PSALM 37#The Psalm responds to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer? The Psalm answers that the situation is only temporary. God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth. The perspective is concrete and earthbound: people’s very actions place them among the ranks of the good or wicked. Each group or “way” has its own inherent dynamism—eventual frustration for the wicked, eventual reward for the just. The Psalm is an acrostic, i.e., each section begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section has its own imagery and logic.
The Fate of Sinners and the Reward of the Just
Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.#a. [37:1] Prv 3:31; 23:17; 24:1, 19.
2Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.#b. [37:2] Ps 90:5–6; 102:12; 103:15–16; Jb 14:2; Is 40:7.
3Trust in the Lord and do good
that you may dwell in the land#The land: the promised land, Israel, which became for later interpreters a type or figure of heaven, cf. Heb 11:9–10, 13–16. The New Testament Beatitudes (Mt 5:3–12; Lk 6:20–26) have been influenced by the Psalm, especially their total reversal of the present and their interpretation of the happy future as possession of the land. and live secure.#c. [37:3] Ps 128:2.
4Find your delight in the Lord
who will give you your heart’s desire.#d. [37:4] Prv 10:24.
5Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will act#e. [37:5] Ps 55:23; Prv 3:5; 16:3.
6And make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like noonday.#f. [37:6] Wis 5:6; Is 58:10.
7Be still before the Lord;
wait for him.
Do not be provoked by the prosperous,
nor by malicious schemers.
8Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;
do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
9Those who do evil will be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord will inherit the earth.#g. [37:9] Ps 25:13; Prv 2:21; Is 57:13.
10Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more;
look for them and they will not be there.
11But the poor will inherit the earth,#h. [37:11] Mt 5:4.
will delight in great prosperity.
12The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13But my Lord laughs at them,#i. [37:13] Ps 2:4; 59:9; Wis 4:18.
because he sees that their day is coming.
14The wicked unsheath their swords;
they string their bows
To fell the poor and oppressed,
to slaughter those whose way is upright.#j. [37:14] Ps 11:2; 57:5; 64:4.
15Their swords will pierce their own hearts;
their bows will be broken.
16Better the meagerness of the righteous one
than the plenty of the wicked.#k. [37:16] Prv 15:16; 16:8.
17The arms of the wicked will be broken,
while the Lord will sustain the righteous.
18The Lord knows the days of the blameless;
their heritage lasts forever.
19They will not be ashamed when times are bad;
in days of famine they will be satisfied.
20The wicked perish,
enemies of the Lord;
They shall be consumed like fattened lambs;
like smoke they disappear.#l. [37:20] Wis 5:14.
21The wicked one borrows but does not repay;
the righteous one is generous and gives.
22For those blessed by the Lord will inherit the earth,
but those accursed will be cut off.
23The valiant one whose steps are guided by the Lord,
who will delight in his way,#m. [37:23] Prv 20:24.
24May stumble, but he will never fall,
for the Lord holds his hand.
25Neither in my youth, nor now in old age
have I seen the righteous one abandoned#n. [37:25] Jb 4:7; Sir 2:10.
or his offspring begging for bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
and his offspring become a blessing.
27Turn from evil and do good,
that you may be settled forever.#o. [37:27] Ps 34:14–15; Am 5:14.
28For the Lord loves justice
and does not abandon the faithful.
When the unjust are destroyed,
and the offspring of the wicked cut off,
29The righteous will inherit the earth
and dwell in it forever.#p. [37:29] Ps 25:13; Prv 2:21; Is 57:13.
30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom;#q. [37:30] Prv 10:31.
his tongue speaks what is right.
31God’s teaching is in his heart;#r. [37:31] Ps 40:9; Dt 6:6; Is 51:7; Jer 31:33.
his steps do not falter.
32The wicked spies on the righteous
and seeks to kill him.
33But the Lord does not abandon him in his power,
nor let him be condemned when tried.
34Wait eagerly for the Lord,
and keep his way;#s. [37:34] Ps 31:24.
He will raise you up to inherit the earth;
you will see when the wicked are cut off.
35I have seen a ruthless scoundrel,
spreading out like a green cedar.#t. [37:35] Ps 92:8–9; Is 2:13; Ez 31:10–11.
36When I passed by again, he was gone;
though I searched, he could not be found.
37Observe the person of integrity and mark the upright;
Because there is a future for a man of peace.#u. [37:37] Prv 23:18; 24:14.
38Sinners will be destroyed together;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.
39The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord,
their refuge in a time of distress.#v. [37:39] Ps 9:10; Is 25:4.
40The Lord helps and rescues them,
rescues and saves them from the wicked,
because they take refuge in him.