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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.

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, 217217     Lowth reads, “The wickedness of those who lie in wait for me, or endeavor to supplant me;” and Horsley, “When the iniquity of those who plot against me environs me.” The original word is עקבי, akabey, which Dr Adam Clarke thinks is to be considered as the contracted plural of עקבים, akabim, supplanters, from עקב, akab, to supplant, to defraud It is literally, “My Jacobs;” that is, those who would act towards me as Jacob acted towards Esau. See Genesis 27:36, and Jeremiah 9:4-17, 9. The Syriac and Arabic versions read it, “My enemies.” 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.” 218218     i.e. “To pursue even to the heels.” 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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