Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Prayer of a Patient Sufferer for Himself and for the Jerusalem That Lies in Ruins
Psa 101:1-8 utters the sigh: When wilt Thou come to me? and Ps 102 with the inscription: Prayer for an afflicted one when he pineth away and poureth forth his complaint before Jahve, prays, Let my prayer come unto Thee. It is to be taken, too, just as personally as it sounds, and the person is not to be construed into a nation. The song of the עני is, however, certainly a national song; the poet is a servant of Jahve, who shares the calamity that has befallen Jerusalem and its homeless people, both in outward circumstances and in the very depth of his soul. עטף signifies to pine away, languish, as in Psa 61:3, Isa 57:16; and שׁפך שׂיחו to pour out one's thoughts and complaints, one's anxious care, as in Psa 142:3, cf. Sa1 1:15.
As in the case already with many of the preceding Psalms, the deutero-Isaianic impression accompanies us in connection with this Psalm also, even to the end; and the further we get in it the more marked does the echo of its prophetical prototype become. The poet also allies himself with earlier Psalms, such as Ps 22, Ps 69, and Psa 79:1-13, although himself capable of lofty poetic flight, in return for which he makes us feel the absence of any safely progressive unfolding of the thoughts.
The Psalm opens with familiar expressions of prayer, such as rise in the heart and mouth of the praying one without his feeling that they are of foreign origin; cf. more especially Psa 39:13; Psa 18:7; Psa 88:3; and on Psa 102:3 : Psa 27:9 (Hide not Thy face from me); Psa 59:17 (ביום צר לי); Psa 31:3 and frequently (Incline Thine ear unto me); Psa 56:10 (ביום אקוא); Psa 69:8; Psa 143:7 (מהר ענני).
From this point onward the Psalm becomes original. Concerning the Beth in בעשׁן, vid., on Psa 37:20. The reading כּמו קד (in the Karaite Ben-Jerucham) enriches the lexicon in the same sense with a word which has scarcely had any existence. מוקד (Arabic mauḳid) signifies here, as in other instances, a hearth. נחרוּ is, as in Psa 69:4, Niphal: my bones are heated through with a fever-heat, as a hearth with the smouldering fire that is on it. הוּכּה (cf. יגודּוּ, Psa 94:21) is used exactly as in Hos 9:16, cf. Psa 121:5. The heart is said to dry up when the life's blood, of which it is the reservoir, fails. The verb שׁכח is followed by מן of dislike. On the cleaving of the bones to the flesh from being baked, i.e., to the skin (Arabic bašar, in accordance with the radical signification, the surface of the body = the skin, from בשׂר, to brush along, rub, scrape, scratch on the surface), cf. Job 19:20; Lam 4:8. ל (אל) with דּבק is used just like בּ. It is unnecessary, with Bttcher, to draw מקּול אנחתי to Psa 102:5. Continuous straining of the voice, especially in connection with persevering prayer arising from inward conflict, does really make the body waste away.
קאת (construct of קאת or קאת from קאה, vid., Isaiah, at Isa 34:11-12), according to the lxx, is the pelican, and כּוס is the night-raven or the little horned-owl.
(Note: The lxx renders it: I am like a pelican of the desert, I am become as a night-raven upon a ruined place (οἰκοπέδῳ). In harmony with the lxx, Saadia (as also the Arabic version edited by Erpenius, the Samaritan Arabic, and Abulwald) renders קאת by Arab. qûq (here and in Lev 11:18; Deu 14:17; Isa 34:17), and כוס by Arab. bûm; the latter (bum) is an onomatopoetic name of the owl, and the former (k[uk[) does not even signify the owl or horned-owl (although the small horned-owl is called um kuéik in Egypt, and in Africa abu kuéik; vid., the dictionaries of Bocthor and Marcel s.v. chouette), but the pelican, the "long-necked water-bird" (Damiri after the lexicon el-‛Obâb of Hasan ben-Mohammed el-Saghani). The Graeco-Veneta also renders קאת with πελεκάν, - the Peshito, however, with Syr. qāqā'. What Ephrem on Deu 14:17 and the Physiologus Syrus (ed. Tychsen, p. 13, cf. pp. 110 f). say of Syr. qāqā', viz., that it is a marsh-bird, is very fond of its young ones, dwells in desolate places, and is incessantly noisy, likewise points to the pelican, although the Syrian lexicographers vary. Cf. also Oedmann, Vermischte Sammlungen, Heft 3, Cap. 6. (Fleischer after a communication from Rodiger.))
דּמה obtains the signification to be like, equal (aequalem esse), from the radical signification to be flat, even, and to spread out flat (as the Dutch have already recognised). They are both unclean creatures, which are fond of the loneliness of the desert and ruined places. To such a wilderness, that of the exile, is the poet unwillingly transported. He passes the nights without sleep (שׁקד, to watch during the time for sleep), and is therefore like a bird sitting lonesome (בּודד, Syriac erroneously נודד) upon the roof whilst all in the house beneath are sleeping. The Athnach in Psa 102:8 separates that which is come to be from the ground of the "becoming" and the "becoming" itself. His grief is that his enemies reproach him as one forsaken of God. מהולל, part. Poal, is one made or become mad, Ecc 2:2 : my mad ones = those who are mad against me. These swear by him, inasmuch as they say when they want to curse: "God do unto thee as unto this man," which is to be explained according to Isa 65:15; Jer 29:22.
Ashes are his bread (cf. Lam 3:16), inasmuch as he, a mourner, sits in ashes, and has thrown ashes all over himself, Job 2:8; Eze 27:30. The infected שׁקּוי has שׁקּוּ = שׁקּוּו for its principal form, instead of which it is שׁקּוּי in Hos 2:7. "That Thou hast lifted me up and cast me down" is to be understood according to Job 30:22. First of all God has taken away the firm ground from under his feet, then from aloft He has cast him to the ground - an emblem of the lot of Israel, which is removed from its fatherland and cast into exile, i.e., into a strange land. In that passage the days of his life are כּצל נטוּי, like a lengthened shadow, which grows longer and longer until it is entirely lost in darkness, Psa 109:23. Another figure follows: he there becomes like an (uprooted) plant which dries up.
When the church in its individual members dies off on a foreign soil, still its God, the unchangeable One, remains, and therein the promise has the guarantee of its fulfilment. Faith lays hold upon this guarantee as in Ps 90. It becomes clear from Psa 9:8 and Lam 5:19 how תּשׁב is to be understood. The Name which Jahve makes Himself by self-attestation never falls a prey to the dead past, it is His ever-living memorial (זכר, Exo 3:15). Thus, too, will He restore Jerusalem; the limit, or appointed time, to which the promise points is, as his longing tells the poet, now come. מועד, according to Psa 75:3; Hab 2:3, is the juncture, when the redemption by means of the judgment on the enemies of Israel shall dawn. לחננהּ, from the infinitive חנן, has ĕ, flattened from ă, in an entirely closed syllable. רצה seq. acc. signifies to have pleasure in anything, to cling to it with delight; and חנן, according to Pro 14:21, affirms a compassionate, tender love of the object. The servants of God do not feel at home in Babylon, but their loving yearning lingers over the ruins, the stones and the heaps of the rubbish (Neh 4:2), of Jerusalem.
With וייראוּ we are told what will take place when that which is expected in Psa 102:14 comes to pass, and at the same time the fulfilment of that which is longed for is thereby urged home upon God: Jahve's own honour depends upon it, since the restoration of Jerusalem will become the means of the conversion of the world - a fundamental thought of Isa 40:1 (cf. more particularly Isa 59:19; Isa 60:2), which is also called to mind in the expression of this strophe. This prophetic prospect (Isa 40:1-5) that the restoration of Jerusalem will take place simultaneously with the glorious parusia of Jahve re-echoes here in a lyric form. כּי, Psa 102:17, states the ground of the reverence, just as Psa 102:20 the ground of the praise. The people of the Exile are called in Psa 102:18 הערער, from ערר, to be naked: homeless, powerless, honourless, and in the eyes of men, prospectless. The lxx renders this word in Jer 17:6 ἀγριομυρίκη, and its plural, formed by an internal change of vowel, ערוער, in Jer 48:6 ὄνος ἄγριος, which are only particularizations of the primary notion of that which is stark naked, neglected, wild. Psa 102:18 is an echo off Psa 22:25. In the mirror of this and of other Psalms written in times of affliction the Israel of the Exile saw itself reflected.
The poet goes on advancing motives to Jahve for the fulfilment of his desire, by holding up to Him what will take place when He shall have restored Zion. The evangel of God's redemptive deed will be written down for succeeding generations, and a new, created people, i.e., a people coming into existence, the church of the future, shall praise God the Redeemer for it. דּור אחרון as in Psa 48:14; Psa 78:4. עם נברא like עם נולד Ps 22:32, perhaps with reference to deutero-Isaianic passages like Isa 43:17. On Psa 102:20, cf. Isa 63:15; in Psa 102:21 (cf. Isa 42:7; Isa 61:1) the deutero-Isaianic colouring is very evident. And Psa 102:21 rests still more verbally upon Psa 79:11. The people of the Exile are as it were in prison and chains (אסיר), and are advancing towards their destruction (בּני תמוּתה), if God does not interpose. Those who have returned home are the subject to לספּר. בּ in Psa 102:23 introduces that which takes place simultaneously: with the release of Israel from servitude is united the conversion of the world. נקבּץ occurs in the same connection as in Isa 60:4. After having thus revelled in the glory of the time of redemption the poet comes back to himself and gives form to his prayer on his own behalf.
On the way (ב as in Psa 110:7) - not "by means of the way" (ב as in Psa 105:18), in connection with which one would expect of find some attributive minuter definition of the way - God hath bowed down his strength (cf. Deu 8:2); it was therefore a troublous, toilsome way which he has been led, together with his people. He has shortened his days, so that he only drags on wearily, and has only a short distance still before him before he is entirely overcome. The Chethb כחו (lxx ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ) may be understood of God's irresistible might, as in Job 23:6; Job 30:18, but in connection with it the designation of the object is felt to be wanting. The introductory אמר (cf. Job 10:2), which announces a definite moulding of the utterance, serves to give prominence to the petition that follows. In the expression אל־תּעלני life is conceived of as a line the length of which accords with nature; to die before one's time is a being taken up out of this course, so that the second half of the line is not lived through (Ps 55:24, Isa 38:10). The prayer not to sweep him away before his time, the poet supports not by the eternity of God in itself, but by the work of the rejuvenation of the world and of the restoration of Israel that is to be looked for, which He can and will bring to an accomplishment, because He is the ever-living One. The longing to see this new time is the final ground of the poet's prayer for the prolonging of his life. The confession of God the Creator in Psa 102:26 reminds one in its form of Isa 48:13, cf. Psa 44:24. המּה in Psa 102:27 refers to the two great divisions of the universe. The fact that God will create heaven and earth anew is a revelation that is indicated even in Isa 34:4, but is first of all expressed more fully and in many ways in the second part of the Book of Isaiah, viz., Isa 51:6, Isa 51:16; Isa 65:17; Isa 66:22. It is clear from the agreement in the figure of the garment (Isa 51:6, cf. Psa 50:9) and in the expression (עמד, perstare, as in Isa 66:22) that the poet has gained this knowledge from the prophet. The expressive אתּה הוּא, Thou art He, i.e., unalterably the same One, is also taken from the mouth of the prophet, Isa 41:4; Isa 43:10; Isa 46:4; Isa 48:12; הוּא is a predicate, and denotes the identity (sameness) of Jahve (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. 63). In v. 29 also, in which the prayer for a lengthening of life tapers off to a point, we hear Isa 65:2; Isa 66:22 re-echoed. And from the fact that in the mind of the poet as of the prophet the post-exilic Jerusalem and the final new Jerusalem upon the new earth under a new heaven blend together, it is evident that not merely in the time of Hezekiah or of Manasseh (assuming that Isa 40:1 are by the old Isaiah), but also even in the second half of the Exile, such a perspectively foreshortened view was possible. When, moreover, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews at once refers Psa 102:26-28 to Christ, this is justified by the fact that the God whom the poet confesses as the unchangeable One is Jahve who is to come.