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Psalms 1:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Blessed is the man - This Psalm has no title, and has been generally considered, but without especial reason, as a preface or introduction to the whole book.

The word אשרי ashrey, which we translate blessed, is properly in the plural form, blessednesses, or may be considered as an exclamation produced by contemplating the state of the man who has taken God for his portion; O the blessedness of the man! And the word האיש haish, is emphatic: That man; that one among a thousand who lives for the accomplishment of the end for which God created him.

  1. God made man for happiness.
  • Every man feels a desire to be happy.
  • All human beings abhor misery.
  • Happiness is the grand object of pursuit among all men.
  • But so perverted is the human heart, that it seeks happiness where it cannot be found; and in things which are naturally and morally unfit to communicate it.
  • The true way of obtaining it is here laid down.
  • That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly -

    There is a double Climax in this verse, which it will be proper to note: -

    There are here three characters, each exceeding the other in sinfulness.

    1. The Ungodly, רשעים reshaim from רשע rasha, to be unjust; rendering to none his due; withholding from God, society, and himself, what belongs to each. Ungodly - he who has not God in him; who is without God in the world.
  • Sinners, חטאים chattaim, from חטא chata, "to miss the mark," "to pass over the prohibited limits," "to transgress." This man not only does no good, but he does evil. The former was without God, but not desperately wicked. The latter adds outward transgression to the sinfulness of his heart.
  • Scornful, לצים letsim, from לצה latsah, "to mock, deride." He who has no religion; lives in the open breach of God's laws, and turns revelation, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of an invisible world into ridicule. He is at least a deist, and endeavours to dissolve, as Much as he can, the bonds of moral obligation in civil society. As the sinner exceeds the ungodly, so the scornful exceeds both.
  • The second climax is found in the words,

    1. Walk
  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Which mark three different degrees of evil in the conduct of those persons.

    Observe,

    1. The ungodly man - one uninfluenced by God.
  • The sinner - he who adds to ungodliness transgression
  • The scornful - the deist, atheist, etc., who make a mock of every thing sacred.
  • The Ungodly man walks, the Sinner stands, and the Scornful man sits down in the way of iniquity.

    Mark certain circumstances of their differing characters and conduct.

    1. The ungodly man has his counsel;
  • The sinner has his way; and,
  • The scorner has his seat.
  • The ungodly man is unconcerned about religion; he is neither zealous for his own salvation, nor for that of others: and he counsels and advises those with whom he converses to adopt his plan, and not trouble themselves about praying, reading, repenting, etc., etc. there is no need for such things; live an honest life, make no fuss about religion, and you will fare well enough at last. Now, "blessed is the man who walks not in this man's counsel;" who does not come into his measures, nor act according to his plan.

    The sinner has his particular way of transgressing; one is a drunkard, another dishonest, another unclean. Few are given to every species of vice. There are many covetous men who abhor drunkenness; many drunkards who abhor covetousness; and so of others. Each has his easily besetting sin; therefore, says the prophet, let the wicked forsake His Way. Now, blessed is he who stands not in such a man's Way.

    The scorner has brought, in reference to himself, all religion and moral feeling to an end. He has sat down - is utterly confirmed in impiety, and makes a mock at sin. His conscience is seared; and he is a believer in all unbelief. Now, blessed is the man who sits not down in his Seat.

    See the correspondent relations in this account.

    1. He who walks according to the counsel of the ungodly will soon,
  • Stand to look on the wag of sinners; and thus, being off his guard, he will soon be a partaker in their evil deeds.
  • He who has abandoned himself to transgression will, in all probability, soon become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; and sit down with the scorner, and endeavor to turn religion into ridicule.
  • The last correspondency we find is: -

    1. The seat answers to the sitting of the scornful.
  • The way answers to the standing of the sinner; and
  • The counsel answers to the walking of the ungodly.
  • The great lesson to be learned from the whole is, sin is progressive; one evil propensity or act leads to another. He who acts by bad counsel may soon do evil deeds; and he who abandons himself to evil doings may end his life in total apostasy from God. "When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and when sin is finished, it brings forth death." Solomon the son of David, adds a profitable advice to those words of his father: "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away;" Proverbs 4:14, Proverbs 4:15.

    As the blessedness of the man is great who avoids the ways and the workers of iniquity, so his wretchedness is great who acts on the contrary: to him we must reverse the words of David: "Cursed is the man who walketh in the counsel of the ungodly; who standeth in the way of sinners; and who sitteth in the seat of the scornful." Let him that readeth understand.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Blessed is the man - That is, his condition is a happy or a desirable one. The word used here, אשׁר 'esher means properly, “happiness” or “blessedness.” It is found, however, only in the plural form and in the construct state, and takes the nature and force of an interjection - “ O the happiness of the man!” or “O happy man!” Deuteronomy 33:29: “happy art thou, O Israel!” 1 Kings 10:8: “happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants!” Job 5:17: “happy is the man whom God correcteth!” Psalm 2:12: “blessed are all they that put their trust in him!” See also Psalm 32:1-2; Psalm 33:12; Psalm 34:8; Psalm 40:4; Psalm 41:1; Psalm 65:4; Psalm 84:4-5, Psalm 84:12, et al., where it is rendered “blessed.” The word is of the most general character, and, in itself, would embrace all that is supposed to constitute real happiness. The particular kind of blessedness referred to here, as explained in the subsequent part of the psalm, consists in the fact that he avoids the companionship of the wicked; that he has pleasure in the law of the Lord; that he will be prospered in this world; and that he will not perish at lasts. The word “man” here, also, is of the most general character, and is designed to include all people, of all times and of all conditions, who possess the character referred to. The term is applicable to the poor as well as to the rich; to the low as well as to the exalted; to the servant as well as to the master; alike to the aged, the middle-aged, and the young. All who have the character here described come under the general description of the happy man - the man whose condition is a happy and a desirable one.

    That walketh not - Whose character is that he does not walk in the manner specified. Prof. Alexander renders this, “Who has not walked.” But it implies more than this; it refers to more than the past. It is the characteristic of the man, always and habitually, that he does not thus walk; it has not only been true in the past, but it is true in the present, and will be true in the future. It is that which distinguishes the man. The word “walk” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a way of life or conduct - since life is represented as a journey, and man as a traveler. Psalm 15:2: “who walketh uprightly.” Compare 1 Kings 9:4; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 28:9; Psalm 81:12-13; Isaiah 33:15.

    In the counsel - After the manner, the principles, the plans of this class of men. He does not take counsel of them as to the way in which he should live, but from the law of the Lord, Psalm 1:2. This would include such things as these: he does not follow the advice of sinners, 2 Samuel 16:20; 1 Kings 1:12; he does not execute the purposes or plans of sinners, Isaiah 19:3; he does not frame his life according to their views and suggestions. In his plans and purposes of life he is independent of them, and looks to some other source for the rules to guide him.

    Of the ungodly - The wicked. The word used here is general, and would embrace all kinds and degrees of the unrighteous. It is not so specific, and would, in itself, not indicate as definite, or as aggravated depravity, as the terms which follow. The general sentiment here is, that the man referred to is not the companion of wicked men.

    Nor standeth - This indicates more deliberation; a character more fixed and decided.

    In the way - The path where they are found, or where they usually go. His standing there would be as if he waited for them, or as if he desired to be associated with them. Instead of passing along in his own regular and proper employment, he stations himself in the path where sinners usually go, and lingers and loiters there. Thus, he indicates a desire to be with them. This is often, in fact, illustrated by men who place themselves, as if they had nothing to do, in the usual situation where the wicked pass along, or where they may be met with at the corners of the streets in a great city.

    Of sinners - חטאים chaṭṭâ'iym This word means literally, those who miss the mark; then, those who err from the path of duty or rectitude. It is often used to denote any kind or degree of sin. It is more specific than the former word rendered “ungodly,” as denoting those who depart from the path of duty; who fail in regard to the great end of life; who violate positive and known obligations.

    Nor sitteth - This implies still greater deliberation and determination of character than either of the other words employed. The man referred to here does not casually and accidentally walk along with them, nor put himself in their way by standing where they are ordinarily to be found; but he has become one of them by occupying a seat with them; thus deliberately associating with them. He has an established residence among the wicked; he is permanently one of their number.

    In the seat - The seat which the scornful usually occupy; the place where such men converse and sit together - as in a ball-room, or in a “club,” where wicked men hold their meetings, or where infidels and scoffers are accustomed to assemble.

    Of the scornful - לצים lētsiym This word properly means those who mock, deride, scoff; those who treat virtue and religion with contempt and scorn. Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 3:34; Proverbs 9:7-8; Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:12, et saepe. It denotes a higher and more determined grade of wickedness than either of the other words employed, and refers to the consummation of a depraved character, the last stage of wickedness, when God and sacred things are treated with contempt and derision. There is hope of a man as long as he will treat virtue and religion with some degree of respect; there is little or none when he has reached the point in his own character in which virtue and piety are regarded only as fit subjects for ridicule and scorn. We have here, then, a beautiful double gradation or climax, in the nouns and verbs of this verse, indicating successive stages of character. There is, first, casual walking with the wicked, or accidentally falling into their company; there is then a more deliberate inclination for their society, indicated by a voluntary putting of oneself in places where they usually congregate, and standing to wait for them; and then there is a deliberate and settled purpose of associating with them, or of becoming permanently one of them, by regularly sitting among them.

    So also it is in regard to the persons with whom they associate. They are, first, irreligious men in general; then, those who have so far advanced in depravity as to disregard known duty, and to violate known obligations; and then, those who become confirmed in infidelity, and who openly mock at virtue, and scoff at the claims of religion. It is unnecessary to say that, in both these respects, this is an accurate description of what actually occurs in the world. He who casually and accidentally walks with the wicked, listening to their counsel, will soon learn to place himself in their way, and to wait for them, desiring their society, and will ultimately be likely to be feared identified with open scoffers; and he who indulges in one form of depravity, or in the neglect of religion in any way, will, unless restrained and converted, be likely to run through every grade of wickedness, until he becomes a confirmed scoffer at all religion. The sentiment in this verse is, that the man who is truly blessed is a man who does none of these things. His associations and preferences are found elsewhere, as is stated in the next verse.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    To meditate in God's word, is to discourse with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it, with close application of mind and fixedness of thought. We must have constant regard to the word of God, as the rule of our actions, and the spring of our comforts; and have it in our thoughts night and day. For this purpose no time is amiss.
    Ellen G. White
    This Day With God, 177.4

    There are those who are forever making excuses for walking in the counsels of the enemy. Some think that because they have physical infirmities, they are privileged to speak pettish words and to act in an unlovely manner. But has Jesus made no provision for such ones to overcome temptation? Because of trial and affliction, are they to be unthankful and unholy? Are not the rays of Christ's righteousness bright enough to dispel the shadow of Satan? TDG 177.4

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    Ellen G. White
    That I May Know Him, 319

    Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. Psalm 1:1. TMK 319.1

    Those who have the blessing of the Lord are highly favored.... Be sure, then, that you do not choose the ungodly as your companions, for they will influence you to do those very things that will displease God and deprive you of His blessing.... TMK 319.2

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    Ellen G. White
    That I May Know Him, 187.2

    God does not want us to place ourselves upon the judgment seat and judge each other.... When we see errors in others, let us remember that we have faults graver, perhaps, in the sight of God than the fault we condemn in our brother. Instead of publishing his defects, ask God to bless him and to help him to overcome his error. Christ will approve of this spirit and action, and will open the way for you to speak a word of wisdom that will impart strength and help to him who is weak in the faith. TMK 187.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 90

    I state truth. The souls who love God, who believe in Christ, and who eagerly grasp every ray of light, will see light, and rejoice in the truth. They will communicate the light. They will grow in holiness. Those who receive the Holy Spirit will feel the chilling atmosphere that surrounds the souls of others by whom these great and solemn realities are unappreciated and spoken against. They feel that they are in the council of the ungodly, of men who stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of the scornful. TM 90.1

    The word of God speaketh truth, not a lie. In it is nothing strained, nothing extreme, nothing overdone. We are to accept it as the word of the living God. In obedience to that word, the church have duties to perform which they have not done. They are not to flee from the post of duty; but in trial and temptation they should lean more heavily upon God. There are difficulties to be met, but God's people as one must rise to the emergencies. There are duties to be discharged to the church and to our God. TM 90.2

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    Cross References
    A. M. 3560. B.C. 444. Blessed
    walketh
    counsel
    standeth
    way
    sitteth
    scornful