(Click to play Marty Goetz Psalm 1 song)
Psalm 1 and the Benefits of Torah

Written by J. Hampton Keathley, III    This first Psalm stands as a kind of introduction to the rest of the Psalms. Its subject matter is very general and basic, but it touches on two subjects that continually occur throughout the Psalms. It declares the blessedness of the righteous and the misery and future of the wicked.

Man’s spiritual life is set forth negatively and positively, inwardly and externally, figuratively and literally. Above all else, it summarizes all that is to follow in the rest of the Psalms, and, for that matter, in the rest of the Tanakh.

It presents two ways of life: the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. However, the key subject is the centrality of יהוה’s Torah to the life and fruitfulness of the righteous who truly love His Torah. Two great truths flow out of this: (a) the importance and absolute necessity of the Torah, and (b) the changed character, stability, and fruitfulness it promises to those who make Torah the core of their lives.

Note how this Psalm drives home its truth by the use of contrasts.

(1) There is the way of the Godly and their blessedness in contrast to the way of the ungodly (1:1-6).

(2) The way of the Godly is set forth by way of a contrast: negatively, what the Godly do not do (1:1), and positively, what the Godly do (1:2).

(3) Then there is the contrast between the results of the two ways of life; the Godly are stable and fruitful, but the ungodly are unstable and face sure judgment. Here is a contrast between character and destiny.

Psalm one is a wisdom Psalm. There are praise Psalms, lament Psalms, and enthronement Psalms and all contain wisdom, of course, but as an introduction and door to the rest of the Psalms, this Psalm declares in just a few words some of the most basic but profound truths and propositions of the Bible.

In essence, יהוה says there are two ways of life open to us: one means blessedness, happiness, and fruitfulness, but the other means cursedness, unhappiness, and judgment. The choice is ours. Blessedness is a choice, but to be blessed, one must by faith obey the conditions; he must pursue the way of blessedness as described in this Psalm.

The Way of the Godly (1:1-3)
1 Proceeding, and advancing in the way of understanding is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ones who depart from the path, Nor stand in the way of the ones who fall short and miss the mark, in the seat of scorners, he has not sat.!
2 But rather the delight of him is in the Torah of יהוה, And in His Torah he is meditating day and night
. 3 And he becomes like a tree being transplanted on irrigation canals of water; Which is giving its fruit in its season, And its leaf is not withering; And all which he is doing, he shall prosper.
“Proceeding,and advancing in the way of understanding is the man who … ”

By position and context, the Hebrew is exclamatory. It means, “Oh, the blessedness.” It stresses this as a fact to those who fulfill the conditions or proposition of the passage.

“Blessed” is plural in ַאַשְֽׁרֵי (esher) the Hebrew and literally means, “Oh the blessednesses, or the blessings.” It is an intensive plural and is designed to emphasize the multiplicity of blessings and happiness to those who fulfill the requirements marked out in this Psalm. We might paraphrase, “Oh how very, very happy is the one who …”

Applications of this principle for the Messianic believer are multiplied ad infinitum both positionally (Eph. 1:3; 3:20; Col. 2:10), and experientially (Phil. 4:19).

The Hebrew word for “blessing” is ַאַשְֽׁרֵי (esher) . Interestingly, it comes from a word which means “to go straight, go forward, advance, set right.” The root verb (ַא ְׁש ֵר) means: (a) to “proceed, advance in the way of understanding” (Prov. 9:6b), (b) “do not proceed in the way of evil men” (Prov. 4:14), and (c) in Isaiah 1:17 it is used of correcting false rulers so they will go straight through learning and advancing in the Torah.

Blessing ("proceed, advance in the way of understanding”) comes from growth in the plan of יהוה through fellowship with Him and through the Torah of יהוה. While believers have a heavenly position and an eternal inheritance secured by the work of Yeshua Messiah, the experience of their blessings, the increase of their capacity to appreciate the Lord, and their capacity for happiness is directly proportional to their knowledge and application of the Torah. This must not be understood in the sense of obedience to a set of rules and principles, like a prescription or a formula, but in the sense of an obedience of faith that such a life brings to the one who believes the concepts of this passage.

This is a beatitude. A beatitude pronounces blessing upon a certain group of people. It is not, however, an unconditional pronouncement, nor a pronouncement of bliss or a life without problems. It is conditional and this is strongly stressed. Note, “how blessed is the man who …” The article specifies a certain kind of man, “the man who obeys the actions of this passage.”

By the sound of the words, the Hebrew has a play on these words which drive this home. “Who” is the Hebrew relative pronoun,ֲאֲשֶׁר( aher). “Blessed” is the Hebrew noun, ַאַשְֽׁרֵי (esher). Now listen to the sound of the text in Hebrew,אַשְֽׁרֵי־הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר (ashri eaish ashr). “Blessed is the man who.” “Who” is a function word which introduces us to the person who is so blessed, one who has the qualities of life which lead to blessedness.

Remember this is the Torah of יהוה and every jot and every tittle are important. Blessing is pronounced, but only on those who comply with certain divine demands or spiritual qualities. But what are these in general?

The passage is not speaking about complying with a system of works or self-righteous , nor complying with a special formula so one may then experience blessedness. Instead, a beautitude promises blessing to those whose lives are characterized by certain qualities as the outcome of faith and relationship with יהוה. The principle is that certain things corrupt, they tear down and destroy. Other things build, develop, make fruitful, and give the capacity and means for happiness through trust and fellowship with יהוה. This is the message of this Psalm. Now, what are those things?

Negatively: Things to Avoid (1:1)

There are three things the man who is blessed must avoid. But let’s first note how the author develops this because it is so instructive and is a warning in itself. As it is presented, it demonstrates the process of retrogression, which always occurs when men are not advancing in יהוה’s words and way of life. We never stand still! Verse one portrays this truth in three degrees of degeneration, each a little more permanent, settled, and embedded into one’s life.

(1) There are three degrees of habit or conduct: walk / stand / sit.

(2) There are three degrees of openness, fellowship, or involvement in evil: counsel / path / seat.

(3) There are three degrees of evil that result: wicked / sinners / scoffers.

In each of these there is regression from the way of יהוה and a progression into sin and Satan’s way. It warns us how man is prone to turn aside little by little and become more and more entangled in the web of sin. He is easily influenced by the way of the world in its attitudes and actions, for actions follow attitudes.

Let’s look at each of these three negative statements in their three-fold breakdown:

“Does not walk / in the counsel / of the ones who depart from the path”

“Does not walk.” “Walk” is the Hebrew הָלַךְ (Halak) which metaphorically means, “to go along with, follow a course of action,” or “to live, follow a way of life.” It has the idea of “go along with, use, follow.” The tense is decisive, he is one who has chosen not to follow this path.

“In the counsel.” “Counsel” is the Hebrew עֲצַת (etsah) which means, “purpose, plan, resolution of the will,” or “deliberation, viewpoint, way of thinking.” It refers to a mental attitude, a state of mind, or viewpoint that determines the decisions that we make. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The man of blessedness is one who has determined to walk by the whole counsel of the Torah, not by his emotions, experience, tradition, by popular opinion or by what is politically correct.

“Of the wicked ones.” “Of” is a genitive of source, i.e., counsel from those who are wicked, from those who want nothing to do with the way of יהוה . This is the kind of counsel that we must avoid.

“Wicked ones” is a Hebrew word רְשָׁעִים (Rashim) which has as its root idea, “to be loose, unstable.” This word carries two ideas. First, it means to be loose with reference to morals. It means immoral and without Godly restraint or controls. It also means Godly, Godless, or negative toward יהוה, loose from יהוה, without Him as an anchor or controlling factor. It refers to those who are guided and controlled by their own desires, emotions, impulses of the mind and flesh rather than by the Torah and the Ruach Ha Kodesh.

The Hebrew word רְשָׁעִים (Rashim) actualy comes from the primative root word רְשָׁעִ (asha` raw-shah) a primitive root; to be (causatively, do or declare) wrong; by implication, to disturb, violate:--condemn, make trouble, vex, be (commit, deal, depart, do) wicked(-ly, -ness). The key idea of the Hebrew speaks of one who "Departs from the path"

“Nor stand / in the path / of ones who fall short and miss the mark”

“Stand” is the Hebrew עָמָד (amad). It means “to stop, to be firm.” From merely walking in their counsel, one becomes more confirmed in the way of the wicked, more involved and influenced. It connotes movement toward the formation of habits or patterns.

“In the path.” “Path” is the Hebrew word דֶרֶךְ (derek) and means, “a way, course of action, journey, manner, work.” It refers to one’s conduct, behavior patterns, habits and responses. Here we see patterns forming and becoming entrenched. From thinking like the world we begin to act like the world.

“Of sinful ones.” “Sinful ones” is the Hebrew חַטָּאִים (Chattim). It was an archery term and meant “to fall short, miss the mark.” The mark is the will and plan of יהוה as revealed in Torah. Sin is the transgression of the Torah. It is whatever misses the will of יהוה for man doctrinally or morally. We are all sinners. We all miss the mark, and none of us are perfect nor will we ever be perfect in this life. This is why Messiah had to die for our sin so we might have His righteousness. But “sinners” here refers to those who have deliberately chosen a way of life, a path contrary to the plan of יהוה as revealed in the Torah of יהוה. The man of blessedness chooses to direct his life by יהוה’s plan according to His Torah.

“Nor sit / in the seat / of the scornful (ones mocking)”

“Nor sit.” Literally this can be translated, “in the seat of scorners, he has not sat.” “Sit” is the Hebrew word יָשָֽׁב (Yasheb) meaning “to sit, dwell, remain, abide.” It emphasizes a thoroughly settled state or condition—settled down, comfortable, content with the world with its patterns entrenched in our lives. I’m afraid this is the state of the majority—even of the majority of the followers of Messiah today. Many followers of Messiah Yeshua today are comfortable with their religion; they are merely playing at being followers of Messiah Yeshua. They are not advancing in their life with Messiah, but are materialistic, earthly-oriented, living as earthdwellers and not sojourners.

“In the seat.” “Seat” is the Hebrew word מוֹשַׁב (Mowshab). It means: (a) a seat, a place of sitting, or (b) an assembly where many are gathered together to sit and make deals or have close associations. The point is, when you sit in someone’s seat, according to the idiom, you act like or become what they are. You are viewed as in a confederacy with them.

“Of scoffers.” “Scoffers” (the ones mocking) is the Hebrew word לֵצִים (Litzim). It means “to mock, deride, ridicule, scoff.” Grammatically, it is a participle of habitual action. It refers to one who is actively engaged in putting down the things of יהוה and His Torah. But please note that scoffing can occur by declaration of words or by declaration of a way of life that scorns the moral absolutes of Torah and its way of life.

From this retrogressive process, it is easy to see that people simply do not remain passive about יהוה. We can’t. Passivity toward יהוה and His Torah leads to activity in sin and finally to overt activity against יהוה. That is a Torah of life.

How do people scoff at the Torah of יהוה? (a) By blatant ridicule or rejection. But there are other ways. (b) By indifference. We think we have better things to do with our time. (c) By substituting one’s own ideas, experiences, emotions, feelings, or traditions for the Torah and its principles. (d) By listening to the Torah proclaimed, but then ignoring it. In essence we scoff at the Torah when we fail to obey it and order our lives accordingly (cf. Prov. 1:22 with 29-33).

These verses pose a warning to us. They teach us how little by little we can step out of the place of blessedness and into the place of misery and cursing with horrible consequences.

First, we can begin to think with the viewpoint of the wicked. Compare Lot in Genesis 13:10f. He chose according to the viewpoint of the wicked.

Then we can quite naturally begin to behave like sinners, acting more and more like the world. Compare Lot in Genesis 13:11. He “journeyed eastward,” walking in the way of sinners.

We can then too easily become an associate of those who scoff at יהוה’s plan and ignore His counsel. Again compare Lot in Genesis 13:12-13; 19:1.

Note how these three verses in Ephesians parallel Psalm 1:1:

Ephesians 4:17-19 Psalm 1:1
17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of יהוה, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; Nor stand in the path of sinners,
19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

So, how can we avoid this? Psalm 1:2 is our answer! The man who experiences great blessing is one who has a love affair with יהוה’s Torah. He/she is a person of the Torah. I would emphasize how remarkable this is. Note that that quality which characterizes the life of the blessed above everything else which could be mentioned is one’s relationship to the Torah of יהוה (Ps. 138:2).

Psalm 1 is an introductory Psalm, a kind of gateway to the rest, where all kinds of qualities are mentioned. Yet, this is the one quality which is of single importance. Why? Because here is the root, everything else is the fruit, i.e., the result of one living close to יהוה by living in His eternal, infallible, sure, true and tried Torah. This emphasis is borne out throughout Torah (cf. Luke 11:27-28; 16:17).

A Messianic Congregation is not a social club, a welfare organization, a religious or a ritualistic institution. It is a spiritual body, an organism of living people whose lives are nurtured and sustained through the teaching of יהוה’s Torah (Amos 8:11-12, 2 Tim. 4:1-4). According to Torah, everything in the congregation is to flow from and around this emphasis and activity. Its organization, its fellowship, its works, testimony, witness, and giving. This does not deny the ministry and work of the Ruach Ha Kodesh or other valid functions of the messianic congregation like music, but central to everything is the Torah (Jam. 1:19f).

Positively: The Key to Blessedness (1:2)
“But rather the delight of him is in the Torah of יהוה ”

“But rather ” is כִּי אִם (Ki am) in the Hebrew text. If this is translated as a conditional clause, “but if,” then verse three gives the conclusion and promise. But it may also be taken as a strong contrast, i.e., “but rather.” Because of the construction of verse 1 with the emphasis on the negative, it introduces the reader to a strong contrast showing positively what the man of blessing does in contrast to verse 1, what he does not do.

“But the delight of him is in …” This statement is emphatic in two ways: by the fact it is a nominal clause (no finite verb), and by the word order. For the sake of emphasis, the Hebrew word order reads, “but rather, in the Torah of יהוה (is) his delight.” יהוה’s emphasis is on His word, that which is to be the object of our delight

“Delight” is the Hebrew word חֶפְצ (Chephetz). The basic meaning is obvious, but let’s dig a little deeper to see exactly what this means. It came from an Arabic verb (a sister language) which meant “to be mindful of, attentive to,” and so it came to mean, “keep, protect.” When something delights us, we become preoccupied with it and we tend to protect and guard it. Gesenius, the great lexicographer, says it originally meant “to bend, incline toward,” so it includes the ideas of “desire, pleasure, inclination, satisfaction.” It is a term for positive volition.

The Theological Torah Book of the Old Testament points out this word may be used for that which a person wishes strongly to do or have. 2 It means “to feel great favor toward something.” The emphasis of this word is that the desire is caused in the subject by the intrinsic qualities that are found in the object desired (cf. Isa. 54:12, “precious, delightful stones,” and Mal. 3:12, “delightful land”). The Hebrew verb form of this noun is used several times of a man taking pleasure or finding delight in the woman he loves. In the Tanack, Israel was viewed as the wife of יהוה . The written Torah is יהוה’s love letter to us and we are to have a love affair with יהוה through His Torah. Just as one would read the love letters of his or her sweetheart, so are we to read and study יהוה’s Torah with the same delight.

The word “delight” was also used of that in which one takes delight as in one’s business, pursuits, or affairs of life. Compare: Isaiah 53:10-11 (“the good pleasure,” i.e., the purpose, business, cause); Isaiah 58:13 (“your own pleasure,” i.e., business, affairs); and Proverbs 31:13 (“and works at the ‘business of her hands’”).3 The principle is that the study of יהוה’s Torah is to be one of the key purposes and affairs in our life in which we delight and to which we give careful attention.

“In the Torah of the יהוה.” This is the object of our delight. The Torah, of course, refers to the Torah of יהוה. “Torah” is torah (hrwt) meaning “Torah, teaching, instruction.” So hrwt means direction, instruction, but also Torah, because it contains the authoritative principles and instructions which are to guide men’s lives.

“Of יהוה.” יהוה is a genitive of source, i.e., the Torah or Torah which comes from יהוה.

One of the reasons Torah is a delight, like honey in the honey comb, is because it is truth. It is accurate, reliable and actively powerful (Ps. 19:7-9; Prov. 3:13-15, verse 15 uses the verb form of our word “delight”).

“And in His Torah he is meditating day and night”

“Day and night” is an idiom which means “constantly, consistently, and regularly.” This means the man of blessedness is occupied with יהוה’s Torah. It is on his mind and in his heart at all times in every situation and area of life (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

“He is meditating” is an imperfect tense of habitual action. The verb is יֶהְגֶּה (Yegah) which literally means “to moan, growl, utter, speak, muse, to roll around,think, and plan” (cf. 2:1b where it means, “devise”). This word speaks of a deep, dull sound, as if vibrating between within and without" and "here signifies the quiet soliloquy of one who is searching and thinking."

We can only attempt to appreciate the depth of this word as it depicts the man who day and night is considering and pondering God's word and whose voice sometimes breaks into sighs of longing or coos of delight as he interacts both silently and audibly with God in His word.

This is a comprehensive term for the study and application of the Torah to one’s life. It involves thinking about what Torah means and how, when, and where it should be applied. Included with this would be reading, hearing, study, and memorizing so one can accurately think about Torah and apply it.

The Production and Motivation (1:3)

“And he becomes like a tree”

Please note, this is a promise from יהוה and a well established fact of life. A Bible that is worn and falling apart from use usually belongs to someone who isn’t.

Being like a tree is of course a metaphor, a picture. But what does this picture teach us?

(1) A tree has deep roots and is usually very sturdy, especially when compared to a tumble weed. A tree portrays stability and the capacity to withstand the storms of life (Jer. 17:5-8). It’s the picture of mental, emotional, and spiritual stability in every kind of situation (see Phil. 4:11f).

(2) It also pictures the concept of growth and time. As it takes time to produce a huge sprawling oak, so it takes time to grow and mature in the Torah. The problem, especially in our ‘instant tea’ society, we want and expect an overnight transformation and change. But true spiritual strength comes from a long-term, established relationship with יהוה in his Torah (Hebrew 5:11ff; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).

(3) It also pictures service. If a tree is a fruit tree, it gives fruit. If it is an oak, it gives shade. יהוה has given us His Torah that we might become fruitful trees in His service and in ministry to others.

2 Timothy 3:16-17. All Torah is inspired by יהוה and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of יהוה may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
“Being transplanted on irrigation canals of water”

“Planted” is a participle of the Hebrew verb שָׁתוּל (Shathul). This verb actually means “to transplant,” not merely “plant.” This is rich and significant. “To plant” means to cause to take root, to become firmly established for the purpose of stability, nutrition (food and water), growth, and eventually production.

“To transplant” includes the above, of course, but it also includes taking a plant out of one environment and placing it into another which is more conducive to production, growth, and stability. Like taking wild trees growing in barren and desert-like conditions and carefully transplanting them in rich prepared soil by streams of water.

There is very significant application we need to note here: Before we were saved we were in Adam, dead in sin, but יהוה in His grace has transplanted us into Yeshua Messiah. He has taken us out of Satan’s domain of darkness and placed us into the kingdom of His dear Son (Rom. 6:4f; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:13). With this new position also comes new provision and resources of life—the Ruach Ha Kodesh and the Torah—both of which are likened to streams of living water (John 7:37-39; Ps. 1:3; Jer. 1:8).

“Transplanted” is a passive participle. The passive voice is the voice of grace. But we must, in the practical application of this, personally respond to His plan. We must choose to live not in the counsel of the ungodly (as verse 2 shows us), but live by the streams of water, the Torah and יהוה’s provision for learning it. This means value choices! This means: (a) daily time with יהוה (Hebrews 3:7), and (b) weekly times of assembling together with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). The participle stresses continual action. This is to be our habit, and it will be if we obey verse 2 and יהוה’s commands.

“By streams of water” continues to paint this picture for us. “Streams” is פַּלְגֵי (Pheleg) from glp (Palag) and means “to divide, split.” The word was used of cutting a water channel for irrigation, or of the land divided by rivers, ravines, and streams. Our word פַּלְגֵי (Pheleg) refers to canals or water courses provided for irrigation.

By way of application, יהוה has provided the inspired word, the Torah and gifted teachers of the Torah. It is the believer’s responsibility to respond to יהוה’s provision and to plant themselves regularly in a seat where they can drink from these water resources.

“Which is giving its fruit in its season”

Note again the recurring biblical principle: First the root, then fruit. First the word with obedience and application, and then there is production.

“Which is giving” is יִתֵּן (Nathan), “to give.” The verb is the imperfect tense, which stresses continual action, or even that which, given the inherent power of Torah, is always true as a general rule of life. As 1 Thessalonians 2:13 reminds us, constantly living in the Torah should result in continued fruitfulness if there has been an open ear to hear what יהוה is saying. How much fruit each tree yields depends on several factors:

(1) The filling of the Ruach Ha Kodesh (John 15:1-7; Gal. 5:22-23)

(2) One’s level of maturity (1 John 2:12, 13; Heb. 5:11-13).

(3) One’s particular gifts (1 Pet. 4:10-12).

(4) יהוה's own special blessing and use of our gifts (1 Cor. 3:6-74).

(5) The conditions in which we labor, the preparedness of the soil (Mk. 4:14-20; John 4:37-38).

Each tree is to have some fruit. Fruit is a proof of the root, i.e., where one is dwelling (in truth or error) (cf. Matt. 12:33-34). There are several categories of fruit: (a) The character of Yeshua Messiah (Gal. 5:22-23, 16); (b) the exercise of our spiritual gifts in service (1 Pet. 4:10-11; Rom. 12:3f), including exhortation, giving, showing mercy, helping.

“In the season” is עִתּוֹ (eth) literally “in its time,” i.e., at the proper, suitable time (Ps. 104:27). As far as the believer’s fruitfulness is concerned, this means studying and becoming prepared to serve in special ways according to one’s gifts and יהוה’s timing (compare Moshe, Paul and Messiah). It also means being prepared to bear fruit when opportunity knocks (2 Tim. 4:2).

And its leaf is not withering”

This is a picture of vitality, of being green, healthy plants in spite of conditions. A plant which is planted by streams of water has the capacity to endure (Jer. 17). It is the principle of living life independently of the details of life for one’s happiness (Phil. 4:11-13).

“And all which he is doing, he shall prosper”

Literally, we may translate, “in all that he may do he continually or repeatedly prospers.” “Prospers” is the Hebrew יַצְלִֽיחַ (Itsalach) “prosper, succeed,make progress, be profitable.” The root means to accomplish satisfactorily what is intended.4 Real prosperity results from the work of יהוה in the life of one who meditates on His Torah. But does יהוה really mean this? Of course, but this is not a blank check to be filled in as we want. The man of blessedness prospers first because he always seeks to operate in the framework of יהוה’s will according to יהוה’s values and purposes. As one who delights and meditates in the Torah, Torah is consulted and used as a guide for whatever he does (Prov. 3:5-6). He also prospers because, as such a man, he uses Torah as a guide for how he does what he does. He operates in the sphere of יהוה’s enablement, supply, and direction (Ps. 37:3-5).

This does not mean there is never adversity or failure. יהוה often engineers failure as mirrors of reproof and instruments of growth. Sometimes יהוה has to engineer failure and pressures before He can bring about success—His kind of success—in our lives. And sometimes יהוה allows severe suffering for other reasons as He did with Job.

Compare Psalm 37:6 and note the kind of prosperity יהוה primarily has in mind (spiritual prosperity, discernment, and יהוהly character). By-in-large, people of the Torah will gain the capacity to be wise and stable in areas such as their business or the office which could mean promotions or higher profits. But it could also mean persecution as one takes a stand for righteousness or refuses to compromise or do the things employees are sometimes asked to do that go against the righteous principles of Torah.

It could also mean the capacity to be healthier in general, since a joyful heart is good medicine and since Godliness may produce the discipline needed to eat wisely and exercise regularly. The main thing is we must judge prosperity not by physical wealth or even physical health, but primarily by spiritual growth and capacity for life with people and in service to יהוה.

The Character and Destiny of the Wicked (1:4-6)
4 Not so the wicked ones, But rather they are like the chaff which the wind is whisking away. 5 On this the wicked ones will not rise up in the judgment, And not the sinful ones in the assembly of the righteous. 6 That יהוה is knowing the way of the righteous, And the way of the wicked ones will perish.

With verse 4 we come to a very strong contrast. The way of the righteous is contrasted with the way of the unrighteous. In the original Hebrew text, this contrast is strongly emphasized by the lack of a connective between these sections called asyndeton, and by the word order. Literally, “not so, the wicked.” This is an emphatic denial; the way of the wicked is nothing like the way of the righteous. They have completely different sources for living, different purposes, different character, and very different results both temporally and eternally.

The primary emphasis here is to the unbeliever, but there are definite applications to the believer both for this life and for eternity. Torah teaches that the believer, if he continues on in a life of carnality, can begin to look like the wicked (1 Cor. 3:3), and though he is saved, he will experience serious consequences as we shall see in the material below.

What the Wicked Are Like—Instability (1:4)
“Not so the wicked ones”

Literally “not so the wicked ones.” There are two different negatives in the Hebrew and each expresses a very different idea. There is לֹא (lloa), which expresses absolute emphatic negation. Then there is -al (al), which expresses subjective or relative negation with an appeal to the will. Verse 4 uses לֹא (lloa), the negative particle of absolute negation. This verse flatly and absolutely denies any correspondence of the characteristics and life of the wicked with the righteous.

“So” is the Hebrew כֵן (Ken), an adverb of quality. The wicked are not in any way like the righteous or the man of blessedness of verses 1-3 in the quality, character, or constitution of their lives.

"The wicked ones.” This is a key word in the Psalms. In our passage it occurs four times (verses 1, 4, 5, and 6). This is the primary word by which the Psalmist describes the unrighteous. The Hebrew word is רְשָׁעִים (Rashim). We saw in verse 1 that one of the basic ideas of this word was to be loose or unstable, and so it means to be loose ethically. But loose morals occur only because one was first negative to יהוה; loose from Him, cut loose and excluded from a life with יהוה and the control and stability that יהוה brings into the lives of men when they have fellowship with Him. But there is more. Included in this word is the idea of restless activity. It refers to a restless, unquiet condition which, in its agitation and unquieted passions, runs from one thing to another seeking happiness and peace, often at the hurt of others.

Isaiah 57:20-21 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my יהוה, “for the wicked.”

This Hebrew word graphically portrays the restlessness within those who are out of touch with יהוה, whose hope and trust is not on the Lord, and who, in their unsatisfied and agitated state, are propelled forward in a search for whatever it is they think will give peace, satisfaction, security, and significance (cf. Eph. 4:17f).

A study of the word רְשָׁעִים (Rashim)- used well over 255 times in the Tanakh- finds that one of the key characteristics of the wicked is this looseness from יהוה. It portrays apathy and negative volition to יהוה and His Torah. This results in moral instability which is the fruit of the root problem, a failure to care about יהוה. Note the contrast seen with verse 2 “but his delight is in the Torah of the Lord … not so the wicked” (cf. Psa. 10:3-5; 119:53 with 54 and 119:155 with 165). The issue is simply that spiritual deliverance and real happiness must always escape the wicked because of their negative volition to יהוה and His precious Torah. So how does the wicked forsake his wicked way? By turning to יהוה and His infinite Torah (Isaiah 55:7-11).

The key characteristics of the wicked are two-fold and stand to each other as root to fruit:

(1) Root: Forsakes יהוה, negative to יהוה and His Torah with the result he is uncontrolled (Prov. 29:18).

(2) Fruit: Violates the rights of others: oppressive, violent, greedy; unstable, without security, and facing sure judgment (Isa. 57:20-21; Ps. 1:4-6).

The word רְשָׁעִים (Rashim) -wicked ones or unrighteous- is contrasted regularly with qyddc (Tsaddiyq) righteous or righteousnes.

These words contrast two lifestyles: (a) The righteous cling to יהוה, love His Torah, and as a result are restrained, stable, upright, and just. (b) The wicked forsake יהוה, ignore His Torah, and as a result are unrestrained, oppressive, and unjust. This is the point of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the Torah.”

These words also contrast the results of these different lifestyles: (a) The righteous are stable, fruitful, and will be rewarded. (b) The wicked are unstable, unfruitful, and will be judged.

The wicked run the gamut from those who have no room for יהוה (Psalm 10:4), to the religious type who gives only lip service to spiritual things (Psalm 50:16ff). But in all cases, there is no real love for יהוה, belief in His Torah, or desire for fellowship with יהוה.

“But rather they are like the chaff which the wind is whisking away”

The conjunction “but” is a strengthened form in the Hebrew text and is somewhat emphatic. It draws our attention to the difference between the righteous and wicked.

“Like chaff.” “Chaff” is the Hebrew word כַּמֹּץ (Kamtez). Chaff is the seed covering and the debris separated from the grain or seed in threshing. Unlike the grain or actual seed, it has no body or substance and is blown about by the wind, always unstable. It is that which is worthless, of no value. It draws the reader’s attention to both the uselessness of the wicked and to the ease with which יהוה deals with them, like the wind that so easily picks up the chaff and blows it away.

Like chaff, the wicked will be separated from the grain in judgment (vs. 5). For a similar idea compare the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-42). The unrighteous are ultimately worthless to יהוה and generally worthless to society since they corrupt and feed on others. Primarily they are unstable, blown about from pillar to post because they have no spiritual roots in the Torah of יהוה (cf. Eph. 4:14; Jer. 17:6).

There is the danger of living like the unrighteous (the wicked) in carnal indifference, perhaps very religious, but out of fellowship with יהוה. The messianic congregation in Corinth is an illustration of this. Paul warned them that in their state of carnality and failure to grow, they were walking like mere men (1 Cor. 3:1-4). Such believers may act like the wicked in many ways. In their carnality they become unrestrained and impoverished in their spiritual lives. If this continues, it will mean severe discipline in this life followed by forfeiture of rewards in heaven, like chaff which the wind drives away (1 Cor. 3:12f).

As to this life, the wicked, those who walk independently of יהוה (believers or unbelievers), are driven about by the false counsel of the world, by satanic and human viewpoint (Eph. 4:14), by the lust patterns of their own hearts (Eph. 4:17f), and by the pressures or problems of life for which they have no answer. Note that in Ephesians 4:14 the apostle is writing to believers regarding the need to grow in Messiah lest they become unstable, tossed about by the waves of man’s ideas about life. Then in 4:17-19 he warns believers against living like the unbelieving world in the futility of their minds, minds that are not being nourished by the water of יהוה’s Torah.

But the primary focus of this text is on the future judgment. The wicked will not be able to stand before יהוה’s judgment (verse 5), but will be driven out, away from יהוה and believers (see Rev. 20:11-15; 21:6-8). Note the parallel here. As the wicked are driven about in life because they do not have the Lord and His righteousness, so they will be driven away from Him in the day of judgment because they lack His gift of righteousness through Yeshua Messiah.

What the Wicked Cannot Do—Their Inability (1:5)
“On this the wicked ones will not rise up in the judgment”

“Will not stand.” The verb here is יָקֻמוּ (yaquwm), “rise, arise, stand.” It looks at standing as the result of rising up. The idea in this context is that of ability to withstand or endure the judgment of יהוה. Unbelievers will face יהוה at the great white throne judgment but will not be able to stand its test (Matt. 22:11-13). Only those (both Jews and Gentiles) who have the robe of Messiah’s righteousness because of their faith in Messiah can stand before יהוה’s throne.

The wicked (unbelievers) can’t stand at the judgment and are separated and cast out because they are found without יהוה’s righteousness.

“And not the sinful ones in the assembly of the righteous”

As a result of יהוה’s judgment at the Great White Throne, sinners, those without the righteousness of Messiah, will be excluded from the eternal blessings of יהוה’s presence to be enjoyed by all those who stand in relation to יהוה by faith in Messiah. For the believer during the times of the Tanach, salvation was by faith in יהוה’s covenant with Israel as it looked forward to the coming Messiah and His death as proclaimed in the sacrificial system of the Torah (cf. Luke 1:71-73; Acts 3:25; Rom. 11:25-27; 3:21f; 4:1f). For the Apostiloc Writings beleivers, salvation is by faith alone in the accomplishment of Messiah’s finished work as proclaimed in the Apostiloc Writings, which is a fulfillment of the promises of the Tenach (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Heb. 7:22f; 8:6f; Heb. 9:1-22).

What the Wicked Must Face—Perishability (1:6)
“That יהוה is knowing the way …”

“Knows” does not mean simply to have knowledge of something. It is often used in Torah in a protective sense and refers to יהוה’s providential care and love, which includes the eternal security of believers and His divine provision. It means that יהוה looks out for the righteous. The NIV even translates this, “The Lord watches over …” But ultimately, the issue here is the basis of יהוה’s judgment.

The basis for this judgment is the יהוה’s knowledge. The first half of the verse, יהוה watches over (lit., “knows”) the way of the righteous, is best understood by the antithetical parallelism, the way of the wicked will perish. Salvation in the day of judgment is equated with being known by יהוה (cf. Matt. 7:23).5

One is reminded of Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 2:19-20.

19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of יהוה stands, having this seal, “ יהוה knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of יהוה abstain from wickedness.” 20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.

“Way” refers to life’s course or path. The point is, our path or course is fully known by יהוה and He cares for us with יהוה’s loving and providential care as a father his child and like the vinedresser cares for His vineyard (Ps. 103:13; Matt. 6:32; John 15:1f). For the righteous (believers in Messiah), there is יהוה’s pre-vision, and so also יהוה’s pro-vision so that even when they fail and sin, יהוה has foreknown us and provided for us in the complete and finished work of Yeshua Messiah. The Apostle Paul emphatically teaches us that nothing can separate us from the love of יהוה which is anchored in Messiah (Rom. 8:28-29, 38-39). The righteous cannot perish because they are in both the hand of the Father and in the hand of His Son, the Lord Yeshua (John 10:28-30). But, as the next part of the verse warns, if their way of life is one of carnality, it will be futile and will perish by the loss of rewards.

“And the way of the wicked ones will perish”

The wicked are earthdwellers, those bent on getting all the gusto they can out of this life with little or no concern for יהוה and eternity. By-in-large, the wicked live primarily for this life. Their way (even when religious) is the way of man, the flesh, and cannot stand before the righteousness of יהוה. They fall short. Their way of life gains them nothing with יהוה, so it too will perish. Ultimately this means the lake of fire for the unbeliever.

But since believers too can live like mere men, like the wicked to some degree, Torah exhorts us to live as sojourners, as aliens who seek to lay up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys (1 Pet. 1:17; 2:11; Matt. 6:19-24). Exhortations like these in the Apostiloc Writings would be meaningless unless this were a real possibility. Thus, a life lived for treasures on earth will perish, that is, it will result in the loss of rewards as well as bring dishonor to the Savior who purchased us from our sin. Since this is true, should we not pursue the way of blessedness both for now (יהוה’s glory and spiritual stability in this life) and eternity (יהוה’s glory and eternal rewards)?

The way of the wicked perishes because it is left to itself. The way of the wicked perishes because they have left יהוה out and even their temporal life loses real meaning and value. Rejection of Messiah and His Torah means no provision for eternity. When it involves indifference to heavenly treasure as believers, it means loss of rewards and a failure to use this life as partners with Him in His life and enterprise on earth. However, the believer, who is kept by the power of יהוה, will be in eternity with the Lord.


As one reflects back on this wonderful introductory Psalm, it is clear that the central issue is יהוה’s awesome and holy Torah, the Torah. The man (or woman) of blessedness and spiritual stability is one whose life is built on and bathed in the Torah. But why? How can the Bible have such a stabilizing affect on a person’s life? Because of the nature of the Bible as יהוה’s inspired, inerrant, and infallible Torah to man, and because of its total sufficiency to meet every need of a person’s soul. This is the emphasis and declaration of David in Psalm 19:7-11. David shows us that the Torah, when known and applied, can restore a sin-damaged and distraught soul, give spiritual wisdom, bring joy to the downcast, and provide spiritual discernment. In other words, as Peter teaches us in 2 Peter 1:3, it contains all that man needs for life and Godliness, or about truth and righteousness.

What is it, then, that the messianic congregations need? They need the Torah! What is it that messianic rabbis and congregational leaders ought to be doing? They need to be preaching and teaching the Torah. What did Paul tell his young coworker in the faith? First, he told him, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Torah, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). Later he wrote, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction,” and then he quickly warned, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:2-3).

Where is much of the body of Messiah today? It has turned aside from the Torah as its authority and sufficient source for life and godliness. And what should the body of Messiah look like today? It should look like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season. What is clear is that many have not been ordering their lives by the Torah.

In plain and simple terms, the forces of our modern society have replaced the centrality and priority of the preaching and teaching of the Torah. In its place has come (a) shorter and shorter topical sermons aimed more at self-fulfillment than biblical exposition, (b) pop-psychology, (c) entertainment in the form of drama and music, (d) more and more emphasis on music that gives an emotional bang for the sake of the emotions rather than music that focuses the heart on the person and work of יהוה, i.e., sound biblical truth that may then stir the soul. Essentially, the services are man-centered rather than Bible-centered and יהוה-centered.

As I observe many congregations today, at first glance they look like wheat, but on closer observation, they are often more like the chaff that the wind drives about with every wind of the various doctrines of man and the modernity of our secular society. My dear friends, make the powerful Torah the foundation of your life and get involved in messianic congregations where the Torah is truly the heart and soul of that messianic congregation.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of יהוה is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Click button to Listen to Psalm 1 in Hebrew


1 Torahrence O. Richards, The Teacher's Commentary, electronic media.
2 R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Torah Book of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, p. 311.
3 Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew And English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 343. See also the margin translation of ASV.
4 R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Torah Book of the Old Testament, Vol. 2, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, p. 766.
5 The Bible Knowledge Commentary, OT Edition, John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, editors, Victor Books, electronic media.

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