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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 49:5

 

 

Why should I fear in days of adversity, When the iniquity of my foes surrounds me,

Adam Clarke Commentary

The iniquity of my heels - Perhaps עקבי akebai, which we translate my heels, should be considered the contracted plural of עקבים akebim, supplanters. The verse would then read thus: "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, though the iniquity of my supplanters should compass me about." The Syriac and Arabic have taken a similar view of the passage: "Why should I fear in the evil day, when the iniquity of my enemies compasses me about." And so Dr. Kennicott translates it.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-49.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil - This verse is designed evidently to state the main subject of the psalm; the result of the reflections of the author on what had been to him a source of perplexity; on what had seemed to him to be a dark problem. He “had” evidently felt that there was occasion to dread the power of wicked rich men; but he now felt that he had no ground for that fear and alarm. He saw that their power was short-lived; that all the ability to injure, arising from their station and wealth, must soon cease; that his own highest interests could not be affected by anything which they could do. The “days of evil” here spoken of are the times which are referred to in the following phrase, “when the iniquity of my heels,” etc.

When the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about - It would be difficult to make any sense out of this expression, though it is substantially the same rendering which is found in the Vulgate and the Septuagint. Luther renders it “when the iniquity of my oppressors encompasses me.” The Chaldee Paraphrase renders it, “why should I fear in the days of evil, unless it be when the guilt of my sin compasses me about?” The Syriac renders it, “the iniquity of “my enemies.” The Arabic, “when my enemies surround me.” DeWette renders it as Luther does. Rosenmuller, “when the iniquity of those who lay snares against me shall compass me around.” Prof. Alexander, “when the iniquity of my oppressors (or supplanters) shall surround me.” The word rendered “heels” here - עקב ‛âqêb - means properly “heel,” Genesis 3:15; Job 18:9; Judges 5:22; then, the rear of an army, Joshua 8:13; then, in the plural, “footsteps,” prints of the heel or foot, Psalm 77:19; and then, according to Gesenius (Lexicon) “a lier in wait, insidiator.”

Perhaps there is in the word the idea of craft; of lying in wait; of taking the advantages - from the verb עקב ‛âqab to be behind, to come from behind; and hence to supplant; to circumvent. So in Hosea 12:3, “in the womb he held his brother by the heel” (compare Genesis 25:26). Hence, the word is used as meaning to supplant; to circumvent, Genesis 27:36; Jeremiah 9:4 (Hebrew, Jeremiah 9:3) This is, undoubtedly, the meaning here. The true idea is, when I am exposed to the crafts, the cunning, the tricks, of those who lie in wait for me; I am liable to be attacked suddenly, or to be taken unawares; but what have I to fear? The psalmist refers to the evil conduct of his enemies, as having given him alarm. They were rich and powerful. They endeavored in some way to supplant him - perhaps, as we should say, to “trip him up” - to overcome him by art, by power, by trick, or by fraud. He “had” been afraid of these powerful foes; but on a calm review of the whole matter, he came to the conclusion that he had really no cause for fear. The reasons for this he proceeds to state in the following part of the psalm.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-49.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

WICKED RICH; PERSECUTED GODLY POOR

"Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil,

When iniquity at my heels compasseth me about?

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

None of them by any means can redeem his brother,

Nor give to God a ransom for him

(For the redemption of their life is costly,

And it abideth forever)."

"Days of evil ... iniquity at my heels ... they that trust in riches" (Psalms 49:5-6). The proximity of Psalms 49:5-6, is not accidental. Although the psalm does not say that all rich persons are wicked, it is clear enough that the days of evil and the encircling iniquity mentioned in Psalms 49:5 are clearly due to rich men who are evil, who trust in their riches and boast of their great wealth.

The problem here confronted is that of the contrasting lots of the wealthy wicked and the righteous man, persecuted by wicked men who are wealthy, boasting of their riches and trusting in them. There have been many very rich men who were righteous, such as Abraham, Job, and many others; but as the Lord himself noted, "Money itself is wicked"; and it is able to corrupt and destroy many of the people who possess it. (For a discussion of "Why Money is Wicked," see Vol. 3 (Luke) of my New Testament series of commentaries, pp. 316,317.)

As Rawlinson pointed out, this old problem about the prosperity of the wicked, coupled with the persecutions and sufferings of the righteous, "Is solved in this psalm more distinctly than anywhere else in the Psalter by the announcement of compensation in a future life (Psalms 49:13-15)."[6]

"None of them can redeem his brother" (Psalms 49:7). This is only one of many things that riches cannot do:

(1) They cannot bring the possessor happiness.

(2) They cannot enable their owner to redeem a brother, either from a fatal illness, or for the salvation of his soul.

(3) They cannot endow their possessor with power to redeem himself from a terminal illness, nor prevent his dying just like all men. Diamond Jim Brady of New York once offered a physician a million dollars to get him a new stomach, but he didn't get it, and died for the lack of it.

(4) They cannot provide salvation for their owner.

(5) They cannot even guarantee their owner's continued possession of them throughout his life. Many who once were rich became poor.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-49.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil,.... This is the principal thing that all are before called to hearken to. This is the wisdom and understanding the psalmist had been meditating upon, and was about to utter; this is the parable he inclined his ear to, and the dark saying he would open; namely, that a saint has nothing to fear in the worst of times; which is a riddle to a natural man. Aben Ezra interprets "the days of evil" of the days of old age, as they are called, Ecclesiastes 12:1, which bring on diseases, weakness, and death; in which a good man has no reason to fear; as that he should want the necessaries of life, since they that fear the Lord shall want no good thing; or that he should not hold out to the end, seeing God, who is the guide of youth, is the staff of old age, and carries to hoary hairs, and will never leave nor forsake; and though the wicked man in old age has reason to be afraid of death and eternity at hand, the saint has not; but may sing, on the borders of the grave, "O death! where is thy sting?" &c. 1 Corinthians 15:55. Also days in which iniquity abounds, and error and heresy prevail, are days of evil; and though the good man may fear he shall be led aside by the ill example of some, or by the craft of others; yet he need not, since the foundation of God stands sure, and he knows them that are his, and will take care of them and preserve them. Moreover, times of affliction and persecution are evil days; see Ephesians 5:16; and such will be the hour of temptation, that shall try the inhabitants of the earth, Revelation 3:10. Yet the righteous man need not fear, since it is always well with him, let his case and circumstances be what they will. Yea, the day of death, and the day of judgment are days of evil to wicked men; and therefore they put them away far from them, Amos 6:3; but believers have reason to rejoice at them, the day of their death being better than the day of their birth; and the day of judgment will be the time of the glorious appearing of Christ to them. It is added,

when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about; that is, the sins of life and conversation; "heels" denote "steps", and the word is sometimes so rendered, as in Psalm 56:6; and "iniquity" intends sin committed in walking; and so designs not original sin, as some have thought, but actual sins and transgressions: and these may be said to "compass the saints about", when they are chastised for them, and so are brought to a sense and acknowledgment of them, and to be humbled for them; and then they have nothing to fear in a slavish way, since these chastisements are not in wrath, or in a way of vindictive justice, or punishment for sin; but the fruits of love and favour. Or the sense may be, when death, the fruit of iniquity, the wages of sin, surrounds and seizes upon me; בסופי, "in my end", as the Targum; in my last days, at the heel or close of them, I will not fear; the saint has no reason to fear, when he walks through death's dark valley; for death is abolished as a penal evil, its sting is took away, and its curse removed. Some render the words, "when the iniquity of my supplanters shall compass me about"F15עון עקבי "iniquitas supplantatorum meorum", Gejerus; "insidiatorum meorum", some in Vatablus. ; meaning his enemies, who either lay in wait for him privately, and endeavoured to supplant him; or that pursued him closely, and pressed upon his heels, just ready to destroy him; yet even then he signifies he should not fear: and then the sense is the same with Psalm 27:1; to which agree the Syriac and Arabic versions, which render it, "the iniquity of mine enemies"; or, "when my enemies surround me": and it may be literally rendered, when "iniquity surrounds me at my heels"F16"Iniquitas oppressorum", i.e. "iniquissimi mei oppressores ambiunt me", Gejerus. ; that is, when men, who are iniquity itself, encompass me, are at my heels, ready to seize me, I will not fear.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-49.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(b) Though wickedness reigns and enemies rage, seeing God will execute his judgments against the wicked at a suitable time.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/psalms-49.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

iniquity — or, “calamity” (Psalm 40:12).

of my heels — literally “my supplanters” (Genesis 27:36), or oppressors: “I am surrounded by the evils they inflict.”


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/psalms-49.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

In the days — In times of great distress and calamity, when wicked men flourish, and good men are oppressed.

Supplanters — This character fitly agrees to David's enemies, who were not only malicious, but deceitful and treacherous.


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Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "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

5.Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil? The Psalmist now enters upon the point on which he proposed to discourse, That the people of God must not yield to despondency even in the most distressing circumstances, when their enemies may seem to have enclosed them on every side, but must rest assured that God, although he connives for a time, is awake to their condition, and only watches the best opportunity of executing his judgments. This manner of introducing the subject by interrogation is much more emphatic than if he had simply asserted his resolution to preserve his mind undisturbed in the midst of adversity. In the second clause of the verse he particularises the heaviest and most bitter of all afflictions, those which are experienced by the righteous when their enemies triumph in the unrestrained indulgence of their wickedness. When, the adverb of time, must therefore be understood — When the iniquity of my heel shall compass me about There is a different meaning which some interpreters have attached to the words, namely, If I should fear in the days of evil, and be guilty of the excessive anxieties of the unbeliever, — in that case, when the hour of my death came, my iniquity would compass me about. The heel they take to be the end of life. But this interpretation is to be dismissed at once as most unnatural. Nor do I see what reason others have for referring this word to the thoughts, for I believe that in no other part of Scripture can such a metaphor or similitude be found. Others, with more plausibility, have rendered the original word liers in wait, (217) because the Hebrew verb עקב, akab, signifies to deceive; and they consider the Psalmist as intimating, that he would not fear though crafty and treacherous men laid snares for him. In my opinion, there is no figure intended; and he means to say, that he would have no fear when his enemies surrounded him, and in pursuing him, trode, as it were, upon his heel. The French have a similar expression, “Poursuyvre jusques aux talons.” (218) I agree with them, that he speaks of enemies, but it is of their wicked persecution as they press upon him in the height of their power, and with design to destroy him, keep themselves near him, and tread, so to speak, upon his very heel.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-49.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-49.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 49:5. Wherefore should I fear, &c.— Wherefore should I fear in the days of adversity, when the iniquity of those who lie in wait for me, surrounds me? Bishop Hare. Houbigant renders the last clause, Because trouble surrounds me. The iniquity of my heels, is agreeable to the Hebrew; but the meaning seems to be what the versions above have assigned; "The iniquity of those unjust persons who are at my heels, and are ready to supplant and destroy me."


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-49.html. 1801-1803.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

He openeth his sermon with proposing a question, What cause is there to fear on account of wickedness? This seems to be the text of his discourse. And he proceeds to give a most satisfactory and decided answer in what follows.


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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/psalms-49.html. 1828.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

He speaks in his own person, because he had now said that he would incline his ear, Psalms 49:4, i.e. learn and practise what he was teaching others; but his meaning is more general, that there is no sufficient cause why he or any good man should fear; which is to be understood of excessive or immoderate and prevailing fear, causing dejection or despondency, or distrust of God’s providence and goodness, or discontent with his condition; in which sense men are bid not to fear, Genesis 1:19 Matthew 28:5, compared with Mark 16:6. Thus Genesis 45:5, Be not grieved, to wit, inordinately; for otherwise they ought, and he would have had them to grieve for their sin. Thus to lead a man into temptation, Matthew 6:13, is to suffer him to be overcome by it, by comparing 1 Corinthians 10:13. And the object or cause of this forbidden fear is double; the one, the afflictions of good men, here following; the other, the prosperity of the ungodly, as it is declared Psalms 49:16, and of which he begins to treat in the very next verse, and continues the discourse of it to the end of the Psalm.

In the days of evil; either,

1. Of sin; when iniquity of all sorts abounds; which is many ways grievous and vexatious to every good man. Or,

2. Of misery; in times of great distress and calamity, either public or private, when wicked men flourish, (of which he speaks in all the rest of the Psalm,) and good men are oppressed and persecuted.

The iniquity of my heels; by which he understands either,

1. His afflictions; which he might justly call the punishment of his sinful actions; for iniquity is commonly put for the punishment of it, and the heels are put for a man’s footsteps, and metaphorically for one’s ways or actions, as Psalms 56:6 89:51. Or,

2.

The iniquity, i.e. the violent and injurious designs and practices of his ungodly and malicious enemies, who, as he here saith,

did compass him about; whereby he notes their prosperous success against him, and his being endangered and vexed by them, as this phrase implies, Job 16:13 Psalms 17:9,11 22:12 140:9 Habakkuk 1:4; and withal their intention and endeavour to vex and persecute and destroy him, as this phrase is used, Psalms 17:9 22:12,16, and in many other places. This sense is favoured both by the Syriac and Arabic interpreters; whereof the former renders the words thus, the iniquity of mine enemies hath compassed me, and the latter thus, when mine enemies shall compass me about; and by the main scope of the Psalm, which is to comfort himself and other good men against that great scandal of the prosperity of the wicked, and the oppressions and miseries of the righteous. But all the difficulty is why or how he calls this the iniquity of his heels. For the clearing whereof, it is humbly proposed to consideration, that this genitive case, of my heels, seems to note not the efficient or meritorious cause of this iniquity, or punishment of it, but the object about which this iniquity is exercised; as nouns in the genitive case are frequently taken. Thus the spoil of the poor, Isaiah 3:14, is not that spoil which was made by them, but upon them; and the violence of the children of Judah, as it is in the Hebrew text, Joel 3:19, is that which was done against them, as we truly translate it. See also Daniel 4:27 Matthew 10:1 Acts 4:9. In like manner here,

the iniquity of my heels, is the iniquity wherewith they compass and seek to trip up my heels; for we shall find David oft speaking of the malicious practices of his enemies, with respect to his heels, feet, or steps. So he tells us they pierced his hands and feet, Psalms 22:16, they compassed, and marked, and prepared a net for his steps, Psalms 17:11 56:6 57:6; as Jeremiah also complains of his enemies, that they hid snare for his feet, Jeremiah 18:22. And therefore it is not strange that the iniquity of his enemies is here noted to be exercised about his heels or footsteps as this word signifies; either because they did malignantly observe all his steps or ways, that they might find occasion to load him with reproaches in order to his ruin; or because they purposed to trip up his heels, or to overthrow his goings, as he complains, Psalms 140:4. Besides, the words may be rendered, the iniquity of my supplanters; for the Hebrew word rendered heels may be, and is by some learned interpreters taken for a particle of that verb, which signifies to supplant or trip up the heels, or circumvent, from whence Jacob had his name And this character fitly agrees to David’s enemies, who were not only most malicious, but also very deceitful and treacherous, as he every where complains.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". 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

5. Wherefore should I fear—The psalmist strikes at once into his subject.

Days of evil—Days of calamity, persecution, and the apparent defeat of all his hopes.

Iniquity of my heels—An unfortunate, because a too literal, translation. The word, indeed, means heels, but figuratively,those that take by the heels, that is, supplanters, false friends, deceitful enemies. In Joshua 8:13, it is translated “liers in wait,” ambushed enemies. The verb is rendered supplant, Jeremiah 9:4; Genesis 27:36. The question is, Why should I fear in the day of adversity, when the iniquity of my insidious foes has encircled or circumvented me? To this question the psalmist addresses his argument.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-49.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 49:5. Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil — Either, 1st, Of sin; when iniquities of all sorts abound, which is, in many respects, grievous and vexatious to good men. Or, 2d, Of misery; in times of great distress and calamity, either public or private, when wicked men flourish, and good men are oppressed and persecuted. When the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about — That is, the violent and injurious practices of my ungodly and malicious enemies, who lay snares for my feet, and seek to trip up my heels, and cause me to fall into sin or into trouble. The words may, with propriety, be rendered, The iniquity of my supplanters; for the word עקבי, gnakeebai, rendered heels, may be, and is, by some learned interpreters, taken for a participle of that verb which signifies to supplant, or trip up the heels, or circumvent; from whence Jacob had his name. And this character fitly agrees to David’s enemies, who were not only very malicious, but also very deceitful and treacherous, as he everywhere complains. This sense of the words, the reader will observe, is favoured both by the Syriac and Arabic interpreters; the former of whom render the words, the iniquity of my enemies hath compassed me; and the latter thus, When mine enemies shall compass me about. The sense is also agreeable to the main scope of the Psalm, which is to comfort good men against that great trial and stumbling-block, the prosperity of the wicked, and the oppressions and afflictions of the righteous. Bishop Hare translates the verse, “Wherefore should I fear in the days of adversity, when the iniquity of those that lie in wait for me surrounds me?”


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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-49.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

His saints. Hebrew, "my merciful ones," (Haydock) the chosen people, (Calmet) particularly priests, (Theodoret) who might have too high an opinion of the legal sacrifices, (St. Chrysostom) or all the elect are meant, Matthew xxiv. 30. (Eusebius) --- The Hebrews were the only nation which then offered sacrifices to the true God, though some individuals might do it among the Gentiles. (Calmet) --- Before, super, or, "who make a covenant with him respecting sacrifices." --- Protestants, "those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice," Malachias i. 12. (Haydock) --- The Septuagint seem to have read v for i, more accurately, as the prophet speaks till ver. 7. (Berthier) --- Judgment should begin at the house of God. And if first at us, what shall be the end of them that believe not the gospel of God? (1 Peter iv. 17., and Romans ii. 9.) (Haydock) --- Those who believe not, are already judged, John iii. --- Sacrifice generally precedes a covenant, Genesis xv. 17. (Menochius)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/psalms-49.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

days of evil. His were in Matthew 26:38. Luke 22:44, Luke 22:53. John 12:27. Hebrews 5:7.

evil. Hebrew. ra"a". App-44.

iniquity = perverseness. Hebrew "avah. App-41.

of my heels: or, my footsteps. Put by Figure of speech Synecdoche (of Part), for the whole person, in order to call attention to, and thus emphasize, the reference to Genesis 3:15. When our iniquities were laid upon Christ, then He was vulnerable and was wounded for our transgressions.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "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

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) [ `


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "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

(5) Should I fear?—Here the problem is stated not in a speculative, but personal form. The poet himself feels the pressure of this riddle of life.

When the iniquity of my heels.—The Authorised Version seems to take “heels” in the sense of footsteps, as Symmachus does, and “when the evil of my course entangles me,” is good sense, but not in agreement with the context. Render rather, when iniquity dogs me at the heels, i.e., when wicked and prosperous men pursue him with malice. This is more natural than to give the word heel the derived term of supplanter; the sense, too, is the same. There is no direct reference to Genesis 3:15, though possibly the figure of the heel as a vulnerable part, and of wickedness lying like a snake in the path, may have occurred to the poet. The Syriac, however, suggests a different reading, “malice of my oppressors.”


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/psalms-49.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?
Wherefore
27:1,2; 46:1,2; Isaiah 41:10,11; Acts 27:24; Romans 8:33,34; Philippians 1:28
days
Proverbs 24:10; Amos 5:13; Ephesians 5:16
iniquity
38:4; Proverbs 5:22; Hosea 7:2
heels
22:16; 56:6,7; Genesis 49:17; 1 Samuel 26:20

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 49:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-49.html.

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