Notes on Psalm 37
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 28 July 2013; Revised 16 October 2013
Grammar: Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Hebrew words is taken from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981). Parsing information for Hebrew words is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (Baker Book House, 1991). Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Greek words used in the Septuagint (LXX) is from Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich (The University of Chicago Press, 1957).
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the psalm. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Hebrew alphabet graphics in the verses are courtesy of Jeff A. Benner, Ancient Hebrew Research Center. References to the Mishnah and Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Quotations from the Targums are taken from Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation (2001).
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms "Tanakh" (Old Testament) and "Besekh" (New Testament), as well as the terms "Yeshua" (Jesus) and "Messiah" (Christ). This commentary contains the Name of God. If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.
Chapter: 37 in the MT; 36 in the LXX. (Psalms 9 and 10 in the MT are combined in the LXX.) See the Hebrew text and English translation at Biblos Interlinear Bible.
Heb. l'David ("leh-Dah-veed"), verse 1 in the MT. The Targum also has "of David" (Cook). The LXX has "a psalm by David," although the ABP translates as "to David." The Grk. David is in the dative case, but owing to the lack of a preposition between "psalm" and "David" the dative case should be treated as a instrumental dative of agency; therefore "by David" is more appropriate. Certainly this was the intention of Jewish translators of the LXX. The Vulgate numbers the psalm as 36 and has "David Aleph."
Owens translates it as "to David" contrary to his translation at the beginning of Psalm 27. Alter translates the superscription as "for David" (129). However, most standard Bible versions render l'David as "A Psalm of David" or simply "of David" (ASV, CEB, ERV, ESV, EXB, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, and RSV). CEV and GW have "by David." In contrast, HCSB has "Davidic" and the DRA has "for David" Of the Jewish versions the CJB and HNV have "by David" and the JPS-1917, OJB and TLV have "of David."
The average reader may wonder how the superscription l'David, which heads almost half the psalms, could result in division of opinion over whether King David actually composed the psalms identified with his name. For liberal scholars the superscription has no relevance since they give a post-exilic date for the whole book. However, Broyles explains that the Hebrew preposition l' (לְ) can have a variety of meanings.
(1) "of" or "(belonging) to" David in the sense of possession, because he authored the psalm;
(2) "(belonging) to" the Davidic collection of psalms (similar phrases are so used in other ancient Near Eastern poetry) - in other words, a royal collection of psalms (as distinct from Levitical collections, such as those of Asaph and Korah), reflecting the royal patronage of the temple;
(3) "(dedicated) to" David or to the Davidic king (like a book dedication);
(4) "for (the use of)" David or the Davidic king, that is, for the king to use either personally or as the leading liturgist in public worship;
(5)"concerning/about" David (27-28).
For Broyles the potential meanings of l'David leaves Davidic authorship uncertain. Yet, the use of l'David as a heading in so many psalms confirmed for the Jewish Sages that l'David indicated Davidic authorship. That is the straightforward meaning. The opinion of the Sages, who lived so much closer to the event than modern scholars, should carry greater weight.
Calvin, Coffman, Coke, Delitzsch, Gill and Henry favor Davidic authorship. Faussett agrees, saying, "David's personal history abundantly illustrates the Psalm." Unlike his contemporaries Clarke denies Davidic authorship believing it is addressed to the captives in Babylon; and contains the promise that they shall return to their own land, and again enjoy peace and plenty. However, the psalm makes no such promise, but rather directs the recipient or congregation to dwell in the present in the Land with confidence in God. Anderson assigns authorship to an unknown old man portrayed as a wisdom teacher, and while suggesting it may be a pre-exilic work, acknowledges that most modern scholars suggest a date of c. 4th cent. B.C. (292).
Assuming Davidic authorship Delaney suggests that the Psalm was written for Mephibosheth's consolation, who, being falsely accused by his servant Ziba of treason (2 Sam 16:1-3), had formed the resolution to leave a land where he had met with such bad treatment (II, 219). David, being convinced of his innocence, entreats him to dwell in the land, with the assurance of plenty and protection. Against this hypothesis is that when David initially heard the evil report from Ziba, David gave all of Mephibosheth's property to Ziba (2 Sam 16:4). This event occurred after David left Jerusalem anticipating Absalom's rebellion. When David returned to the capitol he found Mephibosheth in the city in a poor state and gave him an opportunity to tell his side of the story. David reconciled with Mephibosheth and required Ziba to give half of the land back to Mephibosheth (2 Sam 19:24-30). The psalm could have been written afterward as a memorial to Mephibosheth's experience.
Whatever the actual occasion for writing the psalm, there is no reason not to accept David's authorship.
Type: Wisdom Psalm. The psalm expresses in a variety of ways the idea that the wicked, however they may seem to prosper, will get their just deserts and the righteous will be duly rewarded.
Usage in the Besekh: Verse 11 is quoted in Matthew 5:5, although obscured by Christian Bibles with "earth."
The form of this psalm is an alphabetical acrostic in which verses begin with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Acrostic psalms include Psalm 9; 10; 25; 34; 111; 112; 119; and 145. In this psalm two lines are assigned to each letter of the alphabet, which explains why this acrostic is twice as long as the previous acrostic psalms. Alter points out that the letter Ayin (ע) is missing, but the LXX reflects a Hebrew version in which there appears to have been a line in verse 28 beginning with ayin (129). Delitzsch explains that the originally separated strophes Samekh (ס) in verse 27 and Ayin (ע) are only run into one another by the division of the verses (282). The ayin strophe begins with l'olam (לעולם), "forever," in verse 28b.
Verses 1-8, Instruction to the Righteous
Verses 9-26, Exposition on the Wicked and the Righteous
Verses 27-40, Instruction to the Righteous (cont.)
(1) of David.
David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2 Sam 5:4; 1 Chron 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capitol and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2 Chron 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1 Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2 Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1 Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2 Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 2 Chron 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21).
David's family life is the subject of much analysis and not a little criticism among commentators. He was a polygamist with 8 wives and 10 concubines (2 Sam 3:3-5, 13-14; 5:13; 12:7-8, 24; 15:16). The concubines were probably the servants of his wives (2 Sam 6:20-22). He had 19 named sons of his wives, besides the sons of his concubines, and one named daughter, although many other daughters were born to him (1 Chron 3:1-9; 14:3-7). Thus, his adultery with Bathsheba and conspiracy to kill her husband Uriah was especially egregious (2 Sam 12:7-8).
Yet, in spite of his moral failure the Scripture record is highly complimentary of David. During the time of the divided kingdoms there is an oft repeated phrase to describe the good kings of Judah, "He walked before me as David his father walked" (1 Kgs 3:3, 14; 11:4, 6, 33, 38; 14:8; 15:3, 5, 11; 2 Kgs 14:3; 16:2; 18:3; 22:2). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2 Chron 8:14; Neh 12:24).
David also has a highly favorable standing in the Besekh. The apostles tell the story of Yeshua as the story of the Son of David from His birth (Matt 1:1; Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16). At least twelve times the apostolic narratives refer to Him as “Son of David.” David is cited as a model of behavior (Matt 12:3), identified as a servant of God (Luke 1:69) and regarded as a Spirit-inspired prophet (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 2:34; 4:25; Rom 11:9; Heb 4:7). David thus took his place in the roll call of faithful heroes (Hebrews 11:32). This was “David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will” (Acts 13:22).
Aleph 1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. 2 For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb.
Targum: 1 Have no desire for malefactors, to be like them; and do not be jealous of those who commit oppression, to join with them. 2. Because their end will be like plants, quickly will they wither; and like the green grass they will fall away.
1― Fret not: Heb. charah, to burn or be kindled with anger. The English word "fret" has the connotation of being anxious, but the command allowing one's temper being provoked. because of evildoers: Heb. ra'a, one who is evil or bad. The noun has a range of meaning from displeasing, to injurious to wicked in ethics. Be not envious: Heb. qanah, to be jealous or zealous; here to be envious or jealous. David starts with a sharp reality check. The evildoers are those who are the opposite of those who trust in the God of Israel. toward wrongdoers: lit. "workers of iniquity." The NASB translates two words as one - Heb. asah, to work, to do, to accomplish something; and Heb. avel, injustice, unrighteousness, whether in speech or actions.
2― The metaphor of grass is often used in the Psalms to depict that which is temporary (Anderson). Why fret about people who will perish? Clarke says that to be envious in such a case, is to arraign the providence of God.
Bet 3 Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Targum: 3. Trust in the word of the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and be strong in faith. 4. And you will delight in the Lord, and he will give you the requests of your heart. (Cook)
3― Trust: Heb. batach, to trust or be confident. Trusting is the antidote to envy and resentment. in the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the tetragrammaton of the God of Israel, referred to in Judaism as either Adonai (Lord) or Hashem (the Name). YHVH dominates in the Tanakh, first occurring in Genesis 2:4, and fourteen times in this psalm. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2 Chron 14:11; Isa 42:8). Translating YHVH with "the LORD" is actually strange since there is no definite article associated with the Hebrew name and it would be equivalent to saying "the Jesus." YHVH is translated in the LXX predominately with Kurios, over 6,000 times, and 300 times with theos, the generic Greek term for God (DNTT II, 67-70, 511). Kurios means (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. See my article The Blessed Name for more discussion on this subject.
and do good: Heb. tov, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, good. Tov can be (1) that which is agreeable to the senses, (2) that which is pleasant to the higher nature, giving pleasure, happiness, prosperity, and so agreeable, pleasing, well; (3) good, excellent of its kind; (4) rich, valuable in estimation; (5) appropriate, becoming; (6) comparative of better; (7) of man's nature; (8) of God's nature. Dwell: Heb. shakan, to settle down, to dwell, to abide, to inhabit. in the land: Heb. erets, the Land of Israel. The command is quoted in Matthew 5:5, but incorrectly translated as "earth." and cultivate: Heb. ra'ah, to pasture, tend, or graze, in the sense of shepherding, sometimes used figuratively of a ruler or teacher. The verb does not depict growing crops. faithfulness: Heb. emunah, firmness, steadfastness, fidelity, faithfulness. This virtue refers to constancy in awareness of obligation to others, but is inherently based on trust or confidence.
4― Delight: Heb. anog, to be soft, delicate, dainty; here to take exquisite delight (BDB). In other words, "make yourself happy." in the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3.
Gimel 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday.
Targum: 5. Reveal to the Lord your ways, and trust in his word, and he will act. 6. And your righteousness will come out like light, and your judgment like noonday. (Cook)
5― Commit: Heb. galal, to roll or roll away. to the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3.
6― David asserts that God will vindicate the public reputation of the righteous.
Dalet 7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Targum: 7. Be quiet in the presence of the Lord and wait for him; do not desire the wicked man who prospers his way, the man who follows the counsel of sinners. (Cook)
7― Rest: Heb. damam, to grow dumb, silent or still. in the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3. Fret not: See verse 1.
Hey 8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. 9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
Targum: 8. Wait without anger and forsake wrath; do not long indeed to do evil. 9. For those who do evil will be destroyed; but those who hope in the word of the Lord – they will inherit the land. (Cook)
8― Cease: Heb. raphah, to sink or relax; to cease. Cf. Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God. Fret not: see note on verse 2 above.
THE FUTILITY OF THE WICKED (9-17)
9― For evildoers will be cut off: God will destroy the evildoers, at the very least when they die. There is ultimate justice. but those who wait: Heb. qavah, Qal active participle to wait for, lit. "the ones waiting for." This is a synthetic parallelism to "cease from anger" of the previous verse. The verb implies an ongoing trust in God. for the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3. Because of this assurance those who are willing to wait for God's justice will inherit: Heb. yarash, to take possession of, to inherit, whether by force or by succeeding to as an heir. the land: Heb. erets, an expression that occurs five times in the psalm (11, 22, 29, 34). A few versions incorrectly translate the word as "earth" (AMP, KJV, KJ21, NKJV, NLV) effectively denying God's promise to Israel of the Land. The land will be inherited by those who wait on the LORD, the meek (v. 11), those blessed by the LORD (v. 22), the righteous (v. 29) and those who wait on the LORD and keep His Way (v. 34). David assures Mephibosheth that he can have an abiding inheritance in the land.
Vav 10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. 11 But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
Targum: 10. And yet a little while, and there is no wicked man; you will look carefully at his place, and he is not. 11. But the humble will inherit the land; and they will delight in the plenitude of peace. (Cook)
Zayin 12 The wicked plots against the righteous And gnashes at him with his teeth. 13 The Lord laughs at him, For He sees his day is coming.
Targum: 12. The wicked man plots harm against the righteous man, and grinds his teeth against him. 13. The Lord will laugh at him, for he has seen, for the day of his ruin has come. (Cook)
12― righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. The term refers to ethical character and conduct, in that the righteous person does what is right toward God and his fellow man as instructed by Torah. Because of his obedience to God's commandments the righteous is innocent of any offense that might be claimed against him. The righteous king assures justice in government.
13― The Lord: Heb. Adonai, Lord. Adonai is a plural intensive or emphatic form of adōn ('master, owner'), which normally refers to men to indicate rank, authority or possession of something or someone (TWOT, I, 12). Adonai occurs numerous times in the Psalms to refer to God, sometimes as a substitute for YHVH or often in combination with YHVH, such as "YHVH our Lord" in Psalm 8:1. The Messiah bears this title in Psalm 110:1. The LXX translates Adonai with Kurios, the most frequent title used by the apostles of Yeshua. laughs: Heb. sachaq, Qal imperfect, to laugh, usually in contempt or derision in relation to someone. The verb acts as an anthropomorphism. It is a vivid word picture to consider the Holy One laughing about something. Instead of God the Father laughing, it could be the heavenly Son of Man (see the note on Psalm 27:4).
Chet 14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow To cast down the afflicted and the needy, To slay those who are upright in conduct. 15 Their sword will enter their own heart, And their bows will be broken.
Targum: 14. The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bows to kill the humble and lowly, to slaughter the upright of way. 15. Their blade will enter their [own] heart, and their bows will break. (Cook)
Tet 16 Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken, But the LORD sustains the righteous.
Targum: 16. Better in the presence of the Lord is the smallness of the righteous man than the multitude of many wicked men. 17. For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the word of the Lord supports the righteous. (Cook)
16― Better is the little: David affirms that wealth is not always to be expected in life. righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. See the note on verse 12 above.
17― the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3.
THE STEADFASTNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS (18-26)
Yod 18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, And their inheritance will be forever. 19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, And in the days of famine they will have abundance.
Targum: 18. The days of the blameless are known in the Lord’s presence, and their inheritance will last forever. 19. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they are satisfied. (Cook)
18― The LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3.
Kaf 20 But the wicked will perish; And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures, They vanish--like smoke they vanish away.
Targum: 20. For the wicked will perish, and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of young sheep that at first are fattened but finally slaughtered – likewise the wicked will perish and be destroyed in the smoke of Gehenna. (Cook)
20― the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3.
Lamed 21 The wicked borrows and does not pay back, But the righteous is gracious and gives. 22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, But those cursed by Him will be cut off.
Targum: 21. The wicked borrows and does not repay; but the righteous is compassionate, and gives. 22. For those who are blessed by his word will inherit the land; but those who are cursed by death will be destroyed. (Cook)
21― righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. See the note on verse 12 above.
Mem 23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. 24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
Targum: 23. In the presence of the Lord the steps of a man are made firm, and he will favor his ways. 24. For when he falls into sickness, he will not die, because the Lord is the helper at his hand. (Cook)
23― The steps: pl. of Heb. mitsad, a step, figurative of a course of life. The word occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Prov 20:24; Dan 11:43). The Targum begins the verse with "in the presence of the LORD." are established: Heb. kun, to be firm, Polal perfect, be established. by the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3. The God of Israel is actively exercise sovereign care and control over the man's life. And He delights: Heb. chaphets, to delight in, to desire, Qal imperfect. The verb refers to God who takes pleasure in the man. in his way: Heb. derek, way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense, or way or manner in a figurative sense.
24― When: Heb. bi, conj., though. he falls: Heb. naphal, to fall or lie, Qal imperfect. Being established does not preclude falling or adversity. The Targum interprets the verb as meaning falling into sickness. he will not be hurled headlong: Heb. tul, to cast or hurl, Hophal imperfect. The word image is of being thrown to the ground. The Targum interprets the verb as to die. Because the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3. holds his hand: Figurative language as of a father walking with a child while holding the child's hand. The falling, or tripping, will not be catastrophic because the God of Israel breaks the fall of the righteous man and sustains him.
Nun 25 I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread. 26 All day long he is gracious and lends, And his descendants are a blessing.
Targum: 25. I was a boy, but have grown old; and I have not seen the righteous man abandoned or his sons seeking bread because of want. 26. For all the day he is compassionate and lends; and his seed is for a blessing. (Cook)
25― I have been young: Heb. na'ar, a boy, lad, youth or retainer. The term generally refers to the age of infancy to adolescence. David offers a contrast between stages of life. and now I am old: Heb. zaken, Qal perfect, to be or become old. A corresponding word in Arabic refers to a she-camel that lets her lower lip hang down (BDB 278). In Ruth 1:12 Naomi uses this word to say that she is too old to belong to a man, that is, to bear children. David is describing himself as toward the latter end of life. In Jewish culture the age of 50 was considered as old enough to give counsel because at this age Levites were retired from active work (Num 8:25-26). The Tanakh does not record the age of David at his death, but he was thirty years old when he began to reign (2 Sam 5:4), and he reigned forty years. According to 1 Chronicles 29:28, David died at a "good old age" (Heb. sebah, "hoary head"). The Mishnah identifies the "hoary head" with the age of seventy (Avot 5:21). At this point David was zaken, but not yet sebah.
Yet I have not seen: This is a personal testimony of David's experience. the righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. See the note on verse 12 above. forsaken: Heb. azav, to leave, forsake or loose. David knows that God would never abandon the righteous man. his descendants: Heb. zerah, a sowing, seed, offspring. The noun is actually singular, but could mean "children" collectively (Owens). Alter translates lit. as "his seed." The masculine noun could also be interpreted as "son." Morris comments on verse 25 that David's experience is not meant to be a statement of universal law; nevertheless, similar testimony could be given by countless believers (DSB 617). More than once in this psalm David refers to the troubles of the righteous (7, 12, 14, 19, 24, 32, 33, 39, 40). No matter what the circumstance the godly man may be assured that he will not be permanently forsaken by God (Anderson).
26― See verse 21 above and Deuteronomy 28:11-12. lends: Heb. lavah, Hiphal participle, to borrow or specifically 'causes to borrow.' The lending is not a business proposition, but a means of helping those in need (Anderson). No interest would be charged on the loans (Ex 22:25; Lev 25:26; Deut 23:19-20).
INSTRUCTION FOR THE RIGHTEOUS (verses 27-40)
Samekh 27 Depart from evil and do good, So you will abide forever. 28 For the LORD loves justice And does not forsake His godly ones; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. 29 The righteous will inherit the land And dwell in it forever.
Targum: 27. Turn from evil, and practice kindness, and abide for eternal life. Another targum: Turn from doing evil, O righteous man, and do good; because of this you will abide forever. 28. For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon his pious ones; they are protected forever; but the sons of the wicked will be destroyed. 29. The righteous will inherit the land, and will dwell on it forever. (Cook)
27― Depart: Heb. sur, Qal imperative, to turn aside from. from evil: Heb. ra, evil or bad, here as a moral quality. and do: Heb. asah, Qal imperative, to do or accomplish something. The command calls for action. good: Heb. tov, pleasant, agreeable or good, here referring to that which is morally good. So you will abide: Heb. shakan, to settle down, abide, dwell. forever: Heb. olam, long duration, antiquity or futurity. The promise is contingent on obeying the command at the beginning of the verse. David is probably not thinking of eternal life, but his descendants being in possession of their ancestral inheritance (Anderson).
28― For the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3. loves justice: Heb mishpat usually refers to the administration of justice in the Torah. See my web article Justice. God always acts justly and expects his people to do the same. And does not forsake: Heb. azav, to leave, forsake or loose. His godly ones: Heb. chasid, kind or pious. In this context chasid means 'pious,' or 'godly,' either as exhibition of 'duteous love' toward God, or because kindness, as prominent in the godly, comes to imply other attributes, and to be a designation of the godly character or piety. The last clause in the LXX reads "But lawless ones shall be driven out, and the seed of the impious shall be utterly destroyed" (ABP).
29― The righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. See the note on verse 12 above.
Pey 30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. 31 The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.
Targum: 30. The mouth of the righteous murmurs wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. 31. The law (nimus) of his God is in his heart; his feet do not stumble. (Cook)
30― The mouth: Heb. peh, the organ of speech and eating, here used metaphorically of the person. of the righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. See the note on verse 12 above. utters wisdom: Heb. chokmah, skill, wisdom (often as cleverness in administration), here as prudence in religious matters. And his tongue speaks justice: A synonymous parallelism with 'mouth.' The verb describes the righteous teaching others on the basis of his experience of living in the fear of the Lord.
31― The law: Heb. Torah, direction, instruction, teaching or law. The mention of the Torah likely refers to the books of Moses, but could include later books. However, David is not talking so much about completed books of a canonical status as the divine instruction contained in those books. The English word “law,” which translates Torah, has a much more limited meaning, usually negative. In Western culture law exists to regulate behavior and authorize punishment for violations. Torah is the feminine noun from the root yarah, which means to throw, to shoot (as in arrows), or to cast (as in lots). It also means to point out, to show, to direct, to teach or to instruct. of his God: Torah is the instruction God gave to Israel to set forth the way man is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please Him. is in his heart: The righteous man has a "will" to obey God's instruction. This alludes to the reality that man has the ability to keep Torah (cf. Deut 30:11). The real problem is willingness to obey. His steps do not slip: Heb. ma'ad, Qal imperfect, to slip, slide, totter, shake. The righteous man succeeds because he lives by God's instruction and does not try to live by his own rules.
Tsade 32 The wicked spies upon the righteous And seeks to kill him. 33 The LORD will not leave him in his hand Or let him be condemned when he is judged.
Targum: 32. The wicked man observes the righteous man and seeks to kill him. 33. The Lord will not abandon him into his hand, and will not find him guilty when he is judged. another targum: When he stands in judgment. (Cook)
32― righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. See the note on verse 12 above.
33― The LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3.
Qof 34 Wait for the LORD and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
Targum: 34. Hope in the word of the Lord, and keep his way, and he will raise you up to inherit the land; you will see the destruction of the wicked. (Cook)
34― Wait: Heb. qavah, Piel imperative, to wait for. The command implies assurance that the waiting will realize its goal. for the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3. and keep: Heb. shamar, Qal imperative, to keep, watch or preserve. This is the same command that God gave to Adam in the Garden and implies a vigilance for security. His way: Heb. derek, way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense, or way or manner in a figurative sense. "His way" could be a euphemism for the Torah, because Torah is a way of life, or for God's nature and character. And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it
Resh 35 I have seen a wicked, violent man Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil. 36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more; I sought for him, but he could not be found.
Targum: 35. I have seen the wicked man, strong and mighty, like a native and leafy tree. 36. And he ceased from the world, and, behold, he is no more; and I sought him but he was not found. (Cook)
35― like a luxuriant: Heb. ra'anan, luxuriant or fresh, i.e., green. tree: Heb. ezrach, a native, one arising from the soil, here a native tree growing in its natural soil. The LXX reads "as the cedars of Lebanon" (ABP) and the translation of "cedar tree" some versions (EXB, GNT, GW, NRSV, RSV). Anderson contends that the MT reading is probably corrupt (300). The cedar is a coniferous tree, and in biblical times it was found mainly on the mountains of Lebanon. It could attain some 100 feet in height, and its wood was esteemed for its hardness. It was often used as a symbol of strength and splendor. On the other hand, Alter translates the phrase as "a flourishing plant" and reflects "the ephemerality of the triumph of evil as the transience of green growing things" (133). The point of the exhortation is not to be perturbed by the seeming success of the wicked, for this success will soon be reversed.
36― Then he passed away: This wording follows the MT. "The LXX, Targum, Syriac and Vulgate read "I passed by" (NKJV marginal note).
Shin 37 Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; For the man of peace will have a posterity. 38 But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.
Targum: 37. Preserve blamelessness, and behold honesty; for the end of [such] a son of man is peace. 38. But rebels will be destroyed together; the end of the wicked is destruction. (Cook)
Tav 39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. 40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, Because they take refuge in Him.
Targum: 39. But the redemption of the righteous is from the presence of the Lord, their strength in the time of trouble. 40. And the Lord helped them and saved them, he saved them from sinners; and he will redeem them, for they trusted in his word. (Cook)
39― righteous: Heb. tsaddiq, just, righteous. See the note on verse 12 above. the LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3.
40― The LORD: Heb YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the personal name of the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3. David concludes the psalm with a reminder that God acts decisively on behalf of the righteous.
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