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Psalms 49:6-7

Context

49:6 They trust 1  in their wealth

and boast 2  in their great riches.

49:7 Certainly a man cannot rescue his brother; 3 

he cannot pay God an adequate ransom price 4 

Psalms 49:16-19

Context

49:16 Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich 5 

and his wealth multiplies! 6 

49:17 For he will take nothing with him when he dies;

his wealth will not follow him down into the grave. 7 

49:18 He pronounces this blessing on himself while he is alive:

“May men praise you, for you have done well!”

49:19 But he will join his ancestors; 8 

they will never again see the light of day. 9 

1 tn Heb “the ones who trust.” The substantival participle stands in apposition to “those who deceive me” (v. 5).

2 tn The imperfect verbal form emphasizes their characteristic behavior.

3 tn Heb “a brother, he surely does not ransom, a man.” The sequence אִישׁ...אָח (’akh...’ish, “a brother…a man”) is problematic, for the usual combination is אָח...אָח (“a brother…a brother”) or אִישׁ...אִישׁ (“a man…a man”). When אִישׁ and אָח are combined, the usual order is אָח...אִישׁ (“a man…a brother”), with “brother” having a third masculine singular suffix, “his brother.” This suggests that “brother” is the object of the verb and “man” the subject. (1) Perhaps the altered word order and absence of the suffix can be explained by the text’s poetic character, for ellipsis is a feature of Hebrew poetic style. (2) Another option, supported by a few medieval Hebrew mss, is to emend “brother” to the similar sounding אַךְ (’akh, “surely; but”) which occurs in v. 15 before the verb פָּדָה (padah, “ransom”). If this reading is accepted the Qal imperfect יִפְדֶּה (yifddeh, “he can [not] ransom”) would need to be emended to a Niphal (passive) form, יִפָּדֶה (yifadeh, “he can[not] be ransomed”) unless one understands the subject of the Qal verb to be indefinite (“one cannot redeem a man”). (A Niphal imperfect can be collocated with a Qal infinitive absolute. See GKC 344-45 §113.w.) No matter how one decides the textual issues, the imperfect in this case is modal, indicating potential, and the infinitive absolute emphasizes the statement.

4 tn Heb “he cannot pay to God his ransom price.” Num 35:31 may supply the legal background for the metaphorical language used here. The psalmist pictures God as having a claim on the soul of the individual. When God comes to claim the life that ultimately belongs to him, he demands a ransom price that is beyond the capability of anyone to pay. The psalmist’s point is that God has ultimate authority over life and death; all the money in the world cannot buy anyone a single day of life beyond what God has decreed.

5 sn When a man becomes rich. Why would people fear such a development? The acquisition of wealth makes individuals powerful and enables them to oppress others (see vv. 5-6).

6 tn Heb “when the glory of his house grows great.”

7 tn Heb “his glory will not go down after him.”

8 tn Verses 18-19a are one long sentence in the Hebrew text, which reads: “Though he blesses his soul in his life, [saying], ‘And let them praise you, for you do well for yourself,’ it [that is, his soul] will go to the generation of his fathers.” This has been divided into two sentences in the translation for clarity, in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English to use shorter sentences.

9 tn Heb “light.” The words “of day” are supplied in the translation for clarification.



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