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Psalms 90:3-10

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 

90:5 You bring their lives to an end and they “fall asleep.” 5 

In the morning they are like the grass that sprouts up;

90:6 in the morning it glistens 6  and sprouts up;

at evening time it withers 7  and dries up.

90:7 Yes, 8  we are consumed by your anger;

we are terrified by your wrath.

90:8 You are aware of our sins; 9 

you even know about our hidden sins. 10 

90:9 Yes, 11  throughout all our days we experience your raging fury; 12 

the years of our lives pass quickly, like a sigh. 13 

90:10 The days of our lives add up to seventy years, 14 

or eighty, if one is especially strong. 15 

But even one’s best years are marred by trouble and oppression. 16 

Yes, 17  they pass quickly 18  and we fly away. 19 

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 “you bring them to an end [with] sleep.” The Hebrew verb זָרַם (zaram) has traditionally been taken to mean “flood” or “overwhelm” (note the Polel form of a root זרם in Ps 77:17, where the verb is used of the clouds pouring down rain). However, the verb form here is Qal, not Polel, and is better understood as a homonym meaning “to make an end [of life].” The term שֵׁנָה (shenah, “sleep”) can be taken as an adverbial accusative; it is a euphemism here for death (see Ps 76:5-6).

6 tn Or “flourishes.” The verb is used of a crown shining in Ps 132:18. Perhaps here in Ps 90:6 it refers to the glistening of the grass in the morning dew.

7 tn The Polel form of this verb occurs only here. Perhaps the form should be emended to a Qal (which necessitates eliminating the final lamed [ל] as dittographic). See Ps 37:2.

8 tn Or “for.”

9 tn Heb “you set our sins in front of you.”

10 tn Heb “what we have hidden to the light of your face.” God’s face is compared to a light or lamp that exposes the darkness around it.

11 tn Or “for.”

12 tn Heb “all our days pass by in your anger.”

13 tn Heb “we finish our years like a sigh.” In Ezek 2:10 the word הֶגֶה (hegeh) elsewhere refers to a grumbling or moaning sound. Here a brief sigh or moan is probably in view. If so, the simile pictures one’s lifetime as transient. Another option is that the simile alludes to the weakness that characteristically overtakes a person at the end of one’s lifetime. In this case the phrase could be translated, “we end our lives with a painful moan.”

14 tn Heb “the days of our years, in them [are] seventy years.”

15 tn Heb “or if [there is] strength, eighty years.”

16 tn Heb “and their pride [is] destruction and wickedness.” The Hebrew noun רֹהַב (rohav) occurs only here. BDB 923 s.v. assigns the meaning “pride,” deriving the noun from the verbal root רהב (“to act stormily [boisterously, arrogantly]”). Here the “pride” of one’s days (see v. 9) probably refers to one’s most productive years in the prime of life. The words translated “destruction and wickedness” are also paired in Ps 10:7. They also appear in proximity in Pss 7:14 and 55:10. The oppressive and abusive actions of evil men are probably in view (see Job 4:8; 5:6; 15:35; Isa 10:1; 59:4).

17 tn or “for.”

18 tn Heb “it passes quickly.” The subject of the verb is probably “their pride” (see the preceding line). The verb גּוּז (guz) means “to pass” here; it occurs only here and in Num 11:31.

19 sn We fly away. The psalmist compares life to a bird that quickly flies off (see Job 20:8).



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