Psalm 49 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Psalm 49)

Verse 4

[4] I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

I will — I will hearken what God by his Spirit speaks to me, and that will I now speak to you.

A parable — Which properly is an allegorical speech, but is often taken for an important, and withal, dark doctrine or sentence.

Open — I will not smother it in my own breast, but publish it to the world.

Dark — So he calls the following discourse, because the thing in question ever hath been thought hard to be understood.

Verse 5

[5] Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

In the days — In times of great distress and calamity, when wicked men flourish, and good men are oppressed.

Supplanters — This character fitly agrees to David's enemies, who were not only malicious, but deceitful and treacherous.

Verse 6

[6] They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;

Trust — As that which will secure them from calamities. Having said that good men had no cause of fear, from their present sufferings from ungodly men, now he proceeds to shew, that the ungodly had no reason to be secure because of their riches.

Verse 7

[7] None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

Redeem — Neither from the first death, nor from the second.

Brother — Whom he would do his utmost to preserve.

Verse 8

[8] (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)

Soul — Of their life.

Precious — Hard to be obtained.

Ceaseth — It is never to be accomplished, by any mere man, for himself or for his brother.

Verse 10

[10] For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.

He seeth — Every man sees that all men die, the wise and the foolish; the evil and the good.

To others — He saith not to sons or kindred; but to others, because he is wholly uncertain to whom he shall leave them, to friends, or strangers, or enemies; which he mentions as a great vanity in riches. They neither can save them from death, nor will accompany him in and after death; and after his death will be disposed, he knows not how, nor to whom.

Verse 11

[11] Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.

Thought — Tho' they are ashamed to express, yet it is their secret hope.

Houses — Either their posterity, often called mens houses: or their mansion-houses, as it is explained in the next clause.

For ever — To them and theirs in succeeding generations.

Call — Fondly dreaming by this means to immortalize their memories.

Verse 12

[12] Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.

Man — Living in all splendor and glory.

Abideth not — All his dreams of perpetuating his name and estate, shall be confuted by experience.

Verse 13

[13] This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. /*Selah*/.

Way — Their contrivance to immortalize themselves.

Verse 14

[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.

Sheep — Which for a season are in sweet pastures, but at the owner's pleasure are led away to the slaughter.

Death — The first death shall consume their bodies, and the second death shall devour their souls.

The upright — Good men whom they abused at their pleasure.

Morning — In the day of the general judgment, and the resurrection of the dead.

Beauty — All their glory and felicity.

Dwelling — They shall be hurried from their large and stately mansions, into a close and dark grave.

Verse 15

[15] But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. /*Selah*/.

God — Tho' no man can find out a ransom to redeem himself, yet God can and will redeem me.

The grave — The grave shall not have power to retain me, but shall be forced to give me up into my father's hands.

Receive — Into heaven.

Verse 16

[16] Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;

Afraid — Discouraged.

Verse 18

[18] Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.

Blessed — He applauded himself as an happy man.

Men — And as he flatters himself, so parasites flatter him for their own advantage.

When — When thou dost indulge thyself, and advance thy worldly interest.

Verse 19

[19] He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.

He — Now he returns to the third person: such changes are frequent in this book.

Go — To the grave and hell, where he shall meet with his wicked parents, who by their counsel and example, led him into his evil courses.

See — Neither the light of this life, to which they shall never return: nor of the next life, to which they shall never be admitted.

Verse 20

[20] Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.

Understandeth not — Hath not true wisdom.

The beasts — Though he hath the outward shape of a man, yet in truth he is a beast, a stupid, and unreasonable creature.