Psalm 90:9
For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
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(9) Are passed away.—Better, are declining.

A tale.—Rather, a murmur. (See Note, Psalm 1:2.) Probably, from the parallelism with wrath, a moan of sadness. So in Ezekiel 2:10, “a sound of woe.” Since the cognate verb often means “meditate,” some render here thought. Theognis says,

“Gallant youth speeds by like a thought.”

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?For all our days are passed away in thy wrath - Margin, "turned." The Hebrew word - פנה pânâh - means to "turn;" then, to turn to or "from" anyone; and hence, to turn away as if to flee or depart. Here it means that our days seem to turn from us; to give the back to us; to be unwilling to remain with us; to leave us. This seems to be the fruit or result of the anger of God, as if he were unwilling that our days should attend us any longer. Or, it is as if he took away our days, or caused them to turn away, because he was angry and was unwilling that we should any longer enjoy them. The cutting off of life in any manner is a proof of the divine displeasure; and in every instance death should be regarded as a new illustration of the fact that the race is guilty.

We spend our years as a tale that is told - Margin, "meditation." The Hebrew word - הגה hegeh - means properly

(a) a muttering, or growling, as of thunder;

(b) a sighing or moaning;

(c) a meditation, thought.

It means here, evidently, thought; that is, life passes away as rapidly as thought. It has no permanency. It makes no impression. Thought is no sooner come than it is gone. So rapid, so fleeting, so unsubstantial is life. The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate in some unaccountable way render this "as a spider." The translation in our common version, "as a tale that is told," is equally unauthorized, as there is nothing corresponding to this in the Hebrew. The image in the original is very striking and beautiful. Life passes with the rapidity of thought!

9. are passed—literally, "turn," as to depart (Jer 6:4).

spend—literally, "consume."

as a tale—literally, "a thought," or, "a sigh" (Eze 2:10).

Are passed away; or, turn away themselves or their face from us. They do not continue with us, but quickly turn their backs upon us, and leave us.

As a tale that is told; which may a little affect us for the present, but is quickly ended and gone out of mind, Or, as a word, as Job 37:2, which in an instant is gone, and that irrevocably. Or, as a thought, or a sigh, or a breath; all which come to one sense.

For all our days are passed away in thy wrath,.... The life of man is rather measured by days than by months or years; and these are but few, which pass away or "decline" (g) as the day does towards the evening; see Jeremiah 6:4 or "turn away their face", as the word (h) may be rendered: they turn their backs upon us, and not the face to us; so that it is a hard thing to get time by the forelock; and these, which is worst of all, pass away in the "wrath" of God. This has a particular reference to the people of Israel in the wilderness, when God had swore in his wrath they should not enter into the land of Canaan, but wander about all their days in the wilderness, and be consumed there; so that their days manifestly passed away under visible marks of the divine displeasure; and this is true of all wicked men, who are by nature children of wrath, and go through the world, and out of it, as such: and even it may be said of man in general; the ailments, diseases, and calamities, that attend the state of infancy and youth; the losses, crosses, and disappointments, vexations and afflictions, which wait upon man in riper years; and the evils and infirmities of old age, do abundantly confirm this truth: none but God's people can, in any sense, be excepted from it, on whom no wrath comes, being loved with an everlasting love; and yet these, in their own apprehensions, have frequently the wrath of God upon them, and pass many days under a dreadful sense of it:

we spend our years as a tale that is told; or as a "meditation" (y) a thought of the heart, which quickly passes away; or as a "word" (z), as others, which is soon pronounced and gone; or as an assemblage of words, a tale or story told, a short and pleasant one; for long tales are not listened to; and the pleasanter they are, the shorter the time seems to be in which they are told: the design of the metaphor is to set forth the brevity, and also the vanity, of human life; for in tales there are often many trifling and vain things, as well as untruths told; men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree a lie, in every state; and, in their best state, they are altogether vanity: a tale is a mere amusement; affects for a while, if attended to, and then is lost in oblivion; and such is human life: in a tale there is oftentimes a mixture, something pleasant, and something tragic; such changes are there in life, which is filled up with different scenes of prosperity and adversity: and perhaps this phrase may point at the idle and unprofitable way and manner in which the years of life are spent, like that of consuming time by telling idle stories; some of them spent in youthful lusts and pleasures; others in an immoderate pursuit of the world, and the things of it; very few in a religious way, and these with great imperfection, and to very little purpose and profit; and particularly point to the children of Israel in the wilderness, who how they spent their time for thirty eight years there, we have no tale nor story of it. The Targum is,

"we have consumed the days of our life as the breath or vapour of the mouth in winter,''

which is very visible, and soon passes away; see James 4:14.

(g) "declinaverunt", Pagninus, Montanus; "declinant", Munster, Muis. (h) "Deflectunt faciem", Gejerus, so Ainsworth. (y) "sicut cogitationem", Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth. (z) "Sicut sermonem", Pagninus, Montanus; "instar locutionis", Musculus, Vatablus; "dicto citius", Tigurine version.

For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we {h} spend our years as a tale that is told.

(h) Our days are not only short but miserable as our sins daily provoke your wrath.

9. are passed away] Lit. turn or decline towards evening (Jeremiah 6:4). We are “a generation of thy wrath” (Jeremiah 7:29). Our life is drawing to a close under a cloud; there is no sign of ‘light at evening-tide.’

we spend &c.] Lit. we consume our years as a sigh: they are past as quickly as a sigh, itself the expression of sorrow and weariness. The meaning of the word is however uncertain. Some explain, as a thought, comparing Theognis, 979, “Swift as a thought gay youth is past and gone”: the Targ. gives as a breath: A.V. follows Jerome, “consumpsimus annos nostros quasi sermonem loquens.”

Verse 9. - For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; or, "under thy wrath" - "whilst thou art still angry with us" (comp. Deuteronomy 32:15-25). We spend our years - rather, bring our years to an end (Hengstenberg, Kay, Revised Version) as a tale that is told; rather, as a reverie, or "as a murmur." Psalm 90:9After 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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