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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.

10 For he shall see that wise men die. I consider the ninth and tenth verses to be connected, and that it is the intention of the Psalmist to censure the folly of those who dream of spending an eternity in this world, and set themselves seriously to establish a permanent settlement in it, though they cannot but see their fellow-creatures cut down daily before their eyes by the stroke of death. It is a common proverb, that experience teaches fools, and they may be looked upon as something worse who will not lay to heart their mortality, when surrounded by so many convincing illustrations of it. This seems obviously to be the connection. These infatuated enemies of God, as if he had said, cannot fail to perceive that death is the universal lot of mankind, that the wise are equally liable to it with the foolish; and yet they persist in the imagination that they will remain here always, and will live as if they were never to quit with this world! They see what happens to others, that all, without exception or discrimination, are involved in the common mortality; and they must observe how often it happens that wealth passes into the hands of strangers The word אחרים, acherim, I translate strangers, rather than others; for although it may be extended to successors of any kind, yet I think that the Psalmist here supposes the case of wealth passing into the hands of those who are not our natural and lawful heirs, and cannot be considered in any sense as representing us. Many not only die, but die childless, and their name becomes extinct, which is an additional ingredient of bitterness in the cup of the worldling. And yet all these affecting lessons of experience are entirely lost upon them, and they still in their secret thoughts fondly cherish the idea of living here for ever. The Hebrew word קרב, kereb, means the middle of anything; but it is taken metaphorically to signify the heart, or inward parts of the man. Here it denotes that their secret thoughts are occupied with an imaginary eternity which they hope to enjoy upon earth. Another and more ingenious interpretation has been suggested by some, that as the word occasionally means a tomb, the Psalmist may here be satirising those who think to perpetuate their memory after death by rearing expensive mausoleums. 220220     The reading of the Septuagint is, “Καὶ οἱ τάφοι αὐτῶν ὀικίαι αὐτῶν εἰς τὸν αἰω̑να.” “And their sepulchres are their houses for ever.” The Vulgate, Syriac, and Chaldee, also read “sepulchres.” Kennicott supposes that the authors of these versions must have read קברם, kaberam, their graves, instead of קרבם, kirbam, their inward part The text as it stands admits of a good sense. Some eminent critics, however, are disposed to think that the reading of the ancient versions is the true one. This view of the words is strained and unnatural; and what immediately follows proves that the other is the most correct, when it is added, that worldly men call out their names upon the earth; that is, make every exertion in their power to win reputation amongst their fellow-creatures. Their desire should be to have their names written in the book of life, and to be blessed before God and his holy angels; but their ambition is of another kind — to be renowned and extolled upon earth. By the expression, calling out, it is insinuated that the fame of ungodly men is but an empty sound. Some interpreters prefer reading, They have called their lands by their own names, 221221     Some also read the verse thus, “Their grave is their house for ever, their dwelling-place through all generations, though their names are celebrated over countries.” that they might leave some monument of themselves to posterity. But what the Psalmist seems chiefly to insist upon is, that they are wholly bent upon earthly renown.

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