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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 49

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 49:1 « To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. » Hear this, all [ye] people; give ear, all [ye] inhabitants of the world:

Ver. 1. Hear this, all ye people] This that is of so great consequence and universal concernment, viz. that the saints should not be frighted nor perplexed at the present prosperity of graceless persons; but consider that death at utmost shall render them extremely miserable, and at the day of judgment men shall return and discern a manifest difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not, Malachi 3:18.

Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world] "Hear, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken it," Jeremiah 13:15. The inhabitants of the world, Heb. of the transitory world, are like men in a mill, through hurry of business; or as one that is running a race, to whom, though never so good counsel be given, he cannot stay to hear it. Of such we use to say, that they hear with their harvest ears (harvest is a time of great pleasure, and great business), and hence it is that we have so ill a seedtime for the word. We had need to wish, as Harding once did, that we could cry out against sin as loud as the bells of Oseny; yea, as those catholic preachers, whose voice is heard in all speeches and languages, Psalms 19:3.


Verse 2

Psalms 49:2 Both low and high, rich and poor, together.

Ver. 2. Both low and high, rich and poor together] Heb. Both sons of Adam, or earthy man, and sons of Ish, or nobleman

quorum

Ex meliore luto finxit praecordia Titan.

Diogenes once made a like outcry at Athens, Aκουσατε ανδρες, Hear, O ye men; and when a company came about him expecting what he would say to them, he looked upon them and said, Aνδρας εκαλεσα ου ακθαρματα, I called for men, and not for slaves (varlets).


Verse 3

Psalms 49:3 My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart [shall be] of understanding.

Ver. 3. My mouth shall speak of wisdom] Heb. Wisdomns and understandings; and yet the matter of this psalm was nothing extraordinary for the main of it; so that a profane person would have come out with his

Quid dignum tanto tulit hic promissor hiatu?

But good points are not therefore to be slighted, because commonly handled; but therefore the better to be heeded, and proof to be made by practice, what that good and holy and acceptable will of God is that is so much pressed upon, as Romans 12:2.


Verse 4

Psalms 49:4 I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

Ver. 4. I will incline mine ear to a parable] q.d. I desire you to do no more than I will do myself. I believed, therefore have I spoken; I have wrought my doctrine upon mine own affections first, and shall dig it out of mine own bosom for your benefit. It is a parable I must tell you, or a master sentence, yea, it is a mystery, a riddle, as the other word here signifieth.

I will open my dark sayings] The doctrine of life eternal, and the judgment to come, here more clearly delivered than anywhere else almost in the Old Testament, is a mystery.


Verse 5

Psalms 49:5 Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, [when] the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

Ver. 5. Wherfore should I fear in the days of evil?] All the days of the afflicted are evil, Proverbs 15:15. But why should either I, or any other afflicted servant of God, be overly troubled, as if some strange thing had befallen us; or staggered at the better condition of worse men, all things considered?

When the iniquity of my heels] Or, of my supplanters, mine enemies, those naughty men (called here iniquity in the abstract) who seek to trip up my heels, and do surround me with their snares for that purpose. See Psalms 56:7. Or thus, "When the iniquity of my heels," &c. That is, as some will have it, when my sins come to my remembrance, or are chastened upon me. Every man’s heel hath some iniquity. As we shall have some dirt cleaving to our heels whiles we walk in a dirty world; so there is some defilement upon all our actions, which we may call the iniquity of our heels. "He that is washed," saith our Saviour to Peter, "needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit," John 13:10. The comparison seems to be taken from those that wash in baths; for although their whole bodies are thereby made clean, yet going forth they touch the earth with their feet, and so are fain to wash again; in like manner the saints, although bathed in that blessed fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, Zechariah 13:1, and thereby freed from the stain and reign of sin; yet their feet or heels have some filth on them, some relics of corruption do still cleave to them, and cause them some sorrow; yet ought they not to fear, or be dismayed, but by the practice of mortification purge themselves daily from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 7:1.


Verse 6

Psalms 49:6 They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;

Ver. 6. They that trust in their wealth] Which was never yet true to those that trusted in it; and yet it is wondrous hard to have wealth, and not in some measure to trust in it; that is, to think ourselves simply the better and the safer for it, as our Saviour showeth, and his disciples, after some wonderment, at length understood him; so Mark 10:23-24. Hence that strict charge, 1 Timothy 6:17.

And boast themselves in the multitude of their riches] Contrary to Jeremiah 9:23. This psalm sets forth the better gloriation of a believer in the grace of God, and in his blessed condition, wherein he is lifted up above the greatest worldlings.


Verse 7

Psalms 49:7 None [of them] can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

Ver. 7. None of them can by any means redeem his brother] And therefore all money that hath been given for masses, dirges, trentals, {A set of thirty requiem masses, said on the same day or on different days, ŒD} &c., hath been cast away; seeing Christ is the only Redeemer, and in the other world money beareth no mastery. Neither can a man buy off death, though he would give never so much. Death will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content though thou givest many gifts, as Solomon saith in another case, Proverbs 6:35. Fie, quoth that great Cardinal Beaufort, will not death be hired? Will money do nothing? Why should I die, being so rich? If the whole realm would save my life, I am able either by policy to get it or by riches to buy it (Acts and Mon. in H. 6). Lewis XI would not hear of death all the time of his last sickness, but when he saw there was no remedy, he sent for holy water from Rheims, together with Aaron’s rod, as they called it, and other holy relics, thinking therewith to stop death’s mouth, and to stave him off; but it would not be (Epit. Hist. Gall.). O Miser (saith one thereupon) hoc assidue times quod semel faciendum est? Hoc times quod in tua manu est ne timeas? Pietatem assume, superstitionem omitte; mors tua vita erit, et quidem beata atque aeterna (Val. Max. Christ., p. 391).


Verse 8

Psalms 49:8 (For the redemption of their soul [is] precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)

Ver. 8. For the redemption of their soul is precious] i.e. The price of life is greater than that any man, how wealthy soever, can compass it. Money is the monarch of this world, but not of the next.

And it ceaseth for ever] i.e. The purchase of a longer life ceaseth, there is no such thing, believe it, Job 36:18-19, Deuteronomy 23:22, Zechariah 11:12. To blame, then, were the Agrigentines, who did eat, build, plant, &c., as though they should live for ever.


Verse 9

Psalms 49:9 That he should still live for ever, [and] not see corruption.

Ver. 9. That he should still live for ever] As every wicked man would, if it might be had for money; for he knoweth no happiness but to have and to hold; on the other side of the grave he looketh for no good; whereas a godly man holdeth mortality a mercy, as Philippians 1:23, he hath Mortem in desiderio et vitam in patientia, as Fulgentius saith, he desireth to die, and yet is content to live; accepting of life rather than affecting it, enduring it rather than desiring it.

And not see corruption] Heb. the pit of corruption. The Chaldee understandeth it as hell; to the which the wicked man’s death is as a trap door.


Verse 10

Psalms 49:10 For he seeth [that] wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.

Ver. 10. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool] This to be a truth, etiam muta clamant cadavera, the dead corpses of both do preach and proclaim, by a dumb kind of eloquence. Death maketh no difference; Pallida mors aequo, &c. It is appointed for all men once to die. It lieth as a man’s lot, as the word αποκειται signifieth, Hebrews 9:27, and all men can say, We are all mortal; but, alas, we say it for most part, magis usu quam sensu, more of custom than feeling; for we live as if our lives were riveted upon eternity, and we should never come to a reckoning.

Heu vivunt heroines tanquam mors nulla sequatur,

Aut velut infernus fabula vana foret.

And the brutish person perish] His life and his hopes ending together. But it would be considered, that wise men die as well as fools, good men die as well as bad, yea, good men oft before the bad, Isaiah 57:1. Jeroboam’s best son died before the rest, because there was some good found in him ( ωκυμοροι οι θεοριλεις).

And leave their wealth to others] Nec aliis solum, sed et alienis, to mere strangers; this Solomon sets forth as a great vanity. It was therefore a good speech of a holy man once to a great lord, who had showed him his stately house and pleasant gardens: You had need make sure of heaven, or else when you die you will be a very great loser.


Verse 11

Psalms 49:11 Their inward thought [is, that] their houses [shall continue] for ever, [and] their dwelling places to all generations; they call [their] lands after their own names.

Ver. 11. Their inward thought is, that their houses, &c.] Some join this verse to the former, and read the words thus: Whereas each of them seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool, &c., yet their inward thought is, &c., they have a secret fond conceit of their own immortality, they would fain believe that they shall dwell here for ever. The Hebrew runneth thus, Their inwards are their houses for ever; as if their houses were got within them, as the Pharisee’s goods were, Luke 11:14, τα ενοντα. So here, Internum vel interiora; not the thoughts only, but the very inmost of the thoughts of wicked worldlings, the most retired thoughts and recesses of their souls, are about these earthly things; these lie nearest to their hearts; as Queen Mary said when she died, Open me, and you shall find Calais at my heart. It was a pitiful case, that a rotten town lay where Christ should, and yet it is ordinary.

They call their lands after their own names] So to make them famous, and to immortalize them at once. Thus Cain called his newly built city Enoch, after the name of his son, whom he would thereby have to be called Lord Enoch of Enoch. This is the ambition still of many, that take little care to know that their names are written in heaven; but strive to propagate them, as they are able, upon earth, Nimrod by his tower, Absalom by his pillar, Alexander by his Alexandria, Adrian by his Adrianople, &c. But the name of the wicked shall rot, Proverbs 10:7, and those that depart from God shall be written in the earth, Jeremiah 17:13, &c.


Verse 12

Psalms 49:12 Nevertheless man [being] in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts [that] perish.

Ver. 12. Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not] Howsoever he think to eternalize himself, and be grown never so great, die he must, whether lord or lowly; and die like a beast, a carrion beast (unless he be the better man), but only for this pillow and bolster. At one end of the library at Dublin was a globe, at the other a skeleton; to show, that though a man was lord of all the world, yet he must die, his honour must be laid in the dust. The mortal scythe (saith one) is master of the royal sceptre, and it moweth down the lilies of the crown as well as the grass of the field. Perperam accommodatur hic versiculus, saith another; this verse is not well interpreted of the first man, Adam, to prove that he sinned the same day wherein he was created, and lodged not one night in paradise.

He is like the beasts that perish] Pecoribus, morticinis, saith Junius, the beasts that die of the murrain, and so become carrion, and are good for nothing.


Verse 13

Psalms 49:13 This their way [is] their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah.

Ver. 13. This their way is their folly] This their fond conceit of an immortality is an egregious folly, fully confuted by every day’s experience; for the longest lived person dies at last, as did (beside the antediluvian patriarchs) Joannes de Ternporibus, armour bearer to Charles the Great, who died A.D. 1139, aged three hundred sixty-one years (Asted’s Chronol. 475). So the old man of Bengala, in the East Indies, who was three hundred and thirty-five years old when he came to the Portugals, from whom, for his miraculous age, he received a yearly stipend till he died (Naucler. Purehas. Pilg., p. 481). He that lived in our days till one hundred and fifty years, or thereabouts, yielded at length to nature; and yet men dote and dream still of an immortality. The first doom that ever was denouneed was death, "Thou shalt surely die"; and the first doubt that ever was made was concerning death, "Ye shall not surely die"; ever since which time there is something of the spawn of that old serpent left in our natures, prompting us to doubt of that whereof there is the greatest certainty; and although every man granteth that he shall die, yet there is scarce any man that futureth not his death, and thinketh that he may live yet, and yet, and so long: this is folly in a high degree, and we should be sensible of it, labouring to become neither fond of life nor afraid of death. &&&Longevity-Long lived men

Yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah] Heb. delight in their mouth, are as wise as their ancestors, tread in their track, take up their inward thoughts, Psalms 49:11, observe the same lying vanities, and so forsake their own mercies, Jonah 2:8. Selah, q.d. O wonderful, for, see the issue of their folly.


Verse 14

Psalms 49:14 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.

Ver. 14. Like sheep they are laid in the grave] These fatlings of the world, these brainless young nobleman, that will not be warned by other men’s harms, but walk on in the same dark and dangerous ways, whatever cometh of it, these chop into the grave (as a man that walketh in the snow may do suddenly into a marl pit, and there be smothered), or rather are there pent up, as sheep are thrust up in a stall, or stable, to be slaughtered there (and in hell their souls); they lie as grapes in a winepress, pickled herrings in a barrel, stones in a lime furnace, tiles in a brick kiln, &c. Tanquam pecudes, like sheep, saith the psalmist here; and Junius’s note is, Morticinas puta in cloacis, exquiliis vel puticulis proiectas; like sheep, that dying of the murrain, are thereupon cast into ditches, jakes, bogs.

Death shall feed on them] They shall be meat for worms, yea, they shall be killed with death, Revelation 2:23, which is worse than all the rest; sin, as a heavy gravestone, presseth them to death, &c.

And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning] i.e. At the resurrection, when the saints shall share with Christ in his kingdom (when the wicked shall be his footstool), and shall judge the world, yea, the angels. Others by morning understand suddenly, or seasonably, as Psalms 46:5.

And their beauty shall consume in the grave] All their pomp and bravery wherein they came abroad while alive (as Agrippa and Bernice came to the tribunal with a great deal of fancy, Acts 25:23), and with which they affect to be buried in state.

Sic transit gloria mundi .

So passes the honour of the world. 1 Corinthians 7:31.

From their dwelling] Whence they are carried to the grave, that dark house of all living, Job 30:23. Some render the text thus, Infernus habitaculum ipsis, Hell shall be their habitation. Tremellius thus, Et formam corum consumat infernus receptam ex habitaculo eius, and hell consume their shape (that is, their bodies now reunited to their souls), received out of its house, that is, out of the grave.


Verse 15

Psalms 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

Ver. 15. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave] Heb. from the hand of hell: q.d. I am, and shall be in far better condition both in life, at death, and after death, than any of the world’s darlings. Spe bona docti ab indoctis differunt, dixit Chilo; why then should I fear, as Psalms 49:5; why should I envy their seeming happiness, which will have so sad a catastrophe, as Psalms 49:14. I shall have heaven, and that is more worth than all.

For he shall receive me. Selah] A notable text indeed, and well worthy of a Selah; a clear testimony for the immortality of the soul, and for a better life after this, as is well observed. Hae sunt parabolae, et haec sunt aenigmata, saith a good interpreter. These are those parables, and these are those dark sayings, mentioned Psalms 49:4, riddles to the wicked, but cordials to the faithful.


Verse 16

Psalms 49:16 Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;

Ver. 16. Be not thou afraid] David was comforted, and so he would have others to be; for as it was said of a certain bishop of Lincoln, that he held nothing his own but what he had bestowed upon others, Hoc habeo quodcunque dedi; so the saints think their comforts nothing so comfortable unless others may share in them, and fare the better by them.

When the glory of his house is increased] viz. By a numerous offspring, stately building, gay furniture, great rents and revenues; for as they say of the metal they make glass of, it is nearest melting when it shineth brightest; so are the wicked nearest destruction when at greatest lustre.


Verse 17

Psalms 49:17 For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.

Ver. 17. For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away] Nothing but a shroud, as that great emperor caused to be proclaimed at his funeral. He was a fool that on his death bed clapped a piece of gold into his mouth, and said, Some wiser than some; I will take this with me. See Job 1:21, 1 Timothy 6:7. {See Trapp on "Job 1:21"} {See Trapp on "1 Timothy 6:7"}

His glory shall not descend after him] No, nor be able to breathe one cold blast upon him, when he is burning in hell. Oh that wicked rich men would think of this, before the cold grave hold their bodies, and hot hell hold their souls.


Verse 18

Psalms 49:18 Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and [men] will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.

Ver. 18. Though whilst he lived he blessed his soul] As that rich fool did, Luke 12:16-21, and that king of France, who, puffed up with the marriage of his sister to the king of Spain, called him by a new title, Tres-heureuse Roi, the thrice happy king; but was soon after accidentally slain by the captain of his guard running at tilt with him, at the solemnizing of that same marriage, in the very beginning of his supposed happiness.

And men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself] Feathering thine own nest and pampering thine own carcase; thou shalt be sure of parasites and trencher flies, who will highly commend thee, though against their own consciences, Romans 1:32. The world generally admireth the happiness of such as live at full, and ask what should such a one ail? The Irish ask what they meant to die?


Verse 19

Psalms 49:19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.

Ver. 19. He shall go to the generation of his fathers] i.e. To the grave, or albeit he come to the age of his fathers, that is, live here very long.

They shall never see light] Either have any sound comfort at death or any part in God’s kingdom.


Verse 20

Psalms 49:20 Man [that is] in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts [that] perish.

Ver. 20. Man that is in honour and understandeth not] Versus amoibaeus. See Psalms 49:12, there is but little difference; Stultitiam patiuntur opes. The more a man hath of worldly wealth, and the less of spiritual and heavenly understanding therewith, the more bestial he is, and shall be more miserable. Caligula called his father-in-law, Marcus Silanus, χρυσουν προβατον, a golden brute, Quid cervo ingentia cornua, cum desit animus?

Vel mihi da clavem, vel mihi tolle seram.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-49.html. 1865-1868.

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