Psalm 49:12
Nevertheless man being in honor stays not: he is like the beasts that perish.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Abideth not.—This verse gives the kernel and the thought of, as it also serves as a refrain to, the poem, thus vindicating the claim of a lyric tone for this didactic psalm. The reading of the LXX. and Vulg. (“without understanding” instead of “abideth not”), which brings Psalm 49:12 into exact correspondence with Psalm 49:20, is unquestionably to be adopted. The present text could not really express permanence, the Hebrew verb meaning to lodge temporarily.

The next verse, too, is hardly intelligible, unless we read here—

“Man, though in honour, without understanding,

Is like the beasts; they perish.”

Psalm 49:12-13. Nevertheless — Notwithstanding all these fine fancies; man being in honour — Living in all the splendour and glory above mentioned; abideth not — Hebrew, בל ילין, bal jalin, shall not lodge for a night; his continuance in the world is as that of a traveller at an inn, who tarries but, or not even, for a night; “so that, if honour and wealth do not soon leave him, he must soon leave them; and, like the brutes around him, return to his earth, never more to be seen, and little more to be thought of.” All his dreams of perpetuating his name and estate shall be confuted by experience. For “families decay, and are extinguished, as well as individuals, and the world itself is to perish after the same example. That such beings, in such a place, should think of becoming glorious and immortal” is astonishing! — Horne. This their way — Their counsel and contrivance to immortalize their names; or, “their practice of labouring to acquire wealth and greatness, which can be of no service after death, and of endeavouring to perpetuate the possession of the most uncertain things in nature;” is their folly — Though to themselves, and many others, it seems to be wisdom, yet it is apparent madness and folly. Yet their posterity approve their sayings — “It is a folly which, like many others, is both blamed and imitated.” The word פיהם, pihem, translated, their sayings, is literally, their mouth; but is undoubtedly put for the counsels and suggestions which they give to their offspring concerning these matters; the mouth being often put for the words which come out of it.49:6-14 Here is a description of the spirit and way of worldly people. A man may have wealth, and may have his heart enlarged in love, thankfulness, and obedience, and may do good with it. Therefore it is not men's having riches that proves them to be worldly, but their setting their hearts upon them as the best things. Worldly men have only some floating thoughts of the things of God, while their fixed thoughts, their inward thoughts, are about the world; that lies nearest the heart. But with all their wealth they cannot save the life of the dearest friend they have. This looks further, to the eternal redemption to be wrought out by the Messiah. The redemption of the soul shall cost very dear; but, being once wrought, it shall never need to be repeated. And he, the Redeemer, shall rise again before he sees corruption, and then shall live for evermore, Re 1:18. This likewise shows the folly of worldly people, who sell their souls for that which will never buy them. With all their wealth they cannot secure themselves from the stroke of death. Yet one generation after another applaud their maxims; and the character of a fool, as drawn by heavenly Wisdom itself, Lu 12:16-21, continues to be followed even among professed Christians. Death will ask the proud sinner, Where is thy wealth, thy pomp? And in the morning of the resurrection, when all that sleep in the dust shall awake, the upright shall be advanced to the highest honour, when the wicked shall be filled with everlasting shame and contempt, Da 12:2. Let us now judge of things as they will appear in that day. The beauty of holiness is that alone which the grave cannot touch, or damage.Nevertheless, man being in honor abideth not - No matter to what rank he may rise, no matter how much wealth he may accumulate, no matter how fixed and secure he may seem to make his possessions, he cannot make them permanent and enduring. He must pass away and leave all this to others. The word rendered "abideth" - ילין yālı̂yn - means properly to pass the night; to remain over night; to lodge, as one does for a night; and the idea is, that he is not to lodge or remain permanently in that condition; or, more strictly, he will not lodge there even for a night; that is, he will soon pass away. It is possible that the Saviour had his eye on this passage in the parable of the rich fool, and especially in the declaration, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee," Luke 12:20.

He is like the beasts that perish - He is like the beasts; they perish. This does not mean that in all respects he is like them, but only in this respect, that he must die as they do; that he cannot by his wealth make himself immortal. He must pass away just as if he were an animal of the inferior creation, and had no power of accumulating wealth, or of laying plans that stretch into the future. The squirrel and the beaver - animals that "lay up" something, or that, like people, have the power of "accumulating," die just like other animals. So the rich "man." His intelligence, his high hopes, his far-reaching schemes, make no difference between him and his fellow-men and the brute in regard to death. They all die alike.

12. Contrasted with this vanity is their frailty. However honored, man

abideth not—literally, "lodgeth not," remains not till morning, but suddenly perishes as (wild) beasts, whose lives are taken without warning.

Notwithstanding all these fine fancies and devices

man being in honour, living in all the splendour and glory above mentioned,

abideth not. The Hebrew word properly signifies to lodge for a night, as Genesis 32:21 Judges 19:10; and thence to abide for a long or considerable time, as Psalm 25:13 55:7 Proverbs 15:31. All his dreams of perpetuating his name and estate shall vanish and be confuted by experience.

That perish, i.e. that are utterly lost and extinct. So he is in reference to all his wealth and honour, of which he here speaks. Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not,.... Or Adam: and some understand this of the first man Adam, who was created and crowned with glory and honour; but it did not abide with him, nor he in that: so some Jewish writers (y) interpret it. But whether the words will admit of this sense or not, the general view of the psalmist, which is to show the inconstancy and instability of worldly honour, may be exemplified in the case of the first man; he was in honour he was created after the image and likeness of God, and so was the glory of God, being his image; he was in friendship with God, as many instances show, and had dominion over all the creatures below; he had much knowledge of God, and communion with him, and was a pure, holy, and upright creature; but he continued not long in this state of honour and glory; "he lodged not a night" (z), as the words may be rendered; see Genesis 28:11; and as they are by some, who conclude from hence that Adam fell the same day in which he was created; and which is the sense of the above Jewish writers, who say, he was driven out of paradise the evening of that day; but though he might stand longer, and the word is sometimes used of a longer continuance; see Psalm 25:13; yet by the account in Genesis it looks as if he continued in his state of honour but a short time;

he is like the beasts that perish; becoming mortal in his body, and brutish and stupid in his understanding. Or, "he is like the beasts", "they perish", or "are cut off" (a); the word being in the plural number, which shows that not a single individual person is meant, but men in general; or, however, such of the sons of Adam that come to honour; these do not abide long in it, their honour is a very short lived one, sometimes it does not last their lives: they that are in high places are in slippery ones, and are often cast down from the pinnacle of honour in a moment; and if their glory does abide with them throughout the day of life, yet it shall not lodge with them in the night of the grave; thither their glory shall not descend after them, Psalm 49:17; and when they die, they perish like the beasts; as they are like them in life, stupid, brutish, and ignorant, so in death; as the beast dies, so do they, Ecclesiastes 3:19; as the one dies without any thought of or preparation for death, so do the other; as the one carries nothing along with it, so neither do the other: as beasts that die of themselves, for such are here meant, as Junius well observes, are good for nothing but to be cast into the ditch; so are wicked men, notwithstanding all their riches and honours; yea, it is worse with them than with the beasts, since after death comes judgment, and after that the second death, the wrath of God.

(y) Bereshit Rabba, s. 11. fol. 9. 1. 2. Pirke Eliezer, c. 19. (z) "non pernoctabit", Montanus, Amama; so Ainsworth. (a) "excisi sunt", Montanus.

Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the {h} beasts that perish.

(h) Concerning the death of the body.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. If we retain the reading of the Massoretic Text in Psalm 49:11, we may render with R.V., But man abideth not in honour.

If the reading graves is adopted, Psalm 49:12 sums up the picture:

So man in splendour hath no continuance.

However imposing may be man’s magnificence, it must come to an end. The LXX and Syr. read here, as in Psalm 49:20, Man being in honour understandeth not. But refrains are not always identical in form, and the difference in the Heb. text is significant.

that perish] Or, are cut off, a different word from that in Psalm 49:10.Verse 12. - Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not. Against these" inward thoughts" and outward actions, the psalmist simply maintains the ground already taken (ver. 10): "Man, in whatever honour he may be, abideth not" - has but a short time to live. He is like the beasts that perish. He has no more continuance than many of the beasts; like them, he passes from earth. (Heb.: 49:6-13) First division of the sermon. Those who have to endure suffering from rich sinners have no need to fear, for the might and splendour of their oppressors is hastening towards destruction. ימי רע are days in which one experiences evil, as in Psalm 94:13, cf. Amos 6:3. The genitive r` is continued in Amos 6:6 in a clause that is subordinate to the בימי of Psalm 49:6 (cf. 1 Samuel 25:15; Job 29:2; Psalm 90:15). The poet calls his crafty and malicious foes עקבי. There is no necessity for reading עקבי as Bttcher does, since without doubt a participial noun עקב, supplantator, can be formed from עקב, supplantare; and although in its branchings out it coincides with עקב, planta, its meaning is made secure by the connection. To render the passage: "when wickedness surrounds me about my heels," whether with or without changing עון into עון (Hupfeld, von Ortenberg), is proved on all sides to be inadmissible: it ought to have been עול instead of עון; but even then it would still be an awkward expression, "to surround any one's heels,"

(Note: This might be avoided if it were possible for עון עקבי to mean "the sin that follows my heels, that follows me at the heels;" but apart from עון being unsuitable with this interpretation, an impossible meaning is thereby extorted from the genitive construction. This, however, is perhaps what is meant by the expression of the lxx, ἡ ἀνομία τῆς πτέρνης μου, so much spoken of in the Greek Church down to the present day.)

and the הבּטחים, which follows, would be unconnected with what precedes. This last word comes after עקבי, giving minuteness to the description, and is then continued quite regularly in Psalm 49:7 by the finite verb. Up to this point all is clear enough; but now the difficulties accumulate. One naturally expects the thought, that the rich man is not able to redeem himself from death. Instead of this it is said, that no man is able to redeem another from death. Ewald, Bttcher, and others, therefore, take אח, as in Ezekiel 18:10; Ezekiel 21:20 (vid., Hitzig), to be a careless form of writing for אך, and change יפדּה into the reflexive יפּדה; but the thought that is sought thus to be brought to is only then arrived at with great difficulty: the words ought to be אך אישׁ לא יפדּה נפשׁו. The words as they stand assert: a brother (אח, as a prominently placed object, with Rebia magnum, equals אהיו, cf. Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 18:18; Micah 7:6; Malachi 1:6) can a man by no means redeem, i.e., men cannot redeem one another. Hengstenberg and Hitzig find the thought that is to be expected in Psalm 49:8: the rich ungodly man can with all his riches not even redeem another (אח), much less then can he redeem himself, offer a כּפר for himself. But if the poet meant to be so understood, he must have written ולא and כּפר נפשׁו. Psalm 49:8 and Psalm 49:8 bear no appearance of referring to different persons; the second clause is, on the contrary, the necessary supplement of the first: Among men certainly it is possible under some circumstances for one who is delivered over to death to be freed by money, but no כּפר ( equals פּדיון נפשׁ, Exodus 21:30 and frequently) can be given to God (לאלהים).

All idea of the thought one would most naturally look for must therefore be given up, so far as it can be made clear why the poet has given no direct expression to it. And this can be done. The thought of a man's redeeming himself is far from the poet's mind; and the contrast which he has before his mind is this: no man can redeem another, Elohim only can redeem man. That one of his fellow-men cannot redeem a man, is expressed as strongly as possible by the words לא־פדה יפדּה; the negative in other instances stands after the intensive infinitive, but here, as in Genesis 3:4; Amos 9:8; Isaiah 28:28, before it. By an easy flight of irony, Psalm 49:9 says that the lu'tron which is required to be paid for the souls of men is too precious, i.e., exorbitant, or such as cannot be found, and that he (whoever might wish to lay it down) lets it alone (is obliged to let it alone) for ever Thus much is clear enough, so far as the language is concerned (וחדל according to the consec. temp. equals ויחדּל), and, although somewhat fully expressed, is perfectly in accordance with the connection. But how is Psalm 49:10 attached to what precedes? Hengstenberg renders it, "he must for ever give it up, that he should live continually and not see the grave." But according to the syntax, ויהי cannot be attached to וחדל, but only to the futures in Psalm 49:8, ranking with which the voluntative ויחי, ut vivat (Ew. 347, a). Thus, therefore, nothing remains but to take Psalm 49:9 (which von Ortenberg expunges as a gloss upon Psalm 49:8) as a parenthesis; the principal clause affirms that no man can give to God a ransom that shall protect another against death, so that this other should still continue (עוד) to live, and that without end (לנצח), without seeing the grave, i.e., without being obliged to go down into the grave. The כּי in Psalm 49:11 is now confirmatory of what is denied by its opposite; it is, therefore, according to the sense, imo (cf. 1 Kings 21:15): ...that he may not see the grave - no indeed, without being able to interpose and alter it, he must see how all men, without distinction, succumb to death. Designedly the word used of the death of wise men is מוּת, and of the death of the fool and the stupid man, אבד. Kurtz renders: "together with the fool and the slow of understanding;"; but יחד as a proposition cannot be supported; moreover, ועזבוּ would then have "the wise" as its subject, which is surely not the intention of the poet. Everything without distinction, and in mingled confusion, falls a prey to death; the rich man must see it, and yet he is at the same time possessed by the foolish delusion that he, with his wealth, is immortal.

The reading קברם (lxx, Targ., Syr.), preferred by Ewald, and the conjecture קברם, adopted by Olshausen and Riehm, give a thought that is not altogether contrary to the connection, viz., the narrow grave is the eternal habitation of those who called broad lands their own; but this thought appears here, in view of Psalm 49:12, too early. קרב denotes the inward part, or that which is within, described according to that which encircles or contains it: that which is within them is, "their houses (pronounce bāttēmo) are for ever" (Hengstenberg, Hitzig); i.e., the contents of their inward part is the self-delusion that their houses are everlasting, and their habitations so durable that one generation after another will pass over them; cf. the similar style of expression in Psalm 10:4, Esther 5:7. Hitzig further renders: men celebrate their names in the lands; קרא בשׁם, to call with a name equals solemnly to proclaim it, to mention any one's name with honour (Isaiah 44:5). But it is unlikely that the subject of קראוּ should now again be any other than the rich men themselves; and עלי אדמות for בּכל־הארץ or בּארצות is contrary to the usage of the language. אדמה is the earth as tillage, אדמות (only in this passage) in this connection, fields, estates, lands; the proclaiming of names is, according to 2 Samuel 12:28; 1 Kings 8:43; Amos 9:12, equivalent to the calling of the lands or estates after their (the possessors') names (Bצttcher, Hupfeld, Kurtz). The idea of the rich is, their houses and dwelling-places (and they themselves who have grown up together with them) are of eternal duration; accordingly they solemnly give their own names to their lands, as being the names of immortals. But, adds the poet, man בּיקר, in the pomp of his riches and outward show, abideth not (non pernoctat equals non permanet). ביקר is the complement of the subject, although it logically (cf. Psalm 45:13) also belongs to בּל־ילין. Bttcher has shown the impropriety of reading בּל־יבין here according to Psalm 49:20. There are other instances also of refrains that are not exact repetitions; and this correction is moreover at once overthrown by the fact that בל will not suit יבין, it would stamp each man of rank, as such, as one deficient in intelligence. On the other hand, this emotional negative בל is admirably suitable to ילין: no indeed, he has no abiding. He is compared (נמשׁל like the New Testament ὡμοιώθη), of like kind and lot, to cattle (כּ as in Job 30:19). נדמוּ is an attributive clause to כּבּהמות: like heads of cattle which are cut off or destroyed. The verb is so chosen that it is appropriate at the same time to men who are likened to the beasts (Hosea 10:7, Hosea 10:15, Obadiah 1:5, Isaiah 6:5).

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