Psalm 1

  1. Blessed is the man who did not walk in the council of the impious,
    nor stand in the road of sinners,
    nor sit in the seat of the pestilent.
  2. Rather, his will is in the law of the Lord
    and on his law he will contemplate day and night.
  3. And he will be like a tree planted by the byways of water
    which will give its fruit at the opportune time
    and its leaf will not fall off.
    And everything, whatever he does, will prosper.
  4. Not so, the impious, not so!
    Rather they are like lint which the wind flings away from the face of the earth.
  5. For this reason the impious will not stand in the judgement,
    nor sinners in the council of the righteous.
  6. For the Lord knows the road of of the righteous,
    and the road of the ungodly will be destroyed.


Verse 1

“Blessed”: the Greek word MAKARIOS here is the same as in the Beatitudes (Matt 5). Frequently MAKARIOS is translated ‘happy’ but in “Blessed are those mourning” (Matt 5:7) how can MAKARIOS be about “happy happy joy joy”? I think the key is in thinking about “well off” from a heavenly perspective vs. an earthly one.

“Council”: The Greek word here is BOULĒ — to choose, decide. Both [individual] choice, also an aggregate of people who gather to make decisions. This same word occurs in vss. 1 and 5 (translated ‘council’ in both places).

“Impious”: ‘Not-reverencing’, ‘not-experiencing appropriate awe [for God/the gods]’, sacrilegious.

“Road”: hODOS, same as “I am the Way/Road/Journey, the Truth and the Life” in John 14:6. Same as ‘road’ in vs. 6.

“Pestilent”: same root Greek word as for the plagues of Egypt.

“Ungodly… sinners… pestilent”: These are all plural. So this verse paints a picture of the blessed individual vs. crowds of ungodly, sinners and pestilent people. And what makes the blessed individual different? His will and contemplation are on the law of the Lord.

Verse 2

“contemplate” the Greek word here MELETĒ means along the lines of meditate or contemplate. The Hebrew word here (HeGeH), however, means primarily to pronounce, to mutter, to read in an undertone. It’s also used of the sounds animals make (like pigeons ‘cooing’). Thus it seems to me it’s indicating vocalizing the “law of the Lord” and not just speculating about it in your head.

“day and night” the obvious way to understand this is “all the time” or “24 hours a day, 7 days a week”. Another way might be “in the good times and dark ones”.

Verse 3

will give its fruit… its leaves will not fall off… and whatever he does will prosper.” All future tense. Maybe not today, not right now, but in the long run.

“opportune time” the same word KAIROS which is a particular favorite of the author of Mark’s Gospel.

Verse 4

“lint” (ChNOUS) — different from “dust” (ChOUS) which is a particle of dirt. ChNOUS is even less significant: this word is used for incrustations from salt water, wool pulled for stuffing cushions, the result of applying powder, dust of the earth, fine down on a flower — all of which are rather useless. Adam, however, was formed from the ChOUS of the earth — dirt has value, for growing food, for example. Dirt if blown away would land somewhere and be useful. ‘Lint’ not so much!

For more about this translation, see my blog “The Septuagint Psalms”.