Psalm 49

Psalm 49


To the leader.I Of the Korahites.II A Psalm.III

Notes on superscript

I “leader” = natsach. Properly, something that glitters from a distance. So, something that stands out, excels, has status/standing (such as a chief musician or superintendent of Temple services). This can also mean to be permanent or enduring.
II “Korahites” = ben + Qorach. Literally “sons of Korah.” Ben is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Qorach is from qarach (to shave bald, perhaps freeze). This is Korah, perhaps meaning “ice.”
III “Psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody or a psalm.

HearIV this, all you peoples;V
    give ear,VI all inhabitantsVII of the world,VIII

Notes on verse 1

IV “hear” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
V “peoples” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
VI “give ear” = azan. Perhaps from ozen (ear, hearing, audience, show; properly, broadness – applied to its ear in reference to its shape). Properly, this is to expand or broaden one’s ear i.e. listen intently, pay attention, heed.
VII “inhabitants” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
VIII “world” = cheled. 5x in OT. Root may mean to glide along quickly. This is life or a lifetime as a short length of time. It can also be an age, duration, or the world – all as transient.

both lowIX and high,X
    richXI and poorXII together.XIII

Notes on verse 2

IX “low” = ben + adam. Ben is the same as “Korahites” in Superscript. See note II above. Adam is perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.
X “high” = ben + ish. Ben is the same as “Korahites” in Superscript. See note II above. Ish is perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
XI “rich” = ashir. From ashar (to be rich, gain, accumulate). This is rich in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be noble or a rich person.
XII “poor” = ebyon. From abah (to consent, obey, want, yield, accept). This is needy, poor, beggar. Someone who is wanting.
XIII “together” = yachad. From yachad (to join, be united). This is a unit, both, altogether, unitedness, alike.

My mouthXIV shall speakXV wisdom;XVI

Notes on verse 3a

XIV “mouth” = peh. This is mouth in a literal or figurative sense. So, more literally, it can be beak or jaws. More figuratively, it refers to speech, commands, or promises.
XV “speak” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
XVI “wisdom” = chokmoth. 5x in OT – 3x of lady wisdom in Proverbs 1, 9, and 14. From the same as chokmah (wisdom, wit, skillfulness); from chakam (to be wise or teach wisdom; this is wisdom in thought, word, or action). This is wisdom or wise woman.

    the meditationXVII of my heartXVIII shall be understanding.XIX

Notes on verse 3b

XVII “meditation” = haguth. 1x in OT. From hagah (to speak, declare, make a sound, imagine, or mutter; a murmur, moan, or growl, whether from delight or anger; to study, ponder, or meditate). This is a meditation or musing.
XVIII “heart” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
XIX “understanding” = tebunah. From bin (to discern, consider, attend to; distinguishing things in one’s mind or, more generally, to understand). This is understanding, discernment, discretion, intelligence, skill, fruit, an argument.

I will inclineXX my earXXI to a proverb;XXII

Notes on verse 4a

XX “incline” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
XXI “ear” = ozen. Related to “give ear” in v1. See note VI above.
XXII “proverb” = mashal. From mashal (to compare, speak in a proverb or riddle – to speak in allegory or liken). This is proverb, parable, taunt, discourse, maxim, adage, poem.

    I will solveXXIII my riddleXXIV to the music of the harp.XXV

Notes on verse 4b

XXIII “solve” = pathach. This is to open wide in a literal or figurative sense. So, it is open, draw out, let something go free, break forth. It can also mean to plow, engrave, or carve.
XXIV “riddle” = chidah. 17x in OT – including the riddle of Samson’s marriage in Judges 14 and “hard questions” posed by the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10. Perhaps from chud (to tie a knot, offer a riddle). This is a riddle, proverb, question, puzzle, intrigue, dark saying.
XXV “harp” = kinnor. Root may be to twang. This is a lyre or harp.

Why should I fearXXVI in timesXXVII of trouble,XXVIII

Notes on verse 5a

XXVI “fear” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.
XXVII “times” = yom. Literally “days.”
XXVIII “trouble” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.

    when the iniquityXXIX of my persecutorsXXX surroundsXXXI me,

Notes on verse 5b

XXIX “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
XXX “persecutors” = aqeb. 1x in OT. From the same as aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is one who over-reaches or lies in wait – an enemy.
XXXI “surrounds” = sabab. This is turning around, going around; to surround, cast, walk, fetch. It is to revolve or border in a literal or figurative sense.

those who trustXXXII in their wealthXXXIII
    and boastXXXIV of the abundanceXXXV of their riches?XXXVI

Notes on verse 6

XXXII “trust” = batach. This is to hide for refuge, be secure or sure. Figuratively, it refers to trust, being confident, or hoping.
XXXIII “wealth” = chayil. From chul (to be firm, strong, prosperous; to endure). This is strength, wealth, ability, activity. It can refer to soldier or a company of soldiers as well as goods. It is a force of people, means, or goods. It can speak of valor, virtue, or strength.
XXXIV “boast” = halal. This is to be clear – it originally referred to a sound, then a color. It was to shine and then make a show or boast then to rave. In a causative sense it came to mean celebrate, give glory, sing praise, or be worth of praise. Because of the celebratory nature of the word, it could also mean to give in marriage. This is where Hallelujah comes from.
XXXV “abundance” = rob. From rabab (to be or become much or many, multiply). This is any kind of abundance.
XXXVI “riches” = osher. Related to “rich” in v2. From ashar (see note XI above). This is fortune or wealth.

Truly, no ransom availsXXXVII for one’sXXXVIII life,XXXIX, XL

Notes on verse 7a

XXXVII “truly…ransom avails” = padah + padah. This is to sever, which is to say to ransom. To secure someone’s release (by paying their debt to free them from slavery) and thus redeem, rescue, deliver, preserve. Can also be the redemption price. The word is repeated twice – the first time as an Infinitive Absolute. The Infinitive Absolute serves to emphasize the sentiment of the word. It is rather like Foghorn Leghorn’s speech pattern, “I said, I said.”
XXXVIII “one’s” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
XXXIX “life” = ach. This is brother, kindred, another, other, like. It is literally brother, but it can also be someone who is similar, resembling, or related to.
XL Perhaps literally “no one can ransom a brother.”

    there is no priceXLI one can giveXLII to GodXLIII for it.

Notes on verse 7b

XLI “price” = kopher. 17x in OT – including covering Noah’s ark with pitch in Genesis 6. From kaphar (to appease, cover, pacify, cancel, cleanse, pardon). This is ransom, bribe, price of a life. Properly, it means something that covers something else, it can be a village, bitumen as a coating, a henna plant that dyes, or a ransom price.
XLII “give” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
XLIII “God” = Elohim.

For the ransomXLIV of lifeXLV is costly,XLVI
    and can neverXLVII suffice,XLVIII

Notes on verse 8

XLIV “ransom” = pidyom. Related to “truly…ransom avails” in v7. 3x in OT. From padah (see note XXXVII above). This is a ransom or redemption.
XLV “life” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
XLVI “is costly” = yaqar. 11x in OT. This is to be precious, costly, rare, valued; properly, to be heavy; figuratively, valuable or inhibit.
XLVII “never” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
XLVIII “can…suffice” = chadal. This is properly to be flabby – it implies, to stop, fall, end, rest, leave alone, forsake, or desist. Figuratively this can be lacking or idle.

that one should liveXLIX on foreverL
    and never seeLI the grave.LII

Notes on verse 9

XLIX “live” = chayah. This is to live or keep alive in a literal or figurative sense. So, it can be revive, nourish, or save.
L “forever” = netsach. Related to “leader” in Superscript. From natsach (see note I above). This is properly a goal or destination as the bright focus to which one journeys. It can be splendor, truthfulness, or confidence. Most often, it refers to everlastingness, always, continually.
LI “see” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
LII “grave” = shachath. From shuach (to bow or sink down in a literal or figurative sense, humble). This is ditch, trap, grave, or hole. Figuratively, it could be destruction or corruption.

10 When we lookLIII at the wise,LIV they die;LV

Notes on verse 10a

LIII “look” = raah. Same as “see” in v9. See note LI above.
LIV “wise” = chokmah. Related to “wisdom” in v3. See note XVI above.
LV “die” = mut. This is to die in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to being a dead body.

    foolLVI and doltLVII perishLVIII together
    and leaveLIX their wealth to others.

Notes on verse 10b

LVI “fool” = kesil. From kasal (being or becoming stupid or foolish; properly, being fat and so figuratively silly or foolish). This is someone who is stupid, silly, or foolish.
LVII “dolt” = baar. 4x in OT. From baar (to be senseless, stupid, graze); from beir (animal, cattle); from baar (to consume, feed, kindle, be brutish). This is food as eaten, brutish, foolish.
LVIII “perish” = abad. To wander off, lose self. This implies to perish, destroy, die, vanish, or be broken or corrupt.
LIX “leave” = azab. To loosen, relinquish, permit, forsake, fail, leave destitute.

11 Their gravesLX are their homesLXI forever,LXII

Notes on verse 11a

LX “graves” = qereb. Perhaps from qarab (to come near or approach). This is among, in the midst, before, the center It is the inward part, whether literal or figurative. It can also be used for the heart, the site of thoughts and feelings. This word is also used as a technical term for the entrails of the animals who are sacrificed.
LXI “homes” = bayit. Probably from banah (to build, make, set up, obtain children; to build literally or figuratively). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.
LXII “forever” = olam. Same as “never” in v8. See note XLVII above.

    their dwelling placesLXIII to all generations,LXIV
    though they namedLXV landsLXVI their own.LXVII

Notes on verse 11b

LXIII “dwelling places” = mishkan. From shakan (to settle down in the sense of residing somewhere or staying there permanently; to abide or continue). This is a place where one lives – a tabernacle, tent, or other kind of dwelling. It can also be a lair where animals live, the grave, the Temple, or the Tabernacle.
LXIV “to all generations” = dor + dor. From dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.
LXV “named” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
LXVI “lands” = adamah. Related to “low” in v2. From the same as adam (see note IX above). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.
LXVII “own” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.

12 MortalsLXVIII cannot abideLXIX in their pomp;LXX

Notes on verse 12a

LXVIII “mortals” = adam. Same as “low” in v2. See note IX above.
LXIX “abide” = luwn. This is to stay somewhere, usually for the night. It can mean abide, dwell, or endure. By implication, it can mean staying somewhere permanently. Taken in a negative sense, this would mean obstinance, particularly verbal. So, it can also mean murmur, grudge, or complaining.
LXX “pomp” = yeqar. Related to “is costly” in v8. 17x in OT. From yaqar (see note XLVI above). This is price, precious, splendor, wealth, dignity, pomp.

    they are likeLXXI the animalsLXXII that perish.LXXIII

Notes on verse 12b

LXXI “are like” = mashal. 17x in OT. From mashal (proverb, parable, taunt, discourse, maxim, adage, poem). This is to compare, speak in a proverb or riddle – to speak in allegory or liken.
LXXII “animals” = behemah. This is animal or cattle. It is often used of large quadrupeds.
LXXIII “perish” = damah. 15x in OT. This is to be silent, to cease, destroy, perish.

13 Such is the fateLXXIV of the foolhardy,LXXV
    the end of those who are pleasedLXXVI with their lot.LXXVII SelahLXXVIII

Notes on verse 13

LXXIV “fate” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
LXXV “foolhardy” = kesel. Related to “fool” in v10. 13x in OT. From kasal (see note LVI above). This is loins, thigh, flank, fatness. It can also be folly, silliness, confidence, or hope.
LXXVI “pleased” = ratsah. This is to be pleased with, delight, take pleasure in, or accept with favor. It can mean to approve or consent regarding something. It can also be used specifically of satisfying debts or being pardoned.
LXXVII “lot” = peh. Same as “mouth” in v3. See note XIV above.
LXXVIII “Selah” = selah. From salal (to lift up, build, pile, extol, exalt; can also be used for opposing as a dam holds back water). This is to lift up or exalt. Also, “selah” in the psalms where its precise meaning is uncertain. It could be a pause in the music, a moment of silence. It could signal a change in the service or mean something akin to amen.

14 Like sheepLXXIX they are appointedLXXX for Sheol;LXXXI
    DeathLXXXII shall be their shepherd;LXXXIII

Notes on verse 14a

LXXIX “sheep” = tson. This is a flock of sheep and goats.
LXXX “appointed” = shathat. 2x in OT. This is to place, set, lie, array.
LXXXI “Sheol” = sheol. Perhaps from sha’al (to ask, request). This is the place where the dead go, the grace, the underworld.
LXXXII “death” = mavet. Related to “die” in v10. From mut (see note LV above). This can be death, deadliness, the dead, or the place where the dead go. It can be used figuratively for pestilence or ruin.
LXXXIII “be…shepherd” = ra’ah. This is to tend a flock, pasture, or graze. It can mean to rule or to associate with someone. Figuratively, it can be ruler or teacher.

straightLXXXIV to the graveLXXXV they descend,LXXXVI

Notes on verse 14b

LXXXIV “straight” = yashar. From yashar (to be straight, right, even, smooth, or agreeable; figuratively, to make something pleasant or prosperous). This is straight, right, level. Also, it is pleasing, whether pleasing God or pleasing other people. So, it is upright or righteous.
LXXXV “grave” = boqer. From baqar (to seek, plow, break forth, admire, care for). This refers to the break of day. So it is dawn, early, morning, or morrow.
LXXXVI “descend” = radah. This is to step down, rule, dominate, have victory over, crumble.

    and their formLXXXVII shall waste away;LXXXVIII
    Sheol shall be their home.LXXXIX

Notes on verse 14c

LXXXVII “form” = tsir. 2x in OT. From tsur (to fashion, delineate) OR from the same as tsiyr (messenger, pain, sorrow, hinge); from tsur (to confine, besiege, to cramp). This is a form, image, beauty. It can also be an idol.
LXXXVIII “waste away” = balah. 17x in OT. This is to grow old, wear out, consume, waste, enjoy, fail, decay.
LXXXIX “home” = zebul. 5x in OT. From zabal (to dwell, inclose, reside). This is height, dwelling, elevation, place.

15 But God will ransom my soulXC from the powerXCI of Sheol,
    for he will receiveXCII me. Selah

Notes on verse 15

XC “soul” = nephesh. Same as “life” in v8. See note XLV above.
XCI “power” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
XCII “receive” = laqach. This is to take, accept, carry away, receive.

16 Do not be afraid when someXCIII become rich,XCIV
    when the wealthXCV of their houses increases.XCVI

Notes on verse 16

XCIII “some” = ish. Same as “high” in v2. See note X above.
XCIV “become rich” = ashar. Related to “rich” in v2 & “riches” in v6. 17x in OT. See note XI above.
XCV “wealth” = kabod. From kabad (to be heavy, weighty, burdensome). This is weighty. Figuratively, glorious, abundant, riches, honor, splendor – a reference to one’s reputation or character. This word is often used to describe God and God’s presence.
XCVI “increases” = rabah. This is increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.

17 For when they die they will carry nothing away;XCVII
    their wealthXCVIII will not go downXCIX after them.

Notes on verse 17

XCVII “carry…away” = laqach. Same as “receive” in v15. See note XCII above.
XCVIII “wealth” = kabod. Same as “wealth” in v16. See note XCV above.
XCIX “go down” = yarad. This is to go down, descend; going down in a literal or figurative sense. It can be going to the shore or a boundary, bringing down an enemy.

18 Though in their lifetimeC they count themselves happyCI
    —for you are praisedCII when you do wellCIII for yourself—

Notes on verse 18

C “lifetime” = nephesh + chay. Nephesh is the same as “life” in v8. See note XLV above. Chay is related to “live” in v9. From chayah (see note XLIX above). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.
CI “count…happy” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
CII “praised” = yadah. Related to “power” in v15. From yad (see note XCI above). This is to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise. So, it is to praise, give thanks, or make a confession.
CIII “do well” = yatab. This is to be good or pleasing, joyful. It can also mean doing good in an ethical sense or be beautiful, happy, successful, or right.

19 they will go to the companyCIV of their ancestors,CV
    who will never againCVI see the light.CVII
20 Mortals cannot abideCVIII in their pomp;
    they are like the animals that perish.

Notes on verses 19-20

CIV “company” = dor. Same as “to all generations” in v11. See note XLIV above.
CV “ancestors” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
CVI “never again” = ad + netsach + lo. Literally “as long as always not.” Netsach is the same as “forever” in v9. See note L above.
CVII “light” = or. From or (to be or become light). This is light, sun, sunshine, dawn, or daylight. Figuratively, it can refer to light from instruction, light of a face (that is to say one that is cheerful or finds favor). It can refer to prosperity or salvation; a light that guides, a light eternal from Zion.
CVIII “abide” = bin. Related to “understanding” in v3. See note XIX above.

Image credit: “Vanitas Still Life with Self-Portait” by Pieter Claesz, circa 1628.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply