Topics The Psalms
Studies in the Psalms: Psalm 1
By Jeff A. Benner
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Blessed: There are two Hebrew words translated as "blessed." One is the verb barak (Strong's #1288), meaning "to be blessed." The other is the noun esher (Strong's #835) meaning "happy," and is the word used in this passage. This noun is derived from the verb ashar (Strong's #833), which means "to be straight." The Hebrew people saw two types of paths, the straight path and the crooked path. The straight path is the shortest distance between two points and is easy to follow. The crooked path is the longer path filled with peril and fatigue and one can easily become lost. The "straight ones" are those who walk the straight path and are, as we would say, "happy."
Walk : The Hebrew word for "walk" is halak (Strong's #1980) and is used over 1300 times in the Bible. In English we would use a word like "follow" in the context of this verse, but the Hebrew people use more tangible words in their writings. Because the Hebrews saw life as a journey, they see themselves "walking" through life.
Counsel: The word etsah (Strong's #6098) means counsel, which is the giving of advice, encouragement or guidance. Within the family, or the community, the counselor would be an elder, one filled with years of wisdom and experience. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible identifies this word as the feminine form of the masculine word ets (Strong's #6086) meaning a "tree." In the Hebrew mind this elder is seen as the support to the community in the same way that the trunk of a tree supports the branches of the tree, the members of the family or community.
Wicked: In the English language, a wicked person is one who performs evil, destructive or hateful acts. However, in the Hebrew language the noun rasha (Strong's #7563) has a very different meaning. This noun is derived from the verb rasha (Strong's #7561) and literally means "to depart from the path." Psalm 18:21 says, For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my Elohiym. The phrase "wickedly departed" is the word rasha. Those who chose the crooked path easily "depart" from that path, either by walking off the path on purpose or by becoming lost from the path.
Stand: amad (Strong's #5975) is a verb meaning "to stand" but can be used in a wide variety of applications such as, to be erect or upright, to remain or maintain in the sense of standing in one place or to establish or appoint in the sense of standing in a firm position. The noun form of this verb is amud (Strong's #5982) and is a pillar which stands firm and tall. Both the verb and noun form can be found in Exodus 14:19; And the pillar (amud) of the cloud went from before their face, and stood (amad) behind them.
Way: This is the Hebrew word derek (Strong's #1870) meaning a well-marked path or trail that may be followed to lead one to a specific destination.
Sinner: The Hebrew word chatta (Strong's #2400) is one who is guilty of a crime or offense. It is derived from the verb chata (Strong's #2398) and literally means "to miss" and is used in Judges 20:16, which reads, Everyone could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. When one shoots at a target and misses, he has "missed the mark." This is related in concept to the word rasha (Strong's #7563), used previously in the verse, as one who "departs" from the path, will also miss the destination of that path.
Sit: The verb yashab (Strong's #3427) literally means to dwell, such as in a lodging for the night, but can also mean to sit for a long period of time.
Seat: The noun moshab (Strong's 4186), derived out of the previous word yashab (Strong's #3427), is a dwelling place or habitation, a place where one will sit or dwell for a long period of time.
Scoffer: This is the translation of the Hebrew word luts (Strong's #3887), which literally means "to make mouths," to mimic, repeat or imitate another person's speech such as an ambassador, interpreter or mocker. In the context of this verse, this is one who mimics the actions of others and simply follows the crowd.
Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the lost, and in the path of the guilty he does not stand, and in the dwelling belonging to imitators he does not sit.
Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of those who walk away from the path, nor stands in the path of those who miss the destination, nor sits in the dwelling that belongs to those who just follow the crowd.
Summary of verse 1:
Like much of the book of Psalms, this verse is written in a form of Hebrew poetry, called chiasmus, where one idea is expressed in two or more different ways by paralleling different words and phrases. In this verse the "straight ones" are those who do not walk, stand or sit (three parallel actions) in the path of the ones who depart from the path, miss the mark or follow the crowd (three parallel persons). It is also of interest that the actions are progressive, from moving along the path, to stopping in the path and then sitting down to remain. In the same way, the type of persons are also progressive, one who walks away from the path, to one who has missed the destination and then to the one who just blindly follows others.
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Delight: The Hebrew word chephets (Strong's #2656) is a desire to acquire something that is valuable and may be a desire for an object, such as gold or silver, an action that one seeks, such as salvation, or, as in the context of this verse, a concept, such as the "Law of the LORD." This noun is derived out of the verb chaphets (Strong's #2654), which literally means "to bend," such as bending one's will, or changing one's direction, in order to acquire what is desired.
Law: In English, the word "law" usually refers to policies, regulations or codes that are established by someone, or a group, in authority and this authority will punish those who violate these "laws." However, the Hebrew word torah (Strong's #8451) has an entirely different meaning. This noun comes from the verb yarah (Strong's #3384), which means "to throw," such as the "throwing of water" (rain), the "throwing of an arrow" (shoot) or the throwing of a finger (point). The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible translates the Hebrew word torah as "teachings," the way one is to walk in life, through idea of a teacher "pointing" out the direction to go.
LORD: The word LORD (all upper case letters) is the Hebrew name יהוה, which is often transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah.
Meditate: The Hebrew verb hagah (Strong's #1897) means to reflect or contemplate.
Day: The Hebrew word yomam (Strong's #3119) is derived from the word yom (Strong's #3117) meaning "day," which can refer to a twenty-four hour period, daytime or a season. The word yomam always refers to the daylight hours, or daytime, the time between sunup and sundown.
Night: The Hebrew word Laylah (Strong's #3915) means "night time," the time of darkness.
But in the teachings of Yahweh is his desire and in his teachings he will meditate day and night.
But his desire is to walk in the path of the teachings of Yahweh and he will reflect and contemplate on his teachings day and night.
Summary of verse 2:
This verse is again a chiasmus, where the first part of the verse is paralleled with the second part of the verse. In the previous verse we are instructed on the path a happy person is not to walk in. In this verse, we are instructed on the path a happy person is to walk in and that path is the teachings of Yahweh. I have heard some say that we are "free from the law," but as the Hebrew torah does not mean "law," but instead "teaching," what they are really saying is that we are free from the teachings of Yahweh. I don't think a single follower of God would agree with that statement. We are not free from the teachings of Yahweh, instead we are to immerse ourselves in his teachings.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Tree: When we think of a tree an image comes to mind but, when the Hebrews who wrote the Bible think of a tree an action comes to mind. This is one of the foundational differences between Ancient Hebrew and Modern Western thought. The Hebrew word eyts (Strong's #6086) represents a tree but more the action of lifting up with support, the function of the trunk and branches of the tree. Other words related to this one also have this same active meaning. The word atseh (Strong's #6096) is the spine, eytsah (Strong's #6098) is a council and etsem (Strong's #6106) is the word for bones.
Planted: The verb shatal (Strong's #8362) is almost always translated as "plant," however, this word has the more specific meaning of transplanting, to remove something from an undesirable location and place it in a desirable location. This can be a plant such as a vine which is transplanted in better soil or a person who is placed in a better environment.
Stream: Peleg (Strong's #6388) comes from the verbal root palag (Strong's #6385) meaning "to split." A tributary is a stream that is "split" off from the main river.
Water: The word mayim (Strong's #4325) means waters, as it is a plural noun.
Yield: The verb natan (Strong's #5414) is a very common verb that is used in a wide variety of applications. It can mean to set in place, to grant permission, to pay, to speak (give words), to bring forth, to yield and much more.
Fruit: The noun p'riy (Strong's #6529) is the fruit of a plant or the offspring of a person, but can also be used for the fruit of an action. The consonantal root of this word is PR and is the origin of many of our 'fruit' words such as PeaR, aPRicot, PRune and PeRsimmon. When reversed we have gRaPe. It is also common for one letter to be exchanged for a similar sounding letter as words are passed from one language to another. One common exchange is the exchange between the R and the L which adds to the list of 'fruit' words coming from the PR root - apPLe and PLum. Another exchange is the P and B adding BeRry and RhuBarb (reversed) to the list. The exchange of the P and F brings us back to the word FRuit.
Season: The Hebrew noun eyt (Strong's #6256) more specifically means an appointed time such as a season, a scheduled event, or simply a specific point in time.
Leaf: The noun aleh (Strong's #5929), meaning a leaf, is derived from the root word alah (Strong's #5927) meaning to go up or to be high.
Wither: The verb naveyl (Strong's #5034) means to degrade, wither, wear out or be unproductive.
All: The word kol (Strong's #3605) means "all" and is a very common Biblical Hebrew word appearing over 4,000 times in the Hebrew Bible. The verbal root to this word is kul (Strong's #3557) and means to sustain in the sense of providing all that is needed for sustenance. For this reason, the word kol is related to the verb akal (Strong's #398) meaning to eat in the sense of sustenance.
Does: The verb asah (Strong's #6213) is a very common verb that simply means "to do" an action, but is used in a wide variety of applications of actions, most frequently being to "make" something, such as in Genesis 6:14 where Noah is instructed to "do" (make) an ark.
Prosper: The verb tsalahh (Strong's #6743) means to succeed by advancing forward in position, possessions or action. This word is often used in the context of a successful mission such as we see with Abraham's servant when going to his families homeland for a wife for his son (Genesis 24:40).
And he will be like a tree transplanted upon tributaries of water, which gives his fruit in his season and his leaf will not fade and all which he will do will succeed.
And he will be one who is strong and grow like a tree that is taken from an undesirable place and transplanted upon tributaries of water. He will produce his fruit in its proper time and his leaves will not fade away and everything that he will do will succeed.
Summary of verse 3:
The happy ones are those who follow the path of Yahweh (verse 2) and avoid the path of the lost, guilty and imitators (verse 1). They will find themselves taken to place where they can grow and succeed in all their actions. However, it must be kept in mind that their actions must be in line with the teachings of Yahweh, otherwise, they will be following the lost and their actions will fade away like the leaves of a dead tree.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. (RSV)
Wicked: This is the word rasha (Strong's #7563) and is the same word used in verse 1 meaning one who is lost from the path.
Chaff: The Hebrew noun mots (Strong's #4671) is the dry, scaly protective casings of grain seeds, which is removed in the threshing process.
Wind: The Hebrew noun ru'ahh (Strong's #7307) is literally the wind, but often used in the Bible for the spirit of God or man.
Drive Away: The verb nadaph (Strong's #5086) means to "twirl," or to "turn back and forth."
The lost are not so, but are like chaff that is twirled by the wind.
The ones who are lost from the path are not so, but are like the dry, scaly protective casings of grain seeds that are twirled around by a whirlwind.
Summary of verse 4:
The righteous are those who remain firm in their beliefs and actions. In contrast to them, the lost ones are like weightless chaff that is carried off in a whirlwind and twirled around. There is no substance to the lost and are easily carried in any direction.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; (RSV)
Therefore: This is the translation of the Hebrew phrase al keyn (Strong's #5921 & 3651) and can literally be translated as "upon so," but interpreted to mean "because of this."
Wicked: This is the word rasha (Strong's #7563) and is the same word used in verse 1 and 4 meaning one who is lost from the path.
Stand: The word "stand" appeared in the RSV in verse 1, but this is a different Hebrew word, it is the word qum (Strong's #6965) and literally means "to rise up," but can be used figuaratively in a wide variety of ways. In the context of this verse it is means "to maintain a firm position."
Judgment: This is the word mish'pat (Strong's #4941). This noun is derived from the verb shaphat (Strong's #8199) and means "to decide," "to judge." The noun mish'pat means a "decision," a "judgment."
Sinner: This is the word chatta (Strong's # 2400), the same word used in verse 1, meaning "guilty," one who misses the mark.
Congregation: This is the noun eydah (Strong's #5712), which is derived from the noun eyd (Strong's #5707) meaning "witness." The word eydah is a gathering of people with a common witness, a common goal or testimony.
Righteous: This is the word tsadiyq (Strong's #6662) and is frequently used as an antonym of the word rasha (Strong's #7563). As rasha means "to be lost from the path," the word tsadiyq means "to be on the correct path," one who is correct or right.
Because of this, the lost will not remain firm in decisions nor the guilty in the gathering of the correct ones.
Because of this, the ones lost from the path will not maintain a firm position in decisions and the ones who miss the destination will not maintain a firm position to the gathering those who have a common goal, the ones who are on the correct path.
Summary of verse 5:
There are those who maintain a firm position. They will remain faithful and true to their word and to others. These are the "righteous" who are on the correct path. Then there are those who do not maintain a firm position, they live a life that wavers. These are the "wicked," the ones who chose their own path and become lost and the "sinners," those who miss the final destination.
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (RSV)
LORD: The word LORD (all upper case letters) is the Hebrew name יהוה, which is often transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah.
Knows: This is the verb yada (Strong's #3045) meaning "to know," but not in the casual sense that we use this word today, but in an intimate way, such as in a close relationship or having a very familiar understanding of someone or something.
Way: This word appears twice in this verse and is the Hebrew word derek (Strong's #1870), meaning a well-marked path or trail that may be followed to lead one to a specific destination, and is the same word used in verse 1.
Righteous: This is the word tsadiyq (Strong's #6662), the same word used in verse 5, and is frequently used as an antonym of the word rasha (Strong's #7563), the same word used in verse 1, 4 and 5 and also appears in this verse. As rasha means "to be lost from the path," the word tsadiyq means "to be on the correct path," one who is correct or right.
Wicked: This is the word rasha (Strong's #7563) and is the same word used in verse 1, 4 and 5. This word means one who is lost from the path.
Perish: This is the Hebrew verb avad (Strong's #8799) and means "to be deserted or abandoned," "to be separated from the whole."
For Yahweh knows the path of the right ones, but the path of the lost ones lead to abandonment.
For Yahweh has an intimate understanding of the path that the ones who follow the correct path are walking in, but the path that the ones who are lost on will lead them to desertion and abandonment and will be separated from all others.
Summary of verse6:
The path the "righteous" follow is the path that Yahweh had laid out for them, and will lead them to a full and happy life. But the path that the "wicked" follow, will cause them to be lost, and they will find themselves deserted and abandoned and living a life of isolation and separation.
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