World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
49. Psalm 49
Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:
2Both low and high, rich and poor, together.
3My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.
4I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.
5Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?
6They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;
7None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:
8(For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)
9That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.
10For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.
11Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.
12Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.
13This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah.
14Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.
15But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.
16Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;
17For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.
18Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.
19He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.
20Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.
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.
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.
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.
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."