Psalm 78:39
Parallel Verses
New International Version
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.

King James Bible
For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Darby Bible Translation
And he remembered that they were flesh, a breath that passeth away and cometh not again.

World English Bible
He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away, and doesn't come again.

Young's Literal Translation
And He remembereth that they are flesh, A wind going on -- and it returneth not.

Psalm 78:39 Parallel
Commentary
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

He remembered that they were but flesh - Weak mortals. He took their feeble perishing state always into consideration, and knew how much they needed the whole of their state of probation; and therefore he bore with them to the uttermost. How merciful is God!

A wind that passeth away, and cometh not again - I believe this to be a bad translation and may be productive of error; as if when a man dies his being were ended, and death were an eternal sleep. The original is, רוח הולך ולא ישוב ruach holech velo yashub: and the translation should be, "The spirit goeth away, and it doth not return." The present life is the state of probation; when therefore the flesh - the body, fails, the spirit goeth away into the eternal world, and returneth not hither again. Now God, being full of compassion, spared them, that their salvation might be accomplished before they went into that state where there is no change; where the pure are pure still, and the defiled are defiled still. All the Versions are right; but the polyglot translator of the Syriac, rocho, has falsely put ventus, wind, instead of spiritus, soul or spirit. The Arabic takes away all ambiguity: "He remembered that they were flesh; and a spirit which, when it departs, does not again return." The human being is composed of flesh and spirit, or body and soul; these are easily separated, and, when separated, the body turns to dust, and the spirit returns no more to animate it in a state of probation. Homer has a saying very like that of the psalmist: -

Ανδρος δε ψυχη παλιν ελθειν ουτε ληἱστη,

Ουθ' ἑλετη, επει αρ κεν αμειψεται ἑρκος οδοντων.

IL. ix., ver., 408.

"But the soul of man returns no more;

nor can it be acquired nor caught after it has

passed over the barrier of the teeth."

Pope has scarcely given the passage its genuine meaning: -

"But from our lips the vital spirit fled

Returns no more to wake the silent dead."

And the Ossian-like version of Macpherson is but little better: "But the life of man returns no more; nor acquired nor regained is the soul which once takes its flight on the wind." What has the wind to do with the ἑρκος οδοντων of the Greek poet?

Several similar sayings may be found among the Greek poets; but they all suppose the materiality of the soul.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

for he

Psalm 103:14-16 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust...

Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh...

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

a wind. Or, as the Hebrew rooach holaich welo yashoov may be rendered, the spirit goeth away and returneth not again. To this purpose the Arabic, He remembered that they were flesh; and a spirit which when it departs returneth not again. The human being is composed of flesh and spirit, or body and soul: these are easily separated, and when separated, the body turns to dust, and the spirit returns no more to animate the body in a state of probation.

Job 7:7,16 O remember that my life is wind: my eye shall no more see good...

James 4:14 Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time...

Library
Memory, Hope, and Effort
'That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.'--PSALM lxxviii. 7. In its original application this verse is simply a statement of God's purpose in giving to Israel the Law, and such a history of deliverance. The intention was that all future generations might remember what He had done, and be encouraged by the remembrance to hope in Him for the future; and by both memory and hope, be impelled to the discharge of present duty. So, then, the words
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Fifteenth Day for Schools and Colleges
WHAT TO PRAY.--For Schools and Colleges "As for Me, this is My covenant with them, saith the Lord: My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LoThe future of the Church and the world depends, to an extent we little conceive, on the education of the day. The Church may be seeking to evangelise the heathen, and be giving up her own children to secular
Andrew Murray—The Ministry of Intercession

Out of the Deep of Loneliness, Failure, and Disappointment.
My heart is smitten down, and withered like grass. I am even as a sparrow that sitteth alone on the housetop--Ps. cii. 4, 6. My lovers and friends hast Thou put away from me, and hid mine acquaintance out of my sight--Ps. lxxviii. 18. I looked on my right hand, and saw there was no man that would know me. I had no place to flee unto, and no man cared for my soul. I cried unto Thee, O Lord, and said, Thou art my Hope. When my spirit was in heaviness, then Thou knewest my path.--Ps. cxlii. 4, 5.
Charles Kingsley—Out of the Deep

The Good Shepherd: a Farewell Sermon
John 10:27-28 -- "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." It is a common, and I believe, generally speaking, my dear hearers, a true saying, that bad manners beget good laws. Whether this will hold good in every particular, in respect to the affairs of this world, I am persuaded the observation is very pertinent in respect to the things of another: I mean bad manners,
George Whitefield—Selected Sermons of George Whitefield

Cross References
James 4:14
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Genesis 6:3
Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years."

Job 7:7
Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again.

Job 7:16
I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning.

Job 10:9
Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?

Psalm 39:4
"Show me, LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.

Psalm 90:10
Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

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