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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 37

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


A Psalm of David.

We have here another in the series of Acrostic Psalms, (see on Psalms 25:0,) more perfect in its structure, having twenty-two alphabetical divisions, if we begin the ayin division, (after Dr. Kennicott,) with the third line of Psalms 37:28, “Forever are they preserved,” (omitting lamed, ל , in the word לעולם , for ever,) and take ayin ( ע ) as the initial letter. The divisions would then consist of four lines each, except daleth, ( ד ,) Psalms 37:7, kaph, ( כ ,) Psalms 37:20, and koph, ( ק ,) Psalms 37:34, which would have three lines each, and tauv, ( ת ,) Psalms 37:39, five lines. The movement is regular and animated, though serious, the style proverbial, and the doctrines fundamental to the moral government. The theme is that of a divine, rewarding Providence, which in the final result will be sure to punish sin, protect and reward the righteous, and vindicate the holiness and justice of God. The design of the author is to check and reprove the impatience of complaint at the prosperity of the wicked, and incite to a patient waiting for the time of just retribution which God, in his order, will surely bring in. The didactic and proverbial form is less the style of David than of Asaph, or the sons of Korah in later times, and the complaint of the prevalence of evil doers, and of the sufferings and temptations of the Church from their rule, so similar to Psalms 36:0, sounds more like the times of the captivity, and could not apply to the age of David. The whole drift of the psalm bears strongly on the doctrines of a future state and a future judgment, and various particular passages directly assume them. The didactic form of the psalm admits only a trace of logical order. Psalms 37:1-8 are an exhortation to the righteous to patient trust in God and a right disposition towards the “evil doers.” Psalms 37:9-22 portray the brief triumph and certain overthrow of the wicked. Psalms 37:23-40 set forth the present and eternal reward of the righteous under the just administration of the divine government.

Verse 1

1. Fret not The verb literally denotes to excite one’s self to displeasure through envy, jealousy, or zeal, but generally through anger. So Psalms 37:7-8. See Proverbs 24:19; and compare Psalms 73:3; Proverbs 23:17. Such a state of mind is equally opposed to benevolence toward man and submission to God.

Envious A different word from “fret” or “anger,” just noticed, but of parallel signification.

Verse 2

2. They shall soon be cut down A reason why we should not envy their prosperity.

Verse 3

3. Trust Opposed to “fret,” Psalms 37:1.

Do good The wickedness of men, and the apparently deranged state of things, should not lessen or discourage good works.

Shalt thou dwell in the land And so the virtuous and useful lives of God’s saints in all ages have been their chief protection against wicked rulers and oppressive laws. Proverbs 16:7; 1 Peter 3:13-16.

Verily thou shalt be fed Literally, and feed, or, subsist in faithfulness. The idea is, that they should live in the land and enjoy their common blessings in faithfulness, or by being faithful, trusting in God and adhering to his law parallel to Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by his faithfulness,” quoted Romans 1:17 as, “The just shall live by faith.”

Verse 5

5. Commit Roll, devolve, “thy way upon the Lord.” See on 1 Peter 5:7. Psalms 37:3-7 are a warm exhortation to trust alone in God, and to wait patiently his time. The words trust, delight, commit, rest, wait, are very emphatic.

Verse 7

7. Rest in the Lord Literally, be silent to the Lord. Hush the heart into quietness from fear and questioning. See Psalms 131:0

Verse 8

8. Cease from anger See on this rebuke of the avenging passions of men, James 1:20, and Romans 12:19. The phrase is to the same effect as “fret not thyself,” Psalms 37:1, and in the second member of this verse. Thus far the drift of the exhortation is to the righteous; Psalms 37:9-22 portray the brief triumph and certain overthrow of the wicked.

Verse 10

10. The wicked… his place Both the “wicked” and his “place” of abode shall be obliterated from the earth. This does not teach the annihilation of the wicked. The antithesis does not lie between existence and non-existence, but between the triumph of the wicked and that of the righteous, the one being but brief, the other abiding.

Verse 11

11. The meek shall inherit the earth Quoted by our Lord, (Matthew 5:5,) where the Greek γη ( ge) stands for the Hebrew ארצ , ( arets,) both generic terms, signifying earth, land, country, etc. The word occurs six times in this psalm, and is three times translated land, (land of Palestine,) and three times earth. There is no rule for determining whether the former or the latter rendering should be given but by the context, but the restricted sense of land, as the abode of the covenant people, would seem more probable here, particularly as the sovereign control of that country was the great point in dispute between the Jews and the nations, and was the standing sign of the reward of righteousness to the Hebrews. Our Lord’s quotation, given above, might have also been intended to admonish the Jews that the character necessary to perpetuate their abode in their native soil was the condition of heirship to his kingdom.

Verse 12

12. Gnasheth upon him In imitation of wild beasts. See on Psalms 35:16

Verse 13

13. The Lord shall laugh See on Psalms 2:4.

His day is coming The day which God has appointed for his just retribution.

Verse 14

14. Drawn out the sword… bent their bow Two acts preparatory to immediate destruction; but in Psalms 37:15 the lex talionis the law of universal justice is seen to recoil these death weapons upon themselves.

Verse 16

16. Little that a righteous man hath Because it sufficeth for all natural and reasonable want, and is received with gratitude and contentment, is better, etc. Wealth never satisfies the craving for wealth, nor induces soul rest; neither can indulgence abate the force and tyranny of vicious appetites. See Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 16:8

Verse 17

17. Arms of the wicked Their instruments of power.

Verse 18

18. Knoweth See on Psalms 1:6.

Their inheritance shall be for ever A clear pointing to the life to come. The nature of the subject demands this sense of the words, and the argument wholly falls to the ground without it. See on Psalms 37:27-29; Psalms 37:37

Verse 20

20. The fat of lambs The fat pieces of the lamb which were offered upon the altar in sacrifice, and which, being oily, were the more quickly consumed by the fire; herein lies the point of the comparison.

Verse 21

21. Wicked borroweth and payeth not again A description of abject poverty as a judgment of God. Deuteronomy 15:16; Deuteronomy 28:12; Deuteronomy 28:44. That this is poverty induced by vice and crime is seen from Psalms 37:22

Verse 23

23. Steps of a good man The word “good” is not in the original, and the word “man” denotes a mighty man; one who by physical strength and skill, or by wealth, office, or position, wields a power over others. Even such a man is dependent on God to order his steps; that is, to establish, make firm, the successive processes of his unfolding schemes of life. The admonition lies against the self-trust and self-boasting of the prosperous wicked, and for the encouragement of faith. This sense is confirmed by the absence of the article, and by the parallel passages. Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 20:24.

He delighteth in his way That is, when thus ordered conformably to his righteous character, and established by Jehovah.

Verse 24

24. Fall… cast down The difference between the two words, or states, is that of temporary loss and of utter ruin. Hengstenberg. Proverbs 24:16

Verse 25

25. I have been young, etc. Undoubtedly the psalmist here gives the result of personal observation as an old man.

Have I not seen the righteous forsaken He gives the general law of providence, where the whole life is given to God. Not finally “forsaken,” though for a time he may be in temptation and want.

Verse 26

26. Ever merciful, and lendeth Literally, all the day he is merciful, and lendeth. With the Hebrews, where absolute poverty was the inevitable lot of the masses, (their population being estimated at about 6,000,000, on a territory about one third the area of New York State,) borrowing and lending had a more emphatic significance than with us; and this ability to lend implied competence, while the disposition and practice of daily beneficence are quoted as evidence and causes of prosperity. See on Psalms 37:21, and Psalms 112:5; Psalms 112:9

Verses 27-28

27, 28. Dwell for evermore In Psalms 37:27-29 the reward of the righteous is three times set forth by two of the strongest words in the Hebrew language to express endless duration. Thus, “for evermore,” לעולם , ( le’olam,) to eternity; Septuagint, εις αιωνα αιωνος , for ever and ever; Vulgate, in seculum seculi; Jerome, habita in sempiturnum. They [ his saints ] are preserved for ever Hebrew, le’olam, to eternity; Septuagint, εις τον αιωνα , for ever; Vulgate, aeternum; Jerome, in aeturnum.

Verse 29

29. Dwell therein for ever לעד , ( la’adh,) to eternity; Septuagint, εις , αιωνα αιωνος , for ever and ever; Vulgate, ad seculum seculi, for ever and ever. See also le’olam, to eternity, Psalms 37:18. It is no objection to the argument of duration that in Psalms 37:29 the righteous are said to “inherit the land” for ever, and that in Psalms 37:27, “dwell,” inhabit, has the same primary reference, for these are common Hebraistic forms for setting forth not only great prosperity, but eternal blessedness, of which the earthly abiding in the promised land was accepted as an earnest. So our Lord says, “The meek shall inherit the earth,” using the temporal as the earnest and pledge of the eternal. Matthew 5:5, compare Genesis 17:8. The above words always take the sense of endless duration, where, as here, the subject and scope allow it.

Verse 35

35. Like a green bay tree The word rendered “bay tree” means an indigenous, native born tree, one that has never been checked in its growth by transplanting or change of climate, hence vigorous, strong, and flourishing.

Verse 37

37. Perfect… upright Strong words expressive of completeness of character by the measurements of the law of God. It is not the ideal perfect man, but the real, living man, (for such still existed,) to which attention is called.

The end of that man is peace The “end,” here, must take the eschatological sense of the final result, and implies a final judgment and award by the unerring Lawgiver and Judge. It was the fact that this present life did not, by its rewards or punishments, make the difference between the righteous and the wicked complete, that stumbled the feeble faith. The prosperity of the wicked was often lifelong. So with the sufferings of the righteous. Here was the exact point of the difficulty. The psalmist, therefore, does not appeal to the events of this life in vindication of God’s ways, but to the “end” of things, and to the final awards. No New Testament doctrine is clearer.

Verse 38

38. But The sharp disjunctive sense of vauv, ( ו , but,) which the antithesis requires, brings out the latter end of the wicked in contrast with that of the righteous.

The end of the wicked shall be cut off “Cut off” from God, and from the object of their hopes and aims. No words could better define complete separation from the lot of the righteous as given Psalms 37:37. The contrast is complete.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 37". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-37.html. 1874-1909.
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