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Psalm 90

New International Version

1 A prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You turn people back to dust, saying, 'Return to dust, you mortals.' 4 A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death-- they are like the new grass of the morning: 6 In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. 7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. 10 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. 12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 13 Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. 16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. 17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands.
English Standard Version

1 A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
King James Version

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 by thine anger, and by 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 spend our years as a tale that is told. 10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. 14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; 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 unto their children. 17 And let the beauty 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.
New American Standard Bible

1 A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. 3 You turn man back into dust And say, 'Return, O children of men.' 4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night. 5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades and withers away. 7 For we have been consumed by Your anger And by Your wrath we have been dismayed. 8 You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence. 9 For all our days have declined in Your fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. 10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. 11 Who understands the power of Your anger And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. 13 Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants. 14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil. 16 Let Your work appear to Your servants And Your majesty to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.
New Living Translation

1 A prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. 3 You turn people back to dust, saying, 'Return to dust, you mortals!' 4 For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. 5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. 6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes, but by evening it is dry and withered. 7 We wither beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your fury. 8 You spread out our sins before you--our secret sins--and you see them all. 9 We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan. 10 Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. 11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve. 12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. 13 O LORD, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. 15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. 16 Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. 17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!
Christian Standard Bible

1 Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation. 2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, you are God. 3 You return mankind to the dust, saying, "Return, descendants of Adam." 4 For in your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that passes by, like a few hours of the night. 5 You end their lives; they sleep. They are like grass that grows in the morning-- 6 in the morning it sprouts and grows; by evening it withers and dries up. 7 For we are consumed by your anger; we are terrified by your wrath. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days ebb away under your wrath; we end our years like a sigh. 10 Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away. 11 Who understands the power of your anger? Your wrath matches the fear that is due you. 12 Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. 13 LORD--how long? Turn and have compassion on your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us rejoice for as many days as you have humbled us, for as many years as we have seen adversity. 16 Let your work be seen by your servants, and your splendor by their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands--establish the work of our hands!

What does Psalm 90 mean?

This psalm is attributed to Moses. It seems to have been inspired by Israel's wandering in the desert, which was punishment for their disobedience at the borders of the Promised Land (Numbers 13—14). That would make this the oldest text in the collection of Psalms. It's notable that the eldest psalm would contain a reference to the brevity of human life, as seen in verse 10.

Moses opens this psalm with a clear contrast. God is eternal and everlasting; man is temporary and created. The opening phrases establish that God is beyond time and the universe; He has no origin or creation. Rather, as God stated to Moses (Exodus 3:14), He simply "is." Human beings, on the other hand, die and return to the dust from which they are made (Psalm 90:1–4).

One reason for life's brevity is human sin. Judgment from God comes on those who provoke His wrath. Moses uses the analogy of grass, which can change from green and healthy to withered and dead very quickly. As echoed in other parts of Scripture (Hebrews 4:13), God is able to see all things, including secret sins (Psalm 90:5–8).

Because of human sin (Romans 5:12), our lives end like a soft, fading puff of breath. The typical human being, on average, seems to live for about 70 to 80 years. Those with especially good circumstances might live to well over 100. Yet even those who outlive their peers will still die. For this reason, Moses wonders who—if anyone—bothers to consider what will happen when they face judgment before God. In fact, the idea of "number[ing] our days" is directly tied to a wise perspective. A key step in understanding our position before God is realizing our own mortality (Psalm 90:9–12).

Moses ends this prayer with a plea for God to rescue and enlighten His people. The cry of "how long" is a common one from the Old Testament (Psalm 6:3; 35:17; 89:46; Isaiah 6:11; Habakkuk 1:2). It's normal in the middle of hardship to wonder when, or even if, God will respond. And yet, Moses expresses faith that God will give Israel reasons to rejoice. He especially asks for God to demonstrate Himself to the people, to encourage their faith. The psalm ends with a repeated request for God to bless Israel's efforts (Psalm 90:13–17).