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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 49:20

 

 

Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, Is like the beasts that perish.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Man that is in honor - The rich and honorable man who has no spiritual understanding, is a beast in the sight of God. The spirit of this maxim is, A man who is in a dignified official situation, but destitute of learning and sound sense, is like a beast. The important place which he occupies reflects no honor upon him, but is disgraced by him. Who has not read the fable of the beautifully carved head? It was every thing that it should be, but had no brains.

This verse has been often quoted as a proof of the fall of man; and from ילין yalin, (in Psalm 49:12;), which signifies to lodge for a night, it has been inferred that Adam fell on the same day on which he was created, and that he did not spend a single night in the terrestrial paradise. Adam, who was in a state of glory, did not remain in it one night, but became stupid and ignorant as the beasts which perish. But we may rest assured this is no meaning of the text.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-49.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Man that is in honor - Man that is in possession of wealth, or that occupies an exalted rank. See the notes at Psalm 49:12.

And understandeth not - That is, who has no proper appreciation of what it is to be a man; of what is his true rank “as” a man; of his relations to God; of his condition as an immortal being - man that values himself only on the fact that he is rich; that lives for this world alone; that regards it as a sufficient distinction that he “is” rich; that degrades his nobler nature in the mere enjoyment of the pleasures of sense - is like the beasts - is in no way elevated above them.

Is like the beasts that perish - They live only for this life. They have no higher nature than that which pertains to the senses, and they live accordingly. The man who, though of exalted rank, lives for this life alone, herein resembles them. See the notes at Psalm 49:12. Alas! what multitudes there are who thus live - whose only aim is to secure the wealth and the honors of this life - who have no more thought of a future state, and who form no more plans in regard to a future world, than do the brutes! For many there are in exalted stations, who are surrounded by all that wealth can give, yet who no more admit the thought of a future world into their hopes and plans than if they had no other endowment than the camel or the ox, and whose conduct in this respect would not be changed if all the higher endowments which constitute the nature of man were withdrawn, and they were at once reduced to the condition of a brute. While, therefore, the main purpose of this psalm is to show that wealth confers no “power” which is to be dreaded - that its possessor, though wicked, cannot permanently injure us, since he must soon pass away by death - the course of thought at the same time teaches us that we should not “desire” wealth as our portion; that we should not live for this, as the main object of life. The possessor of the most ample fortune must soon be laid in the grave. All that he has acquired will pass into other hands, and will be his no more. But he “has” a higher nature. He “may” live in a manner different from the brute that perishes. He “may” act with reference to a higher - an eternal - state of existence; and, when he dies, he “may” leave his earthly inheritance, whether great or small, only to enter on an inheritance that shall he permanent and eternal. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-49.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Man that is in honour,.... A wicked man, as the Targum; See Gill on Psalm 49:12;

and understandeth not; from whence his riches and honour, come, and what use he should make of them, and for what end he has them; or that understandeth not spiritual things, which relate to the salvation of his soul; who does not know God in Christ, nor the way of salvation by Christ; nor has any experience of the work of the Spirit of God upon his soul; nor has any spiritual understanding of the doctrines of the Gospel; nor knows himself, his state and condition, and what true happiness is:

is like the beasts that perish; See Gill on Psalm 49:12.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-49.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(q) He condemns man's ingratitude, who having received excellent gifts from God, abuses them like a beast to his own condemnation.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/psalms-49.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

(Compare Psalm 49:12). The folly is more distinctly expressed by “understandeth not,” substituted for “abideth not.”


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/psalms-49.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

Understandeth not — Hath not true wisdom.

The beasts — Though he hath the outward shape of a man, yet in truth he is a beast, a stupid, and unreasonable creature.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/psalms-49.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

20Man is in honor, and will not understand (237) Here the prophet, that he may not be understood as having represented the present life, which in itself is a singular blessing of God, as wholly contemptible, corrects himself as it were, or qualifies his former statements by a single word, importing that those whom he reprehends have reduced themselves to the level of the beasts that perish, by senselessly devouring the blessings which God has bestowed, and thus divesting themselves of that honor which God had put upon them. It is against the abuse of this world that the prophet has been directing his censures. They are aimed at those who riot in the bounties of God without any recognition of God himself, and who devote themselves in an infatuated manner to the passing glory of this world, instead of rising from it to the contemplation of the things which are above.


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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-49.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-49.html. 1865-1868.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

REFLECTIONS

READER! while perusing this Psalm, and beholding the death of the rich voluptuary, do not forget that there are poor voluptuaries, as well as wealthy ones, to whom death, whenever it comes, is equally awful. The poor man, who lives without God and without Christ in this world, dies as awfully as the rich. And indeed in one sense he is a greater fool than his rich neighbour; for the man of wealth hath, according to his view of things, something to vaunt himself upon, and to make him put far away from his thoughts the remembrance of death. But for a man to be poor in this world, and to live so regardless of the redemption of his soul as to be poor in the world to come, is one degree of folly greater than his fellow. Reader, how blessed the thought! the redemption, the costly redemption by Jesus, is alike suited both to rich and poor. Jesus buys all his ransomed at the same price. It was sweetly said, with an eye to this, The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for their souls; Exodus 30:15. Blessed Jesus, thou hast purchased the redemption of thy people by thy blood. This redemption indeed is precious; and being once made, it ceased to need any further redemption forever. By that one offering of thyself, once offered, thou hast forever perfected them that are sanctified.


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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/psalms-49.html. 1828.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 583

THE DEGRADED STATE OF MAN

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

MAN, when first he came out of the hands of his Creator, was perfect; and fit to be God’s vicegerent, if I may so speak, in this lower world. God put all the rest of the creation under him, and gave him dominion over all the work of his hands. But, from the time that man fell, he became degraded in all his faculties, and in many respects like unto the beasts that perish. True, possessing reason, he still held a superiority over them in those things which belong exclusively to the province of reason: but, in every thing which depends on grace, he was reduced to a level with them. To man converted by the grace of God this superiority is restored: but to man in his natural and unregenerate state, even though he be exalted to the highest pinnacle of honour amongst his fellows, this humiliating declaration is fully applicable: “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.”

He is like them,

I. In his understanding—

In things pertaining to the body, man is far inferior to the brute creation, being excelled by one or other of them in every faculty and power. In agility and strength he is not to be compared with myriads of beasts, both tame and savage: and in all the senses he falls exceedingly below them. His sight, his smell, his taste, his hearing, his feeling, are in no respect equal to that which exists among the different orders of beasts and birds and insects; so that, in all that is corporeal, they are superior to him. In what is intellectual, doubtless he retains his superiority; though, after all, in ten thousand instances, instinct in them leaves him far behind, and enables them to discern and execute things without number which man with all his attainments can never reach. But it is in things relating to the soul that I am to speak of him: and in these he will be really found as stupid and brutish as the very beasts.

[The beasts do discern, for the most part, what is conducive to their welfare, and distinguish it from that which would prove injurious. But, waving this, I will admit that the beasts discern not the comparative value and excellency of the things around them. And what, I would ask, are the views which men have of sin and holiness, of heaven and earth, of time and eternity? I ask not what their speculative notions may be, but what their practical views? Who, in his unregenerate state, regards all earthly things as vain, empty, worthless? Who looks upon sin as hateful and abominable? Who affects holiness as the perfection of his nature, and as a source of the sublimest bliss? Who accounts every thing as dung and dross in comparison of the favour of God, and the enjoyment of the divine presence? Theoretically, it is true, men know better than the beasts; but practically not a whit more than they; yea, they sink below the beasts in proportion as they act directly contrary to the plainest dictates of their judgment. Unconverted men, notwithstanding they acknowledge a supreme Being, act as much without a reference to his approbation as the very beasts: and hence David describes and addresses them in these humiliating, but most appropriate, terms: “They say, The Lord shall not see; neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see [Note: Psalms 94:7-9.]?” Nay, more, the pious Agur, cast down on account of the remains of these infirmities within him, exclaimed, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man [Note: Proverbs 30:2.].” I think, then, that the assertion in my text is thus far made good; and that not only are the lowest of the people in the state described by him, but the highest and most exalted upon earth. In this respect there is no difference between men; for all, without exception, are practically, and by nature, as the beasts that perish.]

But man resembles the beasts also,

II. In his habits—

[See what are the habits of the brute creation! All are intent on that only which will gratify their sensual appetites; and all look to present gratifications, without any regard to the future. And what is the state of man, of every man, by nature, whether he be old or young, rich or poor, learned or unlearned? Is not every one living for himself, and seeking the things of time and sense, rather than those which are apprehended only by faith, and relate altogether to eternity? I grant that some are prosecuting chiefly intellectual pursuits: but still it is for themselves, and not for God, that they do it: and if I admit that they soar with the eagle, instead of wallowing in the mire as swine, I still recur to my text, and say, that, whilst living for themselves, and not for God, they are only as the beasts that perish. A man that is taught of God affects higher things than these. He soars far beyond the sun and all created systems, how many or remote soever they may be: he rises to God himself. Contemplating all His glorious perfections, searching into all His eternal purposes, admiring all the wonders of redeeming love, and anticipating the fruition of God himself; this is the constant habit of his mind, and the most eager pursuit of his life, from day to day. “Eye has never seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, the things which fill his soul.” None can appreciate the engagements of his soul, till they themselves are born from above, and taught by the Holy Ghost: for “he searcheth the deep things of God,” which none but those who are taught, of God can know, or conceive, or estimate [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.] But to such habits, I say again, the unenlightened man is as great a stranger as the beasts. “He is of the earth earthy,” even as the beasts themselves are. And this I say of the wise and learned. What, then, are the generality of men? St. Jude says of them, that, instead of seeking heavenly things, “they speak evil of the things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves [Note: Jude, ver. 10.].” And he knows but little of the world, who does not know, that “this witness is true.”]

The same resemblance holds good,

III. In his end—

[This perhaps is the point more immediately referred to in my text. “Men’s inward thought,” he observes, “is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations: they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless, man being in honour abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish .. For, when he dieth, he shall carry nothing away with him: this glory shall not descend after him [Note: ver. 11, 12, 17.].” To the same effect Solomon also speaks: “I said in my heart, concerning the estate of the sons of men, that they, if God manifested it to them, might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they all have one breath: so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of dust, and all turn to dust again [Note: Ecclesiastes 3:18-20.].”

But we must not confine our attention to the mere circumstance of the mortality of each. The Psalmist had in his mind the thoughtlessness of men respecting any thing beyond this life; agreeably to what he says, in another psalm; “A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this; that when the wicked do spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever [Note: Psalms 92:6-7.].” Here is their folly, their stupidity, their brutishness: an eternal world is revealed to them; and they will not consider it: heaven and hell are opened to their view; and they will do nothing to avoid the one or obtain the other. Could they indeed die like the beasts, without any future state of retribution, it were happy for them: and such is the state of mankind at large, that there are very few, comparatively, who would not welcome annihilation as a rich and acceptable boon. But to the bar of judgment every soul will be summoned ere long: and “all must receive, at the hands of their Judge, according to what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil.” If in other things, then, they are reduced to a level with the beasts, in this they fall far below them; inasmuch as, with an intellect capable of appreciating eternity, they act as if they had no more interest in it than the beasts themselves.]

See, then,

1. What a difference there is between an intelligent Christian and all others!

[I will take the one from the lowest, and the other from the highest, walks in life; and say that the intelligent Christian, however mean, resembles God; whilst the worldling, however elevated, is Like the beasts that perish. In his understanding, the regenerate man sees things as they really are, and knows that the things which are visible and temporal are not worthy of a thought in comparison of those which are unseen and eternal. In his habits, too, he seeks not the things which are on earth, but those which are in heaven, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. And in his end, he goes to a world of blessedness and glory, where he shall abide for ever in the bosom of his God. His unenlightened neighbour accounts all this as folly: but the time is coming, and very shortly too, when it will be made to appear which of the two was really wise — — —]

2. Of what immense importance is the Gospel!

[It is the Gospel only that changes the hearts of men. Doubtless God may use any means, or accomplish the conversion of a soul without means: but his appointed means are the Gospel, with which, in all ages, he has “turned men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” My dear Brethren, I do hope that some at least of you can bear testimony to the truth of what I say. Once you were as blind as others: but now you see. Once you had no more concern about your souls than others; and lived, like others, for this world only: but now, through the grace of God, you are brought to tread in the steps of Christ and his holy Apostles, and to value nothing in comparison of the favour of your God. And what is it that has made this difference between your present and your former selves? It is the Spirit of Christ that has quickened you, and the love of Christ that yet daily constrains you: and by this change you are assimilated to the glorified saints and angels, yea, and to the image of God himself. Bear testimony, then, to the truth and efficacy of the Gospel; and commend that to others which you have found so effectual for your own souls.]


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Bibliography
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/psalms-49.html. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Understandeth not, i.e. hath not true wisdom, to know and consider what he is, and what his true business and interest in this world is, and what use he should make of his life, and of all his riches, and honour, and power, and whither he is going, and what course to take for the attainmerit of true and lasting happiness.

Is like the beasts that perish; though he hath the outward shape of a man, yet in truth he is a beast, or a brutish, stupid, and unreasonable creature, and he shall perish like a brute beast made to be destroyed, 2 Peter 2:12.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/psalms-49.html. 1685.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The psalmist repeated his concluding statement in the previous section ( Psalm 49:12), but here he changed it slightly. Here he stressed the wicked person"s lack of understanding. There he stressed his lack of endurance.

We who are believers should not envy the ungodly who prosper in this life. We should not feel inferior to them either. All that they are living for will perish with them. Those who fear God, however, can expect a glorious future with the Lord beyond the grave. [Note: See Daniel J. Estes, "Poetic Artistry in the Expression of Fear in Psalm 49 ," Bibliotheca Sacra161:641 (January-March2004):55-71 , for an analysis of how the psalmist expressed and overcame his fear.]


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/psalms-49.html. 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 49:20. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not — That is, hath not true wisdom to know and consider what he is, and what is his true business and interest in this world, and what use he ought to make of his life, and of all his riches, and honour, and power; and whither he is going, and what course he should take for the attainment of true and lasting happiness; is like the beasts that perish — Though he hath the outward shape of a man, yet, in truth, he is a beast, a stupid and unreasonable creature, and shall perish like a brute beast made to be taken and destroyed.


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-49.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Lay. Hebrew, "slanderest." (Protestants) But dophi occurs on where else. (Berthier) --- The sinner sits to detract, or with pleasure, (Menochius) habitually offends. (Haydock)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/psalms-49.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-49.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.
Man
12; Esther 5:11-14; 7:10
understandeth
Job 4:21
is like
73:18,19; Ecclesiastes 3:18,19

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 49:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-49.html.

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