Hebrew, wilt thou smoke. The allusion is derived from the comparison of anger with fire. See the notes at Psalm 74:1.

Against the prayer of thy people - That is, Thou dost not answer their prayer; thou seemest to be angry against them even when they pray; or in the act of calling upon thee. The earnest inquiry here is, how long this was to continue. It seemed as if it would never end. Compare the notes at Psalm 77:7-9.

4. be angry—(Compare Margin.)4 O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?

5 Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.

6 Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves.

7 Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Psalm 80:4

"O Lord God of Hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?" How long shall the smoke of thy wrath drown the smoking incense of our prayers? Prayer would fain enter thy holy place but thy wrath battles with it, and prevents its entrance. That God should be angry with us when sinning seems natural enough, but that he should be angry even with our prayers is a bitter grief. With many a pang may the pleader ask, "How long?" Commander of all the hosts of thy creatures, able to save thy saints in their extremity, shall they for ever cry to thee in vain?

Psalm 80:5

"Thou feedest them with the bread of tears." Their meat is seasoned with brine distilled from weeping eyes. Their meals, which were once such pleasant seasons of social merriment, are now like funeral feasts to which each man contributes his bitter morsel. Thy people ate bread of wheat before, but now they receive from thine own hand no better diet than bread of tears. "And givest them tears to drink in great measure." Tears are both their food and their drink, and that without stint. They swallow tierces of tears, and swim in gulfs of grief, and all this by God's own appointment; not because their enemies have them in their power by force of arms, but because their God refuses to interpose. Tear-bread is even more the fruit of the curse than to eat bread in the sweat of one's face, but it shall by divine love be turned into a greater blessing by ministering to our spiritual health.

Psalm 80:6

"Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours." Always jealous and malicious, Edom and Moab exulted over Israel's troubles, and then fell to disputing about their share of the spoil. A neighbour's jeer is ever most cutting, especially if a man has been superior to them, and claimed to possess more grace. None are so un-neighbourly as envious neighbours. "And our enemies laugh among themselves." They find mirth in our misery, comedy in our tragedy, salt for their wit in the brine of our tears, amusement in our amazement. It is devilish to sport with another's griefs; but it is the constant habit of the world which lieth in the wicked one to make merry with the saints' tribulations; the seed of the serpent follow their progenitor and rejoice in evil.

Psalm 80:7

"Turn us again, O God of hosts." The prayer rises in the form of Its address to God. He is here the God of Hosts. The more we approach the Lord in prayer and contemplation the higher will our ideas of him become.

Thou art so far from answering our prayers whereby we seek to appease thee, that by thy continuance and increase of our miseries thou seemest to be the more incensed against us by them. O Lord God of hosts,.... Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe, that the word "Elohe" is here understood, and the words to be read, "O Lord God, the God of hosts"; of the armies above and below, against whom there is no standing, nor any before him when he is angry:

how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? which must be put up in a wrong manner, in a very cold and lukewarm way, without faith and love, and with wrath and doubting; or otherwise God is not angry with, nor sets himself against the prayer of his people; nor does he despise, but is highly delighted with it: or how long wilt thou be angry with thy people, and continue the tokens of thy displeasure, though they pray, and keep praying, unto thee? it is in the Hebrew text, "how long wilt thou smoke (m) at the prayer of thy people?" that is, cause thine anger to smoke at it; in which it is thought there is an allusion to the smoke of the incense, to which prayer is compared; see Psalm 141:2, and denotes the acceptance of it with God through the mediation of Christ; but here his displicency at it, not being offered up through him, and by faith in him; such were the prayers of the Pharisees, Matthew 6:5.

(m) "fumabis", Pagninus, Vatablus; "fumaturus es", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "fumasti", Montanus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis, & Ainsworth.

O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be {d} angry against the prayer of thy people?

(d) The faithful fear God's anger, when they perceive that their prayers are not heard immediately.

4. O Lord God of hosts] Jehovah Elôhîm Tsebâôth, as in Psalm 59:5. For the meaning see note on Psalm 46:7. There is a special significance in the repeated appeals to Jehovah (4, 14, 19) by the title which denotes His universal sovereignty, and therefore His ability to help Israel in its humiliation, and also recalls the days when He went forth with Israel’s armies to victory.

how long wilt thou be angry] Lit. hast thou been fuming. For the verb cp. Psalm 74:1. The tense denotes ‘how long hast Thou been and wilt Thou continue to be angry,’ and implies that Israel’s distress has already lasted long. Cp. Psalm 74:9-10; Psalm 79:5.

against the prayer of thy people] As the punishment for the sins of their ancestors (Proverbs 1:28 ff.; Lamentations 3:8). Perhaps the smoke of the divine wrath is thought of as a thick cloud which interposes between them and God; see Lamentations 3:44. We might render in spite of the prayer, but the rendering of A.V. and R.V. is the more forcible. God’s indignation against His people is so intense, that even their prayers are an offence to Him. On the wrath of God as the manifestation of His holiness see Oehler’s O.T. Theology, § 48.

The LXX and Syr. read thy servant or thy servants for thy people.

4–7. How long shall Israel continue to be the object of Jehovah’s displeasure, and the scorn of neighbouring nations?Verse 4. - O Lord God of hosts. A form of address unusual in the Psalms, but occurring in Psalm 59:5; Psalm 84:8; and below in ver. 18. How long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? literally, how long wilt thou smoke? (comp. Psalm 74:1). "Against the prayer" means "in spite of the prayer," or "notwithstanding the prayer." Ordinarily, God forgives, and ceases from his anger, as soon as the afflicted one makes earnest prayer to him. But this is not always so. A time comes when his wrath cannot be appeased - when "there is no remedy" (2 Chronicles 36:16). Evil has been persisted in too long. The victory of the world is indeed not God's aim; therefore His own honour does not suffer that the world of which He has made use in order to chasten His people should for ever haughtily triumph. שׁמך is repeated with emphasis at the end of the petition in Psalm 79:9, according to the figure epanaphora. על־דּבר equals למען, as in Psalm 45:5, cf. Psalm 7:1, is a usage even of the language of the Pentateuch. Also the motive, "wherefore shall they say?" occurs even in the Tפra (Exodus 32:12, cf. Numbers 14:13-17; Deuteronomy 9:28). Here (cf. Psalm 115:2) it originates out of Joel 2:17. The wish expressed in Psalm 79:10 is based upon Deuteronomy 32:43. The poet wishes in company with his contemporaries, as eye-witnesses, to experience what God has promised in the early times, viz., that He will avenge the blood of His servants. The petition in Deuteronomy 32:11 runs like Psalm 102:21, cf. Psalm 18:7. אסיר individualizingly is those who are carried away captive and incarcerated; בּני תמוּתה are those who, if God does not preserve them by virtue of the greatness (גדל, cf. גּדל Exodus 15:16) of His arm, i.e., of His far-reaching omnipotence, succumb to the power of death as to a patria potestas.

(Note: The Arabic has just this notion in an active application, viz., benı̂ el-môt equals the heroes (destroyers) in the battle.)

That the petition in Psalm 79:12 recurs to the neighbouring peoples is explained by the fact, that these, who might most readily come to the knowledge of the God of Israel as the one living and true God, have the greatest degree of guilt on account of their reviling of God. The bosom is mentioned as that in which one takes up and holds that which is handed to him (Luke 6:38); חיק- (על) אל (שׁלּם) השׁיב, as in Isaiah 65:7, Isaiah 65:6; Jeremiah 32:18. A sevenfold requital (cf. Genesis 4:15, Genesis 4:24) is a requital that is fully carried out as a criminal sentence, for seven is the number of a completed process.

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