on Psalms 49 :4
I will incline mine ear to a parable - This was the general method of conveying instruction among the Asiatics. They used much figure and metaphor to induce the reader to study deeply in order to find out the meaning. This had its use; it obliged men to think and reflect deeply; and thus in some measure taught them the use, government, and management of their minds.
My dark saying upon the harp - Music was sometimes used to soothe the animal spirits, and thus prepare the mind for the prophetic influx.
on Psalms 49 :4
I will incline mine ear to a parable - The phrase "I will incline mine ear" means that he would listen or attend to - as we incline our ear toward those whom we are anxious to hear, or in the direction from which a sound seems to come. Compare Psalm 5:1; Psalm 17:1; Psalm 39:12; Isaiah 1:2. On the word rendered "parable" here משׁל mâshâl - see the notes at Isaiah 14:4. Compare Job 13:12, note; Job 27:1, note. The word properly means similitude; then, a sentence, sententious saying, apophthegm; then, a proverb; then, a song or poem. There is usually found in the word some idea of "comparison," and hence, usually something that is to be illustrated "by" a comparison or a story. The reference here would seem to be to some dark or obscure subject which needed to be illustrated; which it was not easy to understand; which had given the writer, as well as others, perplexity and difficulty. He proposed now, with a view to understand and explain it, to place his ear, as it were, "close to the matter," that he might clearly comprehend it. The matter was difficult, but he felt assured he could explain it - as when one unfolds the meaning of an enigma. The "problem" - the "parable" - the difficult point - related to the right use, or the proper value, of wealth, or the estimate in which it should be held by those who possessed it, and by those who did not. It was very evident to the author of the psalm that the views of people were not right on the subject; he therefore proposed to examine the matter carefully, and to state the exact truth.
I will open - I will explain; I will communicate the result of my careful inquiries.
My dark saying - The word used here - חידה chı̂ydâh - is rendered "dark speeches" in Numbers 12:8; "riddle," in Judges 14:12-19; Ezekiel 17:2; "hard questions" in 1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; "dark saying" (as here) in Psalm 78:2; Proverbs 1:6; "dark sentences," in Daniel 8:23; and "proverb" in Habakkuk 2:6. It does not elsewhere occur. It means properly "something entangled, intricate;" then, a trick or stratagem; then art intricate speech, a riddle; then, a sententious saying, a maxim; then a parable, a poem, a song, a proverb. The idea here is, that the point was intricate or obscure; it was not well understood, and he purposed "to lay it open," and to make it plain.
Upon the harp - On the meaning of the word used here, see the notes at Isaiah 5:12. The idea here is, that he would accompany the explanation with music, or would so express it that it might be accompanied with music; that is, he would give it a poetic form - a form such that the sentiment might be used in public worship, and might be impressed upon the mind by all the force and power which music would impart. Sentiments of purity and truth, and sentiments of pollution and falsehood also, are always most deeply imbedded in the minds of people, and are made most enduring and effective, when they are connected with music. Thus the sentiments of patriotism are perpetuated and impressed in song; and thus sentiments of sensuality and pollution owe much of their permanence and power to the fact that they are expressed in corrupt verse, and that they are perpetuated in exquisite poetry, and are accompanied with song. Scenes of revelry, as well as acts of devotion, are kept up by song. Religion proposes to take advantage of this principle in our nature by connecting the sentiments of piety with the sweetness of verse, and by impressing and perpetuating those sentiments through associating them with all that is tender, pure, and inspiriting in music. Hence, music, both vocal and that which is produced by instruments, has always been found to be an invaluable auxiliary in securing the proper impression of truth on the minds of people, as well as in giving utterance to the sentiments of piety in devotion.
on Psalms 49 :4
49:4 I will - I will hearken what God by his Spirit speaks to me, and that will I now speak to you. A parable - Which properly is an allegorical speech, but is often taken for an important, and withal, dark doctrine or sentence. Open - I will not smother it in my own breast, but publish it to the world. Dark - So he calls the following discourse, because the thing in question ever hath been thought hard to be understood.