on Psalms 80 :2
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh - It is supposed that these three tribes represent the whole, Benjamin being incorporated with Judah, Manasseh comprehending the country beyond Jordan, and Ephraim all the rest - Dodd.
on Psalms 80 :2
Before Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh - Ephraim and Manasseh were the two sons of Joseph, and their names were given to two of the tribes of Israel. See the notes at Psalm 78:67. They seem to have been particularly mentioned here, because Joseph, their father, had been referred to in the previous verse; and it was natural, in speaking of the people, to mention his sons. Benjamin is mentioned because, in the encampment and march through the wilderness, these three tribes always went together, as the descendants of the same mother. Genesis 46:19-20; Numbers 2:18-24; Numbers 10:22-24. It is probable that they were always especially united in the great operations of the Hebrew people, and that when one was mentioned it was customary to mention the others, as being of the same family, or descended from the same mother. There does not appear, from the psalm itself, any particular reason why the prayer is offered that God would manifest himself especially to these three tribes; and nothing in regard to the occasion on which the psalm was composed, can be argued from the fact that they are thus mentioned.
Hengstenberg indeed supposes that the common idea that the tribe of Benjamin adhered to Judah in the revolt of the ten tribes is erroneous, and that Benjamin was one of the ten tribes which revolted; and that Simeon was not included in the number because he had no separate territory, but only certain towns and places within the limits of the tribe of Judah. Prof. Alexander, embracing this opinion, supposes that the psalm refers to the calamities which came upon the ten tribes at the time of their captivity. But this supposition seems to me to be improbable. The obvious and fair interpretation of the narrative on the subject is, that the tribe of Benjamin adhered to that of Judah at the time of the revolt, for it is said 1 Kings 12:21 that "when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to right against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon." Besides, even on the supposition that Benjamin was one of the ten revolted tribes, the fact that these three tribes are particularly mentioned together would not prove that the psalm referred to the carrying away of the ten tribes into Assyria, for still the question would arise why these are particularly mentioned rather than any other of the ten. It seems to me, therefore, that the fact that these are specified can be explained on the suppositions above suggested:
(a) That the main reference in the psalm was to the coming out of Egypt - the bringing the "vine" - that is, the people - from that land Psalm 80:8;
(b) That in alluding to that, it was natural to make mention of Joseph, who was so distinguished there, and who, after so many trials, was exalted to so great honor that his name might be given to the whole people;
(c) That when Joseph had been spoken of, it was natural, in the progress of the psalm, to mention particularly the names of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh; and
(d) that having mentioned them, it was natural also to refer to one whose name was always associated with that of Joseph as his younger brother by the same mother, and to the tribe of that name which was always associated with Ephraim and Manasseh in the march.
I regard the psalm, therefore, as referring to the entire Hebrew people, and the names of these three tribes as representatives of the whole nation. The prayer is, that God would manifest; himself in the presence of his people.
Stir up thy strength - As if he were indifferent to their condition; as if he put forth no effort to save them. See the notes at Psalm 35:23.
And come and save us - Margin, as in Hebrew, come for salvation to us. That is, Come and deliver us from our enemies and our dangers.
on Psalms 80 :2
80:2 Before Ephraim - Here is an allusion to the ancient situation of the tabernacle in the wilderness, where these tribes were placed on the west - side of the tabernacle, in which the ark was, which consequently was before them.