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Psalms 90:3-4

Context

90:3 You make mankind return 1  to the dust, 2 

and say, “Return, O people!”

90:4 Yes, 3  in your eyes a thousand years

are like yesterday that quickly passes,

or like one of the divisions of the nighttime. 4 

Psalms 90:12

Context

90:12 So teach us to consider our mortality, 5 

so that we might live wisely. 6 

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

2 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.

3 tn Or “for.”

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

5 tn Heb “to number our days,” that is, to be aware of how few they really are.

6 tn Heb “and we will bring a heart of wisdom.” After the imperative of the preceding line, the prefixed verbal form with the conjunction indicates purpose/result. The Hebrew term “heart” here refers to the center of one’s thoughts, volition, and moral character.



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