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Psalms 49:1-4

Context
Psalm 49 1 

For the music director, a psalm by the Korahites.

49:1 Listen to this, all you nations!

Pay attention, all you inhabitants of the world! 2 

49:2 Pay attention, all you people, 3 

both rich and poor!

49:3 I will declare a wise saying; 4 

I will share my profound thoughts. 5 

49:4 I will learn a song that imparts wisdom;

I will then sing my insightful song to the accompaniment of a harp. 6 

1 sn Psalm 49. In this so-called wisdom psalm (see v. 3) the psalmist states that he will not fear the rich enemies who threaten him, for despite their wealth, they are mere men who will die like everyone else. The psalmist is confident the Lord will vindicate the godly and protect them from the attacks of their oppressors.

2 tn The rare noun חָלֶד (kheled, “world”) occurs in Ps 17:14 and perhaps also in Isa 38:11 (see the note on “world” there).

3 tn Heb “even the sons of mankind, even the sons of man.” Because of the parallel line, where “rich and poor” are mentioned, some treat these expressions as polar opposites, with בְּנֵי אָדָם (bÿneyadam) referring to the lower classes and בְּנֵי אִישׁ (bÿneyish) to higher classes (cf. NIV, NRSV). But usage does not support such a view. The rare phrase בְּנֵי אִישׁ (“sons of man”) appears to refer to human beings in general in its other uses (see Pss 4:2; 62:9; Lam 3:33). It is better to understand “even the sons of mankind” and “even the sons of man” as synonymous expressions (cf. NEB “all mankind, every living man”). The repetition emphasizes the need for all people to pay attention, for the psalmist’s message is relevant to everyone.

4 tn Heb “my mouth will speak wisdom.” According to BDB 315 s.v. חָכְמָה the plural חָכְמוֹת (khokhmot, “wisdom”) indicates degree or emphasis here.

5 tn Heb “and the meditation of my heart [i.e., mind] is understanding.” The Hebrew term הָגוּת (hagut, “meditation”), derived from הָגָה (hagah, “to recite quietly; to meditate”), here refers to thoughts that are verbalized (see the preceding line). The plural form תְבוּנוֹת (tÿvunot, “understanding”) indicates degree or emphasis (see GKC 397-98 §124.e).

6 tn Heb “I will turn my ear to a wise saying, I will open [i.e., “reveal; explain”] my insightful saying with a harp.” In the first line the psalmist speaks as a pupil who learns a song of wisdom from a sage. This suggests that the resulting insightful song derives from another source, perhaps God himself. Elsewhere the Hebrew word pair חִידָה/מָשָׁל (mashal/khidah) refers to a taunt song (Hab 2:6), a parable (Ezek 17:2), lessons from history (Ps 78:2), and proverbial sayings (Prov 1:6). Here it appears to refer to the insightful song that follows, which reflects on the mortality of humankind and the ultimate inability of riches to prevent the inevitable – death. Another option is that the word pair refers more specifically to the closely related proverbial sayings of vv. 12, 20 (note the use of the verb מָשָׁל, mashal, “to be like” in both verses). In this case the psalmist first hears the sayings and then explains (Heb “opens”) their significance (see vv. 5-11, 13-19).



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