Book 3, Psalms 73-89
Why do the wicked get rich?
Wicked and rich
A psalm of Asaph.1 God treats Israel well.
And pure-hearted people, too.
2 But I almost walked away from God.
I wandered down the wrong trail.
3 Envy was the problem.
I envied the enviable.
I saw how successful the wicked can be.
4 They don’t die in pain.
And their bellies are full.
5 They don’t suffer like the rest of us do.
Troubles common to humanity are foreign to them.
6 So they wear arrogance like jewelry
And violence like evening attire.
7 Their eyeballs bulge from the fat in their heads.
Their hearts swell with plans to get richer.
8 They make fun of others and hatch wicked plots.
And they speak from positions of power.
9 They trash-talk heaven,
And take their show on the road.
10 It’s a sideshow, distracting.
Crowds drink it up
Like secrets to success
From the rich and the famous.
11 These wicked folks say,
“How can God know what’s best for you?
In fact, how can the Most High know anything.”
12 That’s how wicked people talk.
Yet they live in peace,
And get richer than ever.
No payday for good behavior?13 So, I get nothing for being a good person?
I get nothing for these innocent hands?
14 I’m under attack all the time.
Every new day it’s new trouble.
15 If I had said this out loud
It would have shocked a lot of people.
16 So I quietly tried to figure it out.
But I couldn’t understand it at all.
17 Everything changed when I went to your Temple.
That’s when I realized what you were doing.
Fake flattery for the rich18 You give them false confidence, built on fake flattery.
They’re going to fall flat on their faces.
19 One moment they’re here, and the next they’re gone,
Terrified, then swept away forever.
20 You’ll hate the very thought of them,
As though waking from a nightmare.
You never left me alone21 I was angry and bitter.
I hurt too much to think clearly.
22 I had the brains of a boulder,
And no patience for you.
23 Yet there you were, always with me,
Holding my hand and never letting go.
24 You’ll show me the way,
Then welcome me with honor.
25 With you beside me,
What more could I ask of heaven?
With you beside me,
I want nothing more on earth.
26 My body and mind will fail.
But God puts his strength in my spirit.
And God is mine forever.
26 Look, those who have left you will die.
You destroy those who reject you.
28 As for me, I enjoy the company of God.
The Lord God guards and protects me.
So, I’m here to tell you
The great things he has done.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of Asaph,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by Asaph, about Asaph, or was inspired by Asaph. Asaph led 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 worship assistants for the Jewish nation. Asaph was a leader of worship music during the time of King David (1 Chronicles 16:5). His family carried on the musical tradition, showing up five centuries later, when a Jewish man named Nehemiah, in the 500s BC, helped rebuild Jerusalem after Babylonian invaders from what is now Iraq leveled Jerusalem in 586 BC.
This verse is a guess. Every version of this Bible verse is an educated guess. It’s so impossible to interpret that some scholars recommend dropping it from the psalm. Some interpret it as a promise to restore Israel, while others say it’s about punishing people for buying into the evil ideas that the wicked are pitching. The idea about drinking, literally “waters of abundance,” seems to be talking about prosperity. In context, that may refer to ordinary folks finding the rich lifestyle attractive, and wanting in on it. No matter the spiritual cost.
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