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Psalms 49:12-13

Context

49:12 but, despite their wealth, people do not last, 1 

they are like animals 2  that perish. 3 

49:13 This is the destiny of fools, 4 

and of those who approve of their philosophy. 5  (Selah)

1 tn Heb “but mankind in honor does not remain.” The construction vav (ו) + noun at the beginning of the verse can be taken as contrastive in relation to what precedes. The Hebrew term יְקָר (yÿqar, “honor”) probably refers here to the wealth mentioned in the preceding context. The imperfect verbal form draws attention to what is characteristically true. Some scholars emend יָלִין (yalin, “remains”) to יָבִין (yavin, “understands”) but this is an unnecessary accommodation to the wording of v. 20.

2 tn Or “cattle.”

3 tn The verb is derived from דָּמָה (damah, “cease; destroy”; BDB 198 s.v.). Another option is to derive the verb from דָּמָה (“be silent”; see HALOT 225 s.v. II דמה, which sees two homonymic roots [דָּמָה, “be silent,” and דָּמָה, “destroy”] rather than a single root) and translate, “they are like dumb beasts.” This makes particularly good sense in v. 20, where the preceding line focuses on mankind’s lack of understanding.

4 tn Heb “this [is] their way, [there is] folly [belonging] to them.” The Hebrew term translated “this” could refer (1) back to the preceding verse[s] or (2) ahead to the subsequent statements. The translation assumes the latter, since v. 12 appears to be a refrain that concludes the psalm’s first major section and marks a structural boundary. (A similar refrain [see v. 20] concludes the second half of the psalm.) The noun דֶּרֶךְ (derekh, “way”) often refers to one’s lifestyle, but, if it relates to what follows, then here it likely refers metonymically to one’s destiny (the natural outcome of one’s lifestyle [cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV “fate”]). (See the discussion in K. Koch, TDOT 3:285.) If one prefers the more common nuance (“lifestyle”), then the term would look back to the self-confident attitude described in the earlier verses.

5 tn Heb “and after them, in their mouth they take delight.” The meaning of the MT is not entirely clear. “After them” is understood here as substantival, “those who come after them” or “those who follow them.” “Their mouth” is taken as a metonymy for the arrogant attitude verbalized by the rich. In the expression “take delight in,” the preposition -ב (bet) introduces the object/cause of one’s delight (see Pss 147:10; 149:4). So the idea here is that those who come after/follow the rich find the philosophy of life they verbalize and promote to be attractive and desirable.



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