on Psalms 90 :10
Psalm 90:10Threescore years and ten - See the note on the title of this Psalm 90 (note). This Psalm could not have been written by Moses, because the term of human life was much more extended when he flourished than eighty years at the most. Even in David's time many lived one hundred years, and the author of Ecclesiasticus, who lived after the captivity, fixed this term at one hundred years at the most (Sirach 18:9); but this was merely a general average, for even in our country we have many who exceed a hundred years.
Yet is their strength labor and sorrow - This refers to the infirmities of old age, which, to those well advanced in life, produce labor and sorrow.
It is soon cut of - It - the body, is soon cut off.
on Psalms 90 :10
The days of our years - Margin, "As for the days of our years, in them are seventy years." Perhaps the language would better be translated: "The days of our years! In them are seventy years;" or, they amount to seventy years. Thus the psalmist is represented as reflecting on human life - on the days that make up the years of life; - as fixing his thought on those days and years, and taking the sum of them. The days of our years - what are they?
Are threescore years and ten - Not as life originally was, but as it has been narrowed down to about that period; or, this is the ordinary limit of life. This passage proves that the psalm was written when the life of man had been shortened, and had been reduced to about what it is at present; for this description will apply to man now. It is probable that human life was gradually diminished until it became fixed at the limit which now bounds it, and which is to remain as the great law in regard to its duration upon the earth. All animals, as the horse, the mule, the elephant, the eagle, the raven, the bee, the butterfly, have each a fixed limit of life, wisely adapted undoubtedly to the design for which they were made, and to the highest happiness of the whole. So of man. There can be no doubt that there are good reasons - some of which could be easily suggested - why his term of life is no longer. But, at any rate, it is no longer; and in that brief period he must accomplish all that he is to do in reference to this world, and all that is to be done to prepare him for the world to come. It is obvious to remark that man has enough to do to fill up the time of his life; that life to man is too precious to be wasted.
And if by reason of strength ... - If there be unusual strength or vigor of natural constitution; or if the constitution has not been impaired or broken by toil, affliction, or vicious indulgence; or if the great laws of health have been understood and observed. Any of these causes may contribute to lengthen out life - or they may all be combined; and under these, separately or combined, life is sometimes extended beyond its ordinary limits. Yet the period of seventy is the ordinary limit beyond which few can go; the great mass fall long before they reach that.
Yet is their strength - Hebrew, "Their pride." That of which a man who has reached that period might be disposed to boast - as if it were owing to himself. There is, at that time of life, as well as at other times, great danger lest that which we have received from God, and which is in no manner to be traced to ourselves, may be an occasion of pride, as if it were our own, or as if it were secured by our own prudence, wisdom, or merit. May it not, also, be implied here that a man who has reached that period of life - who has survived so many others - who has seen so many fall by imprudence, or vice, or intemperance - will be in special danger of being proud, as if it were by some special virtue of his own that his life had been thus lengthened out? Perhaps in no circumstances will the danger of pride be more imminent than when one has thus passed safely through dangers where others have fallen, and practiced temperance while others have yielded to habits of intemperance, and taken care of his own health while others have neglected theirs. The tendency to pride in man does not die out because a man grows old.
Labour and sorrow - The word rendered "labour" - עמל ‛âmâl - means properly "toil;" that is, wearisome labor. The idea here is, that toil then becomes burdensome; that the body is oppressed with it, and soon grows weary and exhausted; that life itself is like labor or wearisome toil. The old man is constantly in the condition of one who is weary; whose powers are exhausted; and who feels the need of repose. The word rendered "sorrow" - און 'âven - means properly "nothingness, vanity;" Isaiah 41:29; Zechariah 10:2; then, nothingness as to worth, unworthiness, iniquity - which is its usual meaning; Numbers 23:21; Job 36:21; Isaiah 1:13; and then, evil, adversity, calamity; Proverbs 22:8; Genesis 35:18. This latter seems to be the meaning here. It is, that happiness cannot ordinarily be found at that period of life; that to lengthen out life does not add materially to its enjoyment; that to do it, is but adding trouble and sorrow.
The ordinary hopes and plans of life ended; the companions of other years departed; the offices and honors of the world in other hands; a new generation on the stage that cares little for the old one now departing; a family scattered or in the grave; the infirmities of advanced years on him; his faculties decayed; the buoyancy of life gone; and now in his second childhood dependent on others as he was in his first; how little of happiness is there in such a condition! How appropriate is it to speak of it as a time of "sorrow!" How little desirable is it for a man to reach extreme old age! And how kind and merciful the arrangement by which man is ordinarily removed from the world before the time of "trouble and sorrow" thus comes! There are commonly just enough people of extreme old age upon the earth to show us impressively that it is not "desirable" to live to be very old; just enough to keep this lesson with salutary force before the minds of those in earlier life; just enough, if we saw it aright, to make us willing to die before that period comes!
For it is soon cut off ... - Prof. Alexander renders this, "For he drives us fast;" that is, God drives us - or, one seems to drive, or to urge us on. The word used here - גז gāz - is commonly supposed to be derived from גזז gâzaz, to cut, as to cut grass, or to mow; and then, to shear, sc. a flock - which is its usual meaning. Thus it would signify, as in our translation, to be cut off. This is the Jewish interpretation. The word, however, may be more properly regarded as derived from גוז gûz, which occurs in but one other place, Numbers 11:31, where it is rendered "brought," as applied to the quails which were brought or driven forward by the east wind. This word means, to pass through, to pass over, to pass away; and then, to cause to pass over, as the quails were Numbers 11:31 by the east wind. So it means here, that life is soon passed over, and that we flee away, as if driven by the wind; as if impelled or urged forward as chaff or any light substance is by a gale.
on Psalms 90 :10
90:10 Our years - Of the generality of mankind, in that and all following ages, some few persons excepted. Flee - We do not now go to death, as we do from our very birth, but flee swiftly away like a bird, as this word signifies.