Don’t fear the rich
A song and a harp
For the music leader. A psalm of Korah’s family.1Listen up everyone.
That means you.
Switch on those ears,
No matter where on earth you live,
2Highbrow and lowdown,
Rich and poor.
3I’m going to give you some wise advice.
These are insightful words.
4I’ve got a message you should hear.
I’m going to play it on a harp.
Money can’t buy eternal life5Why should I be afraid when times get tough
Because my enemies are swarming around me?
6Their faith is in their wealth.
And they brag about all they own.
7But money can’t save them.
God doesn’t take cash
As payment for eternal life.
8There’s not enough money
To buy a human life.
You’ll never have enough.
So, give it up.
9Come on, can the rich live forever?
Do they get a pass when it comes time to pass on?
10Even the smartest people die. We can see that.
The common senseless and the uneducated, too.
And they all leave their money
To those they left behind.
11They move down in the world, to the grave.
They’ll stay there through the ages.
They’ve given up their lands
For a cemetery plot.
12Some think they’re something special.
But they all die like animals.
13That’s what happens to fools with money,
And to those who believe and enable them.
Pasture of Death14Like sheep, they graze their way to Death.
Death becomes their shepherd.
Good folks will take their place as rulers,
While Death consumes the dead
Until there’s nothing respectable left of them.
15God will snatch me from the grip of Death.
He’ll take me out of reach.
Rich folks dead in the dirt16Don’t be afraid of rich people
Who live in dazzling luxury.
17When they die, they take nothing.
They leave everything right here.
18While alive, they brag themselves up
For doing so well with what they had.
Others praised them, too.
19But in the end,
They’ll go where their ancestors went,
To see the light of day.
20People who don’t understand
What it means to be honorable
Are no better than animals
Dead in the dirt.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. Korah was a musical family in the tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes that made up the original nation of Israel. Levite families worked as priests and worship leaders and assistants for the Jewish nation.
The word in the original language of Hebrew is selah. Bible scholars haven’t figured out what it means yet, so all we can do is guess. It could mean “pause for effect,” “instrumental interlude,” or “choir singing ‘Amen.’” We’re offering a guess instead of selah. Though selah might be the better way to go because it’s always correct, it’s also always incomprehensible. “Instruments” has a good chance of being wrong, but at least we convey the idea that the Hebrew word behind it probably has something to do with enhancing the song.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
Scholars say the original Hebrew words are hard to translate. Evidence shows up in the wildly different interpretations in various Bible translations. For example, here are other versions of the closing phrase, “Until there’s nothing respectable left.” “So that they have no habitation” (New American Standard Bible). “Their bodies will rot in a grave far from home” (New Century Version). “Far from their princely mansions” (New International Version). “Till its nobility be gone” (The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation).
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