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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.28 n.2 Pretoria  2015 

The famous but difficult Psalm 90:10*



Aron Pinker

Maryland, USA





Application of standard text-critical tools to the difficult Ps 90:10 results in the interpretation: The days of our vigor [are] seventy years, [or] Our years with might [are] eighty years, And their pride [is] vexation and sorrow. We fade quickly, and we rattle . . . . It is being claimed that the last colon of MT is a minor textual corruption of the original נגז חיש ונפעה, and the rattle is the typical death groan.

Keywords: Ps 90:10, longevity, transience, death rattle




Chapter 90, the first in the fourth book of the Book of Psalms, has been described by Jens as

A puzzling text, contradictory and dark, hopeful and somber, mer-ciless and gentle. A song of dying and a word of life-a psalm marked equally by fear and trust, of terrible death and tender friend-liness, lament and praise, wrathful judgment and hymnal eulogy.1

It gained much notoriety because parts of two of its verses (vv. 4 and 10) became colloquial elements.

Chapter 90 is also distinguished by a heading that identifies its author as the venerated Israelite leader Moses.2 The heading indicates that the psalm is a "prayer" (תפלה). Relatively recent studies seem to concur with this assessment. Commentators described this psalm as dealing with God's and man's time, and as lamenting in esse the transience of human beings.3 A number of scholars, however, noted that reference to "seventy years" (v. 10) is usually associated in the Tanach with a national calamity (Jer 25:11-12, Zech 1:12). This considera-tion, among others, led them to the perception that ch. 90 is "a lament at the community's historical experience in which wisdom have been utilized to for-mulate a lament that leads to a plea."4

This study is focused on the well-known v. 10 in ch. 90, which reads,

The span of our lives is seventy years, ימי־שנותינו בהם שבעים שנה

Or, given the strength, eighty years; ואם בגבורת ן שמונים שנה

But the best of them are trouble and sorrow. וו־הבם עמל ואון

They pass by speedily, and we are in darkness, :בי־גז חיש

and has posed considerable difficulties to commentators since the time of the Versions. Seybold simply observes that: "der Sinn dieses Verses ist Dunkel."5

Whatever thematic perspective is adopted, the strange occurrence of the pronominal בהם in the first colon baffles. Duhm observed:

Wenn der Dichter בהם, ihrer sind, geschrieben hätte, so hätte er sich erstens Schlecht un prosaisch ausgedruckt und zweitens etwas Unrichtiges gesagt, den "unser" Leben währt keineswegs im durch-schnitt, sondern nur in den selteren Fällen siebentzig Jahre.6

Reider, a more recent scholar, noted that

To anyone familiar with biblical diction it must be evident that בהם in Ps. xc 10 cannot be pronominal, and yet the ancient versions ren-der it so. . . . Emendations, of course, are not lacking: some suggest בחיים, others read גבהם; but it is obvious that none of these can be the original reading.7

The preceding njps translation deletes בהם, notes that the meaning of the hapax legomenon וו־הבם is uncertain ("best of them"?), assumes that the hapax legomenon חיש means "speedily," and renders the difficult ונעפה by "and we are in darkness." The careful reader would also notice that ימי־שנותינו is problematic. The njps elegantly renders ימי־שנותינו by "the span of our lives." However, the Hebrew equivalent of "the span of our lives" is כל ימי חיינו (Isa 38:20). The last word in the verse (ונעפה) is also problematic. It is doubtful that the njps translation "and we are in darkness (equivalent to Hebrew ונהיה בעיפה)" reflects ונעפה.

The purpose of this study is to suggest resolution of the noted difficul-ties using standard text-critical tools. In this context, it is being argued that 10aa-10aß is a conflation of two common sayings: ימי כחנו שבעים שנה (the days of our vigor [are] seventy years), and שנותינו בגבורת שמונים שנה (Our years with might [are] eighty years). The conflated statement בגבורת ימי שנותינו כחנו שבעים שנה ואם שמונים שנה was meant by the author to be perhaps understood: "The days, years [with/in] vigor, [are] seventy years. And, if with might, [are] eighty years." It is, however, an awkward Hebrew sentence; as conflated verses are usually. In final evolution of the verse, a copyist might have incorrectly copied בהם instead of כחנו. Such an error would have been in particular likely if the copying was from a densely written scroll, and it was probably enhanced by the awkwardness of the conflated text. Finally, the last colon of mt is under-stood as being a minor textual corruption of the original נגז חיש ונפעה (We fade quickly, and we rattle . . . ).


B ANALYSIS 1 Ancient Versions

It seems that in context with vv. 7-9 Septuagint understands v. 10 as referring to the transience of human beings, which is caused by divine corrective measures. It renders v. 10:

[As for] the days of our years, in them are seventy years; and if [men should be] in strength, eighty years; and the greater part of them would be labor and trouble; for weakness overtakes us, and we shall be chastened. (Al ήμέραι των έτών ήμών έν αύτοΐς έβδομήκοντα έτη, έάν δζ έν ?υναστείας, όγδοήκοντα έτη, καί τό πλειον αύτών κόπος καί πόνος δτι έπηλ3·ε πραΰτης έφ' ήμας, καί 7τα[5ευ3·ησόμε3·α).8

It takes = "the days" (ήμέραι); שנותינו = "our years" (έτών ημών); בהם = "in them" (έν αύτοΐς); שבעים שנה = "seventy years" (έβδομήκοντα έτη); = "and if in strength" (έάν δε έν δυναστείας); שמונים שנה = "eighty years" (όγδοηκοντά έτη); ורהבם = "and the greater part of them (or, what is more than these)" (και τό πλεΐου αύτών), apparently reading ורבם (Deut 7:7, Hos 4:7) instead of MT עמל ;ורהבם = "labor" (κόπος);ואון = "and trouble" (και πόνος); כי־גז חיש = "for weakness overtakes us" (δτι έπήλθε πραΰτης έφ' ήμας), a paraphrase of MT; and, ונעפה = "and we shall be chastened" (και παιδευ$ησόμε$α), giving ונעפה an unattested meaning.

Targum (Jonathan) understands v. 10 as describing man's longevity in this world. It translates:

The days of years in this world [are] seventy years summoning strength, and if mighty eighty years, and they [are] mostly labor and lying to debtors, for they pass in a hurry and fly as morning (יומי שנותנא בעלמא הדץ שובעין שנין מתאלמין ואין בגבורתא תמנן שנין.וסוגעיהון לאות ושקר לחיביא ארום עדו בסרהוביא וטסין לצפרא).9

Targum (Jonathan) takes ימי = "days" (בהם ;(יומי = "in this world";(בעלמא הדין adds מתאלמין)10 = "summoning strength"; as the Septuagint takes ורהבם = "and they [are] mostly" (ואון;(וסוגעיהון = "and lying to debtors" ( ושקר לחיביא); understands גז = "they pass" (עדו) and being a form of the verb חיש ;גוז = "in a hurry" (בסרהוביא); and, ונעפה = "and fly as morning," assuming that ונעפה is a form of the verb עוף and completing the metaphor.

Peshitta considers v. 10 as describing the human condition. It translates: "The years of our life are three score and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet most of them are labor and sorrow; for life is soon cut off and we fly away."11 Peshitta seems to render ימי = "years"; שנותינו = "our lives"; omit בהם and the first שנה; as the Septuagint take ורהבם = "yet most of them" (וסוגאהין), perhaps reading ורבהם; gloss עמל = "labor"; take ואון = "and sorrow"; add the word "life" to the last colon; understand גז = "cut off' and being a form of the verb גזז or גזה; assume that the hapax legomenon חיש = "soon" (מוככא), perhaps understanding חיש as "pain and trouble"; and, translate ונעפה = "and we fly away."

Finally, the Vulgate takes v. 10 as a statement of promise; at the end of life mildness will set in and man would be chastened. It renders:

The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labor and sorrow. For mildness is come upon us: and we shall be corrected, {dies annorum nostrorum in ipsis septuaginta cinni si autem multum octogintci cinni et quod amplius est labor et dolor quoniam transivimus cito et avolavimus).12

Vulgate takes ימי = "days" (dies); שנותינו = "our years" (annorum nostrorum); בהם = "in them" (in ipsis); וו־הבם = "and what is more of them" (et quod amplius), apparently reading as Septuagint עמל ;ורבם = "labor" (labor); ואון = "and sorrow" (et dolor); כי־גז חיש = "for mildness is come upon us" (quoniam transivimus cito), a meaning that cannot be anchored in the mt; and, ונעפה = "and we shall be corrected" (el avolavimus), giving ונעפה an unattested meaning.

It seems that most of the Versions understand ימי as "the days"; indeed, being followed by שנותינו that would be a reasonable translation. No clear guid-ance is provided by the Versions on the treatment of the pronominal בהם. All of the Versions consider ורהבם as having the sense of ורבם. However, it is not clear whether they had a different Vorlage, or considered ורהבם simply having an extra ה. The last word in the verse (ונעפה), however, appears to have pre-sented considerable challenges, both textual and thematic.


2 Classical Jewish Exegesis

Classical Jewish exegetes were concerned with the disagreement between the statement in v. 10a and Moses' longevity of 120 years, and tried directly or implicitly to explain it. Rashi (1040-1105) connects thematically v. 10 to vv. 8-9.13 He understands בהם as referring to the עונתינו and עלמנו that were men-tioned in v. 8; explaining: These years, with these iniquities (עונתינו) and these sins of youth (עלמנו), they are seventy years. And if one's years (ימיו) prevailed much they are eighty years. And the honor and rule (ורהבם) that one acquires in those years is inconsequential (עמל ואון) because of God's anger (בעברתך כלינו in v. 9) we quickly fly away and die (חיש ונעפה n). Rashi understands גז = "they pass" and being a form of the verb גוז (Nah 1:12, Num 11:31). He seems to be implying that man's life is usually not longer than 70 or 80 years because of his sinning; that is, they could have been more (like those of Moses) otherwise.

Ibn Ezra (1089-c. 1164) notes that Moses' living to 120 years cannot be used to deny him the authorship of this psalm. Moses simply summed up the experience of previous and his generation. Ibn Ezra has nothing to say about the first two cola and in particular about the awkward בהם. He assumes that רהבם = "(days of) power and strength," which are the days of adulthood, and is undecided whether נעפה refers to "wandering from place to place as a bird," "we shall fly to dwell in the netherworld," or "as a blink will be the days." Qimchi (1160-1235) observes that Moses spoke not about his self but the majority of people. The generations in exile complain that they would not experience salvation because it is being delayed and life being so short. Qimchi does not explain the oddity of בהם. He takes רהבם = "their strengths (of the days)" (חוזק הימים), explaining "even if one is ripe in years, they are but toil and iniquity, and would not last"; for quickly as the bird flies we shall die. This metaphor is unusual in the Tanach.

Menachem Meiri (1249 - c. 1310) understands v. 10a as saying: "The days of our life, few among them (בהם) that are not the usual seventy years. And if so naturally disposed, eighty years."14 Meiri explains: "Though Moses lived to 120 years he spoke prophetically about the future and in particular about the exile." In his view, רהבם = "the pride and power" (הגאות והשררה) of the leaders and rich,עמל ואון = "naught" (הבל וריק), and נעפה = "we shall fly (to the grave)." Sforno (1470-1550) attaches v. 10a to the preceding verse, takes רהבם = "their height and strength" (עמל ,(גבה ם וחזקם = "harassment of the nations" (און ,(טרדת האומות = "daily needs" (נעפה ,(צרכי שעה = "we shall fly (from this life)."15

While classical Jewish exegesis has its parochial bent, it is obvious that it struggled in its interpretation of v. 10 no less than the Versions. The interpretations are tainted by personal experiences, but do not offer original insights into the stated textual difficulties. As it will become clear in the next section, modern exegesis did not fare any better.


3 Modern Exegesis

Modern exegesis found v. 10a challenging. The verse has been traditionally understood as a statement on life expectancy. However, what is known on the state of medicine in antiquity defies the stated longevity. Tate felt that "conditional clauses in 10a and 10b seem more plausible," making it a suitable addendum to the material in vv. 7-9.16 Briggs, however, deletes v. 10a. In his view

A glossator inserted a prosaic statement as to the usual duration of human life: In them are seventy, or if, by reason of extraordinary might, eighty years. But it interrupts the thought and destroys the measure of the original. 17

Verse 10, when taken by itself, seems to be a reflection about the transi-ence of human life and a pessimistic assessment of its significance. Delitzsch, a major 19th century commentator, translated v. 10 thus:

Die Tage unsere Jahre-ihre Summe ist siebenzig Jahr

Und, wenn gevaltig viel, achtzig Jahr,

Und ihr stoltz is Mühsal und nichtigkeit,

Den es fuhr vorüber eilends und wir flogen dahin.18

We shall use this translation as a baseline for our analysis of modem exegesis on v. 10.

ימי־שנותינו = "the days of our years" (Die Tage unsere Jahre). ימי is the construct form of the plural of יום, "day." However, the plural of יום could also mean "year" (1 Sam 2:19, Exod 13:10, Judg 11:14, 21:19, Isa 32:10). If ימי are "days," then their number is usually more than seventy. If ימי are "years," then the phrase becomes a meaningless repetition: "year of our years." Whenever the phrase ימי שני occurs in the Tanach, referring to a specific number, it is always followed by חיי (Gen 25:7, 47:8, 9, 2 Sam 19:35).19 Thus, ימי־שנותינו בהם is not a typical phrase in the Tanach; indeed, it never occurs.

Relying on Gen 47:8, some commentators assume that ימי־שנותינו means "the days of our life.20" This would mean that שנותינו could have the sense "our life," which is unattested in the Tanach.21 De Wette assumed a comma after ימי־שנותינו that implied a sense "as to the days of our years."22 In this case one would anticipate a qualitative description to follow.

Müller says:

»die Tage ihrer (einzelnen) Jahre« am Anfang von V. 10 ist Glosse, die als eine Art casus pendens klären will, worauf sich das Pronominalsuffix des nächsten Wortes bezieht, und dazu die Hauptnomina von V. 9 aufnimmt und miteinander verbindet.23

This would shift all the problems associated with ימי־שנותינו בהם to v. 9b. Moreover, as Schreiner says: yemê-senótênú als 'Glosse' streichen, hieße, den Satz v. 10aa des Subj. berauben."24 Finally, it is doubt-ful that a reader would have recognized this complicated syntax. Schrei-ner believes that "Der Ausdruck meint das, was wir unsere 'Lebenszeit' nennen (vgl. Gen 47,8), wie ja der Plural yamim des öfteren an die Stelle unseres Begriffes 'Zeit' tritt."25

בהם = "their sum is" (ihre Summe). Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel (Malbim, 1809-1879) understands בהם as referring to the normal life span of seventy years; namely "if our years are in them (בהם), in the regular years (the word בהם referring to שנותנו), they would be seventy years."26 This nuance of שנותינו is, however, not attested in the Tanach. Delitzsch explains: "es sind darin befaßt 70 Jahre, sie begreifen, belaufen sich auf so viel."27 Similarly de Wette translated by ימי־ בהם* τ שנותינו "in ihnen sind siebenzig Jahr28, bestehen in siebenzig Jahr." However, that הם = בהם, is not attested in the Tanach, though some consider Ps 65:5 (ביה) and Ps 118:7 (בעזרו) as supporting the notion that a ב prefixed noun could have the same meaning as the noun. Moreover, it suggests the incorrect notion that man's life span is at least seventy years.

Reider notes that when both first two colons are considered it becomes obvious that בהם is parallel to בגבורת and therefore must be either synthetic or antithetic to it. In his view,

הם has been misunderstood as a pronoun, while it should be con-strued as a noun. Assuming the root הום or הים "discomfit," we might read either בהם, if med. ו, or בהם, if med. י, and render "in discomfiture."29

This suggestion leads to the phrase "The days of our years in dis-comfiture."

Dahood takes בהם = "then (i.e., as a consequence of God's fury)." He says:

For the meaning of בהם "hen, thereupon" see Isa 48:14 and Job 22:21. Its components seem to be ב, "from, after," and הם, "these," hence "after these, then." There is a possible occurrence in UT, 137:24, bhm yg'rb'aV then Baal shouts.30

However, Dahood's etymological explanation is questionable, and the biblical sources cited in support are not compelling.

Schreiner finds the referents for בהם in vv. 7-9 and that the "grammatisch-syntaktischen Richtigkeit des bähäm in v. lOaa ist also nicht zu zweifeln." He says:

"Unsere Lebenszeit" umfaßt 70 Jahre, und zwar bāhäm "durch sie."

Das Suffix hier bezieht sich nicht auf die yāmîm, sondern knüpft an das an, was vorher an Gründen für die Kurzlebigkeit des Menschen aufgezählt worden ist: appcikä, hamäfkä (v. 7), 'awôn0tênû, '"alümenü (v. 8), 'abrātäkā (v. 9). "Durch diese" wird die Lebenszeit auf 70 Jahre begrenzt.31

However, when the preposition ב has a causal force it is never followed by a pronominal.

Müller says that "bhrn ist mit Duhm, Gunkel, BHS u. a. zu gobhām »ihre Größe«.32 This contention is not accurate, and the meaning "Größe" for גבה is not attested in the Tanach. Hayot notes that some read כמה instead of mt בהם and obtain the introductory question ימי שנותינו כמה. While the emendation of בהם to כמה is minor, the resulting question is not attested in the Tanach, though it occurs fre-quently in the Talmud (e.g., MJagigah 11a).33 Krüger translates the three letter word בהם by "(betragen) von sich aus." In his view "Das Suffix 3. masc. pi. in בהם wird am ehesten auf (ימי(שנותינו zu be ziehen und die Wendung in Opposition zu בגבורת zu interpretieren sein."34 Seybold has for בהם "unter ihnen," but such sense the preposition ב is not attested in the Tanach.35

Hacham observes that בהם makes ימי שנותינו בהם שבעים שנה into a specification sentence that means: In the days of our life there are seventy years.36 However, this sense can be obtained more cogently by writing בימי שנותינו שבעים שנה. Goldingay notes that "one might take the proposition in bāhem as b of identity (belli essentia)"37

Grätz emends to 38.בחיים Duhm reads גבה ם instead of mt בהם; obtaining "Ihre Höche sind siebenzig."39 However, in the Tanach the noun גבה never refers to "years." Kraus is right saying: "BDuhm: גבה ם ('ihr Gipfel') wäre eine Bild, das dem Hebräer fremd sein dürfte."40 Weiser apparently omits בהם in his rendering of v. 10a by "The years of our life are threescore and ten."41 So does Kraus, saying: "בהם ('in ihnen') ist schwer verständlich und wohl metri causa zu streichen."42 Tate felt that "the language in 10a need not be changed though it is awkward. The masculine suffix of 'in them' refers to the 'days of the years'; not to the feminine 'years' alone."43 Hossfeld and Zenger take בהם = "but," which is unattested in the Tanach44

שבעים שנה = "seventy years" (siebenzig Jahr).45 Andersen notes that 'seventy years' could hardly be taken as the normal average age;46 rather it could be regarded as the normal limit of human life, and only a few individuals would live to see their seventieth birthday.47 An average life span of seventy was attained in relatively recent years, and that only in Western modern countries. However, the ancients had sufficient experience with various age-groups to meaningfully categorize them. For instance, a tablet from Sultantepe categorizes the stages of life from age 40 through age 90: 40-lalutu ("prime of life"); 50-umu kurutu ("short life"); 60-metlutu ("maturity"); 70-umu arkutu ("long life"); 80-sibutu ("old age"); and, 90-littutu ("extreme old age").48 Zerafa argues that "The literary biblical evidence uniformly endorses Ps 90,10 [and hence, a seventy-year life expectancy] as a realistic statement."49 However, a "long life" was rarely achieved in ancient Israel. For instance, with the sole exception of David (1 Chr 29:28), none of the other Davidic kings reached the age of seventy. Malamat argues that in Ancient Israel a person could conceivably expect to live to see his great grandchildren. In his view "The assessment of longevity by a standard of four generations matches the Bible's realistic appraisal of maximal life expectancy."50 A span of seventy years would allow seeing a maturing fourth generation.51

ואם בגבורת = "and when very many" (Und, wenn gevaltig viel), which de Wette characterizes as being "ohne beleg aus dem Sprach-gebrauche."52 Symmachus has "in unusual (case)" (εν παραδόξως). Delitzsch explains that

גבורת bed. 71,16 Vollkraft, hier Vollmaß. Siebzig, höchstens achtzig Jahr waren der Durchschnittsbetrag des äußersten Lebensalters, zu velchem die in der Wüste austerbende Generation gelangte.53

De Wette has a more literal interpretation for בגבורת "mit Kräften, mit starker Lebenskraft."54

Dahood gives ואם בגבורת the colloquial sense "and if Heaven wills."55 In Schreiner's view, "Die Verlängerung des Lebens auf 80 Jahre ist allein der Unterstützung durch die 'Taten Yhwhs' zu ver-danken."56 Similarly, Krüger has for ואם בגבורת "und wenn mit Kraft-taten," explaining that "Bei גבורת dürfte an 'Krafttaten' Gottes zu denken sein" (Ps 20:7, 106:2, 150:2, Deut 3:24).57 The words of Bar-zillai to David, when David invited him to stay with him in Jerusalem as a reward for his help during Absalom's resurrection, give us a glimpse on the hardship of being old even for aristocrats. He says:

I am this clay eighty years old; cmcl I cannot discern between luxury and simple living; neither can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks. Nor can I hear anymore the voice of singing men or singing women. Why then should your servant be a burden to my lord the king? (2 Sam 20:35).

שמונים שנה = "eighty years" (achtzig Jahr). The numerical escalation "seventy ... eighty" is not a simple poetic device for delimiting.58 Eighty years is not considered in the Tanach as being an unusually long life span. In Genesis (6:3) the maximal human longevity is set by the symbolic number 120=3x40. Pinker suggested that

the termination of the rainy season in Babylon and the subsequent regeneration of the soil led to the notion that 40 was the right age for significant beginnings. From this evolved the concept of 40x2 as the length of human life, and 3x40 as the utmost length of human life.59

Isaiah (65:20) and Ben Sira (18:9) imply that a hundred years count as a long life.60

ורהבם = "and their pride" (Und ihr stoltz). The noun רהב is a hapax legomenon, but the verb רהב "act stormily, boisterously, arrogantly," is well attested in the Tanach and cognate Semitic languages. Delitzsch does not accept the possibility that רהבם is a corruption of רבם, as all the ancient Versions apparently read. In his view, the noun רהב (here רהב) means "impetuosity, violence, vehemence" (Ungestüm) and in particular grandiose and ostentatious acts "das großthuerische prahlerische Auftreten lob 9,13. Jes. 30,7."61 Duhm renders רהבם by "their blaster" (,ihr Gephrale).62 Westerman is undecided with respect to cam "die Fülle (oder Höhe?, das Wort ist unsicher."63 Dahood reads ךהבים "arro-gance," instead of mt רהבם. 64

Müller suggests

werohbäm »und ihr Drängen« am Anfang der folgenden Zeile, zu ergänzen (sinngemäß: »ihr Maß«); das masc. Suffix kann sich dabei tatsächlich zumindest nicht allein auf scinênú »unsere Jahre« beziehen, da sanim wie sana fern, ist (vgl. stajim sänim 2Sam 2, 10).65

Schreiner understands רהבם as "der Stolz des Lebens."66 Krüger has for ורהבם "but its urging" (aber ihr Drängen), which gives a the-matically awkward text.67 Seybold says:

Ohne es letzlich beweisen zu können, möchte ich vermuten, dass רהבם nicht von רב I, vielmehr von der Wurzel רהב abzuleiten ist, der nach den semantischen Äquivalenten offenbar die Grundbedeutung «eilen, drängen, stürmen» eigen ist, so dass das Nomen רהב-ein Hapaxlegomenon-auf eine schnelle Bewegung zu beziehn ist.68

However, the notion of "quick movement" does not correspond well to עמל ואון, or to v. 10b, as Seybold suggests. The notions עמל ואון do not contain a time element, and attaching רהבם to v. 10b would over-load it with repetitions of "quick movement."

Goldingay notes that

For the hapax rohab, Versions imply rāhab "breadth" (but it is doubtful whether this more common word makes better sense; the years are long rather than wide), or the much common rāb, "abundance" (which looks even more like a simplification).69

For the hapax röhcib, Versions imply röhcib "breadth" (but it is doubtful whether this more common word makes better sense; the

He has ורהבם = "but their boisterousness."

עמל ואון = "toil and nothingness" (Mühsal unci nichtigkeit). Cf. Ps 10:7, Job 4:8, 5:6, and Isa 10:1. In most of its occurrences (55), עמל means the "the burden of labor." 70 Delitsch explains that all that during the life span was a source of pride, when correctly viewed is but עמל, in the sense that it is a burden and causes toil, and און, because it is without true substance and value.71 This perspective is at odds with that of Wisdom literature, "Wisdom poetry, on the whole, praises the relatively rare phenomenon of aging as evidence of righteous behavior and phy-sical vigor. [Where does the quotation end?] Terrien notes that "the sapiental atmosphere of this strophe [10-12] however finds longevity quite independent from happiness since it is 'only misery and inanity.'"72 De Wette has for און "need, misery" (noth) (Ps 55:4).73 One can find in Lexica that און means: distress one causes another; injustice toward another; trouble, discomfort; iniquity, sin; lie, deceit; and, delu-sion, especially by idols and their cults and oracles.74 Krüger has for עמל ואון "toil and mischief' (Mühsal und Unheil),75 Seybold takes עמל ואון = "tiring" (mühsam) and "bad" (,schlimm),76 Hacham understands here עמל = "pain and suffering" (מכאובים ויסורים) and און = "vanity and naught" (הבל וריק)77

כי־גז = "it went past"(Des fuhr vorüber). The verb גוז (kindred to גזז "to cut") means in all the Semitic dialects "to pass." It can refer to ימי־ שנותינו or to רהבם. The singular perfect גז does not fit all the plurals in the verse. Qimchi takes it as being impersonal, but this is not satis-factory. The word U stands out as the only singular term in the verse.

חיש = "hastily" (eilends). The hapax legomenon חיש is the infinitive adverb of the verb חוש or חיש (Deut 32:35, Ps 71:12). Mal him explains כי־גז חיש by describing the quick passage of time. He says that כי־גז חיש refers to "the flow of time that hastily speeds in its ran and disappears from existence each second; since constantly present moments become past moments."78 In that case the author could have said כי־גז חיש עתו or בי־גז חיש הזמן. Duhm seems to be reading החיש) חש?), "slips away" (enteilt)', obtaining "Denn es lauft, enteilt."79 Dahood argues that the meaning of חיש should be derived from the root חשש, "to rejoice" (Ugaritic hst, "joy, pleasure"), and perhaps used in Qoh 2:25.80

ונעפה = "and we fly there" (und wir flogen dahin). The term intensifies גז חיש by adding detail and the onomatopoeic sound at the end of the word suggesting a groan.81 The notion that "wir flogen fort, wir wurden auf Flügeln der Vargänglichkeit schnellen Flugs dahin getragen" is bizarre in the Tanach context.82 De Witte's rendering of ונעפה by "und wir fliegen" is too indefinite.83 Schreiner translates ונעפה by "und wir fliegen ebenso dahin."84 He finds support for this image in Isa 17:13. However, the image in Isaiah is based on actual observation of things that are swept away by wind. Anderson states that the "metaphor simply describes the swift passing of human life (cf. Job 20:8)."85' It is uncon-nected to the Egyptian notion that the human "soul" is like a bird.86

Krüger has for ונעפה "then we have [already] flown away" (dann sind wir [schon] davongeflogen).87 This interpretation of the hapax lego-menon leaves many questions unanswered. Seybold observes that נעפה reflects

natürlich die Vorstellung vom Fliegen (nicht so sehr des Pfeils oder Vogels), vielmehr vom «Schuss» der Garnspule, die sich immer weiter abwickelt. Der feste Bildkreis des Verses könnte der Grund dafür sein, weshalb eine Vergleichspartikel fehlt.88

It is very difficult to see how «Schuss» der Garnspule could be asso-ciated with נעפה. Malbim struggled with the notion of "time" and assumed that "time" = "human life" (חיי האדם). As each moment of time passes so also does human life pass to the domain of nothingness ( תחום )89.(האפס Hacham suggests that time and space fly quickly and we fly with it and disappear.90 This cosmological notion makes no sense.

Even this partial analysis of the exegesis on v. 10 suggests a fundamental dichotomy. It seems as though the average reader and commentator were in main comfortable with understanding the message that the verse tries to convey. This turned parts of the verse into colloquial elements. However, con-siderable difficulties arose when one tried to anchor the general understanding in the MT. In that case, the unusual syntax, grammatical forms, hapax lego-mena, and incomplete metaphors combine to make an exegete's task for-midable.



Psalm 90 is one of the better known of the psalter, V, because of its function in various religious rituals and its observations on the human condition. The the-matic, structural, theological, and historical problems that it posed have attract-ed considerable and continued interest of the religious and scholarly com-munity. Unfortunately, this interest did not extend to the textual difficulties in MT. Thus, while v. 10 is widely known and frequently used colloquially, hardly any new exegetical ideas were advanced with regard to its textual difficulties and consequent interpretation. In this section a new understanding of v. 10 will be presented that exploits some well-established text-critical tools.

It is obvious to anyone with a modicum of Hebrew knowledge that v. lOaa is awkward. Verse 10aß ewhardly adds anything n. From the thematic point of view, having both ages (70 and 80) does not make any substantial dif-ference; man's life is finite and short in any case. If MT v. 10aα +10aß is the Psalmist's original formulation one may rightly wonder why he did not more cogently omit בהם and write ימי שנותינו שבעים שנה. It seems as though the Psalmist was constrained by the accepted formulation of a popular text (or pro-verb) that he borrowed and used.91 This suggests authorial indecision (or, con-servatism) and a compromise solution that produced a conflated text. Thus, it is likely that v. 10aa+10aß is the end-result of conflating two colloquial sayings: ימי כחנו שבעים שנה ("the days of our vigor [are] seventy years"), and שנותינו בגבורת שמונים שנה ("Our years with might [are] eighty years"). Perhaps, Targum's מתאלמין for בהם reflects כחנו.

One readily notes that v. 10, in essence, repeats the main idea expressed in vv. 8-9. Thus, it is reasonable to consider v. 10 as mentioning a proverb that supports the idea presented in vv. 8-9. The author had, however, to decide which of two popular proverbs to use. He opted to conflate the two proverbs; placing the two proverbs practically side by side:

separate ימי כסנו שבעים שנה שנותינו בגבורת שמונים שנה

conflated ימי שנותינו כסנו שבעים שנה ואם בגבורת שמונים שנה

where the conditional ואם serves as a conjunctive.

Conflation of equally valid, or similarly venerated, texts was apparently a standard practice among scribes in ancient Israel. Zimmermann argued that,

. . . , as one may reasonably surmise, the scribes who guarded the text so reverently, letter by letter, would have been loath to discard variant readings which may have been striking alternatives.

The present writer takes the view that, for a brief short-lived period in the transmission of the Hebrew text, a school of proto-Masoretes attempted to imbed in the text variant readings. For the most part, it was probably assumed that the reader would tacitly recognize that a particular verse had variant readings. Of course, these proto-Masoretes could not conceive or did not indulge in the foot-notes or apparatus of which a modem editor avails to his self. By and large, how-ever, their method of marking variants consisted of assigning them the following position in the text:

(i) at the end of a verse

(ii) at, or as close as possible, to the cesura (the later official Atnahta)

(iii) side by side in the text.92

The conflated text ימי שנותינו כחנו שבעים שנה ואם בגבורת שמונים שנה is certainly awkward. This might have been intentional; as Zimmerman notes "it was probably assumed that the reader would tacitly recognize that a particular verse had variant readings." However, it is possible that a later copyist, coming across the word כחנו in a densely written indistinct Hebrew manuscript, misconceived it as the pronominal בהם; the awkwardness of the conflated text con-tributing subconsciously to the misconception.

The confusion of the two words כחנו and בהם can be easily rationalized. Confusion of ב and כ is well attested in the Tanach.93 In the Hebrew ortho-graphy of about 400 b.c.e. the left leg of current ה was not separated from the top. The ancient ה looked like the current ח with a top somewhat extended to the left.94 Confusion of ה and ח was quite likely and occurs in the Tanach.95 Finally, the ligature ם = נו has been recognized by biblical scholarship and is attested in the Tanach.96 From a text-critical point of view confusion of כחנו with בהם is certainly possible. Moreover, a כח category occurs in Pirkei Abot 5:21 division of ages, albeit it is associated with the age of thirty, which is not referred to in v. 10. The age of seventy is categorized by שיבה ("graying"), which would also indicate a phase of vigor.

The pair כח וגבורה occurs in 1 Chr 29:12 and 2 Chr 20:6, and they are parallel in Mic 3:8. Thus there is support in the Tanach for the suggested parallelism between כחנו and גבורת. This parallelism could provide also some insights into the meaning of גבורת. In the Tanach, the plural feminine noun גבורות is used to describe the mighty deeds of God (Deut 3:24, Pss 20:7, 71:16, 106:2,145:4, 12,150:2, and Isa 63:15). Prolonging man's life to eighty years would not seem to be in this category. Moreover, the only defective! גבורת in our verse suggests that it might have resulted from a ת/ה confusion in the Hebrew square-script. This confusion is attested in the Ketib-Qere apparatus.97 It is also possible that בגבורה was written originally in the abbreviated form בגבור. G. R. Driver notes that "A very common abbreviation is the omission of the feminine singular."98 Perhaps, at a later time, when the abbreviations were filled in, בגבור was completed by adding erroneously a ת at the end (under the influence of the many גבורות), rather than a ה. Whatever the specific mechanism for the error might have been, it is obvious that it could have occurred naturally.

Understanding MT v. 10aa+10aß as stemming from a conflation and being originally ימי שנותינו כחנו שבעים שנה ואם בגבורה שמונים שנה, though somewhat awkward Hebrew, has considerable advantages: (1) it explains the origination of the construct 2) ;ימי־שנותינו) it removes the impossible pronominal 3) ;בהם) it replaces בהם with כחנו, which fits the context; and, (4) כחנו is an excellent equivalent of גבורה. Thus, mt v. 10a is a somewhat corrupted version of an original, which intended to say:


The days of our vigor [ are ] seventy years ימי כהנו שבעים שנה


Our years with might [are] eighty years שנותינו בגבורה שמונים שנה

they can be described by רהבם עמל ואון.

Though רהב occurs in many cognate Semitic languages its etymology is not clear. The word might be related to the ferocious and proud Assyrian myth-ical sea monsters. Schunck says,

Innerhalb des at begegnet dieses Wort außer im vorliegenden Zusammenhang [Jes 30 7] noch in Jes 51 9 Hi 9 13 26 12 Ps 87 4 und 89 11. Eine genauere Untersuchung dieser Stellen läßt unschwer erkennen, daß es eine zweifache Verwendung des Namens gegeben hat: 1. der appellativen Grundbedeutung »Unruhe«, »Aufregung« entsprechend als Bezechnung für ein mythisches Ungeheuer (Ps 89 11 Jes 51 9 Hi 9 13 26 12) und 2. als Bezechnung für Ägypten (Ps 87 4).99

In the Tanach, the verb רהב is used in the sense "act stormily, bois-terously, arrogantly."100 It seems prudent to derive the meaning of the hapax legomenon רהב (noun) from the sense that the well-attested verb רהב has. In our verse, the noun רהב could mean "pride" and be a metonymic reference to that which one is proud of.

The pair ואון עמל, or ועמל און occurs frequently in the Tanach (Isa 10:1; 59:4; Pss 10:7; 55:11; 7:15; Job 4:8; 15:35; Hab 1:3). DCH translates און as "misfortune" when it is paired with עמל in Hab 1:3, Num 23:21, Job 5:6, Ps 55:11, 90:10, but not elsewhere.101 The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament explains the pairing of עמל and און as one being the logical con-sequence of the other; עמל "trouble" is the result of און "inequity."102 Ibn Ezra (on Hab 1:3) says that ועמל און is a general term encompassing all the depravity and sin that man is capable of.

The masculine noun עמל (once as feminine in Qoh 10:15) means "trouble, labor, toil." From this meaning are derived "weariness," "trouble" and "vexation." Gesenius notes that some render עמל as "sin, wickedness (i.e.,און)" (Num 23:21; Isa 10:1), but he believes that the meaning of "vexation" is also possible in both places.103 In our case too, the context of the verse admits "vexation" as the meaning of עמל. Andersen understands עמל as conveying the agony of body or mind that is humanity's inevitable lot (Job 5:7) and particularly the weariness of a person worn out by work and cares of this life. It is spiritual torture, weariness, exhaustion, enervation, or a loss of vitality that is caused not by any physical tiredness but by the hostile behavior of one's fellows.104

The masculine noun און, in absolute state, means "trouble, sorrow, wickedness." Johnson understands it as "meaningless misfortune."105 Some have suggested that און means "trouble" when it is coupled with 106.עמל Szeles feels that און expresses human wickedness in the form of deceit, mis-representation, deliberate misleading of someone so as to do harm or cause him suffer (Isa 10:1, 59:4, Num 23:21, Job 5:6).107 Of the various meanings that און could have it is probably used here in the sense of "sorrow." Choosing און to describe the nature of human life, the psalmist may have intended also to imply its homophone אבן "stone," the indifference that humans so often exhibit.

Weiser observes that "the familiar verse which pronounces a completely pessimistic verdict on the brevity and transience of life . . . does not leave any room for even a mere attempt to take a more positive attitude to life."108 However, the quick passage of one's life cannot be the cause for its being עמל ואון. Thus,כי in v. 105 is not the beginning of a cause as it is in vv. 8 and 9; it cannot mean "for, because." Moreover, the context does not admit the other fundamental meanings of כי "that, when." What is the function of כי in v. 105? The form גז, qal 3rd person singular perfect of גוז "pass over, pass away," occurs only in our verse. Other forms of the root can be found in Num 11:31, Ps 71:6, and perhaps in Nah 1:12. The root is kindred to גזז "cut, terminate," sharing with the roots of the bi-radical stem גזר ,גזע ,גזם ,גזל ,גזז,גזה) גז) its fundamental sense. In our verse the singular is odd, since all the other words are plurals.

The difficulties with כי and singular גז can be resolved if it is recognized that כי גז is corrupted. It is easy to see how the unseparated phrase כיגז could have been perceived being the word נגה; perhaps reflected in Vulgate's transivimus. While the נ/כ confusion is not attested in the Ketib-Qere apparatus it is very likely because of the orthographic similarity between the two letters in both the Hebrew paleo-script and square script. Such confusion might be the cause for the difference in Isa 49:4 between אך in lQIsb and אכן in Codex Leningrad. We find also in 2 Sam 23:27 מבני but in 1 Chr 11:29 סבכי, which is the same as in 2 Sam 21:18. Perhaps, in Lam 3:52 one should read חכם instead of חנם; in Prov 27:24 חסך instead of חסן; in Prov 29:10'כפשו instead of'נפשו; etc. A missing or extra י is attested in about 130 cases of the Ketib-Qere apparatus. Thus, it is possible that mt presents a mistaken reading of the original נגז, which is of the same form as נפץ or נפש. A reasonable meaning for נגז in our verse would be "we fade."

The adverb חיש is a hap ax legomenon, which was apparently derived from the well-attested verb חוש I (Ps 71:12), which means "haste, make haste." This meaning gives the phrase בגז חיש the sense "we fade quickly." However, the psalmist could have obtained this sense by using the well-known adverb מהר. Why did he opt for the hapax legomenon חיש? Perhaps, this choice is not accidental. It could be that the psalmist intended the reader to associate intuitively with חוש II "feel, enjoy." As the Ketib-Qere (חושה-חישה) in Ps 71:12 indicates, the two words were probably pronounced the same way, and consequently confused. The psalmist could have expected his sophisticated readers appreciate his clever choice of the word חיש, to indicate both the quick passing of life and the deterioration of senses.

The last word, ונעפה "and we shall fly," cannot be correct. The ancient could not have imagined man flying. In the Tanach only locust (Nah 3:16), birds (Deut 4:17, Isa 31:5, Hab 1:8, Hos 9:1, Prov 23:5, 26:2, Ps 55:7) and angels (Isa 6:2, 6, Dan 9:21) are mentioned as having the capability to fly.109 In Ps 55:7 the psalmist asks rhetorically: "Can someone give me wing as a dove, so that I would fly and settle down?" The answer to this question is an obvious "No." The psalmist has to remain in his place; man cannot fly. Upon his death man returns to earth, and goes down to Sheol. Man could see objects fly, and could fantasize about angels flying, but could not imagine himself fly. No metaphor of this kind could have been admitted. Thus, it is impossible to accept that mt ונעפה is the original reading.

Fortunately, a transposition of two adjacent letters in ונעפה results in the word ונפעה "and we shall groan." Text-criticism is well aware of the many metathesis cases in the Tanach, and considers this a minor emendation.110נפ^ה, would be the qal 1st person plural imperfect of פעה "groan (onomatopoeic)." In the Tanach, the root פעה is used only once in Isa 42:14 () to describe a woman's constrained groans during child delivery. However, Arabic has and Aramaic has פעא, both with the sense "bleat." The root is also used in the Talmud and Midrashic literature.111 It is possible that the rarity of the verb in the Tanach was a contributing factor for the scribal metathesis, which resulted in the difficult MT ונע פה.

The word נפעה gives an excellent contextual fit when it is recognized that the groan that it refers to is the "death rattle." This rattle, now known clinically as terminal respiratory secretions or simply terminal secretions, was frequently witnessed by the ancients and associated with death. A death rattle is produced by a person near death because fluids (saliva and bronchial secretions) accumulate in the throat and upper chest, and he has no more the ability to swallow.112 This interpretation of נפעה parallels beautifully the use of הגה "moan, growl," used in the phrase כלינו שנינו כמו־הגה at the end of v. 9, perhaps giving הגה a more nuanced meaning. Note also the onomatopoeic sound at the end of the word. It seems that the last colon of v. 10 speaks poign-antly of the final stage in a human's life "we fade quickly, and we rattle . . ." (נגז חיש ונפ^ה); that is, in the troughs of death we often groan, scream, or mumble loudly.

The solutions that have been suggested for the difficulties encountered in v. 10, lead to the following reading:

The days of our vigor [are] seventy years ימי כהנו שבעים שנה


Our years with might [are] eighty years שנותינו בגבוו־ה שמונים שנה

And their pride [is] vexation and sorrow. וו־הבם עמל ואון

We fade quickly, and we rattle נגז היש ונפעה

This reading can be paraphrased:

The years in which we have strength are about seventy (or, when particularly mighty they are eighty). That which one is proud of, is in retrospect only vexation and sorrow. We quickly fade, lose our senses, and make the death rattle ...



Verse 90:10 seems to consist of popular sayings about the brevity and insignifi-cance of human life. The psalmist combined these sayings and wove them into a powerful premise for his fundamental plea in v. 13: "Return, O God! // Till when? // And have mercy upon Your servants (שובה יהוה עד־מתי והנחם על־ עבדיך)."

The critical element in the plea is the temporal phrase "Till when?" (עד־ מתי). It connects with the temporal elements in almost each of the preceding verses. In v. 10, the gloomy perspective on life, its shortness and misery, is the basis for the psalmist's plea that God returns to show grace to his servants. Repeating the life-spans of seventy and eighty, the psalmist

articulates a life-consciousness determined by sadness, by melancholy, the experience of God's distance-the same complaint of the great, universal lamentation of Ecclesiastes, lifted to heights of abstraction, an ahistorical adjuration of what cannot be changed.113

Man has to die, but he cannot fly. Upon death, "dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it" (Qoh 12:7)-nothing flies. Commentators seem to have missed this point. The suggested reading ונפ^ה {and we rattle . . .) for MT ונעפה provides an eminently suitable word for the text. We are born accompanied by our mothers' groan (Isa 42:14, כיולךה אפ^ה) and we die with a death rattle (Ps 90:10, ונפנגה). The symmetry is striking.



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________. "Isaiah 30,7b." Biblische Notizen 136 (2008): 31-44.         [ Links ]

________. "Ben Zoma's Query on Genesis 1:7: Was It What Drove Him Insane?" Judaism 55/3-4 (2006): 51-58.         [ Links ]

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Schreiner, Stefan. "Erwägungen zur Struktur des 90. Psalms." Biblica 59/1 (1978), 80-90.         [ Links ]

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Aron Pinker
11519 Monticello Ave., Silver Spring, Md., 20902



* To cite: Aron Pinker, "The Famous but Difficult Psalm 90:10," OTE 28, no. 2 (2015): 497-522. DOI:
1 Walter Jens, "Psalm 90: On Transience," LQ 9 (1995): 177-189 (177).
2 Moses' name occurs in a heading only here. It occurs also in chs. 90-106. Already Augustine opined that Moses could not have written the psalm because it does not contain any distinctive Mosaic expressions. Cf. John Goldingay, Psalm 90-150 (vol. 3 of Psalms', BCOT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 23, note 28.
3 Thomas Krüger, "Psalm 90 und die Vergänglichkeit des Menschen," Bib 75 (1994): 191-219.
4 Goldingay, Psalms 3, 22. Cf. Richard J. Clifford, "Psalm 90: Wisdom Meditation or Communal Lament," in The Book of Psalms, Composition and Reception (ed. Peter W. Flint and Patrick D. Miller; VTSup 99; Leiden: Brill, 2005), 190-205.
5 Klaus Seybold, "Zu den Zeitvorstellungen in Psalm 90," TZ 53 (1997): 103.
6 D. Bernhardt Duhm, Die Psalmen erklärt (Freiburg: Mohr, 1899), 226.
7 Joseph Reider, "Etymological Studies in Biblical Hebrew," VT 2/2 (1952): 123.
8 Lancelot C. L. Brenton, The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English (Pea-body: Hendrickson, 1987), 754.
9 Jastrow, 1298b. Jastrow suggests the more logical reading
כצפרא, which is adopted in the translation.
10 Jastrow, 71b. Jastrow raises the possibility that
בהם is represented by מתאלמין "summoning strength."
11 George M. Lamsa, Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1933), 632.
12 The Vulgate translation into Latin is based on a Hebrew manuscript (Psalmi iuxta Hebraica), and the Douay-Rheims translation into English was used.
13 The commentaries of classical Jewish exegetes are drawn from Rabbinic Bibles.
14 Ha-Meiri (
המאירי), Mikraot Gedolot (Jerusalem: Even Israel, 1992), 75.
15 Sforno (
ספורנו), Mikraot Gedolot (Jerusalem: Even Israel, 1992), 689.
16 Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (WBC 20; Dallas: Word Books, 1990), 433. It is fairly common to encounter in the Tanach conditional statements without an indicator .(
17 Charles A. Briggs, The Book of Psalms (vol. 2; ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1960), 275.
18 Franz Delitzsch, Biblischer Kommentar über die Psalmen (5th ed.; Leipzig: Dörffling Franke, 1894), 590.
19 The open-ended
ימי־שניו can be found in Qoh 6, where it clearly refers to the days of a man's life. Cf. Aron Pinker, "The ligature עז = ש in Qohelet 6.3," BT62/3 (2011): 151-164.
20 Amos Hacham,
תהילים הלק ב׳ (Jerusalem: Mosad HaRav Kook, 1987), 164-165.
21 Only Prov 5:9, where
שנתך parallels הודך, might (perhaps) have this sense.
22 Wilhelm M. de Wette, Commentar über die Psalmen (4th ed.; Heidelberg: Mohr, 1836), 504.
23 Hans-Peter Müller, "Der 90. Psalm: Ein Paradigma exegetischer Aufgaben," ZTK 81/3 (1984): 274, note 49.
24 Stefan Schreiner, "Erwägungen zur Struktur des 90. Psalms," Bib 59/1 (1978): 85.
25 Schreiner, "Erwägungen," 85 note 31. However, in the quoted source the phrase
ימי שני is followed by היי or its equivalent מגורי.
26 Malbim, Mikraot Geclolot (Jerusalem: Even Israel, 1992), ad loc.
27 Delitzsch, Biblischer, 590. In support of this meaning, Delitzsch points to Pesiq. Rab Kah. 20a where
יש בהם is used. Obviously, בהם יש בהם.
28 De Wette, Commentar, 504.
29 Reider, "Etymological," 123.
30 Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms 1-50 (vol. 1 of Psalms; AB 16; Garden City: Double-day, 1968), 122.
31 Schreiner, "Erwägungen," 85.
32 Müller, "Der 90. Psalm," 274 note 49.
33 Zvi P. Hayot,
ספר תהילים (Jerusalem: Makor, 1970 [repr. of 1st ed. 1902]), 200.
34 Thomas Krüger, "Psalm 90 und die 'Vergänglichkeit des Menschen,Bib 75/2 (1994): 194.
35 Seybold, "Zeitvorstellungen," 102.
36 Hacham, 164-165 ,
37 Goldingay, Psalms 3, 20. Goldingay renders v. 10: "The days of our years in themselves are seventy years, // or, with strength eighty years. // But their boisterousness has been toil and trouble, // because it has passed quickly and we have flown." Cf. Johannes Schnocks, Vergänglichkeit und Gottesherrschaft (Berlin: Philo, 2002), 92-93.
38 Heinrich Grätz, Kritischer Kommentar zu den Psalmen (Breslau: Schottlaender, 1882), ad loc.
39 Duhm, Psalmen, 226.
40 Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen (vol. 2; Neukircchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1966), 628.
41 Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary (London: SCM Press, 1971), 594.
42 Kraus, Psalmen 2, 628.
43 Tate, Psalms 51-100, 433.
44 Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, A Commentary on Psalms 51-100 (vol. 2 of Psalms
׳, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 421.
45 Gabriel Barzilai,
׳שבעים שנה׳ מירמיהו ועד דאניאל: סמנטטיקה, פרשנות ואפוקליפטיקה, BM 59/2 (2014): 45. Many modem commentators note that the phrase שבעים שנה refers to a national calamity; a period of communal punishment, destruction, and exile. Barzilai argues that an analysis of the phrase שבעים שנה in Jer 25:11-12, 29:10, and Isa 23:15-17 links it to the domain of royal dynasties' continuity and fall, rather than exile.
46 Ludwig Köhler, Der hebräische Mensch: eine Skizze (Tübingen: Mohr, 1953), 42-46.
47 Arnold A. Andersen, Psalms 73-150 (vol. 2 of The Book of Psalms', Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 653.
48 Oliver R. Gurney and Jacob J. Finkeistein, The Sultantepe Tablets (vol. I/II; Lon-don: British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 1957/1964), 400, revised lines 45-47. A similar division of life into stages occurs in b. Mo'ed Qcit. (28a). It is notable that there too a span of fifty is considered short life and the term
מיתת כרת is used. The Gaon of Vilnius (GR'A) found support for the Talmudic perception that regular Ion-gevity is sixty years in a Gematria of 10+40+10 = ימי. Cf. Ha-GRA, ליקוטי הגר׳׳א Mikraot Gedolot (Jerusalem: Even Israel, 1992), 19. A more detailed division is pre-sented in Pirqe Aboth 5:21.
49 Pietro P. Zerafa, "The Old Testament Life Span," Ang 65 (1988): 116.
50 Avraham Malamat, "Longevity: Biblical Concepts and Some Ancient Near East-em Parallels," in History of Biblical Israel: Major Problems and Minor Issues (ed. Avraham Malamat; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 394. Malamat concludes that "the Bible pre-sents a factual assessment of biological age, mentions exceptionally long-lived indi-viduals; it also offers stock descriptions of the hardships and infirmities of old age (see especially Ecc. 12:1-7; cf. II Sam. 19:36, and Ps. 71, among others)." Cf. Mala-mat, "Longevity," 395.
51 Köhler, Der hebräische Mensch, 48ff. Köhler estimates that in ancient Israel, a person could become a father at 19, and consequently be 57 at the birth of his first great-grandchild.
52 De Wette, Commentar, 504.
53 Delitzsch, Biblischer, 590. Delitzsch assumes that seventy, at most eighty years, was the average of the extreme age, which the Desert-dying generation could reach. However, it is doubtful that the psalm was penned by Moses the Exodus and that peo-pie could live that long in the harsh desert conditions. It is notable that only 40 years were required for a brand new generation to emerge.
54 De Wette, Commentar, 504.
55 Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms 51-100 (vol. 2 of Psalms-, AB 17; Garden City: Doubleday, 1968), 321 and 325.
56 Schreiner, "Erwägungen," 85. Shreiner renders the first two cola: "Unsere Lebenszeit beträgt durch sie 70 Jahre, wenn aber 'Gott will' 80 Jahre."
57 Krüger, "Psalm 90," 194. Cf. Schreiner, "Erwägungen," 85.
58 Dahood, Psalms 2, 325. Dahood seems to be thinking that we have here a typical numeric escalation.
59 Aron Pinker, "The Number 40 in the Bible," JBQ 22/3 (1994): 163-172.
60 The maximal age according to various Egyptian sources was 100 years, while the ideal lifetime was 110 years; i.e., a century plus a serene bonus granted to the worthy.
61 Delitzsch, Biblischer, 591. However, cf. Aron Pinker, "Isaiah 30,7b," BN 136 (2008): 31-44.
62 Duhm, Psalmen, 226.
63 Claus Westermann, "Das 90. Psalm," in Forshung am Alten Testament (ed. Claus Westermann; München: Chr. Kaiser, 1964), 348.
64 Dahood, Psalms 2, 325.
65 Müller, "Der 90. Psalm," 274 note 49. In his view "werohbc1m bezieht sich wie 'gobhanf V. 10a auf jcimenú// scinênú in V. 9."
66 Schreiner, "Erwägungen," 86. Shreiner renders the second hemistich: "Denn eilends verflieht er (der Stolz des Lebens), und wir fliegen ebenso dahin."
67 Krüger, "Psalm 90," 194.
68 Seybold, "Zeitvorstellungen," 103.
69 Goldingay, Psalms 3, 20.
70 S. Schweriner, "'
āmāl »Mühsal«," THAT 2: 332.
71 Delitzsch, Biblischer, 591.
72 Samuel Terrien, The Psalms, Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 644.
73 De Wette, Commentar, 504.
74 Anthony A. Bevan, "The Hebrew Words
און,און, and איד," JP 26 (1899): 300-302.
75 Krüger, "Psalm 90," 194.
76 Seybold, "Zeitvorstellungen," 103.
77 Hacham,
תהילים. 164-165. 164-165 ,
78 Malbim, Mikraot Gedolot (Jerusalem: Even Israel, 1992), ad loc.
79 Duhm, Psalmen, 226. Duhm says: "für das zweifelhafte
άπ. λεγ. schreibt mann wohl vorsichtiger mit Bickel u.a. החיש."
80 Dahood, Psalms 2, 325.
81 The "ah" ending is more common for the 1st person singular than for the 1st person plural.
82 Delitzsch, Biblischer, 590.
83 De Wette, Commentar, 504.
84 Schreiner, "Erwägungen," 86.
85 De Wette, Commentar, 504. Anderson, Psalms 2, 653.
86 Henri Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation (New York: Harper, 1996), 96ff.
87 Krüger, "Psalm 90," 194.
88 Seybold, "Zeitvorstellungen," 103. Cf. Job 7:6 and Isa 38:12. However, neither of the sources, used by Seybold in support of his understanding of
נעפה, mentions "flying" or uses the root עוף.
89 Malbim, Mikraot Gedolot (Jerusalem: Even Israel, 1992), ad loc. Malbim's concept of death, as expressed in the interpretation of v. 10, is scientifically modern and unusual for a religious commentator of his time.
90 Hacham, 164-165 ,
תהלים. He says: " הזמן(או כל היקום) גז פורח וטס מהר מאד ואנו עפים עמו ונעלמים."
91 Hayot, 200 ,
תהילים. Hayot believes that the original was ימי שנותינו שבעים שנה and בהם comes from a later variant version for רהבם, which was noted on the margin and later included in the text.
92 Frank Zimmermann, "The Perpetuation of Variants in the Masoretic Text," JQR 34 (1943/44): 460-461. Zimmerman provides many examples of such conflations. He says: "These examples are sufficient to show, it is hoped, that many texts, far from being corrupt or redundant, contain masoretic variations." See Zimmermann, "Perpet-uation," 472. Cf. Aron Pinker, "Ben Zoma's Query on Genesis 1:7: Was It What Drove Him Insane?" Judaism 55/3-4 (2006): 51-58.
93 The Ketib-Qere apparatus contains the following cases: Jos 4:18, Jud 19:25
בעלות (K) but כעלות (g); Jos 6:5 בשמעכם (K) but כשמעכם (g); 1 Sam 11:6 בשמעו (K) but כשמעו (g); 1 Sam 11:9 בהם (K) but כחם (g); 2 Sam 5:24 בשמעך (K) but כשמעך (g); 2 Sam 12:31 במלכן (K) but במלבן (g); and, Est 3:4 באמרם (K) but כאמרם (g). Hos 14:3 has כל instead of בל. The Koren Tanach (Jerusalem: Koren, 1983], 11-14 at the end) notes that some mss have in 1 Sam 30:30 בכור עשן but בבור עשן in others; in 1 Sam 7:22 בכל but ככל in others; in Ezek 30:9 כיום מצרים but ביום מצרים in others; in Ezek 31:11 ברשעו but ברשעו in others; in Job 21:12 כתף but בתף in others; in 2 Chr 20:37 בהתחברך but בהתחברך in others. Codex Petersburg and Codex Allepo have בבלי but Mikraot Geclolot, Venice (1525-1526), has כבלי. Cf. Zech 2:10 (כארבע); Isa 65:22 (יבלו); Jer 18:17 (בלשון); Hos 7:12 (כאשר); and, Ezek 16:36 (וכדמי).
94 Frank M. Cross, "The Development of the Jewish Scripts," in The Bible and the Ancient Near East, Essays in Honor of W. F. Albright (ed. G. Ernest Wright; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), 137, Fig. 1.
95 The Ketib-Qere apparatus attests to the following cases of
ה/ה confusion: 2 Sam 13:37 has עמיהור (K) but עמיהוד (g); Prov 20:21 has מבהלת (K) but מבהלת (g); Cant 1:17 has רהיטנו (K) but רהיטנו (g); and Dan 9:29 has ולהתם (K) but ולהתם (g). Also, 2 Sam 23:25 has החרדי but 1 Chr 11:27 has ההרורי; Gen 2:14 MT has הדקל but the Samaritan Bible has הדקל; Gen 25:9 MT has צהר but the Samaritan Bible has צהר, etc. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai) mentions the following: in Prov 1:21 הומות instead of הומיות; Prov 5:11 ונהמת instead of ונהמת; and, Prov 25:27 והקר instead of והקר. Cf. Naphtali H. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai), משלי שלמה (Tel Aviv: Yavneh, 1947), 104. See also James Kennedy and Nahum Levi son, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the Old Testament (Edinburgh: T& T Clark, 1928), 17.
96 Raphael Weiss, "On Ligatures in the Hebrew Bible (
ם = נו)," JBL 82 (1963): 188-194. The ligature ם = נו is attested in the Josh 5:1 עברנו (K) but עברם (g); Ps 12:8 has תשמרם for תשמרנו; Job 22:20 has קימנו for קימם; perhaps, Jos 2:4 ותצפנו for ותצפנם. This ligature occurs also in the Qumran scroll llQPsa [Plate 8 , Col. X, Lines 1, 6]. Cf. Emanuel Tov, The Textual Criticism of the Bible: An Introduction (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1989), 167. The closely related ligature בי = מ is attested in Job 34:36 and 2 Kgs 5:13.
97 See 2 Kgs 24:14
עשרה (K) but עשרת (g); Jer 25:1; 32:1 בשנת (K) but בשנה (g); Jer 49:25 תהלה (K) but תהלת (g); and, Jer 52:21 קומה (K) but קומה (g). Perhaps one should read in Prov 12:28 נהי בה instead of נתיבה. The closely related ת/ה confusion occurs in Qoh 12:6 ירחק (K) but ירתק (Q), and one should, perhaps, read in Prov 6:34 חמת instead of תמת. Cf. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai), 106-107 ,משלי שלמה.
98 Godfrey R. Driver, "Once Again Abbreviations," Text 2 (1962): 78. For instance, one finds in Isa 6:13
במ instead of 1) במה QIsa), 2 Chr 20:25 בהמ instead of בהמה (lxx: κτήνη), Prov 30:14 מאדמ instead of מאדמה (parallel to 2 ,(מארץ Sam 13:20 MT ותשב תמר ושממה should be understood as ותשב ת׳ מר׳ ושממה, or fully written תמר מרה ושממה ותשב, etc.. Driver, "Once Again," 93-94, notes that "the recognition of hidden abbreviations in the mt can thus be used for the recovery of the original text without emendation. The method, however, must be used with circumspection and due regard for the rules. These are, briefly, that only certain categories of terms are subject to abbreviation, namely: terminations, including pronominal elements; inde- pendent pronouns;. . ."
99 Klaus-Dietrich Schunck "Jes 30 6-9 und die Deutung der Rahab im Alten Testament," TAW 78 (1966); 53.
100 Cf. BDB, 923a.
101 DCH, 154.
102 TDOT 1:142.
103 H. Wilhelm F. Gesenius, Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (based on the 1847 ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 21.
104 Francis I. Andersen, Habakkuk (AB 25; New York: Doubleday, 2001), 113, 115.
105 Marshall D. Johnson, "The Paralysis of Torah in Habakkuk 1:4," VT 35 (1985): 257-266.
106 J. M. Powis Smith, William H. Ward and Julius A. Bewer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Obadiah and Joel (ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1985), 8.
107 Mária Eszenyei Szeles, Habakkuk & Zephaniah, Wreath and Mercy (ITC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Handsel, 1987) 18.
108 Weiser, Psalms, 599.
109 Jehuda Feliks, The Animal World of the Bible (Tel Aviv: Sinai, 1962), 108. Feliks observes: "'The flying serpents' in the Book of Isaiah [14:29, 30:6] are likewise present in the literature of the people of the East. Herodotus, the historian, describes them as if they were real animals: 'The flying serpents live in Arabia. Countless numbers are found near the frankincense trees; they migrate to Egypt where they are eaten in their thousands by Glossy Ibises.' As yet, no flying snake has ever been found in Israel or for that matter anywhere else on the earth."
110 Naphtali H. Tur-Sinai,
הלשון והספר (vol. 2; Jerusalem: Bialik Inst., 1959), 106-149.
111 Jastrow, 1202a.
112 Hans Wildiers and Johan Menten, "Death Rattle: Prevalence, Prevention and Treatment," JPSM 23/4 (2002): 310-17.
113 Jens, "Psalm 90."

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