Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Psalms 49:14

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Like sheep they are laid in the grave - לשאול lishol, into sheol, the place of separate spirits.

Death shall feed on them ירעם מות maveth yirem, "Death shall feed them!" What an astonishing change! All the good things of life were once their portion, and they lived only to eat and drink; and now they live in sheol, and Death himself feeds them? and with what? Damnation. Houbigant reads the verse thus: "Like sheep they shall be laid in the place of the dead; death shall feed on them; their morning shepherds rule over them; and their flesh is to be consumed. Destruction is to them in their folds."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Like sheep they are laid in the grave - The allusion here is to a flock as “driven” forward by the shepherd; and the meaning is that they are driven forward to the grave, as it were, in flocks, or as a flock of sheep is driven by a shepherd. The word rendered “are laid” - שׁתוּ śatû - is probably not derived from the verb שׁות śûth or שׁית śı̂yth as our translators seem to have supposed, but from שׁתת śâthath to set, or place; and the meaning is, “Like sheep they put them in Sheol, or the grave;” that is, they thrust or drive them down there. In other words, this is “done,” without intimating by whom it is done. They are urged forward; they are driven toward the tomb as a flock of sheep is driven forward to the slaughter. Some influence or power is pressing them in masses down to the grave. The word rendered “grave” is “Sheol.” It is sometimes used in the sense of the grave, and sometimes as referring to the abode of departed spirits. See Job 10:21-22, note; Psalm 6:5, note. It seems here to be used in the former sense.

Death shall feed on them - The word rendered “feed” here - רעה râ‛âh - means properly to feed a flock; to pasture; then, to perform the office of a shepherd. The idea here is not, as in our translation, “death shall feed on them;” but, death shall rule over them as the shepherd rules his flock. The allusion to the “flock” suggested this. They are driven down to the grave, or to Sheol. The shepherd, the ruler, he who does this, is “death;” and the idea is not that death is a hungry monster, devouring them “in” the grave, but that the shepherd over that “flock,” instead of being a kind and gentle friend and protector (as the word “shepherd” naturally suggests), is “death” - a fearful and grim Ruler of the departed. The idea, therefore, is not that of “feeding,” specifically, but it is that of ruling, controlling, guiding. So the Septuagint, θάνατος ποιμανεῖ αὐτούς thanatos poimanei autous The Vulgate, however, renders it, “mors depascet eos;” and Luther, “der Tod naget sie;” death gnaws or feeds on them.

And the upright - The just; the righteous. The meaning of this part of the verse undoubtedly is, that the just or pious would have some kind of ascendancy or superiority over them at the period here referred to as the “morning.”

Shall have dominion over them - Or rather, as DeWette renders it, shall “triumph” over them. That is, will be exalted over them; or shall have a more favored lot. Though depressed now, and though crushed by the rich, yet they will soon have a more exalted rank, and a higher honor than those who, though once rich, are laid in the grave tinder the dominion of death.

In the morning - That is, very soon; tomorrow; when the morning dawns after the darkness of the present. See the notes at Psalm 30:5. There is a time coming - a brighter time - when the relative condition of the two classes shall be changed, and when the upright - the pious - though poor and oppressed now, shall be exalted to higher honors than “they” will be. There is no certain evidence that this refers to the “morning” of the resurrection; but it is language which well expresses the idea when connected with that doctrine, and which can be best explained on the supposition that that doctrine was referred to, and that the hope of such a resurrection was cherished by the writer. Indeed, when we remember that the psalmist expressly refers to the “grave” in regard to the rich, it is difficult to explain the language on any other supposition than that he refers here to the resurrection - certainly not as well as on this supposition - and especially when it is remembered that death makes no distinction in cutting down people, whether they are righteous or wicked. Both are laid in the grave alike, and “any” prospect of distinction or triumph in the case must be derived from scenes beyond the grave. This verse, therefore, may belong to that class of passages in the Old Testament which are founded on the belief of the resurrection of the dead without always expressly affirming it, and which are best explained on the supposition that the writers of the Old Testament were acquainted with that doctrine, and drew their hopes as well as their illustrations from it. Compare Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 26:19; Psalm 16:9-10.

And their beauty - Margin, “strength.” The Hebrew word means “form, shape, image;” and the idea here is, that their form or figure will be changed, or disappear, to wit, by consuming away. The idea of “beauty,” or “strength,” is not necessarily in the passage, but the meaning is, that the form or figure which was so familiar among people will be dissolved, and disappear in the grave.

Shall consume in the grave - Hebrew, “in Sheol.” The word probably means here “the grave.” The original word rendered “consume,” means literally to make old; to wear out; to waste away. The entire form of the man will disappear.

From their dwelling - Margin, “the grave being a habitation to every one of them.” Septuagint, “and their help shall grow old in the grave from their glory.” So the Latin Vulgate. The whole expression is obscure. The most probable meaning is, “they shall consume in the grave, “from its being a dwelling to him;”” that is, to each of them. Sheol, or the grave, becomes a dwelling to the rich man, and in that gloomy abode - that which is now his dwelling - he consumes away. It pertains to that dwelling, or it is one of the conditions of residing there, that all consume away and disappear. Others render it, “so that there is no dwelling or habitation for them.” Others, and this is the more common interpretation, “their form passes away, the underworld is their habitation.” See DeWette in loc. This last rendering requires a slight change in the punctuation of the original. DeWette, Note, p. 339. The “general” idea in the passage is plain, that the possessors of wealth are soon to find their home in the grave, and that their forms, with all on which they valued themselves, are soon to disappear.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.