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90. Psalm 90

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. 3Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. 4For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. 5Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. 6In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. 7For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. 8Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. 9For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. 10The 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. 11Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. 12So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. 13Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. 14O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. 16Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. 17And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

10. In the days of our years there are threescore years and ten. He again returns to the general doctrine respecting the precariousness of the condition of men, although God may not openly display his wrath to terrify them. “What,” says he, “is the duration of life? Truly, if we reckon all our years, we will at length come to threescore and ten, or, if there be some who are stronger and more vigorous, they will bring us even to fourscore.” Moses uses the expression, the days of our years, for the sake of emphasis; for when the time is divided into small portions, the very number itself deceives us, so that we flatter ourselves that life is long. With the view of overthrowing these vain delusions, he permits men to sum up the many thousand days 570570     “Pource que nostre vie.” — Fr. “For our life.” which are in a few years; while he at the same time affirms that this great heap is soon brought to nothing. Let men then extend the space of their life as much as they please, by calculating that each year contains three hundred and sixty-five days; yet assuredly they will find that the term of seventy years is short. When they have made a lengthened calculation of the days, this is the sum in which the process ultimately results. He who has reached the age of fourscore years hastens to the grave. Moses himself lived longer, (Deuteronomy 34:7,) 571571     In the Latin version it is, “multa annorum millia;” “many thousand years.” But this is evidently a mistake, which the French version corrects, reading “beaucoup de milliers de jours.” and so perhaps did others in his time; but he speaks here of the ordinary term. And even then, those were accounted old men, and in a manner decrepit, who attained to the age of fourscore years; so that he justly declares that it is the robust only who arrive at that age. He puts pride for the strength or excellence of which men boast so highly. The sense is, that before men decline and come to old age, even in the very bloom of youth they are involved in many troubles, and that they cannot escape from the cares, weariness, sorrows, fears, griefs, inconveniences, and anxieties, to which this mortal life is subject. Moreover, this is to be referred to the whole course of our existence in the present state. And assuredly, he who considers what is the condition of our life from our infancy until we descend into the grave, will find troubles and turmoil in every part of it. The two Hebrew words עמל, amal, and און, aven, which are joined together, are taken passively for inconveniences and afflictions; implying that the life of man is full of labor, and fraught with many torments, and that even at the time when men are in the height of their pride. The reason which is added, for it swiftly passes by, and we fly away, seems hardly to suit the scope of the passage; for felicity may be brief, and yet on that account it does not cease to be felicity. But Moses means that men foolishly glory in their excellence, since, whether they will or no, they are constrained to look to the time to come. And as soon as they open their eyes, they see that they are dragged and carried forward to death with rapid haste, and that their excellence is every moment vanishing away.


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