Fragility of man (Ps 144:3-144:4)


What are human beings?

Why do you regard them?

Why do you think of mortals?

They are like a breath.

Their days are like a passing shadow.”

David wanted to know why Yahweh cared about humans or even thought about them. Humans are like a breath. They are like passing shadows, of little consequence.

The relative value of wealth (Ps 62:9-62:10)

“Those of low estate are but a breath.

Those of high estate are a delusion.

In the balances they go up.

They are together

Lighter than a breath.

Put no confidence in extortion.

Set no vain hopes on robbery.

If riches increase,

Do not set your heart on them.”

Suddenly there is a discussion about the relative value of wealth. Those of a low estate are like a breath, while those of a high estate are a delusion. Together they are a mere breath. David then asks them not to extort or rob each other, which seems like a good recommendation. If, however, your riches increased, he did not want them to set their heart on their new found wealth.

A prayer in distress (Ps 39:1-39:6)

“To the choirmaster leader, Jeduthun, a psalm of David

I said.

‘I will guard my ways.

So that I may not sin with my tongue.

I will keep a muzzle on my mouth,

As long as the wicked are in my presence.’

I was silent and still.

I held my peace to no avail.

My distress grew worse.

My heart became hot within me.

When I mused,

The fire burned.

Then I spoke with my tongue.


Let me know my end.

What is the measure of my days?

Let me know how fleeting my life is!

You have made my days a few handbreadths.

My lifetime is as nothing in your sight.

Surely every man stands as a mere breath!”


Once again, Psalm 39 is a prayer for healing. Jeduthun was the name of one of the Levite Merari families that David appointed as music master in 1 Chronicles, chapters 16 and 25. He was a trumpet player and his sons led the music in the Temple. His name appears here and in Psalms 62 and 77. David or Jeduthun were guarding their ways. They did not want their tongue to sin so they kept a muzzle on their mouths, like vicious dogs today. One of the problems is that this psalmist did not speak out when he was in trouble. His heart burned within him. What he really wanted to know was how long his life would be. When would his days be over? He knew that his lifetime was like a breath in the life time of Yahweh. This section ends with a musical pause, a Selah.

Job bitterly complains (Job 7:11-7:21)

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.

I will speak in the anguish of my spirit.

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Am I the sea?

Am I a dragon?

Am I a sea monster?

Do you set a guard over me?

When I say,

‘My bed will comfort me.

My couch will ease my complaint.’

Then you scare me with dreams.

You terrify me with visions.

Thus I would choose strangling and death

Rather than this body.

I loathe my life.

I would not live forever.

Let me alone!

My days are a breath.

What are human beings?

Why do you make so much of them?

Why do you set your mind upon them?

Why do you visit them every morning?

Why do you test them every moment?

Will you not look away from me for a while?

Will you not let me alone until I swallow my spittle?

If I sin,

What do I do to you?

You are the watcher of humanity.

Why have you made me your target?

Why have I become a burden to you?

Why do you not pardon my transgression?

Why do you not take away my iniquity?

For now I shall lie in the earth.

You will seek me,

But I shall not be.”

Job would not restrain himself. He was bitter. Was he like the chaotic sea, a sea monster, a dragon or Leviathan? When he sought rest on his bed or couch, God sent him dreams and visions.   He would rather die strangled than have this terrible body. He hated his life as he did not want to live any longer. He did not want to live forever since he realized that he was like a breath. Why does God care about humans anyway? Why is he the watcher visiting them in the morning, and every moment of their lives? Job wanted God to look away for a while, so he could swallow his spittle. Why was he the target? What burden was he to God? If he had sinned, why not pardon him. Job said that God might come after him, but he would not find him, because he was no more.