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Psalm 37[a]

By David.

37 Do not fret[b] when wicked men seem to succeed.[c]
Do not envy evildoers.
For they will quickly dry up like grass,
and wither away like plants.[d]
Trust in the Lord and do what is right.
Settle in the land and maintain your integrity.[e]
Then you will take delight in the Lord,[f]
and he will answer your prayers.[g]
Commit your future to the Lord.[h]
Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.[i]
He will vindicate you in broad daylight,
and publicly defend your just cause.[j]
Wait patiently for the Lord![k]
Wait confidently[l] for him!
Do not fret over the apparent success of a sinner,[m]
a man who carries out wicked schemes.
Do not be angry and frustrated.[n]
Do not fret. That only leads to trouble.
Wicked men[o] will be wiped out,[p]
but those who rely on the Lord are the ones who will possess the land.[q]
10 Evil men will soon disappear;[r]
you will stare at the spot where they once were, but they will be gone.[s]
11 But the oppressed will possess the land
and enjoy great prosperity.[t]
12 Evil men plot against the godly[u]
and viciously attack them.[v]
13 The Lord laughs in disgust[w] at them,
for he knows that their day is coming.[x]
14 Evil men draw their swords
and prepare their bows,
to bring down[y] the oppressed and needy,
and to slaughter those who are godly.[z]
15 Their swords will pierce[aa] their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 The little bit that a godly man owns is better than
the wealth of many evil men,[ab]
17 for evil men will lose their power,[ac]
but the Lord sustains[ad] the godly.
18 The Lord watches over the innocent day by day,[ae]
and they possess a permanent inheritance.[af]
19 They will not be ashamed when hard times come;[ag]
when famine comes they will have enough to eat.[ah]
20 But[ai] evil men will die;
the Lord’s enemies will be incinerated[aj]
they will go up in smoke.[ak]
21 Evil men borrow, but do not repay their debt,
but the godly show compassion and are generous.[al]
22 Surely[am] those favored by the Lord[an] will possess the land,
but those rejected[ao] by him will be wiped out.[ap]
23 The Lord grants success to the one
whose behavior he finds commendable.[aq]
24 Even if[ar] he trips, he will not fall headlong,[as]
for the Lord holds[at] his hand.
25 I was once young, now I am old.
I have never seen the godly abandoned,
or their children[au] forced to search for food.[av]
26 All day long they show compassion and lend to others,[aw]
and their children[ax] are blessed.
27 Turn away from evil. Do what is right.[ay]
Then you will enjoy lasting security.[az]
28 For the Lord promotes[ba] justice,
and never abandons[bb] his faithful followers.
They are permanently secure,[bc]
but the children[bd] of the wicked are wiped out.[be]
29 The godly will possess the land
and will dwell in it permanently.
30 The godly speak wise words
and promote justice.[bf]
31 The law of their God controls their thinking;[bg]
their[bh] feet do not slip.
32 The wicked set an ambush for the godly
and try to kill them.[bi]
33 But the Lord does not surrender the godly,
or allow them to be condemned in a court of law.[bj]
34 Rely[bk] on the Lord. Obey his commands.[bl]
Then he will permit you[bm] to possess the land;
you will see the demise of the wicked.[bn]
35 I have seen ruthless, wicked people[bo]
growing in influence, like a green tree grows in its native soil.[bp]
36 But then one passes by, and suddenly they have disappeared.[bq]
I looked for them, but they could not be found.
37 Take note of the one who has integrity. Observe the upright.
For the one who promotes peace has a future.[br]
38 Sinful rebels are totally destroyed;[bs]
the wicked have no future.[bt]
39 But the Lord delivers the godly;[bu]
he protects them in times of trouble.[bv]
40 The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked and delivers them,[bw]
for they seek his protection.


  1. Psalm 37:1 sn Psalm 37. The psalmist urges his audience not to envy the wicked, but to trust in and obey the Lord, for he will destroy sinners and preserve the godly. When the smoke of judgment clears, the wicked will be gone, but the godly will remain and inherit God’s promised blessings. The psalm is an acrostic; every other verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
  2. Psalm 37:1 tn The verb form is singular (see vv. 3-10 as well, where the second person verbs and pronouns are also singular). The psalmist’s exhortation has a wisdom flavor to it; it is personalized for each member of his audience.
  3. Psalm 37:1 tn Heb “over sinners.” The context indicates that the psalmist has in mind the apparent power and success of sinners. See v. 7b.
  4. Psalm 37:2 tn Heb “like green vegetation.”
  5. Psalm 37:3 tn Heb “tend integrity.” The verb רָעָה (raʿah, “tend, shepherd”) is probably used here in the sense of “watch over, guard.” The noun אֱמוּנָה (ʾemunah, “faithfulness, honesty, integrity”) is understood as the direct object of the verb, though it could be taken as an adverbial accusative, “[feed] securely,” if the audience is likened to a flock of sheep.
  6. Psalm 37:4 tn Following the imperatives of v. 3 the prefixed verbal forms with vav (ו) in v. 4 indicate result. Faith and obedience (v. 3) will bring divine blessing (v. 4).
  7. Psalm 37:4 tn Or “and he will give you what you desire most.” Heb “and he will grant to you the requests of your heart.”
  8. Psalm 37:5 tn Heb “roll your way upon the Lord.” The noun “way” may refer here to one’s activities or course of life.
  9. Psalm 37:5 tn Heb “he will act.” Verse 6 explains what is meant; the Lord will vindicate those who trust in him.
  10. Psalm 37:6 tn Heb “and he will bring out like light your vindication, and your just cause like noonday.”
  11. Psalm 37:7 tn Heb “Be quiet before the Lord!”
  12. Psalm 37:7 tc The Hebrew text has וְהִתְחוֹלֵל (vehitkholel, Hitpolel of חִיל, khil, “writhe with fear, suffer”) but this idea fits awkwardly here. The text should be changed to וְתוֹחֵל (vetokhel; Hiphil of יָחַל, yakhal, “wait”). It appears that the Hebrew text is the product of dittography: (1) the initial וה (vav-he) is accidentally repeated from the preceding word (יְהוָה, yehvah) and (2) the final ל (lamed) is accidentally repeated (note the preceding lamed and the initial lamed on the following form, לו).
  13. Psalm 37:7 tn Heb “over one who causes his way to be successful.”
  14. Psalm 37:8 tn Heb “Refrain from anger! Abandon rage!”
  15. Psalm 37:9 tn Heb “for evil men.” The conjunction כִּי (ki, “for”) relates to the exhortations in v. 8; there is no reason to be frustrated, for the evildoers will be punished in due time.
  16. Psalm 37:9 tn Or “cut off, removed.”
  17. Psalm 37:9 tn Heb “and those who wait on the Lord, they will possess the land.”
  18. Psalm 37:10 tn Heb “and yet, a little, there will be no wicked [one].”
  19. Psalm 37:10 tn Heb “and you will carefully look upon his place, but he will not be [there].” The singular is used here in a representative sense; the typical evildoer is in view.
  20. Psalm 37:11 tn Heb “and they will take delight in (see v. 4) abundance of peace.”
  21. Psalm 37:12 tn Or “innocent.” The singular is used here in a representative sense; the typical evildoer and the typical godly individual are in view.
  22. Psalm 37:12 tn Heb “and gnashes at him with his teeth” (see Ps 35:16). The language may picture the evil men as wild animals. The active participles in v. 12 are used for purposes of dramatic description.
  23. Psalm 37:13 tn Heb “laughs.” As the next line indicates, this refers to derisive laughter (see 2:4). The Hebrew imperfect verbal form describes the action from the perspective of an eye-witness who is watching the divine response as it unfolds before his eyes.
  24. Psalm 37:13 tn Heb “for he sees that his day is coming.” As the following context makes clear (vv. 15, 17, 19-20), “his day” refers to the time when God will destroy evildoers.
  25. Psalm 37:14 tn Heb “to cause to fall.”
  26. Psalm 37:14 tn Heb “the upright in way,” i.e., those who lead godly lives.
  27. Psalm 37:15 tn Heb “enter into.”
  28. Psalm 37:16 tn Heb “Better [is] a little to the godly one than the wealth of many evil ones.” The following verses explain why this is true. Though a godly individual may seem to have only meager possessions, he always has what he needs and will eventually possess the land. The wicked may prosper for a brief time, but will eventually be destroyed by divine judgment and lose everything.
  29. Psalm 37:17 tn Heb “for the arms of the evil ones will be broken.”
  30. Psalm 37:17 tn The active participle here indicates this is characteristically true.
  31. Psalm 37:18 tn Heb “the Lord knows the days of the innocent ones.” He “knows” their days in the sense that he is intimately aware of and involved in their daily struggles. He meets their needs and sustains them.
  32. Psalm 37:18 tn Heb “and their inheritance is forever.”
  33. Psalm 37:19 tn Heb “in a time of trouble.”
  34. Psalm 37:19 tn Heb “in days of famine they will be satisfied.”
  35. Psalm 37:20 tn Or “for,” but Hebrew כִּי (ki) in this case would have to extend all the way back to v. 17a. Another option is to understand the particle as asseverative, “surely” (see v. 22).
  36. Psalm 37:20 tc The meaning of the MT (כִּיקַר כָּרִים [kiqar karim], “like what is precious among the pastures/rams”) is uncertain. One possibility is to take the noun כָּרִים as “pastures” and interpret “what is precious” as referring to flowers that blossom but then quickly disappear (see v. 2 and BDB 430 s.v. יָקָר 3). If כָּרִים is taken as “rams,” then “what is precious” might refer to the choicest portions of rams. The present translation follows a reading in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QpPs37), כיקוד כורם (“like the burning of an oven”). The next line, which pictures the Lord’s enemies being consumed in smoke, supports this reading, which assumes confusion of the Hebrew letters ר (resh) and ד (dalet) at the end of the first word in the sequence.
  37. Psalm 37:20 tn Heb “they perish in smoke, they perish.” In addition to repeating the verb for emphasis, the psalmist uses the perfect form of the verb to picture the enemies’ demise as if it had already taken place. In this way he draws attention to the certitude of their judgment.
  38. Psalm 37:21 tn Heb “an evil [man] borrows and does not repay, but a godly [man] is gracious and gives.” The singular forms are used in a representative sense; the typical evildoer and godly individual are in view. The three active participles and one imperfect (“repay”) draw attention to the characteristic behavior of the two types.
  39. Psalm 37:22 tn The particle כִּי (ki) is best understood as asseverative or emphatic here.
  40. Psalm 37:22 tn Heb “those blessed by him.” The pronoun “him” must refer to the Lord (see vv. 20, 23), so the referent has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  41. Psalm 37:22 tn Heb “cursed.”
  42. Psalm 37:22 tn Or “cut off”; or “removed” (see v. 9).
  43. Psalm 37:23 tn Heb “from the Lord the steps of a man are established, and in his way he delights.” The second line qualifies the first. The man whose behavior is commendable in God’s sight is the one whose ways are established by God. Another option is that the second line refers to the godly man delighting in God’s “way,” namely the lifestyle which he prescribes for men. In this case one might translate, “The Lord grants success to the one who desires to obey his commands.”
  44. Psalm 37:24 tn Other translation options for כִּי (ki) in this context are “when” (so NASB) or “though” (so NEB, NIV, NRSV).
  45. Psalm 37:24 tn Heb “be hurled down.”
  46. Psalm 37:24 tn The active participle indicates this is characteristically true. See v. 17.
  47. Psalm 37:25 tn Or “offspring”; Heb “seed.”
  48. Psalm 37:25 tn Heb “or his offspring searching for food.” The expression “search for food” also appears in Lam 1:11, where Jerusalem’s refugees are forced to search for food and to trade their valuable possessions for something to eat.
  49. Psalm 37:26 tn The active participles describe characteristic behavior.
  50. Psalm 37:26 tn Or “offspring”; Heb “seed.”
  51. Psalm 37:27 tn Or “Do good!” The imperatives are singular (see v. 1).
  52. Psalm 37:27 tn Heb “and dwell permanently.” The imperative with vav (ו) is best taken here as a result clause after the preceding imperatives.
  53. Psalm 37:28 tn Heb “loves.” The verb “loves” is here metonymic; the Lord’s commitment to principles of justice causes him to actively promote these principles as he governs the world. The active participle describes characteristic behavior.
  54. Psalm 37:28 tn The imperfect verbal form draws attention to this generalizing statement.
  55. Psalm 37:28 tn Or “protected forever.”
  56. Psalm 37:28 tn Or “offspring”; Heb “seed.”
  57. Psalm 37:28 tn Or “cut off”; or “removed.” The perfect verbal forms in v. 28b state general truths.
  58. Psalm 37:30 tn Heb “The mouth of the godly [one] utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” The singular form is used in a representative sense; the typical godly individual is in view. The imperfect verbal forms draw attention to the characteristic behavior of the godly.
  59. Psalm 37:31 tn Heb “the law of his God [is] in his heart.” The “heart” is here the seat of one’s thoughts and motives.
  60. Psalm 37:31 tn Heb “his.” The pronoun has been translated as plural to agree with the representative or typical “godly” in v. 30.
  61. Psalm 37:32 tn Heb “an evil [one] watches the godly [one] and seeks to kill him.” The singular forms are used in a representative sense; the typical evildoer and godly individual are in view. The active participles describe characteristic behavior.
  62. Psalm 37:33 tn Heb “the Lord does not abandon him into his hand or condemn him when he is judged.” The imperfects draw attention to the Lord’s characteristic behavior in this regard.
  63. Psalm 37:34 tn Or “wait.”
  64. Psalm 37:34 tn Heb “keep his way.” The Lord’s “way” refers here to the “conduct required” by the Lord. In Ps 25 the Lord’s “ways” are associated with his covenantal demands (see vv. 4, 9-10). See also Ps 119:3 (cf. vv. 1, 4), as well as Deut 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16.
  65. Psalm 37:34 tn Heb “and he will lift you up.” The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) is best taken here as a result clause following the imperatives in the preceding lines.
  66. Psalm 37:34 tn Heb “when evil men are cut off you will see.”
  67. Psalm 37:35 tn The Hebrew uses the representative singular again here.
  68. Psalm 37:35 tn Heb “being exposed [?] like a native, luxuriant.” The Hebrew form מִתְעָרֶה (mitʿareh) appears to be a Hitpael participle from עָרָה (ʿarah, “be exposed”), but this makes no sense in this context. Perhaps the form is a dialectal variant of מִתְעָלָה (“giving oneself an air of importance”; see Jer 51:3), from עָלָה (ʿalah, “go up”; see P. C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 [WBC], 296). The noun אֶזְרָח (ʾezrakh, “native, full citizen”) refers elsewhere to people, but here, where it is collocated with “luxuriant, green,” it probably refers to a tree growing in native soil.
  69. Psalm 37:36 tn Heb “and he passes by and, look, he is not [there].” The subject of the verb “passes by” is probably indefinite, referring to any passerby. Some prefer to change the form to first person, “and I passed by” (cf. NEB; note the first person verbal forms in preceding verse and in the following line).
  70. Psalm 37:37 tn Heb “for [there is] an end for a man of peace.” Some interpret אַחֲרִית (ʾakharit, “end”) as referring to offspring (see the next verse and Ps 109:13; cf. NEB, NRSV).
  71. Psalm 37:38 tn Or “destroyed together.” In this case the psalmist pictures judgment sweeping them away as a group.
  72. Psalm 37:38 tn Heb “the end of evil men is cut off.” As in v. 37, some interpret אַחֲרִית (ʾakharit, “end”) as referring to offspring (see Ps 109:13). The perfect verbal forms in v. 38 probably express general truths. Another option is that they are used emphatically to state with certitude that the demise of the wicked is as good as done.
  73. Psalm 37:39 tn Heb “and the deliverance of the godly [ones] [is] from the Lord.”
  74. Psalm 37:39 tn Heb “[he is] their place of refuge in a time of trouble.”
  75. Psalm 37:40 tn The prefixed verbal forms with vav (ו) consecutive carry on the generalizing tone of the preceding verse.