Psalms 49


לַמְנַצֵּחַ לִבְנֵי־קֹרַח מִזְמוֹר׃   49:1

Psal. 49:1   A psalm for the leader for the sons of Korach:

שִׁמְעוּ־זֹאת כָּל־הָעַמִּים הַאֲזִינוּ כָּל־יֹשְׁבֵי חָלֶד׃   49:2

Psal. 49:2   Hear this, all of the peoples!

                              Lend an ear, all inhabitants of the world!

גַּם־בְּנֵי אָדָם גַּם־בְּנֵי־אִישׁ יַחַד עָשִׁיר וְאֶבְיוֹן׃   49:3

Psal. 49:3   Both low and high,

                               rich and poor together!

פִּי יְדַבֵּר חָכְמוֹת וְהָגוּת לִבִּי תְבוּנוֹת׃   49:4

Psal. 49:4   My mouth shall declare wise things,

                               and the meditation of my heart shall be of intelligent things.

אַטֶּה לְמָשָׁל אָזְנִי אֶפְתַּח בְּכִנּוֹר חִידָתִי׃   49:5

Psal. 49:5   I will bend my ear to a parable;

                               I will release my enigma with harp.

In this psalm the psalmist appears to be troubled by and trying to deal with one of the most insistent questions of the ages, why there is so much disparity between the proud rich, who seem so undeserving, and the downtrodden needy.  In these last two verses he informs us that he will try to answer the question, not necessarily because he is so wise, but because he will listen to the Lord (“I will bend my ear to a parable” -- that’s often the way the Lord gives us answers).

לָמָּה אִירָא בִּימֵי רָע עֲוֺן עֲקֵבַי יְסוּבֵּנִי׃   49:6

Psal. 49:6   What should I fear in times of evil?

                               The iniquity of my supplanter would surround me?

הַבֹּטְחִים עַל־חֵילָם וּבְרֹב עָשְׁרָם יִתְהַלָּלוּ׃   49:7

Psal. 49:7   Those placing trust on their strength,

                                or because of the abundance of their riches they would boast?

אָח לֹא־פָדֹה יִפְדֶּה אִישׁ לֹא־יִתֵּן לֵאלֹהִים כָּפְרוֹ׃   49:8

Psal. 49:8   One can not redeem a brother in any way;

                                 he cannot give to God his ransom.

וְיֵקַר פִּדְיוֹן נַפְשָׁם וְחָדַל לְעוֹלָם׃   49:9

Psal. 49:9   As the redemption of their soul is too costly,

                                 that one might desist forever,

וִיחִי־עוֹד לָנֶצַח לֹא יִרְאֶה הַשָּׁחַת׃   49:10

Psal. 49:10   so he stays alive perpetually;

                                 he would not see the pit.

In other words, the last three verses tell us, what’s so special about the rich?  They cannot buy their way out of death.  They must succumb like the rest of us.

כִּי יִרְאֶה חֲכָמִים יָמוּתוּ יַחַד כְּסִיל וָבַעַר יֹאבֵדוּ וְעָזְבוּ לַאֲחֵרִים חֵילָם׃   49:11

Psal. 49:11   Surely one can see wise men must die;

                                 fool and brute together must perish,

                        and they leave their wealth to others.

קִרְבָּם בָּתֵּימוֹ לְעוֹלָם מִשְׁכְּנֹתָם לְדֹר וָדֹר קָרְאוּ בִשְׁמוֹתָם עֲלֵי אֲדָמוֹת׃   49:12

Psal. 49:12   In their thought one's houses are forever,

                                  their dwelling places for all generations.

                       They call in their own names upon lands.

וְאָדָם בִּיקָר בַּל־יָלִין נִמְשַׁל כַּבְּהֵמוֹת נִדְמוּ׃   49:13

Psal. 49:13   And no human will abide with honor;

                                  he is no better than the beasts; they perish.

זֶה דַרְכָּם כֵּסֶל לָמוֹ וְאַחֲרֵיהֶם בְּפִיהֶם יִרְצוּ סֶלָה׃   49:14

Psal. 49:14   This is their way, their folly,

                                  yet their followers would accept their mouthings.            Selah.

כַּצֹּאן לִשְׁאֹול שַׁתּוּ מָוֶת יִרְעֵם וַיִּרְדּוּ בָם יְשָׁרִים לַבֹּקֶר (וְצִירָם) [וְצוּרָם] לְבַלֹּות שְׁאֹול מִזְּבֻל לֹו׃   49:15

Psal. 49:15  To sheol they are appointed, like sheep;

                                  death shall be their shepherd;

                        and upright ones shall have dominion among them in the morning,

                                  as sheol will be completely using up their rock,

                        so there could not be a lofty abode for it.

This verse calls for three remarks:  First, remember that sheol is the Hebrew word for the nether-world.  Christians call it hell.  Second, the word in parentheses (marked as a error) is a strange one because none of its translations seems to be totally appropriate to the context.  The closest translation is the one I use, rock.  Others resort to words that are mistranslations like form, beauty, and even help to make sense out of that part of the verse.  As I see it, rock fits quite well because it is a metaphor for the place in heaven (lofty abode) to which they might have gone.  Rock then is seen as the antecedent of the pronoun it at the end of the English translation.  Third and finally, we have the question of the error itself.  Because either of the spellings is a variant on the spelling of the two-letter root, I think it’s a moot point as to the correct spelling, whether that in the parentheses or that in the brackets.

אַךְ־אֱלֹהִים יִפְדֶּה נַפְשִׁי מִיַּד־שְׁאוֹל כִּי יִקָּחֵנִי סֶלָה׃   49:16

Psal. 49:16   Surely God will redeem my soul from the power of sheol,

                                  surely He will accept me.            Selah.

אַל־תִּירָא כִּי־יַעֲשִׁר אִישׁ כִּי־יִרְבֶּה כְּבוֹד בֵּיתוֹ׃   49:17

Psal. 49:17   Do not be afraid if one might become rich,

                                   increase the wealth of his house.

כִּי לֹא בְמוֹתוֹ יִקַּח הַכֹּל לֹא־יֵרֵד אַחֲרָיו כְּבוֹדוֹ׃   49:18

Psal. 49:18   For with his death he will not take anything;

                                  his wealth will not descend after him.

כִּי־נַפְשׁוֹ בְּחַיָּיו יְבָרֵךְ וְיוֹדֻךָ כִּי־תֵיטִיב לָךְ׃   49:19

Psal. 49:19   While during his life he might have blessed his soul:

                                  (“Now one will praise you when you do well for yourself”),

I put the blessing in parentheses because the psalmist is probably talking to himself here, not to his soul.  I believe this because the word soul is feminine but the pronoun you in the blessing is masculine.

תָּבוֹא עַד־דּוֹר אֲבוֹתָיו עַד־נֵצַח לֹא יִרְאוּ־אוֹר׃   49:20

Psal. 49:20   it shall go to the generation of his fathers;

                                  they shall never see light.

The phrase “It [the soul] shall go to the generation of his fathers” is viewed as an idiom for dying (he shall be gathered up to his fathers).

אָדָם בִּיקָר וְלֹא יָבִין נִמְשַׁל כַּבְּהֵמוֹת נִדְמוּ׃   49:21

Psal. 49:21   A man with pomp, but he cannot understand.

                                  He is no better than the beasts; they perish.

The thrust of this psalm is that what happens in our lives is not important.  What is important is its aftermath.  Without saying so, the psalmist is telling us (God told him -- v. 49:5) that the hereafter is the important “place” and  “time.”


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