Psalms Chapter 102:1-14, 24-28 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, November 1, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

Books referenced in these notes are:

1. Psalms vol 3: Psalms 90-150, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, Baker Academic, 2008 by John Goldingay

2. Psalms: Revised Expositor’s Commentary by Willem Van Gemeren

Ps 102
This is considered one of the seven penitential psalms (6, 32, 38,51, 102, 130, 143), more because of it’s stress on the suffering that comes from sin and God’s discipline of sinners. It is a lament of the godly over being thrown in with the ungodly in exile from the land. Other exilic psalms are 42, 43, 74,79, 137. Jews traditionally recite this psalm during fasting.(van Gemeren)

There is no named nor stand out traditional author for the psalm. Suggested authors include David in a prophetic vein, or people who actually endured the exile such as Daniel, Jeremiah, or Nehemiah. The evidence for it’s ties to the Babylonian captivity come in the verses our Sunday School lesson doesn’t cover: 13-21. Christians have routinely viewed the psalm in a more individualistic vein than Jews, emphasizing the psalmist’s pains in the early verses rather than the latter verses’ shift to the Israelites’ plight as a group.

The header’s description of the author is unique in the Psalter but similar to Babylonian prayers and matches well v.1-11.(Goldingay)

Plea: Hebrew tepilla, legal terminology, throwing oneself on the mercy of the court.(Goldingay)

Weak: Hebrew ani or anwa- the vulnerable and powerless, largely made that way by having no family. Often translated “poor”, “oppressed”, “meek”, or “afflicted”, these are those victimized by the more fortunate in society. They are a class God is especially concerned with, because they have no other defender. (Goldingay)

Murmur: Hebrew Siah, siha. Normally translated “lament” or “meditate”. Strong feelings outwardly expressed.(Goldingay)

The psalmist asks God to listen and not ignore him, or worse, reject him outright. The Hebrew is “Do not hide your face from me”, which can connote either ignoring someone or actively turhing away from them. The style is similar to language in other psalms (18:6, 27:9, 31:2, 39:12, 56:9, 59:16, 69:17) following their example as the right way to entreat God for deliverance.(Goldingay)

These verses are about the crisis’ effect on the psalmist. There is repeated use of “my”: my days, my bones, my heart, my food, my groaning, my flesh, my bones.(Goldingay)

Smoke and burning bones are not necessarily about having a fever so much as a metaphor for being greatly afflicted and/or in pain. The “burning” metaphor continues in v.4 with a heart withered like grass in dry heat or a fire. The heart (Hebrew leb, lebab) in ancient thought is closer to the modern notion of “mind”, the place where thought occurs and decisions are made. The bowels were the ancients’ idea of the seat of emotion in the body. A withered heart, then, suggests a person unable to think.(Goldingay)

Furnace and hearth are from the Hebrew moqed, which describes both a “fire place” and the contents in it, “embers”.(Van Gemeren)

The psalm now switches to “I” as the psalmist compares himself to birds. The qaat and the kus (Hebrew) are doubtless birds, but no one is certain what type bird. Modern scholarship inclines to different sorts of owl, birds declared ritually unclean (Lev 11:16-18). This fits v.7’s imagery of a bird that is wakeful, presumably active when people are asleep, like owls. The psalmist is unable to sleep either because of his troubles (as in HCSB’s stay awke, NIV’s lie awake) or he is awake because he looks for God’s deliverance (KJV’s watch, NJB’s keep vigil), so he resembles nocturnal birds like owls.(Goldingay, Van Gemeren)

Now the psalmist turns to his enemies. They aren’t the cause of his troubles, but their decision is only making matters worse. Goldingay rejects the common translation “curse” at the end of v.8 for “sworn oaths by me”, based on the Hebrew saba. The psalmist has become a figure of revulsion, so his enemies use him in their oaths, “if I don’t do as I’ve sworn, let me become like X over there”. The enemies revulsion is explained as their rejection of the psalmist’s constant resemblance to a mourner, eating ashes and crying all the time. (Goldingay)

The psalm switches to “you”, God. Hebrew zaam, “rage, indignation” suggests outrage at another’s behavior, either in action or lack of action. Hebrew qesep “wrath” is almost always used of divine anger, in the sense of an overwhelming outpouring of anger. Hebrew nasa, “picked me up” with “thrown me aside” give the image of something tossed away in anger or disgust at its uselessness.(Goldingay)

In v. 11 the psalmist reverts to earlier language of grass withering (v.4) and adds lengthening shadows. Long shadows are a sign of approaching night.(Goldingay)

The psalm shifts to a more group-oriented language now, to the plight of Jerusalem and her inhabitants.

“Enthroned” and “endure” are replacements for Hebrew yashab, “sit”, implying living or even the image of a king on his throne.

God remains king of the universe forever, his reputation never ending.

God now rises, standing from his throne in order to act on Zion’s behalf. One can read the “it is time” as either divine decree (Daniel’s weeks?) or the psalmist’s importuning God “Zion is doing terribly- you God must help her now.” (Goldingay)

It is hard to read this verse as anything but a challenge to action directed at God. The Israelites show regard to Jerusalem’s very stones and dirt; isn’t it time for God to show his proclaimed fondness for the city and her people in action in history?(Goldingay)

The two sentences of v. 24 seem better separated, reading the first with v. 23 and the second with v.25. The psalmist laments his frailty, the fleetness of his life, and asks God not to shorten his days any further than He already has.(Goldingay)

If v.24b establishes God’s eternity in comparison to mankind, v.25 goes on to relate him to the ancient universe, saying God is as old as old, for He formed the universe, the heavens and the earth.(Goldingay)

Even creation itself must wear out and come to an end, the psalmist says, but God will still remain, for He is gerater than all He created. God will never die.(Goldingay)

The psalmist prays future generations will live in a better relationship to the world and God, this coming to pass by God’s gracious action to ensure it. (Goldingay)


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