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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 37

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

Psalms 37:1-40.-The theme is, God will award the righteous and the unrighteous their respective deserts in due time; fret not, then, against, but trust in the Lord, and do good (Psalms 37:1-2). The alphabetical arrangement in the Hebrew connects the loosely-joined sententious savings; these probably were the model copied by Solomon in his Book of Proverbs. David's experience qualified him for solving the difficulty, Why do ungodly men like Saul, Nabal and Absalom, seemingly prosper?

['aleph (')]

Fret (Hebrew, tithchar) not thyself because of evil- doers - literally, 'Inflame not thyself in relation to evil-doers.' Anger is often compared to a fire (Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalms 79:5; Proverbs 24:1; Proverbs 24:19, is plainly copied from this; cf. 3:31; 23:17). The godly are tempted to be angry at the sight of the wicked prospering, and to think they have just cause for anger. David's own feeling was such, when he was a destitute exile, though serving God, and Nabal a man of wealth, though an ungrateful churl (1 Samuel 25:4-34). David's anger was naturally stirred up, and he would have avenged himself, instead of leaving his cause in the Lord's hand, had not God, of His mercy, spoken, by Abigail, the advice which kept him from meeting evil with evil. The precept here, 'Inflame not thyself,' answers to "Cease from anger," Psalms 37:8, and the promise to "the meek," Psalms 37:11,

Verse 2

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

For they ... like the grass. 'The multitude of hypocrites flourishes and covers the world so completely, that they alone seem almost to exist, as the green grass covers the earth. But, in God's sight, what are they? Hay that must presently be made; and the higher the grass, the nearer it is to the scythe and the haycock: just as the higher and further the wicked spread and rise aloft, the nearer are they to destruction. Wherefore, then, shouldst thou be angry, when their wickedness and prosperity are of so short-lived a nature?' (Luther.)

[beth (b)]

Verse 3

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

Trust in the Lord, and do good - the right course, when seeing the prosperity of the ungodly, instead of giving way to the temptation to anger and envy (Psalms 37:1).

So shalt ... the land - Psalms 37:27; Psalms 37:29, fulfilled in part in the possession of Canaan by Israel; partly, also, by the promise even of "the life that now is," which is appended to "godliness" (1 Timothy 4:8); mainly in the "inheritance of the earth" hereafter promised to the righteous (Psalms 37:9; Psalms 37:11; Psalms 37:22; Psalms 37:34), after "the wicked" shall have been "cut off" (Proverbs 2:21; Proverbs 10:30; 2 Peter 3:13).

Verily [ 'ªmuwnaah (H530 )] thou shalt be fed - is rather, as the parallelism favours 'thou shalt feed on truth;' the opposite of "feeding on ashes" (Isaiah 44:20), and "feeding on wind" (Hosea 12:1). The truth fed on by the believer is the truth of God, His faithfulness, in which the believer has great joy. L. de Dieu takes it, 'feed in security' or 'stableness' (margin, and Isaiah 33:6).

Verse 4

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Delight thyself also in the Lord - a promise in the very terms of the precept. In resting heartily in the Lord, thou shalt have supreme delight thereby. So Bacon's well-known saying, 'It is heaven on earth for a man's mind to move in charity, to rest, in Providence, and to turn on the poles of truth' (cf. Psalms 37:11, latter clause; Isaiah 58:14; Job 22:26; Job 27:10).

He shall give ... - (Psalms 20:5; Psalms 21:2)

[gimel (g)]

Verse 5

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Commit thy way unto the Lord - Hebrew, gol, 'roll thy way upon Yahweh.' The image is of one rolling off from his own shoulders a burden which be is not able to bear, upon the shoulders of another, who is able to bear it (1 Peter 5:7; Psalms 55:22: also 22:10). As a "way" cannot be rolled as a burden, it must hero mean thy doing, thy undertakings, as explained in margin, Proverbs 16:3, 'Roll thy works upon the Lord.'

And he shall bring it to pass - what thou desirest to be done, but canst not do thyself.

Verse 6

And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

And he shall bring forth thy righteousness ... Afflictions which are now the portion of the godly (2 Timothy 3:12) seem to east a slur on their righteousness; but in "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19) the Lord will judge - i:e., vindicate the justice of their cause, as He did typically in the case of Job at the last (Job 11:17; Isaiah 58:8; Micah 7:9). So Christ, the Head of the Church, after having been forsaken of God, as though His righteous cause was lost, while He hung amidst darkness on the cross, was "justified' (i:e., had His righteousness vindicated) at His resurrection and ascension (Romans 1:3-4; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18)

[daleth (d)]

Verse 7

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Rest in the Lord - Hebrew, dowm (H1826); 'Be still (silent) TO [la-] the Lord' - i:e., with an eye to the Lord, who will speak more effectually than thou canst. Be still or silent is opposed to passionate self-defense (Psalms 37:8), and anger at the prosperity of wicked enemies. Compare Psalms 38:3-15, margin.

And wait patiently for him, [ low (H3807a)] - answering to the parallel 'Be still to the Lord;' wait for Him to answer in thy stead, and to vindicate thy cause.

Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth ... - inflame not thyself with anger at him who prospers though devising wicked things. Thus the last verse of the introduction reverts to the same point as the first verse.

[he (h)]

Verse 8

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

Fret not thyself ... to do evil. The Hebrew [ 'ak (H389)] is, 'inflame not thyself ... ONLY for evil' - i:e., which can have no other result but evil. To meet evil with evil is only to aggravate the mischief, and add fuel to the flame. It is to take the cause out of the hands of God, the time Rectifier of the world's anomalies; thereby thou forfeitest His favour, ranking thyself among the evil-doers."

Verse 9

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

For evil-doers shall be cut off - therefore beware lest by anger and revenge thou takest thy portion with them. David resisted the temptation once and again in Saul's case.

These that wait upon the Lord ... - (Psalms 25:13.) So David, by waiting upon the Lord, instead of avenging These that wait upon the Lord ... - (Psalms 25:13.) So David, by waiting upon the Lord, instead of avenging himself on Saul, was promoted to the kingdom at Saul's death.

[waw (w)]

Verse 10

For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.

For yet ... (shall) not (be): yea, thou ... and it (shall) not (be) - the place that now knoweth him shall know him no more. The Hebrew ellipsis vividly sets before the eye the utter extinction of sinners: "the wicked not

... his place not" (Job 7:10; Job 20:9).

Verse 11

But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

But the meek ... abundance of peace. On "the meek," cf. Psalms 9:12, note, 'the humble.' Being men of peace now, they shall be the fit administrators in the coming kingdom of the Prince of Peace upon earth (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:6; Hosea 2:18; Zechariah 9:10). As this blessed consummation is not to be until first the "evil-doers shall be cut off" (Psalms 37:9), "and the wicked shall not be" (Psalms 37:10), it cannot be until the winding up of this dispensation by Messiah's glorious appearing; because up to the harvest, or end of this age, the tares and the wheat remain intermingled (Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:39-43); not until then takes place the excision of the wicked, succeeded by the reign of the righteous in that same "kingdom," the earth, "out of" which "the Son of Man shall send forth Has angels (to) gather all things that offend, and them which do iniquity." Compare Psalms 37:35-37.

[zayin (z)]

Verse 12

The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

The wicked plotteth ... David admits that the present power and malice of the wicked might at first sight seem to negative his inspired assertion, that the meek shall inherit the very earth where the wicked are now so powerful. He answers the objection in Psalms 37:13.

Verse 13

The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.

The Lord shall laugh at him - rather. 'The Lord laughs at him' (Psalms 2:4). "Laugh" implies the deep contrast there is between the lofty pretensions and seeming greatness of the wicked on the one hand, and their real impotence and speedy dissolution on the other. Man judges only by the present outward look of things.

For he seeth - namely, his day of destruction (Psalms 137:7; Ezekiel 7:7).

[cheth (ch)]

Verses 14-15

The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.

The wicked ... sword ... Their sword ... heart - (Psalms 7:15-16; Matthew 26:52; Revelation 13:10.)

[Teth (T)]

Verse 16

A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.

A little that a righteous man hath (is) better than the riches of many wicked - The little that one righteous man hath is better than the laborious accumulations of MANY wicked men. The Hebrew for "riches" [ haamown (H1995)] implies an accumulation with toil and turmoil. Cognate Hebrew words are used in Psalms 39:6, "surely they are disquieted in vain; he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not, etc.; and Proverbs 15:16, "Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith:" cf. 16:8. Turmoil significantly designates riches scraped together and held fast only by noise and disquietude.

Verse 17

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.

For the arms ... be broken. The wicked man's arm, the instrument of executing his schemes, when once broken, can neither injure the godly nor save himself (Psalms 10:15). This is why (Psalms 37:16) the "little" property of one "righteous man" "is better than the riches of many wicked." Not that the wicked, while possessing riches, are always inwardly unhappy; but to the eye of faith the utter wreck of their fortune is near: their past prosperity will only intensify their everlasting misery.

[yodh (y)]

Verses 18-19

The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.

The Lord knoweth ... - in contrast to Psalms 37:13, "The Lord ... seeth that his (the wicked man's) day (of destruction) is coming." "The Lord knoweth" (i:e., taketh account of) implies Yahweh's special providence; also His love, recognizing them as His own, ordering the length of their earthly "days" (cf. Psalms 119:84), and the most minute events affecting their welfare in each day (Romans 8:28; Psalms 31:15), and finally giving them length of days for ever and ever (Exodus 2:25, margin; Psalms 1:6). He cares for them "in the days of famine" (Psalms 37:19), as in the days of plenty. So He cared for Jeremiah during the famine caused by the siege (Jeremiah 37:21; Psalms 33:19). Where it is for their good, He "prolongeth (their) days," as in Hezekiah's case (Isaiah 38:5; cf. Exodus 23:26, end). Whenever they die, it is not prematurely; but the years of the wicked shall be shortened (Proverbs 10:27). When He removes His people early, as in Abijah's case (1 Kings 14:13; Isaiah 57:1), it is in order to "take" them "away from the evil to come." Whether their earthly days be long or short, in heaven "their inheritance shall be for ever." Compare 1 Peter 1:4,

[kaph (k)]

Verse 20

But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

But the wicked shall ... fat of lambs - not, as Gesenius translates, 'as the beauty of the meadows' (karim) -

i.e., the grass; cf. Psalms 37:2. The Hebrew [ yaaqaar (H3368)] for "fat" is literally, the preciousness. But there is an evident allusion here, as elsewhere in Scripture, to the burnt sacrifices; such are the wicked, consumed by the fire of God's wrath against sin, and passing away as "smoke." Compare Isaiah 34:6. As the fatness of the lambs only makes them the fitter for sacrifice, so the more sumptuous the wicked are, the more speedily and miserably shall they perish (cf. James 5:5; Mark 9:49).

Into smoke ... - carrying on the image of the sacrifice, the victim being burnt into smoke and ashes.

[lamedh (l)]

Verse 21

The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.

The wicked borroweth ... the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth - not so much a representation of what the wicked and the righteous respectively are willing, or not willing, through injustice, to do, as of what they respectively are able, or unable, through poverty, to do. The "for" in Psalms 37:22 presumes that it is of ability and inability, not of willingness and unwillingness, that Psalms 37:21 speaks. So, too, Psalms 37:26. "He (the righteous man) is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed." The ground passage is Deuteronomy 15:6, "The Lord thy God blesseth thee; and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow;" also Deuteronomy 28:12; Deuteronomy 28:44, in contrast to the curse.

Verse 22

For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.

For such ... inherit the earth; and they that ... cut off - the ground of the penniless destitution of "the wicked," and of the abundance possessed by "the righteous," whereby he can "give" as his "mercy" prompts him (Psalms 37:21).

[mem (m)]

Verse 23

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

The steps of a (good) man. The Hebrew [ geber (H1397)] for 'a man' is literally a hero, a valiant man. So "valiant for the truth," Jeremiah 9:3. Compare with the sentiment, 1 Samuel 2:9. He delighteth in his way - therefore it cannot but prosper, as in Joseph's case (Genesis 39:2-6; Genesis 39:21-23; Proverbs 16:7).

Verse 24

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

Though he fall ... for the Lord ... with his hand - in answer to the objection that one sees the godly often low in the world; granted-but the Lord will not let him remain so. Yahweh takes him by the hand, and raises him again (Job 5:19; Proverbs 24:16; Micah 7:8). So spiritually, whatever falls the believer may have through his own weakness and corruption, and Satan's subtlety, the Lord 'having begun a good work' in him, "will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). A beautiful type of this is Christ's stretching forth His hand to catch and save Peter from sinking in the waves (Matthew 14:31; also Luke 22:31-34; cf. 1 Samuel 23:16).

[nun (n)]

Verse 25

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

I have been young ... righteous forsaken - i:e., forsaken utterly (cf. Psalms 37:28). He comprises all ages in the ideal character that speaks as a father would address his children.

Nor his seed begging bread - i:e., continuously. Temporarily David had in his destitution begged sustenance from the rich Nabal. The very object of the psalm is to counteract the temptation to fretfulness at the temporary wants of the godly. But, alike in the Old and the New Testaments, the godly are exempt from permanent abandonment as to the needs even of this life. He who commands us to pray, Give us this day our daily bread, will not mock His children by withholding that which He Himself has encouraged them to ask, with the implied promise that He will grant it. He does not raise hopes only to disappoint them. They who make heaven their end will not be allowed to want any necessary on the way (Matthew 6:33; Psalms 84:11; Romans 8:28; Romans 8:32).

Verse 26

He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. He is ever merciful, and lendeth - `all the day' (Hebrew, for "ever"). He hath at once the will and the power to be liberal (cf. Psalms 37:21),

[camekh (c)]

Verse 27

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.

Depart ... for evermore - i:e, and so shalt thou dwell for evermore. A promise similar to Psalms 37:3; Psalms 37:11. So the fifth commandment, "that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

Verse 28

For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

For the Lord loveth judgment. On account of His essential justice ("judgment") the Lord cannot 'forsake' finally His saints (Psalms 37:25).

They are preserved for ever - (John 10:28-29; John 17:11; 1 Peter 1:5.)

Verse 29

The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.

The righteous ... dwell therein for ever - (Psalms 37:27, last clause, note.) The full realization of the promise shall be in the 'new heavens and the new earth, wherein shall dwell righteousness' (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-6).

[pe (p)]

Verses 30-31

The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.

The mouth ... and his tongue ... judgment. The law ... his heart ... shall slide. As previously he has mentioned the consolations of the godly, so now, lest any should appropriate these without being the kind of person for whom they were intended, he proceeds to describe the character of the godly. He does so in the threefold aspect presented in the decalogue: the words of the "mouth" and "tongue;" the actions, or "steps;" between these two, the heart, the center of all.

Speaketh wisdom ( yehªgeh (H1897)) - literally, meditates wisdom. His utterances are wisely considered beforehand. "Wisdom" of speech and goodness of speech, in the Scripture view, are one, even as sin and folly are one (Matthew 12:35). As the first clause is 'righteousness' toward one's neighbour, and the second piety toward "God" and His "law," so the third, "none of his steps shall slide," is one's duty toward oneself. He shall never become an utter backslider in his personal outward walk, nor shall he want "wisdom (of speech) toward them that are without" (Colossians 4:5-6), because "the law of his God is in his heart," according to Deuteronomy 6:6. The Holy Spirit writes it in his heart (Hebrews 8:10). This was the secret of Messiah's holiness of word and deed (Psalms 40:8). In proportion as the believer has "the law of God within his heart" he, too, will be holy (Psalms 1:2-3; Psalms 119:11).

[tsade (ts)]

Verses 32-33

The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.

The wicked - (Luke 11:53-54; Psalms 10:8.)

The Lord will not leave ... The question at issue between the wicked and the righteous is as a suit at law, wherein God is judge. God will not give the issue against the godly-literally, '(will not) class him with the wicked' ( yarshiy`enuw (H7561)) (Psalms 109:7, margin; 31). When the Christians were exiled under the Emperor Adrian, Tertullian comforted them by saying, 'If we are condemned by the world, we are acquitted by God.'

[qoph (q)]

Verse 34

Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

Wait on the Lord - returning to the truth in Psalms 37:7.

And keep his way - the way which His Word prescribes.

When the wicked ... shalt see it. As now thou hast to take the truth of God's Word on faith, so hereafter shalt thou know it by sight (Psalms 58:10; Isaiah 66:24). So the Israelites saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore (Exodus 14:30).

[resh (r)]

Verse 35

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.

I have ... great power - `in formidable power' [ `aariyts (H6184)] (cf. Job 5:3).

Spreading ... green bay tree - rather, 'as a green (tree) that groweth in his own soil;' indigenous; one not yet transplated, and therefore flourishing with the vigour of its native soil [ 'ezraach (H249)]. A native Israelite, with all the privileges, temporal and spiritual, of such; not a foreigner; yet all the while a wicked man. The possessions of an indigenous Israelite could not be alienated: he was free from oppression by usury; his children could not want, since the nearest relative was always bound to help them. Such a one seemed the farthest removed from ruin, guarded as he was with privileges.

Verse 36

Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

He passed ... was not. One could scarcely believe one's eyes, that such a flourishing sinner could so quickly and so utterly perish. Such was the fate of Saul.

[shin (sh)]

Verses 37-38

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

Mark ... (man) ... for the end of (that) man (is) peace. As there is no Hebrew for "that" before "man" [not laa'iysh (H376), but lª'iysh (H376)], most critics translate (cf. Psalms 37:11, "the meek ... abundance of peace"), For there is an hereafter (i:e., a blessed future) to the man of peace (contrast Psalms 37:38), including not only the future after death, but often, as in Job's case (Job 42:1-17), a prolongation of his days even here, after intermediate trials; whereas "deceitful men shall not live out half their days" (Psalms 55:23). The Hebrew [ 'achªriyt (H319)] for "end" means "the latter, end" (Job 42:12), 'the final issue' or 'reward.' So Proverbs 23:18, "For surely there is an end (margin, reward), and thine expectation shall not be cut off." The Syriac, Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and Arabic translate, 'For there is something that remains (a good end, Syriac) to the man of pence.' Probably in this general expression, 'something that remains' as included, as in the term "residue" (Ezekiel 23:25), the promise of posterity to the godly, as in Job's case (Job 42:12-13; Psalms 109:13; Daniel 11:4; Jeremiah 31:17). However, in Psalms 37:23, "a man" is used for 'a good man;' i:e., a man such as has been described; and the good term for "man" ( 'iysh (H376)) is used.

Moreover, the Chaldaic supports the English version. The version in the 'Church of England Prayer Book' is Bishop Coverdale's-`Keep innocency, and take heed unto the thing that is right, for that shall bring a man peace at the last'-literally, for '(it is) peace to a man at the last,' But the emphatic 'that' or 'it' (i:e., such a course) would then have been in the Hebrew. From the parallel (Proverbs 24:14; Proverbs 24:20), based on this passage of David's psalms, I prefer the English version, but take "end" as 'the ultimate reward.'

Thus the parallelism to Psalms 37:38 is maintained, 'The ultimate reward appertaining to lª- (such) a man is peace; but 'the ultimate expectation of the wicked (the only reward, as their end, which they look to: acharith) is cut off.' Peace contrasts in parallelism to cut off. [ 'achªriyt (H319)].

Verses 39-40

But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble.

The Hebrew copula [wª-] before the last letter of the alphabet connects this strophe with all that precedes, as its summary.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 37". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-37.html. 1871-8.
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