Psalm 37
Benson Commentary
A Psalm of David. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
Psalm 37:1-2. Fret not thyself — Give not way to immoderate grief, or anger, or impatience; because of evil-doers — Because they prosper in their wicked enterprises, while thou art sorely afflicted. Neither be thou envious, &c. — Esteeming them happy, and secretly wishing that thou wert in their condition. They shall wither as the green herb — For their happiness, the matter of thy envy, is but short-lived.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Psalm 37:3. Trust in the Lord — Depend upon God’s promise for thy protection and support, for their infidelity is the root of their wickedness. And do good — Continue in the practice of that which is good and well- pleasing to God. So shalt thou dwell in the land — That is, upon this condition thou shalt dwell in safety and quietness in Canaan, as God had often promised. Hebrew, שׁכן ארצ, dwell in the land, as if it were a command to abide in Canaan when troubles came, and not to flee to the Philistines or other heathen for shelter, as he had foolishly done. But it is rather a promise, as appears by comparing this with Psalm 37:27; Psalm 37:29, such promises being often expressed by imperative verbs put for futures. And verily thou shalt be fed — Hebrew, רעה אמונה, feed, or, thou shalt be fed, (that is, every way provided for,) in truth, that is, truly or assuredly; or with, or by faith, as this word signifies; that is, by thy trusting in the Lord: thou shalt live by faith, as is said Habakkuk 2:4.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4. Delight thyself also in the Lord — In his favour and service, and in the study of his word and promises; and he shall give thee the desire of thy heart — Thy just desires, or whatsoever is truly desirable and good for thee. This limitation is necessary to be understood, both from divers places of Scripture, and from the nature of the things; for it is unreasonable to imagine that God would engage himself to grant their sinful and inordinate desires, and it would also be a curse to them to have them granted.

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
Psalm 37:5-6. Commit thy way unto the Lord — All thy cares and business, thy desires and necessities. Commend them to God by fervent prayer, referring them to his good-will, and expecting a happy issue of all from him. And he shall bring it to pass — Hebrew, he shall do, or work, namely, for thee, or what is fit to be done; or what thou desirest, in the sense explained on Psalm 37:4. He shall bring forth thy righteousness — Namely, to the view of the world, from which it hath hitherto appeared to be hid, or eclipsed, by reproaches, and by grievous calamities, which most men are apt to mistake for tokens and punishments of great wickedness; as the light — It shall be as visible to men as the light of the sun at noon-day.

And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
Psalm 37:7-8. Rest in the Lord — Hebrew, דום, dom, Be silent unto, or for, or because of, the Lord: that is, do not murmur or repine at his dealings with thee, but silently and quietly submit to his will, and adore his judgments, and, as it follows, wait for his help. This advice and command is urged again and again, to teach us how hard it is to learn and practise this lesson. Fret not because of him who prospereth in his way — In his evil way, as it is limited in the following words. Cease from anger —

Either against the sinner for his success, or against God for suffering him to prosper. Fret not, &c., in any wise to do evil — Or, at least so far as to do evil. If any such anger or grief do secretly arise in thy mind, take care that it do not cause thee to reproach or distrust God’s providence, or to dislike his ways, or to approve of or imitate the wicked practices of those men, in hopes of the same success.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Psalm 37:9-11. For evil-doers shall be cut off — Namely, from the earth, as appears by comparing this with the next clause, and with Psalm 34:16. Their end shall certainly be most miserable. But those that wait, &c., shall inherit the earth — According to God’s promise, often made to such; which also generally was literally fulfilled in that state of the church; and if in any instances it was not, it was fulfilled with far greater advantage in spiritual and eternal blessings. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be — Namely, in the land of the living. His time and prosperity are very short, and therefore no matter for envy. He shall be dead and gone; as the phrase here used is commonly taken. Thou shalt diligently consider his place — Industriously seeking to find him; and it shall not be — That is, his place, and estate, and glory shall be gone. Or, he shall not be, as איננו, eenennu, rather signifies. But the meek — The godly, who are frequently so called; those who patiently bear God’s afflicting hand, and meekly pass by injuries from ungodly men; shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace — Partly of outward peace and prosperity, which God, in his due time, will give them: but principally of inward peace and satisfaction of mind, arising from a sense of God’s favour and the assurance of their own endless happiness.

For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.
Psalm 37:12-13. The wicked plotteth against the just — There is a rooted enmity in the seed of the wicked one against the righteous seed: their aim is, if they can, to destroy their righteousness; if that fail, then to destroy them. To this end they plot, or act with a great deal of policy and contrivance; and gnasheth upon him with his teeth — Out of malice and rage. They join zeal and fury to craft and subtlety, inflamed with eager desire to have it in their power to destroy them, and full of wrath and indignation because it is not in their power. The Lord shall laugh at him — Shall despise and deride all their hopes and endeavours against the good, as vain and foolish. For he seeth that his day is coming — The day of his punishment. Thus, Jeremiah 5:31, Thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee.

The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.
The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.
Psalm 37:14-15. The wicked have drawn out the sword, &c. — They are furnished with all sorts of arms, and are ready to give the deadly blow. To slay such as be of upright conversation — Those against whom they have no quarrel, for any injury they have done them; but only for their integrity and righteousness, or because they are better than themselves, and will not comply with their wicked counsels and courses. Their sword shall enter into their own heart — God will not only defend the upright from their mischievous designs, but will make those designs to fall upon their own heads. “I cannot but think,” says a writer quoted here by Dr. Dodd, “that David understood by these weapons, with which he has furnished the ungodly, their bitter and malicious invectives, their false and foul reproaches, &c. These were the arms, in the use of which, as he frequently complains, they were admirably well skilled.” Thus, (Psalm 57:4,) speaking of wicked men, he says, Whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. And if so, then Psalm 37:15 “will mean that their intention will be frustrated; they shall not do the mischief they intended; their bows shall be broken — And their invectives and calumnies shall recoil and do themselves hurt; their sharp sword, their false and malicious tongues, shall pierce through their own soul. And that this was the psalmist’s meaning, who can doubt, after reading Psalm 64:3, where the wicked doers are said to have whet their tongue like a sword, and to shoot out their arrows, even bitter words.”

Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.
Psalm 37:16-17. Is better than the riches of many wicked — Because he hath it with many great and glorious advantages; with God’s favour and blessing, with great serenity and satisfaction of his own mind, which is infinitely more desirable and comfortable than all earthly possessions, with the consolations of God’s Spirit, and the assurance of everlasting felicity: while wicked men’s riches are loaded with many encumbrances; with the wrath and curse of God; the torment of their own consciences and passions; and the dreadful expectation of an after-reckoning, and of endless miseries. The Lord upholdeth the righteous — This is a proof of what he had said Psalm 37:16. For what the wicked have shall suddenly be lost and gone, but God will maintain the righteous in their happy estate.

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.
The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.
Psalm 37:18-20. The Lord knoweth — Observeth with singular care and affection; the days of the upright — Their condition, and all things which do or may befall them; their dangers, and fears, and sufferings from ungodly men; and therefore will watch over them, and preserve them from all the designs and attempts of their enemies. Days, or years, or times, are often put for things done, or events happening in them. And their inheritance shall be for ever — To them and their seed for ever: see Psalm 37:29. When they die the inheritance is not lost, but exchanged for one infinitely better. They shall not be ashamed — For the disappointment of their hopes, but their hopes and desires shall be satisfied; as it follows. But the wicked shall be as the fat of lambs — Which in an instant melteth before the fire. They shall consume into smoke — Utterly and irrecoverably.

They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.
The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.
Psalm 37:21-22. The wicked borroweth and payeth not again — Either through covetousness, or injustice; or, rather, because of that great penury into which God brings him; while the righteous is not only provided for sufficiently for himself, but hath abundance and to spare for others. For the psalmist is here comparing the wicked and the righteous, not so much with respect to their virtues or moral qualities as their outward conditions. This also appears from the following verse, which gives the reason of this. For such as be blessed of him — Of the Lord, as appears from Psalm 37:20, where he is named, and from the nature of the thing, this being God’s prerogative to bless or to curse men. And this he mentions, both as the foundation and as the proof of the certainty of their future happiness.

For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
Psalm 37:23-24. The steps of a good man — Hebrew, of man, namely, of the righteous, or blessed man, mentioned Psalm 37:21-22; are ordered by the Lord — Or, directed, or disposed, that is, so governed as to attain the end at which he aims; or strengthened, or established, so as he shall not stumble and fall into mischief. For he seems still to be describing, not their virtue, but their prosperity. And he delighteth in his way — Hebrew, ודרכו יחפצ, vedarcho jechpats, he favoureth his way, that is, succeeds and prospers his counsels and enterprises. Though he fall — Into distress or trouble, as Micah 7:8; he shall not be utterly cast down — Not totally, or irrecoverably ruined.

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
Psalm 37:25-26. I have been young, and now am old, &c. — As if he had said, “I say nothing but what I can confirm by my own long observation: when I was young I began to take notice of it; and I have continued so to do, till now that I am grown old: and I cannot remember that in all my life I ever saw a truly pious; just, and charitable man, left destitute of necessary things, or his children after him,” (treading in his steps,) “reduced to such poverty that they were constrained to beg from door to door.” — Bishop Patrick. He is ever merciful and lendeth — He is so far from begging from others, that he hath ability, as well as inclination, to give, or lend to others, as need requires. And his seed is blessed — Not only with spiritual, but with temporal blessings, wherewith God rewards his benevolence and liberality to the poor and destitute. So far shall he be from wasting his property, and undoing himself and family by his charity and bounty, as covetous and worldly people supposed he would do, that he and his posterity will rather be enriched thereby. It must be observed that these temporal promises were more express and particular to the Jews in the times of the Old Testament, than to Christians in the New, and therefore were more generally fulfilled. Under the Christian dispensation, however, godliness hath so far the promise of the life that now is, that they who seek first and principally the kingdom of God, shall have the necessaries of life provided for them in some way or other, Matthew 6:33, and he that watereth others shall be watered himself. To fear and serve God is the readiest way to secure ourselves and families from want; and “so far is charity from empoverishing, that what is given away, like vapours emitted by the earth, returns in showers of blessings, into the bosom of the person who gave it; and his offspring is not the worse, but infinitely the better for it. The bread which endureth, as well as that which perisheth, is his; and the blessings of time are crowned with those of eternity.” — Horne.

He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.
Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
Psalm 37:27-29. Depart from evil and do good — Having therefore these glorious promises and privileges, let no man do any evil or unjust thing, to enrich or secure himself, nor abstain from any pious or charitable action, for fear of empoverishing himself thereby: but let every man live in a conscientious discharge of all his duties to God and men, committing himself and all his affairs to God’s fatherly care and providence, and confidently expecting his blessing thereupon. And dwell for evermore —

That is, he shall dwell for evermore in heaven, and for a long time on earth. See on Psalm 37:3. The Lord loveth judgment — That is, just judgment, or righteousness, as the word משׁפשׂ, mishpat, often signifies. That is, he loves it in himself: he loveth to execute it upon the wicked, and for the righteous: which he doth in the manner expressed in this Psalm. And he loves it in the righteous, whose justice, and piety, and charity he sees, approves, and will reward. And forsaketh not his saints — Hebrew, חסידיו, chasidaiv, his kind, merciful, and beneficent ones who exercise benignity and charity to others.

For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.
The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.
Psalm 37:30. The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom — And that freely, customarily, and from his heart, as the next verse shows. Having showed, in divers verses, God’s singular care over and respect to the righteous, he proceeds to give a character of them, and withal to assign one reason of the great difference of God’s way of dealing with them, and with other men. And his tongue talketh of judgment — This respects either, 1st, The manner of his discourse: it is with wisdom and judgment; or, rather, 2d, The matter of it, which is God’s judgment, word, or law, as it follows, Psalm 37:31. While the discourses of other men are either wicked, or vain and useless, his are serious, pious, and edifying, concerning the word and ways of God.

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.
Psalm 37:31. The law of his God is in his heart — According to God’s command, Deuteronomy 6:6, and promise, Jeremiah 31:33. His thoughts, and meditations, and affections are fixed upon it. He doth not talk religiously with design, or with ostentation, but out of the abundance of his heart, Matthew 12:35. None of his steps shall slide — Or, slip, or swerve from the rule of God’s law. His piety and virtue shall continue and increase: or, God will uphold and preserve him from falling into that mischief which wicked men plot against him.

The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.
Psalm 37:32-33. The wicked watcheth the righteous — To find out a fit season or occasion to destroy him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand — That is, will not give him up to his power and rage; nor condemn him when he is judged — Will not give his consent to the sentence of condemnation, which the wicked have pronounced against him, but will justify him, and vindicate his innocence, and deliver him. Some understand the words thus: Nor shall he (the wicked) condemn him when he is judged, observing, “that it seems more to the purpose to say, that God would not suffer the wicked man to condemn the righteous, or to find him guilty, (for that probably was the way in which he proposed to murder him,) than that he would not do it himself.” — Mudge.

The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.
Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.
Psalm 37:34. Wait on the Lord — Seeking and trusting to him, and to him only, for help and deliverance. And keep his way — Continue in the practice of thy duty, or in those ways which God hath prescribed to thee in his word, and do not use indirect and irregular means to deliver thyself. When the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it — Thou shalt not only escape the destruction they designed for thee, but shalt live to see their ruin.

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
Psalm 37:35-36. I have seen the wicked in great power — Hebrew, עריצ, gnaritz, violent, or formidable: not only himself out of danger, as it seemed, but terrible to others; and spreading himself — And therefore firmly and deeply rooted; like a green bay-tree — Which is continually green and flourishing, yea, even in the winter season. Hebrew, כאזרח, cheezrach, sicut arbor indigena virens, like a green native plant, or a green tree in its native soil, where trees flourish much better than when they are transplanted into another soil. Houbigant, after the LXX., and many of the ancient versions, renders it, Like a flourishing cedar. Yet he passed away — Houbigant, I passed by; and lo, he was not — He was gone, like a tree blasted and blown down, or cut off and rooted out, and carried away in a moment. I sought him, but he could not be found — There was no monument nor remainder of him left.

Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
Psalm 37:37-39. Mark the perfect man, &c. — Behold now a very different character, a man who is upright before God, who sincerely desires and endeavours to please and glorify him, and therefore makes it his care to walk in his ordinances and commandments blameless: mark him, keep your eye upon him, and observe the issue of his course and conversation. For the end of that man is peace — Though he may meet with troubles in his way; though his days may be long, dark, and cloudy; yet all shall end well with him; he shall be happy at last. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together — Or, alike, one as well as another, all without any exception or respect of persons. The end of the wicked shall be cut off — That is, he shall be cut off at last, or in the end. His prosperity shall end in destruction. But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord — And therefore it shall certainly come to and be conferred upon them.

But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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