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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 102

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-28

Psalms 102:0

A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord

2          Hear my prayer, O Lord,

And let my cry come unto thee.

3     Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble;

Incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call

Answer me speedily.

4     For my days are consumed like smoke,

And my bones are burned as a hearth.

5     My heart is smitten, and withered like grass;

So that I forget to eat my bread.

6     By reason of the voice of my groaning

My bones cleave to my skin.

7     I am like a pelican of the wilderness:

I am like an owl of the desert.

8     I watch,

And am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop.

9     Mine enemies reproach me all the day;

And they that are mad against me are sworn against me.

10     For I have eaten ashes like bread,

And mingled my drink with weeping,

11     Because of thine indignation and thy wrath:

For thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.

12     My days are like a shadow that declineth;

And I am withered like grass.

13     But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever;

And thy remembrance unto all generations.

14     Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion:

For the time to favor her,
Yea, the set time, is come.

15     For thy servants take pleasure in her stones,

And favor the dust thereof.

16     So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord,

And all the kings of the earth thy glory.

17     When the Lord shall build up Zion,

He shall appear in his glory.

18     He will regard the prayer of the destitute,

And not despise their prayer.

19     This shall be written for the generation to come:

And the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.

20     For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary;

From heaven did the Lord behold the earth;

21     To hear the groaning of the prisoner;

To loose those that are appointed to death;

22     To declare the name of the Lord in Zion,

And his praise in Jerusalem;

23     When the people are gathered together,

And the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.

24     He weakened my strength in the way;

He shortened my days.

25     I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days:

Thy years are throughout all generations.

26     Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth:

And the heavens are the work of thy hands.

27     They shall perish, but thou shalt endure

Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment;
As a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed.

28     But thou art the same,

And thy years shall have no end.

29     The children of thy servants shall continue,

And their seed shall be established before thee.


Contents and Superscription. In this superscription there are given, contrary to the usual custom, not the historical cirumstances by which the contents might be explained, and which occasioned the utterance of the Psalm, but the circumstances under which it might be employed. Accordingly, the superscription may have been affixed at a later time, when the collection of Psalms had come to be employed, not merely as a book of devotion for liturgical purposes, but also for private use, like other books of hymns (Hupfeld). This, however, is not decisive; for the contents and tone of this prayer, which is throughout of a subjective character, are pervaded by historical and personal allusions. These exclude the supposition that a poet, perhaps David, had composed it for his descendants (Hengst.), or that a prophet, having in view the future misery of the people (Calvin), had written it for the use of the class of sufferers which it describes, when their sufferings should begin, by transferring himself to their mental position, or drew up a model of prayer or formulary for employment in such circumstances. The suppliant speaks from personal experience of distress actually pressing upon him. But this distress has not an individual character, but is of that general kind which is felt under national calamities and misfortunes. He prays for himself, but at the same time affords help in prayer to those who not only are in like circumstances with himself, who also are in a like frame of soul. The time shortly before the end of the Exile may be recognized as indicated in Psalms 102:14-15. With this also agree the many points of coincidence with the prophecies of the second part of Isaiah, with which, also, passages from other Psalms, e.g.,Psalms 22, 69, 79, and from Job, are united. Yet the Psalm is not without individuality, and is marked some times by a lofty poetic strain and by expressions which are as beautiful in language as they are sublime in conception. The strophical structure is rather irregular, so that only smaller and larger groups are distinguishable. After a request to be heard, expressed in general terms (vers.2, 3), there follows, first, a description of the distressed situation of the suppliant in three sections (Psalms 102:4-13). To this there is attached an expression of the confident assurance that Jehovah, the eternal Sovereign and gracious Hearer of prayer, would soon fulfil His deecree of mercy to Zion (vers.13–15), for the manifestation of His glory, in the presence of which the heathen would be affrighted (vers.16–18), while the redeemed would praise the Lord, recount His deeds for succeeding ages, and so proclaim His glory, that even heathen nations, converted to Jehovah, should worship in Zion (Psalms 102:19-23). Then follows the confession, that humiliation has come from the hand of the Lord. This passes over into an entreaty, that the supplicant may not be snatched a way before his time. Finally, God is praised as the Eternal, who remains ever the same, and who will also grant perpetuity to the generation of His servants (vers.24–29).

Psalms 102:4-7. Hearth.—This signification is established by the Arabic (Delitzsch, Hitzig), so that we need not translate: brand = fire (most), or = twigs (Sept. and others). The hearth, however, may be regarded as embracing what lies upon it (Isaiah 33:14; Numbers 4:2).—Persons in deep grief ate nothing (1Sa 1:7; 1 Samuel 20:34; 2 Samuel 12:16; 2 Kings 21:4). The pelican (Psalms 102:7) is mentioned as an inhabitant of moors and desert places (Numbers 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:17; Isaiah 24:17; Zephaniah 2:14. Comp. Oedmann, Vermischte Sammlungen, Part 3, Chap. 6). Along with this קָאַת in Numbers 11:17, כּוֹם is also mentioned as an unclean bird, which in its etymology is connected with a bottle or cup, and therefore might signify the pelican (Bochart); but it has always been explained as the night-owl or nightraven.

Psalms 102:9-12. Swearing by one (Psalms 102:9), means: to make his name a by-word of execration, or an example of cursing (Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 29:22; Jeremiah 42:18). The ashes (Psalms 102:10), allude to the custom of those in deep sorrow, of sitting in ashes and dust, and strewing them upon their heads and garments. We are not to suppose that the bread of the Psalmist was actually defiled. It is a figurative expression, like: dust is their bread (Isaiah 65:25; comp. Genesis 3:14; Psalms 72:9). The lifting up and casting down [Psalms 102:11] is a figure borrowed from a tempestuous wind (Job 32:21; Job 30:22; Isaiah 64:5; Ezekiel 3:14), vividly representing how the people first lost their fatherland, and were then cast among strangers. In Psalms 102:12 life is compared to a shadow, not as passing, or quickly vanishing (Psalms 145:4; comp Psalms 39:7), but as growing towards its end (Psalms 109:23), lengthening in the evening (Jeremiah 4:4), after a figure taken from the declining of the day (Judges 19:9). There is nothing to indicate an allusion to a leaning wall which threatens to fall, Psalms 62:4 (Hengstenberg).

Psalms 102:13-18. Thy remembrance.—Instead of וִכְרְךָ several codices, known already to Aben Ezra, read כִסְאְַךָ, thy throne, evidently a correction after Lamentations 5:19 (Kimchi), but made unnecessarily, for the passage before us rests upon Exodus 3:15, and corresponds with the references just made to God’s sitting upon His throne, that is, reigning (Psalms 9:8; Psalms 29:10.)—The timeמוֹעֵד (Psalms 102:14) determined in God’s counsels (Psalms 75:3; Isaiah 40:2) is often understood too definitely of the seventy years’ exile (Jeremiah 25:11 f.; Jeremiah 29:10).—The stones [Psalms 102:15] are not those intended for rebuilding (Isaiah 54:11), but, as being parallel to dust = debris. (Nehemiah 4:4), are the stones of Zion in ruins (Jeremiah 4:1; Neh. 3:34). The loving devotion here described is, therefore, not that of longing after the future, but, as the parallelism also demands, that of sympathetic attachment, unaffected by the destruction of the city.—The restoration of Jerusalem and the appearing of Jehovah’s glory [Psalms 102:17] go together (Isaiah 40:1-5), and are to be the means of the conversion of the world. The people of the Exile are called in Psalms 102:18 destitute and homeless, powerless, unhonored, and despised by men (Del.).

[Psalms 102:22. Alexander: “This, according to the laws of Hebrew syntax, does not necessarily denote an act of God Himself, as the similar construction in the preceding verse does, but may have a vague sense, equivalent to saying, that his name may be declared in Zion. To recount God’s name is to recount the mighty deeds which constitute it, and the celebration of which constitutes His praise. Zion is still represented as the great scene of Jehovah’s triumphs, not, however, as the capital of Israel or Judah merely, but as the radiating centre of religious light and influence to all the earth.”—J. F. M.]

Psalms 102:24-28. My strength.—It is evidently in accordance with the parallel expression: my days, to read the suffix of the first person (Syr., Chald. and many codices) instead of the usual third person = is strength (Sept. and most). But it is doubtful whether we should translate: on the way (Psalms 110:7), or: by reason of the way (Psalms 105:18). The Sept. gives a complete subversion of the sense: it was said to me on the way of his strength: show me the shortness of my days.—-Although the heavens and the mountains are termed everlasting with reference to the lasting duration of the order of things (Genesis 8:20; Genesis 9:9; Psalms 72:6; Psalms 148:6), preserved from decay (Isaiah 48:13), yet, when contrasted with God, they are not merely transitory and mutable (Psalms 72:7; Job 14:12), but will undergo a change by the power of God (Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 51:6; Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22). In view of the contrast to this change to which the world will be subjected, אַתָּה הוּא (Psalms 102:28) is not to be understood as referring, according to the analogy of אְַגִי הוּא (Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 43:13; comp. 11; Psalms 48:12; Psalms 52:6), to the fact that God is the only Being who can lay claim to the Divine name, but, as in Job 3:19; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 46:4, to the immutability in which God ever manifests Himself as the same. The Messianic application of this passage in Hebrews 1:10 ff. has its justification in the context, which points to the time of fulfilment. The concluding sentence asserts that the generation of God’s servants will not perish, but will ever have a seed, and thereby be preserved until the period of consummation. [Perowne: “It is by no means easy to understand why the words of this Psalm should have been quoted, as it does not seem at first sight to be a Messianic Psalm. It may be observed, however, (1) that it is in this sense Messianic, that it looks forward to Israel’s redemption from captivity, and the future glory of Zion; (2) that .... there are two great lines of Messianic hope running through the Psalms, the one human, the other Divine; in the one of which the reign of the Son of David, in the other of which the advent of Jehovah is the great end and object. Here the Psalmist is occupied with the latter, the appearing of Jehovah in His glory. (3) This identification of the Jesus of the New Testament with the Jehovah of the Old is what we find elsewhere. Comp. John 12:41 with Isaiah 6:0. (Isaiah sees the glory of Jehovah, John says it was the glory of Christ), and John 19:37, which in Zechariah 12:10 is language used directly of Jehovah. ... (4) Not only the revelation, the appearing of Jehovah in Zion, but also the creation of the world, Psalms 102:26, would point to the great Mediator, the Eternal Word, as the Person here spoken of, and on this last ground especially, the quotation in the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to rest.”—J. F. M.]


1. In great sorrow of heart even the body declines. One in deep affliction loses his relish even for food and drink. He who is inwardly tempted feels himself also outwardly weakened, and passing away like a shadow to his end. Then it is necessary above every thing else to be firmly fixed in God, the Eternal, the Abiding, the Immutable, to gain and maintain that immovable ground, into which faith strikes root, and from which the expectation of answer to prayer grows up with life and vigor. Then the earthly sources of happiness may be lost, its outward supports be resigned, the temporal means of its preservation and restoration be dispensed with, yes, everything which otherwise would be precious to men may be stripped away, and the sufferer may wander a homeless stranger over the earth, and yet he will not be lost. He, who in his distress makes God his refuge, remains shielded in Him, though forsaken by the whole world.
2. But to make God our refuge in such circumstances is not so easy as some suppose it to be. For, in the first place, faith is not the gift of every one. We have besides this to take into special account the pressure which distress exerts upon the soul, and which thus overcasts the mind, weakens the love of prayer, paralyzes the powers generally, and obstructs the upward looking and rising of the soul to God. To this feeling of weariness, feebleness, and exhaustion there is then added the experience of loneliness, when we are not only forsaken but shunned, and be come the object not of sympathy but of abhorrence, contempt, and execration. But worst of all is the burden of the Divine wrath, whose awful severity we have to bear in those fearful judgments. The turning point of deliverance is indeed gained, when the chastened one remembers that his sufferings are the merited chastisement of his sins. But he, who is sincere in such confession, is also conscious that he cannot with all his sufferings remove his guilt or atone for his sins, and thus falls into a deep gloom, which would consume him if he were to long for God in vain.
3. But the longing for God already contains in itself germs of faith, both in God’s power, and in His willingness to pardon, comfort, and deliver. Moreover, in order that these seeds may not be blighted, but gain vigor and develop, God permits His people to behold manifestations of His power, goodness, and faithfulness, and provides that the events by which they are made known be proclaimed in the Church from generation to generation, and through the Church come to the knowledge of the heathen, and that thus all the world be called to conversion, and the means of salvation be afforded it. The preservation, therefore, of God’s Church in the world, and the means of grace within the Church, form an object on the one hand, of the cares, prayers, and hopes of believers, and on the other of the providential care, the love, and the effectual working of God, as the unchangeable Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the Church, as well as the world, who will cause His glory to appear, when the time is fulfilled, and will preserve the seed of His servants, while the world is passing away.


He who would not pine away in distress must seek revival from God’s countenance, and, therefore, not merely pour out his complaint before Him, but also cast his cares upon Him and hope for the consolation of Israel.—The more strongly we feel our frailty and helplessness, and the more clearly we recognize the perishableness and impotence of the world, the more firmly fixed must we be in God, the more implicitly must we hope in Him, and the more cheerfully take what comes from His hand.—We care best for our own welfare, when we are concerned for God’s honor, the salvation of the world, and the prosperity of the Church.—The security for the preservation of the Church does not lie (1) in the impotence of the hostile world, but in the indestructible dominion of the Almighty; nor (2) in the virtues of its members, but in His unchangeable faithfulness; nor (3) in the strength of temporal institutions, but in the invincible power of the means of grace.—The glory of the world sets with the rising of the glory of God: well for him who can resign the one and hope in the other!—Suffering and love are not counterparts, but they are quite compatible with one another. Let us recognize, feel, and testify to this in the afflictions of the Church as well as in personal trials.—God has fixed in the Church the remembrance of His name for His own glory, for the building of the Church, and for the conversion of the heathen.—God has not resigned His power over the world, even if He permits it to last for a time, and restrains His judgments: let us then trust in His power, and, that we may not need to dread His judgments, let us serve Him faithfully as our King.

Luther: A Psalm of devotion, wherein the dear saints of old, weary of the law, of sin, and of dying, yearn thus fervently after God, and call for the kingdom of grace promised in Christ.—Calvin: The more lamentable the desolation of the Church, the less should we allow ourselves to become alienated from love to her.—Starke: True penitence does not soon cease; it is not exercised with laughter on the lips.—It does not so much grieve the pious that they are chastened by God, as that they have offended Him, and have thereby brought upon themselves His anger and chastisement.—A penitent heart distrusts its own strength, and knows that it has as little strength as a shadow, and as little sap as the withered grass.—It is the beginning of true repentance, when the stony heart, smitten by the rod of the law, overflows in a flood of tears; from this sowing in tears there grows the stately and fruitful harvest of joy.—In the world, every one turns his eyes away from him who is forsaken and despised; but God does the opposite. He turns to listen to the entreaties of those who are forsaken by the world and its comfort.—There are few among men who have part in God’s mercy, because they do not groan as prisoners, or know that they are children of death.—Beware lest thou shorten thy days by an intemperate and unchaste life, needless anxiety, anger, and other evils; abide rather in God’s fear, for that will lengthen thy days.—We shall have lived long enough, when we shall have gained a true knowledge of Christ, and have been well confirmed therein; if we have this, we cannot after that die at an inconvenient time.—The world must always leave a little room for the citizens of Christ’s kingdom, and if they do not find it on earth, they have an eternal abiding place in heaven.—Selnecker: That is a beautiful and comforting promise, that God will hear all those who believe and fear Him, and that the Church of Christ will ever endure, and extol and praise the great blessings of its Redeemer.—Menzel: For what end are the people created? To praise the Lord.—Arndt: Though God the Lord knows all thy troubles, yet He will have thee lament them to Him; (1) that in thy spirit there should be no guile; (2) and that from the heart thou shouldst know thy sin; (3) that thou shouldst show the Lord thy wound which pains thee, that He may heal it.—Rieger: We indeed have proofs that we are not in heaven, but that we are suspended all alone, by our faith, between the life of theworld and the life eternal. But it will yet be the lot of the world to utter a more bitter cry than the pelicans. Ah, how much better would it be to weep here with and over Zion!—Guenther: Though it may seem sometimes as if death must be near, and the night of hell must conquer and triumph over the few righteous in a city or in a nation, yet it must remain true of them, what the Lord Himself has said, that none should snatch them out of His hand, and that the gates of hell should not prevail against them.—Diedrich: If all thy desire is really after the living God, He will speedily vouchsafe His presence to thee most richly; but worldlings and hypocrites desire not God, but always the world, even when they pray.—Taube: While believers under the Old Covenant sought and gained Christ in God, the God of salvation in the God of creation, the children of the New Covenant proclaim God in Christ, who became flesh, of whom, by whom, and to whom are all things, blessed to eternity.

[Matth. Henry: If God by His providence declare His name, we must by our acknowledgment of it declare His praise, which ought to be to us an echo of His name.—Barnes: An indication of a coming revival of religion is often manifested—by tenderness, pity, and compassion in view of abounding desolations, the coldness of the Church, and the prevalence of iniquity—by a conscious returning love in their hearts for all that pertains to religion, however unimportant it may be in the eyes of the world, or however it may be despised.—J. F. M.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 102". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-102.html. 1857-84.
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