Psalm 50:3
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.
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(3) Our God shall come . . . shall devour . . . shall be.—Better, comes . . . devours . . . is. The drama, the expected scene having been announced, now opens. The vision unfolds itself before the poet’s eye.

Psalm 50:3-4. Our God shall come, &c. — God will undoubtedly come and call us to judgment; though now he seems to take no notice of our conduct. The prophet speaks this in the person of one of God’s worshippers. As if he had said, Though he be our God, yet he will execute judgment upon us. And shall not keep silence — He will no longer connive at, or bear with, the hypocrisy and profaneness of the professors of the true religion, but will now speak unto them in his wrath, and will effectually reprove and chastise them. Or, he will not cease, that is, neglect or delay to come, as אל יחרשׁ, al jecheresh, may be interpreted. A fire shall devour before him, &c. — “He will not come like earthly princes, before whom marches an armed multitude; but in a far more terrible and irresistible manner, which shall make you as sensible of his dreadful presence, as your ancestors were at mount Sinai, when the devouring flames, and thunder, and lightning, which attended him, made the very mountain quake and tremble.” He shall call to the heavens, &c. — “He shall call heaven and earth (angels and men) to be witnesses of the equity of his proceedings, Isaiah 1:2; and you may as soon move them out of their place, as avoid appearing before his tribunal.” — Bishop Patrick. This is evidently a prediction of the terrible manner of God’s coming to execute judgment on the apostate Jews and Israelites, partly by the kings of Assyria and Babylon, who laid waste their country, destroyed their cities, and carried multitudes of them into captivity; and more especially in their last destruction by the Romans, when a signal vengeance was taken on them, as for their hypocrisy, abuse of their privileges, and all their other sins, so in particular for crucifying their own Messiah. This most terrible execution of divine wrath upon them was frequently foretold by the prophets: see Malachi 3:2; and Malachi 4:1; Isaiah 66:15; Isaiah 66:17; and is often represented in the Scriptures as the coming of the kingdom of God, of the Son of man, or of Christ, the Father having committed all judgment to him. Now this prediction in this Psalm seems especially to respect this event. And it has accordingly been so interpreted by the best Christian expositors, as Poole has shown in his Synopsis Criticorum; where he likewise tells us that the Jewish rabbis affirm the subject of the Psalm to be, “that judgment, which will be executed in the days of the Messiah;” “ignorant, alas!” says Dr. Horne, “that they themselves, and their people are now become the unhappy objects of that judgment.”50:1-6 This psalm is a psalm of instruction. It tells of the coming of Christ and the day of judgment, in which God will call men to account; and the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of judgement. All the children of men are concerned to know the right way of worshipping the Lord, in spirit and in truth. In the great day, our God shall come, and make those hear his judgement who would not hearken to his law. Happy are those who come into the covenant of grace, by faith in the Redeemer's atoning sacrifice, and show the sincerity of their love by fruits of righteousness. When God rejects the services of those who rest in outside performances, he will graciously accept those who seek him aright. It is only by sacrifice, by Christ, the great Sacrifice, from whom the sacrifices of the law derived what value they had, that we can be accepted of God. True and righteous are his judgments; even sinners' own consciences will be forced to acknowledge the righteousness of God.Our God shall come - That is, he will come to judgment. This language is derived from the supposition that God "will" judge the world, and it shows that this doctrine was understood and believed by the Hebrews. The New Testament has stated the fact that this will be done by the coming of his Son Jesus Christ to gather the nations before him, and to pronounce tile final sentence on mankind: Matthew 25:31; Acts 17:31; Acts 10:42; John 5:22.

And shall not keep silence - That is, the will come forth and "express" his judgment on the conduct of mankind. See the notes at Psalm 28:1. He "seems" now to be silent. No voice is heard. No sentence is pronounced. But this will not always be the case. The time is coming when he will manifest himself, and will no longer be silent as to the conduct and character of people, but will pronounce a sentence, fixing their destiny according to their character.

A fire shall devour before him - Compare the notes at 2 Thessalonians 1:8; notes at Hebrews 10:27. The "language" here is undoubtedly taken from the representation of God as he manifested himself at Mount Sinai. Thus, in Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:18, it is said, "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.

And it shall be very tempestuous round about him - The word used here - שׂער śa‛ar - means properly to shudder; to shiver; and then it is employed to denote the commotion and raging of a tempest. The allusion is doubtless to the descent on Mount Sinai Exodus 19:16, and to the storm accompanied by thunder and lightning which beat upon the mountain when God descended on it to give his law. The whole is designed to represent God as clothed with appropriate majesty when judgment is to be pronounced upon the world.


Ps 50:1-23. In the grandeur and solemnity of a divine judgment, God is introduced as instructing men in the nature of true worship, exposing hypocrisy, warning the wicked, and encouraging the pious.

1-4. The description of this majestic appearance of God resembles that of His giving the law (compare Ex 19:16; 20:18; De 32:1).

Our God: these words are used here, as they are also Hebrews 12:29, emphatically. The prophet speaks this in the person of the Israelites and worshippers of God, whereof he was one, and thereby takes off their fond pretence, as if because God was their God, in covenant with them, and nearly related to them by Abraham his friend for ever, he would bear with their miscarriages, and would not deal so severely with them as some fancied; which also was their conceit, Jeremiah 7:4, &c.; Matthew 3:9,10. No, saith he, though he be our God, yet he will come to execute judgment upon us.

Shall come; either,

1. From heaven, his dwelling-place, to Zion, to sit in judgment there. Or,

2. Out of Zion to some other place, as was said on Psalm 50:2.

And shall not keep silence: so the sense is, he will no longer forbear or connive at the hypocrisy and profaneness of the professors of the true religion, but will now speak to them in his wrath, and will effectually reprove and chastise them. But because the psalmist is not now describing what God did or would say against them, which he doth below, Psalm 50:7, &c., but as yet continues in his description of the preparation or coming of the Judge to his throne, it seems more proper to translate the words, as some do, he will not cease, (for this verb signifies not only a cessation from speech, but from motion or action, as it doth 2 Samuel 19:11 Psalm 83:1 Isaiah 42:14,15) i.e. not neglect or delay to come. So here is the same thing expressed, both affirmatively and negatively, (as is frequent in Scripture, whereof divers instances have been formerly given,) for the greater assurance of the truth of the thing.

It shall be very tempestuous round about him: this is a further description of that terrible majesty wherewith God clothed himself when he came to his tribunal, in token of that just severity which, he would use in his proceedings with them. He alludes to the manner of God’s appearance at Sinai, Exodus 19, and intimates to them, that although Zion was a place of grace and blessing to all true Israelites, yet God would be as dreadful there to the hypocrites among them, as ever he was at Sinai. See Isaiah 33:14. Our God shall come,.... That is, Christ, who is truly and properly God, and who was promised and expected as a divine Person; and which was necessary on account of the work he came about; and believers claim an interest in him as their God; and he is their God, in whom they trust, and whom they worship: and this coming of his is to be understood, not of his coming in the flesh; for though that was promised, believed, and prayed for, as these words are by some rendered, "may our God come" (r); yet at his first coming he was silent, his voice was not heard in the streets, Matthew 12:19; nor did any fire or tempest attend that: nor is it to be interpreted of his second coming, or coming to judgment; for though that also is promised, believed, and prayed for; and when he will not be silent, but by his voice will raise the dead, summon all before him, and pronounce the sentence on all; and the world, and all that is therein, will be burnt with fire, and a horrible tempest rained upon the wicked; yet it is better to understand it of his coming to set up his kingdom in the world, and to punish his professing people for their disbelief and rejection of him; see Matthew 16:28;

and shall not keep silence; contain himself, bear with the Jews any longer, but come forth in his wrath against them; see Psalm 50:21; and it may also denote the great sound of the Gospel, and the very public ministration of it in the Gentile world, at or before this time, for the enlargement of Christ's kingdom in it;

a fire shall devour before him; meaning either the fire of the divine word making its way among the Gentiles, consuming their idolatry, superstition, &c. or rather the fire of divine wrath coming upon the Jews to the uttermost and even it may be literally understood of the fire that consumed their city and temple, as was predicted, Zechariah 11:1;

and it shall be very tempestuous round about him; the time of Jerusalem's destruction being such a time of trouble as has not been since the world began, Matthew 24:21.

(r) "veniat", Junius & Tremellius; so Ainsworth.

Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a {d} fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.

(d) As when God gave his law in mount Sinai he appeared terrible with thunder and tempest, so will he appear terrible to take account for the keeping of it.

3. In the preceding verses the Theophany is described as already visibly beginning. Instead of simply continuing that description, the poet-seer “imagines himself as an eager and interested spectator,” and prays God to come near and declare His will:

Let our God come, and not keep silence!

Fire devoureth before him,

And round about him it is very tempestuous.

See Driver, Hebrew Tenses, § 58; and for similar constructions cp. Psalm 41:2 (note); Isaiah 2:9.

Lightnings and storm are the outward symbols which express the awfulness of God’s coming to judgement. He is ‘a consuming fire’ (Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Hebrews 12:29) devouring His enemies; an irresistible whirlwind (Psalm 58:9), sweeping them away like chaff (Psalm 1:4; Isaiah 29:5). Cp. Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:18; Isaiah 29:6; Psalm 18:7 ff; Psalm 97:2 ff.Verse 3. - Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; rather, and let him not keep silence. Let him call attention to his "coming," that his judgment may be widely known. A fire (rather, fire) shall devour before him (comp. Psalm 21:9). And it shall be very tempestuous round about him. So in all theophanies (see Exodus 19:16; 1 Kings 19:11; Job 38:1; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 97:2-5; Acts 2:2; Revelation 4:5, etc.). (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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