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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 37

Verse 1

Psalms 37:0.

David persuadeth to patience and confidence in God, by the different estate of the godly and the wicked.

A Psalm of David.

Title. לדוד ledavid. This Psalm was made by David in his old age; and it is an excellent hymn on the equal providence of God, at that time exercised towards the Jews; see the note on Psalms 1:4. It contains an exhortation to good men to persevere in a religious course of life: and David assured them, that if they did so, they should see, as he himself had done, that the prosperity of the wicked should not last long; and that God would certainly reward those who with meekness and patience would continue to trust in, and rely upon him. Dr. Delaney conjectures upon this Psalm, that when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, perceived, upon David's return after the rebellion of Absalom, that the king had conceived an ill opinion of him, through the false suggestions of his servant Ziba, (2 Samuel 16:1-4; 2 Samuel 19:24-30.) it is natural to suppose the generous and upright heart of Mephibosheth to be distressed, dejected, and uneasy to the last degree, and taking rash and repining resolutions to banish himself from a country where he had found such treacherous treatment, &c. And what could be more natural, and more consoling under these circumstances, than for the good king to entreat him to forego those rash resolutions; to admonish him, that if he bore his present low estate with patience and resignation to the divine will, he should soon see it bettered; to remind him that the prosperity of the wicked was short, &c. And in what words could all this have been conveyed more strongly, than in those of this Psalm? See Life of David, b. i. c. 14, &c. It should be observed, that this Psalm is alphabetical at every other verse; or, more properly, they are made two verses, which should be but one long one; as Lamentations 1:2.

Verse 3

Psalms 37:3. So shalt thou dwell, &c.— Some render it, Dwell in the land, and feed upon faith. Green renders it, And be filled with its plenty. The word is rendered, Nehemiah 11:23. A certain portion of provisions. The LXX read here, With its riches or abundance; which is very suitable to the place.

Verse 6

Psalms 37:6. Bring forth thy righteousness as the light, &c.— i.e. "Perfectly clear up and vindicate thy integrity; which may for a time be obscured by calumnies and slanders, as the sun is by mists and clouds." Judgment, in the next clause, is only another word for righteousness or integrity.

Verse 8

Psalms 37:8. Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil It is only to his own prejudice. Mudge. See Psalms 15:4.

Verse 13

Psalms 37:13. That his day is coming i.e. The day of his punishment: so Jeremiah 5:31. For thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee. See Psalms 137:7. Job 18:20. Isaiah 9:4.

Verse 14

Psalms 37:14. The wicked have drawn out the sword, &c.— I cannot but think, says a writer on the Psalms, that these are figurative expressions; and that David understood by these weapons, with which he has furnished the ungodly, their bitter and malicious invectives, their foul and false reproaches, &c. These were the arms, in the use of which, as he frequently complains, they were admirably well skilled. In short, this verse seems to be explained to this sense by Psa 57:4 where, speaking of wicked men, it is said, Whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword: and, if so, then the next verse will mean, that their intention will be frustrated; they shall not do the mischief that 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 Psa 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? By the way, this agrees well with the learned author's conjecture mentioned above.

Verses 21-22

Psalms 37:21-22. The wicked borroweth, &c.— This description of the wicked and the righteous, is designed not to shew the dispositions of one and the other, as their abilities. "The wicked shall be so poor, as to be ever obliged to borrow, and incapable of paying; while the righteous shall have wherewithal to be generous and munificent." This will continue on the sense of the three verses before, to those that follow, which otherwise will be wholly disjointed. "For they who are blessed of him, the Lord, (namely, the righteous, Psalms 37:18-19.) shall inherit the earth; and they who are cursed of him, (namely, the wicked, Psalms 37:20.) shall be cut off. The steps of the man, (Psalms 37:23.) i.e. the righteous man, are firmly fixed, &c." Mudge. Some render the 23rd verse, While the steps of a man are directed by the Lord, he shall accept his way. The Hebrew word גבר geber, rendered a man, is said by Glassius, Onomat. p. 74 to be used emphatically as a type of Christ. See also Dr. Thomas Jackson's Nazareth and Bethlehem, vol. 2: p. 401.

Verse 25

Psalms 37:25. I have been young, &c.— From the whole scope of this Psalm nothing can be plainer, than that it was intended by the author for a hymn on the equal providence of God; which at that time he did not fail to exercise towards the Jews; and an exhortation to those for whose use it was written, to depend and rely upon that; and this verse is a particular proof of it. The only difficulty is, how to reconcile this general assertion of David's, with some complaints of his in other parts of his writings, where he seems to be much affected by the prosperity of the wicked. To obviate this difficulty, many learned men have thought, that though this verse runs in general terms, yet it is to be understood with some restriction, as many of the Proverbs are; and that David did not mean to say, that the righteous never were forsaken, without exception; but only that in general they were not; and that the instances of the contrary were so very rare that they did not deserve consideration. Possibly it might be so; but from the whole drift of this Psalm, I am rather inclined to think that the royal Psalmist intended we should understand him according to the letter. And his doctrine throughout his writings seems to have been this, "That though God might suffer the streams which conveyed his blessings to the righteous Jews, sometimes to be interrupted in their usual course, or to flow in different channels; yet after those purposes were answered, which occasioned the alteration, all things would come right again:" and, as he himself has summed it up, Psalms 34:19. Great are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of all. Therefore he frequently exhorts them, not to fret and repine at the prosperity of the wicked, but to put their trust in God, to wait patiently, to abide and quietly expect the happy reverse of their present evil fortune: and the argument that he uses to enforce this all along is, because both the prosperity of the sinner, and the distress of the good man, should only be temporary and not last long. As to sinners, as Asaph observes, Psa 73:18 their exaltation seemed only to be to make their fall more conspicuous, and God's dealing with them more remarkable. For though he lifteth them up, he setteth them in slippery places, then casteth them down, and destroyeth them. As to the good man, David seems to compare God's constant care of him to that of a fond parent over his child, holding him by the hand, and carefully leading him to prevent his fall. Though he fall, he shall not be cast away, for the Lord upholdeth his hand, or leadeth him by the hand. In this verse he assures them, that his experience had always confirmed the doctrine he had been teaching. And he afterwards speaks to the same purpose concerning the prosperous sinner's downfall; Psalms 37:36-37, where it is very probable that he had an eye to Saul. When David came first to Saul's camp, he found that wicked prince in great power, in which he continued flourishing for several years. Nothing was more unlikely than that such a raw shepherd's boy as David then was, should be exalted to the regal dignity in his room: and, considering his history in all its circumstances, this was as strong an instance of the divine providence as almost any which could be given.

Verse 27

Psalms 37:27. And dwell for evermore Dwell in the land for ever, according to Bishop Hare; i.e. "Enjoy a long and prosperous life in the land, with great tranquillity and peace." In the second clause of the next verse, inorder to begin the period with an ע ain, the Bishop reads ענוים anavim, the humble; the humble are preserved for ever.

Verse 33

Psalms 37:33. Nor condemn him when he is judged Nor shall he [the wicked] condemn him when he is judged. It seems more to the purpose to say, that God would not suffer the wicked man to condemn the righteous or find him guilty, (for that, probably, is the way in which he proposed to murder him,) than that he would not do it himself. Mudge.

Verse 35

Psalms 37:35. Spreading himself like a green bay-tree Like a native plant, or a tree in its native soil. Mudge. Like a flourishing cedar. Houbigant, after the LXX, and many of the ancient versions. See Psalms 92:12. He likewise reads the beginning of the next verse after the same versions, and with much propriety, I passed by.

Verse 38

Psalms 37:38. Shall be destroyed together Or, at once: "They shall all at once be totally destroyed." See Psa 49:10 in the Hebrew.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The way of duty is made very plain, and therefore we are more inexcusable, if we depart from it.

1. The Psalmist cautions us against envy and fretful-ness because of the prosperity of the wicked. It had been a trial which himself had been beset with, and therefore he speaks from experience, which is the most effectual way of preaching.
2. He gives a strong argument to silence our impatience. The prosperity of the sinner is short and precarious, as the withering grass. Mark his end, and thou shalt not envy his way.
3. He prescribes the good that we should follow, as well as the evil that we should avoid; and, enjoying the better portion in God's favour, we should have no reason to envy any worldling his possessions.
2nd, Abundant reasons are here urged, why we should patiently wait upon the Lord, and without anger, envy, or discontent, behold the prosperous sinner, and bear up under every cross that we may be called to suffer from him.

1. A variety of arguments for our quiet submission are here produced from the misery of sinners. [1.] Their destruction is near, even at the door. Their career is short; the longest life is but a step, and they are often surprised in the midst, and their soul required of them. Each moment is uncertain, each breath precarious, and then all their hopes perish, vanishing as the smoke from the altar. [2.] Their own devices shall fall upon them. Though crafty, cruel, and, in their own apprehension, confident of success, God mocks at their impotent designs, and turns the destruction which they had prepared for the defenceless poor upon their own heads. Their day is coming, a terrible day, when the wicked must tremble, and the righteous rejoice. [3.] When God arises to judgment, they shall perish for ever; his wrath, as the fire of the altar, shall burn, and none shall quench it: the wicked, as fuel for the flames, shall be consumed, or rather consuming yet unconsumed, in these everlasting burnings.
2. The unspeakably happier lot of the righteous, with all their troubles, should repress every murmur of discontent because of the apparent prosperity of the ungodly. [1.] They shall inherit the earth. The patient waiting of the faithful shall not be disappointed; the present world shall afford them a sufficiency; and in the new earth, where dwelleth righteousness, they shall have a sure possession. [2.] They shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Whatever portion, be it less or more, they have below, one thing they enjoy better than the wealth of both the Indies, peace with God, and, as the effect of that, peace of conscience; a delightful peace, which makes even sufferings light, and adds a double relish to every enjoyment: a peace, to which the wicked are strangers; a peace which the world cannot give; and, blessed be God, cannot take away; and abundance of peace, not only while the sun and moon endure, or till life shall terminate, but permanent as the ages of eternity. [3.] A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked. Of this world God's enemies have far the greater share; but without his blessings the sweetest draughts are bitter, and the worm of discontent at the root of their gourd makes it wither, when to appearance most flourishing. But the righteous man's little comes from the gift of God, is enjoyed in his love, and improved to his glory. He has the great seasoning of contentment in whatsoever state he is, and, sensible how unworthy he is of the least, every thing that he uses fills him with thankfulness. A dry crust, with a sweet savour of Christ, furnishes a more delicious meal, than the tables of luxury ever afforded. [4.] The Lord upholdeth the righteous, so that in all trials and difficulties he is supported within; and, as the everlasting arms are underneath him, he is safe from fear of evil. [5.] The Lord knoweth the days of the upright. He takes notice of his daily service, faithful to reward him; of his trials, to support him; of his sorrows, to comfort him; and gives him a sense of his love all the day long. [6.] Their inheritance shall be for ever. The portion of the faithful, blessed as it is, shall not be circumscribed by the narrow bounds of time; but in heaven there is reserved for them an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, which fadeth not away. [7.] They shall be never ashamed of their confidence. In general calamities they shall never be destitute; in the evil day of death their faith and joy shall not fail them; and in the day of judgment they shall have boldness to appear before the awful bar. Such present possessions, such eternal expectations, may well keep down every rising discontent. Why should we envy the ungodly their short-lived, embittered, unsatisfying, perishing enjoyments, when we have such a sufficient, satisfying, abiding portion here, and such a near prospect of a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory hereafter?

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 37". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.