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Psalm 1:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
The wicked are not so. Literally, “Not thus the wicked.” For the word ungodly, see 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 regarding 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.
The wicked. Wicked: (רָשָׁע rasha) is the unrighteous who are evil, being guilty of willfully and purposely violating the standards of God. In the Old Testament it refers to the one who refuses to acknowledge or obey God. In the book of Proverbs explicitly, it refers to the foolish one who ignores or refuses to follow the divine teachings of God. It is a state or condition of evil that focuses on the violating of God’s laws or standards. – Prov. 3:33; 18:3.
Wickedness: (רֶשַׁע resha; Gr. ponēria) A quality, state or condition that does not conform to God’s standard of moral excellence is wicked, bad, evil, or worthless. – Deut. 9:4-5; 25:2; Pro. 11:5; 13:6; Isa 9:17; Eze 5:6; 18:20, 27; 33:12, 19; Zech. 5:8; Matt. 23:25; 22:18; Mark 7:22; Lu 11:39; Ac 3:26; Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:8.
But are like chaff that the wind drives 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 be 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 Notes on Matt. 3:12. The following cut will furnish an illustration of this as practiced in Oriental countries:
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; Isa. 17:13. Comp. also Ps. 35:5; Isa. 29:5; 41:15; Dan. 2:35; Hos. 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.
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews