Teach Us To Number Our Days: An Exegetical And Theological Analysis Of Psalm 90 -- By: Dan Lioy

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 05:1 (Mar 2008)
Article: Teach Us To Number Our Days: An Exegetical And Theological Analysis Of Psalm 90
Author: Dan Lioy


Teach Us To Number Our Days: An Exegetical And Theological Analysis Of Psalm 901

Dan Lioy2

Abstract

Psalm 90 is a communal lament authored by Moses in which he sought the wisdom and favor of the Lord. Perhaps toward the end of the Israelites’ 40-year period of wandering in the desert, the great lawgiver, intercessor, and advocate of God’s people reflected on the brevity of human existence, especially against the backdrop of Yahweh’s eternality. Moses noted that even the strongest and healthiest of people are frail and transient before the all-powerful Creator of the universe. Only He, in His grace and mercy, can bring enduring value out of the toils and troubles experienced by His loyal followers. Likewise, He alone can fill the lives of the covenant community with productivity, joy, and satisfaction for His glory.

1. Superscription: Providing An Historical Context For Understanding Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is regarded as a communal lament (cf. Clifford 2005:191, 197; Craven 1992:22; Leslie 1949:217, 250; Waltner 2006:442; Weiser 1962:66), that is, a hymn initially composed to express the grief and sorrow of the assembly over a distressing circumstance (cf. Robertson 1977:47, 49; Rosenberg and Zlotowitz 1999:xvi; Seybold 1990:115-116; Westermann 1980:13, 24, 35, 119). The precise nature and cause of the anguish remains unknown, being sketched only in the broadest of terms (e.g., the “long and exhausting hardships” arising from “famine and disease”, Tate 1990:438; cf. Alter 2007:318; Eaton 2003:323). Some conjecture that while the poem contains some ancient stylistic elements (Kraus 1989:215), it nonetheless is a literary amalgam that was created in post-exilic Israel by “learned scribal composers, collectors, and interpreters of psalms and teachings” (Tate 1990:439; cf. Briggs 1906:2:272; Broyles 1999:113; Steussy 2004:163; Terrien 2003:645-646).

The latter view notwithstanding, there is sufficient evidence to support the historical association of Moses to Psalm 90 (cf. Calvin 2007; Deffinbaugh 2001; Hengstenberg 1864:119; Spurgeon 2001). For instance, in the Targum (an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh), the following inscription appears at the beginning of the psalm: “The prayer that Moses the prophet of the Lord prayed when the people, the house of Israel, sinned in the wilderness” (Cook 2001). This suggests that toward the end of the Israelites’ 40-year period of wanderi...

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