Psalm 1

Prologue—Psalms 1–2[a]

Psalm 1[b]

True Happiness

1 Blessed[c] is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stand in the way of sinners,
nor sit in the company of scoffers.
2 Rather, his delight is in the law of the Lord,[d]
and on that law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted near streams of water,
which bears fruit in its season,
and whose leaves never wither.[e]
In the same way,
everything he does will prosper.
4 This is not true of the wicked,
for they are like chaff that the wind blows away.[f]
5 Therefore, the wicked will not stand firm at the judgment,[g]
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over[h] the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.


  1. Psalm 1:1 These first two psalms are regarded as a preface to the entire Psalter. Collections of psalms that were originally different were gradually regrouped to comprise the Psalter as we have it; the psalms attributed to David (3–41 and 51–72), the songs of Ascents (120–134), and the chants of the Hallel (105–107, 111–118, 135–150) constitute the most remarkable of these primary collections. But as presently arranged in our Bible, the Book of Psalms is divided like the Pentateuch (the first five Books of the Bible that are called the Law) into five unequal parts, each of which ends with a formula of acclamation.
  2. Psalm 1:1 At the entrance to the collection of the Psalms, we are immediately placed before a life-choice: God or nothingness. This option imposes itself on us throughout all the pages of the Bible. In the historical accounts, law codes, prophecies, prayers, and meditative texts, a line of division is set forth. It distinguishes between righteousness and impiety, self-reliance and faith, good and evil, wickedness and love. The words are varied and the experiences are numerous in order to bear witness to this rupture.
    They mark a division between peoples, between individuals, and between the acts and projects of our lives. Appearances may produce change and daily contradict the faithful’s overly naive dreams about prosperity; however, one fact remains: a life of righteousness and truth is a path of happiness, a path to God, whereas those who deaden their conscience for their own ends have no other future but ruin.
    Every time a reader prays a psalm, he or she is forced to choose between the “two ways” (see Deut 30:15; Prov 4:18f; Jer 21:8), the difference between which is underscored by Jesus (see Mt 7:13; 25). The righteous are blessed for they are separated from sin, Bible-centered, and prosperous. Unlike them are the wicked who are doomed to judgment.
  3. Psalm 1:1 The Psalter begins by declaring the blessedness of the righteous (v. 1) and concludes by summoning all creation to praise God in heaven and on earth (Ps 150). Human beings are made for happiness, and the revealed moral law is oriented toward that happiness. Blessed: the happy state of life in fellowship with God, revering him and obeying his laws (see Pss 94:12; 112:1; 119:1f; 128:1; Prov 29:18). Scoffers: those who reject God and his law (see Prov 1:10-19).
  4. Psalm 1:2 The law of the Lord: either the first five Books of the Bible, known as the Torah (law), or divine instruction. Meditates: literally, “murmurs,” i.e., assimilates the law of life that incarnates the presence of God and teaches the believer how to attain joyous intimacy with the Lord. Indeed, the law is a judgment of God and a happiness for human beings.
  5. Psalm 1:3 Like a tree . . . never wither: the righteous are able to withstand the rigors of life. Like a tree planted on fertile ground, they are able to enhance their spiritual life.
  6. Psalm 1:4 Like chaff . . . blows away: the wicked are completely powerless spiritually, for they are like chaff that is easily borne away, even by the slightest breeze.
  7. Psalm 1:5 At the judgment—either God’s judgment of the wicked during life (see Pss 76:7f; 130:3; Ezr 9:15) or his judgment of them at the end of time (see Mal 3:2; Mt 25:31-46; Rev 6:17)—the wicked will bear the brunt of their misdeeds. Righteous: a name for the faithful People of God, i.e., those who reverence God and diligently strive to carry out his laws in every phase of their lives.
  8. Psalm 1:6 Watches over: the Lord takes an avid interest in their conduct (see Pss 31:7f; 37:18; Gen 18:19; Am 3:2; Nah 1:7). The way of the wicked will perish: a similar fate is set forth for the wicked in Ps 112:10: “the desires of the wicked will be fruitless.” The theme of the two ways has already been found in Deut 30:15f and Jer 21:8; it will be taken up again in Prov 4:18f and Mt 7:13.

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