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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 1

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


I. BOOK 1 CHS. 1-41

Most of the psalms in book 1 are David’s. This collection was probably the first and was later included in the canonical Book of Psalms. One might think of this book as "the book of personal experience" since there is so much of that in Psalms 1-41.

Verse 1

A trilogy of expressions describes the person who is blessed or right with God. Each of these is more intense than the former one. These descriptions proceed from being casually influenced by the wicked to cooperating with them in their wickedness. However, this is probably a case of synonymous parallelism describing the totality of evil rather than three specific types of activities in a climactic development (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). [Note: VanGemeren, p. 54.]

"Happy" is a better translation than "blessed" since the Hebrew language has a separate word for "blessed." "Happy" was the Queen of Sheba’s exclamation when she saw Solomon’s greatness (1 Kings 10:8). It appears 26 times in the Psalter. This blessedness is not deserved but is a gift from God. Even when the righteous do not feel happy they are blessed from God’s perspective because He protects them from judgment resulting from the Fall (cf. Genesis 3:15-19). "Blessed" in this verse also occurs in Psalms 2:12 forming an inclusio binding these two psalms together. Likewise the reference to the "way" in this verse occurs again in Psalms 2:11-12.

"Wicked" people willfully persist in evil, "sinners" miss the mark of God’s standards and do not care, and "scoffers" make light of God’s laws and ridicule what is sacred.

Verses 1-3

1. The blessed person 1:1-3

Verses 1-6

Psalms 1

This psalm is one of the best known and favored in the Psalter. It summarizes the two paths of life open to people, the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked (cf. Deuteronomy 30:11-20; Jeremiah 17:5-8). It also deals with God, godly living, and the hope of the godly in view of the Mosaic Covenant promises. Therefore it is an appropriate one to open the collection of 150 psalms. The editors probably intended it to be an introduction to the whole Psalter for this reason. Its figures of speech recur throughout the rest of the book. In view of its content, it is a wisdom psalm and a didactic psalm designed to give understanding to the reader (cf. Proverbs 2:12-22).

"Only three psalms, Psalms 1, 19, 119, can be called Torah psalms in the true sense of the word; that is, their major concentration is the Torah. Torah psalms do not comprise a literary genre of the Psalms, since there is no standard literary pattern comparable to what we have seen with some other literary genres. On the basis of their content, however, they nevertheless form a legitimate category.

"Other psalms dealing with the notion of Torah, although it is not their key idea, are Psalms 18, 25, 33, 68, 78, 81, 89, 93, 94, 99, 103, 105, 111, 112, 147, 148." [Note: Bullock, p. 214.]

This psalm contrasts the righteous person, who because of his or her behavior, experiences blessing in life, with the unrighteous whose ungodly conduct yields the fruit of sorrow and destruction. VanGemeren gave a structural analysis of each of the psalms.

"Bible history seems to be built around the concept of ’two men’: the ’first Adam’ and the ’last Adam’ (Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15:45)-Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, David and Saul-and Bible history culminates in Christ and Antichrist. Two men, two ways, two destinies." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and Poetry, p. 85.]

Verse 2

The godly allows the Word of God (Heb. torah, i.e., instruction that comes from God) to shape his conduct rather than the wicked. One expositor saw Jesus Christ as the ultimately godly person profiled in this psalm. [Note: Harry A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms, pp. 8-13.] His meditation on it involves prolonged thinking about it that takes place in study and review throughout the day.

"Meditation is not the setting apart of a special time for personal devotions, whether morning or evening, but it is the reflection on the Word of God in the course of daily activities (Joshua 1:8). Regardless of the time of day or the context, the godly respond to life in accordance with God’s word." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 55.]

"What digestion is to the body, meditation is to the soul." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary [NT], 2:542.]

The motivation of the godly in this activity is delight; he or she has a desire to listen to and understand what God has revealed (cf. Philippians 2:13). Jesus expounded this idea in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10).

Verse 3

All who delight in and meditate on God’s law will prosper like a flourishing fruit tree (cf. Psalms 92:12-14). Their fruit will appear at the proper time, not necessarily immediately, and their general spiritual health, represented by the leaves, will be good. Usually the fruit God said He would produce in the lives of most Old Testament believers was physical prosperity (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14). The fruit a Christian bears is mainly a transformed character and godly conduct (cf. Galatians 5:22-23). In both cases it is God’s blessing on one’s words and works. His prosperity is from God’s viewpoint, not necessarily from the world’s.

The most important part of a tree is its hidden root system because it draws up water and nourishment that feeds the tree. Without a healthy root system a tree will die, and without a healthy "root system" a believer will wilt. Fruit, in biblical imagery, is what is visible to other people, not just what is hidden within a person. It is also what benefits other people, what others can take from us that nourishes them (cf. John 15:1-11). In contrast, leaves are what others simply see and admire.

Verse 4

2. The wicked 1:4

The term "wicked" (Heb. rasa’) usually describes people who do not have a covenant relationship with God. They have little regard for God but live to satisfy their passions. They are not necessarily as evil as they could be, but they have no regard for the spiritual dimension of life, so they are superficial. Chaff is the worthless husk around a head of grain that is light in weight and blows away in the winnowing process. It is neither admirable nor beneficial to others.

Verse 5

In the future there will be a winnowing judgment of people in which God will separate the righteous from the wicked (cf. Matthew 13:30). Then He will blow the wicked away (cf. Isaiah 2:10-21).

Verses 5-6

3. The judgment 1:5-6

Verse 6

The instrument of the judgment that will determine the ultimate fate of these two basic kinds of people is God’s knowledge (cf. Matthew 7:23). He knows (has intimate, loving concern about) what they have done (cf. Exodus 2:25; Exodus 19:4; Romans 8:29-30). The "way" refers to the whole course of life including what motivates it, what it produces, and where it ends. "Knows" (lit.) or "watches over" (NIV) is the antithesis of "perish" (cf. Psalms 31:7; Proverbs 3:6).

This whole psalm is a solemn warning that the reader should live his or her life in view of ultimate judgment by God. Not only will the godly way prove the only adequate one then, but it also yields a truly beneficial existence now. [Note: See Charles R. Swindoll, Living Beyond the Daily Grind, Book I, pp. 3-15.]

"It [this psalm] announces that the primary agenda for Israel’s worship life is obedience, to order and conduct all of life in accordance with God’s purpose and ordering of the creation. The fundamental contrast of this psalm and all of Israel’s faith is a moral distinction between righteous and wicked, innocent and guilty, those who conform to God’s purpose and those who ignore those purposes and disrupt the order. Human life is not mocked or trivialized. How it is lived is decisive." [Note: Brueggemann, pp. 38-39.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-1.html. 2012.
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