Psalm 1:4
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) The ungodly.—Better, Not so the ungodly.

But are like.—They shall be winnowed out of the society of the true Israel by the fan of God’s judgment. The image is a striking one, although so frequent as almost to have become a poetical commonplace (Habakkuk 3:12; Joel 3:14; Jeremiah 51:33; Isaiah 21:10). (See Bible Educator, iv. 4.)

Psalm 1:4. The ungodly are not so — Their condition is far different; but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away — Withered and worthless, restless and unquiet, without form or stability, blown about by every wind, and, at length, finally dispersed from the face of the earth, by the breath of God’s displeasure, and driven into the fire which never shall be quenched. Their seeming felicity hath no firm foundation, but quickly vanishes, and flies away, as chaff before the wind. 1:4-6 The ungodly are the reverse of the righteous, both in character and condition. The ungodly are not so, ver. 4; they are led by the counsel of the wicked, in the way of sinners, to the seat of the scornful; they have no delight in the law of God; they bring forth no fruit but what is evil. The righteous are like useful, fruitful trees: the ungodly are like the chaff which the wind drives away: the dust which the owner of the floor desires to have driven away, as not being of any use. They are of no worth in God's account, how highly soever they may value themselves. They are easily driven to and fro by every wind of temptation. The chaff may be, for a while, among the wheat, but He is coming, whose fan is in his hand, and who will thoroughly purge his floor. Those that, by their own sin and folly, make themselves as chaff, will be found so before the whirlwind and fire of Divine wrath. The doom of the ungodly is fixed, but whenever the sinner becomes sensible of this guilt and misery, he may be admitted into the company of the righteous by Christ the living way, and become in Christ a new creature. He has new desires, new pleasures, hopes, fears, sorrows, companions, and employments. His thoughts, words, and actions are changed. He enters on a new state, and bears a new character. Behold, all things are become new by Divine grace, which changes his soul into the image of the Redeemer. How different the character and end of the ungodly!The ungodly are not so - literally, "Not thus the wicked." For the word ungodly, see the notes at Psalm 1:1. The statement that the "wicked are not so," is a general statement applicable alike to their character and destiny, though the mind of the author of the psalm is fixed immediately and particularly on the difference in their destiny, without specifying anything particularly respecting their character. It is as true, however, that the ungodly do walk in the counsel of the wicked, and stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of the scornful, as it is that the righteous do not; as true that they do not delight in the law of the Lord, as it is that the righteous do; as true that the wicked are not like a tree planted by the channels of water, as it is that the righteous are. This passage, therefore, may be employed to show what is the character of the ungodly, and in so applying it, what was before negative in regard to the righteous, becomes positive in regard to the wicked; what was positive, becomes negative. Thus it is true:

(a) that the wicked do walk in the counsel of the ungodly; do stand in the way of sinners; do sit in the seat of the scornful;

(b) that they do not delight in the law of the Lord, or meditate on his word; and

(c) that they are not like a tree planted by the waters, that is green and beautiful and fruitful.

Both in character and in destiny the ungodly differ from the righteous. The subsequent part of the verse shows that, while the general truth was in the mind of the writer, the particular thing on which his attention was fixed was, his condition in life - his destiny - as that which could not be compared with a green and fruitful tree, but which suggested quite another image.

But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away - When the wheat was winnowed. This, in Oriental countries, was commonly performed in the open field, and usually on an eminence, and where there was a strong wind. The operation was performed, as it is now in our country, when a fan or fanning-mill cannot he procured, by throwing up the grain as it is threshed with a shovel, and the wind scatters the chaff, while the grain falls to the ground. See the notes at Matthew 3:12.

This very naturally and appropriately furnished an illustration of the destiny of the wicked. Compared with the righteous, they were like the worthless chaff driven away by the wind. The image is often found in the Scriptures. See Job 21:18, note; Isaiah 17:13, note. Compare also Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 41:15; Daniel 2:35; Hosea 13:3. The idea here is, that the wicked are in no respect like the green and fruitful tree referred to in Psalm 1:3. They are not like a tree in any respect. They are not even like a decaying tree, a barren tree, a dead tree, for either of these would suggest some idea of stability or permanency. They are like dry and worthless chaff driven off by the wind, as of no value to the farmer - a substance which he is anxious only to separate wholly from his grain, and to get out of his way. The idea thus suggested, therefore, is that of intrinsic worthlessness. It will be among other things, on this account that the wicked will be driven away - that they are worthless in the universe of God - worthless to all the purposes for which man was made. At the same time, however, there may be an implied contrast between that chaff and the useful grain which it is the object of the farmer to secure.

4. not so—either as to conduct or happiness.

like the chaff—which, by Eastern modes of winnowing against the wind, was utterly blown away.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

We have now come to the second head of the Psalm. In this verse the contrast of the ill estate of the wicked is employed to heighten the colouring of that fair and pleasant picture which precedes it. The more forcible translation of the Vulgate and of the Septuagint version is - "Not so the ungodly, not so." And we are hereby to understand that whatever good thing is said of the righteous is not true in the case of the ungodly. Oh! how terrible is it to have a double negative put upon the promises! and yet this is just the condition of the ungodly. Mark the use of the term "ungodly," for, as we have seen in the opening of the Psalm, these are the beginners in evil, and are the least offensive of sinners. Oh! if such is the sad state of those who quietly continue in their morality, and neglect their God; what must be the condition of open sinners and shameless infidels? The first sentence is a negative description of the ungodly, and the second is the positive picture. Here is their character - "they are like chaff," intrinsically worthless, dead, unserviceable, without substance, and easily carried away. Here, also, mark their doom - "The wind driveth away;" death shall hurry them with its terrible blast into the fire in which they shall be utterly consumed.

The ungodly are not so; their condition is far differing from the former.

But are like the chaff; in regard either,

1. Of their sinful disposition. They are vain and frothy, unprofitable and hurtful, without any root of true and solid goodness, without any certain end or constant course, tossed to and fro with every wind of their own lusts or temptations. Or rather,

2. Of their wretched condition. They are restless and unquiet in their own minds and consciences; their seeming felicity, in which they please and pride themselves, hath no firm foundation, but quickly vanisheth and fleeth away, as chaff doth before the wind, and their end is to be burned: see Job 21:8 Psalm 35:5 Matthew 3:12. The ungodly are not so,.... They are not as the good man is; their manner and course of life are different; they walk in the counsel of ungodly men, like themselves, and take counsel against the Lord, his Anointed, and his people: they stand in the way of sinners, and steer their conversation according to the course of the world, and sit in the seat of the scornful; laugh at divine revelation, lampoon the Scriptures, deride good men, make a jest of religion and a future state: they have no delight in the law of the Lord, they cast it away from them, and despise it; and are so far from a constant meditation on it, that they never read it, nor so much as look into it, nor is it ever in their thoughts. They are not like to a tree, as described in Psalm 1:3, if they are like to trees, it is to dry trees, and not green ones, to trees without any sap, moisture, and verdure, and which are only fit fuel for the fire; to the trees of the wood, to wild olive trees; to trees on an heath, in a desert, in parched land, and not to trees by rivers of water, but to trees that have no root, and are without fruit, Jde 1:12. And though they may be in a seeming prosperous condition for a time, may be in great power, riches, and honour, and spread themselves like a green bay tree; yet suddenly they are cut down as the grass, and wither as the green herb; and even their outward prosperity destroys them; so that not anything they have or do in the issue prospers: and therefore they are not blessed or happy as the good man is; yea, they are wretched and miserable, nay, cursed; they are cursed now, and will be hereafter; they are cursed in their basket and store, their blessings are curses to them; the law pronounces them cursed; and they will hear, "go ye cursed", at the day of judgment, see Matthew 25:41. The Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, and Arabic versions, repeat the words "not so", and read "not so the ungodly, not so:" which seems to be done for the confirmation of the truth of it:

but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away; they are like chaff, which has no root, moisture, greenness, nor fruitfulness; they have nothing in them solid and substantial; they are destitute of all that is good; are vain and empty; without the knowledge of God and Christ; without faith in Christ and love to him; and are sensual, not having the Spirit, his graces and fruits: they are like chaff for lightness, vain in their imaginations, light in their principles, frothy in their words, and unstable in all their ways: they are never long in any position, unsettled, disquieted, and tossed to and fro; and there is no peace unto them: they are like chaff, useless and unprofitable, nothing worth, fit only for everlasting burnings, which will be their case. For when Christ will gather his wheat, the righteous, which are of value, into his garner, the heavenly glory, he will burn the chaff, the wicked, with unquenchable fire. They are now like chaff, driven and carried about with every wind of doctrine, with divers and strange doctrines, and entertain every light and airy notion; and are easily drawn aside and carried away by the force of their own lusts, and with every temptation of Satan, who works effectually in then: and particularly they are like chaff before the wind of terrible judgments and calamities in this life, and of the awful judgment hereafter, when they will be driven away from the presence of the Lord into everlasting destruction. The metaphor is often used in this sense; see Job 21:17; and denotes the secret, sudden, sure, and easy ruin of the ungodly, which comes upon them like a whirlwind, in an instant, which they cannot avoid; and they can no more stand before God and against him, than chaff before the wind. It follows,

{d} The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

(d) Though the wicked seem to prosper in this world, yet the Lord drives them down that they shall not rise nor stand in the company of the righteous.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. In sharp contrast to the firmly-rooted, flourishing, fruitful tree is the chaff on the threshing-floor, worthless in itself, and liable to be swept away by every passing breeze.

The scattering of chaff by the wind is a common figure in the O.T. for the sudden destruction of the wicked. Cp. Psalm 35:5; Job 21:18; Isaiah 29:5; Hosea 13:3. Here it describes their character as well as their fate. It would be vividly suggestive to those who were familiar with the sight of the threshing-floors, usually placed on high ground to take advantage of every breeze, on which the corn was threshed out and winnowed by throwing it up against the wind with shovels, the grain falling on the floor to be carefully gathered up, the chaff left to be carried away by the wind and vanish.

The P.B.V. following the LXX and Vulg. adds from the face of the earth. Cp. Amos 9:8; Zephaniah 1:2-3.

4–6. The character and destiny of the wicked.Verse 4. - The ungodly are not so; or, the wicked (see the comment on ver. 1. But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. "Chaff" is used throughout Scripture as an emblem of what is weak and worthless (see Job 21:18; Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 33:11; Isaiah 41:15; Jeremiah 23:28; Daniel 2:35; Hosea 13:3; Zephaniah 2:2; Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). In ancient times it was considered of no value at all, and when corn was winnowed, it was thrown up in the air until the wind had blown all the chaff away (see the representation in the author's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 163). 15 And in all the land there were not found women so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers.

On נמצא, followed by the acc., vid., Ges. 143, 1, b. להם, etc., referring to the daughters, is explained from the deficiency in Hebrew in the distinction of the genders. Job 42:15 sounds more Arabian than Israelitish, for the Thora only recognises a daughter as heiress where there are no sons, Numbers 27:8 The writer is conscious that he is writing an extra-Israelitish pre-Mosaic history. The equal distribution of the property again places before our eyes the pleasing picture of family concord in the commencement of the history; at the same time it implies that Job will not have been wanting in son-in-law for his fair, richly-dowried daughters, - a fact which Job 42:16 establishes:

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