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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 49


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.



1 [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 Proverb 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 [1] Korahites: see note on Psalm 42:1.

3 [5] 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 [8] 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 [16] 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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