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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 49

 

 

Verse 1

Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:

The enigma solved, why the ungodly prosper while the godly are persecuted. So Psalms 37:1-40; Psalms 73:1-28,

Psalms 49:1-20.-All classes called to hear the heaven-inspired lesson of "wisdom" (Psalms 49:1-4); the thesis (Psalms 49:5-6); the grounding of it; the sinner's wealth shall pass from him, and no ransom can redeem him, whereas God shall redeem the godly (Psalms 49:7-15); conclusion: the temporary honour of him who lacks "understanding" can make him no better than the beasts that perish (Psalms 49:19-20).

Hear this, all ye people - (cf. Deuteronomy 32:1; Psalms 50:1; Micah 1:2; 1 Kings 22:28.) How important to all is the question, seeing that if the difficulty could not be harmonized with the righteousness of God's government of the world, all fear of God would be at an end!

All ye inhabitants of the world. The Hebrew for "world" [ chaaled (Hebrew #2465)] expresses transitoriness [by transposition from chaadal (Hebrew #2308), to cease]. Thus, the opening sentence hints at the solution in the transitoriness of worldly wealth.


Verse 2

Both low and high, rich and poor, together.

Both low and high - literally, sons of an ordinary man [ 'aadaam (Hebrew #120)], and sons of a distinguished man [ 'iysh (Hebrew #376)]. The Psalmist's monitions will warn the rich (Psalms 49:6-7; Psalms 49:17) and console the poor (Psalms 49:15-16).


Verse 3

My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.

My mouth shall speak of wisdom - suggested by the Divine Spirit of "wisdom" (Proverbs 8:1-36; 1 Corinthians 2:13). The Son of God is the embodiment of this wisdom (Colossians 2:3).


Verse 4

I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

I will incline mine ear to a parable - or 'similitude' [ maashaal (Hebrew #4912)]: a sententiously expressed truth. "I will incline mine ear to" it implies that the wisdom which he is about to impart is not of his own acquisition (2 Samuel 23:2), but one imparted to him by revelation.

I will open my dark saying - enigma, or hard question; a discourse having a deep sense [ chiyraah (Hebrew #2437)] (1 Kings 10:1). Connected with the parable" also in Psalms 78:2, "I will open," i:e., bring forth openly, with mouth, from the treasure chambers of the heart, (Amos 8:5, margin.)

The thesis (Psalms 49:5-6).


Verse 5

Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about - rather 'when the iniquity of my treacherous foes' (or supplanters, (Genesis 25:26; Genesis 27:36) compasses me about) [ `


Verse 6

They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;

They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches. This sentence is not joined with Psalms 49:7, as in the English version, but is in apposition with "my treacherous foes," Psalms 49:5 - namely, "They that trust in their wealth," etc.


Verses 7-9

None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

-The godly has no cause for overwhelming fear because of the power of the ungodly; nor has the ungodly reason to boast over the godly because of his own worldly greatness. This might be so if the ungodly could ensure eternal life by his wealth, so as to enjoy it forever. But the fact is, he can redeem neither his brother nor himself from death, over which God is the Master. He must therefore be in constant fear, not knowing how soon he must lose his life and wealth together. Therefore, it is he, not the godly, who has reason for fear.

Verse 7. None of them can by any means redeem his brother - a brother in riches and ungodliness (Genesis 49:5). In the Hebrew order, 'A brother can no one redeeming redeem.' The doubled expression 'redeeming redeem' emphasizes the idea of redemption as the chief concern, the standard of value by which all things, wealth included, are to be tested, whether they who have them ought to boast over those who have them not, or the latter fear the former on account of them.

Nor give to God a ransom for him - Hebrew, 'His (own) atonement'-namely the atonement for the rich man himself. As the former clause saith, None can redeem his brother, so this clause saith, The rich man cannot even give to God a ransom for himself. The "their" in Psalms 49:8, the redemption of their soul," combines both the brother and the rich man himself. "Ransom" - literally, the covering (in Genesis 6:14, the pitch upon the ark) wherewith sin is covered out of sight, and so atoned (Psalms 32:1). [ kaap


Verses 10-12

For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.

-The universality of death might show the ungodly rich man that God may call him away at any moment. Their inward thought is that their possessions are immortal; but however men may dream of immortality and abiding honour, they, in common with the brutes, must die.


Verse 13

This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah.

This their way (is) their folly - "their way," whereby they virtually think themselves immortal, and therefore desire their houses to continue forever, wise as they regard it, "is their folly," as the event shows. Or "way" may be taken as their portion, their lot, as in Psalms 1:6; Psalms 37:5; then translate, 'This (is) their way, (their fate, so there is) folly to them' - i:e., they are by the event convicted of folly.

Yet their posterity approve their sayings - literally, 'delight in their mouth;' i:e., in their maxims of living, especially in their boastful speeches, promising themselves immortality, and "calling their lands after their own names." They have "a mouth speaking great things" (Daniel 7:8; cf. Psalms 73:8).


Verse 14

Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.

Like sheep they are laid in the grave (so Psalms 49:12; Psalms 49:20.)

And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning - after the ungodly have been suddenly swept away the night (note, Psalms 49:12; also note, Psalms 46:5). As Sennacherib's host was destroyed in the night, and God's people triumphed in the morning. Compare Job 27:20. The antitypical fulfillment shall be at the resurrection morning, when the "saints shall possess the kingdom" (Daniel 7:22), and they "shall tread down the wicked" as "ashes under the soles of their feet" (Malachi 4:3; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 20:4).

And their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling - literally, 'their beauty (is) for the consumption of the grave (being dislodged), from their dwelling'-namely from those magnificent abodes which they had hoped to occupy continually.


Verse 15

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave - in contrast to the wicked, on whom 'death shall feed' eternally. "But" - literally, 'only' [ 'ak (Hebrew #389)], in contrast to Psalms 49:7, "None of them can by any means redeem his brother;" God, who alone can do it, will do it for me. The Spirit in David (1 Peter 1:11-12) hints at the gnawing worm of the wicked that never dieth (Psalms 49:14; Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46; Mark 9:48). Contrast Psalms 49:15, the resurrection (Hosea 13:15; Job 19:25-27).

For he shall receive me - (Psalms 73:24.)


Verse 16

Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;

The conclusion (Psalms 49:16-20).

Be not thou afraid when one is made rich - resuming Psalms 49:5, "Wherefore should I fear," etc.

When the glory of his house is increased - by the possession of wealth.


Verse 17

For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.

For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away. Speedily coming, death shall put an end to all his present power of persecuting the godly.


Verse 18

Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.

Though while he lived he blessed his soul - as the rich fool congratulated himself on his own happiness, and blessed his soul (Luke 12:19; cf. note, Psalms 49:11).

And (men) will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself - a sudden transition to a direct address to the rich man: 'and (though) men praise thee because thou treatest thyself well'-because thou grudgest thyself no self-indulgence or luxury (Isaiah 5:22). The apodosis follows in Psalms 49:19, '(Yet) he shall go to the generation of his fathers.' Hengstenberg, instead of "though," translates kiy (Hebrew #3588), 'for he blessed his soul while he lived,' making his blessing his soul in this life and enjoying the praises of men for his self-indulgent luxury the reason why God will not allow his "glory" to "descend after him" (Psalms 49:17; cf. Luke 16:25): God cannot allow men to make a paradise of this sinful world, and yet also to inherit the paradise hereafter.


Verse 19

He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.

He - or, 'it (the soul) shall go,' for the Hebrew verb is feminine. Hengstenberg takes it second person, 'THOU shalt go,' etc.; but then there must be supposed a sudden transition to the third person again, "to the generation of HIS fathers." I therefore prefer the third person. The generation of his fathers are those that are fathers not merely of flesh and blood, but in wickedness.

They shall never see light - neither the light of the sun that enlightens our world, nor that of the better sun that gladdens the beatified saints (Revelation 21:23).


Verse 20

Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.

Slightly varied from Psalms 49:12, as is usual in Hebrew poetry.

Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish. The summary of the whole is, the man that lacks spiritual understanding, however great for a time may be his earthly honour, perishes soon in the midst of all, like the irrational beast (Psalms 49:10, note).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-49.html. 1871-8.

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