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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 2
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Psalm 37:34-36

34. Wait upon Jehovah, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee, that thou mayest inherit the earth: when the wicked are cut off thou shalt see it. 35. I have seen the wicked terrible, 4545     Striking terror in all around. and spreading himself like a green bay tree: 4646     The proper signification of the word אזרח, azrach, has been controverted among interpreters, and it has been variously rendered. Most of the Rabbins, and many modern commentators, as Mudge, Waterland, Gesenius, and others, are of opinion, that the preferable reading is, “like an indigenous or native tree;” that is, a tree which flourishes in its native soil, where it grows most vigorously, and acquires its largest and most luxuriant growth. The Septuagint translates it, ὼς τὰς χέδρους του Λιβάνου, “as the cedars of Lebanon;” being self-growing, spreading, and lofty trees. Some suppose that the translators of this version must have had a different reading in their Hebrew Bibles from what is in our present copies; and others that, as is common with them, they paraphrase the original words, the more clearly to express their meaning. The translation of the Septuagint is followed by the Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, by Houbigant, Boothroyd, Geddes, and other good authorities. Ainsworth reads, “as a green self-growing laurel.” Bythner says he is at a loss for the reason of translating the word laurel. “For the reading of bay tree,” says the illustrated Commentary upon the Bible, “we are not aware of any authority, except the very feeble one which is offered by some of the older of the modern versions in this country and on the Continent.” 36. And he passed away, 4747     The Suptuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions, Jerome, Houbigant, Horsley, and Walford, read the verb in the first person, “But I passed by.” The Chaldee adheres to the Hebrew, “And he passed, or failed, from the age, or world, and, lo! he was not.” and, lo! he was not: and I sought for his place, and he was not found.

 

34 Wait upon Jehovah, and keep his way David again returns to the style of exhortation, in order that the faithful, trusting to God’s promises and sustained by them, may not suffer themselves to be drawn hither and thither by any temptations through devious and sinful ways, but may persevere steadfastly in the service of God. In the first place, he exhorts them to hope and patience, as if he wished them, amidst the tumults and troubles of life, to trust in God, and hold their peace till he again show them his countenance, which for a time he had hid from them. Hence arises, in the second place, another exhortation, that they should not turn aside from the way of the Lord; for wherever hope and patience prevail, they will so restrain the minds of men that they will not break out into any thing unlawful and wicked. It will doubtless be found, that the reason why every man endeavors to promote his own advantage by wicked practices is, that no one depends upon God, or else that he thinks, if fortune do not quickly smile upon him, that it is vain for him to persevere in the practice of equity and uprightness. Moreover, we may learn from this place, that if many, even of the good and the upright, are subjected to poverty, and lead a life of protracted affliction and trial, they suffer their punishment justly, because, so far from being firmly persuaded that it belongs to God as his proper office not only to lift up his servants from the dunghill, but also to bring them forth even from their graves, scarcely one in a hundred of them patiently waits upon God, and continues perseveringly in the right course. Nor is it without good reason that David makes use of the word exalt, that we may know that God often stretches forth his hand to the faithful when they appear to be overwhelmed by the weight of their calamities. He then adds, that the wicked shall perish before the eyes of the godly. If their end were not very different from that of the righteous, the state in which the reprobate now rejoice for a time would easily allure even the best of men to evil. And, indeed, God would make us daily to behold such sights if we had eyes to behold his judgments. And yet, although the whole world were blinded, God does not cease to render a just reward to the wickedness of men; but by punishing them in a more private manner, he withdraws from us that fruit of which our own dulness deprives us.

35. and 36 I have seen the wicked terrible, etc. David here confirms from his own experience what I have just said, namely, that although the wicked are intoxicated with their prosperity, and held in admiration by all on account of it, yet their happiness is transitory and evanescent, and, therefore, nothing else than a mere illusion. In the 35th verse he tells us, that it is no strange or unwonted thing for the ungodly, puffed up with their prosperity, to spread themselves far and wide, and to give occasion of terror to the innocent. Then he adds, that their greatness, which had been regarded with so much wonder, disappears in a moment. As to the meaning of the words, עריף, arits, which we have rendered terrible, might also be translated strong, because the word from which it is derived signifies sometimes to terrify, and sometimes to strengthen. The word מתערה, mithareh, is taken by some for green, but it rather means discovering or spreading himself out, as high and broad trees spread out their branches. David, I have no doubt, here rebukes the insolence of those who vaunt themselves immoderately. To pass away, in the 36th verse, is used for to vanish away; and thus he admonishes us to sit still for a time, in order that it may appear, after it has passed away, that all that the world admires in the prosperity of the wicked has been only a mist.


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