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Numbers 14-15; Psalms 90    Listen Podcast


These are some angry people! (Numbers 14:1-10)

1 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.
2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!
3 Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”
4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”
5 ¶ Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6 ¶ But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;
7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.
8 If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.’
9 Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”
10 ¶ And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.

When you look for really big moments in Israel's history, here you have one of the biggest...if not THE biggest. As a result of this day's activities, a whole generation of Israelites are condemned to physical death because of this incident of rebellion. This is a remarkable rebellion. Try to put yourself into their shoes; they had been in the wilderness living in tents for over a year, looking forward to their move into their promised land. Now, after the return of the spies in Numbers 13 (see notes), they discover that someone already lives there - big giant people who won't want to move out so the Hebrews can move in. Obviously they're disappointed...yea...even devastated.'s all right to be disappointed, but what you do after disappointing news is very important.

These Hebrews begin to murmur against Moses, Aaron and God. Joshua and Caleb try to explain that the presence of people living in Canaan already is a good discovery; in verse 9 they point out that because of their presence, "bread" (i.e. sustenance provisions) exists in Canaan to assist the Hebrews in their new habitation. However, that argument doesn't fly with these Hebrew rebels. Then comes the deal breaker; they determine to appoint their own leader to take them back to Egypt. In addition, this angry mob of Hebrews begin to organize a stoning to take care of Joshua and Caleb for good. Why? They objected to Joshua and Caleb's positive report and recommendation to obey God and proceed to Canaan despite the presence of its giant inhabitants. Question: Is this an attempt to substitute a democracy in place of rule by God (a theocracy)?

God shows up in the nick of time (Numbers 14:11-25)

11 ¶ Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?
12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
13 ¶ And Moses said to the LORD: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them,
14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
15 Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying,
16 “Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’
17 And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying,
18 “The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’
19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
20 ¶ Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word;
21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD—
22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,
23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.
24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.
25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.”

This angry mob of Hebrews would have pursued their mutiny had the "Glory of the Lord" not shown up in their midst. God tells Moses that he's ready to just wipe out the whole congregation and start all over with a whole new batch of Hebrews. Hey! Doesn't this discussion sound familiar. Notice what God told Moses after the calf-worshipping incident back in Exodus 32:9-10, see notes, "And the LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.'" Now look at what he says here in Numbers 14:12, "I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they." Once again, Moses pleads for them just as he did back when Aaron made them the golden calf.

I think it is worth noting the rationale Moses uses with God in verses 13-16 where he points out to God the negative publicity God himself will receive among the heathen nations if he wipes the Hebrews out here. Moses seems quite comfortable negotiating with God on this occasion. So here's the compromise deal: No death to all Hebrews right now, but all those men who rebelled will die in the wilderness without reaching Canaan. One exception is mentioned here, Caleb, and another, Joshua, a few verses later in verse 38 (see below).

Notice that the carefully-selected words of Moses in verse 18 include a quotation from the text of the second of the ten that expresses a principle of God's judgment.

As a matter of fact, this principle is mentioned yet again by God himself in his appearance to Moses in Exodus 34.

6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,
7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

By quoting God here, Moses seems to be saying that he understands that there will be consequences that very well should extend to future generations, but please do not wipe out the Hebrew nation completely. Moses' bargaining chip here seems to be that God had never mentioned previously that the consequences of rebellion would include extermination...just extended chastisement. Moses follows this statement in verse 19 with "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." In other words, "God, you never told us that rebellion would result in extermination. Therefore, please punish us according to your previously-stated decrees."

So, how did Moses' negotiations with God work out here? God's renegotiated decree is found in verses 20-21, "Then the LORD said: 'I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.'" Whew! What a relief; the Hebrews can live after all! Okay, after dodging that bullet, let's see what the punishment will be; that's found in the next two verses (22-23) - no rest in their new homeland for this whole generation of men.

Now, for the that's-not-fair crowd, let's notice what God said in verses 22-23, "because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it." God makes a point that this huge punishment on the whole generation of men is not simply because of this incident, but rather a ten-event accumulation.

Let's take a look at these TEN occasions of Israel's rebellion:

  1. Israel's distrust and rebuke of Moses at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:11-12, see notes)
  2. At Marah when they were thirsty and murmured against Moses (Exodus 15:23-24, see notes)
  3. They murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness of Sin when they were hungry (Exodus 16:2, see notes)
  4. They dismissed God's command regarding keeping manna overnight (Exodus 16:20, see notes)
  5. They also dismissed God's command on gathering manna on the sabbath (Exodus 16:27, see notes)
  6. They murmured against Moses at Rephidim when they were again thirsty (Exodus 17:1-3, see notes)
  7. The golden-calf incident at Horeb (Exodus 32:7, see notes);
  8. The "fire from the LORD at Taberah because of their complaining (Numbers 11:1, see notes)
  9. Another episode of complaining about hunger (Numbers 11:4, see notes)
  10. The mutiny attempt after the return of the spies (Numbers 14, see above)

As you can see, this generational death sentence was well deserved for repeated rebellion - not just for one act of defiance against God.

AS A RESULT OF GOD'S DECREE ON THIS DAY, ISRAEL MAKES A U-TURN BACK INTO THE WILDERNESS AT GOD'S COMMAND. At this point in time, God commands Moses in verse 25, "tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea." This begins the 38+ years of Israel's moving from camp to camp in the wilderness waiting for this generation of men who rejected God on this occasion to die off. The official decree and specifics are found beginning in verse 26 (see below).

God's official decree given to Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:26-38)

26 ¶ And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me.
28 Say to them, “As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you:
29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
30 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.
31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.
32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.
33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.
34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.
35 I the LORD have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’ ”
36 ¶ Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land,
37 those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD.
38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.

Forty years in the wilderness is the penalty for their disobedience. In a casual read, it's not clear whether the decree (verse 29) means that all the Hebrews, men and women, twenty years of age and older will die in the wilderness, or just the men. However, if you stick with the exact wording, it says that just the men were held accountable. Pardon me for conjecturing, but I just can't imagine a rebellion against leadership of this magnitude without the Hebrew women being right there in the thick of it stomping their feet and issuing their own set of decrees...if to no one else, at least to their own husbands. However, based upon scriptures found here and in Deuteronomy 1-2 (see notes), it appears conclusive that only the fighting men counted in the census above age 20 would die off over the forty-year period (except Joshua and Caleb). That being the case, this decree did not apply to Levites or women. See the article entitled "The Canaan Spies and the Forty Years" to the right for a more complete explanation. But finally, a day for a year - that's the time that is to lapse; the spies spent forty days spying out Canaan and it will be forty years of travel before the Hebrews will reach it.

Oh...and what about the 10 spies who brought about this rebellion? Notice verse 37, "those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD." The Hebrew word ("mag-gay-faw´") translated "plague" in that verse is sometimes translated blow or slaughter. It appears from this verse that these infamous 10 were immediately stricken at this time as an immediate evidence of God's wrath.

Incidentally, the best Canaan proposition the people ever had was that outlined in Exodus 23 (see notes). In that passage God had promised to send an angel before them into Canaan to clear the land. However, after the golden-calf incident of Exodus 32 (see notes), God withdrew that provision of the angel preceding them into the land in Exodus 33:2-3 (see notes). After that incident, Moses negotiated with God to get God's presence to accompany them in Exodus 33:14 (see notes). Now, however, the people have rebelled once again, delaying their entry into Canaan for another 38+ years.

Israel: We've changed our minds; we'll go right now! (Numbers 14:39-45)

39 ¶ Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly.
40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!”
41 ¶ And Moses said, “Now why do you transgress the command of the LORD? For this will not succeed.
42 Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you.
43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.”
44 ¶ But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed from the camp.
45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.

You can imagine that they took the news of their impending deaths badly, especially after witnessing the immediate deaths of the ten spies who brought back the evil report. By the next day, they've changed their minds. They decide to go into Canaan and fight against the Amalekites and other Canaanites, but Moses warns them that it's too late; God will not be with them. Moses is very clear with his words in verse 42, "Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you." They once again ignore the warning of Moses - big ol' defeat. There's a lesson here. Saying, "I'm sorry" does not necessarily restore circumstances back to the way they were before the disobedience. Let's face it: It's better not to disobey in the first place.

The narrative of Israel's wanderings that began back in Numbers 10:11 (see notes) comes to an end. Numbers 10-14 serve to give us the circumstances whereby Israel's arrival in Canaan was delayed by nearly 39 years.

Offering specification for after you reach Canaan (Numbers 15:1-21)

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you,
3 and you make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the LORD, from the herd or the flock,
4 then he who presents his offering to the LORD shall bring a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of oil;
5 and one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb.
6 Or for a ram you shall prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin of oil;
7 and as a drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin of wine as a sweet aroma to the LORD.
8 And when you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering, or as a sacrifice to fulfill a vow, or as a peace offering to the LORD,
9 then shall be offered with the young bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil;
10 and you shall bring as the drink offering half a hin of wine as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.
11 ¶ “Thus it shall be done for each young bull, for each ram, or for each lamb or young goat.
12 According to the number that you prepare, so you shall do with everyone according to their number.
13 All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.
14 And if a stranger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD, just as you do, so shall he do.
15 One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.
16 One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.’ ”
17 ¶ Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
18 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land to which I bring you,
19 then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the LORD.
20 You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up.
21 Of the first of your ground meal you shall give to the LORD a heave offering throughout your generations.

The narrative of Israel's travels that began in Numbers 10:11 (see notes) is interrupted here for some legal content. Leviticus 1-7 (see notes) presents the basic standards of offerings for the Hebrews, paying close attention to those sacrifices that deal with the issues of sin and guilt. The offerings here in Numbers 15 are special in that they relate more to the desire of the Hebrew Believer for spontaneous, grateful response to his personal relationship with God. Notice that the wording in verse 3 seems to indicate an individual willingness. Much of what we see here is seen also in Leviticus 1-7 (see notes).

The "hin" of verse 5 was an Egyptian measurement equal to about a gallon. You will notice in verses 14-16 that no differentiation in these sacrifices is to be made with regard to the non-Hebrew stranger. The same procedures apply to all, a point made again down in verse 29-31.

What about sins of ignorance? (Numbers 15:22-31

22 ¶ “If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the LORD has spoken to Moses—
23 all that the LORD has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the LORD gave commandment and onward throughout your generations—
24 then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the LORD, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering.
25 So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their unintended sin.
26 It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the stranger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally.
27 ¶ “And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering.
28 So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the LORD, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.
29 You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them.
30 ¶ “But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the LORD, and he shall be cut off from among his people.
31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’ ”

A distinction is made here between deliberate and unintentional sin. Sacrifices are specified for the unintentional sin, but verses 30-31 make it plain that the one who commits intentional sin is to be "cut off from among his people." What does that mean? This phrase (or a variation) is used a lot in the Pentateuch. At a minimum, "cut off" means to be kicked out of the Tribe of Israel. What follows the statement in this passage would indicate that it means something more than that (see the summary on Numbers 15:32-36 that follows). According to the notes found in the Jewish Study Bible "that soul shall utterly be cut off," is explained as follows:

"Karet," the cutting off of a person, is a punishment enacted by the divine. What constitutes the punishment is not defined here but can be gleaned from other biblical passages which indicate punishments affecting both the sinner and his progeny (e.g., Mal. 2:12; Ps. 109:13). Traditional Jewish interpretation includes childlessness, early death, and/or the death of the soul together with the body at the time of death.

By the way, you will notice (as mentioned in the previous section) that one law applied to Hebrews and "strangers." This is seen in verse 14-16 and again here in verses 29-31.

You work on the Sabbath; you die! (Numbers 15:32-36)

32 ¶ Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.
33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation.
34 They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.
35 ¶ Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”
36 So, as the LORD commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.

Here's the deal: There was a plainly-stated law in Exodus 35:2-3 (see notes), "Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day." Exodus 31:14 (see notes) had previously decreed, "You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people." What is not specified in either passage is who does the execution, God or a delegation of Hebrew executioners.'s this man gathering a little fire wood. What's the harm in that...just because it's Saturday? The people who found him don't know what to think about it either, so they brought him before Moses and Aaron. He apparently had not actually kindled the fire yet. Surely they were thinking over the intentional/unintentional decree just given to them in verses 24-31; they're just not certain what should be done with this sabbath-fire-wood gatherer. So they lock him up for the time being to consult God. The decree comes from God: Stone him to death! Let me say, if you are one who feels bound to keep the Law of Moses, don't slight Commandment number four regarding the Sabbath day. Obviously it's a very important one. For additional information regarding the Jewish practice of observing the Sabbath and how that relates to Believers today, click here to read the article entitled, "The Sabbath Day."

Fringe is in! (Numbers 15:37-41

37 ¶ Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.
39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined,
40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.
41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”

This ancient fashion statement is still the rage. Orthodox Jews are still adamant about observing this law today. The Hebrew word for "fringe" is "tzitzit," and that's what today's Jews call it. As a matter of fact, this law is particularly significant in light of the two occasions where the people just wanted to touch the "tzitzit" of Jesus' garment in Matthew 9:20 (see notes) and Matthew 14:36 (see notes). This fringe from the garment was considered very sacred; after all, it was decreed by God himself to be worn in this very passage.

Here's an extended explanation of this "fringe" included in the notes of the Jewish Study Bible:

The fringes or tassels on the corners of the outer garments call the Israelites to action regarding the fulfillment of the commandments. Remembering, Heb “zakhar,” is often a verb of action rather than simply thought (e.g., Gen. 8:1; 30:22; Exod. 12:14). In antiquity, fringes were common on Canaanite and Mesopotamian dress. Prophets from the Babylonian city of Mari legitimated their oracles before the king by sending a fringe from their garment, which is a symbolic way of sending part of themselves, like a signature. The imprinting of fringes on clay tablets, like the touching of the fringe of the prayer shawl to the Torah today when one is called to the Torah during its reading, is a way of verifying or endorsing the written document. Like garments and hair, fringes are considered part of the individual’s identity, and by giving them to the ruler, a person is pledging his loyalty. It is no accident that the violet–blue wool cord that must be attached to the fringes is identical to the cord that hangs from the priest’s headdress (Exod. 28:37). The tzitzit on the garments of Israelites identifies them as being holy to God and symbolically connects them to the priests. Thereby, Israelites pledge their loyalty to God as well as to the priests who oversee the laws (cf. the nonspecific garment fringes called “gedilim” [lit. “twisted threads”] in Deut. 22:12). Modern prayer shawls, tallit (sing.), and the small tallit, worn daily under the shirt by observant Jews, no longer require a violet–blue cord for their tzitzit. That aspect of the commandment was suspended in talmudic times because of the scarcity and expense of the blue dye derived from the murex snail. Most likely because of the reference "to observe all My commandments," this paragraph came to be recited daily as part of the Shema prayer (see Deut. 6:4).

It is worth noting that these five verses are included in the Jewish Shema along with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (see notes), Deuteronomy 11:13-21 (see notes). Observant Jews down through the centuries to today have worn a leather wallet (called a Tefillin) on the arm and head that contain these prayers. Today they wear these during prayer time, but the Pharisees seemed to have worn them all the time. These verses are also encased in a Mezuzah (a small box) and placed on the door post of a traditional Jewish home. Jews feel that this practice is mandated in Deuteronomy 6:8-9 (see notes).

Moses prays an anguished prayer (Psalms 90)

¶ A Prayer of Moses the man of God.
1 ¶ 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,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
3 You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.
5 You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.
In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
6 In the morning it flourishes and grows up;
In the evening it is cut down and withers.
7 For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
8 You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
10 The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD!
How long?
And have compassion on Your servants.
14 Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.

This is the only Psalm that is specifically subtitled as belonging to Moses. While it is not possible to say with certainty, this seems a likely occasion that Moses prayed this prayer before God - especially in light of verse 7, "For we have been consumed by Your anger, And by Your wrath we are terrified." The lesson is simple: Accept God's providence and move on in His direction.

Perhaps Peter was thinking of Psalms 90:4 when he wrote his second epistle, "For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night." Peter says in II Peter 3:8 (see notes), "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

Speaking of years, Moses comments on the average life span in verse 10 when he says, "The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away." That's 70 to 80 years old, on the average. Interestingly enough, Moses lived to be 120 and Aaron 122.