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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Psalms 90

Verses 1-17

Psalms 90:0

Theme - The theme of Psalms 90:0 is for God to redeem His children in order to fulfill their destinies in the midst of their brief lives.

Structure - Psalms 90:0 contrasts God's eternal nature (Psalms 90:1-6) with man's temporal, sinful nature (Psalms 90:7-10), moving the author to cry out for God’s mercy (Psalms 90:11-17). Another way to view this Psalm is to see references to man’s spiritual journey here on earth. We read about God’s foreknowledge as He predestined His creation for a purpose (Psalms 90:1-2), His call to man in the midst of his frailty and depravity (Psalms 90:3-6), our need for justification (Psalms 90:7-9), our need for sanctification in the description of man’s mortality and Moses’ cry for wisdom (Psalms 90:10-12), and our glorification is reflected in Moses’ prayer for God to set His glory upon His children (Psalms 90:13-17).

Psalms 90:1 (A Prayer of Moses the man of God.) Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

Psalms 90:1 Word Study on “dwelling place” Strong says the Hebrew word “dwelling place” “ma`own” ( מָעֹון ) (H4583) means, “abode, dwelling (place), habitation.” The Enhanced Strong says it is used 19 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as “habitation 10, dwelling 4, Deuteronomy 2:0, dwelling place 2, dwellingplace 1.” Strong suggests that this Hebrew word comes from an unused primitive root that means, “to dwell together.” Note the Hebrew word ( עֹנָה ) (5772), which means, “cohabitation, conjugal rights.”

Psalms 90:1 Comments - We can imagine this prayer of Moses as he despaired of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Such vanity and endless wandering while one generation died in the wilderness brought the children of Israel face to face with the reality of their mortality. They had no dwelling place, no cities to dwelling in as did the Gentiles around them. Their only dwelling place was their tents pitched around the Tabernacle. Thus, God (represented by the Tabernacle in the wilderness) was their dwelling place; and not only for his generation. But Moses understood the divine truth that God was man’s only permanent dwelling place for all peoples of all nations for all generations since the time of Adam and Eve.

Psalms 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

Psalms 90:2 Comments - Psalms 90:2 answers the question of “who or what existed before God?” The answer is that no one or nothing existed before God (Isaiah 43:10).

Isaiah 43:10, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”

In Psalms 90:2 Moses establishes God’s eternal nature before contrasting it with man’s mortal nature. God does not dwell in the realm of time as man does. This psalm will later say that the days of man’s life or seventy to eighty years, which is a declaration of our mortality in contrast to God’s eternal nature.

Psalms 90:2 also suggests that the mountains were created at a separate time than the heavens and the earth. Many scholars believe that the large mountain ranges were formed during the massive geological upheavals that took place at the time of the Flood, when the earth’s outer crust split and moved and crashed into one another.

Regarding the phrase “thou are God,” we note that the Scripture does not say “You were God, but rather, “You are God,” meaning that God dwells in eternity, and not in the past. God does not dwell in the realm of time, so He is referred to in the present tense. This is why Jesus said, “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

Psalms 90:3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

Psalms 90:3 Word Study on “destruction” Strong says the Hebrew word “destruction” “dakka'” ( דַּכָּא ) (H1793) literally, crushed,” and figuratively, “contrite, destruction.” The Enhanced Strong says it is used 3 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as “contrite 2, destruction 1.” Strong says this Hebrew word comes from the primitive root ( דָּכָא ) (H1792), which means, “to crumble, to bruise.”

Psalms 90:4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

Psalms 90:4 “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past” Scripture Reference - Note:

2 Peter 3:8, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Psalms 90:4 “and as a watch in the night” Comments - The Jews divided the night into four watches, consisting of three hours per watch. Each watch began at 6:00 p.m., 9:00p.m., 12:00 midnight and 3:00 a.m.

Psalms 90:4 Comments - The God’sWord translation of Psalms 90:4 reads, “Indeed, in your sight a thousand years are like a single day, like yesterday--already past--like an hour in the night.”

Psalms 90:5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

Psalms 90:6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

Psalms 90:5-6 Scripture Reference - Note the same thought in James 1:10-11.

James 1:10-11, “But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

Psalms 90:7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

Psalms 90:8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

Psalms 90:9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

Psalms 90:10 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.

Psalms 90:10 “and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” - Comments - Strength in the life of a person is the reason he can live ten years more past the age of seventy years old.

Psalms 90:10 Comments - In the Garden of Eden mankind was immortal. He was untainted with sin and the characteristics of the earth were perfected for his immortality. Immediately after the fall, man’s lifespan was reduced to approximately one thousand years according to the genealogy of Genesis 5:1-32. Man was now subject to mortality through death and decay as was the earth. Romans 8:19-22 says the creation was subjected to vanity along with man’s mortality. Thus, the characteristics of the earth were slightly altered along with the shortening of man’s lifespan.

Romans 8:19-22, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”

The second time God reduced man’s lifespan is during the time of Noah’s flood (Genesis 6:3), when God reduced man’s lifespan drastically down to one hundred twenty years. God did this by altering the characteristics of the earth through the Flood. Today we live within the same characteristics of the earth and within the same bounds of a 120-year lifespan.

Genesis 6:3, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”

Five hundred years after Noah, Moses refers to man living seventy to eighty years (Psalms 90:10). During the wilderness journeys of Israel, God reduced the lifespan in order to raise up a new generation of Israelites that were able to go into the Promised Land to possess it. However, we must not think of this as a divine decree that reduced mankind’s lifespan, but rather an observation of the average age of man’s life while living in disobedience to God’s purpose and plan for his life. Even today, there are a few people who live up to one hundred twenty years, while most of us live only to seventy to eighty years, just as Moses described. We can make this evaluation because each time God shortened man’s lifespan, He altered the characteristics of the earth. However, from the time of Noah to Moses no alterations were made.

We know that God will one day restore man’s lifespan back to its original immortality. Again, this event will coincide with the creation of a new heaven and earth. Some scholars suggest that man’s thousand-year lifespan will be restored during the Millennial Reign of Christ, but I have yet to find how this change will coincide with the alterations of the earth.

Psalms 90:10 Comments - The Book of Jubilees quotes Psalms 90:10. The context of this verse is found in a description of Abraham’s death after a long life due to righteous living. However, from this time forward, man’s days will be shortened because of the wickedness of their generations.

“Then they shall say: ‘The days of the forefathers were many (even), unto a thousand years, and were good; but behold, the days of our life, if a man has lived many, are three score years and ten, and, if he is strong, four score years, and those evil, and there is no peace in the days of this evil generation.’” ( The Book of Jubilees 23.15-16) [98]

[98] The Book of Jubilees, trans. R. H. Charles, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English With Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes to the Several Books, vol 2, ed. R. H. Charles, 1-82 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 48.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Psalms 90". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.