Psalm 49:8
(For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceases for ever:)
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) For.—This verse is rightly placed in a parenthesis. “Soul” is the animal life, as generally, and here necessarily from the context. There is no anticipation of the Christian scheme of redemption from sin. A ransom which could buy a man from death, as one redeems a debtor or prisoner, would be beyond the means of the wealthiest, even if nature allowed such a bargain.

It ceaseth for ever.—This is obscure. It may mean, either the ransom utterly fails, or the life utterly perishes, and so cannot be ransomed. Or, as in the Prayer Book version, the verb may be taken transitively, “he lets that alone for ever.” The first of these is the simplest, and most agreeable to the context.

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.For the redemption of their soul is precious - The word "soul" here means "life," and not the immortal part. The only question which the psalmist here considers is the value of wealth in preserving "life," or in saving man from the grave. The phrase, ""their" soul," refers doubtless to the man and his brother, as alluded to in the previous verse. The idea is that neither can the man of wealth ransom his own life from the grave, nor the life of his brother. Wealth can save neither of them. The word "precious" means "costly," "valuable." The word is applied 1 Kings 10:2, 1 Kings 10:10-11 to gems, and then to the costlier kinds of stones employed in building, as marble and hewn-stones, 2 Chronicles 3:6. Compare the notes at Psalm 36:7. The idea here is, that the rescue of the life, or the saving from the grave, would be too "costly;" it would be beyond the power of all wealth to purchase it; no amount of silver or gold, or raiment, or precious stones, could "constitute" a sufficient "price" to secure it.

And it ceaseth for ever - That is, Wealth forever comes short of the power necessary to accomplish this. It has always been insufficient; it always "will" be. There is no hope that it "ever" will be sufficient; that by any increase in the amount - or by any change in the conditions of the bargain - property or riches can avail for this. The whole matter is perfectly "hopeless" as to the power of wealth in saving one human being from the grave. It must always "fail" in saving a man from death. The word rendered "ceaseth" - חדל châdal - means "to leave off, to desist, to fail," Genesis 11:8; Exodus 9:34; Isaiah 2:22. As there is no allusion here to the redemption of the "soul" - the immortal part - this passage affirms nothing in regard to the fact that the work of redemption by the Saviour is completed or finished, and that an atonement cannot be made again, which is true; nor to the fact that when salvation through that atonement is rejected, all hope of redemption is at an end, which is also true. But though there is, originally, no such reference here, the "language" is such as is "adapted" to express that idea. In a much higher and more important sense than any which pertains to the power of wealth in saving from the grave, it is true tint the work of the atonement ceased for ever when the Redeemer expired on the cross, and that all hope of salvation ceases forever when the atonement is rejected, and when man refuses to be saved by his blood; nothing then can save the soul. No other sacrifice will be made, and when a man has finally rejected the Saviour, it may be said in the highest sense of the term, that the redemption of the soul is too costly to be effected by any other means, and that all hope of its salvation "has ceased" forever.

8. it ceaseth for ever—that is, the ransom fails, the price is too precious, costly. Of their soul, i.e. of their life, as soul is commonly used.

Is precious, i.e. rare, as the word is used, 1 Samuel 3:1 Daniel 2:11, hard to be obtained. But he doth not call it simply impossible, because Christ hath purchased this privilege for his true disciples, that in some sense they shall not see death, John 8:51.

It ceaseth for ever, i.e. it is never to be accomplished, to wit, by any mere man, for himself or for his brother. For the redemption of their soul is precious,.... Or "heavy" (s); it is, as Jarchi observes, "heavier than their substance": it is too weighty a matter for the richest man in the world to engage in; he is not equal to it; his riches are not an equivalent to the redemption of a soul which has sinned, and which is of more worth than the whole world: "what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" or another for him? all the substance of his house would be utterly despised. It requires a greater price for the redemption of it than gold and silver, and therefore it is impossible to be obtained by any such means; and which may be the sense of the word here, as Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it; and so it is used for that which is "rare", "difficult", yea, "impossible", not to be found or come at, in 1 Samuel 3:1. The only price of redemption of the soul is the precious blood of Christ; his life is the ransom price, yea, he himself, 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Timothy 2:6; nor is the redemption of the soul possible upon any other ground;

and it ceaseth for ever; that is, the redemption of the soul; it must have ceased, it could never have been accomplished, had not Christ undertook it and performed it; he has obtained eternal redemption, and in him we have it, and in no other. Or the words may be rendered, "and he ceaseth for ever"; the brother, whose soul or life is to be redeemed, he dies; see Psalm 12:1; and dies the second and eternal death, for aught his brother can do for him, with all his riches: or he that attempts to redeem him, "he leaves off for ever" (t); see Psalm 36:3; whether he will or not, as Jarchi observes; he ceases from redeeming his brother; he finds he cannot do it; his endeavours are vain and fruitless. Some join and connect these words with the following, "and it ceaseth for ever, that he should still live for ever", &c. that is, it is impossible that such an one by such means should live for ever. Gussetius (u) renders and interprets the words quite to another sense, "but the redemption of their soul shall come": the true redemption price by Christ; and which, being once paid and perfectly done, "ceaseth for ever", and shall never be required more; so that he for whom it is made "shall live for ever", as in Psalm 49:9, which is a truly evangelic sense.

(s) "gravis", De Dieu, Michaelis. (t) "definet", Montanus, Vatablus. (u) Ebr. Comment. p. 345.

(For the redemption of their soul is {d} precious, {e} and it ceaseth for ever:)

(d) That is, so rare or not to be found, as prophecy was precious in the days of Eli, 1Sa 3:1.

(e) Meaning it is impossible to live for ever: also that life and death are only in God's hands.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Render:

For too costly is the redemption of their life,

And he must let it alone for ever.

The sum to be paid by the man whose life was forfeit was to be assessed, probably in proportion to his culpability and his means: but there is no ransom which can be paid to God; it is hopeless to think of attempting it. Cp. Matthew 5:26. Their refers to brother, regarded generically; or, if the reading But is adopted, to the rich men.Verse 8. - For the redemption of their soul is precious; or, costly - too costly, i.e., for them, however rich they may be, to be able to effect it (comp. Job 36:18, 19). And it ceaseth for ever; rather, and one must let that aloes for ever (Cheyne, Kay, Hengstenberg, Revised Version). (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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