|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
49:1-5 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?
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Hear this,.... Not the law, as some Jewish writers (l) interpret it, which was not desirable to be heard by those that did hear it; it being a voice of wrath and terror, a cursing law, and a ministration of condemnation and death; but rather , "this news", as the Targum; the good news of the Gospel; the word of "this" salvation; the voice from heaven; the word not spoken by angels, but by the Lord himself: or , "this wisdom", as Kimchi interprets it; which the psalmist was about to speak of, Psalm 49:3; also the parable and dark saying he should attend unto and open, Psalm 49:4; and indeed it may take in the whole subject matter of the psalm;
all ye people: not the people of Israel only, but all the people of the world, as appears from the following clause; whence it is evident that this psalm belongs to Gospel times; in which the middle wall of partition is broken down, and there is no difference of people; God is the God both of Jews and Gentiles; Christ is the Saviour and Redeemer of one as well as of the other; the Spirit of God has been poured out upon the latter; the Gospel has been sent into all the world, and all are called upon to hear it;
give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world, or "of time"; so the word is rendered "age", the age of a man, Psalm 39:5. The inhabitants of this world are but for a time; wherefore Ben Melech interprets the phrase by , "men of time", the inhabitants of time; it is peculiar to the most High to "inhabit eternity", Isaiah 57:15. Under the Gospel dispensation there is no distinction of places; the Gospel is not confined to the land of Judea; the sound of it is gone into all the world, and men may worship God, and offer incense to his name, in every place; and whoever fears him in any nation is accepted of him.
(l) Midrash Tillim in loc. Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 106. 2.
The Treasury of David
1 Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world;
2 Both low and high, rich and poor, together.
3 My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.
4 I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.
In these four verses the poet-prophet calls universal humanity to listen to his didactic hymn.
"Hear this, all ye people." All men are concerned in the subject, it is of them, and therefore to them that the Psalmist would speak. It is not a topic which men delight to consider, and therefore he who would instruct them must press them to give ear. Where, as in this case, the theme claims to be wisdom and understanding, attention is very properly demanded; and when the style combines the sententiousness of the proverb with the sweetness of poesy, interest is readily excited. "Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world." "He that hath ears to hear let him hear." Men dwelling in all climes are equally concerned in the subject, for the laws of providence are the same in all lands. It is wise for each one to feel I am a man, and therefore everything which concerns mortals has a personal interest to me. We must all appear before the judgment-seat, and therefore we all should give earnest heed to holy admonition which may help us to prepare for that dread event. He who refuses to receive instruction by the ear, will not be able to escape receiving destruction by it when the Judge shall say, "Depart, ye cursed."
"Both low and high, rich and poor, together." Sons of great men, and children of mean men, men of large estate, and ye who pine in poverty, ye are all bidden to hear the inspired minstrel as he touches his harp to a mournful but instructive lay. The low will be encouraged, the high will be warned, the rich will be sobered, the poor consoled, there will be a useful lesson for each if they are willing to learn it. Our preaching ought to have a voice for all classes, and all should have an ear for it. To suit our word to the rich alone is wicked sycophancy, and to aim only at pleasing the poor is to act the part of a demagogue. Truth may be so spoken as to command the ear of all, and wise men seek to learn that acceptable style. Rich and poor must soon meet together in the grave, they may well be content to meet together now. In the congregation of the dead all differences of rank will be obliterated, they ought not now to be obstructions to united instructions.
"My mouth shall speak of wisdom." Inspired and therefore lifted beyond himself, the prophet is not praising his own attainments, but extolling the divine Spirit which spoke in him. He knew that the Spirit of truth and wisdom spoke through him. He who is not sure that his matter is good has no right to ask a hearing. "And the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding." The same Spirit who made the ancient seers eloquent, also made them thoughtful. The help of the Holy Ghost was never meant to supersede the use of our own mental powers. The Holy Spirit does not make us speak as Balaam's ass, which merely uttered sounds, but never meditated; but he first leads us to consider and reflect, and then he gives us the tongue of fire to speak with power.
"I will incline mine ear to a parable." He who would have others hear, begins by hearing himself. As the minstrel leans his ear to his harp, so must the preacher give his whole soul to his ministry. The truth came to the Psalmist as a parable, and he endeavoured to unriddle it for popular use; he would not leave the truth in obscurity, but he listened to its voice till he so well understood it as to be able to interpret and translate it into the common language of the multitude. Still of necessity it would remain a problem, and a dark saying to the unenlightened many, but this would not be the songster's fault, for, saith he, "I will open my dark saying upon the harp." The writer was no mystic, delighting in deep and cloudy things, yet he was not afraid of the most profound topics; he tried to open the treasures of darkness, and to uplift pearls from the deep. To win attention he cast his proverbial philosophy into the form of song, and tuned his harp to the solemn tone of his subject. Let us gather round the minstrel of the King of kings, and hear the Psalm which erst was led by the chief musician, as the chorus of the sons of Korah lifted up their voices in the temple.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 49:1-20. This Psalm instructs and consoles. It teaches that earthly advantages are not reliable for permanent happiness, and that, however prosperous worldly men may be for a time, their ultimate destiny is ruin, while the pious are safe in God's care.
1-3. All are called to hear what interests all.
world—literally, "duration of life," the present time.
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