Psalm 49:15
But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.
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(15) But God will.—Better, But God shall redeem my life from the hand of sheol when it seizes me. Taken by itself, this statement might only imply that when just at the point of death, the Divine favour would draw him back and rescue him. But taken with the rendering given above to the previous verse, we must see here the dim foreshadowing of a better hope, that death did not altogether break the covenant bond between Jehovah and His people, a hope to which, through the later psalms and the book of Job, we see the Hebrew mind feeling its way. (Comp. Psalm 16:10; and see Note to Psalm 6:5.)

Psalm 49:15. But God will redeem my soul — Though no man can find out a ransom to redeem himself or his brother, yet God can and will redeem me; from the power of the grave — Or, shall preserve me from the power of hell. The grave shall not have power to retain me, but shall be forced to give me up into my Father’s hands; and hell shall have no power to seize upon me. For he shall receive me — Hebrew, יקחני, jikacheeni, shall take me, out of this vain, mortal, and miserable life, unto himself, or into heaven, as this phrase is used Genesis 5:24; Psalm 73:24; Acts 7:59.

49:15-20 Believers should not fear death. The distinction of men's outward conditions, how great soever in life, makes none at death; but the difference of men's spiritual states, though in this life it may seem of small account, yet at and after death is very great. The soul is often put for the life. The God of life, who was its Creator at first, can and will be its Redeemer at last. It includes the salvation of the soul from eternal ruin. Believers will be under strong temptation to envy the prosperity of sinners. Men will praise thee, and cry thee up, as having done well for thyself in raising an estate and family. But what will it avail to be approved of men, if God condemn us? Those that are rich in the graces and comforts of the Spirit, have something of which death cannot strip them, nay, which death will improve; but as for worldly possessions, as we brought nothing into the world, so it is certain that we shall carry nothing out; we must leave all to others. The sum of the whole matter is, that it can profit a man nothing to gain the whole world, to become possessed of all its wealth and all its power, if he lose his own soul, and is cast away for want of that holy and heavenly wisdom which distinguishes man from the brutes, in his life and at his death. And are there men who can prefer the lot of the rich sinner to that of poor Lazarus, in life and death, and to eternity? Assuredly there are. What need then we have of the teaching of the Holy Ghost; when, with all our boasted powers, we are prone to such folly in the most important of all concerns!But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave - literally, "from the hand of Sheol;" that is, from the dominion of death. The hand is an emblem of power, and it here means that death or Sheol holds the dominion over all those who are in the grave. The control is absolute and unlimited. The grave or Sheol is here personified as if reigning there, or setting up an empire there. Compare the notes at Isaiah 14:9. On the word "redeem," see the references in the notes at Psalm 49:7.

For he shall receive me - literally, "he shall take me." That is, either, He will take me from the grave; or, He will take me "to" himself. The general idea is, that God would take hold of him, and save him from the dominion of the grave; from that power which death exercises over the dead. This would either mean that he would be preserved from going down to the grave and returning to corruption there; or, that he would hereafter be rescued from the power of the grave in a sense which would not apply in respect to the rich man. The former evidently cannot be the idea, since the psalmist could not hope to escape death; yet there might be a hope that the dominion of death would not be permanent and enduring, or that there would be a future life, a resurrection from the grave. It seems to me, therefore, that this passage, like the expression in Psalm 49:14, "in the morning," and the passages referred to in the notes at that verse, is founded on the belief that death is not the end of a good man, but that he will rise again, and live in a higher and better state. It was this consideration which gave such comfort to the psalmist in contemplating the whole subject; and the idea, thus illustrated, is substantially the same as that stated by the Saviour in Matthew 10:28, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul."

15. The pious, delivered from "the power of the grave."

power—literally, "the hand," of death, are taken under God's care.

Though no man can find out a ransom to redeem himself or his brother, yet God can and will redeem me.

My soul; either properly; or myself or life; for all comes to one.

Of the grave; or, of hell; for he speaks of that sheol in which the wicked are left. The grave shall not have power to retain me, but shall be forced to give me up into my Father’s hands; and hell shall have no power to seize upon me.

He shall receive me, or take me, out of this vain, mortal, and miserable life, unto himself, or into heaven, as this phrase is used, Genesis 5:24 Psalm 73:24 Acts 7:59.

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave,.... The psalmist expresses his faith, that though he should die, and for a while be under the power of the grave, yet he should be redeemed from it in the resurrection; which to the saints will be "the day of redemption", Ephesians 4:30; their bodies then will be redeemed from mortality, weakness, corruption, and dishonour, which attend them now, and in the grave; and which will, be in consequence of the redemption both of their souls and bodies, through the blood of Christ; see Hosea 13:14; or the words may be rendered, "but God will redeem my soul from the power of hell"; and so the Targum,

"David said by the spirit of prophecy, but God will redeem my soul from the judgment of hell;''

that is, will keep and preserve from the second death, from being hurt by it, or from its having any power over him; and Christ, who is the Redeemer of his people, and who, being God over, all, is an able and mighty one, has redeemed the souls of his from wrath to come, hell, or the second death, by destroying sin, the cause of it, by satisfying the law, the administration of it, and by abolishing death itself; all which he has done by giving himself a ransom price for them, whereby he has procured the redemption which rich men, with all their gold and silver, could never obtain for themselves or others. The reason why the psalmist believed Christ would do this for him, follows;

for he shall receive me. Or, "for he hath received me" (i); into his arms of love, into his grace and favour; which he does openly at conversion, and in the effectual calling; men being drawn to Christ by the cords of love, come to him, and are received by him, who casts none out; and the argument from hence is very strong, that such whom Christ receives by his grace, he will redeem from the grave, or raise at the last day to the resurrection of life: or, "for he will receive me"; as he does the souls of his people to glory at death, when, during their separate state, they will be happy with him, and takes their bodies into his care and custody; from whence it may be strongly concluded he will raise them up again at the resurrection morn, and then will receive them soul and body to himself, and present them to his Father, and introduce them into his kingdom and glory; wherefore, as in Psalm 49:5, the good man has no reason to fear anything in the day of evil; for when it goes ever so ill with others, it is well with him. The Targum in the king's Bible is,

"he will lead me into his part or portion in the world to come.''

Selah; on this word; see Gill on Psalm 3:2.

(i) "suscepit me", Tigurine version, Vatablus, Musculus, Gejerus.

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.
15. While the wicked become the prey of Sheol, the Psalmist is delivered from its power. But in what sense? In this life, or after death? A careful study of the context and of similar phrases elsewhere seems to shew that the Psalmist looks with confidence for deliverance from the premature and penal death of the wicked, but does not anticipate escape from death or express his belief in a resurrection. The verse corresponds to Psalm 49:7-8. While wealth is powerless to avert death, God can and will deliver His servant. Similar phrases are constantly used of deliverance from imminent peril of death. Cp. Psalm 30:3; Psalm 33:18 f.; Psalm 86:13; Psalm 103:4; Psalm 138:7; and particularly Psalm 89:48; Job 33:22 ff.; Hosea 13:14; see also Psalm 16:10, and note there. For he shall receive me is to be explained by the use of the same word in Psalm 18:16 (A.V. he took me): He will take hold of me and deliver me. It is possible that the verse should be divided thus: But God will redeem my life [soul]: out of the grasp of Sheol will he surely take me.

Delitzsch indeed thinks that he shall receive me contains an allusion to the history of Enoch (Genesis 5:24), where the same word is used, “He was not; for God took him.” He holds that in a moment of lofty aspiration the Psalmist expresses a bold hope that he may escape death, and be taken directly into the presence of God. But this interpretation is improbable: it does not appear that he, any more than the author of Psalms 89, anticipates that any mortal man can finally escape death.

Many commentators find in the passage “the strong hope of eternal life with God, if not the hope of a resurrection.” But the context and the parallel passages lead to a different conclusion. Certainly the doctrine of a future life was not to the Psalmist a revealed certainty to which he could appeal for a solution of the enigmas of life which were perplexing him. Probably, as has been said before on Psalms 16, the truth is that the antithesis in the Psalmist’s mind is not between life here and life hereafter (as we speak), but between life with and life without God; and for the moment, in the consciousness of the blessedness of fellowship with God, death fades from his view. The rich man’s wealth, which he is tempted to envy, cannot buy from God one moment’s prolongation of life; nay, the wicked are doomed to a premature and miserable death: while the Psalmist rejoices in the assured protection and fellowship of God.

But whatever may have been the extent or the limitation of the Psalmist’s view, his words contain the germ and principle of the doctrine of the Resurrection; and for ourselves, as we use them, they will bear the fuller meaning with which they have been illuminated by Christ’s Resurrection.

Verse 15. - But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave. Here is the solution of the "dark saying," the key to the" parable." The souls of the righteous will be redeemed, not by themselves, but by God - they will be delivered "from the power of the grave," or rather of Hades; and, while the ungodly are held under by death and the grave (ver. 14), they will be released, and enter upon a higher life. For he shall receive me. As God "took Enoch," when he "was not" (Genesis 4:24) - took him to be with himself - so he will "receive" every righteous soul, and take it home, and give it rest and peace in his own dwelling-place. As Professor Cheyne observes, "It is the weakest of explanations to say that the psalmist rejoices thus in the prospect of mere deliverance from the danger of death. A few years later, and the prospect will return in a heightened form." The fact is that "the poet has that religious intuition which forms the kernel of the hope of immortality." At the same time, we may admit, as Hupfeld argues, that the belief in immortality is "not here stated as a revealed doctrine, but as a presentiment, a deep inward conviction, inseparable from real living faith in a living God." Psalm 49:15(Heb.: 49:14-21) Second part of the discourse, of equal compass with the first. Those who are thought to be immortal are laid low in Hades; whilst, on the other hand, those who cleave to God can hope to be redeemed by Him out of Hades. Olshausen complains on this passage that the expression is abrupt, rugged, and in part altogether obscure. The fault, however, lies not, as he thinks, in a serious corruption of the text, but in the style, designedly adopted, of Psalms like this of a gloomy turn. זה דרכּם refers back to Psalm 49:13, which is the proper mashal of the Psalm: this is their way or walk (דּרך as in Psalm 37:5, cf. Haggai 1:5). Close upon this follows כּסל למו (their way), of those (cf. Psalm 69:4) who possess self-confidence; כּסל signifies confidence both in a good and bad sense, self-confidence, impudence, and even (Ecclesiastes 7:25) in general, folly. The attributive clause is continued in Psalm 49:14: and of those who after them (i.e., when they have spoken, as Hitzig takes it), or in a more universal sense: after or behind them (i.e., treading in their footsteps), have pleasure in their mouth, i.e., their haughty, insolent, rash words (cf. Judges 9:38). If the meaning were "and after them go those who," etc., then one would expect to find a verb in connection with אחריהם (cf. Job 21:33). As a collateral definition, "after them equals after their death," it would, however, without any reason, exclude the idea of the assent given by their contemporaries. It is therefore to be explained according to Job 29:22, or more universally according to Deuteronomy 12:30. It may seem remarkable that the music here strikes in forte; but music can on its part, in mournfully shrill tones, also bewail the folly of the world.

Psalm 49:14, so full of eschatological meaning, now describes what becomes of the departed. The subject of שׁתּוּ (as in Psalm 73:9, where it is Milra, for שׁתוּ) is not, as perhaps in the case of ἀπαιτοῦσιν, Luke 12:20, higher powers that are not named; but שׁוּת (here שׁתת), as in Psalm 3:7, Hosea 6:11; Isaiah 22:7, is used in a semi-passive sense: like a herd of sheep they lay themselves down or they are made to lie down לשׁאול (thus it is pointed by Ben-Asher; whereas Ben-Naphtali points לשׁאול, with a silent Sheb), to Hades equals down into Hades (cf. Psalm 88:7), so that they are shut up in it like sheep in their fold. And who is the shepherd there who rules these sheep with his rod? מות ירעם. Not the good Shepherd (Psalm 23:1), whose pasture is the land of the living, but Death, into whose power they have fallen irrecoverably, shall pasture them. Death is personified, as in Job 18:14, as the king of terrors. The modus consecutivus, ויּרדּוּ, now expresses the fact that will be realized in the future, which is the reverse side of that other fact. After the night of affliction has swiftly passed away, there breaks forth, for the upright, a morning; and in this morning they find themselves to be lords over these their oppressors, like conquerors, who put their feet upon the necks of the vanquished (the lxx well renders it by κατακυριεύσουσιν). Thus shall it be with the upright, whilst the rich at their feet beneath, in the ground, are utterly destroyed. לבּקר has Rebia magnum, ישׁרים has Asla-Legarme; accordingly the former word does not belong to what follows (in the morning, then vanishes...), but to what precedes. צוּר or ציר (as in Isaiah 45:16) signifies a form or image, just as צוּרה (Arab. tsûrat) is generally used; properly, that which is pressed in or pressed out, i.e., primarily something moulded or fashioned by the pressure of the hand (as in the case of the potter, יצר) or by means of some instrument that impresses and cuts the material. Here the word is used to denote materiality or corporeity, including the whole outward appearance (φαντασία, Acts 25:23). The לו which refers to this, shows that וצוּרם is not a contraction of וצוּרתם (vid., on Psalm 27:5). Their materiality, their whole outward form belonging to this present state of being, becomes (falls away) לבלּות שׁאול. The Lamed is used in the same way as in היה לבער, Isaiah 6:13; and שׁאול is subject, like, e.g., the noun that follows the infinitive in Psalm 68:19; Job 34:22. The same idea is obtained if it is rendered: and their form Hades is ready to consume (consumturus est); but the order of the words, though not making this rendering impossible (cf. Psalm 32:9, so far as עדיו there means "its cheek"), is, however, less favourable to it (cf. Proverbs 19:8; Esther 3:11). בּלּה was the most appropriate word for the slow, but sure and entire, consuming away (Job 13:28) of the dead body which is gnawed or destroyed in the grave, this gate of the lower world. To this is added מזּבל לו as a negative definition of the effect: so that there no longer remains to it, i.e., to the pompous external nature of the ungodly, any dwelling-place, and in general any place whatever; for whatever they had in and about themselves is destroyed, so that they wander to and fro as bare shadows in the dreary waste of Hades. To them, who thought to have built houses for eternity and called great districts of country after their own names, there remains no longer any זבל of this corporeal nature, inasmuch as Hades gradually and surely destroys it; it is for ever freed from its solid and dazzling shell, it wastes away lonesome in the grave, it perishes leaving no trace behind. Hupfeld's interpretation is substantially the same, and that of Jerome even is similar: et figura eorum conteretur in infero post habitaculum suum; and Symmachus: τὸ δὲ κρατερὸν αὐτῶν παλαιώσει ᾴδης ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκήσεως τῆς ἐντίμου αὐτῶν.

Other expositors, it is true, solve the riddle of the half-verse in a totally different way. Mendelssohn refers צוּרם to the upright: whose being lasts longer than the grave (survives it), hence it cannot be a habitation (eternal dwelling) to it; and adds, "the poet could not speak more clearly of the resurrection (immortality)."

(Note: In the fragments of a commentary to his translation of Psalms, contributed by David Friedlnder.)

A modern Jewish Christian, Isr. Pick, looked upon in Jerusalem as dead, sees here a prediction of the breaking through of the realm of the dead by the risen One: "Their Rock is there, to break through the realm of the dead, that it may no longer serve Him as an abode."

(Note: In a fugitive paper of the so-called Amen Congregation, which noo unhappily exists no longer, in Mnchen-Gladbach.)

Von Hofmann's interpretation (last of all in his Schriftbeweis ii. 2, 499, 2nd edition) lays claim to a more detailed consideration, because it has been sought to maintain it against all objections. By the morning he understands the end of the state or condition of death both of the righteous and of the ungodly. "In the state of death have they both alike found themselves: but now the dominion of death is at an end, and the dominion of the righteous beings." But those who have, according to Psalm 49:15, died are only the ungodly, not the righteous as well. Hofmann then goes on to explain: their bodily form succumbs to the destruction of the lower world, so that it no longer has any abode; which is said to convey the thought, that the ungodly, "by means of the destruction of the lower world, to which their corporeal nature in common with themselves becomes subject, lose its last gloomy abode, but thereby lose their corporeal nature itself, which has now no longer any continuance:" "their existence becomes henceforth one absolutely devoid of possessions and of space, ["the exact opposite of the time when they possessed houses built for eternity, and broad tracts of country bore their name."] But even according to the teaching of the Old Testament concerning the last things, in the period after the Exile, the resurrection includes the righteous and the unrighteous (Daniel 12:2); and according to the teaching of the New Testament, the damned, after Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire, receive another זבול, viz., Gehenna, which stands in just the same relation to Hades as the transformed world does to the old heavens and the old earth. The thought discovered in Psalm 49:15, therefore, will not bear being put to the proof. There is, however, this further consideration, that nothing whatever is known in any other part of the Old Testament of such a destruction of Shel; and לבלּות found in the Psalm before us would be a most inappropriate word to express it, instead of which it ought to have been לכלּות; for the figurative language in Psalm 102:27; Isaiah 51:6, is worthless as a justification of this word, which signifies a gradual wearing out and using up or consuming, and must not, in opposition to the usage of the language, be explained according to עב and בּלי. For this reason we refrain from making this passage a locus classicus in favour of an eschatological conception which cannot be supported by any other passage in the Old Testament. On the other side, however, the meaning of לבּקר is limited if it be understood only of the morning which dawns upon the righteous one after the night of affliction, as Kurtz does. What is, in fact, meant is a morning which not merely for individuals, but for all the upright, will be the end of oppression and the dawn of dominion: the ungodly are totally destroyed, and they (the upright) now triumph above their graves. In these words is expressed, in the manner of the Old Testament, the end of all time. Even according to Old Testament conception human history closes with the victory of good over evil. So far Psalm 49:15 is really a "riddle" of the last great day; expressed in New Testament language, of the resurrection morn, in which οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσι (1 Corinthians 6:2).

With אך, in Psalm 49:16 (used here adversatively, as e.g., in Job 13:15, and as אכן is more frequently used), the poet contrasts the totally different lot that awaits him with the lot of the rich who are satisfied in themselves and unmindful of God. אך belongs logically to נפשׁי, but (as is moreover frequently the case with רק, גּם, and אף) is, notwithstanding this relation to the following member of the sentence, placed at the head of the sentence: yet Elohim will redeem my soul out of the hand of Shel (Psalm 89:49; Hosea 13:14). In what sense the poet means this redemption to be understood is shown by the allusion to the history of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) contained in כּי יקּחני. Bttcher shrewdly remarks, that this line of the verse is all the more expressive by reason of its relative shortness. Its meaning cannot be: He will take me under His protection; for לקח does not mean this. The true parallels are Psalm 73:24, Genesis 5:24. The removals of Enoch and Elijah were, as it were, fingerposts which pointed forward beyond the cheerless idea they possessed of the way of all men, into the depth of Hades. Glancing at these, the poet, who here speaks in the name of all upright sufferers, gives expression to the hope, that God will wrest him out of the power of Sheפl and take him to Himself. It is a hope that possesses not direct word of God upon which it could rest; it is not until later on that it receives the support of divine promise, and is for the present only a "bold flight" of faith. Now can we, for this very reason, attempt to define in what way the poet conceived of this redemption and this taking to Himself. In this matter he himself has no fully developed knowledge; the substance of his hope is only a dim inkling of what may be. This dimness that is only gradually lighted up, which lies over the last things in the Old Testament, is the result of a divine plan of education, in accordance with which the hope of eternal life was gradually to mature, and to be born as it were out of this wrestling faith itself. This faith is expressed in Psalm 49:16; and the music accompanies his confidence in cheerful and rejoicing strains.

After this, in Psalm 49:17, there is a return from the lyric strain to the gnomic and didactic. It must not, with Mendelssohn, be rendered: let it (my soul) not be afraid; but, since the psalmist begins after the manner of a discourse: fear thou not. The increasing כבוד, i.e., might, abundance, and outward show (all these combined, from כּבד, grave esse), of the prosperous oppressor is not to make the saint afraid: he must after all die, and cannot take hence with him הכּל, the all equals anything whatever (cf. לכּל, for anything whatever, Jeremiah 13:7). כּי, Psalm 49:17, like ἐάν, puts a supposable case; כּי, Psalm 49:18, is confirmatory; and כּי, Psalm 49:19, is concessive, in the sense of גּם־כּי, according to Ew. 362, b: even though he blessed his soul during his life, i.e., called it fortunate, and flattered it by cherished voluptuousness (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18, התבּרך בּנפשׁו, and the soliloquy of the rich man in Luke 12:19), and though they praise thee, O rich man, because thou dost enjoy thyself (Luke 16:25), wishing themselves equally fortunate, still it (the soul of such an one) will be obliged to come or pass עד־דּור אבותיו. There is no necessity for taking the noun דּור here in the rare signification dwelling (Arabic dâr, synonym of Menzı̂l), and it appears the most natural way to supply נפשׁו as the subject to תּבוא (Hofmann, Kurtz, and others), seeing that one would expect to find אבותיך in the case of תבוא being a form of address. And there is then no need, in order to support the synallage, which is at any rate inelegant, to suppose that the suffix יו-takes its rise from the formula אל־אבתיו (נאסף) בּוא, and is, in spite of the unsuitable grammatical connection, retained, just as יחדּו and כּלּם, without regard to the suffixes, signify "together" and "all together" (Bttcher). Certainly the poet delights in difficulties of style, of which quite sufficient remain to him without adding this to the list. It is also not clear whether Psalm 49:20 is intended to be taken as a relative clause intimately attached to אבותיו, or as an independent clause. The latter is admissible, and therefore to be preferred: there are the proud rich men together with their fathers buried in darkness for ever, without ever again seeing the light of a life which is not a mere shadowy life.

The didactic discourse now closes with the same proverb as the first part, Psalm 49:13. But instead of בּל־ילין the expression here used is ולא יבין, which is co-ordinate with בּיקר as a second attributive definition of the subject (Ew. 351, b): a man in glory and who has no understanding, viz., does not distinguish between that which is perishable and that which is imperishable, between time and eternity. The proverb is here more precisely expressed. The gloomy prospect of the future does not belong to the rich man as such, but to the worldly and carnally minded rich man.

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