Psalm 37:35
I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(35) In great power.—Terrible, like a tyrant.

Green bay tree.—The Hebrew word elsewhere implies a “native” as opposed to “a foreigner.” So here an indigenous tree. “It may be questioned whether any particular tree is intended by the psalmist; but if so, it must have been an evergreen, and may possibly be the Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis), which is a native of Palestine. We met with it near Hebron; on Mount Carmel in great plenty; on Tabor, and in various glades of Galilee and Gilead” (Tristram, Natural History of Bible, 338).

The LXX. and Vulg., by slightly altering the text, have, “as cedars of Lebanon.”

Psalm 37:35-36. I have seen the wicked in great power — Hebrew, עריצ, gnaritz, violent, or formidable: not only himself out of danger, as it seemed, but terrible to others; and spreading himself — And therefore firmly and deeply rooted; like a green bay-tree — Which is continually green and flourishing, yea, even in the winter season. Hebrew, כאזרח, cheezrach, sicut arbor indigena virens, like a green native plant, or a green tree in its native soil, where trees flourish much better than when they are transplanted into another soil. Houbigant, after the LXX., and many of the ancient versions, renders it, Like a flourishing cedar. Yet he passed away — Houbigant, I passed by; and lo, he was not — He was gone, like a tree blasted and blown down, or cut off and rooted out, and carried away in a moment. I sought him, but he could not be found — There was no monument nor remainder of him left.37:34-40 Duty is ours, and we must mind it; but events are God's, we must refer the disposal of them to him. What a striking picture is in ver. 35,36, of many a prosperous enemy of God! But God remarkably blights the projects of the prosperous wicked, especially persecutors. None are perfect in themselves, but believers are so in Christ Jesus. If all the saint's days continue dark and cloudy, his dying day may prove comfortable, and his sun set bright; or, if it should set under a cloud, yet his future state will be everlasting peace. The salvation of the righteous will be the Lord's doing. He will help them to do their duties, to bear their burdens; help them to bear their troubles well, and get good by them, and, in due time, will deliver them out of their troubles. Let sinners then depart from evil, and do good; repent of and forsake sin, and trust in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Let them take his yoke upon them, and learn of him, that they may dwell for evermore in heaven. Let us mark the closing scenes of different characters, and always depend on God's mercy.I have seen - I have had an opportunity, in my long life Psalm 37:25, of witnessing the accuracy of the statement just made, that a righteous man may live to see a confirmation of the truth that wickedness, however prosperous the wicked man may be, will lead to ultimate ruin - as I have had an opportunity of seeing Psalm 37:25-26 the effect of a course of righteousness on the ultimate prosperity and happiness of its possessor. The same experience, with the same result, is referred to in Job 5:3.

In great power - The word used here - עריץ ‛ârı̂yts - means properly "terrible; inspiring terror." It is applied to God in Jeremiah 20:11; and to powerful nations, Isaiah 25:3. It is also used in a bad sense, as denoting violent, fierce, lawless, or a tyrant, Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 25:4-5; Job 15:20; Job 27:13. Here it may be used in the sense of one who was prosperous and mighty, and as referring to a man who wielded vast power; but there is connected with that also, undoubtedly, the idea that that power was wielded, not for purposes of benevolence, but for injustice, oppression, and wrong. It was a "wicked" man that was thus powerful.

And spreading himself - The word used here means properly to be naked; to make naked; to empty; then, to pour oneself out; and then, to spread oneself abroad. It is applied here to a tree that seems to pour itself out, or to spread itself out in every direction - sending its limbs aloft, and its branches far on every side.

Like a green bay tree - Margin: "a green tree that groweth in its own soil." The "bay tree" is a species of laurel, but there is no evidence that the original word here refers particularly to this, or specifically to any other tree. The original word אזרח 'ezrâch - is derived from זרח zârach, to rise; and then, to spring up as a plant does, and it properly means here, as expressed in the margin, "a native tree;" that is, a tree that grows in its own soil, or that has not been transplanted. Then, also, it comes to denote a native; one born in the country, not a foreigner: Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 18:26, et al. The idea here is that a tree which thus remains in its own soil is more vigorous, and will attain to a larger growth, than one which is transplanted; and thus the figure becomes an emblem of a prosperous and mighty man. "Perhaps," also, there is included here, respecting the man, the idea that he has grown up where he is; that he has not been driven from place to place; that he has had uniform prosperity; that on the very soil which gave him birth he has risen to rank, to wealth, to power. His life has been spent in tranquil scenes, where everything seemed to be stable and secure; what his end will be, the psalmist states in the next verse.

35, 36. of which a picture is given, under the figure of a flourishing tree (compare Margin), which soon withers. In great power, or formidable; not only himself out of danger, as it seemed, but terrible to others.

And spreading himself; and therefore firmly and deeply rooted.

Like a green bay tree, which is continually green and flourishing, yea, even in the winter season. Or, like a green tree in its own native soil, where trees flourish much better than when they are transplanted into another soil. I have seen the wicked in great power,.... Meaning some particular person invested with great power, in great authority among men, one of the spiritual wickednesses in high places; such a man as Haman in Ahasuerus's court; and though the psalmist does not choose to mention his name, he doubtless had him in his mind; as either Saul, or Doeg the Edomite, or Ahithophel, or some such man, who was in an exalted station of life; and it may be when he himself was in low and distressed circumstances: the word used (c) signifies one formidable and terrible, striking terror to all around; of whom others are afraid, as Aben Ezra interprets it, Isaiah 29:20;

and spreading himself like a green bay tree: or like one that grows up out of the earth of itself, and is in its native soil, and very flourishing: and the metaphor denotes an increase of riches and honour, and a seemingly settled state in the enjoyment of such outward felicity; so Jarchi interprets it "taking root"; as well as such a man's glorying in and boasting of his affluence and fulness; see Psalm 73:12. Aben Ezra explains it of a wicked man's openly committing iniquity, declaring his sin as Sodom, and glorying in his shame; but rather it denotes a man in great authority and esteem, as a man crowned with laurels, and in a very exalted and triumphant state.

(c) "terrificam", Montanus, Vatablus; "terribilem ant formidabilem", Gejerus, Michaelis; "daunting, terrible", Ainsworth.

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
35. I have seen] Comp. the similar appeal to experience in Psalm 37:25; and the close parallel in Job 5:3.

in great power] Or, in his terribleness, inspiring terror by tyrannical oppression. Cp. the cognate verb in Psalm 10:18 (R.V.).

like a green bay tree] R.V. like a green tree in its native soil, some deeply-rooted giant of the primeval forest, apparently secure from all danger of sudden disturbance.

35, 36. Stanza of Resh. The transitoriness of the wicked. Cp. Psalm 37:10; Psalm 52:5 ff.; Job 8:16 ffVerse 35. - I have seen the wicked in great power, and flourishing like a green bay tree; rather, as in the margin, like a green tree in his own (or, his native) soil. Growing, i.e., rankly and luxuriantly, like a leafy shrub, that has never suffered transplantation (comp. Psalm 1:3; Ezekiel 31:3). The division of the verse is wrong; for the ס strophe, without any doubt, closes with חסדיו, and the ע eht dna strophe begins with לעולם, so that, according to the text which we possess, the ע of this word is the acrostic letter. The lxx, however, after εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα φυλαχθήσονται has another line, which suggests another commencement for the ע strophe, and runs in Cod. Vat., incorrectly, ἄμωμοι ἐκδικήσονται, in Cod. Alex., correctly, ἄνομοι δὲ ἐκδιωχθήσονται (Symmachus, ἄνομοι ἐξαρθήσονται). By ἄνομος the lxx translates עריץ in Isaiah 29:20; by ἄνομα, עולה in Job 27:4; and by ἐκδιώκειν, הצמית, the synonym of השׁמיד, in Psalm 101:5; so that consequently this line, as even Venema and Schleusner have discerned, was עוּלים נשׁמדוּ. It will at once be seen that this is only another reading for לעולם נשׁמרו; and, since it stands side by side with the latter, that it is an ancient attempt to produce a correct beginning for the ע strophe, which has been transplanted from the lxx into the text. It is, however, questionable whether this reparation is really a restoration of the original words (Hupfeld, Hitzig); since עוּל (עויל) is not a word found in the Psalms (for which reason Bצttcher's conjecture of עשׁי עולה more readily commends itself, although it is critically less probable), and לעולם נשׁמרו forms a continuation that is more naturally brought about by the context and perfectly logical.
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