Psalm 49:7
None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:
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(7) None of them can.—Brother is here used in the wide sense of Leviticus 19:17, Genesis 13:11 (where rendered “the one”). The sense is the same whether we make it nominative or accusative. Death is the debt which all owe, and which each must pay for himself. No wealth can buy a man off. God, in whose hand are the issues of life and death, is not to be bribed; nor, as the next verse says, even if the arrangement were possible, would any wealth be sufficient.

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.None of them can bid any means redeem his brother - None of those who are rich. This verse might be literally rendered, "a brother cannot by redeeming redeem; a man cannot give to God his own ransom." The passage, therefore, may mean either, as in our version, that no one, however rich, can redeem a brother - his own brother - by his wealth; or, that a brother - one who sustains the relation of a brother - cannot rescue another from death. On the word "redeem," see Psalm 25:22, note; Isaiah 43:3, note. It means here that he could not rescue him, or save him from the grave; he could not by his wealth preserve him in life. The whole expression is emphatic: "redeeming he cannot redeem;" that is - according to Hebrew usage - he cannot "possibly" do it; it "cannot" be done. There is here no particular reference to the "means" to be employed, but only an emphatic statement of the fact that "it cannot by any possibility be done." The object is to show how powerless and valueless is wealth in regard to the things that most pertain to a man's welfare. It can do literally "nothing" in that which most deeply affects man, and in which he most needs help. There is no allusion here to the redemption of the soul, or to the great work of redemption, as that term is commonly understood; but it "is" true, in the highest sense, that if wealth cannot "redeem" life, or keep our best and nearest friend from the grave, much less can it avail in that which is so much more important, and so much more difficult, the redemption of the soul from eternal ruin. Here, also, as in the matter of saving from the grave, it is absolutely true that wealth can do "nothing" - literally, "nothing" - in saving the soul of its possessor, or in enabling its possessor to save his best friend. Nothing but the blood of the cross can avail then; and the wealth of the richest can do no more here than the poverty of the poorest.

Nor give to God a ransom for him - This would be more literally rendered, "a man cannot give to God his ransom;" that is, he cannot, though in the possession of the most ample wealth, give to God that which would purchase his own release from the grave. On the word "ransom," see as above, the notes at Isaiah 43:3. Compare Matthew 16:26.

7-9. yet unable to save themselves or others. Redeem, to wit, from death, as appears from Psalm 49:9,10 &c.; neither from the first death, nor from the second, which he points at Psalm 49:14,19.

His brother; whom he would do his utmost to preserve in life; and consequently not himself. But he seems to mention his brother rather than himself, because when his brother is sick, he being in health hath the full command and free use of all his wealth, and strength, and wit, and all other means of redeeming his brother; which he hath not, when he himself is dangerously or desperately sick.

Nor give to God; the only Lord of life. and the Judge who hath passed upon him the sentence of death. None of them can by any means redeem his brother,.... That is, "with their substance", or "riches", as the Targum and Jarchi supply. Some, according to the order of the words in the original, render them, "a brother redeeming cannot redeem a man", or "anyone" (q): but, as Aben Ezra observes, "a brother", is the effect, and "a man", is the cause. The Targum is, "his brother that is a captive, a man redeeming cannot redeem with his substance"; or by any means redeem. Indeed a rich man may redeem his brother from debt, or from a prison, into which he is cast for it, by paying his debts for him; or from thraldom and bondage, being taken captive and becoming a prisoner of war, by giving a ransom for him. This he may do with respect to man; but, with respect to God, he cannot, with all his riches, pay the debts he owes to the law and justice of God; nor free him from his bondage to sin, Satan, and the law, by whom he is held a captive. The sense here is, that he cannot redeem him from death; he cannot, with all his money, secure him from dying; nor, when dead, bring him back from the grave; and much less deliver him from eternal death, or wrath to come; this only God can do, see Psalm 49:15;

nor give to God a ransom for him; a ransom to redeem from sin, and so from the curse of the law and eternal death, must be given to God, against whom sin is committed, the lawgiver that is able to save and destroy; whose law is transgressed by it, and must be fulfilled; and whose justice is affronted and injured, and must be satisfied; and who is the creditor to whom men are debtors, and therefore the payment must be made to him. Hence our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of his people, paid the ransom price to God, and offered himself a sacrifice to him; see Ephesians 5:2. But this ransom is not of man's giving, but of God's; it is of his finding out in his infinite wisdom: he set forth and sent forth Christ to be the ransom or "propitiation" (r), as the word here used signifies; and Christ came to give his life and himself a ransom for many, and is the propitiation for their sins: and this is a sufficient one, a plenteous redemption, and there needs no other, not is there any other; there were typical atonements under the law, but there is no real atonement, propitiation, or ransom, but by the precious blood of Christ; not by corruptible things, as silver and gold; with these a man cannot give to God a ransom for himself, or for his brother.

(q) So Cocceius; and some in Michaelis. (r) "propitiationem suam", Pagninus, Montanus.

None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:
7. The first answer to the question, ‘Wherefore should I fear’? These men make a god of their wealth. They trust in it and glory in it, as the godly man trusts in Jehovah and glories in Him (Psalm 32:10; Psalm 34:2). But how powerless it is! It cannot deliver anyone from death. If the rich man’s friends have so little to hope, his victims have little to fear.

The language of this verse and the next is borrowed from the ancient law in Exodus 21:30, where the words ransom and redemption of life (or soul) occur together, the latter phrase being found nowhere else. If a man’s neglect to keep a dangerous ox under proper control had been the cause of another man’s death, his life was forfeit. But he might redeem his life by paying a ransom to the relatives of the deceased person. Probably he would always be allowed to do so, and the penalty of death would never be exacted. Another law prohibited the pardon of a murderer upon the mere payment of a fine (Numbers 35:31), lest rich men should regard the taking of life as a matter of indifference. Thus the idea of the payment of money as the equivalent of a life was familiar. There were cases in which wealth could deliver from death, when man was dealing with man. But when God claims the life, riches are of no avail.

his brother] Lit. a brother: his most intimate relative or friend. Possibly there may be an allusion to the use of the word in dirges. See Jeremiah 22:18. But the position of the word at the beginning of the sentence is peculiar, and an adversative particle seems to be needed. It has therefore been plausibly conjectured that we should read ǎk, ‘surely’ or ‘but’ (as in Psalm 49:15), in place of âch, ‘brother,’ and, with a slight alteration of the vowels, render thus:

But no one can by any means redeem himself,

Nor give to God the ransom He requires.

The reading of the Massoretic Text however is attested by the LXX and other Ancient Versions.Verse 7. - None of them can by any means redeem his brother. The text is suspected. If we read אַך for אָה, with Ewald and Professor Cheyne, the right translation will be, Nevertheless, no man can by any means redeem himself. With all his boasting, the rich man cannot effect his own redemption; nor, however great his wealth, can he give to God a ransom for him; i.e. for himself. "Brother" is not used in the Psalms in the sense of "fellow-man," but only in the literal sense of close blood, relation (Psalm 35:14; Psalm 50:20). (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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