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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 1

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Psa 1:1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

The Book of Psalms ] So Christ calleth it, Luke 20:42 . The Hebrew word signifieth hymns, or praises, because the greater part of these psalms serve to set forth the praise of God. This title seemeth to be taken from Psalms 145:1 , called David’s Hymn, or Psalm of praise; so highly prized by the ancient Hebrews that they pronounce him an heir of heaven who shall three times a day devoutly repeat it. The Greeks call this Book the Psalter (Athanas., Chrysost.); and deservedly give it many high commendations; as that it is the soul’s anatomy, the Jaw’s epitome, the gospel’s index, the garden of the Scriptures, a sweet field and rosary of promises, precepts, predictions, praises, soliloquies, &c.; the very heart and soul of God, the tongue and pen of David, a man after God’s own heart; one murmur of whose Michtam, or Maschil, one touch of whose heavenly harp, is far above all the buskin raptures, garish phantasms, splendid vanities, pageants, and landscapes of profaner wits; far better worthy to be written in letters of gold than Pindar’s seventh ode in the temple at Rhodes (though Politian judged otherwise, liken wretch as he was), and far more fit to have been laid up, as a rare and precious jewel, in that Persian casket, embroidered with gold and pearl, than Homer’s Iliad, for which it was reserved by Great Alexander. But that cock on the dunghill never knew the worth of this peerless pearl; as did our good King Alfred, who himself translated the Psalter into his own Saxon tongue; and as the Emperor Andronicus, who caused this Book to be bound up in a little volume by itself, to serve as his manual, and attend him in his running library (Turk. Hist.); for therein he found amulets of comfort, more pleasant than the pools of Heshbon, more glorious than the tower of Lebanon, more redolent than the oil of Aaron, more fructifying than the dew of Hermon, as one expresseth it. All the latitude of the Holy Scriptures may be reduced to the Psalms, saith Austin, after Athanasius. Luther calleth them Parva Biblia, et summarium utriusque Testamenti, a little Bible, a summary of both Testaments. The Turks disclaim both the Old and New Testament, and yet they swear as solemnly by the Psalms of David as by the Koran of Mahomet. Anciently they were sung in the temples, and in the primitive Christian Church happy was that tongue held that could sound out aliquid Davidicum, any part of a psalm of David. Nicephorus telleth us that as they travelled and journeyed they used to solace themselves with psalms, and that thereby there was at a certain time a Jew converted. St Paul calleth them spiritual songs, Colossians 3:16 , both because they were indited by the Holy Spirit, and for that they do singularly suit with men’s spirits; for they are so penned that every man may think they speak De se, in re sua, of himself, and to his particular purpose, as Athanasius observeth. And, lastly, because they do after a special manner spiritualize and sanctify those that sing them in the right tune; which is, Sing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord, as the apostle there setteth it; and elsewhere hinteth unto us that there is no small edification by the choice of a fit psalm, 1 Corinthians 14:26 .

Ver. 1. Blessed ] Heb. Oh the blessedness, the heaped up happiness, both of this life and a better, fitter to be believed than possibly could be discoursed. The Hebrew comes from a root that signifieth to go right forward, sc. in the way that is called holy, having Oculum ad metam, an eye upon the mark, viz. true and real happiness, such as all men pretend to, but he only attaineth to who is here described. Sulla was by his flatterers surnamed Felix, because high and mighty; and Metellus likewise, Quod bona multa bono modo invenerat, because rich by right means (Policrat. lib. 8, cap. 4). But he that first called riches Bona was a better husband than divine; and they that seek for a felicity in anything here below seek for the living among the dead. The philosophers’ discourses of this subject are but learned dotages; David saith more to the point in this short psalm than any or all of them put together; they did but beat around the bush, God hath here put the bird into our hands.

Is the man ] Heb. that man, with an article, with an accent, and by an excellency, as Jeremiah 5:1 , that eminent and eximious man, who is rationally spiritual and spiritually rational; that man in Christ, 2 Corinthians 12:2 , who hath learned Christ, and doth live Christ, walking as he walked, 1 John 2:6 , and "not in the counsel of the ungodly," &c. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord," &c. Magnus atque admirabilis vir, si modo viri nomine designare illum fas est, as Chrysostom saith of Babylas, the martyr, that is, a great and an admirable man, if a man we may call him, and not an earthly angel rather. He must indeed be content to pass to heaven as a concealed man, because the world knoweth him not, 1 John 3:1 , but those that have senses exercised to discern good and evil may easily know him as he stands here described, 1. To depart from evil, Psalms 1:1 Psalms 1:2 . To do good, Psalms 1:2 .

Walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly ] Or restless. The counsel of such should be far from us, Job 21:16 ; Job 22:18 . The Jews cast their whole nation or people into three ranks, Reshagnim (the word here used), that is, the profane rabble; Tsadichim, righteous men; and Chasidim, good, or gracious men. See Romans 5:7 . To these two latter are opposite here sinners and scorners; these last being the worst of wicked persons, and, therefore, set last in this gradation, as some will have it. The Septuagint here render them pests or botches, and elsewhere incorrigible, wicked (with a witness), proud, prevaricating, &c., ‘ Aκολαστος , Proverbs 20:1 ; κακος , Proverbs 9:12 ; υπερηφανος , Proverbs 3:34 ; παρηνομουν , Psalms 119:51 . Beware of this sin, saith Father Latimer; for I never knew but one scorner that repented; he who is sitting down in this chair of pestilence (as having tired himself in ways of wickedness, and will not be better advised, Proverbs 9:7-8 , but, with Lot’s sons-in-law, jeereth what he should fear) will not easily be raised out of it.

Verse 2

Psa 1:2 But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Ver. 2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord ] i.e. In the whole doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, that invariable rule of truth, as Irenaeus rightly calleth it, Kανων της αληθειας ακλινης . He findeth rest nowhere, nisi in angulo cum libello, in a nook with this book, as Thomas Kempis was wont to say, who also with his own hand wrote out the Bible. King Alphonsus read it over fourteen times, together with such commentaries as those times afforded. Luther said he would not live in paradise without the word, as with it he could live well enough in hell. Magdalen, wife to Dr Paraeus, after she was married, and forty years of age, out of love to the Scriptures, learned to read, and took such delight in it, and especially in the Psalms, that she got them almost all by heart (Par. in Epist. ad Ja. Newer. Pastor. Heidelb.). Beza, being above fourscore years old, could say perfectly by heart any Greek chapter in St Paul’s Epistles. Cranmer and Ridley had all the New Testament by heart; the former had learned it in his journey to Rome, the latter in the walks of Pembroke Hall in Cambridge.

And in his law doth he meditate day and night ] Hoc primus repetens opus, hoc postremus omittens (Horat.). Having gathered with the bees the sweet of those heavenly flowers, he doth by meditation work his honeycomb within his hive; and at this work he is perdius et pernox, till he feel it to become an ingrafted word, yea, till he hath turned it in succum et sanguinem, and is after a sort transformed into it, 2 Corinthians 3:18 . The Hebrew word Hagah here signifieth both to speak with the mouth and with the heart, to read and to meditate; because to read is not to run over a chapter, as a child at school, but to muse upon the matter, and to make some benefit of it. It is said of Pythagoras that he lived in a cave for a whole year together, that, being sequestered from the society of men, he might the better meditate upon the abstruser parts of philosophy; he used also with a thread to tie the hair of his head to a beam over him, that so when he did but nod by reason of sleep he might be awakened thereby. Is not this check to our drowsiness and carelessness of searching the Scriptures, and making them our daily and nightly study? Jerome exhorted some godly women to whom he wrote not to lay the Bible out of their hands until, being overcome with sleep, and not able any longer to hold up their heads, they bowed them down, as it were, to salute the leaves below them with a kiss. (Jerome ad Eust. De custod. Virgin.)

Verse 3

Psa 1:3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Ver. 3. And he shall be like a tree ] An olive tree, say some, from Psalms 52:8 , which is green all the year, saith Pliny; that in Noah’s flood kept its greenness though it had been so long time under the water; and is, therefore, made an emblem of the resurrection. Others will have it to be the palm tree, from Psalms 92:12 , which likewise is always green, and very fruitful. Plutarch saith that the Babylonians make three hundred and sixty commodities of it. The tree whereon the cocoa nuts grow in the Indies is said to be such as wherewith alone a ship may be built, and furnished to sea with food and merchandise. Let it be what tree it will that is here meant, if Plato could say that man is a tree inverted, with the root above and the branches below, and that he is φυτον ουρανιον , a heavenly plant, γεγενημενον εκ Dιος ερνος , as another hath it (Homer); much more may we say so of a godly man, that plant of renown, rooted in Christ, and fruited by the Spirit, of a right constitution and righteous conversation, Galatians 5:25 . See Jer 17:8 Ezekiel 47:12 .

Planted by the rivers of water ] In locis irriguis, in moist places, where most trees thrive best; understand it of those waters of the sanctuary, Ezekiel 47:12 , together with those unfailing influences of grace and consolation that are in him, as a well of water bubbling up to eternal life, John 4:14 .

That bringeth forth his fruit in his season ] There are no barren trees in God’s orchard, and yet they may have their fits of barrenness, as an apple tree sometimes hath; but they will reflourish with advantage, as those Philippians did, Philippians 4:10 See Trapp on " Php 4:10 " and bear fruit in the right season, Nec praecocem nec serum. Now everything is beautiful in its season, Ecclesiastes 5:11 , and it was no small shame to Ahithophel, when it was told him by Hushai, the Archite, Thy counsel is good, but not now, 2 Samuel 17:7 .

His leaf also shall not wither ] Heb. fade, for want of sap or safety from Christ the root; but as the olive or palm tree, semper in suo genere viret vigetque, retaineth its green leaf, and hath for its motto Nec premor nec perimor; so doth the good soul persevere and persist in the profession and practice of the truth which is after godliness, Titus 1:1 , maugre the malice of earth and of hell. Of Tylos, an Indian island, Pliny and Austin say, That no tree therein growing doth at any time of the year lose their leaves (Plin. l. 12, cap. 11. Aug. de C. D. lib. 21, cap. 5). Certain it is that saving faith cannot be lost altogether, though it may suffer some decays, Isaiah 6:13 .

And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper ] So Joshua 1:7-8 . This and the like promises must be understood with an exception of the cross, as need requireth, 1 Peter 1:6 . Gain, his prosperity, that of the soul I mean, he shall be sure of, Romans 8:28 ; Romans 8:37 . Temporal also, so far as may make for his eternal good. Pintus, out of Pliny, tells us, that the palm tree will not grow well on rich ground, but in a light and sandy; and that if the soil be strong and fertile they must cast salt and ashes at the root to limit the fertility of the ground. As Christ is the true vine, so his Father is a good husbandman, and knoweth well how to order his trees of righteousness; but usually piety hath prosperity, and is profitable to all things, 1 Timothy 4:8 . And outward prosperity, if it follow close walking with God, is very sweet; as the cipher, when it followeth the figure, addeth to the number, though it be nothing in itself.

Verse 4

Psa 1:4 The ungodly [are] not so: but [are] like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Ver. 4. The ungodly are not so ] Not like any such tree before described, but rather like the cypress tree, which, the more it is watered, is the less fruitful; or like the cyparit tree, whereof Pliny writeth that it is good for nothing, no, not for show, shadow, or smell. St Jude saith, they are trees indeed, but such as are twice dead, pulled up by the roots, Judges 1:12 . Twice dead they are said to be, 1. Because a spiritual death is so great a death that it may well go for two. 2. Because those ungodly ones were dead, both in regard of fruit and leaves, truth of grace and any outward actings of grace. Their fruit, if any, is but hedge fruit, their leaves of formal profession wither and come to nothing; if they prosper in the world (as Sigonius observeth of Pope Zechariah that he died rebus non tam pie quam prospere gestis, not overly pious, and yet very prosperous) it is that they may be cut down for ever, Psalms 37:2 : such a temporary prosperity plus deceptionis habet quam delectationis, saith Lactantius, is more deceitful than delightful, and is, therefore, well called by Bernard, Misericordia omni indignatione crudelior, a giftless gift, &c.

But are like the chaff ] Not so they are, but much worse in many respects, as it is fit they should be. God will surely set a difference, Malachi 3:18 . See Trapp on " Mal 3:18 " A profane soldier at the siege of a town, passing a place of danger, was heard swearing; and when one that stood by warned him, saying, Fellow soldier, do not swear, the bullets fly; he answered, They that swear come off as well as they that pray. But what came of it? Soon after a shot hit him, and down he fell. "The wicked is" (as chaff) "driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death," Proverbs 14:32 . The word here rendered chaff is Palea tenuissima et minutissime contrita chaff beaten to dust, and, therefore, good for nothing, but apt to be whiffied up and down with every wind of doctrine, with every puff of temptation. A good man is, as a tree, stedfast, and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:58 . An evil man is, as chaff, light and worthless, Religionem habens ephemeram, constant in nothing so much as in his inconstancy, serves God by fits and starts, flies in his face when afflicted, as chaff doth in the face of the winnower, while the weightier grain falls low at his feet. See Job 21:18 Psalms 55:5 Hos 13:3 Matthew 3:12 . See Trapp on " Job 21:18 " See Trapp on " Psa 55:5 " See Trapp on " Hos 13:3 " See Trapp on " Mat 3:12 "

Verse 5

Psa 1:5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

Ver. 5. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment ] i.e. Causa cadent et damnabuntur, at the great assizes they shall be cast and condemned. Vix steteris (Terent.). Revelation 6:17 , "For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" 1 Peter 4:18 . Surely nowhere, but in hell, their own place, Acts 1:25 : not before God, for he is a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29 , and they chaff or stubble, fully dried, see Isaiah 33:14 ; not before Christ, for he shall come in flaming fire, rendering vengeance, &c., 2 Thessalonians 1:7 ; not in heaven, for it is an undefiled inheritance, neither may any dirty dog trample on that golden pavement, Revelation 22:15 ; not any longer on earth, defiled by their iniquities, and, therefore, to be purged by the fire of the last day; for the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up, 2 Peter 3:10 . R. David Kimchi by judgment here understandeth the day of the wicked man’s death; and indeed his death’s day is his doom’s day, when he must take a fearful farewell, and breathe out his soul and hope together with the breath of the same dying groan, Job 27:8 ; Job 11:20 . Hinc illae lachrymae, hence that lothing to depart, though some set a good face upon it when to die, as Sir Thomas Moore, who died for the pope’s supremacy with a light jest in his mouth. Vespasian likewise died with a jest, and Augustus in a compliment. This was but the hypocrisy of mirth; for death is the king of terror to a natural man. See Hebrews 2:15 1 Samuel 15:32 ; 1 Samuel 28:20 . Saul, at the message of death, swooned quite away, and fell all along, Quantus quantus erat, as Peter Martyr phraseth it; yea, good Hezekiah wept when sentenced to death, and the approach of it was to him Mar mar, bitter bitterness, Isaiah 38:3 ; Isaiah 38:17 . He must have his faith at his fingers’ ends, as one saith, that will die actively. But all men have not faith, 2 Thessalonians 3:2 , and those few that have are not always assured that their hearts shall live for ever, as Psalms 22:26 , and that death, the devil’s sergeant, to drag wicked men to hell, shall be to them the Lord’s gentle usher, to conduct them to heaven, as Mr Brightman expresseth it.

Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous ] They shall never set foot within heaven’s threshold, within that general assembly, that sacred panegyris a , ample amphitheatre, the congregation house of crowned saints and glorious angels. Tertullian saith of Pompey’s theatre (which was the greatest ornament of old Rome) that it was Arx omnium turpitudinum, a receptacle of all kind of ribaldry and roguery. Not so heaven: "There shall ill nowise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie," Revelation 21:27 . The Irish air will sooner brook a toad, or a snake, than heaven a sinner. Mali in area nobiscum esse possunt, in horreo non possunt, Chaff may be with God’s good grain on the floor, but in the garner it shall not (Augustin). For Christ "will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire," Matthew 3:12 .

a Gr. Antiq. A general assembly; esp. a festal assembly in honour of a god.

Verse 6

Psa 1:6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Ver. 6. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous ] Or, acknowledgeth, approveth, administereth, and ordereth all things to their eternal salvation; as may appear by the opposition, wherein there is a rhetorical aposiopesis. God’s knowledge of men and their ways is not merely intuitive, but approbative of the good and vindictive of the evil; εχει θεος εκδικον ομμα . His providence (which is the carrying on of his decree) is that helm which turns about the whole ship of the universe with singular skill and justice. Dominus diligit, et dirigit viam, id est, vitam et omne institutum iustorum. See Psalms 37:18 ; Psa 142:4 Nahum 1:7 Proverbs 2:8 , with the notes there. God knows the righteous by name, Exodus 33:17 , knows them for his own, looks upon them and their whole course with singular delight and complacency; they are his Hephzibah, Isaiah 62:4 , the dearly beloved of his soul, Jeremiah 12:7 . Verba notitiae apud Hebracos secum trahunt affectum.

But the way of the ungodly shall perish ] Their practices and persons shall perish together, be done away, be lost for ever. And why? because the Lord knoweth them not; unless it be for black sheep, as we say, or rather for reprobate goats, Mat 25:32-46 Hence their souls are flung out, as out of the middle of a sling, when the souls of the saints are bound up in the bundle of life, with the Lord their God, 1 Samuel 25:29 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 1". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/psalms-1.html. 1865-1868.
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