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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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PSALM 49

Ps 49:1-20. This Psalm instructs and consoles. It teaches that earthly advantages are not reliable for permanent happiness, and that, however prosperous worldly men may be for a time, their ultimate destiny is ruin, while the pious are safe in God's care.

1-3. All are called to hear what interests all.

world—literally, "duration of life," the present time.

4. incline—to hear attentively (Ps 17:6; 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 Ps 78:2; "proverb" would better express the style of the composition (compare also Pr 26:7, 9; Hab 2:6; Joh 16:25, 29). Such forms of speech are often very figurative and also obscure (compare Mt 13:12-15). Hence the use of the parallel word—

dark saying—or, "riddle" (compare Eze 17:2).

open—is to explain.

upon the harp—the accompaniment for a lyric.

5. iniquity—or, "calamity" (Ps 40:12).

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

6. They are vainglorious.

7-9. yet unable to save themselves or others.

8. it ceaseth for ever—that is, the ransom fails, the price is too precious, costly.

9. corruption—literally, "pit," or, "grave," thus showing that "soul" is used for "life" [Ps 49:8].

10. For he seeth—that is, corruption; then follows the illustration.

wise … fool—(Ps 14:1; Pr 1:32; 10:1).

likewise—alike altogether—(Ps 4:8)—die—all meet the same fate.

11. Still infatuated and flattered with hopes of perpetuity, they call their lands, or "celebrate their names on account of (their) lands."

12. Contrasted with this vanity is their frailty. However honored, man

abideth not—literally, "lodgeth not," remains not till morning, but suddenly perishes as (wild) beasts, whose lives are taken without warning.

13. Though their way is folly, others follow the same course of life.

14. Like sheep—(compare Ps 49:12) unwittingly, they

are laid—or, "put," &c.

death shall feed on—or, better, "shall rule"

them—as a shepherd (compare "feed," Ps 28:9, Margin).

have dominion over—or, "subdue"

them in the morning—suddenly, or in their turn.

their beauty—literally, "form" or shape.

shall consume—literally, "is for the consumption," that is, of the grave.

from their dwelling—literally, "from their home (they go) to it," that is, the grave.

15. The pious, delivered from "the power of the grave."

power—literally, "the hand," of death, are taken under God's care.

16-19. applies this instruction. Be not anxious (Ps 37:1, &c.), since death cuts off the prosperous wicked whom you dread.

18. Though … lived, &c.—literally, "For in his life he blessed his soul," or, "himself" (Lu 12:19, 16:25); yet (Ps 49:19); he has had his portion.

men will praise … thyself—Flatterers enhance the rich fool's self-complacency; the form of address to him strengthens the emphasis of the sentiment.

20. (Compare Ps 49:12). The folly is more distinctly expressed by "understandeth not," substituted for "abideth not."

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