Psalm xlviii. (Audite hęc omnes gentes.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Psalm. St. Ambrose adds, “of David.” It is written in an enigmatical style, like the book of Ecclesiastes, and is very obscure. But the drift is, to impress the captives with a contempt of worldly grandeur, which will end in death. The redemption of mankind and the resurrection of Christ are foretold, ver. 8, 16, &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Earth-born. Hebrew, “sons of Adam,” a title belonging to the meanest. Progenies terrę. Perseus vi. 56. (Calmet) — So Callimachus styles the giants, “mud-born.” (Haydock)— Yet Houbigant explains it of the rich, (Berthier) who have lands, and leave their names to them, ver. 12. (Haydock) — Of men. Hebrew ish, noblemen. (Menochius) — Ye just and (St. Augustine) and polite. (St. Athanasius)
Ver. 5. Proposition. Hebrew, “riddle.” (Berthier) — The ancients delighted in parables, which required attention to discern the meaning, and thus people had the pleasures of ingenuity. Music often accompanied their precepts. (Strabo i. 12.) (Calmet) — Utile dulci. (Haydock) — The psalmist intimates, that he had attended the best masters, (Calmet) even the Holy Ghost. (St. Chrysostom) — He delivers the instructions which he had received from God, on the instrument of ten strings, to imply that we must keep the ten commandments. (Worthington) — He listens if the instrument be in tune. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. The iniquity of my heel. That is, the iniquity of my steps, or ways: or the iniquity of my pride, with which, as with the heel, I have spurned and kicked at my neighbours: or the iniquity of my heel, that is, the iniquity in which I shall be found in death. The meaning of this verse is, why should I now indulge those passions and sinful affections, or commit now those sins, which will cause me so much fear and anguish in the evil day; when the sorrows of death shall compass me, and the perils of hell shall find me? (Challoner) — The old serpent is constantly laying snares for our heel, Genesis iii. 15. (Haydock) — Original (St. Jerome) and actual sin, (Eusebius) particularly final impenitence, (Rabbins) and the punishment of our transgressions, (Abenezra) are much to be feared, (Haydock) as well as concupiscence. (St. Ambrose) — All that will fill us with alarm in the day of vengeance, will be the having been supplanted, like wrestlers, by our iniquity, (Calmet) of which we have not repented. (Haydock) — Any such injustice must be dreaded, as it will bring on damnation. (Worthington) — Instead of heel, Symmachus has “steps,” including all the unjust actions of life. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. They that trust, &c. As much as to say, let them fear, that trust in their strength or riches; for they have great reason to fear: seeing no brother, or other man, how much a friend soever, can by any price or labour rescue them from death. (Challoner) — I address myself particularly to the rich, who are in the greatest danger.
Ver. 8. No. Protestants, “none of them can by any means redeem his brother; nor, &c. (Haydock) — But the Septuagint translate as well, and the sense is the same, Matthew xvi. 26. (Berthier) — If Jesus Christ, thy brother, does not redeem thee, will any other do it? (St. Augustine) or though thy brother neglect, the man, Christ Jesus, will suffice. (St. Ambrose) — But with respect to death, no redemption will be admitted. It is appointed for all once to die. [Hebrews ix. 27.] (Haydock) — A man shall be more precious than gold, says Isaias, (xiii. 12.) of the Babylonians, whom the enemy will not spare, for any consideration. We must therefore make good use of our time, Ecclesiastes ix. 10., and Proverbs xi. 4. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. And shall labour for ever, &c. This seems to be a continuation of the foregoing sentence; as much as to say, no man can by any price or ransom, prolong his life, that so he may still continue to labour here, and live to the end of the world. Others understand it of the eternal sorrows, and dying life of hell, which is the dreadful consequence of dying in sin. (Challoner) — The just, on the contrary, who have laboured for eternity, shall see the death of the wicked, or of the wise of this world. (Eusebius, &c.) — It may also be a prediction of Christ’s life of sufferings and future glory, (Bossuet) or express the sentiments of infidels, who deny a Providence; because both good and bad perish alike, Ecclesiastes iii. 18. (St. Augustine) — Hebrew, “he rests for ever,” (St. Jerome) or “shall he be undisturbed?” (Calmet) — Both those who disbelieve a future state, and those who live as if they did, shall suffer. (Worthington) — This verse is included within a parenthesis by Protestants, (For the redemption….is precious, and it, &c.) (Haydock)
Ver. 11. He shall not see destruction, &c., or shall he not see destruction? As much as to say, however thoughtless may be of his death, he must not expect to escape: when even the wise and the good are not exempt from dying. (Challoner) — Strangers. This is very distressing. (Pindar. Olym. x.) (Ecclesiastes ii. 18.) — The endeavours of the wicked to establish their families, will be vain, while they themselves shall never more return from the graves hither. (Worthington)
Ver. 12. Sepulchres. Hebrew Kobrom is better than the present Kirbam, their “interior,” and is adopted by the Chaldean, Syriac, &c. (Calmet) — “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever.” (Protestants) (Haydock) — Called. That is, they have left their names on their graves, which alone remain of their lands, (Challoner) or, they have called cities and countries by their own names, as Alexander and Romulus did, Alexandria, (Haydock) and Rome. (Menochius, &c.) — They have spread their fame throughout the world. (Calmet) — Scarcely two translate the four last verses alike. (Berthier)
Ver. 13. Compared. Hebrew, “he is like dumb, or perishable beasts.” (Haydock) — So much is man degraded by his attachment to riches and pleasures. (Theodoret) (Calmet) — Some explain this of Adam, (St. Chrysostom) reduced to the necessity of labouring, and dying, like brutes, ver. 21., and Ecclesiastes iii. 18. (Calmet) — This is a very serious reflection, to think that man should so far neglect the gifts of reason, as to strive for temporal advantages only, like irrational creatures. (Worthington)
Ver. 14. They shall delight in their mouth. Notwithstanding the wretched way in which they walk, they shall applaud themselves with their mouths, and glory in their doings, (Challoner) though it be to their shame, Philippians iii. 10. — Hebrew, their posterity shall applaud their maxims, (Calmet) as many of their followers contributed to keep them in the delusion, (Haydock) which the damned will deplore, when it is too late, ver. 15. (St. Jerome) — A thirst after worldly advantages has proved their ruin; yet they obstinately persist in their evil ways. (Worthington)
Ver. 15. In the morning. That is, in the resurrection to a new life; when the just shall judge and condemn the wicked. — From their glory. That is, when their short-lived glory in this world shall be past, and be no more. (Challoner) — Sic transit gloria mundi. (Haydock) — Then the world shall be turned upside down. (Calmet) — The just shall have their day, (Menochius) when the beautiful palaces of the wicked shall be exchanged for darkness, and horrible torments. (Haydock) — “Their bodies shall grow old in hell, because they have stretched out their hand, and destroyed the habitation of the house of his majesty.” (Targum) — Their figure shall be destroyed in hell, after his dwelling. (St. Jerome) — They can rescue themselves no more than sheep. Those whom they oppressed shall be their judges. All friends will forsake them. (Worthington) — Crowds shall be confined to those mansions, where the fire is not extinguished. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Redeem. Chaldean and some Rabbins seem to understand this of purgatory. “He will draw me from hell, and give me a place in his habitation.” (Genebrard) — Others explain it of Christ’s resurrection, or of the liberation of the patriarchs from limbo. (Cassiodorus) — It seems a full solution of the enigma, ver. 6. I repent, and shall have nothing to fear. (Berthier)
Ver. 18. Him. “The glory of a man increases with his prosperity, but it does not go down with him when he descends” (St. Ambrose) into the grave. He there finds the same reception as the most ignoble.
Ver. 19. To him. The wicked are very selfish. They will seem grateful to those who are in power, and will cringe to get riches. (Haydock) — Yea, they will seem to thank God for their prosperity, (Worthington) or rather, they will assume these appearances with men. Hebrew, “he will bless his soul during life, (Berthier) with all pleasures,” Luke xii. 19., and Deuteronomy xxix. 19. (Calmet) — To him, is not in Hebrew, which insinuates, that people are flattered during their prosperity. (Haydock) — Yet Houbigant would restore this word, “and he will praise thee when thou shalt have done him a kindness;” c may have been placed for i, as Symmachus seems to have read auto. (Haydock) — The proper use of riches is to do good, Luke xvi. 9.
Ver. 20. Fathers. Like them he shall die. (Haydock) — Hebrew reads in the second person, with Syriac, Aquila, &c. (Calmet) — Yet Protestants, Montanus, and others agree with us and the Septuagint. — And he. Hebrew, “they.” The  edition, however, has opsetai. Each individual, as well as the whole collection of the damned, shall be deprived of light and comfort. (Haydock) — Chaldean, “the just shall live like his fathers, a long and happy life; but the wicked shall enjoy no light in the life to come.”
Ver. 21. Understand. Hebrew yabin, though (ver. 13.) we find yalin, “shall remain all night.” (Calmet) — But this is probably a mistake, as the prophet concludes with repeating this important instruction: (Berthier) Remember, O man, not to degrade thy rational soul. (Worthington) — Thou wast honoured by all, and made to the likeness of God. (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The folly of worldlings, who live in sin, without thinking of death or hell.
1 Unto the end, a psalm for the sons of Core.
2 Hear these things, all ye nations: give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world.
3 All you that are earth-born, and you sons of men: both rich and poor together.
4 My mouth shall speak wisdom: and the meditation of my heart understanding.
5 *I will incline my ear to a parable; I will open my proposition on the psaltery.
6 Why shall I fear in the evil day? the iniquity of my heel shall encompass me.
7 They that trust in their own strength, and glory in the multitude of their riches,
8 No brother can redeem, nor shall man redeem: he shall not give to God his ransom;
9 Nor the price of the redemption of his soul: and shall labour for ever, 10 and shall still live unto the end.
11 He shall not see destruction, when he shall see the wise dying: the senseless and the fool shall perish together:
And they shall leave their riches to strangers: 12 and their sepulchres shall be their houses for ever.
Their dwelling places to all generations: they have called their lands by their names.
13 And man, when he was in honour, did not understand: he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them.
14 This way of theirs is a stumbling-block to them: and afterwards they shall delight in their mouth.
15 They are laid in hell like sheep: death shall feed upon them.
And the just shall have dominion over them in the morning: and their help shall decay in hell from their glory.
16 But God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell, when he shall receive me.
17 Be not thou afraid, when a man shall be made rich, and when the glory of his house shall be increased.
18 For when he shall die, he shall take nothing away; nor shall his glory descend with him.
19 For in his life-time his soul will be blessed: and he will praise thee when thou shalt do well to him.
20 He shall go in to the generations of his fathers: and he shall never see light.
21 Man, when he was in honour, did not understand: he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them.
5: Psalm lxxvii. 2.; Matthew xiii. 35.