Psalm 90:1
A Prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
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(1) Dwelling place.—LXX. and Vulg., “refuse,” possibly reading maôz (as in Psalm 37:39) instead of maôn. So some MSS. But Deuteronomy 33:17 has the feminine of this latter word, and the idea of a continued abode strikes the key-note of the psalm. The short duration of each succeeding generation of men on the earth is contrasted with the eternity of God and the permanence given to Israel as a race by the covenant that united them with the Eternal. But we may give extension to the thought. Human history runs on from generation to generation (so the Hebrew; comp. Deuteronomy 32:7); one goes, another comes; but in relation to the unchanging God, who rules over all human history, even the transient creatures of an hour may come to feel secure and at home.

Psalm 90:1. Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place, &c. — Although we and our fathers, for some generations, have had no fixed habitation, but have been strangers in a land that was not ours, and afflicted four hundred years; (see Genesis 15:13;) and although we now are, and have been for some time, and must still continue, in a vast, howling wilderness, dwelling in tents, and wandering from place to place; yet thou, Lord, hast been instead of a dwelling-place to us, by thy watchful and gracious providence over us in all places and exigencies. This is said by way of preface to the Psalm, to intimate that the following miseries, which came upon them, were not to be imputed to God, but to themselves.

90:1-6 It is supposed that this psalm refers to the sentence passed on Israel in the wilderness, Nu 14. The favour and protection of God are the only sure rest and comfort of the soul in this evil world. Christ Jesus is the refuge and dwelling-place to which we may repair. We are dying creatures, all our comforts in the world are dying comforts, but God is an ever-living God, and believers find him so. When God, by sickness, or other afflictions, turns men to destruction, he thereby calls men to return unto him to repent of their sins, and live a new life. A thousand years are nothing to God's eternity: between a minute and a million of years there is some proportion; between time and eternity there is none. All the events of a thousand years, whether past or to come, are more present to the Eternal Mind, than what was done in the last hour is to us. And in the resurrection, the body and soul shall both return and be united again. Time passes unobserved by us, as with men asleep; and when it is past, it is as nothing. It is a short and quickly-passing life, as the waters of a flood. Man does but flourish as the grass, which, when the winter of old age comes, will wither; but he may be mown down by disease or disaster.Lord - Not יהוה Yahweh here, but אדני 'Adonāy. The word is properly rendered "Lord," but it is a term which is often applied to God. It indicates, however, nothing in regard to his character or attributes except that he is a "Ruler or Governor."

Thou hast been our dwelling-place - The Septuagint renders this, "refuge" - καταφυγἡ kataphugē. So the Latin Vulgate, "refugium;" and Luther, "Zuflucht." The Hebrew word - מעון mâ‛ôn - means properly a habitation, a dwelling, as of God in his temple, Psalm 26:8; heaven, Psalm 68:5; Deuteronomy 26:15. It also means a den or lair for wild beasts, Nahum 2:12; Jeremiah 9:11. But here the idea seems to be, as in the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Luther, "a refuge"; a place to which one may come as to his home, as one does from a journey; from wandering; from toil; from danger: a place to which such a one naturally resorts, which he loves, and where he feels that he may rest secure. The idea is, that a friend of God has that feeling in respect to Him, which one has toward his own home - his abode - the place which he loves and calls his own.

In all generations - Margin, "generation and generation." That is, A succeeding generation has found him to be the same as the previous generation had. He was unchanged, though the successive generations of men passed away.


Ps 90:1-17. Contrasting man's frailty with God's eternity, the writer mourns over it as the punishment of sin, and prays for a return of the divine favor. A Prayer [mainly such] of Moses the man of God—(De 33:1; Jos 14:6); as such he wrote this (see on [626]Ps 18:1, title, and [627]Ps 36:1, title).

1. dwelling-place—home (compare Eze 11:16), as a refuge (De 33:27).

1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest Return, ye children of men.

4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told.

10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

Psalm 90:1

"Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations." We must consider the whole Psalm as written for the tribes in the desert, and then we shall see the primary meaning of each verse. Moses, in effect, says - wanderers though we be in the howling wilderness, yet we find a home in thee, even as our forefathers did when they came out of Ur of the Chaldees and dwelt in tents among the Canaanites. To the saints the Lord Jehovah, the self-existent God, stands instead of mansion and rooftree; he shelters, comforts, protects, preserves, and cherishes all his own. Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the saints dwell in their God, and have always done so in all ages. Not in the tabernacle or the temple do we dwell, but in God himself; and this we have always done since there was a church in the world. We have not shifted our abode. King's palaces have vanished beneath the crumbling hand of time - they have been burned with fire and buried beneath mountains of ruins, but the imperial race of heaven has never lost its regal habitation. Go to the Palatine and see how the Caesars are forgotten of the halls which echoed to their despotic mandates, and resounded with the plaudits of the nations over which they ruled, and then look upward and see in the ever-living Jehovah the divine home of the faithful, untouched by so much as the finger of decay. Where dwelt our fathers, a hundred generations since, there dwell we still. It is of New Testament saints that the Holy Ghost has said, "He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in God and God in him!" It was a divine mouth which said, "Abide in me," and then added, "he that abideth in me and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit." It is most sweet to speak with the Lord as Moses did, saying, "Lord, thou art our dwelling place," and it is wise to draw from the Lord's eternal condescensions reasons for expecting present and future mercies, as the Psalmist did in the next Psalm wherein he describes the safety of those who dwell in God.

Psalm 90:2

continued...Who, considering that terrible but righteous sentence of God concerning the cutting off all that sinful generation in the wilderness, of which see Numbers 14, takes that occasion to publish these meditations concerning mans mortality and misery in this life, which might be useful both to that and to all succeeding generations.

Moses, setting forth the eternity and providence of God, Psalm 90:1:2, describeth the misery and shortness of man’s life, Psalm 90:3-11; prayeth for wisdom to number his days, Psalm 90:12; and for the knowledge and sensible experience of God’s good providence, Psalm 90:13-17.

Although we and our fathers, for some generations, have had no certain and fixed habitation, but have been strangers in a land that was not ours, and afflicted for four hundred years, according to thy prediction, Genesis 15:13; and although we now are, and have been for some time, and still are like to continue, in, a vast howling wilderness, having no houses but dwelling in tents, and wandering from place to place, we know not whither; yet thou, O Lord, hast fully supplied this want, and hast been instead of and better than a dwelling-place to us, by thy watchful and gracious providence over us in all places and exigencies. And this is a very proper preface to this Psalm, to intimate that all the following miseries were not to be imputed to God, but unto themselves, who by their own sins had brought these mischiefs upon themselves.

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations,.... Even when they had no certain dwelling place in the world; so their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, dwelt in tabernacles in the land of promise, as in a strange land; and their posterity for many years served under great affliction and oppression in a land that was not theirs; and now they were dwelling in tents in the wilderness, and removing from place to place; but as the Lord had been in every age, so he now was the dwelling place of those that trusted in him; being that to them as an habitation is to man, in whom they had provision, protection, rest, and safety; see Psalm 31:2 so all that believe in Christ dwell in him, and he in them, John 6:56, they dwelt secretly in him before they believed; so they dwelt in his heart's love, in his arms, in him as their head in election, and as their representative in the covenant of grace from eternity; and, when they fell in Adam, they were preserved in Christ, dwelling in him; and so they were in him when on the cross, in the grave, and now in heaven; for they are said to be crucified, buried, and risen with him, and set down in heavenly places in him, Galatians 2:20, and, being converted, they have an open dwelling in him by faith, to whom they have fled for refuge, and in whom they dwell safely, quietly, comfortably, pleasantly, and shall never be turned out: here they have room, plenty of provisions, rest, and peace, and security from all evils; he is an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the storm. Some render the word "refuge"; (a) such is Christ to his people, being the antitype of the cities of refuge; and others "helper", as the Targum; which also well agrees with him, on whom their help is laid, and is found.

(z) Huillus Patriarch. in Origen. apud Hieron. adv. Ruffin. l. 1. fol. 67. L. (a) "refugium", V. L. Vatablus; "asylum", Gejerus.

<{a} the man of God.>> Lord, thou hast been our {b} dwelling place in all generations.

(a) Thus the Scripture refers to the prophets.

(b) You have been as a house and defence to us in all our troubles and travels now this four hundred years.

1. Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place] The Psalmist addresses God not by the covenant Name Jehovah (Lord), but by the title which designates Him as the Ruler of the world. He not merely is, but has proved Himself to be, Israel’s home, age after age, in all the vicissitudes of its history. The same word is used in Psalm 91:9. (A.V. habitation), and (in a slightly different form) in Deuteronomy 33:27, to which the Psalmist may be alluding. Some editors would change mâ‘ôn, ‘dwelling-place,’ into mâ‘ôz, ‘stronghold.’ In Psalm 71:3 (see note) there has probably been a confusion between these words, but it is unnecessary to alter the text here.

in all generations] More forcibly the Heb., in generation and generation, i.e. in each successive generation. So Deuteronomy 32:7 (A.V. many generations).

1–6. The Psalmist’s confession that God is Israel’s refuge; that He alone is the Eternal; that He is the sovereign Disposer of human life.

Verse 1. - Lord, thou hast been our Dwelling place in all generations; or, "our habitation" (see Psalm 91:9); comp. Psalm 32:7, "Thou art my Hiding place." For well nigh forty years Moses had had no fixed material dwelling place. Psalm 90:1The poet begins with the confession that the Lord has proved Himself to His own, in all periods of human history, as that which He was before the world was and will be for evermore. God is designedly appealed to by the name אדני, which frequently occurs in the mouth of Moses in the middle books of the Pentateuch, and also in the Song at the Sea, Exodus 15:17 and in Deuteronomy 3:24. He is so named here as the Lord ruling over human history with an exaltation ever the same. Human history runs on in דּר ודר, so that one period (περίοδος) with the men living contemporaneous with it goes and another comes; the expression is deuteronomic (Deuteronomy 32:7). Such a course of generations lies behind the poet; and in them all the Lord has been מעון to His church, out of the heart of which the poet discourses. This expression too is Deuteronomic (Deuteronomy 33:27). מעון signifies a habitation, dwelling-place (vid., on Psalm 26:8), more especially God's heavenly and earthly dwelling-place, then the dwelling-place which God Himself is to His saints, inasmuch as He takes up to Himself, conceals and protects, those who flee to Him from the wicked one and from evil, and turn in to Him (Psalm 71:3; Psalm 91:9). In order to express fuisti היית was indispensable; but just as fuisti comes from fuo, φύω, היה (הוה) signifies not a closed, shut up being, but a being that discloses itself, consequently it is fuisti in the sense of te exhibuisti. This historical self-manifestation of god is based upon the fact that He is אל, i.e., might absolutely, or the absolutely Mighty One; and He was this, as Psalm 90:2 says, even before the beginning of the history of the present world, and will be in the distant ages of the future as of the past. The foundation of this world's history is the creation. The combination ארץ ותבל shows that this is intended to be taken as the object. ותּחולל (with Metheg beside the e4 of the final syllable, which is deprived of its accent, vid., on Psalm 18:20) is the language of address (Rashi): that which is created is in a certain sense born from God (ילּד), and He brings it forth out of Himself; and this is here expressed by חולל (as in Deuteronomy 32:18, cf. Isaiah 51:2), creation being compared to travail which takes place amidst pains (Psychology, S. 114; tr. p. 137). If, after the example of the lxx and Targum, one reads as passive ותּחולל (Bttcher, Olshausen, Hitzig) from the Pulal חולל, Proverbs 8:24, - and this commends itself, since the pre-existence of God can be better dated back beyond facts than beyond the acts of God Himself, - then the conception remains essentially the same, since the Eternal and Absolute One is still to be thought of as מחולל. The fact that the mountains are mentioned first of all, harmonizes with Deuteronomy 33:15. The modus consecutivus is intended to say: before the mountains were brought forth and Thou wast in labour therewith.... The forming of the mountains consequently coincides with the creation of the earth, which is here as a body or mass called ארץ, and as a continent with the relief of mountains and lowlands is called תבל (cf. תבל ארץ, Proverbs 8:31; Job 37:12). To the double clause with טרם seq. praet. (cf. on the other hand seq. fut. Deuteronomy 31:21) is appended וּמעולם as a second definition of time: before the creation of the world, and from eternity to eternity. The Lord was God before the world was - that is the first assertion of Psalm 90:2; His divine existence reaches out of the unlimited past into the unlimited future - this is the second. אל is not vocative, which it sometimes, though rarely, is in the Psalms; it is a predicate, as e.g., in Deuteronomy 3:24.

This is also to be seen from Psalm 90:3, Psalm 90:4, when Psalm 90:3 now more definitely affirms the omnipotence of God, and Psalm 90:4 the supra-temporality of God or the omnipresence of God in time. The lxx misses the meaning when it brings over אל from Psalm 90:2, and reads אל־תּשׁב. The shorter future form תּשׁב for תּשׁיב stands poetically instead of the longer, as e.g., in Psalm 11:6; Psalm 26:9; cf. the same thing in the inf. constr. in Deuteronomy 26:12, and both instances together in Deuteronomy 32:8. The poet intentionally calls the generation that is dying away אנושׁ, which denotes man from the side of his frailty or perishableness; and the new generation בּני־אדם, with which is combined the idea of entrance upon life. It is clear that השׁיב עד־דּכּא is intended to be understood according to Genesis 3:19; but it is a question whether דּכּא is conceived of as an adjective (with mutable aa), as in Psalm 34:19, Isaiah 57:15 : Thou puttest men back into the condition of crushed ones (cf. on the construction Numbers 24:24), or whether as a neutral feminine from דּך ( equals דּכּה): Thou changest them into that which is crushed equals dust, or whether as an abstract substantive like דּכּה, or according to another reading (cf. Psalm 127:2) דּכּא, in Deuteronomy 23:2 : to crushing. This last is the simplest way of taking it, but it comes to one and the same thing with the second, since דּכּא signifies crushing in the neuter sense. A fut. consec. follows. The fact that God causes one generation to die off has as its consequence that He calls another into being (cf. the Arabic epithet of God el-mu‛ı̂d equals המשׁיב, the Resuscitator). Hofmann and Hitzig take תּשׁב as imperfect on account of the following ותּאמר: Thou didst decree mortality for men; but the fut. consec. frequently only expresses the sequence of the thoughts or the connection of the matter, e.g., after a future that refers to that which is constantly taking place, Job 14:10. God causes men to die without letting them die out; for - so it continues in Psalm 90:4 - a thousand years is to Him a very short period, not to be at all taken into account. What now is the connection between that which confirms and that which is confirmed here? It is not so much Psalm 90:3 that is confirmed as Psalm 90:2, to which the former serves for explanation, viz., this, that God as the Almighty (אל), in the midst of this change of generations, which is His work, remains Himself eternally the same. This ever the same, absolute existence has its ground herein, that time, although God fills it up with His working, is no limitation to Him. A thousand years, which would make any man who might live through them weary of life, are to Him like a vanishing point. The proposition, as 2 Peter 3:8 shows, is also true when reversed: "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years." He is however exalted above all time, inasmuch as the longest period appears to Him very short, and in the shortest period the greatest work can be executed by Him. The standpoint of the first comparison, "as yesterday," is taken towards the end of the thousand of years. A whole millennium appears to God, when He glances over it, just as the yesterday does to us when (כּי) it is passing by (יעבר), and we, standing on the border of the opening day, look back upon the day that is gone. The second comparison is an advance upon the first, and an advance also in form, from the fact that the Caph similitudinis is wanting: a thousand years are to God a watch in the night. אשׁמוּרה is a night-watch, of which the Israelites reckoned three, viz., the first, the middle, and the morning watch (vid., Winer's Realwrterbuch s. v. Nachtwache). It is certainly not without design that the poet says אשׁמוּרה בלּילה instead of אשׁמרת הלּילה. The night-time is the time for sleep; a watch in the night is one that is slept away, or at any rate passed in a sort of half-sleep. A day that is past, as we stand on the end of it, still produces upon us the impression of a course of time by reason of the events which we can recall; but a night passed in sleep, and now even a fragment of the night, is devoid of all trace to us, and is therefore as it were timeless. Thus is it to God with a thousand years: they do not last long to Him; they do not affect Him; at the close of them, as at the beginning, He is the Absolute One (אל). Time is as nothing to Him, the Eternal One. The changes of time are to Him no barrier restraining the realization of His counsel - a truth which has a terrible and a consolatory side. The poet dwells upon the fear which it produces.

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