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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


BOOK I. Psalms 1-41. As an introduction to the first book of the Hebrew Psalter, or, possibly, to the whole collection of psalms, this is fitly placed first in the series. Its contents are the common themes of didactic song the law of God, the blessedness of those who keep it, the certain final misery of those who neglect and despise it. Its admonitory character allies it to Psalms 37, 49, , 73; while its clear teachings of final rewards and punishments are worthy of New Testament times. Its simplicity is beautiful, its doctrines clearly stated, and its tone of authority like the Lord’s sermon on the mount. Its testimony to the excellence of the divine law is like Psalms 19, 119. The psalm is anonymous: probably written either by David or by Ezra, the latter of whom completed the compilation of the Psalter. The strophic divisions naturally fall into two Psalms 1:1-3, the blessings of the righteous man; Psalms 1:4-6, the certain and awful doom of the ungodly. Strong parallelisms and antithetic comparisons mark the whole.

Verse 1

1. Blessed Hebrew, blessings. The plural may stand for intensity, as “O, the exceeding happiness of the man!” etc., or for the variety of blessings belonging to such a character. It is treated simply as an idiom in our version, and translated ad sensum. The blessing, (Psalms 1:1-3,) is followed by the cursing, (Psalms 1:4-6,) as the voice from Gerizim was by that from Ebal. Deuteronomy 26:12-13; compare Matthew 7:24-27. See note on John 4:5.

Walketh not “Walking” figuratively denotes the habit of daily life. The description begins with negatives and advances to the positive, in order that by contrast the picture may be the more imposing.

Ungodly The word is usually translated wicked, and may denote any degree of moral turpitude; but as a rhetorical climax is indicated in the verse, it is supposed to denote simply a man devoid of true piety, though in other respects moral.

Standeth The idea is that of to persist, to abide, to persevere in, as Ecclesiastes 8:3; 2 Kings 23:3.

Sinners A generic term for all who have missed the mark, wandered out of the way transgressors.

Sitteth in the seat A phrase indicating a finished work of unbelief. The description given of the scorner everywhere in the book of Proverbs is the best comment on the word. His iniquity is full; there is but a step between him and eternal death. The word “seat” is translated assembly in Psalms 107:32, and its radical sense would justify that rendering here, though in both cases “seat” gives a better sense.

Of the scornful Those who treat the divine law, and all godly obligation, with contempt and derision utter mockers. This is about the farthest point in sin to which the transgressor can go. Hebrews 10:29; Matthew 12:31. Noticeable is the threefold parallelism of “ungodly,” “sinner,” “scornful;” further severally distinguished by “counsel,” “way,” and “seat;” through which the unwary soul passes by “walking,” “standing,” “sitting.”

Verse 2

2. The writer advances from negative to positive statements.

But In the Hebrew two particles stand here as a double disjunctive, as but, on the contrary, as if to prepare for the strongest possible contrast.

Delight Not obedience only, but the joy of loving obedience. Duty and pleasure unite. Delight in the law of God springs only from a pure heart.

Law To be taken here in the restricted sense of precept, rather than the general sense of doctrine, yet as implying the latter, for every truth of God comes to us with a preceptive claim upon our faith and obedience.

Meditate That which engrosses the affections will occupy the thoughts.

Day… night Continually; through hours of labour and of rest.

Verse 3

3. Rivers of water The word “rivers,” here, properly denotes lesser or divided “rivers,” such as proceed either from fountains, where moisture is naturally found in the dry season, (1 Kings 18:5,) or such artificial channels as abounded in Egypt and Babylonia, (see on Psalms 137:1,) and on a smaller scale in the lowlands and gardens of Palestine.

Ecclesiastes 2:5-6; Isaiah 58:11. Such irrigating streams (Psalms 46:4) were a luxury to the people of a parching climate.

Fruit in his season Comp. Matthew 13:5-6.

Leaf shall not wither The leaf, an ornament of beauty, the most delicate of its vital organs, and so the earliest to betray any want of vitality in the tree.

Whatsoever he doeth Conformably to his character and profession.

Shall prosper Herein is brought out the literal import of the foregoing figures. That the righteous shall prosper is an eternal truth under the moral government of God, (1 Timothy 4:8;) not always in this life and in worldly things, but morally, upon the whole, and in the final result, which shows the necessity of a judgment day, and of final awards.

Verse 4

4. Not so The contrast in character of the godly and the ungodly is absolute and infinite; their treatment under the government of God is correspondingly diverse.

Chaff The emblem of worthlessness doomed to destruction.

Verse 5

5. Not stand in the judgment “Judgment” is strictly a forensic term: “God will bring every work into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 12:14. The declaration that “the ungodly shall not stand,” is equal to they shall be overthrown; as in Nahum 1:6, “Who can abide [Hebrew, stand up ] in the fierceness of his anger?” and Exodus 15:7, “Thou hast overthrown them that rose up [or, stood up ] against thee.” See also Deuteronomy 28:7, and 2 Samuel 20:40, 49. The wicked have “risen up,” or “stood up,” against God and his Church. They shall be judged, and shall not stand, and their overthrow shall be as opposite to the blessings of the godly man as their character is opposite.

Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous This forms a parallelism with the previous hemistich, and so means essentially the same. “Congregation of the righteous” must be understood in the true Hebraistic sense, as including not simply the upright, but those only whose names were on the genealogical records of the covenant people. See Ezekiel 13:10; Nehemiah 7:5; Nehemiah 7:61; Ezra 2:62. From this figure arose the New Testament description, “general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” Hebrews 12:23. See also Luke 10:20; Revelation 21:27. The words in the text refer us to the final trial, by which sinners, who now mix with the righteous like tares among the wheat, shall be sifted out and separated from the assembly whose names are written in the book of life.

Verse 6

6. The Lord knoweth Recognises its excellent nature and worthiness of approval and reward. Comp. note on “foreknow,” Romans 8:29.

Shall perish What is predicated of the way here applies to the ungodly. The Hebrew word “perish” is a strong word, occurring about one hundred and seventy times; about sixty times translated destroy, a few times lost, but otherwise almost always as in this text. When used of persons it generally signifies death; when used of lands, desolation. It denotes, not annihilation, but the destruction of things as to their uses and ends, and of men as to their plans, expectations, and enjoyments. The law of antithetic parallelism requires us to understand it here as the exact opposite of the reward of the righteous; and the scope of the argument refers us to the final and inevitable judgment of God in the next life. It is the ultimate issue of the two ways and the two characters which is the point aimed at and reached. To suppose them both equal in the final issue is a flat contradiction of the whole psalm, the first word of which is ashrey, blessed, applied to the godly man, and the last word, tobheyd, shall perish, applied to the ungodly, as in Psalms 112:1; Psalms 112:10. The Hebrew words are as opposite as heaven and hell.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-1.html. 1874-1909.
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