Psalm 1:3
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) And he.—Better, So is he. For the image so forcible in an Eastern clime, where vegetation depends on proximity to a stream, comp. Psalm 52:8; Psalm 92:12; Isaiah 44:4; and its development in Jeremiah 17:7-8. The full moral bearing of the image appears in our Lord’s parabolic saying, “a good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit, nor an evil tree good fruit.” The physical growth of a tree has in all poetry served as a ready emblem of success, as its decay has of failure. (Recall Wolsey’s comment on his fall in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.) Nor has the moral significance of vegetable life been ignored. “If,” says a German poet, “thou wouldest attain to thy highest, go look upon a flower, and what that does unconsciously do thou consciously.” In Hebrew poetry a moral purpose is given to the grass on the mountain side and the flower in the field, and we are taught that “there is not a virtue within the widest range of human conduct, not a grace set on high for man’s aspiration, which has not its fitting emblem in vegetable life.”—Bible Educator, ii, p. 179.

For the general comparison of a righteous man to a tree, comp. Psalm 3:8 (the olive), Psalm 128:3 (vine); Hosea 14:6 (olive and cedar). Naturally the actual kind of tree in the poet’s thought interests us. The oleander suggested by Dean Stanley (Sinai and Palestine, 146), though answering the description in many ways, fails from its want of fruit to satisfy the principal condition. For, as Bishop Hall says, “Look where you will in God’s Book, you shall never find any lively member of God’s house, any true Christian, compared to any but a fruitful tree.” Probably the palm meets all the conditions best. (Comp. Psalm 92:12.)

The last clause, “Whatsoever he doeth, it shall,” &c, is obscure in construction. The best rendering is, all that he doeth he maketh to prosper, which may mean either “the righteous man carries out to a successful end all his enterprises,” or “all that he begins he brings to a maturity.”

Psalm 1:3. And, or For, he shall be like a tree, &c. — This is the proof of that blessedness of a good man which he had only asserted, Psalm 1:1. He shall be fruitful and flourishing. By his meditations on the law of God, his graces and virtues shall be nourished and increased, and he shall be thoroughly furnished for every good word and work. The means of grace are those rivers of water near which the trees of righteousness are planted, and from these they receive supplies of strength and vigour, but in secret, undiscerned ways. That bringeth forth fruit in his season — That is, in the time of fruit-bearing; which, being applied to the good man, denotes either, 1st, His active goodness, that he seeks and improves all opportunities for doing good, exercising faith, hope, and love, piety and virtue, justice, mercy, charity, temperance, patience, meekness, long-suffering, according to the several occasions offered him: or, 2d, The issue thereof, the happiness resulting therefrom; that he shall have the fruit, or benefit, of his godly life in due time, and when it will be most for his advantage, possibly in some measure in this life, but assuredly in the life to come. His leaf also shall not wither — His blessedness is not short and transitory, as all worldly felicity is, but fixed and everlasting, like those trees which are continually green and flourishing. And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper — All his actions, being directed by the word, providence and grace of God, shall be crowned with success in one respect or another, (for even disappointments, losses, and afflictions, shall work for his good,) and with a blessed effect or end.1:1-3 To meditate in God's word, is to discourse with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it, with close application of mind and fixedness of thought. We must have constant regard to the word of God, as the rule of our actions, and the spring of our comforts; and have it in our thoughts night and day. For this purpose no time is amiss.And he shall be like a tree - A description of the happiness or prosperity of the man who thus avoids the way of sinners, and who delights in the law of God, now follows. This is presented in the form of a very beautiful image - a tree planted where its roots would have abundance of water.

Planted by the rivers of water - It is not a tree that springs up spontaneously, but one that is set out in a favorable place, and that is cultivated with care. The word "rivers" does not here quite express the sense of the original. The Hebrew word פלג peleg, from פלג pâlag, to cleave, to split, to divide), properly means divisions; and then, channels, canals, trenches, branching-cuts, brooks. The allusion is to the Oriental method of irrigating their lands by making artificial rivulets to convey the water from a larger stream, or from a lake. In this way, the water was distributed in all directions. The whole land of Egypt was anciently sluiced in this manner, and it was in this way that its extraordinary fertility was secured. An illustration of the passage may be derived from the account by Maundrell of the method of watering the gardens and orchards in the vicinity of Damascus. "The gardens are thick set with fruit trees of all kinds, kept fresh and verdant by the waters of the Barady .... This river, as soon as it issues out of the cleft of the mountain before mentioned, into the plain, is immediately divided into three streams, of which the middlemost and largest runs directly to Damascus, and is distributed to all the cisterns and fountains of the ciy. The other two, which I take to be the work of art, are drawn round, the one to the right, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens, into which they are let out, as they pass, by little rivulets, and so dispersed over all the vast wood, insomuch that there is not a garden but has a fine, quick stream running through it." Trav., p. 122.

A striking allusion to trees cultivated in this manner occurs in Ezekiel 31:3-4 : "Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of a high stature, and his top was among the thick boughs. The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high, with his rivers running round about his plants, and sent out his little rivers unto all the trees of the field." So Ecclesiastes 2:4 : "I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees." No particular kind of tree is referred to in the passage before us, but there are abundant illustrations of the passage in the rows of willow, oranges, etc., that stand on the banks of these artificial streams in the East. The image is that of a tree abundantly watered, and that was flourishing.

That bringeth forth his fruit in his season - Whose fruit does not fall by the lack of nutriment. The idea is that of a tree which, at the proper season of the year, is loaded with fruit. Compare Psalm 92:14. The image is one of great beauty. The fruit is not untimely. It does not ripen and fall too soon, or fall before it is mature; and the crop is abundant.

His leaf also shall not wither - By drought and heat. Compare Job 8:16, note; Job 15:32, note. It is green and flourishing - a striking image of a happy and a prosperous man.

And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper - This is a literal statement of what had just been put in a figurative or poetic form. It contains a general truth, or contains an affirmation as to the natural and proper effect of religion, or of a life of piety, and is similar to that which occurs in 1 Timothy 4:8 : "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." This idea of the effect of a life of piety is one that is common in the Scriptures, and is sustained by the regular course of events. If a man desires permanent prosperity and happiness, it is to be found only in the ways of virtue and religion. The word "whatsoever" here is to be taken in a general sense, and the proper laws of interpretation do not require that we should explain it as universally true. It is conceivable that a righteous man - a man profoundly and sincerely fearing God - may sometimes form plans that will not be wise; it is conceivable that he may lose his wealth, or that he may be involved in the calamities that come upon a people in times of commercial distress, in seasons of war, of famine, and pestilence; it is conceivable that he may be made to suffer loss by the fraud and dishonesty of other men; but still as a general and as a most important truth, a life of piety will be followed by prosperity, and will constantly impart happiness. It is this great and important truth which it is the main design of the Book of Psalms to illustrate.

3. like a tree—(Jer 17:7, 8).

planted—settled, fast.

by—or, "over."

the rivers—canals for irrigation.

shall prosper—literally, "make prosper," brings to perfection. The basis of this condition and character is given (Ps 32:1).

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.

"And he shall be like a tree planted;" not a wild tree, but "a tree planted," chosen, considered as property, cultivated and secured from the last terrible uprooting, for "every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up:" Matthew 15:13. "By the rivers of water;" so that even if one river should fail, he hath another. The rivers of pardon and the rivers of grace, the rivers of the promise and the rivers of the communion with Christ, are never-failing sources of supply. He is "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;" not unseasonable graces, like untimely figs, which are never full-flavoured. But the man who delights in God's Word, being taught by it, bringeth forth patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, and holy joy in the hour of prosperity. Fruitfulness is an essential quality of: a gracious man, and that fruitfulness should be seasonable. "His leaf also shall not wither;" his faintest word shall be everlasting; his little deeds of love shall be had in remembrance. Not simply shall his fruit be preserved, but his leaf also. He shall neither lose his beauty nor his fruitfulness. "And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Blessed is the man who hath such a promise as this. But we must not always estimate the fulfilment of a promise by our own eye-sight. How often, my brethren, if we judge by feeble sense, may we come to the mournful conclusion of Jacob, "All these things are against me!" For though we know our interest in the promise, yet are we so tried and troubled, that sight sees the very reverse of what that promise foretells. But to the eye of faith this word is sure, and by it we perceive that our works are prospered, even when everything seems to go against us. It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values; it is soul prosperity which he longs for. We often, like Jehoshaphat, make ships to go to Tarshish for gold, but they are broken at Ezion-geber; but even here there is a true prospering, for it is often for the soul's health that we should be poor, bereaved, and persecuted. Our worst things are often our best things. As there is a curse wrapped up in the wicked man's mercies, so there is a blessing concealed in the righteous man's crosses, losses, and sorrows. The trials of the saint are a divine husbandry, by which he grows and brings forth abundant fruit.

And, or for, as this particle is oft used, as Psalm 60:12 Psalm 108:13 Proverbs 4:17; this being the proof of that blessedness of a good man, which he had only asserted, Psalm 1:1.

By the rivers, i.e. a river; the plural number being put for the singular, as it is Judges 12:7 Jonah 1:5, and oft elsewhere.

In his season, i.e. in the time of fruit-bearing; which being applied to the good man, notes either,

1. His active goodness, that he seeketh and improveth all opportunities for the doing of good, exercising godliness, justice, temperance, charity, patience, &c., according to the several occasions offered to him. Or rather,

2. His certain prosperity and happiness, as may be gathered from the end of this verse, and the opposite state of the ungodly, Psalm 1:4,5; that he shall have the fruit or benefit of his godly life in due time, or when it is expedient for him; possibly in this life, but assuredly in the next life.

His leaf also shall not wither; his happiness is not short and transitory, as all worldly felicity is; but fixed and everlasting, like those trees which are continually green and flourishing: or, and (like a tree) whose leaf never withers. Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper; all his actions shall be crowned with success, and a blessed end or effect: see Romans 8:28. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,.... Or, "for then shall he be", &c. as Alshech renders the words; and the Hebrew "vau" is often used for "then" (q). As Psalm 1:1 describe the man who is blessed, this points at his blessedness, and shows and proves him to be an happy man; for he is comparable to a "tree": not to a dry tree, or a tree without fruit, or whose fruit is withered, but to a fruitful tree, a green and flourishing one; green olive tree, or a palm tree, or a cedar in Lebanon; to which David compares himself and the righteous, Psalm 52:8; and here such an one is compared to a tree "planted"; not to one that grows of itself, a wild tree, a tree of the wood; but to one that is removed from its native place and soil, and planted elsewhere; and so designs such who are broken off of the wild olive tree, and are grafted into the good olive tree; who are planted in Christ Jesus, and in the church, the house of the Lord; of which transplantation the removal of Israel into Canaan's land was an emblem, Psalm 80:8; and such a spiritual plantation is of God the husbandman; whose planting the saints are efficiently, Isaiah 60:21. And it is owing to the word, the ingrafted word, James 1:21, which is the means of this ingrafture, and to the ministers of it instrumentally; some of whom plant, and others water, 1 Corinthians 3:6. Moreover, the happy man before described is like a tree that is situated "by the rivers of water", or "divisions" (r) and rivulets of water; which running about the plants, make them very fruitful and flourishing; see Ezekiel 31:4; and which may intend the river of the love of God, and the streams of it, the discoveries and applications of it to regenerate persons; and also the fulness of grace in Christ, who is the fountain of gardens, the well of living waters and streams from Lebanon, to revive, refresh, supply, and comfort his people, Sol 4:15; as well as the graces of the Spirit of God, which are near the saints, and like rivers of water flow out of them that believe in Christ, John 7:38; to which may be added the word and ordinances of the Gospel, which are the still waters, to which they are invited and led, and by which and with which they are greatly refreshed, and made fruitful. Arama interprets it of the waters of the law; it is best to understand it of the Gospel; see Isaiah 55:1; it follows,

that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; and so appears to be a tree of righteousness, filled with the fruits of righteousness, the graces of the Spirit, and good works; which are brought forth by him under the influence of grace, as he has opportunity, and according to the measure of grace bestowed. His leaf also shall not wither; neither tree, nor fruit, nor leaf shall wither, but shall be always green; which is expressive of the saints' perseverance: the reasons of which are, they are ingrafted in Christ the true vine, and abide in him, from whom they have their sap, nourishment, and fruit, John 15:1; they are rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith of him; and so they hold fast the profession of it without wavering;

and whatsoever he doth shall prosper; meaning not so much in things temporal, of which Arama interprets it, for in these the good man does not always succeed, but in things spiritual: whatever he does in faith, from love, to the glory of God, and in the name of Christ, prospers; yea, those things in which he is concerned, that are adverse, and seem for the present to be against him, in the issue work for good to him: in short, such a man is blessed with grace here, and glory hereafter; and therefore must needs be an happy man.

(q) Vid. Noldii Concord. Part. Ebr. p. 308. (r) "juxta divisiones"; Musculus, Hammond; so Ben Melech.

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 {c} whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

(c) God's children are so moistened with his grace, that whatever comes to them, tends to their salvation.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. The consequent prosperity of the godly man is emblematically described. As a tree is nourished by constant supplies of water, without which under the burning Eastern sun it would wither and die, so the life of the godly man is maintained by the supplies of grace drawn from constant communion with God through His revelation. Cp. Psalm 52:8; Psalm 92:12; Psalm 128:3; Numbers 24:6. If a special tree is meant, it is probably not the oleander (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 146), which bears no fruit; nor the vine (Ezekiel 19:10); nor the pomegranate; but the palm. Its love of water, its stately growth, its evergreen foliage, its valuable fruit, combine to suggest that it is here referred to. Cp. Sir 24:14; and see Thomson’s Land and the Book, p. 48 f.

the rivers of water] Better, streams of water: either natural watercourses (Isaiah 44:4): or more probably artificial channels for irrigating the land. Cp. Proverbs 21:1; Ecclesiastes 2:5-6.

and whatsoever &c.] Or, as R.V. marg., in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper. The figure of the tree is dropped, and the words refer directly to the godly man. The literal meaning of the word rendered prosper is to carry through to a successful result. Cp. Joshua 1:8; and for illustration, Genesis 39:3; Genesis 39:23.Verse 3. - And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. The comparison of a man to a. tree is frequent in the Book of Job (Job 8:16, 17; 14:7-10; 15:32, 33, etc.), and occurs once in the Pentateuch (Numbers 24:6). We find it again in Psalm 92:12-14, and frequently in the prophets. The "rivers of water" spoken of (פַּלְגַ־מָיִם) are undoubtedly the "streams" (Revised Version) or "canals of irrigation" so common both in Egypt and in Babylonia, by which fruit trees were planted, as especially date-palms, which need the vicinity of water. That such planting of trees by the waterside was known to the Israelites is evident, both from this passage and from several others, as Numbers 24:6; Ecclesiastes 2:5; Jeremiah 17:8; Ezekiel 17:5, 8, etc. It is misplaced ingenuity to attempt to decide what particular tree the writer had in his mind, whether the palm, or the oleander, or any other, since he may not have been thinking of any particular tree. That bringeth forth his fruit in his season. Therefore not the oleander, which has no fruit, and is never planted in the East, but grows naturally along the courses of streams. His leaf also shall not wither. Compare the contrary threat of Isaiah against the wicked of his time, "Ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water" (Isaiah 1:30). And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper; rather, perhaps, in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper. 14 And the one was called Jemma, and the second Kezia, and the third Keren ha-pch.

The subject of ויּקרא is each and every one, as Isaiah 9:5 (comp. supra, Job 41:25, existimaverit quis). The one was called ימימה (Arab. jemâme, a dove) on account of her dove's eyes; the other קציעה, cassia, because she seemed to be woven out of the odour of cinnamon; and the third קרן הפּוּך, a horn of paint (lxx Hellenizing: κέρας ἀμαλθείας), which is not exactly beautiful in itself, but is the principal cosmetic of female beauty (vid., Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, transl.): the third was altogether the most beautiful, possessing a beauty heightened by artificial means. They were therefore like three graces. The writer here keeps to the outward appearance, not disowning his Old Testament standpoint. That they were what their names implied, he says in

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