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Psalms 102:3-11

Context

102:3 For my days go up in smoke, 1 

and my bones are charred like a fireplace. 2 

102:4 My heart is parched 3  and withered like grass,

for I am unable 4  to eat food. 5 

102:5 Because of the anxiety that makes me groan,

my bones protrude from my skin. 6 

102:6 I am like an owl 7  in the wilderness;

I am like a screech owl 8  among the ruins. 9 

102:7 I stay awake; 10 

I am like a solitary bird on a roof.

102:8 All day long my enemies taunt me;

those who mock me use my name in their curses. 11 

102:9 For I eat ashes as if they were bread, 12 

and mix my drink with my tears, 13 

102:10 because of your anger and raging fury.

Indeed, 14  you pick me up and throw me away.

102:11 My days are coming to an end, 15 

and I am withered like grass.

1 tn Heb “for my days come to an end in smoke.”

2 tn The Hebrew noun מוֹ־קֵד (mo-qed, “fireplace”) occurs only here, in Isa 33:14 (where it refers to the fire itself), and perhaps in Lev 6:2.

3 tn Heb “struck, attacked.”

4 tn Heb “I forget.”

5 sn I am unable to eat food. During his time of mourning, the psalmist refrained from eating. In the following verse he describes metaphorically the physical effects of fasting.

6 tn Heb “from the sound of my groaning my bone[s] stick to my flesh.” The preposition at the beginning of the verse is causal; the phrase “sound of my groaning” is metonymic for the anxiety that causes the groaning. The point seems to be this: Anxiety (which causes the psalmist to groan) keeps him from eating (v. 4). This physical deprivation in turn makes him emaciated – he is turned to “skin and bones,” so to speak.

7 tn The Hebrew term קָאַת (qaat) refers to some type of bird (see Lev 11:18; Deut 14:17) that was typically found near ruins (see Zeph 2:14). Modern translations have frequently rendered this as some type of owl (NIV, REB “desert owl”; NRSV “owl”).

8 tn The Hebrew term כוֹס (khos) refers to a bird (see Lev 11:17; Deut 14:16), probably a type of owl (cf. NIV, REB “owl”; NRSV “little owl”).

9 sn By comparing himself to a screech owl among the ruins, the psalmist may be highlighting his loneliness (see v. 7), though he may also be comparing his cries for help to the owl’s screech.

10 tn This probably refers to the psalmist’s inability to sleep. Another option is to translate, “I keep watch,” in which case it might refer to watching for a response from the Lord (see vv. 1-2).

11 tn Heb “by me they swear.” When the psalmist’s enemies call judgment down on others, they hold the psalmist up as a prime example of what they desire their enemies to become.

12 sn Mourners would sometimes put ashes on their head or roll in ashes as a sign of mourning (see 2 Sam 13:19; Job 2:8; Isa 58:5).

13 tn Heb “weeping.”

14 tn Or “for.”

15 tn Heb “my days [are] like an extended [or “lengthening”] shadow,” that is, like a late afternoon shadow made by the descending sun that will soon be swallowed up by complete darkness.



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