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Psalms 73:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

As a dream when one awaketh - So their goods fled away. Their possession was a dream - their privation, real.

Thou shalt despise their image - While destitute of true religion, whatever appearance they had of greatness, nobility, honor, and happiness; yet in the sight of God they had no more than the ghost or shade of excellence which God is said here to despise. Who would be rich at such risk and dishonor?

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

As a dream when one awaketh - Their prosperity is like the visions of a dream; the reality is seen when one awakes. A man in a dream may imagine that he is a king; that he dwells in a palace; that he is surrounded by flatterers and courtiers; that he walks in pleasant groves, listens to the sounds of sweet music, sits down at a table loaded with the luxuries of all climes, and lies upon a bed of down. He may awake only to find that he is encompassed with poverty, or that he is on a bed of languishing, or that he is the miserable tenant of a hovel or a dungeon. The reality is when he awakes. So it is in regard to our present condition on earth. The reality is seen when the dream - the gorgeous dream - of life is over.

So, O Lord, when thou awakest - The Hebrew expression here - בעיר bā‛ı̂yr - occurs in more than fifty other places in the Scriptures, and is in all these places translated “in the city.” This interpretation, however, would be quite unmeaning here, and the probability is that the expression is a form of the verb עור ‛ûr “to awake, to arouse;” and the idea is not, as in our version, that of “God‘s” awaking as if he had been asleep, but it refers to the dreamer when he shall awake. It is, literally, in the awaking; that is, when the dream is over.

Thou shalt despise their image - The image that floated before their imaginations in the dream of life. Thou wilt pay no attention to it; there is no reality in it; it will at once vanish. In the future world, God will pay no regard to the dreams of human life, to the outward show, to the appearance; but the affairs of eternity will be regulated by what is real - by that which constitutes the character of the man. By that, and not by the vain dreams of the world, will the destiny of people be determined. We are to look at “that” in determining the question about the government of God, and not at what “appears” in the brief dream of life.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The psalmist having shown the progress of his temptation, shows how faith and grace prevailed. He kept up respect for God's people, and with that he restrained himself from speaking what he had thought amiss. It is a sign that we repent of the evil thoughts of the heart, if we suppress them. Nothing gives more offence to God's children, than to say it is vain to serve God; for there is nothing more contrary to their universal experience. He prayed to God to make this matter plain to him; and he understood the wretched end of wicked people; even in the height of their prosperity they were but ripening for ruin. The sanctuary must be the resort of a tempted soul. The righteous man's afflictions end in peace, therefore he is happy; the wicked man's enjoyments end in destruction, therefore he is miserable. The prosperity of the wicked is short and uncertain, slippery places. See what their prosperity is; it is but a vain show, it is only a corrupt imagination, not substance, but a mere shadow; it is as a dream, which may please us a little while we are slumbering, yet even then it disturbs our repose.
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