Bible Commentaries
Psalms 102

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 102:0


Prayer of an Afflicted Man for Mercy on Himself and Zion MT IntroA Prayer of the Afflicted, when he is faint, and pours out his complaint before the LordThe Lord's Eternal LovePrayer for Healing in SicknessThe Prayer of a Troubled YouthPrayer In Misfortune
Psalms 102:1-7Psalms 102:1-2Psalms 102:1-2Psalms 102:1-2Psalms 102:1-2
Psalms 102:3-7Psalms 102:3-11Psalms 102:3-8Psalms 102:3-5
Psalms 102:6-8
Psalms 102:8-11Psalms 102:8-11
Psalms 102:9-11Psalms 102:9-11
Psalms 102:12-17Psalms 102:12-17Psalms 102:12-17Psalms 102:12-17Psalms 102:12-14
Psalms 102:15-17
Psalms 102:18-22Psalms 102:18-22Psalms 102:18-22Psalms 102:18-22Psalms 102:18-22
Psalms 102:23-28Psalms 102:23-28Psalms 102:23-24Psalms 102:23-28Psalms 102:23-24
Psalms 102:25-28 Psalms 102:25-27
Psalms 102:28

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 102:1-7 1Hear my prayer, O Lord! And let my cry for help come to You. 2Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; In the day when I call answer me quickly. 3For my days have been consumed in smoke, And my bones have been scorched like a hearth. 4My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away, Indeed, I forget to eat my bread. 5Because of the loudness of my groaning My bones cling to my flesh. 6I resemble a pelican of the wilderness; I have become like an owl of the waste places. 7I lie awake, I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.

Psalms 102:1-7 This strophe describes the psalmist's situation (i.e., “the day of my distress,” Psalms 102:2, Psalms 102:23-26).

1. feels YHWH has hidden His face (i.e., no sense of His presence)

2. his days are consumed in smoke, Psalms 102:3

3. his bones have been scorched, Psalms 102:3

4. his heart has been smitten, Psalms 102:4

5. he has forgotten to eat because of his loud groaning, Psalms 102:4-5; Psalms 102:4-5a

6. his bones cling to his flesh, Psalms 103:5b

7. he looks like a bird of the wilderness, Psalms 102:6, Psalms 102:7b

8. he cannot sleep, Psalms 102:7a

It is possible that what looks like physical illness is really a person grieving over exile and the loss of the temple (cf. Psalms 102:14, Psalms 102:18-22, Psalms 102:23-28).

Psalms 102:1-2 The Psalm opens with a series of prayer requests.

1. hear my prayer - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 17:6; Psalms 39:12; Psalms 54:2; Psalms 55:1; Psalms 61:1; Psalms 64:1; Psalms 143:1

2. let my cry for help come to You - BDB 9, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. do not hide Your face from me - BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil jussive, cf. Psalms 27:9; Psalms 69:17; Psalms 143:7

4. incline Your ear to me - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative, cf. Psalms 17:6; Psalms 31:2; Psalms 71:2; Psalms 86:1; Psalms 88:2

5. quickly - BDB 554, KB 553, Piel imperative (lit. “be quick,” see NJB, most English translations translate it as an adverb [BDB 555])

6. answer me - BDB 772, KB 851, Qal imperative

Psalms 102:2 “Your face” This is a Hebrew idiom for the personal presence of YHWH (cf. Psalms 10:11; Psalms 13:1; Psalms 27:9; Psalms 30:7; Psalms 44:24; Psalms 51:9; Psalms 69:17; Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19; Psalms 88:14; Psalms 143:7).

“day” This imagery (BDB 398) is repeated three times.

1. in the day of my distress, Psalms 102:2a

2. in the day when I call, Psalms 102:2c

3. my days, Psalms 102:3a

4. all day long, Psalms 102:8a

5. my days, Psalms 102:11


“Your ear” This is anthropomorphic imagery. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM).

Psalms 102:6 “pelican. . .owl” Often in the OT, birds and wild animals are used to denote not only abandoned places, but the presence of the demonic (i.e., Isaiah 13:19-22; Isaiah 34:11-15; Zephaniah 2:14). Here the focus is on the element of abandonment or aloneness.

Also note the birds mentioned are Levitically unclean (cf. Leviticus 11:13-19), which is another way to assert the sense of rejection!

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 102:8-11 8My enemies have reproached me all day long; Those who deride me have used my name as a curse. 9For I have eaten ashes like bread And mingled my drink with weeping 10Because of Your indignation and Your wrath, For You have lifted me up and cast me away. 11My days are like a lengthened shadow, And I wither away like grass.

Psalms 102:8-11 This strophe continues the description of the hurting psalmist.

1. his enemies (possibly invaders) reproach him continuously, Psalms 102:8

2. his enemies deride him

3. his enemies use his name as a curse (cf. Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 29:22)

4-5. he has eaten ashes and drunk tears (these were signs of mourning, see SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES, cf. Psalms 42:3; Psalms 80:5)

6. his days are like a lengthened shadow (i.e., his pain lasts a long time)

7. he withers away like grass (cf. Genesis 6:3; Job 10:4; Job 14:1-2; Psalms 78:39; Psalms 90:5-6; Psalms 102:4; Psalms 103:15-18; Isaiah 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24-25)

The theological issue is why was he suffering. Psalms 102:10 reveals that he was experiencing divine judgment (cf. Psalms 38:0). One wonders if he is a symbol or representative of the nation (cf. Psalms 102:12-17, Psalms 102:18-22).

Verses 12-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 102:12-17 12But You, O Lord, abide forever, And Your name to all generations. 13You will arise and have compassion on Zion; For it is time to be gracious to her, For the appointed time has come. 14Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones And feel pity for her dust. 15So the nations will fear the name of the Lord And all the kings of the earth Your glory. 16For the Lord has built up Zion; He has appeared in His glory. 17He has regarded the prayer of the destitute And has not despised their prayer.

Psalms 102:12-17 This strophe has a national emphasis. YHWH has an international purpose for Israel. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Notice the things the psalmist asserts about YHWH.

1. He sits enthroned forever (cf. Psalms 9:7; Psalms 10:16; Psalms 29:10; Lamentations 5:19)

2. His name (lit. “remembrance,” BDB 271, cf. Psalms 30:4; Psalms 97:12) abides to all generations (cf. Exodus 3:15; Psalms 135:13)

3. He acts in grace towardHis covenant people

4. He has built up Zion

5. He has appeared (i.e., to Zion) in His glory

6. He regards the prayers of the destitute (BDB 792, occurs only here and Jeremiah 17:6, where it is used of a tree/scrub; the root comes from the verb, “to strip bare”)

The psalmist asks YHWH to act on Israel's behalf for His greater purpose!

Psalms 102:13 “You will arise” This verb (BDB 877, KB 1086) has a wide semantic field. It could denote

1. YHWH rising from His throne to act (cf. Psalms 119:126)

2. YHWH awaking from sleep (metaphor for His lack of action)

3. YHWH becoming active after a period of purposeful inactivity

“the appointed time has come” The noun (BDB 417) has the connotation of “an appointed time” (cf. Psalms 75:2; Daniel 8:19). The concept that YHWH is in control of time, space, history is central to the character of the one true God (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:0).

Psalms 102:14-17 These verses imply the destruction of the temple.

1. the nations (i.e., who did this) will fear, Psalms 102:15

2. YHWH will build up Zion and show her His glory, Psalms 102:16

3. the prayers of the destitute (i.e., the exiled people of God) will be heard

4. note Psalms 102:18-22

Psalms 102:14 “Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones” This phrase reminds me of the deep emotional attachment that modern Judaism has for the wailing wall in Jerusalem (i.e., the foundation stones of Solomon's temple). Judaism (i.e., the Mosaic Law) is linked to a special place of worship (i.e., the tabernacle, later the temple in Jerusalem).

“her dust” This noun (BDB 779) is often used of the debris of destroyed cities (cf. 1 Kings 20:10; Nehemiah 4:2, Nehemiah 4:10; Ezekiel 26:4, Ezekiel 26:12).

Verses 18-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 102:18-22 18This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the Lord. 19For He looked down from His holy height; From heaven the Lord gazed upon the earth, 20To hear the groaning of the prisoner, To set free those who were doomed to death, 21That men may tell of the name of the Lord in Zion And His praise in Jerusalem, 22When the peoples are gathered together, And the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.

Psalms 102:18-22 This strophe is a promise about YHWH's restoration of His covenant people to Judah and her temple.

Hebrews 1:0 quotes Psalms 102:25-27 as relating to Jesus. In this sense Psalms 102:28 relates to the new people of God (i.e., believing Jews and Gentiles, cf. Romans 2:28-29; Romans 9:6; Galatians 3:7-9, Galatians 3:13-14, Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:15-16)!

Psalms 102:19 YHWH knows what is happening on earth (cf. Job 28:24; Psalms 14:2; Psalms 33:13-14; Psalms 53:3; Psalms 80:14; Lamentations 3:50; Lamentations 5:1; see full note at Psalms 33:13-17). The term “earth” (BDB 75) can have several meanings, see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth.

“from His holy height. . .from heaven” These are parallel. The first might refer to the temple on Mt. Moriah, but when both are taken into account, it refers to YHWH's dwelling place above the atmosphere of the earth.



Psalms 102:20 These images refer to exiled Judeans (and possibly Israelites).

Psalms 102:22 This, like so many Psalms in Book IV, has a universal emphasis (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan). The phrase, “the kingdom will serve the Lord,” reminds me of Psalms 102:4 and 11:15!

Verses 23-28

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 102:23-28 23He has weakened my strength in the way; He has shortened my days. 24I say, “O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days, Your years are throughout all generations. 25Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. 27But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. 28The children of Your servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before You.”

Psalms 102:23-28 This strophe, like the two previous ones, uses personal imagery in a national sense. It affirms YHWH's act of creation (Psalms 102:26); He is eternal (Psalms 102:27)! His people have gone through a devastating time (defeat, destruction, exile), but He will restore them (Psalms 102:28) because as “heaven and earth” are the work of His hands (cf. Psalms 8:6; Psalms 19:1; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 48:13), so too, the covenant people (cf. Psalms 138:8; Psalms 143:5; Isaiah 45:11; Isaiah 60:2; Isaiah 64:8; even Assyria, Isaiah 19:25).

Psalms 102:23-24 The LXX translates these verses as YHWH speaking to the psalmist. The NT book of Hebrews 1:10-12 quotes Psalms 102:25-27 as referring to Jesus. The MT translates the same Hebrew consonants in a different way (cf. Tyndale OT Commentaries, vol. 16, Psalms 73-150, pp. 395-396).

Psalms 102:23 “strength” The term (BDB 470) was used of national strength being affected by YHWH's judgment (cf. Leviticus 26:20; Lamentations 1:6, Lamentations 1:14; Amos 2:14).

Psalms 102:25-27 These verses from the LXX are quoted in Hebrews 1:10-11, where they are applied to Jesus (cf. Hebrews 13:8).

Psalms 102:27 “But You are the same” YHWH does not change nor do His purposes (cf. Psalms 33:11; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). Psalms 102:27 is a dramatic contrast to Psalms 102:26. Even heaven and earth will pass away (cf. Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 51:6; Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 20:11), but not YHWH!

For a good brief discussion of God's unchangeableness see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 304-308.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm about an individual or the nation of Israel?

2. Explain the imagery of Psalms 102:6-7.

3. Does Psalms 102:14 imply a reference to the destruction of the temple?

4. Does the universal emphasis of Psalms 102:15, Psalms 102:22 refer to restoration from exile or an eschatological setting?

5. Are heaven and earth permanent or transitory?

6. How is Psalms 102:28 related to

a. Genesis 12:1-3

b. Romans 2:28-29

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 102". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.