Psalm 49:14
Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.
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(14) Like sheep they are laid in the grave.—Rather, like a flock for sheol they are arranged; death is their shepherd. While planning for a long life, and mapping out their estates as if for a permanent possession, they are but a flock of sheep, entirely at the disposal and under the direction of another, and this shepherd is death. Comp. Keble’s paraphrase.

“Even as a flock arrayed are they

For the dark grave; Death guides their way,

Death is their shepherd now.”

The rendering, “feed on them,” is an error. The rest of the verse as it stands is quite unintelligible. Among the many conjectured emendations, the best is (Burgess) to point the verb as the future of yārad, and render, “and the upright shall go down to the grave amongst them (i.e., amongst the ungodly) until the morning” (for the last words compare Deuteronomy 16:4), when in contrast to the wicked they shall see light (Psalm 49:20).

Adopting this emendation, a new force is lent to the next two clauses, which have puzzled modern commentators, as they did the ancient translators (LXX., “their help shall grow old in hell from their glory.”) By a slight change of points and accents, and taking mizbul as a derivative noun equivalent to zebul (so also Grätz), we get, “Their beauty (is) for corruption; sheol (is) its dwelling,” i.e., all, wise and unwise, good and bad, must descend to the under world (Psalm 49:11), so that the upright accompany the wicked thither, and it becomes the dwelling-place of their beauty, i.e., their bodies.



Psalm 49:14
. - Revelation 7:17.

These two verses have a much closer parallelism in expression than appears in our Authorised Version. If you turn to the Revised Version you will find that it rightly renders the former of my texts, ‘Death shall be their shepherd,’ and the latter, ‘The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their Shepherd.’ The Old Testament Psalmist and the New Testament Seer have fallen upon the same image to describe death and the future, but with how different a use! The one paints a grim picture, all sunless and full of shadow; the other dips his pencil in brilliant colours, and suffuses his canvas with a glow as of molten sunlight. The difference between the two is partly due to the progress of revelation and the light cast on life and immortality by Christ through the Gospel. But it is much more due to the fact that the two writers have different classes in view. The one is speaking of men whose portion is in this life, the other of men who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. And it is the characters of the persons concerned, much more than the degree of enlightenment possessed by the writers, that makes the difference between these two pictures. Life and death and the future are what each man makes of them for himself. We shall best deal with these two pictures if we take them separately, and let the gloom of the one enhance the glory of the other. They hang side by side, like a Rembrandt beside a Claude or a Turner, each intensifying by contrast the characteristics of the other. So let us look at the two-first, the grim picture drawn by the Psalmist; second, the sunny one drawn by the Seer. Now, with regard to the former,

I. The grim picture drawn by the Psalmist.

We too often forget that a psalmist is a poet, and misunderstand his spirit by treating his words as matter-of-fact prose. His imagination is at work, and our sympathetic imagination must be at work too, if we would enter into his meaning. Death a shepherd-what a grim and bold inversion of a familiar metaphor! If this psalm is, as is probable, of a comparatively late date, then its author was familiar with many sweet and tender strains of early singers, in which the blessed relation between a loving God and an obedient people was set forth under that metaphor. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ may have been ringing in his ears when he said, ‘Death is their shepherd.’ He lays hold of the familiar metaphor, and if I may so speak, turns it upside down, stripping it of all that is beautiful, tender, and gracious, and draping it in all that is harsh and terrible. And the very contrast between the sweet relation which it was originally used to express, and the opposite kind of one which he uses it to set forth, gives its tremendous force to the daring metaphor.

‘Death is their shepherd.’ Yes, but what manner of shepherd? Not one that gently leads his flock, but one that stalks behind the huddled sheep, and drives them fiercely, club in hand, on a path on which they would not willingly go. The unwelcome necessity, by which men that have their portion in this world are hounded and herded out of all their sunny pastures and abundant feeding, is the thought that underlies the image. It is accentuated, if we notice that in the former clause, ‘like sheep they are laid in the grave,’ the word rendered in the Authorised Version ‘laid,’ and in the Revised Version ‘appointed,’ is perhaps more properly read by many, ‘like sheep they are thrust down.’ There you have the picture-the shepherd stalking behind the helpless creatures, and coercing them on an unwelcome path.

Now that is the first thought that I suggest, that to one type of man, Death is an unwelcome necessity. It is, indeed, a necessity to us all, but necessities accepted cease to be painful; and necessities resisted-what do they become? Here is a man being swept down a river, the sound of the falls is in his ears, and he grasps at anything on the bank to hold by, but in vain. That is how some of us feel when we face the thought, and will feel more when we front the reality, of that awful ‘must.’ ‘Death shall be their shepherd,’ and coerce them into darkness. Ask yourself the question, Is the course of my life such as that the end of it cannot but be a grim necessity which I would do anything to avoid?

This first text suggests not only a shepherd but a fold: ‘Like sheep they are thrust down to the grave.’ Now I am not going to enter upon what would be quite out of place here: a critical discussion of the Old Testament conception of a future life. That conception varies, and is not the same in all parts of the book. But I may, just in a word, say that ‘the grave’ is by no means the adequate rendering of the thought of the Psalmist, and that ‘Hell’ is a still more inadequate rendering of it. He does not mean either the place where the body is deposited, or a place where there is punitive retribution for the wicked, but he means a dim region, or, if I might so say, a localised condition, in which all that have passed through this life are gathered, where personality and consciousness continue, but where life is faint, stripped of all that characterises it here, shadowy, unsubstantial, and where there is inactivity, absolute cessation of all the occupations to which men were accustomed. But there may be restlessness along with inactivity; may there not? And there is no such restlessness as the restlessness of compulsory idleness. That is the main idea that is in the Psalmist’s mind. He knows little about retribution, he knows still less about transmutation into a glorious likeness to that which is most glorious and divine. But he conceives a great, dim, lonely land, wherein are prisoned and penned all the lives that have been foamed away vainly on earth, and are now settled into a dreary monotony and a restless idleness. As one of the other books of the Old Testament puts it, it is a ‘land of the shadow of death, without order, and in which the light is as darkness.’

I know, of course, that all that is but the imperfect presentation of partially apprehended, and partially revealed, and partially revealable truth. But what I desire to fix upon is that one dreary thought of this fold, into which the grim shepherd has driven his flock, and where they lie cribbed and huddled together in utter inactivity. Carry that with you as a true, though incomplete thought.

Let me remind you, in the next place, with regard to this part of my subject, of the kind of men whom the grim shepherd drives into that grim fold. The psalm tells us that plainly enough. It is speaking of men who have their portion in this life, who ‘trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches . . . whose inward thought is that their house shall continue for ever . . . who call their lands after their own names.’ Of every such man it says: ‘when he dieth he shall carry nothing away’-none of the possessions, none of the forms of activity which were familiar to him here on earth. He will go into a state where he finds nothing which interests him, and nothing for him to do.

Must it not be so? If we let ourselves be absorbed and entangled by the affairs of this life, and permit our whole spirits to be bent in the direction of these transient things, what is to become of us when the things that must pass have passed, and when we come into a region where there are none of them to occupy us any more? What would some Manchester men do if they were in a condition of life where they could not go on ‘Change on Tuesdays and Fridays? What would some of us do if the professions and forms of mental activity in which we have been occupied as students and scholars were swept away? ‘Whether there be knowledge it shall cease; whether there be tongues they shall vanish away,’ and what are you going to do then, you men that have only lived for intellectual pursuits connected with this transient state? We are going to a world where there are no books, no pens nor ink, no trade, no dress, no fashion, no amusements; where there is nothing but things in which some of us have no interest, and a God who ‘is not in all our thoughts.’ Surely we shall be ‘fish out of water’ there. Surely we shall feel that we have been banned and banished from everything that we care about. Surely men that boasted themselves in their riches, and in the multitude of their wealth, will be necessarily condemned to inactivity. Life is continuous, and all on one plane. Surely if a man knows that he must some day, and may any day, be summoned to the other side of the world, he would be a wise man if he got his outfit ready, and made some effort to acquire the customs and the arts of the land to which he was going. Surely life here is mainly given to us that we may develop powers which will find their field of exercise yonder, and acquire characters which shall be in conformity with the conditions of that future life. Surely there can be no more tragic folly than the folly of letting myself be so absorbed and entangled by this present world, as that when the transient has passed, I shall feel homeless and desolate, and have nothing that I can do or care about amidst the activities of Eternity. Dear friend, should you feel homeless if you were taken, as you will be taken, into that world?

Turn now to

II. The sunny landscape drawn by the Seer.

Note the contrast presented by the shepherds. ‘Death shall be their shepherd.’ ‘The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their Shepherd.’ I need not occupy your time in trying to show, what has sometimes been doubted, that the radiant picture of the Apocalyptic Seer is dealing with nothing in the present, but with the future condition of certain men. I would just remind you that the words in which it is couched are to a large extent a quotation from ancient prophecy, a description of the divine watchfulness over the pilgrim’s return from captivity to the Land of Promise. But the quotation is wonderfully elevated and spiritualised in the New Testament vision; for instead of reading, as the Original does: ‘He that hath mercy on them shall lead them,’ we have here, ‘the Lamb which is in the midst of the Throne shall be their Shepherd,’ and instead of their being led merely to ‘the springs of water,’ here we read that He ‘leads them to the fountains of the water of life.’

We have to think, first, of that most striking, most significant and profound modification of the Old Testament words, which presents the Lamb as ‘the Shepherd.’ All Christ’s shepherding on earth and in heaven depends, as do all our hopes for heaven and earth, upon the fact of His sacrificial death. It is only because He is the ‘Lamb that was slain’ that He is either the ‘Lamb in the midst of the Throne,’ or the Shepherd of the flock. And we must make acquaintance with Him first in the character of ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,’ before we can either follow in His footsteps as our Guide, or be compassed by His protection as our Shepherd.

He is the Lamb, and He is the Shepherd-that suggests not only that the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ is the basis of all His work for us on earth and in heaven, but the very incongruity of making One, who bears the same nature as the flock to be the Shepherd of the flock, is part of the beauty of the metaphor. It is His humanity that is our guide. It is His continual manhood, all through eternity and its glories, that makes Him the Shepherd of perfected souls. They follow Him because He is one of themselves, and He could not be the Shepherd unless he were the Lamb.

But then this Shepherd is not only gracious, sympathetic, kin to us by participation in a common nature, and fit to be our Guide because He has been our Sacrifice and the propitiation of our sins, but He is the Lamb ‘in the midst of the throne,’ wielding therefore all divine power, and standing-not as the rendering in our Bible leads an English reader to suppose, on the throne, but-in the middle point between it and the ring of worshippers, and so the Communicator to the outer circumference of all the blessings that dwell in the divine centre. He shall be their Shepherd, not coercing, not driving by violence, but leading to the fountains of the waters of life, gently and graciously. It is not compulsory energy which He exercises upon us, either on earth or in heaven, but it is the drawing of a divine attraction, sweet to put forth and sweet to yield to.

There is still another contrast. Death huddled and herded his reluctant sheep into a fold where they lay inactive but struggling and restless. Christ leads His flock into a pasture. He shall guide them ‘to the fountains of waters of life.’ I need not dwell at any length on the blessed particulars of that future, set forth here and in the context. But let me suggest them briefly. There is joyous activity. There is constant progression. He goeth before; they follow. The perfection of heaven begins at entrance into it, but it is a perfection which can be perfected, and is being perfected, through the ages of Eternity, and the picture of the Shepherd in front and the flock behind, is the true conception of all the progress of that future life. ‘They shall follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth’-a sweet guidance, a glad following, a progressive conformity! ‘In the long years liker must they grow.’

Further, there is the communication of life more and more abundantly. Therefore there is the satisfaction of all desire, so that ‘they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.’ The pain of desire ceases because desire is no sooner felt than it is satisfied, the joy of desire continues, because its satisfaction enables us to desire more, and so, appetite and eating, desire and fruition, alternate in ceaseless reciprocity. To us, being every moment capable of more, more will be given; and ‘to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.’

There is one point more in regard to that pasture into which the Lamb leads the happy flock, and that is, the cessation of all pains and sorrows. Not only shall they ‘hunger no more, neither thirst any more’; but ‘the sun shall not smite them, nor any heat, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ Here the Shepherd carried rod and staff, and sometimes had to strike the wandering sheep hard: there these are needed no more. Here He had sometimes to move them out of green pastures, and away from still waters, into valleys of the shadow of death; but ‘there,’ as one of the prophets has it: ‘they shall lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed.’

But now, we must note, finally, the other kind of men whom this other Shepherd leads into His pastures, ‘They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Aye! that is it. That is why He can lead them where He does lead them. Strange alchemy which out of two crimsons, the crimson of our sins and the crimson of His blood, makes one white! But it is so, and the only way by which we can ever be cleansed, either with the initial cleansing of forgiveness, or with the daily cleansing of continual purifying and approximation to the divine holiness, is by our bringing the foul garment of our stained personality and character into contact with the blood which, ‘shed for many,’ takes away their sins, and infused into their veins, cleanses them from all sin.

You have yourselves to bring about that contact. ‘They have washed their robes.’ And how did they do it? By faith in the Sacrifice first, by following the Example next. For it is not merely a forgiveness for the past, but a perfecting, progressive and gradual, for the future, that lies in that thought of washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Dear brethren, life here and life hereafter are continuous. They are homogeneous, on one plane though an ascending one. The differences there are great-I was going to say, and it would be true, that the resemblances are greater. As we have been, we shall be. If we take Christ for our Shepherd here, and follow Him, though from afar and with faltering steps, amidst all the struggles and windings and rough ways of life, then and only then, will He be our Shepherd, to go with us through the darkness of death, to make it no reluctant expulsion from a place in which we would fain continue to be, but a tranquil and willing following of Him by the road which He has consecrated for ever, and deprived for ever of its solitude, because Himself has trod it.

Those two possibilities are before each of us. Either of them may be yours. One of them must be. Look on this picture and on this; and choose-God help you to choose aright-which of the two will describe your experience. Will you have Christ for your Shepherd, or will you have Death for your shepherd? The answer to that question lies in the answer to the other-have you washed your robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and are you following Him? You can settle the question which lot is to be yours, and only you can settle it. See that you settle it aright, and that you settle it soon.

END OF VOL. I.Psalm 49:14. Like sheep — Which for a season are fed in large and sweet pastures, but at the owner’s pleasure are led away to the slaughter, not knowing, nor considering whither they are going; they are laid in the grave — As to their bodies, or placed in the invisible world, (as the word שׁאול, sheol, also signifies,) with respect to their souls. Death shall feed on them — The first death shall consume their bodies in the grave, and the second death shall devour their souls. And the upright — Good men, whom here they oppressed and abused at their pleasure; shall have dominion over them in the morning — In the day of general judgment and the resurrection of the dead. For death being called sleep and the night, (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14; John 9:4,) that time is fitly termed the morning when men awake out of sleep, and enter upon an everlasting day. Dr. Horne’s note here is just and striking: “The high and mighty ones of the earth, who cause people to fear, and nations to tremble around them, must one day crowd the grave, in multitude and impotence, though not in innocence, resembling sheep, driven and confined by the butcher in his house of slaughter. There death, that ravening wolf, shall feed sweetly on them, and devour his long expected prey in silence and darkness, until the glorious morning of the resurrection dawn, when the once oppressed and afflicted righteous, risen from the dead, and sitting with their Lord in judgment, shall have the dominion over their cruel and insulting enemies; whose faded beauty, withered strength, and departed glory shall display to men and angels the vanity of that confidence which is not placed in God.”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.Like sheep they are laid in the grave - The allusion here is to a flock as "driven" forward by the shepherd; and the meaning is that they are driven forward to the grave, as it were, in flocks, or as a flock of sheep is driven by a shepherd. The word rendered "are laid" - שׁתוּ śatû - is probably not derived from the verb שׁות śûth, or שׁית śı̂yth, as our translators seem to have supposed, but from שׁתת śâthath, to set, or place; and the meaning is, "Like sheep they put them in Sheol, or the grave;" that is, they thrust or drive them down there. In other words, this is "done," without intimating by whom it is done. They are urged forward; they are driven toward the tomb as a flock of sheep is driven forward to the slaughter. Some influence or power is pressing them in masses down to the grave. The word rendered "grave" is "Sheol." It is sometimes used in the sense of the grave, and sometimes as referring to the abode of departed spirits. See Job 10:21-22, note; Psalm 6:5, note. It seems here to be used in the former sense.

Death shall feed on them - The word rendered "feed" here - רעה râ‛âh - means properly to feed a flock; to pasture; then, to perform the office of a shepherd. The idea here is not, as in our translation, "death shall feed on them;" but, death shall rule over them as the shepherd rules his flock. The allusion to the "flock" suggested this. They are driven down to the grave, or to Sheol. The shepherd, the ruler, he who does this, is "death;" and the idea is not that death is a hungry monster, devouring them "in" the grave, but that the shepherd over that "flock," instead of being a kind and gentle friend and protector (as the word "shepherd" naturally suggests), is "death" - a fearful and grim Ruler of the departed. The idea, therefore, is not that of "feeding," specifically, but it is that of ruling, controlling, guiding. So the Septuagint, θάνατος ποιμανεῖ αὐτούς thanatos poimanei autous. The Vulgate, however, renders it, "mors depascet eos;" and Luther, "der Tod naget sie;" death gnaws or feeds on them.

And the upright - The just; the righteous. The meaning of this part of the verse undoubtedly is, that the just or pious would have some kind of ascendancy or superiority over them at the period here referred to as the "morning."

Shall have dominion over them - Or rather, as DeWette renders it, shall "triumph" over them. That is, will be exalted over them; or shall have a more favored lot. Though depressed now, and though crushed by the rich, yet they will soon have a more exalted rank, and a higher honor than those who, though once rich, are laid in the grave tinder the dominion of death.

In the morning - That is, very soon; tomorrow; when the morning dawns after the darkness of the present. See the notes at Psalm 30:5. There is a time coming - a brighter time - when the relative condition of the two classes shall be changed, and when the upright - the pious - though poor and oppressed now, shall be exalted to higher honors than "they" will be. There is no certain evidence that this refers to the "morning" of the resurrection; but it is language which well expresses the idea when connected with that doctrine, and which can be best explained on the supposition that that doctrine was referred to, and that the hope of such a resurrection was cherished by the writer. Indeed, when we remember that the psalmist expressly refers to the "grave" in regard to the rich, it is difficult to explain the language on any other supposition than that he refers here to the resurrection - certainly not as well as on this supposition - and especially when it is remembered that death makes no distinction in cutting down people, whether they are righteous or wicked. Both are laid in the grave alike, and "any" prospect of distinction or triumph in the case must be derived from scenes beyond the grave. This verse, therefore, may belong to that class of passages in the Old Testament which are founded on the belief of the resurrection of the dead without always expressly affirming it, and which are best explained on the supposition that the writers of the Old Testament were acquainted with that doctrine, and drew their hopes as well as their illustrations from it. Compare Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 26:19; Psalm 16:9-10.

And their beauty - Margin, "strength." The Hebrew word means "form, shape, image;" and the idea here is, that their form or figure will be changed, or disappear, to wit, by consuming away. The idea of "beauty," or "strength," is not necessarily in the passage, but the meaning is, that the form or figure which was so familiar among people will be dissolved, and disappear in the grave.

Shall consume in the grave - Hebrew, "in Sheol." The word probably means here "the grave." The original word rendered "consume," means literally to make old; to wear out; to waste away. The entire form of the man will disappear.

From their dwelling - Margin, "the grave being a habitation to every one of them." Septuagint, "and their help shall grow old in the grave from their glory." So the Latin Vulgate. The whole expression is obscure. The most probable meaning is, "they shall consume in the grave, "from its being a dwelling to him;"" that is, to each of them. Sheol, or the grave, becomes a dwelling to the rich man, and in that gloomy abode - that which is now his dwelling - he consumes away. It pertains to that dwelling, or it is one of the conditions of residing there, that all consume away and disappear. Others render it, "so that there is no dwelling or habitation for them." Others, and this is the more common interpretation, "their form passes away, the underworld is their habitation." See DeWette in loc. This last rendering requires a slight change in the punctuation of the original. DeWette, Note, p. 339. The "general" idea in the passage is plain, that the possessors of wealth are soon to find their home in the grave, and that their forms, with all on which they valued themselves, are soon to disappear.

14. Like sheep—(compare Ps 49:12) unwittingly, they

are laid—or, "put," &c.

death shall feed on—or, better, "shall rule"

them—as a shepherd (compare "feed," Ps 28:9, Margin).

have dominion over—or, "subdue"

them in the morning—suddenly, or in their turn.

their beauty—literally, "form" or shape.

shall consume—literally, "is for the consumption," that is, of the grave.

from their dwelling—literally, "from their home (they go) to it," that is, the grave.

14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.

15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me. Selah.

Psalm 49:14

"Like sheep they are laid in the grave." As dumb, driven cattle, they are hurried to their doom, and are penned in within the gates of destruction. As sheep that go whither they are driven, and follow their leader without thought, so these men who have chosen to make this world their all, are urged on by their passions, till they find themselves at their journey's end, that end the depths of Hades. Or if we keep to our own translation, we have the idea of their dying peaceably, and being buried in quiet, only that they may wake up to be ashamed at the last great day. "Death shall feed on them." Death like a grim shepherd leads them on, and conducts them to the place of their eternal pasturage, where all is barrenness and misery. The righteous are led by the Good Shepherd, but the ungodly have death for their shepherd, and he drives them onward to hell. As the power of death rules them in this world, for they have not passed from death unto life, so the terrors of death shall devour them in the world to come. As grim giants, in old stories, are said to feed on men whom they entice to their caves, so death, the monster, feeds on the flesh and blood of the mighty. "The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning." The poor saints were once the tail, but at the day-break they shall be the head. Sinners rule till night-fall; their honours wither in the evening, and in the morning they find their position utterly reversed. The sweetest reflection to the upright is that "the morning" here intended begins an endless, changeless, day. What a vexation of spirit to the proud worldling, when the Judge of all the earth holds his morning session, to see the man whom he despised, exalted high in heaven, while he himself is cast away! "And their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling." Whatever of glory the ungodly had shall disappear in the tomb. Form and comeliness shall vanish from them, the worm shall make sad havoc of all their beauty. Even their last dwelling place, the grave, shall not be able to protect the relics committed to it; their bodies shall dissolve, no trace shall remain of all their strong limbs and lofty heads, no vestige of remaining beauty shall be discoverable. The beauty of the righteous is not yet revealed, it waits its manifestations; but all the beauty the wicked will ever have is in full bloom in this life; it will wither, fade, decay, rot, and utterly pass away. Who, then, would envy or fear the proud sinner?

Psalm 49:15

"But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave." Forth from that temporary resting-place we shall come in due time, quickened by divine energy. Like our risen Head we cannot be holden by the bands of the grave; redemption has emancipated us from the slavery of death. No redemption could man find in riches, but God has found it in the blood of his dear Son. Our Elder Brother has given to God a ransom, and we are the redeemed of the Lord: because of this redemption by price we shall assuredly be redeemed by power out of the hand of the last enemy. "For he shall receive me." He shall take me out of the tomb, take me up to heaven. If it is not said of me as of Enoch, "He was not, for God took him," yet shall I reach the same glorious state. My spirit God will receive, and my body shall sleep in Jesus till, being raised in his image, it shall also be received into glory. How infinitely superior is such a hope to anything which our oppressors can boast! Here is something which will bear meditation, and therefore again let us pause, at the bidding of the musician, who inserts a "Selah."

Like sheep; which for a season are fed in large and sweet pastures, but at the owner’s pleasure are put together in close and comfortless folds, and led away to the slaughter, not knowing nor considering whither they are going.

In the grave; or, in hell; for the Hebrew word signifies both.

Death shall feed on them; the first death shall consume their bodies in the grave, and the second death shall devour their souls.

The upright; good men, whom here they oppressed and abused at their pleasure.

In the morning; either,

1. Suddenly, or within a very little time, as this phrase is oft used, as Psalm 30:5 46:5 101:8 113:8. Or,

2. In the day of general judgment, and the resurrection of the dead. For death being called the night, John 9:4, and sleep in many places, that day is fitly compared to the morning, when men awake out of sleep, and enter upon that everlasting day. But whether this or the former be the true meaning of the phrase, it is sufficiently evident the thing here spoken of is not done in this life, but in the next; for,

1. This proposition and privilege being general, and common to all upright persons, is not verified here, it being the lot of many good men to be oppressed and killed by the wicked, as is manifest both from Scripture, as Psalm 44:22 Ecclesiastes 8:14 9:2, and from the experience of all ages of the church.

2. This dominion of the just over the wicked happens after the wicked are laid in their grave, as is here expressed, and consequently supposeth their future life and resurrection; for when one person rules over another, both are supposed to exist or have a being. Nor is there any argument against this sense, but from a vain and absurd conceit which some men have entertained, that the saints in the Old Testament had no firm belief nor expectation of the recompences of the life to come; which is against evident reason, and against many clear places of the Old Testament that cannot without force be wrested to any other sense, and against the express testimony of the New Testament concerning them, Hebrews 11, and in many other places.

Their beauty; or, their form or, their figure, or image; all which come to one, and seems to intimate that all their glory and felicity had in this life was rather imaginary than real, and indeed but a shadow, as it is called, Ecclesiastes 6:12 8:13.

Shall consume, Heb. is to consume, or to be consumed, i.e. shall be consumed; the infinitive verb being here put for the future, as it is Psalm 32:8 Zechariah 3:4 12:10.

From their dwelling i.e. they shall be hurried from their large, and stately, and pleasant mansions, into a close and dark grave. But those words are by divers interpreters rendered otherwise, and that peradventure more truly and fitly to this purpose, word for word,

the grave (or rather hell, as before and this word sheol is confessedly oft used in the Old Testament, but no where more conveniently than here) shall be a dwelling, or for a dwelling, unto him, or them, or every one of them; which in the prophet’s phrase is called dwelling with everlasting burnings, Isaiah 33:14, and in the phrase of the New Testament, to be cast into and abide in the lake of fire and brimstone, Revelation 20:10. Like sheep they are laid in the grave,.... They are not in life like sheep, harmless and innocent; nor reckoned as such for the slaughter, as the people of God are; unless it be that they are like them, brutish and stupid, thoughtless of death, and unconcerned about their estate after it; and so die and go into the grave, like natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, 2 Peter 2:12; or rather like sheep that have been grazing in good pasture in the daytime, at night are put into a dark and narrow pinfold or pound; so wicked rich men, having lived in great abundance and plenty in the day of life, when the night of death comes, they are put into the dark and narrow grave. And it is further to be observed, that the comparison is not to sheep prepared for slaughter, and killed for food; for these are not laid in a ditch, to which the grave may answer; but, as Junius observes, to those that die of themselves; to rotten sheep, and who are no other than carrion, and are good for nothing but to be cast into a ditch; so wicked men are laid in the grave; but as to be laid in the grave is common to good and bad after death, rather the words should be rendered, "like sheep they are laid in hell" (c); as the word is in Psalm 9:17; a place of utter darkness and misery, where the wicked rich man was put when he died, Luke 16:19;

death shall feed on them: or "rule them" (d); as shepherds rule their flocks, in imitation of whom kings govern their subjects; the same word is used of both; and so death is represented as a king, or rather as a tyrant reigning over the sons of men; even over kings and princes, and the great men of the earth, who have reigned over others; see Romans 5:14; or "shall feed them" (e), as the shepherd feeds the sheep; not by leading them into green pastures, into the Elysian fields; but where a drop of water cannot be obtained to cool the tongue; into utter darkness, where are weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth; into the apartments of hell, and habitations of devils, to be guests with them, and live as they do: or "shall feed on them"; as the wolf on the sheep, devouring their strength, and consuming their bodies, Job 18:13; but as this is no other than what it does to everyone, rather the second, or an eternal death, is here meant; the wrath of God, the worm that is always gnawing, eating, and consuming, and never dies;

and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; the upright are such to whom the uprightness or righteousness of Christ is shown or imputed, and who have right spirits renewed, and principles of grace and holiness formed in them, and walk uprightly in their lives and conversations; these, in the morning of the resurrection day, when Christ the sun of righteousness shall arise, when the light of joy and gladness, shall break forth upon his coming, at the beginning of the day of the Lord, which will last a thousand years; they, the dead in Christ, rising first, shall, during that time, reign with him as kings and priests; when the wicked, being destroyed in the general conflagration, shall become the footstool of Christ, and be like ashes under the soles of the feet of his people; and the kingdom, the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints; see 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Daniel 7:27; and though this is a branch of the happiness and glory of the people of God, yet it is here mentioned as an aggravation of the misery of the wicked, who, in another state, will be subject to those they have tyrannized over here;

and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling; or "their form" (f) and figure; diseases often destroy the beauty of a man, death changes his countenance, and makes a greater alteration still; but the grave takes away the very form and figure of the man; or, as it is in the "Keri", or margin of the Hebrew text, "and their rock shall consume" (g); that is, their riches, which are their rock, fortress, and strong city, and in which they place their trust and confidence; these shall fail them when they come to the grave, which is "their dwelling", and is the house appointed for all living: and seeming it is so, rather this should be understood of "hell" (h), which will be the everlasting mansion of wicked men, and in which they will be punished in soul and body for ever; though rather the sense is, "when their rock", that is, Christ, shall come "to consume the grave", and destroy its power; when he, I say, shall come "out of his habitation", heaven, then shall the righteous have the dominion, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

(c) "in inferno", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth. (d) "reget eos", Vatablus. (e) "Pascet eos", Musculus, Tigurine version, Gejerus, Cocceius. (f) "figura eorum", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus; "forma eorum", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (g) "auxilium eorum", Sept. V. L. Eth. Ar. "robur illorum", Musculus; "petra illorum", Cocceius. (h) "infernus", Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth.

{k} Like sheep they are laid in the grave; {l} death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the {m} morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.

(k) As sheep are gathered into the fold, so shall they be brought to the grave.

(l) Because they have no part of life everlasting.

(m) Christ's coming is as the morning, when the elect will reign with Christ their head over the wicked.

14. Like sheep are they put into Sheol;

Death shepherdeth them;

And the upright have dominion over them in the morning,

And their form shall Sheol consume, that it have no more habitation.

What becomes of the wicked? They are driven down to Sheol like a flock of sheep, mere animals that they are (Psalm 49:12); there Death is their shepherd: the king of terrors rules them at his will. They perish in the night, and in the morning the righteous awake, triumphant over their fallen oppressors. The night of trouble is over; the morning of deliverance has dawned (Psalm 30:5). But what is meant by ‘the morning’? Not, as yet, the resurrection morning; but the morning of the day which Jehovah is making, in which “all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be as stubble … and ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be as ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I do make, saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 4:1; Malachi 4:3): a day in the history of the world corresponding to the day when the restored Israel “shall rule over their oppressors” (Isaiah 14:2). Comp. Psalm 104:35, and Psalms 37.

The precise meaning of the last line is doubtful and the text possibly corrupt. Their form, or perhaps, their beauty, is delivered up to Sheol to consume: a poetical way of expressing that their bodies moulder in the grave: all that made such a brave show upon earth has no more existence, no longer needs any abode. Possibly we should make a slight change in the text, and render, Their form shall be consumed, Sheol shall be their habitation. Cp. A.V. marg.Verse 14. - Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them. With the foolish fancies and vain conceits of the ungodly rich men, the psalmist now contrasts the reality. When they die they are "laid in the grave," or "ranged in Hades" (Kay), as sheep in a sheepfold. There is no escape for them. Death is their shepherd; he keeps them, watches over them, tends them, allows none to quit the fold. And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning. When the resurrection morn comes - and no other explanation appears to be possible (see even Cheyne) - it will bring them no release; the righteous will then "have domination over them," and will certainly not set them free (Revelation 21:8). And their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling; rather, and their beauty is for Hades to consume out of its dwelling; i.e. its clay tenement (so Dr. Kay). (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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