Psalm 37:1-2, 7-11, 16, 35-40

Psalm 37:1-2, 7-11, 16, 35-40
A Women’s Lectionary 40


Of David.A

Do not fretB because of the wicked;C
    do not be enviousD of wrongdoers,E

Notes on superscript-verse 1

A “David” = David. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); the root may mean to boil, which is used figuratively to describe love. So, this implies someone you love such as a friend, a lover, or a close family member like an uncle. David’s name likely means something like “beloved one.”
B “fret” = charah. Perhaps related to charar (to be hot, burn, glow, melt, be scorched; figuratively, to incite passion, be angry). This is to be displeased, burn with anger, glow, become warn. Figuratively it is a blaze of anger, zeal, or jealousy.
C “wicked” = ra’a’. This is to be evil, bad, afflict. Properly, it means to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces. Figuratively, it is to cause something to be worthless. It is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense – something that displeases, does harm or mischief, punishes or vexes.
D “be envious” = qanah. From qinah (zeal, jealousy). This is to be zealous or to provoke to jealousy.
E “wrongdoers” = asah + evel. Asah is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses. Evel is perhaps from aval (to deal unjustly, act in a wrongful way, a wrongdoer). This is injustice, wrong, moral evil, acts of violence, or unrighteousness.

for they will soonF fadeG like the grassH
    and witherI like the greenJ herb.K

Notes on verse 2

F “soon” = meherah. From mahar (being liquid, which implies flowing; hurrying forward, whether in a positive or negative sense). This is speed, quickly, shortly, promptly.
G “fade” = namal. 5x in OT. From the same as mul (to cut off, destroy, blunt, or circumcise). This is to cut down, language, circumcise, wither, or fade.
H “grass” = chatsir. Perhaps from the same as chatsir (village, settlement); from chatser (enclosure or court – a yard that is fenced in. It could also be a village or hamlet that is walled in); from chatsar (to blow a trumpet, trumpeter, to surround); from chatsotsrah (trumpet). This is grass, plant, hay, leeks.
I “wither” = nabel. This is to fall away, faint, wither, languish, sink. Figuratively, it can mean being senseless, foolish, or wicked. Further, it can be to despise, disgrace, or fall to nothing, to be seen with contempt.
J “green” = da. 6x in OT. Perhaps from yaraq (to spit). This is green, sickly vegetation, verdure.
K “herb” = deshe. 15x in OT– including “vegetation” from Genesis 1:11-12. From dasha (to sprout, grow green). This is grass, a shoot, or a tender herb.

Be stillL before the Lord,M and wait patientlyN for him;

Notes on verse 7a

L “be still” = damam. This is to cease, be or become mute, silent, still, cut off, hold peace, be astonished, or die.
M “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
N “wait patiently” = chul. This is whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain. It is used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear. It can also be falling in pain or waiting.

    do not fret over those who prosperO in their way,P
    over thoseQ who carry outR evil devices.S

Notes on verse 7b

O “prosper” = tsalach. This is pushing forward in a literal or figurative sense. So it could be to break out, to come mightily, to rush, to go over. Figuratively, it could mean to prosper.
P “way” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
Q “those” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
R “carry out” = asah. Same as “wrongdoers” in v1. See note E above.
S “evil devices” = mezimmah. 19x in OT. From zamam (to devise, plot, imagine, intend, scheme, think evil; usually in an evil sense). This is generally an evil plan like a machination. It could also refer to goodness, wisdom.

RefrainT from angerU and forsakeV wrath.W
    Do not fret—it leads onlyX to evil.Y

Notes on verse 8

T “refrain” = raphah. This is to slacken in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be to hang, be feeble, fail, drop, be helpless, relax, slink, subside, or wait.
U “anger” = aph. From anaph (to be angry; properly, breathing hard as a signifier of being enraged). This properly refers to the nose or nostril and by extension the face. It can specifically refer to anger or wrath as one breathes hard and nostrils flare in times of great anger.
V “forsake” = azab. To loosen, relinquish, permit, forsake, fail, leave destitute.
W “wrath” = chemah. From yacham (to be hot, mate; figuratively, to conceive). This is heat – figuratively it can be anger or fury. It can also refer to poison or venom as they can cause fever.
X “only” = ak. Related to aken (surely, truly, nevertheless); from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is a positive statement – surely, also, certainly, alone, only.
Y “leads…to evil” = ra’a’. Same as “wicked” in v1. See note C above.

For the wicked shall be cut off,Z
    but those who wait forAA the Lord shall inheritBB the land.CC

Notes on verse 9

Z “cut off” = karat. This is to cut down, cut off, or make a covenant (idiom for making a covenant is “to cut a covenant”). It can also mean to destroy, fail, or consume.
AA “wait for” = qavah. It can mean to bind or gather together, especially in the sense of twisting together. In that light, it can mean collect. Figuratively, this can mean to wait, await, expect, or tarry.
BB “inherit” = yarash. This is inheriting or dispossessing. It refers to occupying or colonizing – taking territory by driving out the previous inhabitants and living there instead of them. By implication, it can mean to seize or rob, to expel, ruin, or impoverish.
CC “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.

10 Yet a little while,DD and the wickedEE will be no more;
    though you look diligentlyFF for their place,GG they will not be there.

Notes on verse 10

DD “little while” = me’at. From ma’at (being or becoming small, decrease, diminish, pare off). This is a little or few, lightly little while, very small matter.
EE “wicked” = rasha. This is morally wrong so it refers to someone who is actively bad as wicked, criminal, an evil person, offender, condemned, or ungodly.
FF “look diligently” = bin. This is to discern, consider, attend to. It refers to distinguishing things in one’s mind or, more generally, to understand.
GG “place” = maqom. From qum(to arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide; rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action; standing in a figurative sense). This is a standing, which is to say a spot or space a place. It can also refer to a locality or a physical/mental condition. HaMaqom is also a Jewish name for God – the place, i.e. the Omnipresent One.

11 But the meekHH shall inherit the land
    and delightII themselves in abundantJJ prosperity.KK

Notes on verse 11

HH “meek” = anav. From anah (to be bowed down; can refer to a sense of humility or to a sense of being browbeaten, oppressed, afflicted, or depressed; literal or figurative – depressed in mood or circumstance). This is poor, needy, afflicted as well as humble or meek.
II “delight” = anog. 10x in OT. This is soft or delicate. Figuratively, it can mean luxurious or effeminate. Also, a dainty, delight, or joke.
JJ “abundant” = rob. From rabab (to be or become much or many, multiply). This is any kind of abundance.
KK “prosperity” = shalom. From shalam (to be complete or sound; to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate; so, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated). This is completeness, soundness, welfare, favor, friend, good health. It is to be safe and figuratively well, happy, at peace, friendly. Abstractly, it includes the ideas of welfare and prosperity (not in excessive wealth, but in having enough).

16 BetterLL is a little that the righteous personMM has
    than the abundanceNN of manyOO wicked.PP

Notes on verse 16

LL “better” = tob. From tob (to be pleasing, to be good). This is good, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, at ease. This word is used for goodness as a concept, a good thing, a good person. This can refer to prosperity and welfare as well as joy, kindness, sweetness, and graciousness. So, this is ethically good, but also enjoyably good.
MM “righteous person” = tsaddiq. From the same as tsedeq (rightness, righteousness, just cause, vindication; that which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense; abstractly equity; figuratively prosperity). This is just, innocent, righteous, righteous one, or lawful.
NN “abundance” = hamon. From hamah (to growl, cry out, be moved, murmur, hum, mourn, rage, clamor). This is a sound, noise, roar, rumbling, wealth, crowd, disquietude.
OO “many” = rab. Related to “abundant” in v11. From rabab (see note JJ above). This is abundance, many, elder, exceedingly, great. It refers to abundance of amount, rank, or status.
PP “wicked” = rasha. Same as “wicked” in v10. See note EE above.

35 I have seenQQ the wickedRR oppressingSS
    and toweringTT like a cedarUU of Lebanon.VV

Notes on verse 35

QQ “seen” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
RR “wicked” = rasha. Same as “wicked” in v10. See note EE above.
SS “oppressing” = arits. From arats (to tremble, dread, stand in awe, oppress, harass). This is awe-inspiring or terror-inducing, ruthless, tyrant, oppressor, violent, powerful.
TT “towering” = arah. 15x in OT. This is being or making someone naked or bare, to be defenseless, empty, poured out, spread, uncover. This can be to demolish, pour out, to empty, or to leave destitute.
UU “cedar” = ezrach. 17x in OT. From zarach (to rise, shine, or dawn; can also describe symptoms of leprosy). This is native or native-born. It can also refer to spontaneous growth, a bay tree.
VV “Lebanon” = raanan. From raan (to grow luxuriant, grow green). This is to be fresh, green, flourish, be new or prosperous.

36 Again I passed by,WW andXX they were no more;
    though I soughtYY them, they could not be found.ZZ

Notes on verse 36

WW “passed by” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
XX {untranslated} = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
YY “sought” = baqash. This is to seek, ask, desire, or request. It can be any kind of searching. It can also mean to worship or pray – implies a striving for.
ZZ “be found” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.

37 MarkAAA the blamelessBBB and beholdCCC the upright,DDD
    for there is posterityEEE for the peaceable.FFF

Notes on verse 37

AAA “mark” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
BBB “blameless” = tam. 14x in OT. From tamam (to finish or accomplish; to make perfect, demonstrate that you are upright; consume; to complete in a literal or figurative sense). This is complete, integrity, peaceful, perfect, blameless person, undefiled, upright. This is complete, generally from a moral perspective. It can be gentle or dear.
CCC “behold” = raah. Same as “seen” in v35. See note QQ above.
DDD “upright” = yashar. From yashar (to be straight, right, even, smooth, or agreeable; figuratively, to make something pleasant or prosperous). This is straight, right, level. Also, it is pleasing, whether pleasing God or pleasing other people. So, it is upright or righteous.
EEE “posterity” = acharith. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is the last, length, remnant, end, reward, future.
FFF “peaceable” = ish + shalom. Ish is the same as “those” in v7. See note Q above. Shalom is the same as “prosperity” in v11. See note KK above.

38 But transgressorsGGG shall be altogetherHHH destroyed;III
    the posterity of the wickedJJJ shall be cut off.

Notes on verse 38

GGG “transgressors” = pasha. This is to rebel, offend, quarrel. It is making a break from proper authority so can also refer to an apostate.
HHH “altogether” = yachad. From yachad (to join, be united). This is a unit, both, altogether, unitedness, alike.
III “destroyed” = shamad. This is to demolish, destroy, perish, overthrow, pluck down.
JJJ “wicked” = rasha. Same as “wicked” in v10. See note EE above.

39 The salvationKKK of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their refugeLLL in the timeMMM of trouble.NNN

Notes on verse 39

KKK “salvation” = teshuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue; properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe; to free someone). This is deliverance or salvation.
LLL “refuge” = maoz. From uz (to run for refuge, to seek safety, be strong) OR from azaz (to be strong, become fixed, be bold, prevail, be impudent; to be stout literally or figuratively). This is a defense, refuge, safety, fortress, rock, strength, or stronghold. It is somewhere one goes to be safe and protected or something one uses to be safe. Figuratively, it could be a defense or a force.
MMM “time” = et. Probably from anah (to answer, sing, announce); from ad (forever, all, old); from adah (to pass on, advance, decorate oneself). This is a period or season. It can also mean whenever or continually.
NNN “trouble” = tsarah. From tsar (properly, a narrow or constricted place; figuratively, trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress); from tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is tightness, distress, affliction, trouble, or adversary.

40 The Lord helpsOOO them and rescuesPPP them;
    he rescues them from the wickedQQQ and savesRRR them
    because they take refugeSSS in him.

Notes on verse 40

OOO “helps” = azar. This is to surround, which implies encircling to protect someone or help them out. It can also be help, ally, or support.
PPP “rescues” = palat. This is to escape, slip out, deliver, carry away, or calve.
QQQ “wicked” = rasha. Same as “wicked” in v10. See note EE above.
RRR “saves” = yasha. Related to “salvation” in v39. See note KKK above.
SSS “take refuge” = chasah. This is to take refuge or flee for protection. Figuratively, it means to hope or trust in someone or something.

Image credit: “Feathery, billowy, lacy, wind-blown veils” by Carol VanHook, 2015.

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