Psalm 37#sn Psalm 37. The psalmist urges his audience not to envy the wicked, but to trust in and obey the Lord, for he will destroy sinners and preserve the godly. When the smoke of judgment clears, the wicked will be gone, but the godly will remain and inherit God’s promised blessings. The psalm is an acrostic; every other verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
1 Do not fret#tn The verb form is singular (see vv. 3-10 as well, where the second person verbs and pronouns are also singular). The psalmist’s exhortation has a wisdom flavor to it; it is personalized for each member of his audience. when wicked men seem to succeed!#tn Heb “over sinners.” The context indicates that the psalmist has in mind the apparent power and success of sinners. See v. 7b.
Do not envy evildoers!
2 For they will quickly dry up like grass,
and wither away like plants.#tn Heb “like green vegetation.”
3 Trust in the Lord and do what is right!
Settle in the land and maintain your integrity!#tn Heb “tend integrity.” The verb רָעָה (ra’ah, “tend, shepherd”) is probably used here in the sense of “watch over, guard.” The noun אֱמוּנָה (’emunah, “faithfulness, honesty, integrity”) is understood as the direct object of the verb, though it could be taken as an adverbial accusative, “[feed] securely,” if the audience is likened to a flock of sheep.
4 Then you will take delight in the Lord,#tn Following the imperatives of v. 3 the prefixed verbal forms with vav (ו) in v. 4 indicate result. Faith and obedience (v. 3) will bring divine blessing (v. 4).
and he will answer your prayers.#tn Or “and he will give you what you desire most.” Heb “and he will grant to you the requests of your heart.”
5 Commit your future to the Lord!#tn Heb “roll your way upon the Lord.” The noun “way” may refer here to one’s activities or course of life.
Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.#tn Heb “he will act.” Verse 6 explains what is meant; the Lord will vindicate those who trust in him.
6 He will vindicate you in broad daylight,
and publicly defend your just cause.#tn Heb “and he will bring out like light your vindication, and your just cause like noonday.”
7 Wait patiently for the Lord!#tn Heb “Be quiet before the Lord!”
Wait confidently#tc The Hebrew text has וְהִתְחוֹלֵל (vÿhitkholel, Hitpolel of חִיל, khil, “writhe with fear, suffer”) but this idea fits awkwardly here. The text should be changed to וְתוֹחֵל (vÿtokhel; Hiphil of יָחַל, yakhal, “wait”). It appears that the Hebrew text is the product of dittography: (1) the initial וה (vav-he) is accidentally repeated from the preceding word (יְהוָה, yÿhvah) and (2) the final lamed (ל) is accidentally repeated (note the preceding lamed and the initial lamed on the following form, לו). for him!
Do not fret over the apparent success of a sinner,#tn Heb “over one who causes his way to be successful.”
a man who carries out wicked schemes!
8 Do not be angry and frustrated!#tn Heb “Refrain from anger! Abandon rage!”
Do not fret! That only leads to trouble!
9 Wicked men#tn Heb “for evil men.” The conjunction כִּי (ki, “for”) relates to the exhortations in v. 8; there is no reason to be frustrated, for the evildoers will be punished in due time. will be wiped out,#tn Or “cut off, removed.”
but those who rely on the Lord are the ones who will possess the land.#tn Heb “and those who wait on the Lord, they will possess the land.”
10 Evil men will soon disappear;#tn Heb “and yet, a little, there will be no wicked [one].”
you will stare at the spot where they once were, but they will be gone.#tn Heb “and you will carefully look upon his place, but he will not be [there].” The singular is used here in a representative sense; the typical evildoer is in view.
11 But the oppressed will possess the land
and enjoy great prosperity.#tn Heb “and they will take delight in (see v. 4) abundance of peace.”
12 Evil men plot against the godly#tn Or “innocent.” The singular is used here in a representative sense; the typical evildoer and the typical godly individual are in view.
and viciously attack them.#tn Heb “and gnashes at him with his teeth” (see Ps 35:16). The language may picture the evil men as wild animals. The active participles in v. 12 are used for purposes of dramatic description.
13 The Lord laughs in disgust#tn Heb “laughs.” As the next line indicates, this refers to derisive laughter (see 2:4). The Hebrew imperfect verbal form describes the action from the perspective of an eye-witness who is watching the divine response as it unfolds before his eyes. at them,
for he knows that their day is coming.#tn Heb “for he sees that his day is coming.” As the following context makes clear (vv. 15, 17, 19-20), “his day” refers to the time when God will destroy evildoers.
14 Evil men draw their swords
and prepare their bows,
to bring down#tn Heb “to cause to fall.” the oppressed and needy,
and to slaughter those who are godly.#tn Heb “the upright in way,” i.e., those who lead godly lives.
15 Their swords will pierce#tn Heb “enter into.” their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 The little bit that a godly man owns is better than
the wealth of many evil men,#tn Heb “Better [is] a little to the godly one than the wealth of many evil ones.” The following verses explain why this is true. Though a godly individual may seem to have only meager possessions, he always has what he needs and will eventually possess the land. The wicked may prosper for a brief time, but will eventually be destroyed by divine judgment and lose everything.
17 for evil men will lose their power,#tn Heb “for the arms of the evil ones will be broken.”
but the Lord sustains#tn The active participle here indicates this is characteristically true. the godly.
18 The Lord watches over the innocent day by day#tn Heb “the Lord knows the days of the innocent ones.” He “knows” their days in the sense that he is intimately aware of and involved in their daily struggles. He meets their needs and sustains them.
and they possess a permanent inheritance.#tn Heb “and their inheritance is forever.”
19 They will not be ashamed when hard times come;#tn Heb “in a time of trouble.”
when famine comes they will have enough to eat.#tn Heb “in days of famine they will be satisfied.”
20 But#tn Or “for,” but Hebrew כי in this case would have to extend all the way back to v. 17a. Another option is to understand the particle as asseverative, “surely” (see v. 22). evil men will die;
the Lord’s enemies will be incinerated#tc The meaning of the MT (כִּיקַר כָּרִים [kiqar karim], “like what is precious among the pastures/rams”) is uncertain. One possibility is to take the noun כָּרִים as “pastures” and interpret “what is precious” as referring to flowers that blossom but then quickly disappear (see v. 2 and BDB 430 s.v. יָקָר 3). If כָּרִים is taken as “rams,” then “what is precious” might refer to the choicest portions of rams. The present translation follows a reading in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpPs37), כיקוד כורם (“like the burning of an oven”). The next line, which pictures the Lord’s enemies being consumed in smoke, supports this reading, which assumes confusion of the Hebrew letters resh (ר) and dalet (ד) at the end of the first word in the sequence. –
they will go up in smoke.#tn Heb “they perish in smoke, they perish.” In addition to repeating the verb for emphasis, the psalmist uses the perfect form of the verb to picture the enemies’ demise as if it had already taken place. In this way he draws attention to the certitude of their judgment.
21 Evil men borrow, but do not repay their debt,
but the godly show compassion and are generous.#tn Heb “an evil [man] borrows and does not repay; but a godly [man] is gracious and gives.” The singular forms are used in a representative sense; the typical evildoer and godly individual are in view. The three active participles and one imperfect (“repay”) draw attention to the characteristic behavior of the two types.
22 Surely#tn The particle כִּי is best understood as asseverative or emphatic here. those favored by the Lord#tn Heb “those blessed by him.” The pronoun “him” must refer to the Lord (see vv. 20, 23), so the referent has been specified in the translation for clarity. will possess the land,
but those rejected#tn Heb “cursed.” by him will be wiped out.#tn Or “cut off”; or “removed” (see v. 9).
23 The Lord grants success to the one
whose behavior he finds commendable.#tn Heb “from the Lord the steps of a man are established, and in his way he delights.” The second line qualifies the first. The man whose behavior is commendable in God’s sight is the one whose ways are established by God. Another option is that the second line refers to the godly man delighting in God’s “way,” namely the lifestyle which he prescribes for men. In this case one might translate, “The Lord grants success to the one who desires to obey his commands.”
24 Even if#tn Other translation options for כִּי in this context are “when” (so NASB) or “though” (so NEB, NIV, NRSV). he trips, he will not fall headlong,#tn Heb “be hurled down.”
for the Lord holds#tn The active participle indicates this is characteristically true. See v. 17. his hand.
25 I was once young, now I am old.
I have never seen a godly man abandoned,
or his children#tn Or “offspring”; Heb “seed.” forced to search for food.#tn Heb “or his offspring searching for food.” The expression “search for food” also appears in Lam 1:11, where Jerusalem’s refugees are forced to search for food and to trade their valuable possessions for something to eat.
26 All day long he shows compassion and lends to others,#tn The active participles describe characteristic behavior.
and his children#tn Or “offspring”; Heb “seed.” are blessed.
27 Turn away from evil! Do what is right!#tn Or “Do good!” The imperatives are singular (see v. 1).
Then you will enjoy lasting security.#tn Heb “and dwell permanently.” The imperative with vav (ו) is best taken here as a result clause after the preceding imperatives.
28 For the Lord promotes#tn Heb “loves.” The verb “loves” is here metonymic; the Lord’s commitment to principles of justice causes him to actively promote these principles as he governs the world. The active participle describes characteristic behavior. justice,
and never abandons#tn The imperfect verbal form draws attention to this generalizing statement. his faithful followers.
They are permanently secure,#tn Or “protected forever.”
but the children#tn Or “offspring”; Heb “seed.” of evil men are wiped out.#tn Or “cut off”; or “removed.” The perfect verbal forms in v. 28b state general truths.
29 The godly will possess the land
and will dwell in it permanently.
30 The godly speak wise words
and promote justice.#tn Heb “The mouth of the godly [one] utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” The singular form is used in a representative sense; the typical godly individual is in view. The imperfect verbal forms draw attention to the characteristic behavior of the godly.
31 The law of their God controls their thinking;#tn Heb “the law of his God [is] in his heart.” The “heart” is here the seat of one’s thoughts and motives.
their#tn Heb “his.” The pronoun has been translated as plural to agree with the representative or typical “godly” in v. 30. feet do not slip.
32 Evil men set an ambush for the godly
and try to kill them.#tn Heb “an evil [one] watches the godly [one] and seeks to kill him.” The singular forms are used in a representative sense; the typical evildoer and godly individual are in view. The active participles describe characteristic behavior.
33 But the Lord does not surrender the godly,
or allow them to be condemned in a court of law.#tn Heb “the Lord does not abandon him into his hand or condemn him when he is judged.” The imperfects draw attention to the Lord’s characteristic behavior in this regard.
34 Rely#tn Or “wait.” on the Lord! Obey his commands!#tn Heb “keep his way.” The Lord’s “way” refers here to the “conduct required” by the Lord. In Ps 25 the Lord’s “ways” are associated with his covenantal demands (see vv. 4, 9-10). See also Ps 119:3 (cf. vv. 1, 4), as well as Deut 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16.
Then he will permit you#tn Heb “and he will lift you up.” The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) is best taken here as a result clause following the imperatives in the preceding lines. to possess the land;
you will see the demise of evil men.#tn Heb “when evil men are cut off you will see.”
35 I have seen ruthless evil men#tn The Hebrew uses the representative singular again here.
growing in influence, like a green tree grows in its native soil.#tn Heb “being exposed [?] like a native, luxuriant.” The Hebrew form מִתְעָרֶה (mit’areh) appears to be a Hitpael participle from עָרָה (’arah, “be exposed”), but this makes no sense in this context. Perhaps the form is a dialectal variant of מִתְעָלָה (“giving oneself an air of importance”; see Jer 51:3), from עָלָה (’alah, “go up”; see P. C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 [WBC], 296). The noun אֶזְרָח (’ezrakh, “native, full citizen”) refers elsewhere to people, but here, where it is collocated with “luxuriant, green,” it probably refers to a tree growing in native soil.
36 But then one passes by, and suddenly they have disappeared!#tn Heb “and he passes by and, look, he is not [there].” The subject of the verb “passes by” is probably indefinite, referring to any passerby. Some prefer to change the form to first person, “and I passed by” (cf. NEB; note the first person verbal forms in preceding verse and in the following line).
I looked for them, but they could not be found.
37 Take note of the one who has integrity! Observe the godly!#tn Or “upright.”
For the one who promotes peace has a future.#tn Heb “for [there is] an end for a man of peace.” Some interpret אַחֲרִית (’akharit, “end”) as referring to offspring (see the next verse and Ps 109:13; cf. NEB, NRSV).
38 Sinful rebels are totally destroyed;#tn Or “destroyed together.” In this case the psalmist pictures judgment sweeping them away as a group.
evil men have no future.#tn Heb “the end of evil men is cut off.” As in v. 37, some interpret אַחֲרִית (’akharit, “end”) as referring to offspring (see Ps 109:13). The perfect verbal forms in v. 38 probably express general truths. Another option is that they are used emphatically to state with certitude that the demise of the wicked is as good as done.
39 But the Lord delivers the godly;#tn Heb “and the deliverance of the godly [ones] [is] from the Lord.”
he protects them in times of trouble.#tn Heb “[he is] their place of refuge in a time of trouble.”
40 The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from evil men and delivers them,#tn The prefixed verbal forms with vav (ו) consecutive carry on the generalizing tone of the preceding verse.
for they seek his protection.