Psalm 39:6

6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.

Read Psalm 39:6 Using Other Translations

Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.

What does Psalm 39:6 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Psalms 39:6

Surely every man walketh in a vain show
Or "in an image" {z}; not "in the image of the Lord", as the Targum; in the image in which God created man, for that is lost; nor in that which is stamped on men in regeneration; for every man does not walk in that; rather in the image of fallen man, in which every man is born and walks: or "in a shadow" F1; or like one; to which the days of man's life are often compared, ( 1 Chronicles 29:15 ) ( Psalms 102:11 ) ( 144:4 ) ; and who, for the most part, busies himself in shadowy and imaginary things; agreeably to all which the poet says F2,

``I see that we who live are nothing else but images, and a vain shadow.''

Some F3 interpret it of "the shadow of death"; and others F4 of "darkness" itself; and it fitly expresses the state of unregeneracy and darkness in which every man walks without the grace of God; and which will end in utter darkness, if that does not prevent it; and which is called "a walking in the vanity of the mind", ( Ephesians 4:17 ) . Here it seems rather to intend the outward show, pomp, and grandeur of every great man; of emperors, kings, princes, nobles, and the great men of the world; which is all a vain show, a glittering appearance for a while, a glory that passeth away, and will not descend after them when laid in the grave, and oftentimes lasts not so long;

surely they are disquieted in vain;
about vain things, as riches and honours, which are fickle and unstable; and sometimes in vain are all the carking cares and disquietude of the mind, and toil and labour of the body, which are here referred to, to obtain these things; some rise early, and sit up late, and yet eat the bread of sorrow; and if they gain their point, yet do not find the pleasure and satisfaction in them they promised themselves and expected;

he heapeth up [riches], and knoweth not who shall gather them:
according to Jarchi, the metaphor seems to be taken from a man that has been ploughing and sowing, and reaping and laying up the increase of the field in heaps, and yet knows not who shall gather it into the barn, seeing he may die before it is gathered in; compare with this ( Luke 12:16-19 ) ; or the meaning is, when a man has amassed a prodigious deal of wealth together, he knows not who shall enjoy it, whether a son or a servant, a friend or a foe, a good man or a bad man, a wise man or a fool, ( Ecclesiastes 2:18 Ecclesiastes 2:19 ) .


F26 (Mlub) "in imagine", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis.
F1 "In umbra", Gejerus; "instar umbrae", Musculus; vid. Hackman. Praecidan. Sacr. tom. 1. p. 82.
F2 (orw gar hmav) Sophoclis Ajax, v. 125, 126.
F3 Donesh in Jarchi in loc.
F4 Jarchi & Kimchi in loc. & R. Jonah in Miclol Yophi in loc.
California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information  California - CCPA Notice