A person’s riches may ransom their life, but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.
I’ve struggled with the translation and meaning of this wise saying. But I think this may represent what’s really going on here.
These two parallel poetic statements offer an interesting interpretation about the realities of life for two different types of people — those with “riches” and “the poor.”
Some people in the world have resources (“riches”) and are able to “ransom their life.” They can and do buy their way out of situations — at least for a while!
But others (“the poor”) don’t have such situations. I think the best translation for this second line is “but the poor hear no threat.” Since they have nothing others want — the poor don’t find themselves in such situations where they need to buy their way out.
I suggest this wise saying is somewhat similar to something Paul wrote to Timothy about the rich (1 Timothy 6:9). Being rich has lots of its own problems.
Not that there’s any special blessing in being poor! We will struggle — whatever our lot in life.
So let’s just try to make the most of what we have — or don’t have…one day at a time!