Psalms 49

Listen to Psalms 49
1 1Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2 2both low and high, rich and poor together!
3 My mouth shall speak 3wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
4 I will incline my ear to 4a proverb; I will solve my 5riddle to the music of the lyre.
5 6Why should I fear in 7times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
6 those who 8trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7 Truly no man 9can ransom another, or 10give to God 11the price of his life,
8 for 12the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice,
9 that he should live on forever and 13never see the pit.
10 For he sees 14that even the wise die; 15the fool and the stupid alike must perish and 16leave their wealth to others.
11 Their 17graves are their homes forever,[a] their dwelling places 18to all generations, though they 19called lands by their own names.
12 Man in his pomp 20will not remain; 21he is like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the path of those who have 22foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts.[b] Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright 23shall rule over them in the morning. 24Their form shall be consumed 25in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15 But God will 26ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will 27receive me. Selah
16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases.
17 28For when he dies he will 29carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.
18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself 30blessed --and though you get praise when you do well for yourself--
19 his soul will 31go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again 32see light.
20 33Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

Psalms 49 Commentary

Chapter 49

A call for attention. (1-5) Folly of worldlings. (6-14) Against fear of death. (15-20)

Verses 1-5 We seldom meet with a more solemn introduction: there is no truth of greater importance. Let all hear this with application to ourselves. The poor are in danger from undue desire toward the wealth of the world, as rich people from undue delight in it. The psalmist begins with applying it to himself, and that is the right method in which to treat of Divine things. Before he sets down the folly of carnal security, he lays down, from his own experience, the benefit and comfort of a holy, gracious security, which they enjoy who trust in God, and not in their worldly wealth. In the day of judgment, the iniquity of our heels, or of our steps, our past sins, will compass us. In those days, worldly, wicked people will be afraid; but wherefore should a man fear death who has God with him?

Verses 6-14 Here is a description of the spirit and way of worldly people. A man may have wealth, and may have his heart enlarged in love, thankfulness, and obedience, and may do good with it. Therefore it is not men's having riches that proves them to be worldly, but their setting their hearts upon them as the best things. Worldly men have only some floating thoughts of the things of God, while their fixed thoughts, their inward thoughts, are about the world; that lies nearest the heart. But with all their wealth they cannot save the life of the dearest friend they have. This looks further, to the eternal redemption to be wrought out by the Messiah. The redemption of the soul shall cost very dear; but, being once wrought, it shall never need to be repeated. And he, the Redeemer, shall rise again before he sees corruption, and then shall live for evermore, Re. 1:18 . This likewise shows the folly of worldly people, who sell their souls for that which will never buy them. With all their wealth they cannot secure themselves from the stroke of death. Yet one generation after another applaud their maxims; and the character of a fool, as drawn by heavenly Wisdom itself, Lu. 12:16-21 , continues to be followed even among professed Christians. Death will ask the proud sinner, Where is thy wealth, thy pomp? And in the morning of the resurrection, when all that sleep in the dust shall awake, the upright shall be advanced to the highest honour, when the wicked shall be filled with everlasting shame and contempt, ( Daniel 12:2 ) . Let us now judge of things as they will appear in that day. The beauty of holiness is that alone which the grave cannot touch, or damage.

Verses 15-20 Believers should not fear death. The distinction of men's outward conditions, how great soever in life, makes none at death; but the difference of men's spiritual states, though in this life it may seem of small account, yet at and after death is very great. The soul is often put for the life. The God of life, who was its Creator at first, can and will be its Redeemer at last. It includes the salvation of the soul from eternal ruin. Believers will be under strong temptation to envy the prosperity of sinners. Men will praise thee, and cry thee up, as having done well for thyself in raising an estate and family. But what will it avail to be approved of men, if God condemn us? Those that are rich in the graces and comforts of the Spirit, have something of which death cannot strip them, nay, which death will improve; but as for worldly possessions, as we brought nothing into the world, so it is certain that we shall carry nothing out; we must leave all to others. The sum of the whole matter is, that it can profit a man nothing to gain the whole world, to become possessed of all its wealth and all its power, if he lose his own soul, and is cast away for want of that holy and heavenly wisdom which distinguishes man from the brutes, in his life and at his death. And are there men who can prefer the lot of the rich sinner to that of poor Lazarus, in life and death, and to eternity? Assuredly there are. What need then we have of the teaching of the Holy Ghost; when, with all our boasted powers, we are prone to such folly in the most important of all concerns!

Cross References 33

  • 1. Psalms 78:1; Isaiah 1:2; Micah 1:2
  • 2. Psalms 62:9
  • 3. Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 9:1
  • 4. [Psalms 78:2; Matthew 13:35]
  • 5. Numbers 12:8; Proverbs 1:6
  • 6. [Psalms 37:1]
  • 7. Psalms 94:13
  • 8. Psalms 52:7; Proverbs 11:28; Mark 10:24, 25; [Job 31:24]
  • 9. [Matthew 25:9]
  • 10. [Matthew 16:26]
  • 11. See Job 33:24
  • 12. Job 36:18, 19
  • 13. Psalms 16:10; [Psalms 89:48]
  • 14. Ecclesiastes 2:16
  • 15. Psalms 73:22; Psalms 92:6; Psalms 94:8; Proverbs 30:2
  • 16. See Psalms 39:6
  • 17. Psalms 5:9; Psalms 64:6
  • 18. Psalms 10:6
  • 19. [Genesis 4:17]
  • 20. ver. 20; [Psalms 39:5; Psalms 82:7]
  • 21. ver. 20; Ecclesiastes 3:19
  • 22. [Luke 12:20]
  • 23. [Daniel 7:22; Malachi 4:3; Luke 22:30; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 20:4]
  • 24. Psalms 39:11
  • 25. Job 24:19, 20
  • 26. Hosea 13:14; [Daniel 12:2]
  • 27. Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 73:24; [Genesis 5:24]
  • 28. [Job 27:19]
  • 29. 1 Timothy 6:7
  • 30. Psalms 10:3; Psalms 36:2; Deuteronomy 29:19; Luke 12:19
  • 31. Genesis 15:15
  • 32. Psalms 56:13; Job 33:30
  • 33. ver. 12

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Septuagint, Syriac, Targum; Hebrew Their inward thought was that their homes were forever
  • [b]. Or and of those after them who approve of their boasts

Chapter Summary

Psalms 49 Commentaries