Psalm 90:11
Who knows the power of your anger? even according to your fear, so is your wrath.
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(11) Who knoweth . . .—Better,

Who regardeth Thine anger

And—in a measure due to reverence—Thy wrath?

Who (no doubt with thought of Israel’s enemies) has that just terror of Thy wrath which a truly reverential regard would produce? It is only the persons who have that fearful and bowed apprehension of His Majesty, and that sacred dread of all offence to Him, which is called the “fear of God.” And this is not inconsistent with a child-like trust and love, and a peaceful security (“Of whom, then, shall I be afraid?”). On the other hand, those who scoff against religion often become the victims of wild and base terror.

Psalm 90:11. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? — The greatness, and force, and dreadful effects of thine anger, conceived against the sons of men, and in particular against thine own people, for their sins? Few or none sufficiently apprehend it, or steadfastly believe it, or duly consider it, or are rightly affected with it: all which particulars are comprehended under this word knoweth. Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath — That is, as some interpret the words, “In proportion to the fear and reverence which are due to thee as the great Lord and Sovereign of the world, so may the transgressors of thy law expect their punishment.” Or, according to the fear and dread which sinful men have, or ought to have, of thee, a just and holy God, so is thy wrath. It bears full proportion to it, nay, indeed, far exceeds it. These fears of thee are not groundless apprehensions, the effects of ignorance and folly, or of superstition, as heathen and infidels have sometimes said, but are just, and built on solid grounds, and justified by the terrible effects of thy wrath upon ungodly men. Nor can it be ever said of thy wrath, as it is often said of death, that the fear of it is worse than the thing itself. Houbigant renders the words thus: Who knoweth, or considereth, the power of thine anger; and thy wrath, in proportion as thou art terrible? That is, in other words, “Notwithstanding all the manifestations of thine indignation against sin, which introduced death and every other calamity among men, who is there that knoweth, who that duly considereth and layeth to heart, the almighty power of that indignation?” Something seems evidently intimated here beyond the punishments of sin in this world; for these are what men feel and experience. But who knows the dreadful punishments of a future world? Well, therefore, is this reflection followed by a devout prayer in the next verse. For the knowledge and consideration here intended are the gift of God.90:7-11 The afflictions of the saints often come from God's love; but the rebukes of sinners, and of believers for their sins, must be seen coming from the displeasure of God. Secret sins are known to God, and shall be reckoned for. See the folly of those who go about to cover their sins, for they cannot do so. Our years, when gone, can no more be recalled than the words that we have spoken. Our whole life is toilsome and troublesome; and perhaps, in the midst of the years we count upon, it is cut off. We are taught by all this to stand in awe. The angels that sinned know the power of God's anger; sinners in hell know it; but which of us can fully describe it? Few seriously consider it as they ought. Those who make a mock at sin, and make light of Christ, surely do not know the power of God's anger. Who among us can dwell with that devouring fire?Who knoweth the power of thine anger? - Who can measure it, or take a correct estimate of it, as it is manifest in cutting down the race of people? If the removal of people by death is to be traced to thine anger - or is, in any proper sense, an expression of thy wrath - who can measure it, or understand it? The cutting down of whole generations of people - of nations - of hundreds of million of human beings - of the great, the powerful, the mighty, as well as the weak and the feeble, is an amazing exhibition of the "power" - of the might - of God; and who is there that can fully understand this? Who can estimate fully the wrath of God, if this is to be regarded as an expression of it? Who can comprehend what this is? Who can tell, after such an exhibition, what may be in reserve, or what further and more fearful displays of wrath there may yet be?

Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath - literally, "And according to thy fear, thy wrath." The word rendered "fear" would here seem to refer to the "reverence" due to God, or to what there is in his character to inspire awe: to wit, his power, his majesty, his greatness; and the sense seems to be that his wrath or anger as manifested in cutting down the race seems to be commensurate with all in God that is vast, wonderful, incomprehensible. As no one can understand or take in the one, so no one can understand or take in the other. God is great in all things; great in himself; great in his power in cutting down the race; great in the expressions of his displeasure.

11. The whole verse may be read as a question implying the negative, "No one knows what Thy anger can do, and what Thy wrath is, estimated by a true piety." Who knoweth? few or none sufficiently apprehend it, or stedfastly believe it, or duly consider it, or are rightly affected with it. For all these things are comprehended under this word knoweth.

The power of thine anger; the greatness, and force, and dreadful effects of thine anger conceived against the sons of men, and in particular against thine own people, for their miscarriages.

According to thy fear, i.e. according to the fear of thee; as my fear is put for the fear of me, Malachi 1:6, and his knowledge for the knowledge of him, Isaiah 53:11. According to that fear or dread which sinful men have of a just and holy God. These fears of the Deity are not vain bugbears, and the effects of ignorance and folly or superstition, as heathens and atheists have sometimes said, but are just, and built upon solid grounds, and justified by the terrible effects of thy wrath upon mankind.

So is thy wrath; it bears full proportion to it, nay, indeed, doth far exceed it. It cannot be said of God’s wrath, which is said of death, that the fear of it is worse than the thing itself. But this verse is by many, both ancient and later interpreters, rendered otherwise, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew text, Who knoweth the power of thine anger, and thy wrath according to thy fear? i.e. either,

1. According to the fear of thee, or so as thou art to be feared, or answerably to thy terrible displeasure against sin and sinners. Or, Who knoweth the power of thine anger?.... Expressed in his judgments on men: as the drowning of the old world, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, the consumption of the Israelites in the wilderness; or in shortening the days of men, and bringing them to the dust of death; or by inflicting punishment on men after death; they are few that take notice of this, and consider it well, or look into the causes of it, the sins of men: such as are in hell experimentally know it; but men on earth, very few closely attend to it, or rarely think of it:

even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath; or who knows thy wrath, so as to fear thee? who considers it so, as that it has such an influence upon him to fear the Lord, and stand in awe of him, and fear to offend him, and seek to please him? or rather the wrath of God is answerable to men's fear of him; and that, in some things and cases, men's fears exceed the things feared; as afflictions viewed beforehand, and death itself: the fears of them are oftentimes greater, and more distressing, than they themselves, when they come; but so it is not with the wrath of God; the greatest fears, and the most dreadful apprehensions of it, do not come up to it; it is full as great as they fear it is, and more so.

{k} Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

(k) If man's life for the shortness of it is miserable, it is even more so if your wrath is on it, as they who fear you only know.

11. Who knoweth the power of thine anger,

And thy wrath according to the fear that is due unto thee? (R.V.)

Who understands or lays to heart the intensity of God’s wrath against sin so as to fear Him duly with that reverence which is man’s safeguard against offending Him? Cp. Psalm 5:7; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 16:6; Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 5:29.Verse 11 - Who knoweth the power of thins anger? Who can duly estimate the intensity of God's anger against such as have displeased him? Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath; rather, or who can estimate thy fury as the fear of thee (i.e. the proper fear) requires? The verse is exegetical of ver. 9, and is intended to impress on man the terribleness of God's anger. Psalm 90:5-6 tell us how great is the distance between men and this eternal selfsameness of God. The suffix of זרמתּם, referred to the thousand years, produces a synallage (since שׁנה is feminine), which is to be avoided whenever it is possible to do so; the reference to בני־אדם, as being the principal object pointed to in what has gone before, is the more natural, to say the very least. In connection with both ways of applying it, זרם does not signify: to cause to rattle down like sudden heavy showers of rain; for the figure that God makes years, or that He makes men (Hitzig: the germs of their coming into being), to rain down from above, is fanciful and strange. זרם may also mean to sweep or wash away as with heavy rains, abripere instar nimbi, as the old expositors take it. So too Luther at one time: Du reyssest sie dahyn (Thou carriest them away), for which he substituted later: Du lessest sie dahin faren wie einen Strom (Thou causest them to pass away as a river); but זרם always signifies rain pouring down from above. As a sudden and heavy shower of rain, becoming a flood, washes everything away, so God's omnipotence sweeps men away. There is now no transition to another alien figure when the poet continues: שׁנה יהיוּ. What is meant is the sleep of death, Psalm 76:6, שׁנת עולם, Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57, cf. ישׁן Psalm 13:4. He whom a flood carries away is actually brought into a state of unconsciousness, he goes entirely to sleep, i.e., he dies.

From this point the poet certainly does pass on to another figure. The one generation is carried away as by a flood in the night season, and in the morning another grows up. Men are the subject of יחלף, as of יהיוּ. The collective singular alternates with the plural, just as in Psalm 90:3 the collective אנושׁ alternates with בני־אדם. The two members of Psalm 90:5 stand in contrast. The poet describes the succession of the generations. One generation perishes as it were in a flood, and another grows up, and this also passes on to the same fate. The meaning in both verses of the חלף, which has been for the most part, after the lxx, Vulgate, and Luther, erroneously taken to be praeterire equals interire, is determined in accordance with this idea. The general signification of this verb, which corresponds to the Arabic chlf, is "to follow or move after, to go into the place of another, and in general, of passing over from one place or state into another." Accordingly the Hiphil signifies to put into a new condition, Psalm 102:27, to set a new thing on the place of an old one, Isaiah 9:9 [10], to gain new strength, to take fresh courage, Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:1; and of plants: to send forth new shoots, Job 14:7; consequently the Kal, which frequently furnishes the perfect for the future Hiphil (Ew. 127, b, and Hitzig on this passage), of plants signifies: to gain new shoots, not: to sprout (Targum, Syriac), but to sprout again or afresh, regerminare; cf. Arab. chilf, an aftergrowth, new wood. Perishing humanity renews its youth in ever new generations. Psalm 90:6 again takes up this thought: in the morning it grows up and shoots afresh, viz., the grass to which men are likened (a figure appropriated by Isaiah 40), in the evening it is cut down and it dries up. Others translate מולל to wither (root מל, properly to be long and lax, to allow to hang down long, cf. אמלל, אמל with Arab. 'ml, to hope, i.e., to look forth into the distance); but (1) this Pilel of מוּל or Poēl of מלל is not favourable to this intransitive way of taking it; (2) the reflexive in Psalm 58:8 proves that מלל signifies to cut off in the front or above, after which perhaps even Psalm 37:2, Job 14:2; Job 18:16, by comparison with Job 24:24, are to be explained. In the last passage it runs: as the top of the stalk they are cut off (fut. Niph. of מלל). Such a cut or plucked ear of corn is called in Deuteronomy 23:25 מלילה, a Deuteronomic hapaxlegomenon which favours our way of taking the ימולל (with a most general subject equals ימולל). Thus, too, ויבשׁ is better attached to what precedes: the cut grass becomes parched hay. Just such an alternation of morning springing froth and evening drying up is the alternation of the generations of men.

The poet substantiates this in Psalm 90:7. from the experience of those amongst whom he comprehended himself in the לנוּ of Psalm 90:1, Hengstenberg takes Psalm 90:7 to be a statement of the cause of the transitoriness set forth: its cause is the wrath of God; but the poet does not begin כי באפך but כי כלינו. The chief emphasis therefore lies upon the perishing, and כי is not argumentative but explicative. If the subject of כלינוּ were men in general (Olshausen), then it would be elucidating idem per idem. But, according to Psalm 90:1, those who speak here are those whose refuge the Eternal One is. The poet therefore speaks in the name of the church, and confirms the lot of men from that which his people have experienced even down to the present time. Israel is able out of its own experience to corroborate what all men pass through; it has to pass through the very same experience as a special decree of God's wrath on account of its sins. Therefore in Psalm 90:7-8 we stand altogether upon historical ground. The testimony of the inscription is here verified in the contents of the Psalm. The older generation that came out of Egypt fell a prey to the sentence of punishment, that they should gradually die off during the forty years' journey through the desert; and even Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb only excepted, were included in this punishment on special grounds, Numbers 14:26., Deuteronomy 1:34-39. This it is over which Moses here laments. God's wrath is here called אף and חמה; just as the Book of Deuteronomy (in distinction from the other books of the Pentateuch) is fond of combining these two synonyms (Deuteronomy 9:19; Deuteronomy 29:22, Deuteronomy 29:27, cf. Genesis 27:44.). The breaking forth of the infinitely great opposition of the holy nature of God against sin has swept away the church in the person of its members, even down to the present moment; נבהל as in Psalm 104:29, cf. בּחלה, Leviticus 26:16. It is the consequence of their sins. עון signifies sin as the perversion of the right standing and conduct; עלוּם, that which is veiled in distinction from manifest sins, is the sum-total of hidden moral, and that sinful, conduct. There is no necessity to regard עלמנוּ as a defective plural; עלמים signifies youth (from a radically distinct word, עלם); secret sins would therefore be called עלמות according to Psalm 19:13. God sets transgressions before Him when, because the measure is full and forgiveness is inadmissible, He makes them an object of punishment. שׁתּ (Ker, as in Psalm 8:7 : שׁתּה, cf. Psalm 6:4 ואתּ, Psalm 74:6 ועתּ) has the accent upon the ultima before an initial guttural. The parallel to לנגדּך is למאור פּניך. עור is light, and מאור is either a body of light, as the sun and moon, or, as in this passage, the circle of light which the light forms. The countenance of God (פני ה) is God's nature in its inclination towards the world, and מאור פני ה is the doxa of His nature that is turned towards the world, which penetrates everything that is conformed to God as a gracious light (Numbers 6:25), and makes manifest to the bottom everything that is opposed to God and consumes it as a wrathful fire.

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