Notes & Commentary:
[Ver. 1.] Theodoret observes that this psalm has “no title in Hebrew;” and some have attributed it to Esdras, when he collected the psalms into one book. But the Complutensian Septuagint reads, “A psalm for David;” “without a title among the Hebrews.” The Fathers attribute it to David, and suppose that he speaks particularly of Joseph of Arimathea, or of Jesus Christ; though the Jews refer this high encomium to Josias. Jeremias (xvii. 7.) has imitated this psalm, which may be considered as a preface to all the rest, and an abridgment of the whole duty of man. (Calmet) — Blessed. Hebrew also, Manifold are (Haydock) “the blessings” (Pagnin) both for time (Haydock) and eternity. (Worthington) — Ungodly, who mind no religion, or a false one. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “inconstant.” — Sinners, who are still more obstinate. (Calmet) — Pestilence. Hebrew, “scoffers,” who are the most dangerous sort of people, boldly deriding all religion, and maintaining atheism. There is a beautiful gradation here observed, showing the fatal consequences of evil company. If the virtuous associate with one even of the least contagious, the infection presently catches him, and he is soon introduced among the more dissolute, where he stops with little remorse, till at last he even glories in his shame, and becomes a champion of impiety, 1 Corinthians xv. 33. (Haydock) — These three sorts of wicked people may designate pagans, Jews, and heretics. (St. Clement [of Alexandria?], Strom. ii.; St. Jerome) (Calmet) — He is on the road to heaven, who has not consented to evil suggestions, nor continued in sin, so as to die impenitent. (Worthington)
Virtus est vitium fugere, et sapientia prima. (Horace i. ep. 1.)
— The suggestion, delight, and consent to sin, are here rejected, as well as every offence against God, ourselves, or our neighbours. (Hopper.)
Ver. 2. Will. He is wholly occupied and delighted in keeping God’s commandments. (Worthington) — This distinguishes the saint from him who only refrains from sin through fear. (Calmet) — Qui timet invitus observat. (St. Ambrose) — Yet even servile fear is of some service, as it restrains exterior conduct, and may, in time, give place to filial reverence. (Haydock) — Meditate, and put in practice. (Menochius) — Night. The Jews studied the books of the law so earnestly from their childhood, that they could recite them as easily as they could tell their own names; (Josephus, contra Apion 2.; Deuteronomy vi. 6.) and is it not a shame that many Christians should be so negligent, that they have never so much as read the gospels! (Calmet) though they be eager enough after idle books. The sacred writings are the records of our inheritance. They shew us our true destination, and deserve to be most seriously considered from the beginning to the end. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Tree. Probably the palm-tree, the emblem of a long life, Job xxviii. 18. The tree of life is watered by the river of living waters, proceeding from the throne of God, who is the source of all grace, Apocalypse xxii. 1., Luke xxi. 33., and John iv. 14. (Calmet) — Those who make good use of favours received, are continually supplied with fresh graces. (Worthington) — And. In the office-book a new verse begins here, though not in Hebrew, which the Vulgate follows. They were not marked by the sacred penman. — Prosper, and be rewarded hereafter, though the just man even among the Jews might be here afflicted. Prosperity was only promised to the nation, as long as it continued faithful. Individuals were in the same condition as Christians. They were to trust in the promises of futurity, though some have very erroneously asserted, that there is no mention of eternal felicity in these holy canticles; (Berthier) Ferrand says, hardly in the Old Testament. (Calmet) — All this verse might perhaps be better understood of the tree. “And its leaf….and whatever it shall produce,” faciet (fructum). (Haydock) — Some trees are always covered with leaves, like the palm-tree, &c. (Menochius)
Ver. 4. Not so. Hebrew, “but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” (Haydock) — They are inconstant (St. Jerome) in the good resolutions which they sometimes form. (Haydock) (Job xxi. 18.) — The good corn remains, but they are tossed about by every wind, and their memory perishes with all their children and effects. (Calmet) — They yield to the slightest temptation. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Again. So as to gain their cause, (Amama) or to make opposition; as the Hebrew yakumu, “stand up,” with defiance, intimates. (Haydock) — They are already judged, (John iii. 18.) and can make no defence; they being separated from the just, like goats. Kimchi (though he is defended by Amama. Haydock) and some other Jews, falsely asserts that the souls of the wicked will be annihilated, and that only the just Israelites will rise again. (Buxtorf, Syn. 1.) — But this is very different from the belief of the ancient Jews, who clearly assert the truth respecting future rewards and punishments, 2 Machabees vii. 9, 14, 23, and 36., and Wisdom v. 1., or Josephus, or 4 Machabees x. See Job, &c. — The Fathers have adduced many such proofs from the other parts of Scripture, which they had read with as much attention as modern critics. (Calmet) — Council, (Menochius) or rather “counsel,” as the same word, Boule, is used by the Septuagint as [in] ver. 1., (Calmet) though the Hebrew hadath, here be different, and mean a council, or assembly. (Menochius) — Septuagint and Vulgate may be understood in the same sense. (Haydock) — Sinners shall be destitute of all hope at the resurrection, and shall be driven from the society of the blessed. (Worthington) — They will not even be able to complain, since they had been so often admonished of their impending fate, (Berthier) and would not judge themselves in time. (St. Augustine; 1 Corinthians xi., and Acts xxiv. 15.) Protestants, “They shall not stand,” &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Knoweth, with approbation. There is only one road which leads to heaven: but these men, having sown in the flesh, must reap corruption, Galatians vi. 8. (Berthier) — God will reward or punish (Worthington) all according to their deserts. (Haydock) — To some he will thunder out, I never knew you; while others shall hear, Come, &c., Matthew xxv. 34., &c. (Calmet) — In this world, things seem to be in a sort of confusion, as the wicked prosper. But, at the hour of death, each will receive a final retribution. Temporal advantages have been dealt out to the wicked for the small and transitory acts of virtue, which scarcely any one can have failed to exercise; as on the other hand, the afflictions of this world have served to purify the elect from venial faults. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The happiness of the just: and the evil state of the wicked.
1 Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence:
2 *But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.
3 *And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.
And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.
4 Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind driveth from the face of the earth.
5 Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.
6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.
2: Josue i. 8.
3: Jeremias xvii. 18.