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Deeper Commentary

Psa 37:1 By David- This psalm of David has clear relevance to the exiles, awaiting a "soon" restoration to the land of Israel. It appears to have been rewritten, under inspiration, with reference to them. The Psalms of David are typically about his own personal desires and hopes for restoration, but this Psalm is solely an encouragement to others.

Don’t fret because of evildoers, neither be envious against those who work unrighteousness-
Those who "work unrighteousness" is a phrase frequently used of the apostate amongst the exiles in Babylon (e.g. Ez. 18:24; 33:13 cp. Zeph. 3:13). The faithful were not to be envious of their apparent success in Babylon but instead to focus upon the hope of restoration to the land.

Psa 37:2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither like the green plant-
The language of how things were to be at the restoration (Is. 40:7,8).

Psa 37:3 Trust in Yahweh, and do good. Dwell in the land, and enjoy safe pasture-
In the restoration context, this could be similar to Jeremiah's message for the exiles to dwell in Babylon and establish themselves, but in hope of eternal inheritance of the land of Israel. Or the idea could be that by a return to faith and good behaviour, the flock of Judah would be restored to their land and find safe pasture there, a figure used like this in Ez. 34.

 The believing life affects every part of human existence. Thus Psalm 37 parallels those who have faith, who do good (:3), who hope (:9), who are meek (:11), pure (:18), generous (:22), just (:28), wise, speakers of truth (:29), waiting for the Lord (:34), peacemakers (:37). It’s not that some of us have faith and another, e.g., is generous. We may be better at some aspects of the Christ-life than others, but our model is Him, as a total person. The image of slavery suggests a total devotion of life to our Lord’s cause. Just as every part of the animal had to be offered, so we as “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1) cannot just offer certain aspects of our lives to the Lord.

Psa 37:4 Also delight yourself in Yahweh, and He will give you the desires of your heart-
The desires of the heart is paralleled in this Psalm with inheriting the land eternally. If this is our greatest desire, we shall receive it. This is a sublime truth. All those who truly love the Lord's appearing as the master passion of their lives- will be acceptable to Him (2 Tim. 4:8). This is why the hope of the Kingdom can never be a mere hobby, but is by its very nature the all consuming passion of human life. Perhaps David alludes to his own overriding passion and desire for relationship with God and salvation in Ps. 38:9.

Psa 37:5 Commit your way to Yahweh. Trust also in Him, and He will do this-
What He will "do" is to grant the desire of our heart (:4), which is defined in this Psalm as eternally inheriting the land. And this will be achieved by imputing righteousness to us (:6). We are to commit our life's way to Yahweh, knowing that it is His desire to grant us our heart's desire- a place in His Kingdom. David speaks of committing our life's way to Yahweh and then trusting that He will bring us to His Kingdom; Solomon tweaks this into "Commit [s.w.] your works unto Yahweh" (Prov. 16:3). We see here Solomon's works-based approach.

Psa 37:6 He will make your righteousness go forth as the light, and your justice as the noon day sun-
In the immediate context, this refers to righteousness being imputed as the basis upon which believers can eternally inherit the land; see on :4,5.

David so often parallels righteousness and justice / truth (Ps. 9:8; 33:5; 37:6; 72:2; 94:15; 99:7; 103:6; 106:3). Indeed, this parallel is so common in God's word. What it means is that the righteousness of God is a just righteousness. It's not fake, 'I'll turn a blind eye'. It is true, real, valid, and has integrity underpinned in the very essential justice of God Himself. Justice and righteousness may appear abstract ideas, mere theology. But the result is that the person who believes God's righteousness is imputed to him or her... will feel this, they will know it to be true, they can by grace, in faith, quietly hold their head up before God. And David after Bathsheba is our example. He believed and felt this imputed righteousness. It's not so much a case of 'forgiving ourselves' after God has forgiven us, but rather of being swamped by this very real and legitimate sense that truly, we have been counted righteous. And Paul in Romans holds up David after Bathsheba as the personal example to " every one who is Godly" in their time of spiritual need. See on Ps. 41:12.

Psa 37:7 Rest in Yahweh, and wait patiently for Him-
He delays the second coming because He waits and hopes for repentance and spiritual growth from us. But He praises the faithful for patiently waiting for Him (Is. 30:18; Ps. 37:7). Here we see the humility of God's grace.

Don’t fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who makes wicked plots happen- In the restoration context, this clearly applies to the "wicked Haman" (Esther 7:6), who apparently prospered and made wicked plots.


Psa 37:8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath. Don’t fret, it leads only to evildoing-
God's anger was to cease in the salvation of the exiles (Ps. 85:4; Is. 10:25; 54:8; 60:10), as it has towards us. And if we believe this, then we too are to cease from anger and wrath, seeing every provocation of our wrath as an opportunity to live out how God has ceased from  wrath with us.

Psa 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for Yahweh shall inherit the land-
Those who wait for Yahweh are clearly the faithful amongst the exiles, waiting for the prophetic word of restoration to come true. These thoughts had their genesis whilst David was on the run from Saul, encouraging those with him that one day soon they would rule the Kingdom which would fall to David.

Psa 37:10 For yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more-
The expectation of restoration and salvation from the wicked in "a little while" is very relevant to the exiles. Our sufferings now are only for a moment compared to the glorious eternity of the Kingdom (Ps. 37:10; 2 Cor. 4:17), and yet the language of the Bible also expresses God’s appreciation that from our perspective, our time of probation is “a long time” (Mt. 25:19).

Yes, though you look for his place, he isn’t there- Solomon in his collapse of faith appears to allude here; but he considers that not finding the place of the deceased is just an example of life's vanity (Ecc. 8:10 s.w.). David his father saw it is a triumph of good over evil and a foretaste of how things shall be eternally put right at the last day. But Solomon lost the kingdom perspective, using the words of David his father simply in a secular sense.


Psa 37:11 But the humble shall inherit the land, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace-
This "abundance of peace" is the language of the restored Kingdom of God upon earth (Ps. 72:3). The Lord quotes this in Mt. 5:5. The potential possible for the exiles was precluded by their lack of repentance; but the prophecies of eternal restoration are reinterpreted and reapplied to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus which is to be established at His return.

Psa 37:12 The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth-
Just as they will at the last day (Ps. 112:10). Gnashing of teeth is the language of condemnation at the last day (Mt. 8:12 etc.). But those thus condemned will have gnashed their teeth at their brethren in this life. By doing so, they are living out their own condemnation.

Psa 37:13 The Lord will laugh at him, for He sees that his day is coming-
The Lord laughing at the wicked is the language of Ps. 2 about the final day of judgment, and also has relevance to the situation in Jerusalem at Hezekiah's time (Is. 37:22).

Throughout David’s Psalms in Ps. 1-72, he repeatedly asks for torture upon the sinners and blessing upon himself as the righteous. He speaks of how sinners should be “contemned” in the eyes of the righteous (Ps. 15:4), the gatherings of sinners should be “hated” and sinners should not be fellowshipped (Ps. 26:4-6; Ps. 31:6) and how God’s uprightness is shown to the upright and His judgment to the judgmental (Ps. 18:25,26; Ps. 33:22). He invites God’s judgment upon himself and others according to their and his works (Ps. 28:4).  Frequently he alludes to Saul as “the violent man”- even though David committed his share of violence- and asks judgment upon him (Ps. 18:48). Only those with clean hands and pure heart like himself could have fellowship with God (Ps. 24:3,4). Psalm 37 doesn’t indicate any desire to convert the sinners but rather an expectation of their judgment and destruction. God and David laugh at the wicked because their day is coming (Ps. 37:13). There’s no spirit of grace here at all- perhaps that’s why Zech. 12:10 specifically says that the spirit of grace will have to be poured out upon the house of David in the last days. This attitude changed after the sin with Bathsheba, but still something of the old self righteousness and judgmental attitudes are to be found in David in Psalms written after that.


In describing his feelings after the Bathsheba experience, David comments that he was "as a man that hears not [the taunts of others against him], and in whose mouth are no rebukes" (Ps. 38:14). The pre-Bathsheba Psalms present David as a man who was so easily hurt by the taunts of others, and whose mouth was indeed full of rebuke of others. Psalm 37 speaks of the wicked without any apparent interest in their conversion, but rather is there an emphasis upon their condemnation, even a gloating over it, and the [surely incorrect] fantasy that God laughs at the thought of how He will punish the wicked in future (Ps. 37:13).

Psa 37:14 The wicked have drawn out the sword and have bent their bow to cast down the poor and needy, to kill those who are upright in the way-
Language used about the oppressors of Judah in exile (Is. 5:28; 21:15). David sees uprightness as characteristic of all God's people (Ps. 11:2; 19:8; 32:11; 36:10; 64:10; 94:15; 97:11). He sees the wicked as those who are not upright (Ps. 14:3; 51:1,3). But  all men, God's people included, are not upright (Rom. 3:12). Like Job, David had to be taught that actually he was failing to see the seriousness of sin; righteousness and acceptability with God is imputed to men by grace through faith, because actually there are none who are upright in heart, apart from God's representative son.

Psa 37:15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart. Their bows shall be broken-
Language relevant to the death of Absalom. But when David's imprecations against his enemies such as Saul and Absalom came true, he was mortified with grief. We must be careful what we desire, for God reads our desires as prayers. David considers that it is his Divinely given strength which will break the bows (Ps. 18:34).


Psa 37:16 Better is a little that the righteous has, than the abundance of many wicked-
The Hebrew seems to mean that the small numbers of the righteous are better than the great numbers of the wicked. David foresaw that even amongst God's people, both of his time and amongst the later exiles, only a minority would be truly spiritual.

Psa 37:17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but Yahweh upholds the righteous-
As we will see on :24, David feels he is the one who has been 'upheld' despite his sin with Bathsheba. He sees himself therefore as "the righteous", but only because he deeply believed in imputed righteousness.

Psa 37:18 Yahweh knows the days of the perfect. Their inheritance shall be forever-
To 'know the days' of someone can be read as an idiom for "takes care of" (as GNB). The idea of eternal inheritance alludes to the promises to Abraham. But as the New Testament makes clear, the "seed" died without receiving the fulfilment of the promises; eternal inheritance can only come when the Kingdom is established upon earth. And there was the potential that this could have happened had the exiles been repentant and desirous of participating in such a restored Kingdom; but they weren't, and so the Kingdom promises have been rescheduled and reapplied.

Psa 37:19 They shall not be disappointed in the time of evil; in the days of famine they shall be satisfied-
Under the old covenant, famine was not supposed to come if the people were obedient. So the idea is that even when suffering the punishment for sin, God will still show grace and keep His repentant people "alive in famine".


Psa 37:20 But the wicked shall perish, the enemies of Yahweh shall be like the passing beauty of the fields. They will vanish-- vanish like smoke-
LXX "the enemies of the Lord at the moment of their being honoured and exalted have utterly vanished like smoke". This could refer to the destruction of Haman, in the context of the exiles. But consumption into smoke is the language of sacrifice. The sacrifices taught Israel that God especially valued the fat- the best parts of their lives were to be freely offered to Him. But the wicked at judgment day will be as the fat of lambs, consumed upon the altar (Ps. 37:20). We either give our best to the Lord’s service now, or He will ultimately take it from us anyway. Cars, houses, flats, valued jewelry, banknotes stashed away, bank accounts, our innermost emotions, jealousy, love... we either give them now, or He will take them from us in the day of judgment.


Psa 37:21 The wicked borrow, and don’t pay back, but the righteous give generously-
The idea may be that the righteous forgive. They give out, whereas the wicked effectively steal.

Psa 37:22 For such as are blessed by Him shall inherit the land. Those who are cursed by Him shall be cut off-
Another allusion to the blessing associated with the Abrahamic promises. We note that the opposite of blessing is the curse of permanent death- not eternal conscious punishment. "Cut off" is the same word for the cutting of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:18). The idiom was to emphasize that those who rejected the covenant would be "cut off" (Gen. 17:14); blessing and life eternal were only available through the covenant.

Psa 37:23 A man’s goings are established by Yahweh; He delights in his way-
If a man prepares his way after God’s principles (2 Chron. 27:6; Prov. 4:26), then God will ‘prepare’ that man’s way too (Ps. 37:23; 119:5), confirming him in the way of escape. God “delights in every detail of their lives” (Ps. 37:23); and the more we perceive that interest, the more we will live the purpose driven life. Yet the tendency is to just assume these gifts from God as what we have almost by right, and that He is willing for us to live the life He has given us without deeply analyzing our choices and decisions; that our talents are things we can use as we wish because they are what life dished up to us. But they have been granted by an eager Father, anxiously watching how we will use them in His  service, not our own. Life is a test, a trust, rather than a few decades pursuing our own happiness. We have been made unique, with unique thumbprints, eyes, voices, and each heart beats to a different pattern. And of course all this is reflected in our unique emotional makeups. All these things are given us to fulfill our unique role in the body of Christ- a part only we can play. We have a huge personal responsibility to use our lives for the God who gave them to us. What is made in His image- i.e. our bodies- must be given back to Him.

When Solomon teaches that God must be allowed to establish or direct our way (Prov. 4:26; 16:29), he is using the same Hebrew words as in Ps. 37:23 and Ps. 119:5, when David says the same. It’s as if he was given God’s truth and yet he never quite made it his very own- he still articulated it in terms of the faith of his fathers. And thus he lost it in the end. 


Psa 37:24 Though he stumble, he shall not fall, for Yahweh holds him up with His hand-
As this was written at the end of David's life (:25), he had in view his sin with Bathsheba.

Psa 37:25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread-
Yet the exiles and their children did "beg bread" (s.w. Lam. 1:11). The implication therefore is that they did so because they were not righteous.

Psa 37:26 All day long he deals graciously, and lends. His seed is blessed-
We will always be given enough to give to others- if that is what we want to do. The Lord's parable of the friend at midnight seems to be teaching the same (Lk. 11:5-9). This is quite a challenging idea, in an age when masses live on minimum wage. The idea that 'If I get wealthy, I'll be generous' is quite different to God's approach. If we see others' need, and we genuinely wish to meet it, then the resources to meet it will be provided- whether through our own hands or by other means.

Psa 37:27 Depart from evil, and do good. Live securely forever-
"Depart from evil" could be read as an appeal to repentance; and this was especially relevant to the exiles. If they truly repented and did good, then they would receive eternal inheritance of the land. It is the phrase used to describe how Job hated evil (Job 1:8); and the exiles were bidden follow his pattern.

Psa 37:28 For Yahweh loves justice, and doesn’t forsake His saints. They are preserved forever-
Eternal preservation is surely appropriate to the idea of eternity at the Lord's return.

But the children of the wicked shall be cut off- The wickedness of the wicked is that they influence their children to live in a way which will also merit condemnation.

Psa 37:29 The righteous shall inherit the land, and live in it forever-
This is in direct allusion to the promises to Abraham, and is quoted by the Lord in Mt. 5:5. I noted on :4-6 that David may have in view 'imputed righteousness' when he speaks of "the righteous". He is writing this after his sin with Bathsheba, from which he had learned that lesson (:25). And yet it is possible that he reverted to his previous black and white view of God's people as divided into sinners and righteous, with no attention paid to the fact that the righteous sin and things are not so black and white.

Psa 37:30 The mouth of the righteous talks of wisdom, his tongue speaks justice-
The words of the righteous are connected with what is in their heart (:31); a fundamental connection repeated by the Lord in His teaching. The only other parallel between wisdom and justice is found in the description of David's son Solomon (1 Kings 3:28). But I have elsewhere suggested that even this was Solomon merely living out parental expectation, and finally he turned away from the way of wisdom and justice.

Psa 37:31 The law of his God is in his heart, none of his steps shall slide-
See on :30. David recognized elsewhere that his steps had slid (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). But at the end of his life, he reflects that the steps of the righteous don't slip (Ps. 37:25,31). Perhaps David came to minimize his earlier slipping, especially in the matter of Bathsheba, in his old age. Or perhaps he was able to look back and see that despite temporary sliding of steps, ultimately the steps of the righteous don't slide in the overall path of their life. 

Psa 37:32 The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to kill him-
But the eyes of God also watch the righteous, as David often comments; indeed He "watches the nations" (Ps. 66:7). And His Divine watching seeks to save us. In this contest between God and man, God will ultimately win.

Psa 37:33 Yahweh will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged-
The hand of the wicked does at times triumph over the righteous in this life, as David himself experienced. But the ultimate perspective is that at the last day, God will not condemn the righteous. This is to be the final perspective on all suffering of the righteous at the hand of the wicked.

Psa 37:34 Wait for Yahweh, and keep His way-
The righteous are to commit their way to Yahweh (:5). But by doing so, their way becomes His way.


And He will exalt you to inherit the land. When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it- The point of eternal inheritance of the land was to be at the same time as the righteous see the cutting off of the wicked. This implies the resurrection of both categories amongst God's people to face judgment, and the righteous witnessing the condemnation of the wicked- which will not be to eternal punishment, but to the cutting off in "the second death".

Psa 37:35 I have seen the wicked in great power, spreading himself like a green tree in its native soil-
LXX "like the cedars of Libanus", perhaps a reference to the pride of the kings of Babylon, who are likened in the prophets to a tree being cut down.

Psa 37:36 But he passed away, and behold, he was not. Yes, I sought him, but he could not be found-
The language of the passing away of Babylon and all her pomp (Dan. 2:35). This was particular comfort for the exiles.

Psa 37:37 Note the perfect man, and see the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace-
The Hebrew appears to be similar to the LXX: "Maintain innocence, and behold uprightness: for there is a remnant to the peaceable man". Again this has particular comfort for the exiles, the remnant of Judah who were to be restored to the land- if they were upright.

Psa 37:38 As for transgressors, they shall be destroyed together. The future of the wicked shall be cut off-
This continues the connection with the images of all Judah's enemies being destroyed together (Dan. 2:35; see on :36).

Psa 37:39 But the salvation of the righteous is from Yahweh; He is their stronghold in the time of trouble-
Although exiled from the stronghold of Zion, Judah would be saved by Yahweh being their stronghold. He could be a stronghold for His people far from Zion, as David learned in his times of exile. Yah's salvation is ultimately Yeshua, the Lord Jesus.

Psa 37:40 Yahweh helps them, and rescues them. He rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they have taken refuge in Him
- The idea seems to be that they are rescued at some point after they have chosen to take refuge in God. "Saves" is the word commonly used in the restoration prophecies for the salvation of the exiles from Babylon (e.g. Is. 60:16). But to make that great salvation operational, they needed to consciously take refuge in Yahweh. Is. 57:13 appears to allude to Ps. 37: "He who puts his trust (s.w.) in Me shall inherit the land".