As Moses is about to treat as well of the brevity and miseries of human life, as of the punishments inflicted upon the people of Israel, in order to minister some consolation for assuaging the grief and fear which the faithful might have entertained upon observing the operation of the common law, to which all mankind are subject, and especially, upon considering their own afflictions, he opens the psalm by speaking of the peculiar grace which God had vouchsafed to his chosen tribes. He next briefly recites, how wretched the condition of men is, if they allow their hearts to rest in this world, especially when God summons them as guilty sinners to his judgment seat. And after he has bewailed, that even the children of Abraham had experienced for a time such severity, that they were almost consumed with sorrow, confiding in God's free favor, by which He had adopted them to himself, he prays that He would deal towards them in a merciful and gracious manner, as he had done in times past, and that he would continue even to the end the ordinary course of his grace.
A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
It is uncertain whether this psalm was composed by Moses, or whether some one of the prophets framed it into a song for the use of the people, from a formula of prayer written by Moses, and handed down from age to age. It is, however, highly probable, that it is not without some ground ascribed to Moses in the title; and since psalms were in use even in his time, I have no doubt that he was its author.1 Some maintain that the reason why his name appears in the inscription is, that it was sung by his posterity; but I cannot see why they should have recourse to such a groundless conceit. The epithet, The man of God, given to Moses, which is immediately added, clearly confutes them.2 This honorable designation is expressly applied to him, that his doctrine may have the greater authority. If conjectures are to be admitted, it is probable, that when the time of his death drew near, he endited this prayer to assuage the prolonged sorrow under which the people had almost pined away, and to comfort their hearts, under the accumulation of adversities with which they were oppressed. Although the wonderful goodness of God shone brightly in their deliverance from Egypt, which, burying the miseries formerly endured by them, might have filled them with joy; yet we know that, soon after, it was extinguished by their ingratitude; so that for the space of not less than forty years, they were consumed with continual languor in the wilderness. It was therefore very seasonable for Moses at that time to beseech God that he would deal mercifully and gently with his people, according to the number of the years in which he had afflicted them.
1 "Pour faire la fin de ce livre troisieme." -- Fr. "As a conclusion to this third Book." The Psalter, as we have before observed, has been divided by the Hebrews into five books. This is the end of Book 3. See volume 2, page 126, note.
2 All the ancient versions ascribe this psalm to Moses, and it is generally agreed, that it was written by him. To him also, R. Selomo, and other Jewish commentators, ascribe the nine following psalms; for which they do not appear to have any other foundation but their own absurd canon of criticism, by which they assign all anonymous psalms to that author whose name last occurred in a preceding title. It is evident, for instance, that the 99th psalm, in which the prophet Samuel is mentioned, could not have been written by Moses.