Psalm 89:48
What man is he that lives, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. Now after the poet has turned his thoughts towards the beginnings of the house of David which were so rich in promise, in order that he might find comfort under the sorrowful present, the contrast of the two periods is become all the more sensible to him. With ואתּה in Psalm 89:39 (And Thou - the same who hast promised and affirmed this with an oath) his Psalm takes a new turn, for which reason it might even have been ועתּה. זנח is used just as absolutely here as in Psalm 44:24; Psalm 74:1; Psalm 77:8, so that it does not require any object to be supplied out of Psalm 89:39. נארתּה in Psalm 89:40 the lxx renders kate'strepsas; it is better rendered in Lamentations 2:7 ἀπετίναξε; for נאר is synonymous with נער, to shake off, push away, cf. Arabic el-menâ‛ir, the thrusters (with the lance). עבדּך is a vocational name of the king as such. His crown is sacred as being the insignia of a God-bestowed office. God has therefore made the sacred thing vile by casting it to the ground (חלּל לארץ, as in Psalm 74:17, to cast profaningly to the ground). The primary passage to Psalm 89:41-42, is Psalm 80:13. "His hedges" are all the boundary and protecting fences which the land of the king has; and מבצריו "the fortresses" of his land (in both instances without כל, because matters have not yet come to such a pass).

(Note: In the list of the nations and cities conquered by King Sheshonk I are found even cities of the tribe of Issachar, e.g., Shen-ma-an, Sunem; vid., Brugsch, Reiseberichte, S. 141-145, and Blau as referred to above.)

In שׁסּהוּ the notions of the king and of the land blend together. עברי־דרך are the hordes of the peoples passing through the land. שׁכניו are the neighbouring peoples that are otherwise liable to pay tribute to the house of David, who sought to take every possible advantage of that weakening of the Davidic kingdom. In Psalm 89:44 we are neither to translate "rock of his sword" (Hengstenberg), nor "O rock" (Olshausen). צוּר does not merely signify rupes, but also from another root (צוּר, Arab. ṣâr, originally of the grating or shrill noise produced by pressing and squeezing, then more particularly to cut or cut off with pressure, with a sharply set knife or the like) a knife or a blade (cf. English knife, and German kneifen, to nip): God has decreed it that the edge or blade of the sword of the king has been turned back by the enemy, that he has not been able to maintain his ground in battle (הקמתו with ē instead of ı̂, as also when the tone is not moved forward, Micah 5:4). In Psalm 89:45 the Mem of מטהרו, after the analogy of Ezekiel 16:41; Ezekiel 34:10, and other passages, is a preposition: cessare fecisti eum a splendore suo. A noun מטּהר equals מטהר with Dag. dirimens,

(Note: The view of Pinsker (Einleitung, S. 69), that this Dag. is not a sign of the doubling of the letter, but a diacritic point (that preceded the invention of the system of vowel-points), which indicated that the respective letter was to be pronounced with a Chateph vowel (e.g., miṭŏhar), is incorrect. The doubling Dag. renders the Sheb audible, and having once become audible it readily receives this or that colouring according to the nature of its consonant and of the neighbouring vowel.)

like מקדּשׁ Exodus 15:17, מנּזר Nahum 3:17 (Abulwald, Aben-Ezra, Parchon, Kimchi, and others), in itself improbable in the signification required here, is not found either in post-biblical or in biblical Hebrew. טהר, like צהר, signifies first of all not purity, but brilliancy. Still the form טהר does not lie at the basis of it in this instance; for the reading found here just happens not to be טהרו, but מטּהרו; and the reading adopted by Norzi, Heidenheim, and Baer, as also by Nissel and others, so far as form is concerned is not distinct from it, viz., מטּהרו (miṭtŏharo), the character of the Sheb being determined by the analogy of the following (cf. בּסּערה, 2 Kings 2:1), which presupposes the principal form טהר (Bttcher, 386, cf. supra, 2:31, note). The personal tenor of Psalm 89:46 requires that it should be referred to the then reigning Davidic king, but not as dying before his time (Olshausen), but as becoming prematurely old by reason of the sorrowful experiences of his reign. The larger half of the kingdom has been wrested from him; Egypt and the neighbouring nations also threaten the half that remains to him; and instead of the kingly robe, shame completely covers him.

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