Psalms 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 ( Psalms 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 Psalms 78:2 ; "proverb" would better express the style of the composition (compare also Proverbs 26:7 Proverbs 26:9 , Habakkuk 2:6 , John 16:25 John 16:29 ). Such forms of speech are often very figurative and also obscure (compare Matthew 13:12-15 ). Hence the use of the parallel word--
dark saying--or, "riddle" (compare Ezekiel 17:2 ).
open--is to explain.
upon the harp--the accompaniment for a lyric.
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" ( Psalms 49:8 ).
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 Psalms 49:12 ) unwittingly, they
are laid--or, "put," &c.
death shall feed on--or, better, "shall rule"
them--as a shepherd (compare "feed," Psalms 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 ( Psalms 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" ( Luke 12:19 , 16:25 ); yet ( Psalms 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 Psalms 49:12 ). The folly is more distinctly expressed by "understandeth not," substituted for "abideth not."