The Psalm begins with a dramatic introduction, an open invitation to all peoples and inhabitants of the world, calling all to “hear” (v 2). This suggests the inclusive character of wisdom which incorporates all low and high, rich and poor (v 3). Wisdom applies for all, despite one’s social status. The words of a wisdom teacher are those of wisdom and understanding (v 4). And he will incline his ear to a proverb and solve the riddle (v 5). The greatest riddle of Ps 49 which the wisdom teacher is going to address is the riddle of life, the relationship of life to death.
Vv 6-7, the wisdom teacher is asking a rhetorical question, “why should I fear in the evil days?” The evil days are the bad times, including the situation of the encounter with death. It is obvious that the poor and weak often face these evil days, these people being vulnerable before the wealthy and the powerful. Verse 17, says, not to be afraid, these words of verse 17 brings hope for the poor and weak against the rich and powerful (vv 6-7). “Do not be afraid” (v 17) provides the reassurance that makes it possible to say, “Why should I fear” (v 6).
Vv 8-12, indicate the reality and inevitability of retribution. “No ransom…show more content… The human does not abide in honor; he is like the beasts that perish (13). This refrain comes against the background of death. It suggests that in death there is no difference between man and a beast and that the world is not a permanent place to abide in honor.
Verse 14, speaks of the fate of foolhardy, which indicates that the manner in which one leads his or her life decides its fortune or end (Cf. Ps 73, 17). Verses 15-16, use a simile: death is personified as Shepherd gathering in like sheep those appointed to die (v 15). The abode of dead is conceived as Sheol. The shepherd may refer to God himself, who is the shepherd of his people (Ps 23, 1; 80, 2; 95, 7) and who will ransom their soul from the power of Sheol (v