Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
Psalm 80, with a subtitle addressing the Assyrians, also begins with the idea of “conducting Joseph.” Augustine takes the word “Assyrian” to refer to “men guiding.” Therefore he finds a theme of direction in the Psalm (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332556). The direction we need, coming from the place of God’s glory, is fulfilled in the love of God, for, as Autustine reminds us, God is love (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332567). Augustine ties this and the humility of God in Christ together, showing that in the crucifixion God has shown his love for us. Because of that connection, then, the Psalmist would cry out in verse three, asking God to convert his people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332577).
Verse four expresses God’s state of anger with His servant. Augustine notes that God’s chastizement, which often looks like anger, falls on all those whom God receives (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332587). This, according to verse five, is a measured activity. The nations which rejected God were cast out, while those who were faithful to God were favored and nurtured (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332602). The favored nation, in fact, according to verse nine, filled the land. Augustine observes that this illustrates the power of God’s blessing (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332607).
Augustine interprets verses 10-11, in which God’s nation has grown from sea to river, covering even the mountains, as an allegory of God’s blessing extending even to the works of the prophets and the patriarches (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332627). The picture of a vineyard covering even the forests, however, is countered in verse 12 by the metaphor of the vineyard being cut down. Augustine sees this as Israel being cut down and without defenses (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332632).
Verse 13 speaks of a boar from the wood destroying the vineyard. Augustine notes that the swine is unclean in Jewish law (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332637). They cosider it a sign of the Gentiles. Despite the destruction caused by the wild boar, verses 14-15 call on God to restore His people. Augustine sees this happening in Christ who restores health and grafts the nations into his own fruitful vine (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332647).
Verse 16 speaks of things being dug up and burned in the fire. Augustine sees these things as sin, particularly sins rooted in desire or in fear. These issues he considers to be at the root of the bulk of our sin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332657). Once the sin has been rooted out and done away with, Augustine sees the restorative nature of versace 17-18. God’s people are strengthened by His hand and can dwell on his grace (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332672).