Psalm 1 is the first of the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible. Like many of the psalms, it contrasts the "righteous" person (tzadik צדיק) to the "wicked" or "ungodly" (rasha` רשע) or the "sinner" (chatta' חטא). The righteous person is one who takes care to know the laws of God and so has good judgment and avoids bad company. The result is the ability to withstand difficult times in life supported by God's protection. On the other hand, the wicked person's behavior makes them vulnerable to disaster, like chaff blowing away in the wind. The point that the wicked and the righteous will not mingle at the judgment is clearly stated by the writer. The path the wicked have chosen leads to destruction, and at the judgment they receive the natural consequences of that choice.
The Book of Psalms is subdivided into 5 parts. Psalm 1 is part of the first part. It has been counted as the beginning of part one in some translations, in some counted as a prologue, and in others Psalm 1 is combined with Psalm 2.
Patrick D. Miller suggests that Psalm 1 "sets the agenda for the Psalter through its "identification of the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked as well as their respective fates" as well as "its emphasis on the Torah, the joy of studying it and its positive benefits for those who do." Stephen Dempster suggests that the psalm serves also as an introduction to the Writings, the third section of the Tanakh. Dempster points out the similarities between Psalm 1:2-3 and Joshua 1:8-9 (the first chapter of the Prophets). In both passages, the one who meditates on the law prospers.
John Perowne, an Anglican bishop of the Victorian era, thought that Psalm 1 was written by Solomon as an introduction to his father's work, arguing that its style is similar to that of the book of Proverbs.
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Several attributes of a righteous man are described in Psalm 1. A righteous man does not listen to the advice of a wicked man, and he does not socialize with them. A righteous man does not set himself up to mock and scoff at others. According to the Book of Proverbs, the mocker does not seek wise advice, and God’s response is to mock them in return; in contrast, he gives grace to the humble.
The righteous man is not even sharing the same road as the wicked. In Psalm 23, David likens God’s guidance in the paths of righteousness to a shepherd’s guidance of his sheep and in Psalm 25, he asks for further understanding of God’s path. In Psalm 119, David writes emphatically “I hate every wrong path,” that is, ways that deviate from the ways of God. Not only will a righteous man ignore the advice of the wicked, he studies the law of the Lord every day for guidance and understanding. In Psalm 119, David refers to the word of the Lord as a light revealing the path of life. He is happy studying the law.
The righteous man is compared to a tree planted by a stream. His harvest is plentiful, and whatever he does flourishes. The prophet Jeremiah wrote a similar passage: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.” He elaborated: “It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah implied that an advantage of trusting in the LORD was the ability to withstand difficult times. Some commentators have also interpreted this to mean that the actions of the righteous man (the fruit) are a consistent representation of his professed faith.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
The word ungodly or "wicked" refers to people who break the LORD's commandments. It refers to a person whose mind is toward wrongdoing and who gives in to evil impulses. “Sinner” refers to those who sinned in the presence of the Lord and who are unclean, banished from among the Israelite people. The wicked are vulnerable to destruction in difficult times. They are compared to chaff blowing away in the wind. The wicked need not be judged, as they have already chosen their path.
Attributes of God
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
YHWH (rendered "The LORD" in KJV) is specifically mentioned in this closing to Psalm 1. He blesses those who are righteous and walk in his ways. The Lord causes the righteous person to delight in his law. He hates the ungodly and wants his people to stay separate from them. The Lord will make sure that the righteous are cared for. The Lord makes sure that the ways of wicked men will die with them and not be passed down into the righteous generations. The Lord watches over the righteous men, but he does not protect the ungodly from the natural end of their choices.
Arrangements and performances
Many different people have also put music to the words of the psalm. English poet John Milton translated Psalm 1 into English verse in 1653. Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a paraphrase of it. Music artist Kim Hill has a song named "Psalm 1".
- The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 1
- Kim Hill – Psalm 1 song
- Verse 1 is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 3, no. 3.
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- Jeremiah 17:7-9; Commentary on Jeremiah 17:8, Earle, Ralph, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Beacon Hill Press 1967, p. 627
- Commentary on Psalm 1:6; Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1706-1721, p. 390 read online
- Dummelow, J.R. The One Volume Bible Commentary. 1936.Macmillan Company. P. 328-329.
- Miller, Patrick D (2009). "The Beginning of the Psalter". In McCann, J. Clinton. Shape and Shaping of the Psalter. pp. 85–86.
- Stephen G. Dempster, "The Prophets, the Canon and a Canonical Approach," in Craig Bartholomew et al (eds.), Canon and Biblical Interpretation, p. 294.
- Deffinbaugh, Bob. "Psalm 1". Webpage. Bible.org. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- Proverbs 15:12; Commentary on Proverbs 15:12, Earle, Ralph, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Beacon Hill Press 1967, p. 543
- Proverbs 3:34; Commentary on Proverbs 3:34, Earle, Ralph, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Beacon Hill Press 1967, p. 538-539
- Psalm 23:3 Dahood, S.J. The Anchor Bible Psalms I 1-50 Doubleday and Company, Inc. Garden City, New York 1966, pp. 145-146
- Commentary on Psalm 25:4; Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1706-1721, p. 524 read online
- Commentaries on Psalm 119:104, 128; Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1706-1721, p. 1151, 1158 read online</
- Commentary on Psalm 119:105; Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III, 1706-1721, p. 524 read online
- Commentary on Psalm 1:6, Earle, Ralph, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Beacon Hill Press 1967, p. 461
- Wicked, The New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale House Publishers, 1982, p. 1250
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 557
- Berlin, Adele and Brettler, Marc Zvi, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York p. 1284-1285.
- Psalm 1 read aloud in Hebrew with musical accompaniment.
- Psalm 1 read aloud in German with musical accompaniment
- Psalm 1 in Hebrew and English with commentary on specific Hebrew words.
- Analysis of the Hebrew Poetry in Psalm 1
- The happy man of Psalm 1, from the Jewish Bible Quarterly