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This Psalm contains a form of prayer and expostulation with God, composed for the use of all true Israelites, in the name and behalf of their mother the church of Israel. It seems to have been composed in the time of their captivity, and near the end of it, Psalms 102:13,Psalms 102:14. But as the literal Jerusalem was a type of the spiritual, or of the church of God and of Christ, and the rebuilding of the former a type of the reviving and edification of the latter; so the psalmist looks through that mercy of the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the temple to the further progress and to the end and perfection of that work, which was in the coming of the Messiah, by whom it was to be completed, and by whom the Gentiles were to be brought to the knowledge and worship of the true God.
The church prayeth for audience, Psalms 102:1,Psalms 102:2; and maketh a grievous complaint of her heavy afflictions, Psalms 102:3-11; comforteth herself in the eternal mercy of God, Psalms 102:12-17; which is to be recorded for future generations, Psalms 102:18. Deliverance from the Babylonian captivity and the restoration of Jerusalem predicted, Psalms 102:19-28.
Like smoke; which passeth away in obscurity, and swiftly, and irrecoverably. Or, into smoke; as wood or any combustible matter put into the fire wasteth away in smoke and ashes.
My bones; the most strong and solid parts of my body, which seemed safest from the fire.
Are burnt as an hearth; either as an hearth is heated or burnt up by the coals which are laid upon it; or as the hearth, being so heated, burns up that which is put upon it.
Like grass; which is smitten and withered by the heat of the sun, either whilst it stands, or after it is cut down.
I forget to eat my bread, because my mind is wholly swallowed up with the contemplation of my own miseries.
My flesh being quite consumed with excessive sorrows.
Pelican; or, bittern, as the same word is translated, Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14. It is a solitary and mournful bird, as also the owl here following is.
A sparrow which hath lost its mate, and then is very sad and solitary, as some report; although that be uncertain and improbable. But this Hebrew word doth not only signify a sparrow, but in general any bird, as Leviticus 14:4; Deuteronomy 14:11; Daniel 4:12,Daniel 4:14,Daniel 4:21. And so it may here design any one or more sort of birds which used to sit alone, watching and mourning upon house-tops.
Or, and being mad or enraged at or against me, they swear against me; they swear they will do me yet more mischief: or, they swear by me; they make use of my name and misery in their forms of swearing and imprecation; as when they would express their malicious and mischievous intentions against another, they swear that they will use him or make him as miserable as a Jew. See the like expressions Numbers 5:21; Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 29:22.
For; so this verse gives a reason either of his great sadness, expressed Psalms 102:6,Psalms 102:7, or why they swore by him in the sense last given. Or, surely, as this particle is oft used. Or, therefore, because of those bitter reproaches last mentioned. I have eaten ashes like bread: the sense is, Dust and ashes are as constant and familiar to me as the eating of my bread; I cover my head with them; I sit, yea, lie down and roll myself in them, as mourners oft did, 2 Samuel 13:19; Job 2:8,Job 2:12; Job 16:15; Isaiah 47:1; Micah 1:10; by which means the ashes might easily be mingled with their meat, as tears were with their drink in the next clause. Mingled my drink with weeping; he alludes to the custom of mingling their wine with water.
Because of thine indignation and thy wrath; because I do not only conflict with men, but with the Almighty God, and with his anger.
For thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down; as a man lifts up a person or thing as high as he can, that he may cast it down to the ground with greater force. Or he aggravates his present reproach and misery by the consideration of that great honour and happiness to which God had formerly advanced him, as Job did, Job 29:0; Job 30:0, and the church, Lamentations 1:7.
My days; my hopes, and comforts, and happiness; days being oft put for happy days, or a happy state, as Psalms 37:18; Lamentations 5:21, as elsewhere they are put more generally for the events which happen in those days; in both which cases it is a metonymy of the adjunct.
That declineth; or, that is extended or stretched out to its utmost length, as it is when the sun is setting, when it speedily and totally vanisheth. And just so the hopes of our restitution, which sometimes we have, are quickly cut off and disappointed.
But this is my comfort, although we die and our hopes vanish, yet our God is everlasting and unchangeable, and therefore invincible by all his and our enemies, constant in his counsels and purposes of mercy to his church, stedfast and faithful in the performance of all his promises; and therefore he both can and will deliver his people.
Thy remembrance; either,
1. The fame and memory of thy wonderful works. Or rather,
2. Thy name, Jehovah, mentioned in the former clause, which is called by this very word, God’s
remembrance or memorial, and that unto all generations, Exodus 3:15. Thus this clause exactly answers to the former; and both of them describe the eternity of God’s existence, whereby the psalmist relieves and supports himself under the consideration of his own and his people’s frailty and vanity.
Upon Zion; upon Jerusalem, or thy church and people.
The set time; the end of those seventy years which thou hast fixed; of which see Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:10; Daniel 9:2.
Thy people value the dust and rubbish of the holy city more than all the palaces of the earth, and passionately desire that it may be rebuilt.
Which was in some sort fulfilled when the rebuilding of the temple and city of God was carried on and finished through so many and great difficulties and oppositions, to the admiration, envy, and terror of their enemies, as we read, Nehemiah 6:16; compare Psalms 126:2; but much more truly and fully in building of the spiritual Jerusalem by Christ, unto whom the Gentiles were gathered, and the princes of the world paid their acknowledgments.
His glorious power, and wisdom, and goodness shall be manifested to all the world.
Of the destitute, i.e. of his poor forsaken, despised people in Babylon.
Not despise, i.e. will accept and answer.
This shall be written; this wonderful deliverance shall not be lost nor forgotten, but carefully recorded by thy people. For the generation to come; for the instruction and encouragement of all succeeding generations. The singular number put for the plural, as is ordinary.
The people which shall be created; which may be understood, either,
1. Of the Jews which should be restored, who were in a manner dead and buried in the grave, and mere dry bones, Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:0; and therefore their restoration might well be called a creation; or, as it is elsewhere, a resurrection. Or,
2. Of the Gentiles who should be converted, whose conversion is frequently, and might very justly, be called a second creation. See Isaiah 43:1,Isaiah 43:7,Isaiah 43:15; Isaiah 65:18; Ephesians 2:10,Ephesians 2:15.
He hath looked down, to wit, upon us, not like an idle spectator, but with an eye of pity and relief, as the next verse declares.
From the height of his sanctuary; from his higher or upper sanctuary, to wit, heaven, as the next clause explains it, which is called God’s high and holy place, Isaiah 57:15.
To release his poor captives out of Babylon, and, which is more, from the chains and fetters of sin and Satan, and from eternal destruction.
That they being delivered might publish and celebrate the name and praises of God in his church.
When the Gentiles shall gather themselves to the Jews, and join with them in the praise and worship of the true God, and of the Messias. This verse seems to be added to intimate, that although the psalmist in this Psalm respects the deliverance of the Jews out of Babylon, yet he had a further design and a principal respect unto that greater and more general deliverance of his church and people by the Messias.
He, to wit, God, to whom he ascribes these calamities, Psalms 102:10; to whom therefore he addresseth himself for relief.
In the way; either,
1. In the midst of our expectations. Whilst we are expecting the accomplishment of thy promise, either of bringing us out of Babylon, or of sending the Messias, we faint, and one of us perish after another, and our hope is like the giving up of the ghost. Or rather,
2. In the midst of the course of our lives; which sense is confirmed,
1. From the following clause; which, after the manner, explains the former,
he shortened my days; as also from the next verse, where he begs relief from God against this misery in these words, take me not away in the midst of my days.
2. From the use of this word way, which is used for the course of a man’s life, Psalms 2:12, and (which comes to the same thing) for the course of a journey, as it is opposed to the end of the journey, Genesis 24:27; Exodus 23:20, and elsewhere; the life of man being oft compared to a journeying or travelling, and death to his journey’s end. And the psalmist here speaks (as other sacred writers do elsewhere, and as all sorts of writers frequently do) of the whole commonwealth as of one man, and of its continuance as of the life of one man. And so this seems to be the matter of his complaint and humble expostulation with God: O Lord, thou didst choose us out of all the world to be thy peculiar people, and didst plant us in Canaan, and cause a glorious temple to be built to thy name, to be the only place of thy public and solemn worship in the world, and didst make great and glorious promises, that thine eyes and heart should be upon it perpetually, 1 Kings 9:3, and that thy people should be planted in thy land, so as not to be moved any more or afflicted, as they had been in the days of the judges, 2 Samuel 7:10,2 Samuel 7:11; from whence we promised to ourselves a long and settled prosperity. But, alas, how soon were our hopes blasted! not long after the beginning of our settlement, in Rehoboam’s time, and so successively in the course of our affairs under the following kings, till at last thou didst give us up to ruin and desolation, as at this day. And this he doth not allege to accuse God, or excuse himself or his people, but only that he might move the Divine Majesty to show them some pity, considering the shortness of their days, and his own eternity, as he pursues the argument in the following verses. My days; the days of my life, or of my prosperous state, as above, Psalms 102:1; for adversity is a kind of death, and is frequently so called.
Take me not away; do not wholly cut off and destroy thy people of Israel. In the midst of my days; before they come to a full age and stature, and to the plenary possession of thy promises, and especially of that great and fundamental promise of the Messias, in and by whom alone their happiness is to be completed, and until whose coming thy church is in its nonage; of which see Galatians 4:1-4. Possibly the psalmist (whom some learned interpreters suppose to be Daniel) may have respect to that prophecy, Daniel 9:24,Daniel 9:25, which probably was published before this time; for this time was almost precisely the midst of the days between the building of the material temple by Solomon, and the building of the spiritual temple, or the church, by the Messias; there being about a thousand years distance between those two periods, whereof seventy prophetical weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, were yet to come. And so he prays that God would not root them out in this Babylonish captivity, but would graciously restore them to their own land, and preserve them as a church and nation there until the coming of the Messias.
Thy years are throughout all generations: though we successively die and perish, yet thou art the everlasting and unchangeable God, and therefore art and wilt ever be able to deliver thy people, and faithful in performing all thy promises; and therefore we beseech thee to pity our frail and languishing state, and give us a more settled and lasting felicity than yet we have enjoyed; and therefore we trust that thy people shall continue and be established before thee, as he saith, Psalms 102:28, because as thou art the everlasting God, so thou hast made an everlasting covenant with them, Psalms 105:10; Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 32:40, to be their God for ever, and therefore thou wilt not now forsake or reject us.
The eternity of God looks both backward and forward, it is both without beginning and without end. The former is affirmed and illustrated Psalms 102:24,Psalms 102:26,Psalms 102:27, the latter is clearly implied in this verse. Thou hadst a being before the creation of the world, when there was nothing but eternity, but the earth and heavens had a beginning given them by thy almighty power.
They shall perish; either,
1. As to the substance of them, which shall be annihilated. Or,
2. As to their present nature and use: see Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:7,2 Peter 3:10,2 Peter 3:11. The heavens and the earth, although they be the most permanent of all visible beings, and their continuance is oft mentioned to signify the stability and immutability of things, yet if compared with thee are as nothing; they had a beginning, and shall have an end.
Wax old, i.e. decay and perish.
Like a garment which is worn out and laid aside, and exchanged for another. And so shall this present frame of heaven and earth be.
Though the heavens and the earth perish, and though we thy servants pine away in our iniquities, according to thy righteous sentence and threatening, Leviticus 26:39, and die in captivity; yet by virtue of thy eternal and unchangeable nature and covenant, we rest assured that our children, and their children after them, shall enjoy the promised mercies, a happy restitution to and settlement in their own land, and the presence of our and their Messias, whom, being not to come till after four hundred and ninety years, we shall not live to see. The expression here used is general, not without design, partly to show that this promised blessing belongs to the Jews not upon the account of any carnal relation to Abraham, but as they are and continue to be God’s servants, from whom, if they revolt, they lose this and all their other privileges; and partly to imply that it belongs to all God’s faithful servants, and to their children, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, of whose conversion he spoke, Psalms 102:22.
Before thee; in the place of thy gracious presence; either here in thy church, or hereafter in heaven, from which we are now banished. And this phrase further intimates that their happiness did not consist in the enjoyment of the outward blessings of the land of Canaan, but in the presence and fruition of God there, which he mentions as the top and upshot of all his desires and their felicities.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 102". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12