- 1 2 For the leader. A psalm of the Korahites.
- Hear this, all you peoples! Give ear, all who inhabit the world,
- You of lowly birth or high estate, rich and poor alike.
- My mouth shall speak wisdom, my heart shall offer insight.
- 3 I will turn my attention to a problem, expound my question to the music of a lyre.
- Why should I fear in evil days, when my wicked pursuers ring me round,
- Those who trust in their wealth and boast of their abundant riches?
- 4 One cannot redeem oneself, pay to God a ransom.
- Too high the price to redeem a life; one would never have enough
- To stay alive forever and never see the pit.
- Anyone can see that the wisest die, the fool and the senseless pass away too, and must leave their wealth to others.
- Tombs are their homes forever, their dwellings through all generations, though they gave their names to their lands.
- For all their riches mortals do not abide; they perish like the beasts.
- This is the destiny of those who trust in folly, the end of those so pleased with their wealth. Selah
- Like sheep they are herded into Sheol, where death will be their shepherd. Straight to the grave they descend, where their form will waste away, Sheol will be their palace.
- 5 But God will redeem my life, will take me from the power of Sheol. Selah
- Do not fear when others become rich, when the wealth of their houses grows great.
- When they die they will take nothing with them, their wealth will not follow them down.
- When living, they congratulate themselves and say: "All praise you, you do so well."
- But they will join the company of their forebears, never again to see the light.
- For all their riches, if mortals do not have wisdom, they perish like the beasts.
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Footnotes1 [Psalm 49] The psalm affirms confidence in God (cf Psalm 23; 27:1-6; 62) in the face of the apparent good fortune of the unjust rich. Cf Psalm 37; 73. Reliance on wealth is misplaced (Psalm 49:8-10) for it is of no avail in the face of death (Psalm 49:18-20). After inviting all to listen to this axiom of faith (Psalm 49:2-5), the psalmist depicts the self-delusion of the ungodly (Psalm 49:6-13), whose destiny is to die like ignorant beasts (Psalm 49:13,18; cf Prov 7:21-23). Their wealth should occasion no alarm, for they will come to nought, whereas God will save the just (Psalm 49:14-20). 2 Korahites: see note on Psalm 42:1.
3 Problem: the psalmist's personal solution to the perennial biblical problem of the prosperity of the wicked. Question: parallel in meaning to problem; in Wisdom literature it means the mysterious way of how the world works.
4 One cannot redeem oneself: an axiom. For the practice of redemption, cf Job 6:21-23. A play on the first Hebrew word of Psalm 49:8,16 relates the two verses.
5 Will take me: the same Hebrew verb is used of God "taking up" a favored servant: Enoch in Genesis 5:24; Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11-12; the righteous person in Psalm 73:24. The verse apparently states the hope that God will rescue the faithful psalmist in the same manner.
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