Psalms 49:14 MEANING

Psalm 49:14
(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 y?rad, 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 Gratz), 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.

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).

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,.... 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.

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