Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
The Psalm opens with familiar expressions of prayer, such as rise in the heart and mouth of the praying one without his feeling that they are of foreign origin; cf. more especially Psalm 39:13; Psalm 18:7; Psalm 88:3; and on Psalm 102:3 : Psalm 27:9 (Hide not Thy face from me); Psalm 59:17 (ביום צר לי); Psalm 31:3 and frequently (Incline Thine ear unto me); Psalm 56:10 (ביום אקוא); Psalm 69:8; Psalm 143:7 (מהר ענני).
Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.
For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.
From this point onward the Psalm becomes original. Concerning the Beth in בעשׁן, vid., on Psalm 37:20. The reading כּמו קד (in the Karaite Ben-Jerucham) enriches the lexicon in the same sense with a word which has scarcely had any existence. מוקד (Arabic mauḳid) signifies here, as in other instances, a hearth. נחרוּ is, as in Psalm 69:4, Niphal: my bones are heated through with a fever-heat, as a hearth with the smouldering fire that is on it. הוּכּה (cf. יגודּוּ, Psalm 94:21) is used exactly as in Hosea 9:16, cf. Psalm 121:5. The heart is said to dry up when the life's blood, of which it is the reservoir, fails. The verb שׁכח is followed by מן of dislike. On the cleaving of the bones to the flesh from being baked, i.e., to the skin (Arabic bašar, in accordance with the radical signification, the surface of the body equals the skin, from בשׂר, to brush along, rub, scrape, scratch on the surface), cf. Job 19:20; Lamentations 4:8. ל (אל) with דּבק is used just like בּ. It is unnecessary, with Bttcher, to draw מקּול אנחתי to Psalm 102:5. Continuous straining of the voice, especially in connection with persevering prayer arising from inward conflict, does really make the body waste away.
My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.
By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.
I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.
קאת (construct of קאת or קאת from קאה, vid., Isaiah, at Isaiah 34:11-12), according to the lxx, is the pelican, and כּוס is the night-raven or the little horned-owl.
(Note: The lxx renders it: I am like a pelican of the desert, I am become as a night-raven upon a ruined place (οἰκοπέδῳ). In harmony with the lxx, Saadia (as also the Arabic version edited by Erpenius, the Samaritan Arabic, and Abulwald) renders קאת by Arab. qûq (here and in Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:17; Isaiah 34:17), and כוס by Arab. bûm; the latter (bum) is an onomatopoetic name of the owl, and the former (k[uk[) does not even signify the owl or horned-owl (although the small horned-owl is called um kuéik in Egypt, and in Africa abu kuéik; vid., the dictionaries of Bocthor and Marcel s.v. chouette), but the pelican, the "long-necked water-bird" (Damiri after the lexicon el-‛Obâb of Hasan ben-Mohammed el-Saghani). The Graeco-Veneta also renders קאת with πελεκάν, - the Peshito, however, with Syr. qāqā'. What Ephrem on Deuteronomy 14:17 and the Physiologus Syrus (ed. Tychsen, p. 13, cf. pp. 110 f). say of Syr. qāqā', viz., that it is a marsh-bird, is very fond of its young ones, dwells in desolate places, and is incessantly noisy, likewise points to the pelican, although the Syrian lexicographers vary. Cf. also Oedmann, Vermischte Sammlungen, Heft 3, Cap. 6. (Fleischer after a communication from Rodiger.))
דּמה obtains the signification to be like, equal (aequalem esse), from the radical signification to be flat, even, and to spread out flat (as the Dutch have already recognised). They are both unclean creatures, which are fond of the loneliness of the desert and ruined places. To such a wilderness, that of the exile, is the poet unwillingly transported. He passes the nights without sleep (שׁקד, to watch during the time for sleep), and is therefore like a bird sitting lonesome (בּודד, Syriac erroneously נודד) upon the roof whilst all in the house beneath are sleeping. The Athnach in Psalm 102:8 separates that which is come to be from the ground of the "becoming" and the "becoming" itself. His grief is that his enemies reproach him as one forsaken of God. מהולל, part. Poal, is one made or become mad, Ecclesiastes 2:2 : my mad ones equals those who are mad against me. These swear by him, inasmuch as they say when they want to curse: "God do unto thee as unto this man," which is to be explained according to Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 29:22.
I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.
Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.
For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,
Ashes are his bread (cf. Lamentations 3:16), inasmuch as he, a mourner, sits in ashes, and has thrown ashes all over himself, Job 2:8; Ezekiel 27:30. The infected שׁקּוי has שׁקּוּ equals שׁקּוּו for its principal form, instead of which it is שׁקּוּי in Hosea 2:7. "That Thou hast lifted me up and cast me down" is to be understood according to Job 30:22. First of all God has taken away the firm ground from under his feet, then from aloft He has cast him to the ground - an emblem of the lot of Israel, which is removed from its fatherland and cast into exile, i.e., into a strange land. In that passage the days of his life are כּצל נטוּי, like a lengthened shadow, which grows longer and longer until it is entirely lost in darkness, Psalm 109:23. Another figure follows: he there becomes like an (uprooted) plant which dries up.
Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.
My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.
But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
When the church in its individual members dies off on a foreign soil, still its God, the unchangeable One, remains, and therein the promise has the guarantee of its fulfilment. Faith lays hold upon this guarantee as in Psalm 90. It becomes clear from Psalm 9:8 and Lamentations 5:19 how תּשׁב is to be understood. The Name which Jahve makes Himself by self-attestation never falls a prey to the dead past, it is His ever-living memorial (זכר, Exodus 3:15). Thus, too, will He restore Jerusalem; the limit, or appointed time, to which the promise points is, as his longing tells the poet, now come. מועד, according to Psalm 75:3; Habakkuk 2:3, is the juncture, when the redemption by means of the judgment on the enemies of Israel shall dawn. לחננהּ, from the infinitive חנן, has ĕ, flattened from ă, in an entirely closed syllable. רצה seq. acc. signifies to have pleasure in anything, to cling to it with delight; and חנן, according to Proverbs 14:21, affirms a compassionate, tender love of the object. The servants of God do not feel at home in Babylon, but their loving yearning lingers over the ruins, the stones and the heaps of the rubbish (Nehemiah 4:2), of Jerusalem.
Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.
For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.
So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.
With וייראוּ we are told what will take place when that which is expected in Psalm 102:14 comes to pass, and at the same time the fulfilment of that which is longed for is thereby urged home upon God: Jahve's own honour depends upon it, since the restoration of Jerusalem will become the means of the conversion of the world - a fundamental thought of Isaiah 40:1 (cf. more particularly Isaiah 59:19; Isaiah 60:2), which is also called to mind in the expression of this strophe. This prophetic prospect (Isaiah 40:1-5) that the restoration of Jerusalem will take place simultaneously with the glorious parusia of Jahve re-echoes here in a lyric form. כּי, Psalm 102:17, states the ground of the reverence, just as Psalm 102:20 the ground of the praise. The people of the Exile are called in Psalm 102:18 הערער, from ערר, to be naked: homeless, powerless, honourless, and in the eyes of men, prospectless. The lxx renders this word in Jeremiah 17:6 ἀγριομυρίκη, and its plural, formed by an internal change of vowel, ערוער, in Jeremiah 48:6 ὄνος ἄγριος, which are only particularizations of the primary notion of that which is stark naked, neglected, wild. Psalm 102:18 is an echo off Psalm 22:25. In the mirror of this and of other Psalms written in times of affliction the Israel of the Exile saw itself reflected.
When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.
He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.
This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD.
The poet goes on advancing motives to Jahve for the fulfilment of his desire, by holding up to Him what will take place when He shall have restored Zion. The evangel of God's redemptive deed will be written down for succeeding generations, and a new, created people, i.e., a people coming into existence, the church of the future, shall praise God the Redeemer for it. דּור אחרון as in Psalm 48:14; Psalm 78:4. עם נברא like עם נולד Psalm 22:32, perhaps with reference to deutero-Isaianic passages like Isaiah 43:17. On Psalm 102:20, cf. Isaiah 63:15; in Psalm 102:21 (cf. Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 61:1) the deutero-Isaianic colouring is very evident. And Psalm 102:21 rests still more verbally upon Psalm 79:11. The people of the Exile are as it were in prison and chains (אסיר), and are advancing towards their destruction (בּני תמוּתה), if God does not interpose. Those who have returned home are the subject to לספּר. בּ in Psalm 102:23 introduces that which takes place simultaneously: with the release of Israel from servitude is united the conversion of the world. נקבּץ occurs in the same connection as in Isaiah 60:4. After having thus revelled in the glory of the time of redemption the poet comes back to himself and gives form to his prayer on his own behalf.
For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth;
To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death;
To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;
When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.
On the way (ב as in Psalm 110:7) - not "by means of the way" (ב as in Psalm 105:18), in connection with which one would expect of find some attributive minuter definition of the way - God hath bowed down his strength (cf. Deuteronomy 8:2); it was therefore a troublous, toilsome way which he has been led, together with his people. He has shortened his days, so that he only drags on wearily, and has only a short distance still before him before he is entirely overcome. The Chethb כחו (lxx ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ) may be understood of God's irresistible might, as in Job 23:6; Job 30:18, but in connection with it the designation of the object is felt to be wanting. The introductory אמר (cf. Job 10:2), which announces a definite moulding of the utterance, serves to give prominence to the petition that follows. In the expression אל־תּעלני life is conceived of as a line the length of which accords with nature; to die before one's time is a being taken up out of this course, so that the second half of the line is not lived through (Psalm 55:24, Isaiah 38:10). The prayer not to sweep him away before his time, the poet supports not by the eternity of God in itself, but by the work of the rejuvenation of the world and of the restoration of Israel that is to be looked for, which He can and will bring to an accomplishment, because He is the ever-living One. The longing to see this new time is the final ground of the poet's prayer for the prolonging of his life. The confession of God the Creator in Psalm 102:26 reminds one in its form of Isaiah 48:13, cf. Psalm 44:24. המּה in Psalm 102:27 refers to the two great divisions of the universe. The fact that God will create heaven and earth anew is a revelation that is indicated even in Isaiah 34:4, but is first of all expressed more fully and in many ways in the second part of the Book of Isaiah, viz., Isaiah 51:6, Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22. It is clear from the agreement in the figure of the garment (Isaiah 51:6, cf. Psalm 50:9) and in the expression (עמד, perstare, as in Isaiah 66:22) that the poet has gained this knowledge from the prophet. The expressive אתּה הוּא, Thou art He, i.e., unalterably the same One, is also taken from the mouth of the prophet, Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 46:4; Isaiah 48:12; הוּא is a predicate, and denotes the identity (sameness) of Jahve (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. 63). In v. 29 also, in which the prayer for a lengthening of life tapers off to a point, we hear Isaiah 65:2; Isaiah 66:22 re-echoed. And from the fact that in the mind of the poet as of the prophet the post-exilic Jerusalem and the final new Jerusalem upon the new earth under a new heaven blend together, it is evident that not merely in the time of Hezekiah or of Manasseh (assuming that Isaiah 40:1 are by the old Isaiah), but also even in the second half of the Exile, such a perspectively foreshortened view was possible. When, moreover, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews at once refers Psalm 102:26-28 to Christ, this is justified by the fact that the God whom the poet confesses as the unchangeable One is Jahve who is to come.
I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.
Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.
The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.