On Psalm 49—Part 1

(Ps 49:1) To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:
(Ps 49:2) Both low and high, rich and poor, together.

The phrase translated "Both low and high" literally means "both sons of man and sons of man", where the two words for "man" are different. The first word for "man" is "adam"; it can also be translated "Adam". This is the word used by God when he spoke about man at the beginning of Genesis. The second word is "iysh" and it is the word used by Adam when he spoke about himself in Ge 2:23. The word has also the meaning of "male" (Ge 7:2) and has also been used to describe heavenly beings when they appeared in the form of men (Eze 40:3, Ge 18:2). In various passages "adam" is typically used by God when speaking about men, while "iysh" is typically used by men when speaking about other men. Thus, "adam" seems to emphasize the meaning "human" and "iysh" the meaning "man, person, individual". It seems that the words "adam" and "iysh" are used together for emphasis. Some passages may use this emphasis in order to communicate that there are no exceptions, such as in Jer 49:18, 33. Here, in Ps 49:2, the emphasis appears to be used in order to get the attention of the people (cf. Pr 8:4). People are called in several different ways: "all people" (Ps 49:1), "inhabitants of the world" (Ps 49:1), "sons of adam" (Ps 49:2), and "sons of iysh" (Ps 49:2). The fact that people are called in several different ways seems to emphasize that their attention is eagerly desired. "Hear this all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world ... ".

(Ps 49:3) My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.
(Ps 49:4) I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

The Hebrew word translated "parable" means also "proverb". It is interesting to notice that also in Greek the word for "parable" is not used exclusively for illustrations, but also for proverbs, as in Mk 7:17 and Lk 4:23. The word translated "dark saying" means "riddle, difficult question". It refers to the parable mentioned in the first part of the verse. The statement "I will incline mine ear to a parable" reminds us that the inspired speaker heard the parable and its interpretation from God. Further, "I will open my dark saying ... " is understood here as stating that the parable will be interpreted in the following verses. The parable (or proverb) could be associated with Ps 49:5 and its interpretation with the remaining verses of the psalm.

(Ps 49:5) Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

In Ps 49:5 "my heels" is a literal translation of the Hebrew word. The word is also translated "my steps" in Ps 56:6. The word for "heel" is given also other meanings in lexicons: "rear of an army" (as in Jos 8:13) and "supplanter, overreacher". Now, the phrase "iniquity of my heels" may remind us of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

(Jn 13:8) Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
(Jn 13:9) Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
(Jn 13:10) Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
(Jn 13:11) For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

(Eph 5:25) ... Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
(Eph 5:26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
(Eph 5:27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

(1Jn 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As stated in Ps 49:5, the believer has nothing to fear, even when he faces consequences of past sins. His end is glorious, though he faces troubles in this life.

(Ps 49:15) But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

The psalm contrasts the end of the believer with the end of those who do not trust the Lord. The end of unbelievers will be very sad, regardless of how much they have achieved on earth.

(Ps 49:17) For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.

(Ps 49:19) He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.

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