Psalm 90:1-10, 12

Psalm 90:1-10, 12
A Women’s Lectionary – Proper 25


A PrayerA of Moses,B the manC of God.D

Notes on superscript

A “Prayer” = tephillah. From palal (to judge for oneself or in an official capacity; to pray or make supplication, to entreat). This is prayer or intercession. It can also be a hymn.
B “Moses” = Mosheh. From mashah (to pull out in a literal or figurative sense, to draw out) OR from Egyptian mes or mesu (child, son i.e. child of…). This is Moses – the one drawn out from the water, which is to say, rescued. If derived from the Egyptian, his name would share a root with Rameses and Thutmose.
C “man” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
D “God” = Elohim.

Lord,E you have beenF our dwelling placeG
    in all generations.H

Notes on verse 1

E “Lord” = Adonai. From adon (lord, master, owner); root means to rule or be sovereign. This is the actual Hebrew word for Lord used (in a different form) of humans and (in the present form) of God. It means someone who is in control.
F “been” = hayah. This is to be or become, to happen.
G “dwelling place” = maon. 17x in OT. From anah (to answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify; to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk; singing, shouting, testifying, etc.) OR from the same as onah (marriage, living together, marital duty). This is dwelling, den, haunt, retreat. It can refer to the Tabernacle or Temple. It can also be used for homes or animal lairs.
H “in all generations” = dor + dor. Literally, “in generation and generation.” From dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.

BeforeI the mountainsJ were brought forthK
    or ever you had formedL the earthM and the world,N

Notes on verse 2a

I “before” = terem. May come from a word that means to interrupt. This is not yet or before.
J “mountains” = har. From harar (hill or mountain). This is mountain, hill, hilly region.
K “brought forth” = yalad. This is to bear or bring forth. It can mean to act as midwife or to show one’s lineage. This is often used for birth or begetting.
L “formed” = chul. This is whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain. It is used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear. It can also be falling in pain or waiting.
M “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
N “world” = tebel. From yabal (to lead, bring, carry, conduct; properly, to flow; to bring or lead with fanfare). This is world, confusion, inhabited part of the earth, but also used for the whole world.

    from everlastingO to everlasting you are God.P
You turn usQ backR to dustS

Notes on verses 2b-3a

O “everlasting” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
P “God” = El. Related to “God” in Superscript. See note D above.
Q “us” = enosh. Related to “man” in superscript. See note C above.
R “turn…back” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
S “dust” = dakka. 3x in OT. From daka’ (to crush or break into pieces; to bruise, be contrite or oppressed, to destroy, be humble). This is crushed, powder, contrite, destruction.

    and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”T
For a thousandU yearsV in your sightW

Notes on verses 3b-4a

T “mortals” = ben + adam. Literally, “children of humanity.” Ben is from banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Adam is perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.
U “thousand” = eleph. Perhaps from the same as eleph (herd, cattle); from alaph (to learn, speak, associate with). This is thousand.
V “years” = shanah. From shana (to change, alter). This is a year, age, old. It can also mean yearly.
W “sight” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).

    are like yesterdayX when it is pastY
    or like a watchZ in the night.AA

Notes on verse 4b

X “yesterday” = yom + ethmol. Yom may come from a root that means being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time. Ethmol is 8x in OT. Probably from et (with, among, beside, including, toward, near); {from anah (to meet, happen, approach)} + mul (front, opposite, toward); {from mul (to cut short, circumcise, blunt, destroy)}. This is recently, formerly, yesterday.
Y “is past” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
Z “watch” = ashmoreth. 7x in OT. From shamar (to keep, watch, or preserve; to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something). This is a watch.
AA “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.

You sweep them away;BB they are like a dream,CC
    like grassDD that is renewedEE in the morning;FF

Notes on verse 5

BB “sweep…away” = zaram. 2x in OT. This is to flood, pour. It is to carry something off as a flood does.
CC “dream” = shenah. From yashen (to be languid or go slack; it can mean to sleep, become old or stale, or die). This is asleep.
DD “grass” = chatsir. Perhaps from the same as chatsir (village, settlement); from chatser (enclosure or court – a yard that is fenced in. It could also be a village or hamlet that is walled in); from chatsar (to blow a trumpet, trumpeter, to surround); from chatsotsrah (trumpet). This is grass, plant, hay, leeks.
EE “renewed” = chalaph. This is to slide by or rush like a flood. It can mean to pass through, change, sprout, renew, break a promise, pierce, or violate.
FF “morning” = boqer. From baqar (to seek, plow, break forth, admire, care for). This refers to the break of day. So it is dawn, early, morning, or morrow.

in the morning it flourishesGG and is renewed;
    in the evening it fadesHH and withers.II
For we are consumedJJ by your anger;KK
    by your wrathLL we are overwhelmed.MM

Notes on verses 6-7

GG “flourishes” = tsuwts. 9x in OT. This is to twinkle, shine, blossom. Figuratively, it is to flourish.
HH “fades” = mul. Related to “yesterday” in v4. See note X above.
II “withers” = yabesh. This is to be dry, withered, confused, or ashamed. It can also be to fail.
JJ “consumed” = kalah. This is to end, be finished, complete, prepare, consume, spent, or completely destroyed.
KK “anger” = aph. From anaph (to be angry; properly, breathing hard as a signifier of being enraged). This properly refers to the nose or nostril and by extension the face. It can specifically refer to anger or wrath as one breathes hard and nostrils flare in times of great anger.
LL “wrath” = chemah. From yacham (to be hot, mate; figuratively, to conceive). This is heat – figuratively it can be anger or fury. It can also refer to poison or venom as they can cause fever.
MM “overwhelmed” = bahal. To be afraid or dismayed or amazed. This is deep trembling within. So, figuratively, it refers to being suddenly agitated. This implies moving or acting quickly/anxiously.

You have setNN our iniquitiesOO beforePP you,
    our secretQQ sins in the lightRR of your countenance.SS

Notes on verse 8

NN “set” = shith. This is to place, set, bring, appoint, consider, bring, array or look.
OO “iniquities” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
PP “before” = neged. From nagad (to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain). This is in front of, opposite to. It can refer to a counterpart or partner, one corresponding to or in the sight of.
QQ “secret” = alam. This is to hide, conceal, a dissembler. It is to conceal in a literal or figurative sense.
RR “light” = maor. 19x in OT. From or (to be or become light, shine). This is light as an element, something that gives off light, the quality of brightness, or cheerfulness.
SS “countenance” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

For allTT our daysUU pass awayVV under your wrath;WW
    our years come to an endXX like a sigh.YY

Notes on verse 9

TT “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
UU “days” = yom. Same as “yesterday” in v4. See note X above.
VV “pass away” = panah. Related to “countenance” in v8. See note SS above.
WW “wrath” = ebrah. Related to “is past” in v4. From eber (the region beyond, passage, quarter, opposite side; generally the east); from abar (see note Y above). This is overflow or a passionate outburst. So, fury, anger, or rage.
XX “come to an end” = kalah. Same as “consumed” in v7. See note JJ above.
YY “sigh” = hegeh. 3x in OT. From hagah (to speak, declare, make a sound, imagine, or mutter; a murmur, moan, or growl, whether from delight or anger; to study, ponder, or meditate). This is a moaning, sigh, or sound. It can refer to thunder or grieving.

10 The days of our lifeZZ are seventyAAA years
    or perhaps eighty,BBB if we are strong;CCC

Notes on verse 10a

ZZ “life” = shanah. Same as “years” in v4. See note V above.
AAA “seventy” = shibim. From sheba (seven – the number of perfection/sacred fullness). This is seventy.
BBB “eighty” = shemonim. From the same as shemoneh (eight or eighth; abundance as being more than 7, the number of sacred fullness); perhaps from shamen (to shine, which implies being oily, growing fat); from shaman (to grow fat, shine, be oily). This is eighty.
CCC “strong” = geburah. From gabar (to be strong or mighty; to prevail or be insolent). This is force in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be strength, power, courage, triumph, victory, or mastery.

even then their spanDDD is only toilEEE and trouble;FFF
    they are soonGGG gone,HHH and we fly away.III

Notes on verse 10b

DDD “span” = rohab. 1x in OT. From rahab (to act arrogantly, storm, be bold, capture). This is pride, span, or strength.
EEE “toil” = amal. From amal (to work – hard labor). This is trouble, toil, labor as well as misery, sorrow, or iniquity. It is work that wearies through effort so hence worry – can refer to body or mind.
FFF “trouble” = aven. Root may mean panting as one does when expending a lot of energy, especially when it comes to nothing. This is nothingness, trouble, sorrow, distress, wickedness, evil, harm, sorrow, misfortune, and mischief. It is also used specifically to refer to idols.
GGG “soon” = chish. 1x in OT. From chish (to hurry, be eager, ready); from the same as chush (to hurry, be eager). This is quickly or a hurry.
HHH “gone” = guz. 2x in OT. This is to cut off, pass quickly, bring.
III “fly away” = uph. This is to fly, flee, be weary. It can also mean to cloak with wings or darkness.

12 So teachJJJ us to countKKK our days
    thatLLL we may gainMMM a wiseNNN heart.OOO

Notes on verse 12

JJJ “teach” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
KKK “count” = manah. To weigh out, reckon, count, number, set, tell. By implication, it is allotting or providing something officially.
LLL “that” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
MMM “gain” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
NNN “wise” = chokmah. From chakam (to be wise or teach wisdom; this is wisdom in thought, word, or action). This is wisdom, wit, or skillfulness.
OOO “heart” = lebab. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.

Image credit: “Sesame Street Health Ambassador Raya and Sesame Street Math Expert Count von Count.” Photo by Simone D. McCourtie, 2015.

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