Thoughts on Psalm 1

                                    PSALM 1


  1. 1.     Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

  1. 2.     But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

 and on his law he meditates day and night.

  1. 3.     He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.


  1. 4.     Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff

that the wind blows away.

  1. 5.     Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteousness.


  1. 6.     For the Lord watches over the way of the righteousness,

but the way of the wicked will perish.



I.               Introduction


Psalm I is an introduction to the rest of the Psalms. It has a general and basic subject matter as two subjects are touched upon. “Certainly it stands here as a faithful doorkeeper, confronting those who would be in the congregation of the righteous.”[1] The righteous shall receive blessings while the wicked shall receive misery.

It is a wisdom psalm and reminds the reader of the Book of Proverbs. Historically, the psalm was probably not for formal usage. It is more of a reflective type of poem. “It must be viewed as a literary and poetic composition, expressing with remarkable clarity the polarity of persons and their destinies.”[2] It may have been combined with Psalm 2 at one time and the overall impression is that it represents a latter stage of Old Testament religion. In this regard, it must have been written after the exile.

The structure of the Psalm is of two parts. Part one, which is verses 1-3, discusses the enticement of the godly life, while verses 4-6 depict the worthlessness and ultimate despair of a godless person and his choices.


II.             Exegesis


Verse 1 Analysis

“Blessed is the man..”

First, as one looks at the word “blessed”, it is noted that it is plural in Hebrew and literally means “Oh, the blessedness.” The Hebrew word for blessing is a^shr. One can paraphrase to mean, “Oh how happy is the one..” The description of the happy man is not addressed to only males. “Woman and children are included because, in the Israelite views, part of man’s true happiness is his family-a good wife and many children-and so his blessings are shared by the whole family.”[3]

This has been known to be beatitude because it promises blessings to those who live with faith and a relationship with God. The man who is blessed must avoid certain things. The description of the happy man in verse 1 includes 3 phrases and progress to an acme: 1. Three degrees of conduct (walk, stand, sit), 2. Three degrees of involvement (counsel, path, seat), and 3. Three degrees of evilness (wicked, sinners, scoffers). “On the other hand, the three clauses form a synonymous parallelism, and therefore the corresponding terms merely repeat the same thought in different words without any intentional grading of the godless and their actions.”[4]

“who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked”

“Counsel” in Hebrew  is u@s>h which means, “purpose or way of thinking.” The mental attitude that one has determines decisions that one makes. “Wicked” in Hebrew is r`sh`u which means to be loose or unstable. One who is wicked is controlled by his own desires and emotions rather than by those of God’s Word. The psalter describes the wicked here as the foes of God and the enemies of his people.

“nor stand in the path of sinners”


“Stand” in Hebrew means to stop and be firm. It refers to the development of habits and patterns. Being in the path makes one think that one is on a journey or direction to somewhere. “Sinners” miss the mark and deviate from what is true. Standing with sinners means that one shares their way of life. We are all sinners. However, the psalter is referring to deliberate sinners who have chosen this particular way of life.

            “nor sit in the seat of mockers.”

“To sit in the seat of the scoffers amounts to making light of God’s law which ought to be one’s delight; it also means identifying oneself with the thinking and planning of the godless.”[5] Sitting among these folk provides negative association and the person in turn becomes like his associates. “Scoffers” are mockers and ridiculers. They put down the things of God and his word. Scoffers are the most scandalous of sinners thus the farthest from repentance. The happiness of a man is not automatic, however. It is a direct consequence of his activities. “The righteous person avoids all the dimensions of the way of the wicked; therein lies the source of blessedness or happiness.”[6] This section leads to what the righteous shall do which is covered in verse 2.

Verse 1 Summary

In order to experience blessedness, one must avoid the wickeds’ advice,

sinners’ habits, and association with mockers.

Verse 2 Analysis

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord…”

The 3 negatives of verse 1 clear the way for what is valuable. The emphasis is on the “law of the Lord.” The study of God’s Word is to be the key purpose of one’s life in which one receives delight and gives thoughtful attention. “In the law of the Lord,” referring to the Torah, means instruction of which God gives mankind as a life guide. This law stands directly opposed to the ‘counsel of the wicked’ which implies that whatever one studies or thinks about, will frame his life. “This ‘law’, far from being a burden or an unbearable yoke, is the ‘delight’ of the godly man. Perhaps we should render ‘his delight..’ as ‘his concern ( or ‘preoccupation’) is with the law of the Lord’; this might give a slight better parallel to the following line.”[7]

“and on his law he meditates day and night.”

This leads to why the author talks of meditating day and night. “Meditates” literally means “to moan, speak, plan..” In this sense it could mean to study and apply to one’s life. “So this ‘meditation’ not merely an intellectual exercise but, above all, it is a study of the will of God for the purpose of doing it.”[8] Day and night is an idiom which means constantly and regularly. To be blessed and righteous, one must constantly study the Torah.

Verse 2 Summary

The blessed man delights himself in constant regular meditation of God’s Word.

Verse 3 Analysis

“He is like a tree..”

A tree is a simile for man. A tree may fade or die depending on it’s locale and it’s irrigation. As one pictures a watered, healthy tree, one sees 3 things: 1. A tree has deep roots and is sturdy (stability), 2. Substantial growth takes time, and 3. A tree bears fruit and shade.

“planted by streams of water..”

“Planted” actually means “transplanted” which means taking plants out of their environment and planting in another aiding growth, production, and stability. “This may imply that the happiness of the godly man is entirely due to God’s action”[9] The righteous man will be transformed from a barren condition to producing fruit from a rich root. Another theological point must be made about the tree and the stream of water. A person will be like this tree if he is constantly in the word (verse 2). The Word of God is constantly flowing and is never ending. We, too, will endure if we get watered by this stream daily and continually. “The state of blessedness or happiness is not a reward; rather, it is the result of a particular type of life. Just as a tree with a constant water supply naturally flourishes, so too the person who avoids evil and delights in Torah naturally prospers.”[10] It is the believer’s responsibility to respond to God’s provision (Torah) and plant himself regularly in the seat where he can receive water (life).

which yields its fruit in season…”

First root, then the fruit. The fruit is the blessings. The order here is important because if one roots himself in the Word (like the watered tree), he will bear fruit. “The phrase its fruit in its season emphasizes both the distinctiveness and the quiet growth of the product.”[11] The fruit is proof of the root where one is dwelling in truth and not error. “In season” means at the proper time or when opportunity knocks and without fail.

and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. ”

A picture of vitality is seen from this verse. A plant by water endures.  “The point of the metaphor is to stress the fruitfulness and vitality of life of the godly man, as well as its stability, rather than to provide a symbol of immortality.”[12]. The idea of the prosperity of man is somewhat of a summary statement for the first half of the psalm.  The life of the righteous man will in effect produce prosperity. Not in the financial sense, but rather in the spiritual sense (i.e. godly character.) The man of blessedness prospers first because he first seeks to operate in God’s will (for his will is for man to prosper.)

Verse 3 Summary

The blessed man is like a watered tree. He will bear much fruit since he is constantly in the Word hence prosperity follows.

Verse 4 Analysis

“Not so the wicked!..”

A continuation of verse 3 is seen here. The wicked shall not prosper like the blessed righteous. This word “wicked” is repeated 4 times in this psalm hence the psalter must be trying to describe the unrighteous with this key word. One may assume that not only are the wicked apart from God but are guilty of restless activity. They are out of touch with God. It is a contrast to verse 2. To illustrate,

the righteous, 1. Cling to God and 2. Love his word. Therefore he is stable and prospers. The wicked, on the other hand, 1. Forsakes God, and 2. Ignores the Word. Therefore he is judged.

They are like chaff..”

The wicked are summarized briefly in the simile with chaff. Chaff is “fine, dry material, such as husks and other debris, that is separated from the seed in the process of threshing grain. In the Bible, chaff symbolizes worthless, evil, or wicked persons that are about to be destroyed.”[13] Chaff describes both man and his destiny. “They are thought of as having become worthless in themselves, and their life as empty and without permanence, as long as they continue their present way of life.”[14]

“that the wind blows away.”

Chaff will blow away just as the worthless man. He is rendered useless. The focus then moves to a future judgement.

Verse 4 Summary

The ungodly man shall not prosper, as he will be rendered useless and worthless.

Verse 5 Analysis

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,”

This verse looks ahead to this future judgement. It elaborates on the wicked and therefore provides some answers. ‘The two lines of verse 5, in synonymous parallelism, reflect essentially the same thought, namely that the wicked hold no weight or influence in the important areas of human society.”[15] Judgement may be both the continual divine judgement and the end time judgement. The wicked hold no part in the resurrection because only the righteous will endure and remaining standing.



“nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

This is the parallel linked to the understanding of first part of verse 5. They both carry the same message.  The assembly is the worshipping community and later the new Messianic world.

Verse 5 Summary

As a result of God’s judgement, the unrighteous will be excluded from God’s eternal blessings which will be enjoyed by those who stand in relation to God.

Verse 6 Analysis

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,”

The word “watches” connotes the word “knows” which means more than informed. It’s in the protective sense-God’s care and love for man. It is the security of believers. The issue here is the basis of God’s judgement. The first half of this verse about the Lord watching over the Godly is antithetically parallel to the second half of the verse dealing with the way of the wicked perishing. “Way” makes one picture a path which is known by the Lord.

but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The way of the wicked is the “other path” which is fleshly and of man. “Perish” is used here as a road which comes to ruin. It is the road for the lost filled with hopelessness. “The doom of the wicked, as it is expressed in this psalm, is not primarily a punishment, any more than the happiness of the righteous is a reward. Each is presented as the natural outcome of a way of life which has been chosen.”[16]

Verse 6 Summary

The way of the wicked perishes but the Lord protects the righteous.


III.            Exegetical Outline

Exegetical Idea


Psalm 1 is about 2 ways of life- the righteous and the wicked. The key is the importance of God’s Word to life and the fruitfulness of the righteousness who delight in his Word. The way of the righteous produce everlasting life as opposed to the ways of the wicked which produce eternal doom.

Exegetical Outline

  1. The Godly man and his way of living (1:1-3)
    1. Negative things to avoid (1:1)

In order to experience blessedness, one must avoid wicked’s advice, sinners habits, and association with mockers


  1. Positive behavior- guide to blessedness (1:2)

The blessed man delights himself in constant, regular meditation of God’s Word


  1. Creation and motivation-consequences of blessings (1:3)

The blessed man is like watered tree. He will bear much fruit since he is constantly in the Word and will live a prosperous life as God wills.


  1. The Character and Destiny of the Wicked (1:4-6)


  1. What the wicked are like-instability (1:4)


The ungodly man shall not prosper as he will be rendered useless and worthless

  1. What the wicked cannot do-inability (1:5)


As a result of God’s judgement, the unrighteous will be excluded from God’s eternal blessings which will be enjoyed by those who stand with God.

  1. What the wicked will encounter- perishability (1:6)


The way of the wicked perishes but the Lord protects the righteous.


IV            .Homiletical Outline

Two Ways of Living-It’s A Choice


  1. First  choice- Live life in a godly way (1:1-3)


  1. Three things to avoid from the ungodly
    1. advice
    2. fellowship
    3. habits


  1. What is the key to a godly life as well as finding the meaning of life?
    1. finding enjoyment in God’s Word through

a. regular bible study

b. constant focus on God’s Laws and provisions


C.    The inevitable results of these positive behaviors
  1. fruitfulness
  2. endurance
  3. prosperity


  1. The Only Other Choice-The way of the wicked (1:4-6)


  1. What the unrighteous are like
    1. forsake God
    2. negative to God’s Word
    3. separate from the righteous
    4. worthless and useless


  1. What will happen to the wicked
    1. excluded from God’s eternal blessings (cast out)
    2. separated from the righteous in eternity


  1. God’s shield for the Godly and the lurking doom for the unrighteous
    1. The Lord will protect those who choose the first choice
    2. The damnation of the unrighteous is inevitable based on their choice










Anderson, A.A. The New Century Bible Commentary. Psalms 1-72, Marshall,

Morgan, and Scott, 1972.

Craigie, Peter. Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 1-50, 1983.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72; An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Press,


Youngblood, Ronald F. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, 1995

[1] Kidner, p, 47

[2] Craigie, p. 58

[3] Anderson, p. 58

[4] Anderson, p. 59


[5] Anderson, p. 59

[6] Craigie, p. 60

[7] Anderson, p. 60

[8] Ibid, p. 60

[9] Anderson, p. 60

[10] Craigie, p. 61

[11] Kidner, p. 48

[12] Anderson, p. 61


[13] Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, p. 254

[14] Anderson, p. 61

[15] Craigie, p. 61


[16] Craigie, p. 61