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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 102

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3559. B.C. 445.

This Psalm is thought, by many commentators, to have been written by Nehemiah, Daniel, or some other prophet or holy man, in the time of the captivity, (see Nehemiah 1:3 , &c.,) for his own use, and that of other pious persons, who lamented the desolation of Jerusalem, and the ruin of the temple; though, at the same time, they were not without hopes that the nations around would shortly see their wonderful restoration, and thereby be invited to embrace their religion: which was a lively emblem of the coming of the Gentiles into the church of Christ, the eternity of whose kingdom is foretold in the conclusion of this Psalm. The psalmist makes supplication to God, Psalms 102:1 , Psalms 102:2 . Sets forth in affecting strains his wretched and sorrowful condition; or rather, perhaps, that of Jerusalem, which he personates, Psalms 102:3-11 . He comforts himself by reflecting on the eternity and immutability of Jehovah, Psalms 102:12 . Predicts the restoration of Sion, with her enlargement, by the accession of the Gentiles, Psalms 102:13-22 . Returns again to his lamentations, Psalms 102:23 , Psalms 102:24 . Again reposes his confidence on him who created all things, and who would assuredly fulfil his word and promise, if not to the generation then present, yet to their posterity, Psalms 102:25-28 .

Verses 1-3

Title. A prayer of the afflicted, &c. It was composed by one who was himself afflicted, afflicted with the church of God, and for it; and it is calculated for an afflicted state, and intended for the use of others that maybe in similar distress. It is the fifth of those Psalms styled Penitential.

Psalms 102:3. My days are consumed like smoke Which passeth away in obscurity, and swiftly, and irrecoverably. Hebrew, בעשׁן , into, or, in smoke. As wood, or any combustible matter put into the fire, wasteth away in smoke and ashes, so are my days wasted away. Or, as some interpret the words, “My afflictions have had the same effect on me as smoke has on things which are hung up in it, that is, have dried me up, and deformed me.” And my bones The most strong and solid parts of my body, which seemed least likely to suffer any injury by my trouble; are burned as a hearth Either as a hearth is heated, or burned up by the coals which are laid upon it; or, as the hearth, being so heated, burns up that Which is put upon it. But כמוקד , here translated, as a hearth, may be rendered, (as it is by many,) as a fire-brand, or, as dry wood, which seems most applicable to the subject here spoken of. For, as Dr. Horne observes, “The effects of extreme grief on the human frame are here compared to those which fire produces upon fuel. It exhausts the radical moisture, and by so doing consumes the substance. A man’s time and his strength evaporate in melancholy, and his bones, those pillars and supports of his body, become like wood, on which the fire hath done its work, and left it without sap, and without cohesion.”

Verses 4-7

Psalms 102:4-7. My heart is withered like grass Which is smitten and withered by the heat of the sun, either while it stands, or after it is cut down. So that I forget to eat my bread Because my mind is wholly swallowed up with the contemplation of my own miseries. My bones cleave to my skin My flesh being quite consumed with excessive sorrow. I am like a pelican in the wilderness “There are two species of pelicans, one of which lives in the water on fish, the other in the wilderness, upon serpents and reptiles.” The word קאת , kaath, here used, is rendered cormorant, (which is a corruption of corvorant,) Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14. “By the owl of the desert many understand the bittern, and by the bird that sits solitary on the house-top, the owl.” Dr. Waterland and Houbigant, instead of sparrow alone, read the solitary bird; and the latter, for pelican, reads onocrotalus.

Verse 8

Psalms 102:8. Mine enemies reproach me all the day This my misery hath exposed me to the scorn of mine enemies, who do nothing but upbraid me with my calamities. And they that are mad against me Or, my slanderers, as Dr. Waterland renders, מהוללי , moholalai, are sworn against me, Or, they swear by me. They make use of my name and misery, in their forms of swearing and imprecation; for when they would express their malicious and mischievous intentions against any one, they swear they will make him as miserable as a Jew. Or, their form of swearing is this, “If we break our oaths, may the gods pour down their vengeance upon us, and make us as miserable as this captive Jew.”

Verses 9-10

Psalms 102:9-10. I have eaten ashes like bread That is, instead of eating my bread, I have laid down in dust and ashes. Or, 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 among them, as mourners often did, by which means the ashes might easily be mingled with their meat as tears were with their drink, as mentioned in the next clause. And mingled my drink, &c. He alludes to the custom of mingling their wine with water. Because of thy indignation, &c. Because I 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, chap. 29., 30., and the church, Lamentations 1:7.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 102:11-12. My days are like a shadow Which “never continueth in one stay, but is still gliding imperceptibly on, lengthening as it goes, and at last vanisheth into darkness. The period of its existence is limited to a day at farthest. The rising sun gives it birth, and in the moment when the sun sets it is no more.” Horne. And just so, the psalmist intimates, the hopes which they had sometimes entertained of a restitution were quickly cut off and disappointed. But thou shalt endure for ever But this is my comfort, although we die, and our hopes vanish, yet our God is unchangeable and everlasting, and therefore not to be conquered by his and our enemies, however numerous and powerful, but is constant in his counsels and purposes of mercy to his church, steadfast and faithful in the performance of all his promises; and therefore he both can and will deliver his people. And thy remembrance unto all generations To the end of time, nay, to eternity: thou shalt be known and honoured; and “the remembrance of thy former works and mercies comforts our hearts, and encourages us to hope, nay, even to rejoice, in the midst of our sorrow and tribulation.”

Verses 13-14

Psalms 102:13-14. Thou shalt have mercy upon Zion Upon Jerusalem, or thy church and people; for the set time is come The end of those seventy years which was the time fixed for the continuing of the Babylonish captivity: see Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:10; Daniel 9:2. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, &c. 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. “From this passage, and what follows.” says Dr. Horne, “it appears that the suppliant, in this Psalm, bewails not only his own miseries, but those of the church. Israel was in captivity, and Zion a desolation. A time, notwithstanding, a set time there was at hand, when God had promised to arise, and to have mercy upon her. The bowels of her children yearned over her ruins; they longed to see her rebuilt, and were ready, whenever the word of command should be given, to set heart and hand to the blessed work.”

Verse 15

Psalms 102:15 . So the heathen shall fear the Lord, &c. Shall have high thoughts of him and his people, and even the kings of the earth shall be affected with his glory. They shall think better of the church of God than they have done, when God, by his providence, thus puts honour upon it; and they shall be afraid of doing any thing against it, when they see God taking its part. Thus it is said, Esther 8:17, that many of the people of the land became Jews, for the fear of the Jews fell upon them. This promise was in some sort fulfilled, when the rebuilding of the temple and city of God was carried on and completed, to the admiration, envy, and terror of their enemies, notwithstanding the many and great difficulties and oppositions which the Jews had to encounter, Nehemiah 6:16; Psalms 126:2; but it was much more truly and fully accomplished in the building of the spiritual Jerusalem by Christ, unto whom the Gentiles were gathered, and to whom the princes of the world paid their acknowledgments.

Verses 16-18

Psalms 102:16-18. When the Lord shall build up Zion They take it for granted it would be done, for God himself had undertaken it; he shall appear in his glory His glorious power, wisdom, and goodness shall be manifested to all the world. He will regard the prayer of the destitute That is, of his poor, forsaken, despised people in Babylon. And not despise their prayer That is, he will accept and answer it. This shall be written for the generation to come This wonderful deliverance shall not be lost nor forgotten, but carefully recorded for the instruction and encouragement of all succeeding generations. And the people which shall be created Who shall hereafter be born; or, who shall be created anew in Christ Jesus; shall praise the Lord For his answers to their prayers, when they were most destitute. This may be understood, either, 1st, Of the Jews, who should be restored to, their own land, for they had been, in a manner, dead and buried in the grave and mere dry bones, as they are represented Isaiah 26:19, and Ezekiel 37:0: or, 2d, Of the Gentiles who should be converted, whose conversion is frequently, and might very justly be called, a second creation.

Verses 19-22

Psalms 102:19-22. For he hath looked down Namely, upon us, and not as an idle spectator, but with an eye of pity and relief; from the height of his sanctuary From his higher or upper sanctuary, namely, heaven, as the next clause explains it, which is called, God’s high and holy place, Isaiah 57:15. To loose those that are appointed to death To release his poor captives out of Babylon, and, which is more, to deliver mankind from the chains and fetters of sin and Satan, and from eternal destruction. To declare the name of the Lord, &c. That they, being delivered, might publish and celebrate the name and praises of God in his church. When the people are gathered together, &c. 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 Messiah. This verse seems to be added to intimate, that although the psalmist, in this Psalm, referred to the deliverance of the Jews out of Babylon, yet he had a further design, and a principal respect unto that great and more general deliverance of his church and people by Christ.

Verse 23

Psalms 102:23. He Namely, God, whom he considered as bringing these calamities upon them for their sins, and to whom therefore he applies for relief; weakened my strength in the way That is, soon impaired the prosperity and flourishing condition of our church and commonwealth, in the course of our affairs. “They were for many ages,” says Henry, “in the way to the performance of the great promise made to their fathers, concerning the Messiah, longing as much for it as ever a traveller did to be at his journey’s end; the legal institutions led them in the way; but when the ten tribes were lost in Assyria, and the two almost lost in Babylon, the strength of that nation was weakened, and, in all appearances, its days shortened, for they said, Our hope is lost, we are cut off for our parts, Ezekiel 37:11.” “The prophet,” says Dr. Horne, “in the person of captive Zion, having, from Psalms 102:13-22, expressed his faith and hope in the promised redemption, now returns to his mournful complaints as at Psalms 102:11. Israel doubts not of God’s veracity, but fears lest his heavy hand should crush the generation then in being, before they should behold the expiration of their troubles. They were in the way, but their strength was so weakened, and their days shortened, that they almost despaired of holding out to their journey’s end.” Bishop Patrick, however, supposes that the psalmist spake of himself personally, and interprets the passage thus: “I had hopes to have lived to see this blessed time, (namely, of the redemption from Babylon, and the accession of the Gentile nations to the church of God, spoken of in the preceding verses,) “and thought I had been in the way to it, Ezra 3:8. But he hath stopped our vigorous beginnings, Ezra 4:4, and thereby so sorely afflicted me, that I feel I am like to fall short of my expectations.” Dr. Dodd understands the words nearly in the same sense, observing, “The connection is this: ‘Notwithstanding these glorious hopes of being speedily restored to my native country, I find that through continual affliction God hath weakened my strength, even while I thought I was in the way to that happiness; and that, on account of the short remainder of my life, I shall not be able to attain it.’” This interpretation of the words connects well with the following verse.

Verse 24

Psalms 102:24. But, I said, O my God, take me not away, &c. I prayed most earnestly to him, and said, O my God, who hast so graciously begun our deliverance, take me not away before it be completely finished, but let me see thy promise fulfilled, which thou, who diest not, as we do, I am sure, wilt not fail to make good. Yes: “though I should not live to have any share in the public joy for that restoration, yet thou, who art an everlasting and immutable God, whose years are throughout all generations, wilt not fail to make those who survive me happy therein.” Those who consider the psalmist, as personating the captive Jews, interpret the verse as follows: O my God, take we not away in the midst of my days Do not wholly cut off and destroy my people Israel before they come to a full age and stature in the plenary possession of thy promises, and especially of that great and fundamental promise of the Messiah, in and by whom alone their happiness is to be completed, and until whose coming thy church is in its nonage, Galatians 4:1-4. Thy years are throughout all generations Though we successively die and perish, yet thou art the everlasting and unchangeable God, who 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 we have yet enjoyed.

Verse 25

Psalms 102:25. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth The eternity of God looks both backward and forward: it is both without beginning and without end. The latter is affirmed and illustrated Psalms 102:24; Psalms 102:26-27, the former is implied in this verse. Thou hadst a being before the creation of the world, when there was nothing but eternity, but the earth and heaven had a beginning given them by thy almighty power.

Verse 26

Psalms 102:26. They shall perish Either as to the substance of them, which shall be annihilated, or as to their present form, fashion, and use, which shall be entirely changed: see the margin. The heavens and the earth, although they be the most permanent of all visible beings, and their continuance is often mentioned to signify the stability of things; yet, if compared with thee, they are as nothing, for they had a beginning, and shall have an end. All of them shall wax old That is, shall 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. As a vesture shalt thou change them Isaiah tells us, Isaiah 51:6, that the heaven and earth shall wax old like a garment; but the psalmist here goes one step further than the prophet; and not only acquaints us that the heavens and earth shall wax old, but, like a worn-out garment, shall be changed for new. And what can he intend but the new heavens and new earth, mentioned by St. Peter in the New Testament, and said to be the expectation of believers, according to God’s promise? 2 Peter 3:13.

Verse 27

Psalms 102:27. But thou art the same. &c. “Amidst the changes and chances of this mortal life,” says Dr. Horne, “one topic of consolation will ever remain, namely, the eternity and immutability of God our Saviour, of him who was, and is, and is to come. Kingdoms and empires may rise and fall; nay, the heavens and the earth, as they were originally produced and formed by the WORD of God, the Son, or second person in the Trinity, to whom the psalmist here addresses himself; (see Hebrews 1:10;) so will they, at the day appointed, be folded up, and laid aside, as an old and worn-out garment; but Jehovah is ever the same; his years have no end, nor can his promise fail, any more than himself. Heaven and earth, saith he, shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away, Matthew 24:35.”

Verse 28

Psalms 102:28. The children of thy servants shall continue 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 thy promises made to Abraham and his seed, we rest assured that our children, and their children after them, shall enjoy the promised mercies, even a happy restoration to and settlement in their own land, and the presence of our and their Messiah. And their seed shall be established before thee In the place of thy gracious presence, either here in thy church, or hereafter in heaven. Perhaps this expression, before thee, might be intended further to intimate, 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 consummation of their desires and felicities.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 102". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-102.html. 1857.
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