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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 49:4

 

 

I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will express my riddle on the harp.

Adam Clarke Commentary

I will incline mine ear to a parable - This was the general method of conveying instruction among the Asiatics. They used much figure and metaphor to induce the reader to study deeply in order to find out the meaning. This had its use; it obliged men to think and reflect deeply; and thus in some measure taught them the use, government, and management of their minds.

My dark saying upon the harp - Music was sometimes used to soothe the animal spirits, and thus prepare the mind for the prophetic influx.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-49.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

I will incline mine ear to a parable - The phrase “I will incline mine ear” means that he would listen or attend to - as we incline our ear toward those whom we are anxious to hear, or in the direction from which a sound seems to come. Compare Psalm 5:1; Psalm 17:1; Psalm 39:12; Isaiah 1:2. On the word rendered “parable” here משׁל mâshâl - see the notes at Isaiah 14:4. Compare Job 13:12, note; Job 27:1, note. The word properly means similitude; then, a sentence, sententious saying, apophthegm; then, a proverb; then, a song or poem. There is usually found in the word some idea of “comparison,” and hence, usually something that is to be illustrated “by” a comparison or a story. The reference here would seem to be to some dark or obscure subject which needed to be illustrated; which it was not easy to understand; which had given the writer, as well as others, perplexity and difficulty. He proposed now, with a view to understand and explain it, to place his ear, as it were, “close to the matter,” that he might clearly comprehend it. The matter was difficult, but he felt assured he could explain it - as when one unfolds the meaning of an enigma. The “problem” - the “parable” - the difficult point - related to the right use, or the proper value, of wealth, or the estimate in which it should be held by those who possessed it, and by those who did not. It was very evident to the author of the psalm that the views of people were not right on the subject; he therefore proposed to examine the matter carefully, and to state the exact truth.

I will open - I will explain; I will communicate the result of my careful inquiries.

My dark saying - The word used here - חידה chı̂ydâh - is rendered “dark speeches” in Numbers 12:8; “riddle,” in Judges 14:12-19; Ezekiel 17:2; “hard questions” in 1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; “dark saying” (as here) in Psalm 78:2; Proverbs 1:6; “dark sentences,” in Daniel 8:23; and “proverb” in Habakkuk 2:6. It does not elsewhere occur. It means properly “something entangled, intricate;” then, a trick or stratagem; then art intricate speech, a riddle; then, a sententious saying, a maxim; then a parable, a poem, a song, a proverb. The idea here is, that the point was intricate or obscure; it was not well understood, and he purposed “to lay it open,” and to make it plain.

Upon the harp - On the meaning of the word used here, see the notes at Isaiah 5:12. The idea here is, that he would accompany the explanation with music, or would so express it that it might be accompanied with music; that is, he would give it a poetic form - a form such that the sentiment might be used in public worship, and might be impressed upon the mind by all the force and power which music would impart. Sentiments of purity and truth, and sentiments of pollution and falsehood also, are always most deeply imbedded in the minds of people, and are made most enduring and effective, when they are connected with music. Thus the sentiments of patriotism are perpetuated and impressed in song; and thus sentiments of sensuality and pollution owe much of their permanence and power to the fact that they are expressed in corrupt verse, and that they are perpetuated in exquisite poetry, and are accompanied with song. Scenes of revelry, as well as acts of devotion, are kept up by song. Religion proposes to take advantage of this principle in our nature by connecting the sentiments of piety with the sweetness of verse, and by impressing and perpetuating those sentiments through associating them with all that is tender, pure, and inspiriting in music. Hence, music, both vocal and that which is produced by instruments, has always been found to be an invaluable auxiliary in securing the proper impression of truth on the minds of people, as well as in giving utterance to the sentiments of piety in devotion.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-49.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 49:4

I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

Dark sayings

Some minds are darker than a dark saying. Doubt is cloudland; and cloudland presupposes the existence of some degree of light. In complete darkness no cloud is perceived. The time at which a man begins to doubt is the critical point of life. Doubt in a young and inexperienced mind may develop into a demon of free thought. Much depends upon the way in which doubt is treated by the doubter himself, and by his advisers. Doubt is not a thing to be injudiciously dealt with. Take care how you open a dark saying. The dark saying is any question difficult to answer or hard to solve. Notice that David does not say, I will close up my dark saying--I will fold the serpent up in my bosom, and let it sting me. He says, “I will open my dark saying.” Often enough a man’s peace of mind depends upon the way in which he opens his dark saying. Too often he has to open it himself, without sympathy or help from any one. It may save us some disappointment if we settle it as a general rule that a providential thing does not mean a pleasant thing. Tim ultimate end of Providence is the sanctification of the human heart, and it is not probable that God will sanctify us by letting us have our own way. We frequently apply the term Providence loosely. When we reap worldly advantage we say, It is quite providential. When trouble comes we omit the word. The opposite of this is true as a rule. Prosperity will never wean us from this world, but adversity may. When dark sayings trouble us, let us pray to the Father of lights that He may guide us into all truth. We are vexed and mystified by second causes, because we forget that He is the Great First Cause of all. His providence to us is like a piece of tapestry reversed. We see that a hand has been at work, but the threads are massed in confusion. In the day of account we shall see the other side. David further says “upon the harp.” Musical instruments are called instruments of God. It is to the Psalms, not to the Proverbs, that the heavy heart turns for consolation. Even when the harp hangs upon the willows, the spirit of song awakes in sympathy with the loved and lost. It was to the Psalms that the suffering Saviour turned in the hour and power of darkness. The introduction of the Gospel into Europe was marked by the strength of song. “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God.” Who shall say what resolutions, what ardent longings after purity, and peace, and truth, have been breathed into the souls of men by sacred song? “In days when liberty of thought was choked by tyranny, when bigotry warped the understanding and suppressed the truth, what was there left to the people but the emotion of a song?” The clark saying was opened upon the harp, and stray seeds of sanctity were germinated by the atmosphere of music, though sometimes it was but the music of some distant chime. By the power of song we are transported into a sphere where selfishness and worldliness have no part; a world where nothing defileth or maketh a lie. Man is the only creature who abuses the gift of sound. From him only comes the jarring note. He can only sing the new song in the world to come. (Henry J. Swallow.)

Dark sayings on a harp

My text points to two principles; first, there is the bowing before, and hearkening to, the mystery of things--the universal, parabolic utterances; and, second, the turning the mystery and the parable into a cheerful song--the dark saying becoming, like the bird’s song in the covert of the night, a clear stream, without sorrow and without care. Find the cheerful aspect of solemn things. See how sorrow is rounded by cheerfulness; hearken, and you will be able to give a cheerful response to the most solemn views of life. The greatest mystery of all art, perhaps, is music; the soul that leaps from the mere material chords and pipes, and, whilst it emanates from, plays upon the spirit of man. There is a mystery and a meaning in music we can never either expound or explore; and it is felt that those natures, which are the greatest burden and mystery to themselves, find most the solace of song in the combinations of all great sounds; we have known this, it is not always that in joyfulness of heart we sing. The girl oppressed by some great trial and loss, as she bends over her needle, or goes about her house-work, will sing, and, while she sings, finds unconsciously that her song has been her medicine, and has given to her relief. And something like this is a very general experience. Hence we have poetry for all cultured people, and hymns for holy people; and do we not know what it is to become happy while we sing? Good it is sometimes to utter the dark saying to the harp rather than to others; it composes, allays, and tranquillizes the mind while we utter it. Therefore, says David, “I will open my dark saying upon the harp.” David was a master of the harp, and we see, plainly enough, that to him life was full of dark sayings, uttered with more or less of clearness, coming upon him with more or less of gloom. His dark sayings are abundant. We have often thought together of that wonderful summary of holy genius, the Book of Psalms. He would seem to have given everything to his harp; everywhere, as in the words of the text before us, “he was inclining his ear to a parable.” To him, it would seem, nature was a great harp, framed, touched and moved by the finger of God, and every object became jubilant, and even prophetic.

I. All scripture itself is a dark saying on a harp. However you regard it, you must be amazed by its mysterious unity, not less by its mysterious murmurs--murmurs as of a distant, infinite sea, or as in a forest we listen to the tones as of strange bells among the far-off boughs. There is a Divine reticence in the Bible; there is aa awful secretiveness. Oh! it is all parable; it is all dark saying! Vainly do I ever think I have exhausted any single word or meaning; it is inspiration and revelation throughout. It is a “dark saying,” for it is inspiration; it is “uttered,” for it is a revelation.

II. Man himself is a dark saying on a harp. He is himself a universe of being in which life, and nature and grace seek to combine in music. Consider thy nature: how strange that we should be made thus, strange the opposition between sin and conscience, even in the best of men; strange the contradiction between what man effects and what man is. Has not his history through all time been a dark saying? What is this creature we call man? Is he angel, or is he beast, or is he fiend? for there are things he has done which warrant all these translations, read simply from the sensual eye. And what a mistake the life of man seems! And sometimes, how his failures and his inner conflicts seem to boast of him as of a being built out of the pieces of the wreck of the fall.

III. And providence is a dark saying on a harp. The mysteries of Providence were as startling to David as they are to us, and the very psalm whence I take this text recites and records them; it did not seem to be a world of highways to the psalmist; and this is one of the great causes of grief and of the dark sayings--the world and its sorrows. It is the cry, the incessant cry, “Why hast thou made all men in vain?” The world is full of dark sayings; it is hieroglyphic all, you feel the incongruity and the contradiction, but you have never felt it so clearly as the Bible has stated it, and especially the psalmists; they perpetually--Asaph, David and others--saw and uttered their sense of the solemn discords of this life. There is a picture I have often turned to look at in the chapel in one of the old palaces of France, and I have sometimes looked, as the dear dreamer said, till the water has found its way to my eyes; it is suspended over the altar--it is the cloud of eternity, and the Ancient of Days is there, and the Lamb is there, and round the circle the harpers harping with their harps--every one robed in white, and every brow bound with the crown--“kings and priests unto God and to the Lamb for ever”; every eye fixed on “the Lamb, as it had been slain,” and every crowned form bearing a harp, and striking it “to Him that hath loved.” “To them were given harps.” Why, what does it mean? Oh, it tells how the lost life will regain and be restored to its unity. This is that harp, all the chords of the being one, and for ever one. Then, indeed, may we say, “I will praise thee on the harp, O God, my God.” (E. Paxton Hood.)

Mysteries set to music

I. The mystery of nature. John Stuart Mill’s arraignment of created things is too well known to be repeated. A more recent writer is Mr. Laing, who says in his Modern Science and Modern Thought, “Is it true that love is creation’s finest law, when we find this enormous and apparently prodigal waste of life going on; these cruel internecine battles between individuals and species in the struggle for existence; this cynical indifference of nature to suffering? There are approximately 3,600 millions of deaths of human beings in every century, of whom at least 20 per cent., or 720 millions, die before they have attained to clear self-consciousness and conscience. What becomes of them? Why were they born? Axe they nature’s failures and cast as rubbish to the void? To such questions there is no answer.” Perhaps it is wrong to say there is no answer, for considerations exist in plenty which tone down the harsher aspects of nature’s work. But when this is admitted there remains much that is enigmatical. Now, the effect of this mystery upon some minds is to drive them into pessimism; it is a mystery whose discord is for ever jarring on their ears. Not so with the man who walks by faith. He says, “I believe in God,” and instantly there is harmony. Nature has mysteries still, but they are set to music.

II. The mystery of suffering. Huxley says, “If there is one thing plainer than another, it is that neither the pleasure nor the pains of life, in the merely animal world, are distributed according to desert, for it is admittedly impossible for the lower order of sentient beings to deserve either the one or the other. If there is a generalization from the facts of human life which has the assent of thoughtful men in every age and country it is that the violator of ethical rules constantly escapes the punishment he deserves; that the wicked flourishes like a green bay tree while the righteous begs his bread; that the sins of their fathers are visited upon the children; that in the realm of nature ignorance is punished just as severely as wilful wrong; and that thousands upon thousands of innocent beings suffer for the crime or unintentional trespass of one.” (Evolution and Ethics, p. 12.)
The professor’s statements are not cast in such a form as to be above challenge, but they may be taken as indicative of the attitude of many towards the problem of suffering. Broken law will explain much of the world’s woe, perhaps more than we are apt to imagine; and the educative influence of suffering is not far to seek. “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” But after all there remains much that is mysterious; very often moral sequences seem to fail entirely, and the good man dies in his struggles to do right, whilst the prosperous sinner lives to satirize every sound principle of commercial morality. Hence we have the cynic in our midst, and the pessimist is always within shouting distance. But the man who discerns spiritual things after a spiritual manner can feel something more than hard and unexplainable facts in the problem of suffering. God is behind it, he says, and therefore all is well. The mystery has lost its bitterness; it is still a dark saying, but it is a dark saying upon the harp.

III. The mystery of death. Mr. Goldwin Smith looking at death and destruction in all grades of creation says, “Our satellite, so far as we can see, is either a miscarriage or a wreck,” and “if omnipotence and benevolence are to meet it must apparently be at a point at present beyond our ken.” Mr. Smith answers himself when he says, “so far as we can see.” Without God and immortality, the despair of the present generation is the most natural product of mental inquiry; the picture of blighted prospects and incompleted lives stricken down by the hand of death is enough to appal the stoutest heart. But in Christ all mysteries are set to music. It was the superior music of Orpheus which saved him from shipwreck on the siren’s shore, and since hope springs eternal in the human breast, Christianity, as a gospel of glad tidings, will always play other tunes than the note of wailing and despair; in the future, as in the past, her better music will be the world’s salvation. (T. S. Knowlson.)

Mysteries set to music

In seeking to get instruction from the text, we may regard it broadly as inculcating the principle, that the dark problems of the world may be so understood, that instead of leading us to despair they become a source of light and hope and joy.

I. The problem of the divine existence. This is the first of all problems--the earliest, the most necessary, the most irresistible. Primeval man long ago had to face it as we have to face it to-day. For the savage dwelling in the rude cave, or in the log-hut, reared on piles driven into the ground in the centre of a lonely lake, this was the principal theme of speculation, even as it is still the question which by its vastness wearies the strongest thought, and baffles the keenest insight. The first of all questions is, at the same time, the darkest. Interrogate Nature, and what is it that it tells you? It tells of a first cause, powerful, mighty and omnipotent. It points to a force that is infinite, a wisdom that is transcendent, and a will that is all-dominant. But it speaks of more than this. It speaks of a law that is invariable, relentless and cruel. It has its tale of pain, and suffering, and sorrow, and death. If it glories in the sunshine and the rain, it recounts with grief the story of the plague and the earthquake, and the unceasing strife of man, and beast, and earth, and sea, and sky. Over all there is the one necessity, for all there is the same struggle.

II. The problem of the world. How did the world come into being? Is it the result of chance, of fate, of a blind force working how and as it may? No millions of years, no unimaginable stretches of time, can bring the existent out of the non-existent, the intelligent out of the non-intelligent, the cosmos out of the chaos. How, then, can we open this dark saying of the world’s history on the harp? How can we set it to harmony and rhythm and music? There is one way only that I know. Behind the world there is a Divine Person; in the movements and the laws of the world there is a Divine will. All comes from God; all is under His care and governance.

III. The problem of man’s life. Taken as he is, and apart from his relation to God, man’s life is inexplicable. It is a contradiction, without meaning or purpose. There is in it the high and the low, the pure and the impure, the spiritual and the material. It is divided in interest; it is driven this way and that; and oftentimes it becomes the sport of a power and a fate that are too much for it. But, in the light of the Divine love, and the mediation of Jesus, this enigma of the human life becomes plain.

IV. The progress of humanity. Nation follows nation, kingdoms and dynasties rise and fall, and there seems to be no real progress. Civilizations are more or less relative. We in these last times, notwithstanding our marvellous modern science and discovery, are, in some respects, behind the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and Romans, or even the Celts and the Scandinavians. Is there any progress then at all as the result of the conflict of the ages? Is life in the main stationary, or does it like a mighty wheel go round and round for ever? The key to this question can alone be found in Christianity. It has already infused new life into the nations, it has re.created their moral standards, and it has given them a pre-eminence which the old Pagan peoples never knew. It has done all this because it has set before men not only an infinite hope, but because it has supplied them with the motive and the power to realize it. It has given them a new ideal, it has also provided them with a new dynamic, or force, by which they can attain the ideal. We need have no fear for the future. Humanity, instead of having become effete and lived its day, is only setting out on the line of infinite progress that stretches before it. Much it has done in the past, much it has achieved in these modern times; but infinitely more will it yet achieve before its course is run. Physically, intellectually, morally, the race has still before it a boundless destiny. (R. Munro, B. D.)

The harp of the godly

I. Why are the words of godly life in scripture called “dark sayings”?

1. Because they are so far to seek. From the Creator, not the creature; from eternity, not from time.

2. Because they are so little known. The world disregards them.

3. Because they meet with so much repugnance. All the impulses of our depraved nature are averse and hostile to the wisdom that sanetifieth. Oh, how difficult to understand what opposes our heart’s propensities!

II. Why are the details of providence in scripture called “dark savings”?

1. Because the specific designs of Providence are concealed. A man knows not whether in any enterprise, though he has scrutinized his motive and implored Divine direction, he is to fail or succeed. Through his failures may come his truest successes.

2. Because the aim of Providence is overlooked (Ephesians 3:1-21.; John 2:1-25.). We fix our eyes on outward things, and call prosperity and adversity after them. That is a bright Providence wherein these abound, and a dark one whereby these are smitten. Now God looks at our souls;--their liberty from earthly fetters; their confidence in Divine support; their formation and sustenance of holy purpose; their culture and maturity of moral character.

3. Because the dispensations of Providence inflict pain and distress. What a dark passage leads to conversion!

III. Why may a Christian open these upon the harp?

1. Because God has put a harp into your hands. It would be ungrateful not to use this. Do you ask what this is? I reply, The Gospel in all its plenitude of mercy, remedy, promise, prospect.

2. Because your dark sayings are thus opened, i.e. they become clear and plain. Devotion illuminates the mind. While you are musing the fire kindles and burns.

3. Because every true prayer is a prophecy. The evils it deprecates will assuredly pass away. (W. Wheeler.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 49:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-49.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

I will incline mine ear to a parable,.... In which way of speaking the doctrines of the Gospel were delivered out by Christ, Matthew 13:3. Wherefore the prophet, representing his apostles and disciples, signifies that he would listen thereunto, that he might attain to the knowledge thereof, and communicate it to others;

I will open my dark saying upon the harp; the enigmas, riddles, and mysteries of the Gospel, being understood by the ministers of it, are opened and explained in a very pleasant and delightful manner; they are made clear and evident, and are as a lovely song upon a harp; see Ezekiel 33:32.


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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.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-49.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

incline — to hear attentively (Psalm 17:6; Psalm 31:2).

parable — In Hebrew and Greek “parable” and “proverb” are translations of the same word. It denotes a comparison, or form of speech, which under one image includes many, and is expressive of a general truth capable of various illustrations. Hence it may be used for the illustration itself. For the former sense, “proverb” (that is, one word for several) is the usual English term, and for the latter, in which comparison is prominent, “parable” (that is, one thing laid by another). The distinction is not always observed, since here, and in Psalm 78:2; “proverb” would better express the style of the composition (compare also Proverbs 26:7, Proverbs 26:9; Habakkuk 2:6; John 16:25, John 16:29). Such forms of speech are often very figurative and also obscure (compare Matthew 13:12-15). Hence the use of the parallel word -

dark saying — or, “riddle” (compare Ezekiel 17:2).

open — is to explain.

upon the harp — the accompaniment for a lyric.


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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 49:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/psalms-49.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

I will — I will hearken what God by his Spirit speaks to me, and that will I now speak to you.

A parable — Which properly is an allegorical speech, but is often taken for an important, and withal, dark doctrine or sentence.

Open — I will not smother it in my own breast, but publish it to the world.

Dark — So he calls the following discourse, because the thing in question ever hath been thought hard to be understood.


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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 49:4". "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

4.I will incline my ear (214) to a parable The Hebrew word משל , mashal, (215) which I have translated parable, properly denotes a similitude; but it is often applied to any deep or weighty sayings, because these are generally embellished with figures and metaphors. The noun which follows, חידת, chidoth (216) and which I have rendered an enigma, or riddle, is to be understood in nearly the same sense. In Ezekiel 17:2, we have both the nouns with their corresponding verbs joined together, חור חידה ומשל משל, chud chedah umshol mashal, the literal translation being, “Enigmatize an enigma, and parabolize a parable.” I am aware that the reference in this place is to an allegorical discourse, but I have already adverted to the reason why, in Hebrew, the name of enigmas or similitudes is given to any remarkable or important sayings. The Psalmist, when he adds that he will open his dark saying, shows that nothing was farther from his intention than to wrap the subject of his discourse in perplexing and intricate obscurity. The truths of revelation are so high as to exceed our comprehension; but, at the same time, the Holy Spirit has accommodated them so far to our capacity, as to render all Scripture profitable for instruction. None can plead ignorance: for the deepest and most difficult doctrines are made plain to the most simple and unlettered of mankind. I see little force in the idea suggested by several interpreters, of the Psalmist having employed his harp, that he might render a subject in itself harsh and disagreeable more engaging by the charms of music. He would merely follow the usual practice of accompanying the psalm with the harp.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-49.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.


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

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 49:4

There are two voices always speaking in man, and attempting to govern all other influences in his soul—despondency and aspiration. The text points to two principles. (1) There is the bowing before, and hearkening to, the mystery of things, the universal, parabolic utterances; and (2) the turning the mystery and the parable into a cheerful song, the dark saying becoming, like the bird's song in the covert of the night, a clear stream without sorrow and without care.

I. All Scripture itself is a dark saying on a harp. There is a Divine reticence in the Bible; there is an awful secretiveness. As the voices of music lift us to worlds beyond themselves, so, in an eminent sense, it is with Scripture. It is a manifold unity, like the universe in which we live; nor have we any difficulty in finding how what is suggested and what is revealed are alike a dark saying on the harp.

II. Man himself is a dark saying on a harp. He is himself a universe of being in which life, and nature, and grace seek to combine in music. Man's soul is written all over with dark sayings. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me," said the Apostle. Then the handwriting flames round the chambers of the soul; until then the magnificent works of genius are aberrations and insanities; then the harp utters the word of light, and the dark saying on the soul flies before its tone.

III. Providence is a dark saying on a harp. The mysteries of Providence were as startling to David as they are to us, and this very Psalm recites and records them; it did not seem to be a world of highways to the Psalmist, and this is one of the great causes of grief and of the dark sayings—the world and its sorrows. For the people of God the hour shall come when all dark sayings shall melt on the harp, and life shall no longer represent the burden, but only the bliss, of being.

E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings on a Harp, p. 1.



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Bibliography
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/psalms-49.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 49:4. I will incline mine ear to a parable, &c.— Much of the eastern wisdom consisted in the understanding of parables, and in the interpretation of dark sayings or riddles: the mysterious cover to this kind of wisdom made it the most high-prized accomplishment; and here, when the Psalmist was to raise and engage the attention of his audience, he promises that he would speak of those things in which the highest wisdom was supposed to consist. He says, he will incline his ear to a parable, and will open his dark saying upon the harp: And indeed, it must be confessed, that in the composition of this psalm, he has made use of every art to render it worthy the subject. See Warburton's Divine Legation, and Numbers 21:27.—I will incline or stoop mine ear, refers to the practice of musicians when they tune their instruments, stooping down and listening attentively to the sound.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-49.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

I will incline mine ear: this is another argument to persuade them to hearken to him: I will hearken what God by his Spirit speaks to me, and that and nothing else will I now speak to you; and therefore it is well worth your hearing. I also shall join with you in attending to it, that whilst I teach you, I myself may learn the same lesson. For as ministers now teach themselves whilst they teach others, so the holy prophets did ofttimes search into and study to find out the meaning of their own prophecies, as appears plainly from 1 Peter 1:10,11. The phrase is thought to be taken from the musicians, who lay their ear close to the instrument when they tune it, and by their ear try how the voice and instrument agree.

To a parable; which properly is a figurative and allegorical speech, but is oft more largely taken for any excellent, and important, and withal dark or difficult, doctrine or sentence: see Numbers 23:7 24:3,15 Psa 78:2, compared with Matthew 13:35.

I will open, i.e. I will not smother it in my own breast, but publish it to the world.

My dark saying; so he justly calls the following discourse, because the thing in question is and ever hath been thought difficult and hard to be understood.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/psalms-49.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. A parable—A poem where similitude is used, and things profound and spiritual are made more clear by comparison with things objective and sensible.

Dark saying—That which lies beyond the realm of sense, particularly revelations or oracles from God. Same as “parables,” just named.

Upon the harp—That is, poetically. In this form the bards of a people, in the earlier ages, often preserved important matter; (see an instance in Numbers 21:27;) but especially prophets and inspired men commonly delivered their messages in the diction, if not in the rhythm, of poetry.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-49.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Earth. As if they were animated, Deuteronomy iv. 26., and xxxii. 1., Isaias i. 2., and Jeremias ii. 12. --- Some understand the angels and apostles by heaven. (Calmet) --- Judge. Literally, "to divide," discernere, (Haydock) the goats from the sheep, Matthew xxv. 32. (Calmet) (Menochius) --- The whole earth, particularly the elect, will approve of God's decree, 1 Corinthians vi. 2.


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/psalms-49.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

dark = deep.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/psalms-49.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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).


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Bibliography
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.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) I will incline mine ear.—The psalmist first listens, that he may himself catch the inspiration which is to reach others through his song. It was an obvious metaphor in a nation to whom God’s voice was audible, as it was to Wordsworth, for whom nature had an audible voice:

“The stars of midnight shall be dear

To her; and she shall lend her ear

In many a secret place,

Where rivulets dance their wayward round,

And beauty, born of murmuring sound,

Shall pass into her face.”

Parable.—Heb. mâshal, root idea, similitude. It is the term used of Balaam’s prophecies, and of the eloquent speeches of Job. Hence here proverb-song (Ewald), since the psalmist intends his composition for musical accompaniment.

Dark saying.—Either from a root meaning to tie, and so “a knotty point;” or to sharpen, and so a sharp, incisive saying. The LXX. and Vulgate have “problem,” “proposition.”

To open the riddle is not to solve it, but to propound it, as we say to “open a discourse.” (Comp. St. Paul’s phrase, “opening and alleging.”) The full phrase is probably found in Proverbs 31:26, “She openeth her mouth with wisdom.’”


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/psalms-49.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.
incline
78:2; Matthew 13:35
parable
Numbers 23:7; Ezekiel 20:49; Matthew 13:11-15
dark
Proverbs 1:6; Daniel 8:23; Luke 12:3; 2 Corinthians 3:12

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-49.html.

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