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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 37

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


This psalm is entitled simply “of David,” or “by David” - לדוד ledâvid. In the original title there is no intheation, as in Psalms 3:1-8; Psalms 4:1-8; Psalms 7:0; Psalms 16:1-11; Psalms 17:1-15, whether it is a “psalm” or some other species of composition, but the idea is merely that it is a “composition” of David, or that David was its “author.”

This is one of the “alphabetical” psalms: see introduction to Psalms 25:0. In this psalm the uniqueness of the composition is, that the successive letters of the alphabet occur at the beginning of every other verse, the first, the third, the fifth, etc. The exceptions are at Psalms 37:7, Psalms 37:20, Psalms 37:29, Psalms 37:34. In Psalms 37:29 the Hebrew letter צ (ts) occurs instead of the Hebrew letter ע (); and in Psalms 37:7, Psalms 37:20, Psalms 37:34, the letter introduces only a single verse. It is not possible now to account for these irregularities in the structure of the psalm. John John Bellermann (in dem Versuch uber die Metrik der Hebraer, p. 117ff) endeavored from conjecture to restore the regular series of verses by changing a portion of them; but there is no authority for this from the manuscripts, and the probability is, that the author of the psalm did not observe entire accuracy in this respect, but that he made use of the successive Hebrew letters only as a general guide in controlling the mode of the composition. In this psalm the succession of “letters” does not in any way denote a succession or a variety of “subjects.”

The occasion on which the psalm was composed is not mentioned in the title, nor is there anything in the psalm itself to fix it to any particular period of the life of David. Like Psalms 73:0, it seems to have been suggested by a contemplation of the character and designs of the wicked, and especially of the fact that they are permitted to live, and that they enjoy, under the divine administration, so much prosperity. The psalm is designed to meet and remove the perplexity arising from that fact, not (it would seem) as a personal matter in the case of the psalmist, or because the author of the psalm was himself suffering any wrong from the wicked, but as a perplexity often arising from the general fact. This fact has perplexed and embarrassed reflecting men in all ages, and it has been an object of earnest solicitude to find a solution of it, or a method of reconciling it with the administration of a pure and righteous God. The purpose of this psalm seems to have been to furnish in some degree a solution of the difficulty, or to calm down the mind in its contemplation. The psalm begins, therefore, with the general counsel, “Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity,” Psalms 37:1. This may be regarded either as counsel addressed to some one - either a real or an imaginary person - whose mind was thus agitated, or who was disposed to fret and complain on account of this - and, on that supposition, the drift of the psalm is to calm down such a mind; or it may be regarded as the address or counsel of “God” directed to the psalmist himself in “his” state of perplexity and embarrassment on the subject. From some things in the psalm Psalms 37:25, Psalms 37:35-36 it seems most probable that the former is the true supposition.

The points in the psalm are the following:

I. The main subject of the psalm - the exhortation not to fret” or be troubled on account of evil-doers and the workers of iniquity; not to allow the mind to be anxious in regard to the fact that there are such persons, or in regard to their plans, or to their prosperity in the world - for they are soon to be cut down and pass away, Psalms 37:1-2.

II. The state of mind which should be cherished in such cases - “calm confidence in God in the faithful performance of duty,” Psalms 37:3-8. We are to trust in the Lord, and do good, Psalms 37:3 to find our happiness in God, Psalms 37:4; to commit our way to Him in all our perplexities and troubles, Psalms 37:5-6; to rest secure in Him, waiting patiently for His interposition, Psalms 37:7; and to cease from all wrathful or revengeful feelings in reference to the wicked, Psalms 37:8.

III. The reasons for this state of mind, Psalms 37:9-40.

These reasons, without being kept entirely distinct, are two in number:

(1) The future doom of the Psalms 37:9-15. The general idea here is that they will be cut off, and soon pass away; that they will not secure ultimate success and prosperity, but that their wicked conduct will recoil on themselves, and overwhelm them in destruction.

(2) The ultimate prosperity of the righteous, Psalms 37:16-40. This is illustrated from various points of view, and with special reference to the experience of the psalmist. After some general statements in regard to the happy lot of the righteous Psalms 37:16-24, he refers to his own observation, during a long life, respecting the comparative effects of a wicked and a righteous course. This is shown in two respects:

(a) The protection and care of Providence over the righteous, Psalms 37:25-26. He says that he had been young, and that he was then an aged man, but that in his long life he had never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging bread.

(b) The providence of God as against the wicked, Psalms 37:35-36. He says that he had seen the wicked man in great power, and flourishing like a tree, but he soon passed away, and could no more be found upon the earth.

The general argument in the psalm, therefore, is that righteousness, the fear of God, “religion,” has a tendency to promote ultimate happiness, and to secure length of days and real honor upon the earth; that the prosperity of the wicked is temporary, and that however prosperous and happy they may seem to be, they will be ultimately cut off and made miserable.

It remains only to add that this psalm was composed when David was an old man Psalms 37:25; and apart, therefore, from the fact that it is the work of an inspired writer, it has special value as expressing the result of the observations of a long life on a point which perplexes the good in every age.

Verse 1

Fret not thyself - The Hebrew word here means properly to burn, to be kindled, to be inflamed, and is often applied to anger, as if under its influence we become “heated:” Genesis 31:36; Gen 34:7; 1 Samuel 15:11; 2 Samuel 19:43. Hence, it means to fret oneself, to be angry, or indignant. Compare Proverbs 24:19. We should perhaps express the same idea by the word “worrying” or “chafing.” The state of mind is that where we are worried, or envious, because others are prosperous and successful, and we are not. The idea is, therefore, closely allied with that in the other part of the verse, “neither be thou “envious.””

Because of evil-doers - Wicked men:

(a) at the fact that there are wicked men, or that God suffers them to live;

(b) at their numbers;

(c) at their success and prosperity.

Neither be thou envious - Envy is pain, mortification, discontent, at the superior excellence or prosperity of others, accompanied often with some degree of malignant feeling, and with a disposition to detract from their merit. It is the result of a comparison of ourselves with others who are more highly gifted or favored, or who are more successful than we are ourselves. The feeling referred to here is that which springs up in the mind when we see persons of corrupt or wicked character prospered, while we, endeavoring to do right, are left to poverty, to disappointment, and to tears.

Verse 2

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass - As the grass in the field is cut down by the mower; that is, however prosperous they may seem to be now, they are like the grass in the meadow which is so green and luxuriant, but which is soon to fall under the scythe of the mower. Their prosperity is only temporary, for they will soon pass away. The idea in the word rendered “soon” - מהרה mehêrâh - is that of “haste” or “speed:” Psalms 147:15; Numbers 16:46; Deuteronomy 11:17. The thought is not that it will be done immediately, but that “when” it occurs it will be a quick and rapid operation - as the grass falls rapidly before the mower.

And wither as the green herb - When it is cut down. That is, not as the dry and stinted shrub that grows in the desert of sand, but like the herb that grows in a garden, or in a marsh, or by the river, that is full of juices, and that needs abundant water to sustain it - like the flag or rush (compare Job 8:11) - and that withers almost instantly when it is cut down. The rapidity with which things “wilt” is in proportion to the rapidity of their growth, so the prosperity of a sinner is suddenly blasted, and he passes away. Compare Psalms 90:5-6.

Verse 3

Trust in the Lord - Confide in him; rest on him. Instead of allowing the mind to be disturbed and sad, because there are wicked men upon the earth; because they are prosperous and apparently happy; because they may injure you in your person or reputation Psalms 37:6, calmly confide in God. Leave all this in his hands. Feel that he rules, and that what he permits is wisely permitted; and that whatever may occur, it will all be overruled for his own glory and the good of the universe.

And do good - Be engaged always in some work of benevolence.

(a) If there are wicked men in the world, if wickedness abounds around us, there is the more reason for our endeavoring to do good. If others are doing evil, we should do good; if they are wicked, we cannot do a better work than to do good to them, for the best way of meeting the wickedness of the world is to do it good.

(b) The best way to keep the mind from complaining, chafing, and fretting, is to be always engaged in doing good; to have the mind always occupied in something valuable and useful. Each one should have so much of his own to do that he will have no thee to murmur and complain, to allow the mind to prey on itself, or to “corrode” for lack of employment.

So shalt thou dwell in the land - This would be more correctly translated as a command: “Dwell in the land.” That is, abide safely or securely in the land - referring, perhaps, to “the land” as the land of promise - the country given to the people of God. The idea is, that they should abide there calmly and securely; that they should not worry themselves because there were wicked men upon the earth, and because they were successful, but that they should be thankful for their inheritance, and partake gratefully of the bounties which they receive from the hand of God. Compare the notes at Matthew 5:5.

And verily thou shalt be fed - Margin, “in truth or stableness.” The “literal” meaning would be, “Feed on truth.” The word rendered “fed” is here in the imperative mood. It properly means to feed, as a flock; and then, to feed upon anything in the sense of delighting in, or taking pleasure in anything, as if we found our support or sustenance in it; and here it means, doubtless, “Feed on truth;” that is, seek after truth; find delight in it; let it be the food of your souls. The word here rendered “verily” means, as in the margin, “truth:” and the meaning is, that they should seek after truth, and find their support and comfort in that. There are, then, in this verse, four things prescribed as duty, in order to keep the mind calm in view of the fact that wickedness abounds in the world:

(1) to confide in God;

(2) to be actively employed in doing good;

(3) to abide calmly and gratefully in the land which God has given us;

(4) to seek after truth, or a true view of the character and government of God as the great Ruler.

If people would do these things, there would be little complaining and fretting in the world.

Verse 4

Delight thyself also in the - Lord. The word rendered “delight” means properly to live delicately and effeminately; then, to be tender or delicate; then, to live a life of ease or pleasure; then, to find delight or pleasure in anything. The meaning here is, that we should seek our happiness in God - in his being, his perfections, his friendship, his love.

And he shall give thee the desires of thine heart - literally, the “askings,” or the “requests” of thy heart. What you really “desire” will be granted to you. That is,

(a) the fact that you seek your happiness in him will regulate your desires, so that you will be “disposed” to ask only those things which it will be proper for him to grant; and

(b) the fact that you do find your happiness in him will be a reason why he will grant your desires.

The fact that a child loves his father, and finds his happiness in doing his will, will do much to regulate his own “wishes” or “desires,” and will at the same thee be a reason why the father will be disposed to comply with his requests.

Verse 5

Commit thy way unto the - Lord. Margin, as in Hebrew, “Roll thy way upon, the Lord.” Compare the notes at Psalms 22:8, where the marg., as the Hebrew, is, “He rolled himself on the Lord.” See also 1 Peter 5:7. The idea is that of rolling a heavy burden from ourselves on another, or laying it upon him, so that he may bear it. The burden which we have not got strength to bear we may lay on God. The term “way” means properly the act of treading or going; then, a way or path; then, a course of life, or the manner in which one lives; and the reference here is to the whole course of life, or all that can affect life; all our plans or conduct; all the issues or results of those plans. It is equivalent here to “lot” or “destiny.” Everything, in regard to the manner in which we live, and all its results, are to be committed to the Lord.

Trust also in him - See Psalms 37:3.

And he shall bring it to pass - Hebrew, “He shall do it.” That is, He will bring it to a proper issue; He will secure a happy result. He will take care of your interests, and will not permit you to suffer, or to be ultimately wronged. The thing particularly referred to here, as appears from the next verse, is reputation or character.

Verse 6

And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light - That is, if you are slandered; if your character is assailed, and seems for the thee to be under a cloud; if reproach comes upon you from the devices of wicked people in such a way that you cannot meet it - then, if you will commit the case to God, he will protect your character, and will cause the clouds to disperse, and all to be as clear in reference to your character and the motives of your conduct as the sun without a cloud. There are numerous cases in which a man cannot meet the assaults made on his reputation, in which he cannot trace to its source a slanderous accusation, in which he cannot immediately explain the circumstances which may have served to give the slanderous report an appearance of probability, but in which he may be perfectly conscious of innocence; and, in such cases, the only resource is to commit the whole matter to God. And there is nothing that may be more safely left with him; nothing that God will more certainly protect than the injured reputation of a good man. Under his administration things will ultimately work themselves right, and a man will have all the reputation which he deserves to have. But he who spends his life in the mere work of defending himself, will soon have a reputation that is not much worth defending. The true way for a man is to do his duty - to do right always - and then commit the whole to God.

And thy judgment - Thy just sentence. That is, God will cause justice to be done to your character.

As the noon-day - The original word here is in the dual form, and means properly “double-light;” that is, the strongest, brightest light. It means “noon,” because the light is then most clear and bright. The idea is, that he will make your character perfectly clear and bright. No cloud will remain on it.

Verse 7

Rest in the Lord - Margin, “Be silent to the Lord.” The Hebrew word means to be mute, silent, still: Job 29:21; Leviticus 10:3; Lamentations 3:28. Hence, to be silent to anyone; that is, to listen to him in silence; and the idea in the phrase here, ““be silent to Jehovah,”” is that of waiting in silent patience or confidence for his interposition; or, in other words, of leaving the whole matter with him without being anxious as to the result.

And wait patiently for him - For his bringing the matter to a proper issue. He may seem to delay long; it may appear strange that he does not interpose; you may wonder that he should suffer an innocent man to be thus accused and calumniated; but you are not to be anxious and troubled. God does not always interpose in behalf of the innocent at once; and there may be valuable ends to accomplish in reference to yourself - in the discipline of your own spirit; in bringing out in your case the graces of gentleness, patience, and forgiveness; and in leading you to examine yourself and to understand your own character - which may make it proper that he should not interpose immediately. It may be added that, however important thee seems to us, it is of no consequence to God; “nullum tempus occurrit” (as the lawyers say), to him; and more important results may be secured by delay than would be gained by an immediate interposition in correcting the evil and redressing the wrong. All that the promise implies is that justice will be done, but whether sooner or later must be left to Him; and that our character will be finally safe in His hands.

Fret not thyself - See the notes at Psalms 37:1.

Because of him who prospereth in his way - Because a wicked man has a prosperous life, or is not at once dealt with as he deserves.

Because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass - Because the man is allowed to accomplish his purposes of wickedness, or is not arrested at once in his schemes of guilt.

Verse 8

Cease from anger - That is, in reference to the fact that there are wicked people, and that they are permitted to carry out their plans. Do not allow your mind to be excited with envious, fretful, wrathful, or murmuring feelings against God because he bears patiently with them, and because they are allowed a temporary prosperity and triumph. Be calm, whatever may be the wickedness of the world. The supreme direction belongs to God, and he will dispose of it in the best way.

And forsake wrath - That is, as above, in regard to the existence of evil, and to the conduct of wicked men.

Fret not thyself in any wise - See Psalms 37:1. Let the mind be entirely calm and composed.

To do evil - So as to lead you to do evil. Do not allow your mind to become so excited that you will indulge in harsh or malignant remarks; or so as to lead you to do wrong to any man, however wicked he may be. See always that you are right, whatever others may be, and do not allow their conduct to be the means of leading you into sin in any form. Look to your own character and conduct first.

Verse 9

For evil-doers shall be cut off - See Psalms 37:2. This will be the termination of their course. They shall not ultimately prosper. God will order all things in equity, and though such men now seem to be prosperous, and to be the objects of the divine favor, yet all this is temporary. The day of retribution will certainly come, and they will be dealt with as they deserve. The reference here probably is to judgment in this life, or to the fact that God will, as a general law, show his disapprobation of the course of the wicked by judgments inflicted on them in this world. See Psalms 55:23, “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.” Proverbs 10:27, “the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” Compare Job 15:32. The idea here is that wicked men will be cut down before they reach the ordinary term of human life, or before they would be cut off if they were not wicked. Compare Psalms 37:35-36. This is not indeed universally true, but there are instances enough of this kind to establish it as a general rule. Intemperance, voluptuousness, the indulgence of violent passions, and the crimes proceeding therefrom, shorten the lives of multitudes who, but for these, might have lived long on the earth. As it is a general rule that virtue, piety, the fear of God, temperance, honesty, and the calmness of spirit which results from these, tend to lengthen out life, so it is certain that the opposites of these tend to abridge it. Neither virtue nor piety indeed make it absolutely certain that a man will live to be old; but vice and crime make it morally certain that he will not. At all events, it is true that the wicked are to live but a little while upon the earth; that they soon will, like other men, be cut down and removed; and therefore we should not fret and complain in regard to those who are so soon to pass away. Compare Psalms 73:0.

But those that wait upon the Lord - The pious; they who fear God and serve him.

They shall inherit the earth - Compare the notes at Psalms 37:3. See also Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:22, Psalms 37:25.

Verse 10

For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be - The thee will soon come when they shall pass away. The language “shall not be” cannot mean that they will cease to exist altogether, for the connection does not demand this interpretation. All that is intended is that they would be no longer on the earth; they would no longer live to give occasion for anxious thoughts and troubled feelings in the hearts of good people.

Yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place - The place where he lived; the house in which he dwelt; the office which he filled; the grounds which he cultivated.

And it shall not be - Or rather, perhaps, as in the former member of the verse, “he is not.” That is, you will not see him there. His seat at the table is vacant; he is seen no more riding over his grounds; he is no more in the social circle where he found his pleasure, or in the place of business or of revelry: you are impressed with the feeling that “he is gone.” You look where he was, but he is not there; you visit every place where you have been accustomed to see him, “but he is gone.” Alas! where has he gone? Compare Job 14:10.

Verse 11

But the meek shall inherit the earth - See the notes at Psalms 37:3. On the meaning of the word here rendered “meek,” see the notes at Psalms 9:12, where it is rendered “humble.” The word properly denotes those who are afflicted, distressed, needy; then, those who are of humble rank in life; then, the mild, the gentle, the meek. The term here is a general one to denote those who are the friends of God, considered as meek, mild, gentle, humble, in contradistinction from the wicked who are proud and haughty; perhaps also, in this connection, in contrast with the wicked as prosperous in life. It was probably this passage that the Saviour quoted in Matthew 5:5.

And shall delight themselves -

(a) Shall “prefer” what is here referred to as the source of their happiness, or as in accordance with the desires of their hearts;

(b) shall “find” actual delight or happiness in this.

Though not rich and prospered in this world as the wicked often are, yet they will have their own sources of enjoyment, and will find happiness in what they prefer.

In the abundance of peace - In abundant peace. In the tranquility and quietness in which they spend their lives, in contrast with the jealousies, the contentions, and the strifes which exist among the wicked even when prosperous. They will have peace with God Psalms 29:11; Psalms 85:8; Psalms 119:165; Romans 5:1; they will have peace in their own consciences; they will have peace in the calmness of a quiet and contented spirit; they will have peace with those around them, as they have no passions to gratify, and no object to secure, which will excite the envy, or stir up the wrath, of others.

Verse 12

The wicked plotteth against the just - Margin, “practiceth.” The Hebrew word means to plot; to lie in wait; to plan; to purpose; to devise. See Psalms 31:13. The meaning is, that wicked people lay their plans against the righteous, but that they will not be able to carry them out, or accomplish them, for they will be cut off, and the Lord will protect His friends.

And gnasheth upon him with his teeth - An expression of rage or anger. See the notes at Psalms 35:16.

Verse 13

The Lord shall laugh at him - See the notes at Psalms 2:4. That is, he will regard all his attempts as vain - as not worthy of serious thought or care. The language is that which we use when there is no fear or apprehension felt. It is not that God is unfeeling, or that he is disposed to deride man, but that he regards all such efforts as vain, and as not demanding notice on the ground of anything to be apprehended from them.

For he seeth that his day is coming - The day of his destruction or overthrow. He sees that the wicked man cannot be ultimately successful, but that destruction is coming upon him. There is nothing ultimately to be apprehended from his designs, for his overthrow is certain.

Verse 14

The wicked have drawn out the sword - That is, they have prepared themselves with a full purpose to destroy the righteous.

And have bent their bow - literally, “have trodden the bow,” in allusion to the method by which the bow was bent: to wit, by placing the foot on it, and drawing the string back.

To cast down the poor and needy - To cause them to fall.

And to slay such as be of upright conversation - Margin, as in Hebrew: “the upright of way.” That is, those who are upright in their manner of life, or in their conduct.

Verse 15

Their sword shall enter into their own heart - Their purposes will recoil on themselves; or they will themselves suffer what they had devised for others. See the same sentiment expressed in Psalms 7:15-16; Psalms 9:15; compare Esther 7:10.

And their bows shall be broken - They will be defeated in their plans. God will cut them off, and not suffer them to execute their designs.

Verse 16

A little that a righteous man hath - literally, “Good is a little to the righteous, more than,” etc. Our translation, however, has expressed the sense with sufficient accuracy. There are two things implied here:

(a) that it happens not unfrequently that the righteous have little of the wealth of this world; and

(b) that this little is to them of more real value, accompanied, as it is, with higher blessings, than the more abundant wealth which the wicked often possess.

It is better to have but little of this world’s goods with righteousness, than it is to have the riches of many wicked men - or the wealth which is often found in the possession of wicked men - with their ungodliness. It is not always true, indeed, that the righteous are poor; but if they are poor, their lot is more to be desired than that of the wicked man, though he is rich. Compare Luke 16:19-31.

Is better than the riches of many wicked - Of many wicked people. The small property of one truly good man, with his character and hopes, is of more value than would be the aggregate wealth of many rich wicked men with their character and prospects. The word rendered “riches” here - המון hâmôn - means properly noise, sound, as of rain or of a multitude of people; then, a multitude, a crowd of people; and then, a “multitude” of possessions; that is, riches or wealth. The allusion here is not, as Prof. Alexander supposes, to the tumult or bustle which often attends the acquisition of property, or to the disorder and disquiet which attends its possession, but simply to the “amount” considered as large, or as accumulated or brought together. It is true that its acquisition is often attended with bustle and noise; it is true that its possessor has not often the peace and calmness of mind which the man has who has a mere competence; but the simple thought here is that, in reference to the amount, or the actual possession, it is better, on the whole, to have what the poor, pious man has, than to have what many wicked men have, if it were all gathered together. It does more to make a man happy on earth; it furnishes a better prospect for the life to come.

Verse 17

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken - See the notes at Psalms 10:15. The “arm” is the instrument by which we accomplish a purpose; and the meaning here is, that that will be broken on which the wicked rely, or, in other words, that their plans will fail, and that they will be disappointed - as a man is rendered helpless whose arms are broken. Compare the notes at Job 38:15.

But the Lord upholdeth the righteous - The Lord will sustain and strengthen him. While the plans of the wicked will be defeated, while they themselves will be overthrown, and fail to accomplish their purposes of wickedness, the Lord will uphold the righteous, and enable them fully to carry out their plans. Their great scheme or purpose of life, the promotion of the glory of God, and the salvation of their own souls, will be fully accomplished - for in that purpose God will be their helper and friend.

Verse 18

The Lord knoweth the days of the upright - See the notes at Psalms 1:6. He knows how long they will live, and all that will happen to them. He sees their whole course of life; he sees the end. It is implied here that his eyes are on all the allotted days of their life; on all that has been ordained for them in the whole course of their life; and that nothing can shorten the days appointed to them. The wicked expect to live, hope to live, make their arrangements to live; but their eyes cannot rest on the future, and they cannot see the end - cannot tell precisely when they will be cut off. Some unexpected calamity - something which they cannot foresee - may come upon them, and cut short their days long before the expected thee; but this cannot happen in respect to Him whose eyes are on the righteous. Nothing can prevent their reaching the thee which he has fixed as the termination of their lives.

And their inheritance shall be forever - Shall be permanent, enduring. Perhaps all that was implied in tiffs language, as it was used by the psalmist, was that they would “continue,” or would not be cut off as the wicked are; that is, that righteousness would contribute to length of days upon the earth (compare Psalms 37:9); yet the “language” suggests a higher idea, and is applicable to the righteous in respect to the promise that they will be put in “everlasting” possession of that which they “inherit” from God; that is, that they will be literally blessed forever. They will have a sure inheritance on earth, and it will endure to all eternity in another world.

Verse 19

They shall not be ashamed in the evil thee - In times of calamity and trouble. The word “ashamed” here refers to disappointment; as when one goes to a fountain or stream for water and finds it dried up. See Job 6:20, note; and Psalms 25:2-3. The idea here is, that when thees of trouble and calamity come, in seasons of famine or want, they will find their expectations, arising from confidence in God, fully met. Their wants will be supplied, and they will find him to be their friend.

And in the days of famine they shall be satisfied - Their needs shall be supplied. God will provide for them. See Psalms 37:25. This is in accordance with the general promises which are made in the Scriptures, that God will provide for the needs of those who trust in Him. See the notes at Psalms 37:3.

Verse 20

But the wicked shall perish - The general sentiment here is the same as in Psalms 1:1-6, that the righteous shall be prospered and saved, and that the wicked shall perish. See the notes at Psalms 1:4-5. The word “perish” here would be applicable to any form of destruction - death here, or death hereafter - for it is equivalent to the idea that they shall be “destroyed.” Whether the psalmist means here to refer to the fact that they will be cut off from the earth, or will be punished hereafter in the world of woe, cannot be determined from the word itself. It is most probable, as appears from other parts of the psalm, that he refers particularly to the fact that they will be cut down in their sins; that their lives will be shortened by their crimes; that they will by their conduct expose themselves to the displeasure of God, and thus be cut off. The “word” used, however, would also express the idea of destruction in the future world in any form, and may have a significance beyond anything that can befall men in this life. Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Matthew 25:46.

And the enemies of the Lord - All the enemies of God; all who can properly be regarded as his foes.

Shall be as the fat of lambs - Margin, “the preciousness of lambs.” Gesenius renders this, “like the beauty of the pastures.” Prof. Alexander, “like the precious” (part) “of lambs;” that is, the sacrificial parts, or the parts that were consumed in sacrifice. De Wette, “as the splendor of the pasture.” The Vulgate and the Septuagint render it: “the enemies of the Lord, as soon as they are honored and exalted, shall fail as if they were smoke.” Rosenmuller renders it as it is in our common version. It is not easy to determine the meaning. The word rendered “fat” - יקר yâqâr - means properly that which is precious, costly, weighty, as precious gems; then, anything dear, beloved, or valuable; then, that which is honored, splendid, beautiful, rare. It is in no other instance rendered “fat;” and it cannot be so rendered here, except as “fat” was considered valuable or precious. But this is a forced idea. The word כר kar, properly and commonly means a “lamb;” but it also may the “pasture” or “meadow” where lambs feed. Psalms 65:13 : “the “pastures” - כרים kariym - are clothed with flocks.” Isaiah 30:23, “in that day shall thy cattle feed in large “pastures” - where the same word occurs. It seems to me, therefore, that the interpretation of Gesenius, DeWette, and others, is the correct interpretation, and that the idea is, that the wicked in their pride, beauty, and wealth, shall be like the meadow covered with grass and flowers, soon to be cut down by the scythe of the mower, or by the frosts of winter. This image often occurs: Matthew 6:30; Psalms 90:5-6; Isaiah 40:6-8; Jam 1:10; 1 Peter 1:24.

They shall consume - The word used here means to be completed or finished; to be consumed or spent, as by fire, or in any other manner; to pine away by weeping, Lamentations 2:11; to vanish as a cloud or smoke, Job 7:9.

Into smoke - The meaning here is not that they will vanish as the fat of lambs does in sacrifice, but simply that they will pass away as smoke entirely disappears. All that there was of them - their wealth, their splendor, their power - shall utterly vanish away. This is spoken in contrast with what would be the condition of the righteous.

Verse 21

The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again - This is probably intended here, not so much to describe the “character” as the “condition” of the wicked. The idea is, that he will be in such a condition of want that he will be under a necessity of borrowing, but will not have the means of repaying what he has borrowed, while the righteous will not only have enough for himself, but will have the means of showing mercy to others, and of “giving” to them what they need. The ability to lend to others is referred to as a part of the promise of God to his people, and as marking their condition as a prosperous one, in Deuteronomy 15:6 : “And thou shalt lend unto many nations, and shalt not borrow.” Compare Deuteronomy 28:12, Deuteronomy 28:44. It is true, however, as a characteristic of a wicked man, that he will often be “disposed” to borrow and not pay again; that he will be “reckless” about borrowing and careless about paying; and that it is a characteristic of a good or upright man that he will not borrow when he can avoid it, and that he will be punctual and conscientious in paying what he has borrowed.

But the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth - That is, in this connection, he is not under the necessity of borrowing of others for the supply of his wants. He has not only enough for himself, but he has the means of aiding others, and has the disposition to do it. It is his “character” to show favors, and he has the means of gratifying this desire.

And giveth - Imparts to others. He has enough for himself, and has also that which he can give to others. Of course all this is designed to be general. It does not mean that this will universaly be the case, but that the tendency of a life of piety is to make a man prosperous in his worldly affairs; to give him what he needs for himself, and to furnish him with the means, as he has the disposition, to do good to others. Other things being equal, the honest, temperate, pure, pious man will be the most prosperous in the world: for honesty, temperance, purity, and piety produce the industry, economy, and prudence on which prosperity depends.

Verse 22

For such as be blessed of him - They who are his true friends.

Shall inherit the earth - See Psalms 37:9.

And they that be cursed of him - His enemies.

Shall be cut off - Psalms 37:9. This verse suggests a thought of great importance, in advance of that which had been suggested before. It is that, after all, the difference in the ultimate condition of the two depends on the question whether they have, or have not, “the favor of the Lord.” It is not on the mere fact of their own skill, but it is on the fact that the one has secured the divine favor, and that the other has not. It is not by mere human virtue, irrespective of God, that the result is determined; but it is that one is the friend of God, and the other not. This consideration will be found in the end to enter essentially into all the distinctions in the final condition of mankind.

Verse 23

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord - Margin, “established.” The word rendered “ordered” means to stand erect; to set up; to found; to adjust, fit, direct. The idea here is, that all which pertains to the journey of a good man through life is directed, ordered, fitted, or arranged by the Lord. That is, his course of life is under the divine guidance and control. The word “good” has been supplied here by our translators, and there is nothing corresponding to it in the original. It is simply there, “the steps of man are ordered,” etc. Yet there can be no doubt that a good or pious man is particularly referred to, for the connection demands this interpretation. The word “steps” here means his course of life; the way in which he goes.

And he delighteth in his way - In his course of life; and, therefore, he blesses him. The general idea is that he is the object of the divine favor, and is under the care of God.

Verse 24

Though he fall - That is, though he is sometimes disappointed; though he is not always successful; though he may be unfortunate - yet this will not be final ruin. The word here does not refer to his falling into “sin,” but into misfortune, disappointment, reverses, calamities. The image is that of a man who is walking along on a journey, but who stumbles, or fails to the earth - a representation of one who is not always successful, but who finds disappointment spring up in his path.

He shall not be utterly cast down - The word used here - טול ṭûl - means to “throw down at full length, to prostrate;” then, “to cast out, to throw away.” Compare Isaiah 22:17; Jeremiah 16:13; Jeremiah 22:26; Jonah 1:5, Jonah 1:15. Here it means that he would not be “utterly” and “finally” prostrated; he would not fall so that he could not rise again. The calamity would be temporary, and there would be ultimate prosperity.

For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand - It is by no power of his own that he is recovered, but it is because, even when he falls, he is held up by an invisible hand. God will not suffer him to sink to utter ruin.

Verse 25

I have been young - The idea in this whole passage is, “I myself have passed through a long life. I have had an opportunity of observation, wide and extended. When I was a young man, I looked upon the world around me with the views and feelings which belong to that period of existence; when in middle life, I contemplated the state of things with the more calm and sober reflections pertaining to that period, and to the opportunities of wider observation; and now, in old age, I contemplate the condition of the world with all the advantages which a still wider observation and a longer experience give me, and with the impartial judgment which one has who is about to leave the world. And the result of all is a conviction that religion is an advantage to man; that God protects His people; that He provides for them; that they are more uniformly and constantly blessed, even in their worldly affairs, than other people, and that they do not often come to poverty and want.” There is a sad kind of feeling which a man has when he is constrained to say, “Ihave been young;” for it suggests the memory of joys, and hopes, and friends, that are now gone forever. But a man may have some claim to respect for his opinions when he is constrained to say it, for he can bring to the coming generation such results of his own experience and observation as may be of great value to those who are “young.”

And now am old - This demonstrates that this psalm was one of the later productions of its author; and the psalm has an additional value from this circumstance, as stating the results of a long observation of the course of affairs on the earth. Yet there is much that is solemn when a man is constrained to say, “I am old.” Life is nearly ended. The joys, the hopes, the vigor of youth, are all gone. The mature strength of manhood is now no more. The confines of life are nearly reached. The next remove is to another world, and that now must be near; and it is a solemn thing to stand on the shores of eternity; to look out on that boundless ocean, to feel that earth, and all that is dear on earth, is soon to be left “forever.”

Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken - Forsaken by God; so forsaken that he has not a friend; so forsaken that he has nothing with which to supply his wants.

Nor his seed begging bread - Nor his children beggars. This was a remarkable testheony; and though it cannot be affirmed that the psalmist meant to say literally that he had never, in any instance, met with such a case - for the language may have been intended as a general statement, yet it may have been true to the letter. In the course of a long life it may have occurred that he had never met with such a case - and if so, it was a remarkable proof of the correctness of the general remarks which he was making about the advantage of piety. It is not now universally true that the “righteous” are not “forsaken,” in the sense that they do not want, or in the sense that their children are not constrained to beg their bread, but the following things, are true:

(a) that religion tends to make men industrious, economical, and prudent, and hence, tends to promote prosperity, and to secure temporal comforts;

(b) that religion “of itself” impoverishes no one, or makes no one the poorer;

(c) that religion saves from many of the expenses in life which are produced by vicious indulgence; and

(d) that, as a general rule, it saves men and their children from the necessity of public begging, and from the charity-house.

Who are the inmates of the poor-houses in the land? Who are the beggars in our great cities? Here and there, it may be, is one who is the child of pious parents, reduced by sickness or misfortune, or a lack of practical good sense - for religion does not alter the constitution of the mind, and does not impart the “skill” or “talent” upon which so much of the success in life depends; but the great mass of persons in our charity-houses, and of beggars in the streets, are themselves intemperate, or are the wives and children of the intemperate. They consist of those whom religion, as it would have made them virtuous and industrious, would have saved from rags and beggary. It may not now be literally true that anyone who has been young, and who is become old, could say that he had not once seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread; but the writer of these lines, who has this day - the day on which he pens them (Dec. 1, 1859) - reached the sixty-first year of his life, and who is constrained to say “I have been young,” though he may feel a reluctance to add, “but now am old,” can say, as the result of his own observation in the world, that, as a great law, the children of the pious are not vagrants and beggars. As a great law, they are sober, industrious, and prosperous. The vagrants and the beggars of the world are from other classes; and whatever may be the bearing of religion on the destinies of men in the future world, in this world the effect is to make them virtuous, industrious, prudent, and successful in their worldly affairs, so that their children are not left to beggary and want, but to respectability and to competence.

Verse 26

He is ever merciful - Margin, as in Hebrew, “all the day.” That is, it is his character; he is constantly in the habit of showing kindness. He does not do it at intervals, or only occasionally, but it is this that marks the character of the man. He is known by this. The word “merciful” here means kind, compassionate, benignant - and particularly in this respect, that he is willing to “lend” to others when he has the means.

And lendeth - The wicked man “borrows,” but does not pay again Psalms 37:21; the righteous man “lends” to his neighbor.

And his seed is blessed - His children; his posterity, as the result of this conduct on his part. The effect of what he does passes over from him to them, conveying rich blessings to them.

Verse 27

Depart from evil, and do good - This is the sum of all that is said in the psalm; the great lesson inculcated and enforced by all these references to the effects of good and evil conduct. All these results - all that people experience themselves, and all the effects of their conduct on their posterity, enforce the great practical lesson that we should do good and avoid evil. These results of conduct are among the means which God employs to induce men to do right, and to abstain from what is wrong.

And dwell for evermore - That is, dwell in the land: meaning (in accordance with the general drift of the psalm) that righteousness will be connected with length of days and with prosperity; that its effects will be permanent on a family, descending from one generation to another. See the notes at Psalms 37:3.

Verse 28

For the Lord loveth judgment - That is, God loves that which is right; he loves to do right. The idea is, that such a recompense as is here adverted to - that on the one hand, in rewarding with prosperity a pure and upright life - and that, on the other, in cutting off the wicked - is right and proper in itself; and that as God loves to do right, these consequences respectively may be expected to follow in regard to the righteous and the wicked. Compare Psalms 11:7.

And forsaketh not his saints - He manifests his sense of that which is right, by not forsaking His saints.

They are preserved forever - They are ever under his paternal eye, and he will keep them. It will be literally true that they will be preserved “forever,” that they will never be suffered to perish.

But the seed of the wicked shall be cut off - See the notes at Psalms 21:10. Compare Psalms 37:22.

Verse 29

The righteous shall inherit the land - See Psalms 37:3. The word “inherit” suggests the idea that they are heirs, and that God will treat them as His children.

And dwell therein forever - Psalms 37:3, Psalms 37:18, Psalms 37:27.

Verse 30

The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom - That is, It is a characteristic of the righteous to speak “wise things;” not to utter folly. His conversation is serious, earnest, true, pure; and his words are faithful, kind, and just. This, as a part of human conduct, is one of the reasons why God will bless him with prosperity and length of days.

And his tongue talketh of judgment - That is, of just or righteous things. See Matthew 12:35.

Verse 31

The law of his God is in his heart - That is, he loves it; he thinks of it; he makes it the inward rule of his conduct: Deuteronomy 6:6; Psalms 40:8 The word “law” here is a general term for the truth of God - for all that he has revealed to guide men. As long as that truth is in the heart; as long as it is the object of love; as long as it is suffered to guide and control us, so long will our words and conduct be right.

None of his steps shall slide - Margin, “goings.” The idea is, that his course will be firm and steady. He will not fall into sin, and his life will be prosperous and happy. This is in accordance with the general sentiment in the psalm, that religion tends to promote prosperity, happiness, and length of days on the earth.

Verse 32

The wicked watcheth the righteous ... - Observes closely; looks out for him; has his eye on him, seeking an opportunity to slay him. See the notes at Psalms 10:8-9. The sense is, that the wicked are the enemies of the righteous, and seek to do them wrong. It is a characteristic of the wicked that they seek to destroy the righteous. This was manifested in the case of the prophets; in the case of the apostles; in the case of the Saviour; and it has been so manifest in the deaths of the martyrs, and all the persecutions which the Church has suffered, as to justify the general declaration that it is one of the characteristics of a wicked world that it desires to do this.

Verse 33

The Lord will not leave him in his hand - Compare 2 Peter 2:9. That is, He will rescue him out of the hand of the wicked; he will not leave him, so that the wicked shall accomplish his purpose. The psalmist here undoubtedly means to refer mainly to what will occur in the present life - to the fact that God will interpose to deliver the righteous from the evil designs of the wicked, as he interposes to save his people from famine and want. The meaning is not that this will universally occur, for that would not be true; but that this is the general course of things; this is the tendency and bearing of the divine interpositions and the divine arrangements. Those interpositions and arrangements are, on the whole, favorable to virtue, and favorable to those who love and serve God; so much so that it is an advantage even in the present life to serve God. But this will be absolutely and universally true in the future world. The righteous will be wholly and forever placed beyond the reach of the wicked.

Nor condemn him when he is judged - literally, He will not regard or hold him to be guilty when he is judged. He will regard and treat him as a righteous man. This may refer either

(a) to a case where a judgment is pronounced on a good man “by his fellow-men,” by which he is condemned or adjudged to be guilty - meaning that God will not so regard and treat him; or

(b) to the final judgment, when the cause comes “before God” - meaning that then he will regard and treat him as righteous.

Both of these are true; but it seems probable that the former is particularly referred to here. DeWette understands it in the latter sense; Rosenmuller in the former. Rosenmuller remarks that the idea is, that the wicked, when he is not permitted to assail the righteous by violence, makes his appeal to the courts, and seeks to secure his condemnation there, but that God will not permit this. As he has saved him from violence, so he will interpose and save him from an unrighteous condemnation in the courts. This seems to me to be the true idea. Of course, this is to be understood only in a “general” sense, or as marking the “general” course of things under the divine administration. On this subject, compare Dr. Taylor’s Lectures on Moral Government; vol. i., pp. 252-262. See also Butler’s Analogy, passim.

Verse 34

Wait on the Lord - See the notes at Psalms 37:9. Let your hope be from the Lord; depend wholly upon Him; have such confidence in Him as to expect His gracious interposition in your behalf.

And keep his way - Or, walk in the path which He commands. Do not turn from that at any thee. Do not allow any temptation, or any opposition, to cause you to swerve from that path.

And he shall exalt thee to inherit the land - See Psalms 37:3, Psalms 37:9,Psalms 37:18.

When the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it - This implies that they would certainly be cut off, and that the righteous would be permitted to see the result of a course of righteousness and one of wickedness. It is not necessarily implied that they would have any satisfaction in seeing the punishment of the wicked; but the meaning is, that they would be permitted to live so as to see that one course of life tended to secure the favor of God, and another to incur His displeasure; that there was an advantage in virtue and religion in this life; and the certainty that they would see this is adverted to as a “motive” for leading a life of piety. The result is so sure that a man may, if he live long, see it himself; and the fact that this is so should be an inducement for his leading a holy life. The psalmist proceeds, in Psalms 37:35-36, to illustrate this idea from his own observation.

Verse 35

I have seen - I have had an opportunity, in my long life Psalms 37:25, of witnessing the accuracy of the statement just made, that a righteous man may live to see a confirmation of the truth that wickedness, however prosperous the wicked man may be, will lead to ultimate ruin - as I have had an opportunity of seeing Psalms 37:25-26 the effect of a course of righteousness on the ultimate prosperity and happiness of its possessor. The same experience, with the same result, is referred to in Job 5:3.

In great power - The word used here - עריץ ârı̂yts - means properly “terrible; inspiring terror.” It is applied to God in Jeremiah 20:11; and to powerful nations, Isaiah 25:3. It is also used in a bad sense, as denoting violent, fierce, lawless, or a tyrant, Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 25:4-5; Job 15:20; Job 27:13. Here it may be used in the sense of one who was prosperous and mighty, and as referring to a man who wielded vast power; but there is connected with that also, undoubtedly, the idea that that power was wielded, not for purposes of benevolence, but for injustice, oppression, and wrong. It was a “wicked” man that was thus powerful.

And spreading himself - The word used here means properly to be naked; to make naked; to empty; then, to pour oneself out; and then, to spread oneself abroad. It is applied here to a tree that seems to pour itself out, or to spread itself out in every direction - sending its limbs aloft, and its branches far on every side.

Like a green bay tree - Margin: “a green tree that groweth in its own soil.” The “bay tree” is a species of laurel, but there is no evidence that the original word here refers particularly to this, or specifically to any other tree. The original word אזרח 'ezrâch - is derived from זרח zârach, to rise; and then, to spring up as a plant does, and it properly means here, as expressed in the margin, “a native tree;” that is, a tree that grows in its own soil, or that has not been transplanted. Then, also, it comes to denote a native; one born in the country, not a foreigner: Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 18:26, et al. The idea here is that a tree which thus remains in its own soil is more vigorous, and will attain to a larger growth, than one which is transplanted; and thus the figure becomes an emblem of a prosperous and mighty man. “Perhaps,” also, there is included here, respecting the man, the idea that he has grown up where he is; that he has not been driven from place to place; that he has had uniform prosperity; that on the very soil which gave him birth he has risen to rank, to wealth, to power. His life has been spent in tranquil scenes, where everything seemed to be stable and secure; what his end will be, the psalmist states in the next verse.

Verse 36

Yet he passed away - Compare the notes at Job 20:5. The allusion here, of course, is to the man, and not to the tree, though the grammatical construction might refer to either. The idea is that he passed out of view - “he was gone;” he had no permanent abode on earth, but with all his pomp and splendor he had disappeared. Neither his prosperity, his greatness, nor his wealth, could secure him a permanent abode on earth. It might be said, also, in reply to this, that the good man passes away and is not. That is true. But the meaning here is, that this occurs “so much more frequently” in the case of a wicked man, or that wickedness is followed so often in this life by the judgment of God in cutting him off, as to show that there is a moral government, and that that government is administered in favor of the righteous, or that it is an advantage in this life to be righteous. It cannot be meant that this is “universally” so here, but that this is the “general” rule, and that it is so constant as to show that God is on the side of virtue and religion.

And lo, he was not - He was no more; there was no longer any such person: The word “lo” implies that there was some degree of surprise, or that what had occurred was not looked for or expected. The observer had seen him in great power, flourishing, rich, honored; and, to his astonishment, he soon passed entirely away.

Yea, I sought him, but he could not be found - This is intended to “confirm” what had been just said, or to show how completely he had disappeared. It might be supposed, perhaps, that his removal was only temporary - that he was still somewhere upon the earth; but the psalmist says that after the most diligent search, he could not find him. He had disappeared entirely from among men.

Verse 37

Mark the perfect man - In contrast with what happens to the wicked. The word “perfect” here is used to designate a righteous man, or a man who serves and obeys God. See the notes at Job 1:1. The word “mark” here means “observe, take notice of.” The argument is, “Look upon that man in the end, in contrast with the prosperous wicked man. See how the close of life, in his case, differs from that of a wicked man, though the one may have been poor and humble, and the other rich and honored.” The point of the psalmist’s remark turns on the end, or the “termination” of their course; and the idea is, that the end of the two is such as to show that there is an advantage in religion, and that God is the friend of the righteous. Of course this is to be understood in accordance with the main thought in the psalm, as affirming what is of general occurrence.

And behold the upright - Another term for a pious man. Religion makes a man upright; and if a man is not upright in his dealings with his fellow-man, or if what he professes does not make him do “right,” it is the fullest proof that he has no true piety, 1 John 3:7-8.

For the end of that man is peace - DeWette renders this, Denn Nachkommen hat der Mann Friedens; “For a future has the man of peace.” So it is rendered by the Latin Vulgate: Sunt reliquiae homini pacifico. So the Septuagint. So also Hengstenberg, Rosenmuller, and Prof. Alexander. Tholuck renders it, as in our version, “It shall go well at last to such man.” It seems to me that the connection demands this construction, and the authority of Tholuck is sufficient to prove that the Hebrew will admit of it. The word rendered “end” - אחרית 'achărı̂yth - means properly the last or extreme part; then, the end or issue of anything - that which comes after it; then, the after time, the future, the hereafter: Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; Genesis 49:1; Daniel 10:14. It may, therefore, refer to anything future; and would be well expressed by the word “hereafter;” the “hereafter” of such a man. So it is rendered “my last end” in Numbers 23:10; “latter end,” Numbers 24:20; “their end,” in Psalms 73:17. It “might,” therefore, refer to all the future. The connection - the contrast with what happens to the wicked, Psalms 37:36, Psalms 37:38 - would seem to imply that it is used here particularly and especially with reference to the close of life. The contrast is between the course of the one and that of the other, and between the “termination” of the one course and of the other. In the one case, it is ultimate disaster and ruin; in the other, it is ultimate peace and prosperity. The one “issues in,” or is “followed by” death and ruin; the other is succeeded by peace and salvation. Hence, the word may be extended without impropriety to all the future - the whole hereafter. The word “peace” is often employed in the Scriptures to denote the effect of true religion:

(a) as implying reconciliation with God, and

(b) as denoting the calmness, the tranquility, and the happiness which results from such reconciliation, from his friendship, and from the hope of heaven.

See John 14:27; John 16:33; Romans 5:1; Romans 8:6; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 4:7. The meaning here, according to the interpretation suggested above, is, that the future of the righteous man - the whole future - would be peace;

(a) as a general rule, peace or calmness in death as the result of religion; and

(b) in the coming world, where there will be perfect and eternal peace.

As a usual fact religious men die calmly and peacefully, sustained by hope and by the presence of God; as a univeral fact, they are made happy forever beyond the grave.

Verse 38

But the transgressors - Sinners; violators of the law of God.

Shall be destroyed together - The word “together” here - יחדּו yachedâh - means properly “a union of them;” then, together - either:

(a) in one place, Genesis 13:6 - or

(b) at one time, Psalms 4:8; or

(c) all as one, Psalms 14:3 - or

(d) mutually with one another, as when men strive together, Deuteronomy 25:11.

The idea here is, that one would be destroyed as well as another; that there would be no exception; that they would go to the same ruin. They might be destroyed at different times, or in different modes, but it would be the same destruction in the end.

The end of the wicked - The future of the wicked. The same word is used here which occurs in Psalms 37:37, as applied to the righteous. The meaning is, that while the “future” of the one would be peace, the future of the other would be a “cutting off,” or destruction.

Shall be cut off - That is, they shall be cut off; or, there will be a cutting off. This means here, evidently:

(a) that as an ordinary fact they would be cut down before they had reached the full limit of their course, Psalms 37:35-36;

(b) in the future world they would be cut off from hope and happiness forever.

Verse 39

But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord - Or, salvation comes to the righteous from the Lord. While the wicked are cut off, the righteous shall be safe. There are evidently two ideas here:

(1) that there will be salvation to the righteous, while the wicked are cut off;

(2) that this comes from the Lord, and not from themselves.

It is not owing to any power of their own that they are safe, but is solely because they are kept by the Lord.

He is their strength in the time of trouble - See Psalms 9:9, note; Psalms 18:2, note.

Verse 40

And the Lord shall help them - He will interpose to defend them when they are in danger and in trouble.

And deliver them - Rescue them from their dangers, and from the power of the wicked.

He shall deliver them from the wicked - From all the attempts of the wicked to destroy them.

And save them - Or, preserve them. He will keep them to everlasting life.

Because they trust in him - They rely on him, and not on themselves. This verse is a summing up of the sentiments of the psalm, and is designed to confirm the main thought which runs through it, to wit, that we should not fret, or complain, or repine at the prosperity of wicked men, Psalms 37:1. The reason ultimately assigned for this is, that whatever may be the danger of the righteous from the designs of wicked men, they will in the end be safe. It will go well with them, for the Lord will keep them. The general course of thought in the psalm is, that, whatever prosperity the wicked now have, it is temporary, for they will soon be cut off; and that whatever troubles now come upon the righteous, they too are temporary, and that their “hereafter” - “their futurity” - will be blessedness and peace. There is a moral government: God is the friend of the righteous; along the path of the present life there are proofs that he is so, and beyond the present life he will show himself to be so in their eternal peace.

He is the enemy of the wicked; there are evidences in the present life that he is so, and this will be fully and finally manifested in their destruction in the future world. The argument in the psalm, indeed, is mainly drawn from the “present life,” from what there is to encourage virtue and goodness in the blessings which religion scatters on earth, and by the peaceful termination of the course - as well as from what there is to discourage wickedness and vice, in the fact that the wicked will be cut down and pass away. The argument is, that if this life were all, there are encouragements here to virtue and goodness. In Psalms 73:0, which in some respects resembles this psalm, the argument which satisfied the mind of the troubled psalmist - troubled at the prosperity of the wicked - is drawn mainly from the future world. Here it is drawn chiefly from the present life; and the main thought here - the practical lesson from the psalm - is, that even with reference to the life that now is - to its security, to its peace, to its blessedness, and to its happy close - it is an advantage to be righteous. It is better to have God for our friend in life, and our support in death, than to have all the external prosperity of wicked men.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 37". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/psalms-37.html. 1870.
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