Psalm 89:47
Remember how short my time is: why have you made all men in vain?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(47) Remember.—The text of this clause runs, Remember I how duration, which might possibly be an incoherent sob, meaning remember how quickly I pass. But since the transposition of a letter brings the clause into conformity with Psalm 39:4, “how frail I am,” it is better to adopt the change.

Wherefore hast thou . . .—Literally, for what vanity hast thou created all men?

“Count all the joys thine hours have seen,

Count all the days from anguish free,

And know, whatever thou hast been,

’Twere something better not to be.”—BYRON.

Psalm 89:47. Remember how short my time is — That is, our time, the time of our king and kingdom, in whose name the psalmist put up this petition, and about whom he was much more solicitous than about himself, as is evident, both from the following verses and from the whole body of the Psalm. The sense seems to be this: Our king and all his people, and I among the rest, are short-lived and perishing creatures, who of ourselves, and according to the course of nature, must shortly die, and therefore there is no need that thou shouldest add further afflictions to sweep us away before the time. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? — Wherefore hast thou made us and our king, and consequently all other men, (whose condition is in nothing better than ours,) in vain, or to so little purpose? Didst thou raise up us and him, establish us for thy people, settle the crown upon David and his seed by a solemn covenant, erect a magnificent and glorious temple, and vouchsafe so many and great promises and privileges, and all this but for a few years; that our crown and glory should be taken from us within a little time after it was put upon our heads? It is not strange that such considerations as these should fill the psalmist’s mind with amazement and sad perplexing thoughts. Nor doth he accuse or upbraid God here with, but only useth it as an argument to move him to repair and restore their decayed state, that they might live to praise, serve, and glorify him.89:38-52 Sometimes it is not easy to reconcile God's providences with his promises, yet we are sure that God's works fulfil his word. When the great Anointed One, Christ himself, was upon the cross, God seemed to have cast him off, yet did not make void his covenant, for that was established for ever. The honour of the house of David was lost. Thrones and crowns are often laid in the dust; but there is a crown of glory reserved for Christ's spiritual seed, which fadeth not away. From all this complaint learn what work sin makes with families, noble families, with families in which religion has appeared. They plead with God for mercy. God's unchangeableness and faithfulness assure us that He will not cast off those whom he has chosen and covenanted with. They were reproached for serving him. The scoffers of the latter days, in like manner, reproach the footsteps of the Messiah when they ask, Where is the promise of his coming? 2Pe 3:3,4. The records of the Lord's dealings with the family of David, show us his dealings with his church, and with believers. Their afflictions and distresses may be grievous, but he will not finally cast them off. Self-deceivers abuse this doctrine, and others by a careless walk bring themselves into darkness and distress; yet let the true believer rely on it for encouragement in the path of duty, and in bearing the cross. The psalm ends with praise, even after this sad complaint. Those who give God thanks for what he has done, may give him thanks for what he will do. God will follow those with his mercies, who follow him with praises.Remember how short my time is - The word rendered "time" - חלד cheled - means duration; lifetime. Psalm 39:5. Then it means life; time; age; the world. Literally, here, "Remember; I; what duration." The meaning is plain. Bear in remembrance that my time must soon come to an end. Life is brief. In a short period the time will come for me to die; and if these promises are fulfilled to me, it must be done soon. Remember that these troubles and sorrows cannot continue for a much longer period without exhausting all my appointed time upon the earth. If God was ever to interpose and bless him, it must be done speedily, for he would soon pass away. The promised bestowment of favor must be conferred soon, or it could not be conferred at all. The psalmist prays that God would remember this. So it is proper for us to pray that God would bless us soon; that he would not withhold his grace now; that there may be no delay; that he would (we may say it with reverence) bear in remembrance that our life is very brief, and that if grace is to be bestowed in order to save us, or in order to make us useful, it must be bestowed soon. A young man may properly employ this prayer; how much more appropriately one who is rapidly approaching old age, and the end of life!

Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? - As thou dost seem to have done, since they accomplish so little in the world, and since so many appear wholly to miss the great purpose of life! Nothing, in certain moods of mind, will strike one more forcibly or more painfully than the thought that the mass of people seem to have been made in vain. Nothing is accomplished by them worthy of the powers with which they are endowed; nothing worthy of so long living for; nothing worthy of the efforts which they actually put forth. In a large portion of mankind there is an utter failure in securing even the objects which they seek to secure; in numerous cases, when they have secured the object, it is not worth the effort which it has cost; in all cases, the same effort, or an effort made less strenuous, laborious, costly, and continuous, would have secured an object of real value - worth all their effort - the immortal crown!

47. These expostulations are excited in view of the identity of the prosperity of this kingdom with the welfare of all mankind (Ge 22:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 9:7; 11:1-10); for if such is the fate of this chosen royal line. My time, i.e. our time, the time of our king and kingdom, in whose name the psalmist puts up this petition, and about whom he was much more solicitous than about himself, as is evident, both from the following verses, and from the whole body of the Psalm. The sense seems to be this, Our king, and all his people, and I among the rest, are shortlived and perishing creatures, that of themselves and according to the course of nature must shortly die; and therefore there is no need that thou shouldst add further afflictions to sweep them away before their time.

Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? wherefore hast thou made us and our king (and consequently all other men, whose condition is in nothing better than ours, and in respect of thy grace and mercy is much worse than ours) in vain, or to so little purpose? Didst thou raise us and him, establish us for thy people, settle the crown upon David and his seed for ever by a solemn and unchangeable covenant, erect a magnificent and glorious temple, and vouchsafe so many and great promises and privileges, and all this but for a few years, that our crown and glory should be taken from us within a little time after it was put upon our heads; that our kingdom should be broken almost as soon as it was firmly established; that thy worship should be so soon corrupted, and thy temple quickly robbed, and not long after frequently abused, and polluted, and wasted, and now at last utterly demolished? It is not strange that such considerations as these did fill the psalmist’s mind with amazement, and sad and perplexing thoughts. Nor doth the psalmist accuse or upbraid God herewith, but only useth it as an argument to move God to repair and restore their decayed state, that they might live to praise, and serve, and glorify him, and not be such useless and insignificant creatures as now they were in this forlorn estate of things, and as they should be if they should go into the place and state of the dead before the restitution of their broken state and kingdom. Remember how short my time is,.... In this world man's time here is fixed, and it is but a short time; his life is but a vapour, which appeareth for a little while; his days are as an hand's breadth; they pass away like a tale that is told; the common term of life is but threescore years and ten, and few arrive to that: to know and observe this is proper and useful; it may awaken a concern for a future state, excite to a vigorous discharge of duty, and animate to patience under afflictions: the clause in connection with the preceding verse seems to be a plea for mercy; that, since time was short, it might not be consumed in bearing the wrath of God; but be spent in peace and comfort, like that of Job 10:20, Compare with this Psalm 103:13, the Targum is,

"remember that I am created out of the dust:''

but these words, with what follow, are the words of the psalmist, representing the apostles of Christ, and other saints, at the time of his sufferings and death, and when under the power of the grave, and when they were almost out of hope of his resurrection: see Luke 24:21, expostulating with the Lord on that account; and here entreat him to remember the shortness of their time, if there was no resurrection from the dead, as there would be none if Christ rose not; and therefore, as their life was a short one, it would be of all men's the most miserable:

wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? none of the sons of men are made in vain; for they are all made for the glory of God, which end is answered, some way or another, in everyone of them; either in the salvation of them by Christ, or in the just destruction of them through their own sin; and though the time of life is short, and afflictions many, yet men are not made in vain, and especially those of them who believe in Christ; for, for them to live is Christ, they live to his glory: whether they live a longer or shorter time, they live to the Lord; and when they die, they die to him; and their afflictions are always for good, temporal, or spiritual, and eternal: indeed, if there was no future state after this, men might seem to be made in vain, and there might be some reason for such a question or complaint; but so it is not; there is an immortal life and state after this, either of bliss or woe: also, if there was no such thing as the redemption, justification, and salvation of any of the sons of men, through the sufferings and death of Christ, and which could not be without his resurrection from the dead, with a view to which the question is put, then there would seem some room for it; but there is a redemption of them, and therefore are not made in vain; and Christ, who was delivered for their offences, is risen for their justification.

Remember {h} how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?

(h) Seeing man's life is short, and you have created man to bestow your benefits on him, unless you hasten to help, death will prevent you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
47. Literally, if the text is right, O remember what a fleeting life I am! but it is possible that the letters of the word chçled have been accidentally transposed and that we should read châdçl, as in Psalm 39:4 : how frail, or, transitory, I am. As in that Psalm (cp. Psalm 89:13) and in Job 7:6 ff; Job 14:1 ff, the shortness and uncertainty of life are pleaded as a ground for the speedy restoration of God’s favour. The Psalmist desires to see the solution of the riddle with his own eyes, and doubtless he gives utterance to the feelings of many pious souls in the Exile, whose faith was tried by the thought that they would not live to see the fulfilment of the prophecies of restoration.

wherefore &c.] For what vanity hast thou created all the sons of men! Must life end thus in unsatisfied longing? Cp. Psalm 39:5; Psalm 39:11.Verse 47. - Remember how short my time is. Consider how short-lived is the whole race of men. Come, therefore, to our deliverance quickly. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? literally, for what vanity thou hast made all the sons of men. Another point suggested for God's consideration, as fitted to call forth his compassion. Now after the poet has turned his thoughts towards the beginnings of the house of David which were so rich in promise, in order that he might find comfort under the sorrowful present, the contrast of the two periods is become all the more sensible to him. With ואתּה in Psalm 89:39 (And Thou - the same who hast promised and affirmed this with an oath) his Psalm takes a new turn, for which reason it might even have been ועתּה. זנח is used just as absolutely here as in Psalm 44:24; Psalm 74:1; Psalm 77:8, so that it does not require any object to be supplied out of Psalm 89:39. נארתּה in Psalm 89:40 the lxx renders kate'strepsas; it is better rendered in Lamentations 2:7 ἀπετίναξε; for נאר is synonymous with נער, to shake off, push away, cf. Arabic el-menâ‛ir, the thrusters (with the lance). עבדּך is a vocational name of the king as such. His crown is sacred as being the insignia of a God-bestowed office. God has therefore made the sacred thing vile by casting it to the ground (חלּל לארץ, as in Psalm 74:17, to cast profaningly to the ground). The primary passage to Psalm 89:41-42, is Psalm 80:13. "His hedges" are all the boundary and protecting fences which the land of the king has; and מבצריו "the fortresses" of his land (in both instances without כל, because matters have not yet come to such a pass).

(Note: In the list of the nations and cities conquered by King Sheshonk I are found even cities of the tribe of Issachar, e.g., Shen-ma-an, Sunem; vid., Brugsch, Reiseberichte, S. 141-145, and Blau as referred to above.)

In שׁסּהוּ the notions of the king and of the land blend together. עברי־דרך are the hordes of the peoples passing through the land. שׁכניו are the neighbouring peoples that are otherwise liable to pay tribute to the house of David, who sought to take every possible advantage of that weakening of the Davidic kingdom. In Psalm 89:44 we are neither to translate "rock of his sword" (Hengstenberg), nor "O rock" (Olshausen). צוּר does not merely signify rupes, but also from another root (צוּר, Arab. ṣâr, originally of the grating or shrill noise produced by pressing and squeezing, then more particularly to cut or cut off with pressure, with a sharply set knife or the like) a knife or a blade (cf. English knife, and German kneifen, to nip): God has decreed it that the edge or blade of the sword of the king has been turned back by the enemy, that he has not been able to maintain his ground in battle (הקמתו with ē instead of ı̂, as also when the tone is not moved forward, Micah 5:4). In Psalm 89:45 the Mem of מטהרו, after the analogy of Ezekiel 16:41; Ezekiel 34:10, and other passages, is a preposition: cessare fecisti eum a splendore suo. A noun מטּהר equals מטהר with Dag. dirimens,

(Note: The view of Pinsker (Einleitung, S. 69), that this Dag. is not a sign of the doubling of the letter, but a diacritic point (that preceded the invention of the system of vowel-points), which indicated that the respective letter was to be pronounced with a Chateph vowel (e.g., miṭŏhar), is incorrect. The doubling Dag. renders the Sheb audible, and having once become audible it readily receives this or that colouring according to the nature of its consonant and of the neighbouring vowel.)

like מקדּשׁ Exodus 15:17, מנּזר Nahum 3:17 (Abulwald, Aben-Ezra, Parchon, Kimchi, and others), in itself improbable in the signification required here, is not found either in post-biblical or in biblical Hebrew. טהר, like צהר, signifies first of all not purity, but brilliancy. Still the form טהר does not lie at the basis of it in this instance; for the reading found here just happens not to be טהרו, but מטּהרו; and the reading adopted by Norzi, Heidenheim, and Baer, as also by Nissel and others, so far as form is concerned is not distinct from it, viz., מטּהרו (miṭtŏharo), the character of the Sheb being determined by the analogy of the following (cf. בּסּערה, 2 Kings 2:1), which presupposes the principal form טהר (Bttcher, 386, cf. supra, 2:31, note). The personal tenor of Psalm 89:46 requires that it should be referred to the then reigning Davidic king, but not as dying before his time (Olshausen), but as becoming prematurely old by reason of the sorrowful experiences of his reign. The larger half of the kingdom has been wrested from him; Egypt and the neighbouring nations also threaten the half that remains to him; and instead of the kingly robe, shame completely covers him.

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