New English Translation
4 “O Lord, help me understand my mortality
and the brevity of life.[a]
Let me realize how quickly my life will pass.[b]
5 Look, you make my days short-lived,[c]
and my life span is nothing from your perspective.[d]
Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.[e] (Selah)
6 Surely people go through life as mere ghosts.[f]
Surely they accumulate worthless wealth
without knowing who will eventually haul it away.”[g]
- Psalm 39:4 tn Heb “Cause me to know, O Lord, my end; and the measure of my days, what it is!”
- Psalm 39:4 tn Heb “Let me know how transient I am.”
- Psalm 39:5 tn Heb “Look, handbreadths you make my days.” The “handbreadth” (equivalent to the width of four fingers) was one of the smallest measures used by ancient Israelites. See P. C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 (WBC), 309.
- Psalm 39:5 tn Heb “is like nothing before you.”
- Psalm 39:5 tn Heb “surely, all vapor [is] all mankind, standing firm.” Another option is to translate, “Surely, all mankind, though seemingly secure, is nothing but a vapor.”
- Psalm 39:6 tn Heb “surely, as an image man walks about.” The preposition prefixed to “image” indicates identity here.sn People go through life (Heb “man walks about”). “Walking” is here used as a metaphor for living. The point is that human beings are here today, gone tomorrow. They have no lasting substance and are comparable to mere images or ghosts.
- Psalm 39:6 tc Heb “Surely [in] vain they strive, he accumulates and does not know who gathers them.” The MT as it stands is syntactically awkward. The verb forms switch from singular (“walks about”) to plural (“they strive”) and then back to singular (“accumulates and does not know”), even though the subject (generic “man”) remains the same. Furthermore there is no object for the verb “accumulates” and no plural antecedent for the plural pronoun (“them”) attached to “gathers.” These problems can be removed if one emends the text from הֶבֶל יֶהֱמָיוּן (hevel yehemayun, “[in] vain they strive”) to הֶבְלֵי הָמוֹן (hevle hamon, “vain things of wealth”). The present translation follows this emendation.