Praying the Psalms in Biblical Hebrew: Psalm 90:1

A student of my Beginning Biblical Hebrew class expressed interest in praying Bible verses in Hebrew, especially from the Psalms. I asked her to choose a few verses that she would like to pray in Hebrew. Psalm 90:1 is one of these. It is noted as the beginning verse of a prayer of Moses.

I will share the Hebrew words below (in the Hebrew alphabet along with pronunciation), as well as a little explanation from the Hebrew lexicon from Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB).

I’m starting with the actual prayer text that follows the designation of this Psalm as a prayer of Moses, so about halfway through the first verse.

אדני

Adonai

Lord

מעון

Ma’own

“Figurative of God as abode of His people” (BDB).

Same usage as in Psalm 91:9, which is in a similar part of the Psalter, so likely to indicate similar usage of the word or phrase.

Often what comes earlier in the sentence is brought to the front on purpose for emphasis. So this verse emphasizes God as dwelling place.

אתה

Attah

You

2nd person masculine singular, referring to God.

היית

Hayita

Have been

Qal verb Perfect aspect, from the root “hayah.” 2nd person masculine singular, referring to God. A Perfect aspect verb indicates a sense of completeness – not in the sense of “it’s over” but in the sense of fullness, no part of it left out. So God is not a halfway sort of dwelling. He’s the full deal.

A Perfect verb can also have a sense of bringing something into being and can imply duration, something that lasts. The psalmist can look back and know God has always been there for the people and really been present and come through for them – with no indication that it will stop, thus the translation “have been” which implies the action started in the past and is continuing in the present and into the future.

לנו

Lanu 

Our

Possessive that indicates “ours” – modifies “dwelling place.”

בדר ודר

Bedor Wador

In all generations.

Both words come from same root – dor – which means “of duration in the past” (emphasis on “duration” again). BDB notes, “period, age, generation – mostly poetic” – remembering the Psalms are written as poetry.

Bedor has the bet preposition prefix often translated “in.”

Wador has the waw conjunction prefix often translated “and.”

Roughly, “In generation and generation.”

Connotation: “In all generations.”

Let’s pray

Putting this Bible verse all together to pray:

Adonai

Ma’own

Attah

Hayita

Lanu 

Bedor Wador

Lord, You have been and continue to be the abode of Your people, our dwelling place in all generations. Amen

God bless you. Shalom. שׁלום

Interested in getting a taste of biblical Hebrew? There’s more to learn on my biblical Hebrew blog.

Want to jump into the basics of biblical Hebrew? Here’s a beginning biblical Hebrew course I offer online.