Psalm 89:48
What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
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(48) What man.—Rather, What hero, or champion, or great man. The word is used of a king (Jeremiah 22:30; comp. Isaiah 22:17). The verse repeats a common poetic theme:—

“Pallida mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas,

Regumque turres.”—HORACE, I. Od. iv.

The hand of the grave.—Rather, of the underworld, “hand” being used for “power.”

Psalm 89:48-50. What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? — All men, at their best estate, are mortal and miserable; kings and people must unavoidably die by the condition of their natures. Lord, where are thy former loving-kindnesses? — Hast thou forgotten or repented of all that mercy and kindness which thou hast promised and sworn, and sometimes performed, unto David, and his family and kingdom? Remember, Lord, how I do bear — That is, we, thy servants, as he now said, our king and his people, of whom he speaks as of one person; the reproach of all the mighty people — Of the great potentates and princes of the world, who now reproached the house of David with their vain and confident boasting of the everlastingness of their kingdom, which was now in a desperate and lost condition. Or, all the reproaches of many people.

89:38-52 Sometimes it is not easy to reconcile God's providences with his promises, yet we are sure that God's works fulfil his word. When the great Anointed One, Christ himself, was upon the cross, God seemed to have cast him off, yet did not make void his covenant, for that was established for ever. The honour of the house of David was lost. Thrones and crowns are often laid in the dust; but there is a crown of glory reserved for Christ's spiritual seed, which fadeth not away. From all this complaint learn what work sin makes with families, noble families, with families in which religion has appeared. They plead with God for mercy. God's unchangeableness and faithfulness assure us that He will not cast off those whom he has chosen and covenanted with. They were reproached for serving him. The scoffers of the latter days, in like manner, reproach the footsteps of the Messiah when they ask, Where is the promise of his coming? 2Pe 3:3,4. The records of the Lord's dealings with the family of David, show us his dealings with his church, and with believers. Their afflictions and distresses may be grievous, but he will not finally cast them off. Self-deceivers abuse this doctrine, and others by a careless walk bring themselves into darkness and distress; yet let the true believer rely on it for encouragement in the path of duty, and in bearing the cross. The psalm ends with praise, even after this sad complaint. Those who give God thanks for what he has done, may give him thanks for what he will do. God will follow those with his mercies, who follow him with praises.What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? - Shall not die - to see death being an expression often used to denote death itself. Death is represented as a real object, now invisible, but which will make itself visible to us when we die. The meaning here is, "All men are mortal; this universal law must apply to kings as well as to other men; in a short time he to whom these promises pertain will pass away from the earth; and the promises made to him cannot then be fulfilled."

Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? - His life. Will he be able to deliver that from the power of the grave; in Hebrew, שׁאול she'ôl. Death - the grave - Sheol - asserts a universal dominion over mankind, and no one can be rescued from that stern power.

48. What man—literally, "strong man—shall live?" and, indeed, have not all men been made in vain, as to glorifying God? All men at their best estate are mortal and miserable, kings and people must unavoidably die by the condition of their natures; and therefore, Lord, do not increase our affliction, which of itself is more than enough; neither proceed in these violent courses upon us, who, without such severity, must perish of and from ourselves.

What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?.... Every living man must die; as sure as a man lives, so sure he shall die: be he strong and mighty, as the word signifies, or weak and sickly; be he high or low, rich or poor, prince or peasant, righteous or wicked; persons of all ranks, states, and conditions, age or sex, must die; for all have sinned; and it is the appointment of God that they should die, and very few are the exceptions; as Enoch and Elijah, and those that will be found alive at Christ's coming:

shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave; either from going down into it, or coming under the power of it; so the Targum,

"what man is he that shall live, and shall not see the angel of death (Hebrews 2:14) shall he deliver his soul from his hand, that he should not go down to the house of his grave?''

or deliver himself from the power of it, when in it; that is, raise himself from the dead: none ever did this, or ever can: Christ indeed undertook, and has promised, to redeem his people from the power of the grave, upon which they have believed they should be delivered; see Hosea 13:14, but if Christ rose not himself, which was the thing now in question, how could it be? the case stands thus; every man must die; no man can raise himself from the dead; if Christ rise not, everyone must continue under the power of the grave; for then there could be no resurrection.

Selah. See Gill on Psalm 3:2.

What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
48. What man is he that shall live on, and not see death,

That shall deliver his soul from the hand of Sheol?

The word for man is gĕbĕr, ‘strong man,’ as distinguished from women, children, and non-combatants, as much as to say, What man is so strong that he shall live on and escape the iron grasp of Death?

“There is no armour against fate,

Death lays his icy hand on kings.”

Verse 48. - What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? An expansion of the first clause of ver. 47. Man's littleness, feebleness, and fleetingness should draw forth the pity and loving kindness of God. Psalm 89:48After this statement of the present condition of things the psalmist begins to pray for the removal of all that is thus contradictory to the promise. The plaintive question, Psalm 89:47, with the exception of one word, is verbatim the same as Psalm 79:5. The wrath to which quousque refers, makes itself to be felt, as the intensifying (vid., Psalm 13:2) לנצח implies, in the intensity and duration of everlasting wrath. חלד is this temporal life which glides past secretly and unnoticed (Psalm 17:14); and זכר־אני is not equivalent to זכרני (instead of which by way of emphasis only זכרני אני can be said), but אני מה־חלד stands for מה־חלד אני - according to the sense equivalent to אני מה־חדל, Psalm 39:5, cf. Psalm 39:6. The conjecture of Houbigant and modern expositors, זכר אדני (cf. Psalm 89:51), is not needed, since the inverted position of the words is just the same as in Psalm 39:5. In Psalm 89:48 it is not pointed על־מה שׁוא, "wherefore (Job 10:2; Job 13:14) hast Thou in vain (Psalm 127:1) created?" (Hengstenberg), but על־מה־שּׁוא, on account of or for what a nothing (מה־שׁוא belonging together as adjective and substantive, as in Psalm 30:10; Job 26:14) hast Thou created all the children of men? (De Wette, Hupfeld, and Hitzig). על, of the ground of a matter and direct motive, which is better suited to the question in Psalm 89:49 than the other way of taking it: the life of all men passes on into death and Hades; why then might not God, within this brief space of time, this handbreadth, manifest Himself to His creatures as the merciful and kind, and not as the always angry God? The music strikes in here, and how can it do so otherwise than in elegiac mesto? If God's justice tarries and fails in this present world, then the Old Testament faith becomes sorely tempted and tried, because it is not able to find consolation in the life beyond. Thus it is with the faith of the poet in the present juncture of affairs, the outward appearance of which is in such perplexing contradiction to the loving-kindness sworn to David and also hitherto vouchsafed. חסדים has not the sense in this passage of the promises of favour, as in 2 Chronicles 6:42, but proofs of favour; הראשׁנים glances back at the long period of the reigns of David and of Solomon.

(Note: The Pasek between חראשׁנים and אדני is not designed merely to remove the limited predicate from the Lord, who is indeed the First and the Last, but also to secure its pronunciation to the guttural Aleph, which might be easily passed over after Mem; cf. Genesis 1:27; Genesis 21:17; Genesis 30:20; Genesis 42:21, and frequently.)

The Asaph Psalm 77 and the Tephilla Isaiah 63 contain similar complaints, just as in connection with Psalm 89:51 one is reminded of the Asaph Psalm 79:2, Psalm 79:10, and in connection with Psalm 89:52 of Psalm 79:12. The phrase נשׂא בחיקו is used in other instances of loving nurture, Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 40:11. In this passage it must have a sense akin to חרפּת עבדיך. It is impossible on syntactic grounds to regard כּל־רבּים עמּים as still dependent upon חרפּת (Ewald) or, as Hupfeld is fond of calling it, as a "post-liminiar" genitive. Can it be that the כל is perhaps a mutilation of כּלמּת, after Ezekiel 36:15, as Bttcher suggests? We do not need this conjecture. For (1) to carry any one in one's bosom, if he is an enemy, may signify: to be obliged to cherish him with the vexation proceeding from him (Jeremiah 15:15), without being able to get rid of him; (2) there is no doubt that רבּים can, after the manner of numerals, be placed before the substantive to which it belongs, Ezekiel 32:10, Proverbs 31:29; 1 Chronicles 28:5; Nehemiah 9:28; cf. the other position, e.g., Jeremiah 16:16; (3) consequently כּל־רבּים עמּים may signify the "totality of many peoples" just as well as כּל גּוים רבּים in Ezekiel 31:6. The poet complains as a member of the nation, as a citizen of the empire, that he is obliged to foster many nations in his bosom, inasmuch as the land of Israel was overwhelmed by the Egyptians and their allies, the Libyans, Troglodytes, and Ethiopians. The אשׁר which follows in Psalm 89:52 cannot now be referred back over Psalm 89:51 to חרפּת (quâ calumniâ), and yet the relative sense, not the confirmatory (because, quoniam), is at issue. We therefore refer it to עמים, and take אויביך as an apposition, as in Psalm 139:20 : who reproach Thee, (as) Thine enemies, Jahve, who reproach the footsteps (עקּבות as in Psalm 77:20 with Dag. dirimens, which gives it an emotional turn) of Thine anointed, i.e., they follow him everywhere, wheresoever he may go, and whatsoever he may do. With these significant words, עקּבות משׁיחך, the Third Book of the Psalms dies away.

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