Psalm 90:11
Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
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(11) Who knoweth . . .—Better,

Who regardeth Thine anger

And—in a measure due to reverence—Thy wrath?

Who (no doubt with thought of Israel’s enemies) has that just terror of Thy wrath which a truly reverential regard would produce? It is only the persons who have that fearful and bowed apprehension of His Majesty, and that sacred dread of all offence to Him, which is called the “fear of God.” And this is not inconsistent with a child-like trust and love, and a peaceful security (“Of whom, then, shall I be afraid?”). On the other hand, those who scoff against religion often become the victims of wild and base terror.

Psalm 90:11. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? — The greatness, and force, and dreadful effects of thine anger, conceived against the sons of men, and in particular against thine own people, for their sins? Few or none sufficiently apprehend it, or steadfastly believe it, or duly consider it, or are rightly affected with it: all which particulars are comprehended under this word knoweth. Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath — That is, as some interpret the words, “In proportion to the fear and reverence which are due to thee as the great Lord and Sovereign of the world, so may the transgressors of thy law expect their punishment.” Or, according to the fear and dread which sinful men have, or ought to have, of thee, a just and holy God, so is thy wrath. It bears full proportion to it, nay, indeed, far exceeds it. These fears of thee are not groundless apprehensions, the effects of ignorance and folly, or of superstition, as heathen and infidels have sometimes said, but are just, and built on solid grounds, and justified by the terrible effects of thy wrath upon ungodly men. Nor can it be ever said of thy wrath, as it is often said of death, that the fear of it is worse than the thing itself. Houbigant renders the words thus: Who knoweth, or considereth, the power of thine anger; and thy wrath, in proportion as thou art terrible? That is, in other words, “Notwithstanding all the manifestations of thine indignation against sin, which introduced death and every other calamity among men, who is there that knoweth, who that duly considereth and layeth to heart, the almighty power of that indignation?” Something seems evidently intimated here beyond the punishments of sin in this world; for these are what men feel and experience. But who knows the dreadful punishments of a future world? Well, therefore, is this reflection followed by a devout prayer in the next verse. For the knowledge and consideration here intended are the gift of God.

90:7-11 The afflictions of the saints often come from God's love; but the rebukes of sinners, and of believers for their sins, must be seen coming from the displeasure of God. Secret sins are known to God, and shall be reckoned for. See the folly of those who go about to cover their sins, for they cannot do so. Our years, when gone, can no more be recalled than the words that we have spoken. Our whole life is toilsome and troublesome; and perhaps, in the midst of the years we count upon, it is cut off. We are taught by all this to stand in awe. The angels that sinned know the power of God's anger; sinners in hell know it; but which of us can fully describe it? Few seriously consider it as they ought. Those who make a mock at sin, and make light of Christ, surely do not know the power of God's anger. Who among us can dwell with that devouring fire?Who knoweth the power of thine anger? - Who can measure it, or take a correct estimate of it, as it is manifest in cutting down the race of people? If the removal of people by death is to be traced to thine anger - or is, in any proper sense, an expression of thy wrath - who can measure it, or understand it? The cutting down of whole generations of people - of nations - of hundreds of million of human beings - of the great, the powerful, the mighty, as well as the weak and the feeble, is an amazing exhibition of the "power" - of the might - of God; and who is there that can fully understand this? Who can estimate fully the wrath of God, if this is to be regarded as an expression of it? Who can comprehend what this is? Who can tell, after such an exhibition, what may be in reserve, or what further and more fearful displays of wrath there may yet be?

Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath - literally, "And according to thy fear, thy wrath." The word rendered "fear" would here seem to refer to the "reverence" due to God, or to what there is in his character to inspire awe: to wit, his power, his majesty, his greatness; and the sense seems to be that his wrath or anger as manifested in cutting down the race seems to be commensurate with all in God that is vast, wonderful, incomprehensible. As no one can understand or take in the one, so no one can understand or take in the other. God is great in all things; great in himself; great in his power in cutting down the race; great in the expressions of his displeasure.

11. The whole verse may be read as a question implying the negative, "No one knows what Thy anger can do, and what Thy wrath is, estimated by a true piety." Who knoweth? few or none sufficiently apprehend it, or stedfastly believe it, or duly consider it, or are rightly affected with it. For all these things are comprehended under this word knoweth.

The power of thine anger; the greatness, and force, and dreadful effects of thine anger conceived against the sons of men, and in particular against thine own people, for their miscarriages.

According to thy fear, i.e. according to the fear of thee; as my fear is put for the fear of me, Malachi 1:6, and his knowledge for the knowledge of him, Isaiah 53:11. According to that fear or dread which sinful men have of a just and holy God. These fears of the Deity are not vain bugbears, and the effects of ignorance and folly or superstition, as heathens and atheists have sometimes said, but are just, and built upon solid grounds, and justified by the terrible effects of thy wrath upon mankind.

So is thy wrath; it bears full proportion to it, nay, indeed, doth far exceed it. It cannot be said of God’s wrath, which is said of death, that the fear of it is worse than the thing itself. But this verse is by many, both ancient and later interpreters, rendered otherwise, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew text, Who knoweth the power of thine anger, and thy wrath according to thy fear? i.e. either,

1. According to the fear of thee, or so as thou art to be feared, or answerably to thy terrible displeasure against sin and sinners. Or,

Who knoweth the power of thine anger?.... Expressed in his judgments on men: as the drowning of the old world, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, the consumption of the Israelites in the wilderness; or in shortening the days of men, and bringing them to the dust of death; or by inflicting punishment on men after death; they are few that take notice of this, and consider it well, or look into the causes of it, the sins of men: such as are in hell experimentally know it; but men on earth, very few closely attend to it, or rarely think of it:

even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath; or who knows thy wrath, so as to fear thee? who considers it so, as that it has such an influence upon him to fear the Lord, and stand in awe of him, and fear to offend him, and seek to please him? or rather the wrath of God is answerable to men's fear of him; and that, in some things and cases, men's fears exceed the things feared; as afflictions viewed beforehand, and death itself: the fears of them are oftentimes greater, and more distressing, than they themselves, when they come; but so it is not with the wrath of God; the greatest fears, and the most dreadful apprehensions of it, do not come up to it; it is full as great as they fear it is, and more so.

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

(k) If man's life for the shortness of it is miserable, it is even more so if your wrath is on it, as they who fear you only know.

11. Who knoweth the power of thine anger,

And thy wrath according to the fear that is due unto thee? (R.V.)

Who understands or lays to heart the intensity of God’s wrath against sin so as to fear Him duly with that reverence which is man’s safeguard against offending Him? Cp. Psalm 5:7; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 16:6; Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 5:29.

Verse 11 - Who knoweth the power of thins anger? Who can duly estimate the intensity of God's anger against such as have displeased him? Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath; rather, or who can estimate thy fury as the fear of thee (i.e. the proper fear) requires? The verse is exegetical of ver. 9, and is intended to impress on man the terribleness of God's anger. Psalm 90:11After the transitoriness of men has now been confirmed in Psalm 90:6. out of the special experience of Israel, the fact that this particular experience has its ground in a divine decree of wrath is more definitely confirmed from the facts of this experience, which, as Psalm 90:11. complain, unfortunately have done so little to urge them on to the fear of God, which is the condition and the beginning of wisdom. In Psalm 90:9 we distinctly hear the Israel of the desert speaking. That was a generation that fell a prey to the wrath of God (דּור עברתו, Jeremiah 7:29). עברה is wrath that passes over, breaks through the bounds of subjectivity. All their days (cf. Psalm 103:15) are passed away (פּנה, to turn one's self, to turn, e.g., Deuteronomy 1:24) in such wrath, i.e., thoroughly pervaded by it. They have spent their years like a sound (כּמו־הגה), which has hardly gone forth before it has passed away, leaving no trace behind it; the noun signifies a gentle dull sound, whether a murmur (Job 37:2) or a groan (Ezekiel 2:10). With בּהם in Psalm 90:10 the sum is stated: there are comprehended therein seventy years; they include, run up to so many. Hitzig renders: the days wherein (בהם) our years consist are seventy years; but שׁנותינו side by side with ימי must be regarded as its more minute genitival definition, and the accentuation cannot be objected to. Beside the plural שׁנים the poetic plural שׁנות appears here, and it also occurs in Deuteronomy 32:7 (and nowhere else in the Pentateuch). That of which the sum is to be stated stands first of all as a casus absol. Luther's rendering: Siebenzig Jar, wens hoch kompt so sinds achtzig (seventy years, or at the furthest eighty years), as Symmachus also meant by his ἐν παραδόξῳ (in Chrysostom), is confirmed by the Talmudic הגיע לגבורות, "to attain to extreme old age" (B. Moכd katan, 28a), and rightly approved of by Hitzig and Olshausen. גבוּרת signifies in Psalm 71:16 full strength, here full measure. Seventy, or at most eighty years, were the average sum of the extreme term of life to which the generation dying out in the wilderness attained. ורהבּם the lxx renders τὸ πλεῖον αὐτῶν, but רהבּם is not equivalent to רבּם. The verb רהב signifies to behave violently, e.g., of importunate entreaty, Proverbs 6:3, of insolent treatment, Isaiah 3:5, whence רהב (here רהב), violence, impetuosity, and more especially a boastful vaunting appearance or coming forward, Job 9:13; Isaiah 30:7. The poet means to say that everything of which our life is proud (riches, outward appearance, luxury, beauty, etc.), when regarded in the right light, is after all only עמל, inasmuch as it causes us trouble and toil, and און, because without any true intrinsic merit and worth. To this second predicate is appended the confirmatory clause. חישׁ is infin. adverb. from חוּשׁ, הישׁ, Deuteronomy 32:35 : speedily, swiftly (Symmachus, the Quinta, and Jerome). The verb גּוּז signifies transire in all the Semitic dialects; and following this signification, which is applied transitively in Numbers 11:31, the Jewish expositors and Schultens correctly render: nam transit velocissime. Following upon the perfect גּז, the modus consecutivus ונּעפה maintains its retrospective signification. The strengthening of this mood by means of the intentional ah is more usual with the 1st pers. sing., e.g., Genesis 32:6, than with the 1st pers. plur., as here and in Genesis 41:11; Ew. 232, g. The poet glances back from the end of life to the course of life. And life, with all of which it had been proud, appears as an empty burden; for it passed swiftly by and we fled away, we were borne away with rapid flight upon the wings of the past.

Such experience as this ought to urge one on to the fear of God; but how rarely does this happen! and yet the fear of God is the condition (stipulation) and the beginning of wisdom. The verb ידע in Psalm 90:11, just as it in general denotes not merely notional but practically living and efficient knowledge, is here used of a knowledge which makes that which is known conduce to salvation. The meaning of וּכיראתך is determined in accordance with this. The suffix is here either gen. subj.: according to Thy fearfulness (יראה as in Ezekiel 1:18), or gen. obj.: according to the fear that is due to Thee, which in itself is at once (cf. Psalm 5:8; Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 2:25) more natural, and here designates the knowledge which is so rarely found, as that which is determined by the fear of God, as a truly religious knowledge. Such knowledge Moses supplicates for himself and for Israel: to number our days teach us rightly to understand. 1 Samuel 23:17, where כּן ידע signifies "he does not know it to be otherwise, he is well aware of it," shows how כּן is meant. Hitzig, contrary to the accentuation, draws it to למנות ימינו; but "to number our days" is in itself equivalent to "hourly to contemplate the fleeting character and brevity of our lifetime;" and כּן הודע prays for a true qualification for this, and one that accords with experience. The future that follows is well adapted to the call, as frequently aim and result. But הביא is not to be taken, with Ewald and Hitzig, in the signification of bringing as an offering, a meaning this verb cannot have of itself alone (why should it not have been ונקריב?). Bttcher also erroneously renders it after the analogy of Proverbs 2:10 : "that we may bring wisdom into the heart," which ought to be בּלב. הביא, deriving its meaning from agriculture, signifies "to carry off, obtain, gain, prop. to bring in," viz., into the barn, 2 Samuel 9:10, Hagg. Psa 1:6; the produce of the field, and in a general way gain or profit, is hence called תּבוּאה. A wise heart is the fruit which one reaps or garners in from such numbering of the days, the gain which one carries off from so constantly reminding one's self of the end. לבב חכמה is a poetically intensified expression for לב חכם, just as לב מרפּא in Proverbs 14:30 signifies a calm easy heart.

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