New English Translation
Book 4 (Psalms 90-106)
A prayer of Moses, the man of God.
90 O Lord, you have been our protector[b] through all generations.
2 Even before the mountains came into existence,[c]
or you brought the world into being,[d]
you were the eternal God.[e]
3 You make mankind return[f] to the dust,[g]
and say, “Return, O people.”
4 Yes,[h] in your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday that quickly passes,
or like one of the divisions of the nighttime.[i]
5 You bring their lives to an end and they “fall asleep.”[j]
In the morning they are like the grass that sprouts up:
6 In the morning it glistens[k] and sprouts up;
at evening time it withers[l] and dries up.
7 Yes,[m] we are consumed by your anger;
we are terrified by your wrath.
8 You are aware of our sins;[n]
you even know about our hidden sins.[o]
9 Yes,[p] throughout all our days we experience your raging fury;[q]
the years of our lives pass quickly, like a sigh.[r]
10 The days of our lives add up to seventy years,[s]
or eighty, if one is especially strong.[t]
But even one’s best years are marred by trouble and oppression.[u]
Yes,[v] they pass quickly[w] and we fly away.[x]
11 Who can really fathom the intensity of your anger?[y]
Your raging fury causes people to fear you.[z]
12 So teach us to consider our mortality,[aa]
so that we might live wisely.[ab]
13 Turn back toward us, O Lord.
How long must this suffering last?[ac]
Have pity on your servants.[ad]
14 Satisfy us in the morning[ae] with your loyal love.
Then we will shout for joy and be happy[af] all our days.
15 Make us happy in proportion to the days you have afflicted us,
in proportion to the years we have experienced[ag] trouble.
16 May your servants see your work.[ah]
May their sons see your majesty.[ai]
17 May our Sovereign God extend his favor to us.[aj]
Make our endeavors successful.
Yes, make them successful.[ak]
- Psalm 90:1 sn Psalm 90. In this communal lament the worship leader affirms that the eternal God and creator of the world has always been Israel’s protector. But God also causes men, who are as transient as grass, to die, and in his fierce anger he decimates his covenant community, whose brief lives are filled with suffering and end in weakness. The community asks for wisdom, the restoration of God’s favor, a fresh revelation of his power, and his blessing upon their labors.
- Psalm 90:1 tn Or “place of safety.” See Ps 71:3.
- Psalm 90:2 tn Heb “were born.”
- Psalm 90:2 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.
- Psalm 90:2 tn Heb “and from everlasting to everlasting you [are] God.” Instead of אֵל (ʾel, “God”) the LXX reads אַל (ʾal, “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 wayyiqtol form וַתֹּאמֶר (vatoʾmer, “and you said/say”), unless one reads the form as a simple vav plus imperfect as indicated by Aquila and Jerome.
- Psalm 90:3 tn In this context the shortened prefix form does not function as a preterite, but indicates what is typical of the world.
- Psalm 90:3 tn The Hebrew term דַּכָּא (dakaʾ) 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.
- Psalm 90:4 tn Or “for.”
- Psalm 90:4 sn The divisions of the nighttime. The ancient Israelites divided the night into distinct periods, or “watches.”
- Psalm 90:5 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).
- Psalm 90:6 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.
- Psalm 90:6 tn The Polel form of this verb occurs only here. Perhaps the form should be emended to a Qal (which necessitates eliminating the final ל [lamed] as dittographic). See Ps 37:2.
- Psalm 90:7 tn Or “for.”
- Psalm 90:8 tn Heb “you set our sins in front of you.”
- Psalm 90:8 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.
- Psalm 90:9 tn Or “for.”
- Psalm 90:9 tn Heb “all our days pass by in your anger.”
- Psalm 90:9 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.”
- Psalm 90:10 tn Heb “the days of our years, in them [are] seventy years.”
- Psalm 90:10 tn Heb “or if [there is] strength, eighty years.”
- Psalm 90:10 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 רָהַב (rahav, “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).
- Psalm 90:10 tn or “for.”
- Psalm 90:10 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.
- Psalm 90:10 sn We fly away. The psalmist compares life to a bird that quickly flies off (see Job 20:8).
- Psalm 90:11 tn Heb “Who knows the strength of your anger?”
- Psalm 90:11 tc Heb “and like your fear [is] your raging fury.” Perhaps one should emend וּכְיִרְאָתְךָ (ukheyirʾatekha, “and like your fear”) to יִרְאָתְךְ (yirʾatekha, “your fear”), removing the כ (kaf) as dittography of the kaf ending the previous word. In this case the psalmist asserts “your fear [is] your raging fury,” that is, your raging fury is what causes others to fear you. The suffix on “fear” is understood as objective.
- Psalm 90:12 tn Heb “to number our days,” that is, to be aware of how few they really are.
- Psalm 90:12 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.
- Psalm 90:13 tn Heb “Return, O Lord. How long?”
- Psalm 90:13 tn Elsewhere the Niphal of נָחַם (nakham) + the preposition עַל (ʿal) + a personal object has the nuance “be comforted concerning [the personal object’s death]” (see 2 Sam 13:39; Jer 31:15). However, here the context seems to demand “feel sorrow for,” “have pity on.” In Deut 32:36 and Ps 135:14, where “servants” is also the object of the preposition, this idea is expressed with the Hitpael form of the verb.
- Psalm 90:14 sn Morning is used metaphorically for a time of renewed joy after affliction (see Pss 30:5; 46:5; 49:14; 59:16; 143:8).
- Psalm 90:14 tn After the imperative (see the preceding line) the cohortatives with the prefixed conjunction indicate purpose/result.
- Psalm 90:15 tn Heb “have seen.”
- Psalm 90:16 tn Heb “may your work be revealed to your servants.” In this context (note v. 17) the verb form יֵרָאֶה (yeraʾeh) is best understood as an unshortened jussive (see Gen 1:9; Isa 47:3).
- Psalm 90:16 tn Heb “and your majesty to their sons.” The verb “be revealed” is understood by ellipsis in the second line.
- Psalm 90:17 tn Heb “and may the delight of the Master, our God, be on us.” The Hebrew term נֹעַם (noʿam, “delight”) is used in Ps 27:4 of the Lord’s “beauty,” but here it seems to refer to his favor (see BDB 653 s.v.) or kindness (HALOT 706 s.v.).
- Psalm 90:17 tn Heb “and the work of our hands establish over us, and the work of our hands, establish it.”