Psalms 102 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Psalmist supplicates for a speedy hearing (Psa 102:1-2), for his strength is wasted till he is on the very edge of the grave. He is a solitary mourner, exposed to the ribald mockery of his enemies. His sufferings are a divinely inflicted chastisement (Psa 102:3-11). From Psa 102:13 ff. the cause of his sorrow appears. His people are in exile; Zion is desolate.
But in contrast to his own transitoriness rises the thought of God’s eternity, and that eternity is the guarantee for the restoration of Zion. That restoration will be a manifestation of Jehovah’s glory which will attract all nations to His service, and evoke the grateful praise of all future generations, when Jerusalem has become the centre of the world’s worship (Psa 102:12-22).
Though he cannot forget his own sufferings, and prays that he may be spared a premature death, he finds rest in the thought of the eternity and unchangeableness of Jehovah, Who will not fail His faithful people (Psa 102:23-28).
Who is the speaker? Israel, or an individual Israelite? Many commentators regard the Psalm as the utterance of the nation, and in many respects it seems to go beyond the experience of an individual. But this theory does not do justice to its intensity of personal feeling, and is hard to reconcile with much of its language. It is more natural to regard it as the utterance of an individual, while at the same time it is more than this. The poet is one into whose heart the sorrows of the nation have entered so deeply that he feels them all his own. The strong sense of solidarity which was characteristic of ancient Israel finds expression here. If the nation suffered every member suffered with it. He almost loses his own personality in that of his people. And he speaks not for himself alone, but for the whole body of his fellow-countrymen in exile. Comp. Introd. pp. li ff.
We can hardly be wrong in assigning this Psalm to the closing years of the exile in Babylon. Zion is in ruins, but the appointed time for Jehovah to have compassion on her is come ( Psa 102:13-14). The Psalmist looks for the fulfilment of the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah 40-66, and prays that he may be spared to witness the restoration of Israel with his own eyes ( Psa 102:23-24). Cheyne indeed places it in the time of Nehemiah, on the ground of the resemblance of Psa 102:14 to the description of the ruins of Jerusalem in Neh 2:11-20; Neh 4:2. But the Psalm seems to premise that no restoration has yet taken place. The perfects in Psa 102:16-17 ; Psa 102:19 are certainly relative perfects, denoting what will have taken place before events still future have occurred.
The Psalm is full of echoes of Isaiah 40-66, and of other Psalms, in particular 22, 69, 79.
The title is unique. It refers to the devotional use of the Ps., not to the occasion of its composition. It is an appropriate prayer of (or for) the afflicted, when he fainteth (Psa 61:2), and poureth out his complaint before Jehovah (Psa 62:8; Psa 55:2; Psa 64:1; Psa 142:2; 1Sa 1:15-16), finding relief for his overburdened soul in appeal to God.
It is one of the seven ‘Penitential Psalms’ (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143), and is a Proper Psalm for Ash-Wednesday.
Consult other comments:
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".