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Psalms 90:2-4

Context

90:2 Even before the mountains came into existence, 1 

or you brought the world into being, 2 

you were the eternal God. 3 

90:3 You make mankind return 4  to the dust, 5 

and say, “Return, O people!”

90:4 Yes, 6  in your eyes a thousand years

are like yesterday that quickly passes,

or like one of the divisions of the nighttime. 7 

1 tn Heb “were born.”

2 tn Heb “and you gave birth to the earth and world.” The Polel verbal form in the Hebrew text pictures God giving birth to the world. The LXX and some other ancient textual witnesses assume a polal (passive) verbal form here. In this case the earth becomes the subject of the verb and the verb is understood as third feminine singular rather than second masculine singular.

3 tn Heb “and from everlasting to everlasting you [are] God.” Instead of אֵל (’el, “God”) the LXX reads אַל (’al, “not”) and joins the negative particle to the following verse, making the verb תָּשֵׁב (tashev) a jussive. In this case v. 3a reads as a prayer, “do not turn man back to a low place.” However, taking תָּשֵׁב as a jussive is problematic in light of the following following wayyiqtol form וַתֹּאמֶר (vatomer, “and you said/say”).

4 tn In this context the shortened prefix form does not function as a preterite, but indicates what is typical of the world.

5 tn The Hebrew term דַּכָּא (daka’) carries the basic sense of “crushed.” Elsewhere it refers to those who are “crushed” in spirit or contrite of heart (see Ps 34:18; Isa 57:15). If one understands this nuance here, then v. 3 is observing that God leads mankind to repentance (the term שׁוּב, shuv, “return,” which appears twice in this verse, is sometimes used of repentance.) However, the following context laments mankind’s mortality and the brevity of life, so it is doubtful if v. 3 should be understood so positively. It is more likely that דַּכָּא here refers to “crushed matter,” that is, the dust that fills the grave (see HALOT 221 s.v. s.v. I דַּכָּא; BDB 194 s.v. דַּכָּא). In this case one may hear an echo of Gen 3:19.

6 tn Or “for.”

7 sn The divisions of the nighttime. The ancient Israelites divided the night into distinct periods, or “watches.”



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