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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 49

 

 


Introduction

BOOK II.—PSS. XLII.-LXXII.

Psalms 42-83 are Elohistic, i.e. they use the word God (Elohim) and avoid the proper name Yahweh, probably from motives of reverence. Here and there, however, the name Yahweh has crept into the text by a natural slip of the scribes.


Verses 1-20

XLIX. The Immortality of the Righteous.—The poet takes a popular proverb for his theme. This proverb recurs as a refrain in Psalms 49:12 and Psalms 49:20, and it probably stood originally after Psalms 49:8 and Psalms 49:15 also. Adopting this supposition we find that the Ps. falls into five parts, Psalms 49:1-4, Psalms 49:5-8, Psalms 49:9-12, Psalms 49:13-15, Psalms 49:16-20.

Psalms 49:1-4. The question stated; if we supply the refrain here, the sense becomes clear. Why is it that man, however high in state, does not continue in that state but perishes like the beasts?

Psalms 49:5-8. There is no escape from death. God will accept no bribe and give exemption from death in return. Psalms 49:9 a belongs to Psalms 49:6, "He must give up for ever the thought of living always." Then insert the refrain as in Psalms 49:12.

Psalms 49:9-12. Continues the same thought.

Psalms 49:9. Shall he fail to see the pit? Nay, he seeth that wise men die, etc.

Psalms 49:11. Follow mg.

Psalms 49:13-15. The wicked like the righteous die, but the righteous alone have the prospect of immortality.

Psalms 49:13. Translate with slight emendation, "This is the way of those who have confidence in themselves and the end of those who approve their sayings."

Psalms 49:14. Death shall be their shepherd: Cheyne quotes an interesting parallel from the Hamasa—the great collection of Arabic poetry. There a plague-stricken tribe is described as a herd of camels driven by death.—And the upright, etc., read, "They shall go down straight [i.e. to Sheol]: Soon their form shall waste away. Sheol shall be their abode for ever."—Soon, literally, "In the [next] morning" (cf. Psalms 90:14).

Psalms 49:15. One of the most important verses in the OT. The Heb. word for "take" is technical. It is applied (Genesis 5:24) to the translation of Enoch and in 2 Kings 2:9 f. to that of Elijah. Where were the righteous to go after death? Some have interpreted the Ps. as the voice of the nation. The individual saints might perish, but not Israel, God's son. The language, however, gives no hint of any such personification. Possibly the writer hoped that righteous souls would be translated, like Enoch or Elijah, to some unknown Paradise. Or he may have been looking forward to the sudden advent of a Messianic Age, in which men did not die, or at least lived to patriarchal ages. Nothing is said about the immortality of the wicked.

Psalms 49:16-20. Again the poet thinks of the destruction of the wicked.

Psalms 49:16. Read mg.

Psalms 49:18. Read "Though in his lifetime he congratulated his soul [i.e. himself] and praised it because it did well for itself."

Psalms 49:20. Correct the refrain in agreement with Psalms 49:12.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/psalms-49.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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