Psalm 49:18
Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise you, when you do well to yourself.
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(18) Though, while he lived. . . .—This is abundantly illustrated by our Lord’s parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:19; comp. Deuteronomy 29:19).

And men will.—Rather, and though men praise thee, &c. “Although prosperity produces self-gratulation, and procures the homage of the world as well, yet,” &c

Psalm 49:18-19. Though he blessed his soul — That is, applauded himself as a wise and happy man. See Luke 12:19. And men will praise thee, &c. — As he flatters himself, so he meets with parasites that applaud and flatter him for their own advantage. When thou doest well to thyself — When thou dost indulge and please thyself, and advance thy own worldly interest. He shall go to the generation of his fathers — The rich worldly man, here spoken of, shall descend into the grave, with respect to his body, and his soul shall enter into the invisible world, where he shall meet with his wicked parents, who by their counsel and example led him into his evil courses; as the godly also are said to be gathered to their fathers, Genesis 15:15. They shall never see light — Never enjoy the light of the living, or of this life, to which they shall never return; nor the light of the next life, to which they shall never be admitted, but shall be cast into utter darkness, Matthew 8:12.49:15-20 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!Though while he lived - Margin, as in Hebrew, "in his life." More literally, "in his lives." The idea is, as long as he lived.

He blessed his soul - That is, he blessed himself; he congratulated himself; he regarded his condition as desirable and enviable. He "took airs" upon himself; he felt that his was a happy lot; he expected and demanded respect and honor from others on account of his wealth. He commended himself as having evinced sagacity in the means by which he acquired wealth - thus imparting honor to himself; and he congratulated himself on the result, as placing him in a conditiOn above want, and in a condition that entitled him to honor. A striking illustration of this feeling is found in the parable of the rich fool, Luke 12:19, "And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry."

And men will praise thee - Others will praise thee. He not only blessed or commended himself, but he might expect that others would praise and congratulate him also. They would regard him as a happy man; happy, because he had been thus successful; happy, because he had accumulated that which was the object of so universal desire among people. Success, though founded on that which is entitled to no praise, and which is even the result of unprincipled conduct, often secures the temporary praise of men, while a want of success, though connected with the strictest, sternest virtue, is often followed by neglect, or is even regarded as proof that he who fails has no claim to honor.

When thou doest well to thyself - Well, in reference to success in life, or in the sense that thou art prospered. Your industry, your sagacity, your prosperity will be the theme of commendation. To a certain extent, where this does not lead to self flattery and pride, it is proper and right. The virtues which ordinarily contribute to prosperity "are" worthy of commendation, and should be held up to the example of the young. But what is evil and wrong in the matter here referred to is that the man's commendation of himself, and the commendation by others, all tends to foster a spirit of pride and self-confidence; to make the soul easy and satisfied with the condition; to produce the feeling that all is gained which needs to be gained; to make the possessor of wealth arrogant and haughty; and to lead him to neglect the higher interests of the soul.

18. Though … lived, &c.—literally, "For in his life he blessed his soul," or, "himself" (Lu 12:19, 16:25); yet (Ps 49:19); he has had his portion.

men will praise … thyself—Flatterers enhance the rich fool's self-complacency; the form of address to him strengthens the emphasis of the sentiment.

He blessed his soul, i.e. he applauded himself as a wise and happy man: compare Luke 12:19.

Men will praise thee: and as he pleaseth and flattereth himself, so he meets with parasites that applaud and flatter him for their own advantage. For he still speaks of the same man, as is manifest from the foregoing and following words, though there be a sudden change of the third into the second person; which is most frequent in these books.

When thou doest well to thyself; when thou dost indulge and please thyself, and advance thy own worldly interest. For the name of good in Scripture is oft ascribed unto the pleasures and profits of this life, as Job 21:13 Psalm 4:6 Ecclesiastes 2:24 4:8 11:9. Though while he lived he blessed his soul,.... Praised and extolled himself on account of his acquisitions and merit; or proclaimed himself a happy man, because of his wealth and riches; or foolishly flattered himself with peace, prosperity, and length of days, and even with honour and glory after death;

and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself; or "but (k) men will praise thee", &c. both rich and poor, all wise men; when, as the Jewish interpreters (l) generally explain the word, a man regards true wisdom and religion, and is concerned for the welfare of his soul more than that of his body; or "when thou thyself doest well": that is, to others, doing acts of beneficence, communicating to the necessities of the poor; or rather, "when thou doest well to thyself", by enjoying the good things of life, taking his portion, eating the fruit of his labour, which is good and comely; see Ecclesiastes 5:18.

(k) "atque celebraverint te", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (l) Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi & Ben Melech in loc.

Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and {n} men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.

(n) The flatterers praise them who live in delight and pleasures.

18. blessed his soul] Congratulated himself on his good fortune, flattering himself that he was beyond the reach of misfortune. Cp. Deuteronomy 29:19; Luke 12:19.

men will praise thee] Men praise thee (R.V.). The words are a parenthesis, addressed to the rich man. The unthinking multitude (cp. Psalm 49:13 b) worship success and wealth. They see nothing wrong in the selfish misuse of riches.Verse 18. - Though while he lived he blessed his soul (comp. Psalm 10:3; Luke 12:19). He thought himself happy, and congratulated himself on his good fortune. And men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself. A parenthetic remark. Not only do such men congratulate themselves, but the world's applause follows on them. So long as they are well-to-do, and keep themselves in the forefront of the battle of life, they will have "honour, reverence, and troops of friends," who will admire them and flatter them. (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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