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Psalm 90 Study Notes


Ps 90 title No other psalm is labeled a prayer of Moses. The Hebrew preposition may identify Moses as the author, or it may just suggest the poem reflects a Mosaic perspective (see note at Ps 72 title).

90:1-2 Throughout Israel’s history, the Lord provided physical aid and spiritual sanctuary for his people. The psalmist emphasized God’s immutability as the basis for his faithfulness. The nuance of gave birth when referring to God always emphasizes his role as Creator and Almighty Father (Col 1:15-17).

90:3 The sovereignty of God over creation includes his authority over life and death. Descendants of Adam could also be translated “sons of man” (8:5). The psalm contrasts humanity’s limitations and God’s eternality.

90:4 The nature of God makes him unconstrained by time. The expression a thousand years implies infinity.

90:5-6 You end their lives is literally “You interrupted them.” Grass is a favorite OT metaphor for mankind’s frailty and the brevity of human life (103:15-16; Is 40:6-8; Jms 1:9-11).

90:7-9 Secret sins are transgressions committed discreetly or those unrecognized by the individual (19:13). But God is always aware of humanity’s iniquities because he is omniscient.

90:10 Seventy or eighty years may represent the average lifespan of God’s people, since dietary restrictions and attention to purity promote longevity. Even the best of them alludes to the difficulties of daily life in temporal bodies, but see note at vv. 14-15.

90:11 Who understands is literally “who knows” (2Sm 12:22; Pr 24:22; Ec 3:21; 6:12; Jnh 3:9). God’s inscrutability troubled the psalmist since God’s ways are unknowable.

90:12 The psalmist asked the Lord to teach us to take advantage of our short lives on earth in order to nurture a heart directed by wisdom (1Kg 3:12; Pr 16:23; Ec 8:5; 10:2).

90:13 The Lord “returns” (Hb shuv) all living things to dust (v. 3), but the psalmist implored God to turn to his people. On how long, see note at 13:1-2. The psalmist identified no specific enemy but perceived God as the agent of distress.

90:14-15 God’s provision and answer to prayer traditionally occurred in the morning (88:13). The psalmist did not expect to live a life without adversity. Rather, he asked the Lord for an equal balance of blessing and adversity. A life without trials would lead to an attitude of self-sufficiency and independence from God (Pr 30:8-9).

90:16-17 The blessings of God’s people are visual witnesses to his faithfulness. Establish . . . the work of our hands implies that Israel does have a role in provision, and also makes a direct connection between success and God’s providence.