New American Standard Bible
Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; In the balances they go up; They are together lighter than breath.
King James Bible
Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
Darby Bible Translation
Men of low degree are only vanity; men of high degree, a lie: laid in the balance, they go up together lighter than vanity.
World English Bible
Surely men of low degree are just a breath, and men of high degree are a lie. In the balances they will go up. They are together lighter than a breath.
Young's Literal Translation
Only -- vanity are the low, a lie the high. In balances to go up they than vanity are lighter.
Psalm 62:9 Parallel
CommentaryBarnes' Notes on the Bible
Surely men of low degree are vanity - literally, "vanity are the sons of Adam," but the word Adam here is used evidently to represent men, or the race. The same word is also employed particularly to represent common men, or men of the humbler rank, in contradistinction to the word אישׁ 'ı̂ysh - which is the other word used here, and rendered "men of high degree." Compare, for this use of the word, Hosea 6:7. The same antithesis between the two words is found in Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 5:15. The idea here is, that in the great matters which pertain to us, we cannot depend on men, and that our hope - our trust - must be in God. Of men of the humbler or lower classes, it is said that they are "vanity;" that is, they are like a vain, empty, unsubstantial thing. They cannot help us. It is useless to rely on them when we most need aid.
Men of high degree are a lie - Men of exalted rank, kings, princes, nobles. This does not refer to their personal character, as if they were always false, deceitful, treacherous; but the idea is, that any prospect of protection or aid from men of rank and station - front any power which they wield - is unworthy to be relied on. It is not that which we need; it is not that on which we can depend.
To be laid in the balance - literally, "In the scales to go up;" that is, they are seen to go up, or to show how light they are. They have no real weight; no real value. On the scales or balance, see the notes at Daniel 5:27.
They are altogether lighter than vanity - They are all vain; single or combined, they have no power to save us. The meaning is not that if these two ranks of persons were weighed against each other they would both be found to be vanity; but that it is true of each and every rank of men - high and low - whether single or combined - that, as weighed against our interests and needs, they are nothing. All the kings of the earth with all their hosts of war, all princes and nobles with all that they can summon from the lower ranks of their people, cannot save one soul from death - cannot deliver us from the consequences of our transgressions. God, and God alone, can do this.
Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy; for thou renderest to every man according to his work.--Psalm lxii. 12. Some of the translators make it kindness and goodness; but I presume there is no real difference among them as to the character of the word which here, in the English Bible, is translated mercy. The religious mind, however, educated upon the theories yet prevailing in the so-called religious world, must here recognize a departure from the presentation to which they have been accustomed: …
George MacDonald—Unspoken Sermons
My High Tower
But Concerning True Patience, Worthy of the Name of this virtue...
Letter xix (A. D. 1127) to Suger, Abbot of S. Denis
"I waste away; I will not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath.
"An idiot will become intelligent When the foal of a wild donkey is born a man.
Put them in fear, O LORD; Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah.
"Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.
Both low and high, Rich and poor together.
Remember what my span of life is; For what vanity You have created all the sons of men!
I said in my alarm, "All men are liars."
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