Psalm 49 and Shakespeare’s Hamlet


I read these words last night in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” which reminded me of some not-too-distant teachings found in the Book of Psalms and the Book of Ecclesiastes:

“What is a man, if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.” (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene IV)


“Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49:20)

In the context of Psalm 49, the Psalmist is speaking of wicked, unbelieving men who put their trust in earthly riches and who are not living in view of eternity and the final judgment (verses 6 to 13). They merely live for the things of this perishable world and God is not the center of their lives. In other words “they understandeth not”. Even at his best a man “that is in honor” who just lives for the things of this life without any view of eternity is no better than a beast. He eats, he sleeps, he repeats the cycle over and over again and ultimately dies. The difference is that the beast’s existence ceases at death while the man’s soul will be judged by God (Ecclesiastes 12:7, 13-14)

“I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other” (Ecclesiastes 3:18-19b)


Here’s an article I wrote concerning the not-so-insignificant topic of the meaning of life:

Solomon’s Philosophy Experiment

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Filed under Ecclesiastes

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