Psalm 90

Psalm 90 Summary, A Prayer of Moses

  1. Author and History.  Moses is the stated author in the superscription. There is no reason to doubt this. Superscriptions are a part of the Hebrew text. If Moses is the author, we do not have an exact history given in the Psalm. This was most likely written during the exodus (1445-1405 BC) while Israel was experiencing rebellious and therefore unhappy times in the Sinai desert, and probably near the end of Moses’ life. Moses wrote similar psalms or songs in Exodus 15 (Song of the Sea), Deuteronomy 32 (Moses’ Song), and Deuteronomy 33 (Moses’ Blessing). A common thread in all of them is God’s personality or character. Moses depended upon God throughout the exodus—preparation, provision, plan, successes, and failures.
  2. Theme. God is eternal while man is temporal and sinful, so man should focus his life on the LORD—Yahweh—and pray for Yahweh’s blessings in life.
  3. Summary outline.
    1. Psalm 90:1-6. Moses, the man of God, declares that the everlasting Lord (Adonay), God (El), has always been the home or dwelling place (מָעוֹן  ma`on, refuge, habitation, dwelling)—place of security—for Israel and mankind because he is eternal, the creator, the master, the one who sets the rules, the one who judges and blesses, and is not bound by time, while man is bound by time and time quickly fades away.
    2. Psalm 90:7-12. Man also sins and clings to the wrong perspective and values. Because of this repeated sin God is angry. He judges sin, and though man may live seventy or eighty years, the time goes fast and is full of labor and sorrow. Notice the emphasis on time in this Psalm: Psalm 90.4,5,6,9.10,12,14,15. Moses then pleads, in Psalm 90.12, that God will instruct (יָדַע yada’ to know) them to number their days and realize how few each person has so that they use them wisely (compare Psalm 39.4; Ecclesiastes 9.10; 12.1-14; Ephesians 5.16-17). God may give his godly leaders more years to finish their tasks. He gave Moses, the author, 120 years and Joshua 110 years.
    3. Psalm 90:13-17. Moses then uses six imperatives and two jussives (both express the will of the speaker) to make his appeals and requests to Yahweh. He also asks Yahweh to return (see Psalm 85, שׁוּב shub, turn back, return) and pity them (נחם nacham, be sorry, have pity, have compassion), to satisfy them with his lovingkindness (חֶ֫סֶד  hesed, Psalm 36:7-8; 63:3-5), to make them glad, to show them his work and majesty, and concludes with the appeal that Adonay Elohim’s favor (נֹ֫עַם no`am, pleasantness, delightfulness) will be upon them and that he will confirm and establish their work.
  4. Applications—So what? For Israel in its historical situation and for us in our time.
    • Who is our secure home (מָעוֹן ma`on)—where we are secure, safe, and content (Psalm 90:1-2)?  Is our secure home the Lord, the creator and eternal one, or do we ultimately depend on some other person or idea or place or some man-made product? Paul recommended a life of moment by moment focus and faith on Jesus Christ in Galatians 2:20. The author of Hebrews in Hebrews 12:1-3 stressed the same principle. See also Psalm 26.8, 68.6, 71.3, 91.9, Malachi 3:6, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and Hebrews 13:8. Isaiah 40 and Job 38-42 stress God’s power and intelligence and demonstrate that he is capable of being our secure home.
    • Are we casual about sin (Psalm 90:7-8)? It makes life difficult and brings divine discipline and unhappiness. Psalm 1:1-3 and Psalm 119:9-16 instructs us that acceptance of, learning, meditating on, talking about, and rejoicing in God’s word keeps us from sin. Paul, in Philippians 4:8-9, instructs us to think about the right things and to practice what we have learned.  Hebrews 12:4 says we are to resist sin. Hebrews 4:13 says God sees all sin. Those who reject God’s word are unstable and judged. Recall the three stages of divine discipline: warning (Revelation 3:20), discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11), and death (Acts 5:1-11; 1 John 5:16-17). James 1:19-27 also tells us to reject sin and apply God’s word. When we do sin, we are to confess it to God (1 John 1:9).
    • Do we use the time we have or do we squander it (Psalm 90:12)? Life is short. It passes very quickly. God is eternal and we are temporal. That should tell us where to spend our time and energy. We need to make right choices in the days given to us. We should make wise use of our time for the Lord (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 3:17, 23). Though we are busy in the Lord’s service it does not need to be wearisome (Galatians 6.9; 2 Thessalonians 3.13. We can rejoice in the Lord and enjoy the days he has given to us (John 10:10; Philippians 4:4). Furthermore, we are all in full time Christian service. How do we spend our time, our energy, our abilities? God has given a spiritual gift to every believer for service to him and his body, the church (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Ephesians 4:7-16). The gifts differ, the ministries differ, and the results differ.
    • How do we start our days (Psalm 90:14)? Morning can refer to the new beginning for Israel or the start of a new day. Either way, how we begin a new era of life or each new day, this prayer asks that we begin by focusing our attention on God’s lovingkindness so that we may sing and be glad during the day (Psalm 5:3; 59:16; 143:8; Exodus 34:6-7)? Do we do this? Moses asked the Lord to completely satisfy or fill the people with the Lord’s lovingkindness (satisfy שָׂבֵעַ sabea` be satisfied, filled; with your lovingkindness חֶ֫סֶד hesed, Psalm 36:7-8; 63:3-5). The idea is to be so flooded with Yahweh’s lovingkindness that it refreshes, encourages, and carries us through the day. How we begin each day (our morning or a new era of life) often determines our mental attitude and success for that day. We can start the day with worries or fears or dread the day, or we have the privilege of beginning the day with thoughts of how gracious and dependable God is to us. Thinking about the Lord and his promises and provisions can give us the encouragement, the joy, and a song in our heart (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Philippians 4:4-9). Jesus started at least some of his days with prayer (Mark 1:35). Starting the day without the focusing on Yahweh will often make us discouraged, worried, and depressed.
    • Do we pray to the eternal God, Yahweh, to supply us with what we need to live the way he wants us to live each day (Psalm 90:12-17)?  These requests may include comfort, grace and love, happiness, pleasure in God’s work, and his support of our work? Paul, in Philippians 4:6-7, reminds us to pray and not worry. The Bible says much about prayer: Exodus 32:11-13; Nehemiah 1:11; Acts 12:5-8; Ephesians 3:14, 5:20, 6:18-20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Hebrews 4:16; James 5:14; and many more. It is noteworthy that the emphasis of many prayers in the Bible (probably the majority) are requests for deliverance, help, and opportunities in serving God.

More select words to help with explanation, and some helpful cross references. Some may like to see the Hebrew words. Others may ignore them.

  1. Superscription. Prayer (תְּפִלָּה tephillah, prayer) Man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1).
  2. Psalm 90:1, 2, 17. God (Elohim אֱלֹהִים   El אֵל)
  3. Psalm 90:1, 17. Lord (Adonay  אֲֽדֹנָ֗י).
  4. Psalm 90:1. Dwelling place (מָעוֹן  ma`on, refuge, habitation, dwelling) (Psalm 71:3; 91:1, 9; Deuteronomy 33:27).
  5. Psalm 90:2.  Mountains born, birth to the earth (Genesis 1:1; Job 38:4-6).
  6. Psalm 90:2. Everlasting (עוֹלָם `olam, long duration, antiquity, always, forever (Psalm 146:6; 102:24-27).
  7. Psalm 90:4. Thousand years (אֶ֪לֶף ‘eleph thousand (Peter 3:8).
  8. Psalm 90:5-6. Swept away (זָרַם zaram to flood away). Man is like grass (Job 20:4-9; Psalm 39:4-6; 102:11; 103:15-16).
  9. Psalm 90:7-9. Iniquities (עָוֹן `aon, iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity) secret sins  (Deuteronomy 1:34-39; 2:14-16; Numbers 14:26-35; 17:12-13; Proverbs 5:21).
  10. Psalm 90:9, 10, 12, 14, 15. Days (יוֹם yom, day) refers to the time we have in life. It is often full of sorrow due to sin, yet we pray we will use our days wisely and Yahweh will bring joy into our days, (Psalm 23:6; 27:4; 39:4-5; 103:15; 143:5; 144:4; Ephesians 5:16; 1 Peter 3:10).
  11. Psalm 90:10. Days of our life, labor (עָמָל `amal, labor, toil, trouble) and sorrow (אָ֫וֶן ‘awen trouble, sorrow, wickedness), (Ps 78:39; Job 14:10; Ecclesiastes 2:2-7).
  12. Psalm 90:11. Anger (אַף ‘aph nose, face, anger) and fury (עֶבְרָה `ebrah, arrogance, fury, outburst), (Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24, 28; Deuteronomy 28:59).
  13. Psalm 90:12. Teach (יָדַע yada’ to know, hiphil).
  14. Psalm 90.12. To number (מָנָה manoah to number, count), use wisely בּוֹא bo’ go bring + חָכְמָה chacmah wisdom), (Psalm 39:4-5; Proverbs 3:13-18).
  15. Psalm 90:13.  Do return (שׁוּב shub, turn back, return) and be sorry (נחם nacham, be sorry, have pity, have compassion) (Psalm 6:4; 89:46; Deuteronomy 32:36).
  16. Psalm 90:13. LORD (יהוה Yahweh, divine name of God).
  17. Psalm 90:14. Satisfy (שָׂבֵעַ sabea` be satisfied, filled) with your lovingkindness (חֶ֫סֶד  hesed, (Psalm 36:7-8; 63:3-5).
  18. Psalm 90:15. Make glad (שָׂמַח samach rejoice make glad) (Psalm 30:5; 85:6; 86:4).
  19. Psalm 90:16. Let your work (פֹּ֫עַל po`al deed, work,thing made), and majesty (הָדָר hadar, splendor, honor, majesty) appear (Psalm 44:1; Numbers 14:15-24).
  20. Psalm 90:17. Favor (נֹ֫עַם no`am, pleasantness, delightfulness) and is the Hebrew word for “beauty” of the Lord in Psalm 27:4. (Psalm 27:4; 68:28; 80:3, 7; Joshua 24:22-24).
  21. Psalm 90:17. Confirm (כּוּן cun set up, establish) the work (מַעֲשֶׂה ma`aseh, deed, work, thing done), (Joshua 4:22-24)