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The design of this Psalm is to defend the providence of God, and to satisfy the minds of men in that great question, concerning the seeming inequality of God’s dispensations, in afflicting good men, and giving prosperity to the worst of men; and to instruct God’s people how to demean themselves in their present condition, and what supports and comforts they have in it.
The psalmist persuadeth to patience and confidence in God, Psalms 37:1-8; and showeth the different state of the godly and wicked in all their dealings, Psalms 37:9-40.
Fret not thyself, give not way to immoderate grief, or anger, or impatience,
because of evil-doers; because they prosper in their wicked enterprises, whilst thou art sorely afflicted.
Neither be thou envious, esteeming them happy, and secretly wishing that thou wert in their condition.
For their happiness, the matter of thy envy, is but shortlived.
Trust in the Lord; depend upon God’s providence and promise for thy protection and sustentation, for their infidelity is the root of their wickedness.
Do good; continue in the practice of that which is good and well-pleasing to God.
So shalt thou dwell in the land, i.e. upon this condition shalt dwell safely and quietly in Canaan; as God had oft promised. In the Hebrew it is, dwell in the land, as if, it were a command to abide in Canaan when troubles come, and not to flee to the Philistines or other heathens for shelter, as he had foolishly done. But it is rather a promise, by comparing this with Psalms 37:27,Psalms 37:29; such promises being oft expressed by imperative verbs put for futures, as Genesis 12:2; Genesis 42:18; Psalms 128:6; Amos 5:4.
Verily thou shalt be fed, Heb. thou shalt be fed (i.e. every way provided for) in truth, i.e. truly or assuredly; or with or by faith, as this word signifies, i. e. by thy trusting in the Lord; thou shalt live by thy faith, as is said, Habakkuk 2:4.
Delight thyself in the Lord; in his favour and service, and in the study of his word and promises.
The desires of thine heart, i.e. thy just desires, or whatsoever is truly desirable and good for thee; which limitation is necessarily to be understood, both from divers places of Scripture, and from the nature of the things; for it is unreasonable to imagine that God would engage himself to grant their sinful and inordinate desires, and it would also be a curse to them to have them granted.
Thy way, i.e. all thy cares and business, thy desires and necessities. Commend them to God by fervent prayer, referring them to his good will, and expecting a happy issue of all from him.
He shall bring it to pass, Heb. he shall do, or work, to wit, for thee, or what is fit to be done, or what thou desirest in the sense given on Psalms 37:4.
He shall bring forth thy righteousness to the view of the world; from which it hath hitherto seemed to be hid or eclipsed by reproaches, and by grievous calamities, which most men are apt to mistake for tokens and punishments of great wickedness.
As the light; it shall be as visible to men as the light of the sun, and that at noon-day, as it is in the next branch. So effectually will he plead thy cause.
Judgment; the same thing with righteousness, as this word is used here below, Psalms 37:28; Psalms 99:4, and oft elsewhere.
Rest in the Lord, Heb. Be silent unto, or for, or because of the Lord, i.e. do not murmur nor repine at his dealings, but silently and quietly submit to his will, and adore his judgments, and, as it follows, wait for his help. This advice and command is pressed again and again, to teach us how hard it is to learn and practise this lesson.
In his way, i.e. in his evil way, as it is limited in the following words.
Cease from anger; either against the sinner for his success; or against God for so disposing of things, as Jonah Was, Jonah 4:1.
To do evil; or, at least so far as to do evil. If any such anger or grief do secretly arise in thee, take care that it do not transport thee, either to reproach or distrust God’s providence, or to the dislike of his ways, or to an approbation or imitation of the wicked practices of those men in hopes of the same success.
Shall be cut off, to wit, from the earth, by comparing this with the next clause, and with Psalms 34:16. Their end shall certainly be most miserable.
Shall inherit the earth, according to God’s promise oft made to such; which also for the most part was literally fulfilled in that state of the church; and if it was not, it was fulfilled with far greater advantage in spiritual and eternal blessings.
Their time and prosperity is very short, and therefore no matter of envy.
Shall not be, to wit, in the land of the living. He shall be dead and gone, as this phrase is commonly taken.
Diligently consider his place; industriously seeking to find him.
It shall not be, i.e. his place, and estate, and glory shall be gone. Or, he shall not be, as before.
The meek, i.e. the godly, who are frequently thus called, as Psalms 22:26; Psalms 149:4; those who patiently bear God’s afflicting hand, and meekly pass by injuries from ungodly men. The abundance of peace; partly of outward peace and prosperity, which God in his due time will give them; and principally of inward peace and satisfaction of mind, in the sense of God’s favour, and the assurance of his own endless happiness.
Out of malice and rage. See Poole "Psalms 35:16".
Shall laugh at him, i.e. shall despise and deride all their hopes and endeavours against the good, as most vain and foolish.
His day; either,
1. God’s day, which is a usual phrase, as Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:9. Or,
2. His own day, as 1 Samuel 26:10; Ezekiel 21:25,Ezekiel 21:29. Both signify the same thing, the day appointed by God for his punishment or destruction, as Isaiah 9:4; Jeremiah 50:27.
They are furnished with all sorts of arms, and are ready to give the deadly blow.
Such as be of upright conversation; such against whom they have no quarrel for any injury they have done them, but only for their integrity and righteousness, or because they are better than themselves, and will not comply with their wicked counsels and courses.
God will not only defend the upright from their mischievous designs, but will make them to fall upon their own heads.
Because he hath it with many great and glorious advantages, with God’s favour and blessings, with great serenity, and satisfaction of his own mind, which is infinitely more desirable and comfortable than all earthly possessions; with the consolations of God’s Spirit, and the assurance of everlasting felicity; whilst wicked men’s riches are loaded with many encumbrances, with the wrath and curse of God, the torment of their own consciences and passions, and the dreadful expectation of an after-reckoning, and of endless miseries.
This is a proof of what he said Psalms 37:16. For what the wicked have shall suddenly be lost and gone, but God will maintain the righteous in their happy estate.
Knoweth; observeth with singular care and affection
The days of the upright, i.e. their condition, and all things which do or may befall them, their dangers and fears, and suffering from ungodly men; and therefore will watch over them, and preserve them from all the designs and attempts of their enemies.
Days, or years, or times are oft put for things done or events happening in them, as Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalms 31:15; Psalms 77:5; Psalms 143:5; Isaiah 63:11.
Their inheritance shall be for ever; to them and their seed for ever: compare Psalms 37:29. And when they die, their inheritance is not lost, but exchanged for one infinitely better.
They shall not be ashamed, for the disappointment of their hopes, but their hopes and desires shall be satisfied, as it follows.
Fat of lambs, which in an instant melteth before the fire. Consume into smoke, i.e. utterly and irrecoverably,
The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again; either through covetousness and injustice; or rather, because of that great penury into which God shall bring him; whilst the righteous is not only provided sufficiently for himself, but hath abundance and to spare for others. For he is here comparing the wicked and the righteous, not so much in their virtues or moral qualities, as in their outward conditions, which also appears from the following verse, which gives the reason of this.
Of him, i.e. of the Lord, as appears both from Psalms 37:20, where he is named, and from the nature of the thing, this being God’s prerogative to bless or to curse men. And this he mentions, both as the foundation, and as the proof of the certainty of their future happiness.
Of a good man, or, of that man, to wit, the righteous or blessed man, expressed Psalms 37:21,Psalms 37:22.
Ordered, or directed, or disposed, i.e. so governed as to attain the end and happy issue at which he aims. Or, strengthened, or established, so as he shall not stumble nor fall into mischief; for still he seems to be describing, not their virtue, but their felicity.
And he delighteth in his way; or, and he favoureth his way, i.e. succeeds and prospers his counsels and enterprises.
1. Into sin, as this word is used, Jeremiah 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:12; or rather,
2. Into distress or trouble, as Micah 7:8.
Not be utterly cast down, i.e. not totally nor irrecoverably ruined.
This assertion seems to be contradicted by many experiences; nor can it be denied, that both good men and their children have sometimes been reduced to great want.
Quest. How then is this true?
1. Some render the last clause thus, nor (did I ever see)
his seed, ( to wit, forsaken, as was now said,) though
begging bread. So the sense is, I have seen him brought to beggary, yet even then God did not forsake him. But this sense agrees not with the context nor scope, which is to show the plenty and prosperity where with God blesseth him.
2. This is to be understood of the seed of the righteous treading in their fathers’ steps, from which if they degenerate, they lose all their privileges, as many places of Scripture witness.
3. Some few exceptions do not destroy the truth of a general proposition.
4. These temporal promises were more express and particular to the Jews in the times of the Old Testament, than to Christians in the New, and therefore were more literally fulfilled.
5. He speaks not of any kind of wanting, or desiring, or receiving relief from others, for so David himself did, 1 Samuel 21:3; 1 Samuel 25:8; but of the customary practice and trade of begging, which was threatened as a curse to the disobedient, Deuteronomy 28:0; Psalms 109:10.
6. Not begging, to wit, in vain; or so as to be forsaken, as was now expressed, and may very well be here understood; or so as to be sustained or relieved by others.
7. David speaks only of his own experience, which if since that time it be contradicted by other men’s experiences, it is no more than what happens in all the concernments of human life.
He is so far from begging from others, that he hath ability as well as inclination to give or lend to others, as need requires.
His seed is blessed, not only with spiritual, but with temporal blessings. So far shall he be from wasting his estate, and undoing himself and family by his bounty and charity, as covetous worldlings objected or feared.
Having therefore these glorious promises and privileges, let no man do any evil or unjust thing to enrich or secure himself, nor abstain from pious and charitable actions for fear of undoing himself by them; but let every man live in the conscionable discharge of all his duties to God and men, committing himself and all his affairs to God’s fatherly care and providence, and confidently expecting his blessing thereupon.
Dwell, i.e. thou shalt dwell, as before, Psalms 37:3, to wit, in the land, as is expressed, Psalms 37:3, and afterwards in heaven.
For evermore; either properly; or for a long time, of which that word is oft used.
Judgment, i.e. just judgment, or righteousness, as that word is oft taken, as hath been showed again and again; either,
1. In himself, i.e. he loveth to execute judgment upon the wicked, and for the righteous; which he doth in the manner expressed in this Psalm. Or,
2. In the righteous themselves, whose justice, and piety, and charity he sees and loves, and will reward it.
His saints; or, his favourites; or, they to whom he hath a good will; or, his bountiful ones, who exercise benignity and charity to others.
Inherit the land: See Poole "Psalms 37:3".
Dwell therein for ever: See Poole "Psalms 37:18".
Speaketh; and that freely, and customarily, and from his heart, as the next verse shows. Having showed in divers verses God’s singular care over and respect to the righteous, he proceeds to give a character of them, and withal to assign one reason of the great difference of God’s dealings with them and with other men. Wisdom and judgment; either,
1. For the manner of it, with wisdom and judgment. Or rather,
2. For the matter of it, heavenly wisdom, and God’s judgment, or word, or law, as it follows, Psalms 37:31. When the discourses of other men are either wicked, or vain and useless, his are serious, and edifying, and pious, concerning the word and ways of God.
According to God’s command, Deuteronomy 6:6, and promise, Hebrews 8:10. His thoughts, and meditations, and affections are fixed upon it. He doth not talk religiously in design, or with ostentation, but out of the abundance of his heart, Matthew 12:35.
None of his steps shall slide: this passage describes either,
1. His safety, consequent upon his piety; God will uphold and preserve him from falling into that mischief which wicked men plot against him. Or rather,
2. His virtue or piety; which is evidenced by his words, Psalms 37:30, by his heart, in the former part of this verse, and by his actions, in these words. His steps or goings (i.e. his actions) shall not (or rather, do not; for this verb, though future, may and should be rendered by the present, as futures frequently are in the Hebrew language, and as the two foregoing future verbs are rendered, Psalms 37:30) slide, or slip, or swerve, to wit, from the rule, or from God’s law; which is to be understood as that passage, Psalms 99:3, They do no iniquity, and some such expressions, not simply and absolutely, as if all good men were sinless; which is abundantly confuted, both by many scriptures and by universal experience; but comparatively, and in respect of his design, and course, or custom. His conversation is ordinarily regular and unblamable. He not only begins well, but constantly perseveres in God’s ways, and will not be drawn to forsake God and religion upon any terms.
Watcheth, to find out a fit season or occasion to destroy him.
Not leave him in his hand, i.e. not give him up to his power and rage.
Nor condemn him, i.e. nor give his consent to the sentence of condemnation, which the wicked have pronounced against him, but will justify him, and vindicate his innocency and deliver him; for such negatives do oft imply the contrary affirmatives; as God’s not holding a man guiltless commonly implies that he will severely punish him.
Wait on the Lord; seeking and trusting to him, and to him only, for help and deliverance.
Keep his way; continue in the practice of thy duty, or in those ways which God hath prescribed to thee in his word, and do not use indirect and irregular means to deliver thyself.
Thou shalt see it; thou shalt not only escape the destruction which they design for thee, but shalt live to see their ruin.
In great power, or formidable; not only himself out of danger, as it seemed, but terrible to others.
And spreading himself; and therefore firmly and deeply rooted.
Like a green bay tree, which is continually green and flourishing, yea, even in the winter season. Or, like a green tree in its own native soil, where trees flourish much better than when they are transplanted into another soil.
He was gone in an instant, like a tree blasted and blown down, or cut off and rooted out, and carried away in a moment. There was no monument nor remainder of him left.
Though he may meet with troubles in his way, yet all shall end well with him; he shall be happy at last.
Together; or, alike, one as well as another; all, without any exception or respect of persons.
The end of the wicked shall be cut off, i. e. he shall be cut off at last, or in the end. His prosperity shall end in destruction. Or, the posterity (as this word signifies, Psalms 109:13; Jeremiah 31:17; Ezekiel 23:25; Daniel 11:4) of the wicked, &c.
The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; and therefore it shall certainly come to them.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 37". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany