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Psalm 102


Prayer of an Afflicted Man for Mercy on Himself and Zion
 MT Intro
A Prayer of the Afflicted, when he is faint, and pours out his complaint before the Lord
The Lord's Eternal Love Prayer for Healing in Sickness The Prayer of a Troubled Youth Prayer In Misfortune
102:1-7 102:1-2 102:1-2 102:1-2 102:1-2
  102:3-7 102:3-11 102:3-8 102:3-5
102:8-11 102:8-11      
      102:9-11 102:9-11
102:12-17 102:12-17 102:12-17 102:12-17 102:12-14
102:18-22 102:18-22 102:18-22 102:18-22 102:18-22
102:23-28 102:23-28 102:23-24 102:23-28 102:23-24
    102:25-28   102:25-27

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Hear my prayer, O Lord!
 And let my cry for help come to You.
 2Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress;
 Incline Your ear to me;
 In the day when I call answer me quickly.
 3For my days have been consumed in smoke,
 And my bones have been scorched like a hearth.
 4My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away,
 Indeed, I forget to eat my bread.
 5Because of the loudness of my groaning
 My bones cling to my flesh.
 6I resemble a pelican of the wilderness;
 I have become like an owl of the waste places.
 7I lie awake,
 I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.

102:1-7 This strophe describes the psalmist's situation (i.e., "the day of my distress," Ps. 102:2,23-26).

1. feels YHWH has hidden His face (i.e., no sense of His presence)

2. his days are consumed in smoke, Ps. 102:3

3. his bones have been scorched, Ps. 102:3

4. his heart has been smitten, Ps. 102:4

5. he has forgotten to eat because of his loud groaning, Ps. 102:4b-5a

6. his bones cling to his flesh, Ps. 103:5b

7. he looks like a bird of the wilderness, Ps. 102:6,7b

8. he cannot sleep, Ps. 102:7a

It is possible that what looks like physical illness is really a person grieving over exile and the loss of the temple (cf. Ps. 102:14,18-22,23-28).

102:1-2 The Psalm opens with a series of prayer requests.

1. hear my prayer - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 17:6; 39:12; 54:2; 55:1; 61:1; 64:1; 143:1

2. let my cry for help come to You - BDB 9, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. do not hide Your face from me - BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil jussive, cf. Ps. 27:9; 69:17; 143:7

4. incline Your ear to me - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 17:6; 31:2; 71:2; 86:1; 88:2

5. quickly - BDB 554, KB 553, Piel imperative (lit. "be quick," see NJB, most English translations translate it as an adverb [BDB 555])

6. answer me - BDB 772, KB 851, Qal imperative


102:2 "Your face" This is a Hebrew idiom for the personal presence of YHWH (cf. Ps. 10:11; 13:1; 27:9; 30:7; 44:24; 51:9; 69:17; 80:3,7,19; 88:14; 143:7).

▣ "day" This imagery (BDB 398) is repeated three times.

1. in the day of my distress, Ps. 102:2a

2. in the day when I call, Ps. 102:2c

3. my days, Ps. 102:3a

4. all day long, Ps. 102:8a

5. my days, Ps. 102:11



▣ "Your ear" This is anthropomorphic imagery. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM).

102:6 "pelican. . .owl" Often in the OT, birds and wild animals are used to denote not only abandoned places, but the presence of the demonic (i.e., Isa. 13:19-22; 34:11-15; Zeph. 2:14). Here the focus is on the element of abandonment or aloneness.

Also note the birds mentioned are Levitically unclean (cf. Lev. 11:13-19), which is another way to assert the sense of rejection!

 8My enemies have reproached me all day long;
 Those who deride me have used my name as a curse.
 9For I have eaten ashes like bread
 And mingled my drink with weeping
 10Because of Your indignation and Your wrath,
 For You have lifted me up and cast me away.
 11My days are like a lengthened shadow,
 And I wither away like grass.

102:8-11 This strophe continues the description of the hurting psalmist.

1. his enemies (possibly invaders) reproach him continuously, Ps. 102:8

2. his enemies deride him

3. his enemies use his name as a curse (cf. Isa. 65:15; Jer. 29:22)

4-5. he has eaten ashes and drunk tears (these were signs of mourning, see SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES, cf. Ps. 42:3; 80:5)

6. his days are like a lengthened shadow (i.e., his pain lasts a long time)

7. he withers away like grass (cf. Gen. 6:3; Job 10:4; 14:1-2; Ps. 78:39; 90:5-6; 102:4; 103:15-18; Isa. 40:6; 1 Pet. 1:24-25)

The theological issue is why was he suffering. Psalm 102:10 reveals that he was experiencing divine judgment (cf. Psalm 38). One wonders if he is a symbol or representative of the nation (cf. Ps. 102:12-17,18-22).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 102:12-17
 12But You, O Lord, abide forever,
 And Your name to all generations.
 13You will arise and have compassion on Zion;
 For it is time to be gracious to her,
 For the appointed time has come.
 14Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones
 And feel pity for her dust.
 15So the nations will fear the name of the Lord
 And all the kings of the earth Your glory.
 16For the Lord has built up Zion;
 He has appeared in His glory.
 17He has regarded the prayer of the destitute
 And has not despised their prayer.

102:12-17 This strophe has a national emphasis. YHWH has an international purpose for Israel. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Notice the things the psalmist asserts about YHWH.

1. He sits enthroned forever (cf. Ps. 9:7; 10:16; 29:10; Lam. 5:19)

2. His name (lit. "remembrance," BDB 271, cf. Ps. 30:4; 97:12) abides to all generations (cf. Exod. 3:15; Ps. 135:13)

3. He acts in grace towardHis covenant people

4. He has built up Zion

5. He has appeared (i.e., to Zion) in His glory

6. He regards the prayers of the destitute (BDB 792, occurs only here and Jer. 17:6, where it is used of a tree/scrub; the root comes from the verb, "to strip bare")

The psalmist asks YHWH to act on Israel's behalf for His greater purpose!

102:13 "You will arise" This verb (BDB 877, KB 1086) has a wide semantic field. It could denote

1. YHWH rising from His throne to act (cf. Ps. 119:126)

2. YHWH awaking from sleep (metaphor for His lack of action)

3. YHWH becoming active after a period of purposeful inactivity


▣ "the appointed time has come" The noun (BDB 417) has the connotation of "an appointed time" (cf. Ps. 75:2; Dan. 8:19). The concept that YHWH is in control of time, space, history is central to the character of the one true God (cf. Ecclesiastes 3).

102:14-17 These verses imply the destruction of the temple.

1. the nations (i.e., who did this) will fear, Ps. 102:15

2. YHWH will build up Zion and show her His glory, Ps. 102:16

3. the prayers of the destitute (i.e., the exiled people of God) will be heard

4. note Ps. 102:18-22


102:14 "Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones" This phrase reminds me of the deep emotional attachment that modern Judaism has for the wailing wall in Jerusalem (i.e., the foundation stones of Solomon's temple). Judaism (i.e., the Mosaic Law) is linked to a special place of worship (i.e., the tabernacle, later the temple in Jerusalem).

▣ "her dust" This noun (BDB 779) is often used of the debris of destroyed cities (cf. 1 Kgs. 20:10; Neh. 4:2,10; Ezek. 26:4,12).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 102:18-22
 18This will be written for the generation to come,
 That a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.
 19For He looked down from His holy height;
 From heaven the Lord gazed upon the earth,
 20To hear the groaning of the prisoner,
 To set free those who were doomed to death,
 21That men may tell of the name of the Lord in Zion
 And His praise in Jerusalem,
 22When the peoples are gathered together,
 And the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.

102:18-22 This strophe is a promise about YHWH's restoration of His covenant people to Judah and her temple.

Hebrews 1 quotes Ps. 102:25-27 as relating to Jesus. In this sense Ps. 102:28 relates to the new people of God (i.e., believing Jews and Gentiles, cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; Gal. 3:7-9,13-14,29; 6:15-16)!

102:19 YHWH knows what is happening on earth (cf. Job 28:24; Ps. 14:2; 33:13-14; 53:3; 80:14; Lam. 3:50; 5:1; see full note at Ps. 33:13-17). The term "earth" (BDB 75) can have several meanings, see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth.

▣ "from His holy height. . .from heaven" These are parallel. The first might refer to the temple on Mt. Moriah, but when both are taken into account, it refers to YHWH's dwelling place above the atmosphere of the earth.



102:20 These images refer to exiled Judeans (and possibly Israelites).

102:22 This, like so many Psalms in Book IV, has a universal emphasis (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan). The phrase, "the kingdom will serve the Lord," reminds me of Rev. 5:9-14 and 11:15!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 102:23-28
 23He has weakened my strength in the way;
 He has shortened my days.
 24I say, "O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days,
 Your years are throughout all generations.
 25Of old You founded the earth,
 And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
 26Even they will perish, but You endure;
 And all of them will wear out like a garment;
 Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
 27But You are the same,
 And Your years will not come to an end.
 28The children of Your servants will continue,
 And their descendants will be established before You."

102:23-28 This strophe, like the two previous ones, uses personal imagery in a national sense. It affirms YHWH's act of creation (Ps. 102:26); He is eternal (102:27)! His people have gone through a devastating time (defeat, destruction, exile), but He will restore them (102:28) because as "heaven and earth" are the work of His hands (cf. Ps. 8:6; 19:1; Isa. 45:12; 48:13), so too, the covenant people (cf. Ps. 138:8; 143:5; Isa. 45:11; 60:2; 64:8; even Assyria, Isa. 19:25).

102:23-24 The LXX translates these verses as YHWH speaking to the psalmist. The NT book of Hebrews 1:10-12 quotes Ps. 102:25-27 as referring to Jesus. The MT translates the same Hebrew consonants in a different way (cf. Tyndale OT Commentaries, vol. 16, Psalms 73-150, pp. 395-396).

102:23 "strength" The term (BDB 470) was used of national strength being affected by YHWH's judgment (cf. Lev. 26:20; Lam. 1:6,14; Amos 2:14).

102:25-27 These verses from the LXX are quoted in Heb. 1:10-11, where they are applied to Jesus (cf. Heb. 13:8).

102:27 "But You are the same" YHWH does not change nor do His purposes (cf. Ps. 33:11; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). Psalm 102:27 is a dramatic contrast to 102:26. Even heaven and earth will pass away (cf. Isa. 34:4; 51:6; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 20:11), but not YHWH!

For a good brief discussion of God's unchangeableness see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 304-308.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm about an individual or the nation of Israel?

2. Explain the imagery of Ps. 102:6-7.

3. Does Ps. 102:14 imply a reference to the destruction of the temple?

4. Does the universal emphasis of Ps. 102:15,22 refer to restoration from exile or an eschatological setting?

5. Are heaven and earth permanent or transitory?

6. How is Ps. 102:28 related to

a. Gen. 12:1-3

b. Rom. 2:28-29

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