Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Psalms 1:4

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The ungodly are not so - The Vulgate and Septuagint, and the versions made from them, such as the Ethiopic and Arabic, double the last negation, and add a clause to the end of the verse, "Not so the ungodly, not so; they shall be like the dust which the wind scatters away from the face of the earth." There is nothing solid in the men; there is nothing good in their ways. They are not of God's planting; they are not good grain; they are only chaff, and a chaff that shall be separated from the good grain when the fan or shovel of God's power throws them up to the wind of his judgments. The manner of winnowing in the eastern countries is nearly the same with that practiced in various parts of these kingdoms before the invention of winnowing machines. They either throw it up in a place out of doors by a large wooden shovel against the wind; or with their weights or winnowing fans shake it down leisurely in the wind. The grain falls down nearly perpendicularly; and the chaff, through its lightness, is blown away to a distance from the grain.

An ungodly man is never steady; his purposes are abortive; his conversation light, trifling, and foolish; his professions, friendships, etc., frothy, hollow, and insincere; and both he and his works are carried away to destruction by the wind of God's judgments.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

The ungodly are not so - literally, “Not thus the wicked.” For the word ungodly, see the notes at Psalm 1:1. The statement that the “wicked are not so,” is a general statement applicable alike to their character and destiny, though the mind of the author of the psalm is fixed immediately and particularly on the difference in their destiny, without specifying anything particularly respecting their character. It is as true, however, that the ungodly do walk in the counsel of the wicked, and stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of the scornful, as it is that the righteous do not; as true that they do not delight in the law of the Lord, as it is that the righteous do; as true that the wicked are not like a tree planted by the channels of water, as it is that the righteous are. This passage, therefore, may be employed to show what is the character of the ungodly, and in so applying it, what was before negative in regard to the righteous, becomes positive in regard to the wicked; what was positive, becomes negative. Thus it is true:

(a) that the wicked do walk in the counsel of the ungodly; do stand in the way of sinners; do sit in the seat of the scornful;

(b) that they do not delight in the law of the Lord, or meditate on his word; and

(c) that they are not like a tree planted by the waters, that is green and beautiful and fruitful.

Both in character and in destiny the ungodly differ from the righteous. The subsequent part of the verse shows that, while the general truth was in the mind of the writer, the particular thing on which his attention was fixed was, his condition in life - his destiny - as that which could not be compared with a green and fruitful tree, but which suggested quite another image.

But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away - When the wheat was winnowed. This, in Oriental countries, was commonly performed in the open field, and usually on an eminence, and where there was a strong wind. The operation was performed, as it is now in our country, when a fan or fanning-mill cannot he procured, by throwing up the grain as it is threshed with a shovel, and the wind scatters the chaff, while the grain falls to the ground. See the notes at Matthew 3:12.

This very naturally and appropriately furnished an illustration of the destiny of the wicked. Compared with the righteous, they were like the worthless chaff driven away by the wind. The image is often found in the Scriptures. See Job 21:18, note; Isaiah 17:13, note. Compare also Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 41:15; Daniel 2:35; Hosea 13:3. The idea here is, that the wicked are in no respect like the green and fruitful tree referred to in Psalm 1:3. They are not like a tree in any respect. They are not even like a decaying tree, a barren tree, a dead tree, for either of these would suggest some idea of stability or permanency. They are like dry and worthless chaff driven off by the wind, as of no value to the farmer - a substance which he is anxious only to separate wholly from his grain, and to get out of his way. The idea thus suggested, therefore, is that of intrinsic worthlessness. It will be among other things, on this account that the wicked will be driven away - that they are worthless in the universe of God - worthless to all the purposes for which man was made. At the same time, however, there may be an implied contrast between that chaff and the useful grain which it is the object of the farmer to secure.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The ungodly are the reverse of the righteous, both in character and condition. The ungodly are not so, ver. 4; they are led by the counsel of the wicked, in the way of sinners, to the seat of the scornful; they have no delight in the law of God; they bring forth no fruit but what is evil. The righteous are like useful, fruitful trees: the ungodly are like the chaff which the wind drives away: the dust which the owner of the floor desires to have driven away, as not being of any use. They are of no worth in God's account, how highly soever they may value themselves. They are easily driven to and fro by every wind of temptation. The chaff may be, for a while, among the wheat, but He is coming, whose fan is in his hand, and who will thoroughly purge his floor. Those that, by their own sin and folly, make themselves as chaff, will be found so before the whirlwind and fire of Divine wrath. The doom of the ungodly is fixed, but whenever the sinner becomes sensible of this guilt and misery, he may be admitted into the company of the righteous by Christ the living way, and become in Christ a new creature. He has new desires, new pleasures, hopes, fears, sorrows, companions, and employments. His thoughts, words, and actions are changed. He enters on a new state, and bears a new character. Behold, all things are become new by Divine grace, which changes his soul into the image of the Redeemer. How different the character and end of the ungodly!