Psalm 90 seems to be about the brevity and transience of human life in contrast to God's eternity:

[Psa 90:1-17 ASV] (1) A Prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place In all generations. (2) Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. (3) Thou turnest man to destruction, And sayest, Return, ye children of men. (4) For a thousand years in thy sight Are but as yesterday when it is past, And as a watch in the night. (5) Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: In the morning they are like grass which groweth up. (6) In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; In the evening it is cut down, and withereth. (7) For we are consumed in thine anger, And in thy wrath are we troubled. (8) Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, Our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. (9) For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: We bring our years to an end as a sigh. (10) The days of our years are threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away. (11) Who knoweth the power of thine anger, And thy wrath according to the fear that is due unto thee? (12) So teach us to number our days, That we may get us a heart of wisdom. (13) Return, O Jehovah; how long? And let it repent thee concerning thy servants. (14) Oh satisfy us in the morning with thy lovingkindness, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (15) Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, And the years wherein we have seen evil. (16) Let thy work appear unto thy servants, And thy glory upon their children. (17) And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And establish thou the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

Is Moses anticipating life after this vale of tears, living in God's eternal heavenly house?

Or is he anticipating God to turn the tide of history? Is he saying "You've been faithful to come through, turning our difficult times into satisfying results"?

If resurrection and everlasting life in God's heavenly home, where does God give him that hope?

Does he mean "You have been the protection of your People throughout the changes of history" or "the home we go to after our troubled journey"?

1 Answer 1


Most of Psalm 90 is a contrast between God's eternal being and man's mortality. More specifically, it contrasts God's eternal existence with our 70 or 80 years. It does this by reminding us that we are beset with life's troubles and eventually life withers away like grass. Despite all these things, we are asked to rise above out daily troubles and live "in God", or have our "dwelling in the LORD". Despite life's everyday difficulties, we should be satisfied with God's lovingkindness. "Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, And the years wherein we have seen evil." (v15)

In summary, God's greatness is contrasted with our limitations. We live in our temporal life but God lives forever, and we live in Him. Thus, while our temporary existence is clearly in view, there is (from a NT view) a hint that something greater might come, but that is never stated.

However, the purpose of this teaching device is to emphasise our "dwelling in the Lord" (Ps 90:1). This is partly explained in the last three verses of the same psalm but more fully interpreted in the NT. However, we find such an idea in other places:

  • Ps 91:9 - Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place
  • Ps 32:7 - You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
  • Ps 119:114 - You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
  • Acts 17:28 - For in him we live and move and have our being.
  • Col 3:3 - For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
  • Rom 13:14 - clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ

A number of texts explicitly explain this idiom.

  • 1 John 4:13 - This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.
  • 1 John 2:6 - Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
  • Eph 4:15 - Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ

Thus, it appears that "abiding in the Lord" is equivalent to "hiding in him", "living in him", "growing into him". All these are ways of expressing the idea of "walking as Jesus walked", "growing more like him in every way", etc; all by "his Spirit" (1 John 4:13). The NT expresses this idea of becoming like God (in nature) in many other ways such as:

  • Phil 2:5 - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus
  • 1 Cor 2:16 - But we have the mind of Christ.
  • 2 Cor 3:18 - And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • 2 Peter 1:4 - Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The great beauty of Psalm 90 it is eternal perspective. Not only do we owe our existence to God (who is from eternity past) but we have the promise, as well, of eternity with in the future. The NT expresses this idea in similar ways such as:

  • 2 Tim 2:11 - Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him
  • Rom 6:8 - Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
  • So not referring to an everlasting afterlife? My question probably should have been, "Is Moses expressing confidence in an afterlife? Or a refuge through the vicissitudes of life?" It sounds like you're saying "a refuge through the vicissitudes of life"?
    – Ruminator
    Jul 10, 2019 at 10:03
  • By the way, I think that "dwelling place" is not an accurate translation. "Refuge" or "place to escape" is more on point, I think.
    – Ruminator
    Jul 10, 2019 at 10:54
  • מָע֣וֹן (mā·‘ō·wn) is an abode, of God, men, animals, a retreat, and so could be stretched to hiding place, but is primarily a dwelling place.
    – user25930
    Jul 10, 2019 at 11:29
  • Yes - I believe Moses is talking about our present life lived on earth which is confirmed by the reference to past generations also having their dwelling place in God. "You have been our dwelling place in all generations."
    – user25930
    Jul 10, 2019 at 11:32
  • Okay, thanks. I was looking at the Greek. So are you saying that the "eternal perspective" actually refers to an ongoing existence for Judaism, not to an NT hope for everlasting life? This isn't clear to me: "...but we have the promise, as well, of eternity with in the future. The NT expresses this idea in similar ways..". Are you saying that the Psalm has a more temporal, generational hope?
    – Ruminator
    Jul 10, 2019 at 11:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.