Psalm 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:
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(1) Hear this.—For the opening address, comp. Deuteronomy 32:1; Micah 1:2; Psalm 50:7; Isaiah 1:2.

World.—As in Psalm 17:14; properly, duration. (Comp. our expression, “the things of time.”)

Psalm 49:1-2. Hear this, all ye people — Hebrew, all people, Jews or Gentiles: for this doctrine is not peculiar to those that are blessed with divine revelation; but even the light of nature bears witness to it, and all the inhabitants of the world are concerned in it. All men may know, and therefore let all men consider, that their riches will not profit them in the day of death. Both low and high, rich and poor together — Whether you be men of obscure birth and meaner rank, or persons nobly descended, and in great authority; whether you abound in wealth, or are of the poorer class, you are all alike concerned to attend to my instruction.

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?Hear this, all ye people - That is, What I am about; to utter is worthy of universal attention; it pertains equally to all mankind. The psalmist; therefore calls on all the nations to attend to what he is about to say. Compare the notes at Isaiah 1:2.

Give ear - Incline your ear; attend. Compare the notes at Psalm 17:6. See also Isaiah 37:17; Isaiah 55:3; Daniel 9:18; Proverbs 2:2.

All ye inhabitants of the world - The truth to be declared does not pertain exclusively to any one nation, or any one class of people. All are interested in it. The term here rendered "world" - חלד cheled, - means properly "duration of life, lifetime;" then, "life, time, age;" and then it comes to denote the world, considered as made up of the living, or the passing generations.


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.

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.

Psalm 49:1

"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."

Psalm 49:2

"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.

Psalm 49:3

"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.

Psalm 49:4

"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. THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm is penned upon the same occasion with Psalm 39 Psa 73, to wit, upon the contemplation of the afflictions of God’s people and of the prosperity and glory of ungodly men The design is to justify God’s providence in this dark dispensation, and to show that, all things being considered, good men have no cause for immoderate dejection of spirit, nor wicked men for glorying in their present felicities.

The psalmist having stirred up all men to attention, Psalm 49:1-5, showeth their vain trust in riches, Psalm 49:6-14; and the contrary trust of the faithful in God, Psalm 49:15; exhorteth them not to fear the prosperity of the wicked, for it cannot deliver him from the grave, Psalm 49:16-20.

All ye people, Heb. all people; Jews or Gentiles; for all are concerned in this matter, as being apt to stumble and murmur at it.

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.

<> Hear {a} this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:

(a) He will intreat how God governs the world by his providence which cannot be perceived by the judgment of the flesh.

1. all ye people] Rather, all ye peoples, as in Psalm 47:1. All peoples, all the inhabitants of the world, are summoned to listen, for the theme is one of universal interest; it concerns all humanity. It is characteristic of the ‘Wisdom’ or religious philosophy of Israel to view the problems of life in their wider aspect. It treats of man as man, not of Israel as the chosen people. The first line recalls the opening words of Micah’s prophecy (Micah 1:2), and the words of his older namesake (1 Kings 22:28). For the form of the verse cp. Elihu’s words (Job 34:2).

the world] A peculiar word, found in this sense only in Psalm 17:14. It denotes the lapse of time, the fleeting age, the world as uncertain and transitory.

1–4. A solemn introduction, addressed to men of every nation and every class, emphasising the importance of the Psalmist’s theme.

Psalm 49:1(Heb.: 49:2-5) Introduction. Very similarly do the elder (in the reign of Jehoshaphat) and the younger Micha (Micah) introduce their prophecies (1 Kings 22:28; Micah 1:2); and Elihu in the Book of Job his didactic discourses (Psalm 34:2, cf. Psalm 33:2). It is an universal theme which the poet intends to take up, hence he calls upon all peoples and all the inhabitants of the חלד. Such is the word first of all for this temporal life, which glides by unnoticed, them for the present transitory world itself (vid., on Psalm 17:14). It is his intention to declare to the rich the utter nothingness or vanity of their false ground of hope, and to the poor the superiority of their true ground of hope; hence he wishes to have as hearers both בני אדם, children of the common people, who are men and have otherwise nothing distinctive about them, and בּני־אישׁ, children of men, i.e., of rank and distinction (vid., on Psalm 4:3) - rich and poor, as he adds to make his meaning more clear. For his mouth will, or shall, utter הכמות, not: all sorts of wise teachings, but: weighty wisdom. Just in like manner תּבוּנות signifies profound insight or understanding; cf. plurals like בּינות, Isaiah 27:11, ישּׁוּעת, Psalm 42:12 and frequently, שׁלוּת, Jeremiah 22:21. The parallel word תּבוּנות in the passage before us, and the plural predicate in Proverbs 24:7, show that חכמות, here and in Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 9:1, cf. Psalm 14:1, is not to be regarded, with Hitzig, Olshausen, and others, as another form of the singular חכמוּת. Side by side with the speaking of the mouth stands חגוּת לב (with an unchangeable Kametz before the tone-syllable, Ew. 166, c): the meditation (lxx μελέτη) of the heart, and in accordance therewith the well-thought-out discourse. What he intends to discourse is, however, not the creation of his own brain, but what he has received. A משׁל, a saying embodying the wisdom of practical life, as God teaches men it, presents itself to his mind demanding to be heard; and to this he inclines his ear in order that, from being a diligent scholar of the wisdom from above, he may become a useful teacher of men, inasmuch as he opens up, i.e., unravels, the divine Mashal, which in the depth and fulness of its contents is a חידה, i.e., an involved riddle (from חוּד, cogn. אגד, עקד), and plays the cithern thereby (ב of the accompaniment). The opening of the riddle does not consist in the solving of it, but in the setting of it forth. פּתח, to open equals to propound, deliver of a discourse, comes from the phrase את־ּפּיו-פּתח, Proverbs 31:26; cf. Psalm 119:130, where פּתח, an opening, is equivalent to an unlocking, a revelation.
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