Exegesis of Psalm 49:7-9

The Text:
7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him–
8 For the redemption of their souls is costly, And it shall cease forever–
9 That he should continue to live eternally, And not see the Pit. (NKJV)

In order to properly understand and/or exegete any part of the Bible context is important. Therefore; before looking at verses 7-9, looking at the context of Psalm 49 should be done first. The authorship of the Psalm is attributed to the “Sons of Korah,” the same author(s) as Psalm 47 and 48. This Psalm is written as a poem but has a message like a sermon. The theme of the Psalm being the vanity of riches and that the rich only prosper for a short time, while true hope comes only from God. The audience for the Psalm is everybody, which is stated in the opening verse: “Hear this, all peoples; Give ear, all inhabitants of the world.” The immediate context for verses 7-9 can be seen from verses 5-6. Which speak of the theme of fear (but being confident), times of trouble, and wealth. The idea being presented is that it is vain to trust in wealth and riches.

Verse 7:

The NKJV starts out, “None of them.” The Hebrew word here is more commonly translated “brethren” or “brother.” Therefore; we can know that “none of them” is referring to a person or another man. “Can by any means redeem his brother,” so we can see that the theme is redemption, and what is being said is that no man (brother) can redeem his brother. Or another way to say it is, “no man can redeem another man.” “Nor give to God a ransom for him,” meaning that no man can pay enough money to ransom or deliver another person from God.

The implication of verse 7 is interesting. It is implying that man owes God a debt. It is a debt that he cannot pay and that no other man can pay for him. The reason that it cannot be paid is that no matter how wealthy the person is, it will never be enough to pay the ransom. No matter if all the wealthy of the world collect their money together, it will still not be enough to pay the price. While we often think of paying a price in money or gold, it is important to note that wages can be paid in other ways as well. Since this Psalm is for all peoples, not only the wealthy, we should understand that payment cannot be paid in any other way either. The Hebrew word for pay used here can also mean, “give, put, deliver, make, grant, suffer, yield, send, appoint.” Therefore; what it is saying is that there is absolutely nothing you or another person can do or give in order to pay your debt to God.

Verse 8:

At this point we may be asking, why? This does not sound fair, why can’t the debt ever be paid off? Here we have the answer, “For the redemption of their souls is costly.” The meaning here is that to ransom a soul or life is too costly for any human to pay. In fact the next part of the verse, “And it shall cease forever,” could be translated, “forever stop trying.” The debt owed to God because of man’s sin is too costly to pay for, it is better for man to stop trying to pay it. On the Day of Judgment man will not have any of his worldly wealth or possessions with him in order to pay for his sin. At this point it will be too late, and there will be no other way to pay the ransom. Here we can see the true value of the human soul. Since a person cannot pay for his soul or another, we can know that the soul is priceless.

Verse 9:

Another way verse 9 could be translated is, “To live eternally and never see corruption (or destruction). Verse 9 is a continuation of verse 8, so we can know that it is again talking of redemption and paying a price. Therefore; the meaning of the two verses is that the debt of sin is death (or “the Pit,” corruption, destruction), and there is no way man can live forever and not experience this, no price can be paid or thing done in order to escape this judgment. People do not often think that they actually owe God a price, they do not realize their sin has a cost. Instead people often think the very opposite, that God owes them something. We as human beings do not realize the seriousness of our sin and the price of our soul. God as our creator owns us, because of our sin we are in debt to him, and it is a debt that we cannot pay.

Implication for the New Testament and Our Lives Today:

The implication that the New Testament has for this text is very important. In fact later in Psalm 49 we can see the hope the Psalter had looking forward, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me” (verse 15). While no man can ever pay the price for his soul, God can! God not only has the ability to ransom souls, but He did and is continuing to ransom. This reality is obviously seen in the New Testament. The price for the souls of men was paid, while it was impossible for man to pay, God chose to pay on behalf of man. The price was paid by the blood of Jesus Christ, who being of infinite worth as the Son of God, could pay the price. God alone in the form of man, Jesus Christ, was of enough worth to pay for the redemption of the souls of men and women. It is impossible for us to save ourselves or to save another. No amount of wealth, good deeds, action, or sacrifice can ever be worth enough to pay for our sin, but thanks be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; we can have redemption through His blood that was shed for us.
– John 3:16-17; 10:11; Acts 3:14-16; 4:10-12; Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:15-20

The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Thomas Nelson, Inc, 1982. WORDsearch Bible Software.

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