Psalm 37


Obviously sapiential like a list of proverbs but the psalm is acrostic, and therefore pedagogical. It is meant to teach that the world is well ordered and virtue is indeed rewarded. The description of the wicked is identical with that in individual lament psalms and as there, here too we hear of the final destiny of the wicked and by contrast, that of the righteous.

a) Ps 37: 1-2: Two prohibitions, plus a motivation introduced by the preposition, “for”.

  • Ps 37: 8-9: Three imperatives, followed by motivation preposition, “for” (see also Ps 37: 27-28).
  • Ps 37: 10-11: Dual observations
  • Ps 37: 12-13: States contrasts and present choices, similarly Ps 37: 18-20, 21.
  • Ps 37: 16: A “better” saying, yet another wisdom form. The same assumption underlines all the above forms, namely that the world is ordered, and conformity or non-conformity to this order has consequences. The main issues of order concern social conduct.

b) This psalm more than the Torah psalm articulates a close and predictable connection between deed and consequence. It would seem that the purpose of such instruction is to instil in the young socially acceptable modes of behaviour, which would contribute decisively to the well-being of the entire community.

c) The more substantive concern of this psalm is found in a series of reflections on how long to keep the land and how not to lose it. (cf. Lev 25: 23: The land belongs to Yahweh. It is his to allot to whom he will). The land is the fundamental blessing provided and certain moral conditions are fulfilled. The land is the specific experience of God’s well – ordered creation. There are five statements about land Ps 37: 9, 10-11, 22, 29, 34. The five statements are synonymous, that is, the land possession is linked to Yahweh, his governance and purpose. The psalm refutes every notion that the land can be bad on our own terms.

d) Ps 37: 35-38: A classic working out of the traditional theory of retribution.

What do you think?