The Vanity of Life

1For the leader, for Jeduthun.a A psalm of David.


2I said, “I will watch my ways,

lest I sin with my tongue;

I will keep a muzzle on my mouth.”

3Mute and silent before the wicked,

I refrain from good things.

But my sorrow increases;

4my heart smolders within me.b

In my sighing a fire blazes up,

and I break into speech:


5LORD, let me know my end, the number of my days,

that I may learn how frail I am.

6To be sure, you establish the expanse of my days;

indeed, my life is as nothing before you.

Every man is but a breath.c



7Man goes about as a mere phantom;

they hurry about, although in vain;

he heaps up stores without knowing for whom.

8And now, LORD, for what do I wait?

You are my only hope.

9From all my sins deliver me;

let me not be the taunt of fools.

10I am silent and do not open my mouth

because you are the one who did this.

11Take your plague away from me;

I am ravaged by the touch of your hand.

12You chastise man with rebukes for sin;

like a moth you consume his treasures.

Every man is but a breath.


13Listen to my prayer, LORD, hear my cry;

do not be deaf to my weeping!

For I am with you like a foreigner,

a refugee, like my ancestors.d

14Turn your gaze from me, that I may smile

before I depart to be no more.

* [Psalm 39] The lament of a mortally ill person who at first had resolved to remain silently submissive (Ps 39:24). But the grief was too much and now the psalmist laments the brevity and vanity of life (Ps 39:57), yet remaining hopeful (Ps 39:810). The psalmist continues to express both acceptance of the illness and hope for healing in Ps 39:1113.

a. [39:1] 1 Chr 16:41; Ps 62:1; 77:1.

b. [39:4] Jer 20:9.

c. [39:6] Ps 62:10; 90:910; 144:4; Jb 7:6, 16; 14:1, 5; Eccl 6:12; Wis 2:5.

d. [39:13] Ps 119:19; Gn 23:4; Heb 11:13; 1 Pt 2:11.

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