7. Be silent to Jehovah, and wait for him; fret not because of the man who prospereth in his way, against the man who commits wickedness.1 8. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself so as to do evil, 9. For the wicked shall be cut off; but those that wait upon Jehovah shall inherit the earth. 10. Yet a little while; and the wicked shall not be; and thou shalt look upon his place, and shalt not find him. 11. But the meek shall inherit the earth,2 and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
7. Be silent to Jehovah. The Psalmist continues the illustration of the same doctrine, namely, that we should patiently and meekly bear those things that usually disquiet our minds; for amid innumerable sources of disquietude and conflict there is need of no small patience. By the similitude of silence, which often occurs in the sacred writings, he declares most aptly the nature of faith; for as our affections rise in rebellion against the will of God, so faith, restoring us to a state of humble and peaceful submission, appeases all the tumults of our hearts. By this expression,3 therefore, David commands us not to yield to the tumultuous passions of the soul, as the unbelieving do, nor fretfully to set ourselves in opposition to the authority of God, but rather to submit peacefully to him, that he may execute his work in silence. Moreover, as the Hebrew word lwx, chul, which we have rendered to wait, sometimes signifies to mourn, and sometimes to wait, the word llwxth, hithcholel, in this place is understood by some as meaning to mourn moderately, or to bear sorrow patiently. It might also be rendered more simply to mourn before God, in order that he might be a witness of all our sorrows; for when the unbelieving give way to doubt and suspense, they rather murmur against him than utter their complaints before him. As, however, the other interpretation is more generally received, namely, that David is exhorting us to hope and patience, I adhere to it. The prophet Isaiah also connects hope with silence in the same sense, (Isaiah 30:15.)
David next repeats what he had said in the first verse, Fret not because of the man who prospereth in his way, or who brings his ways to a happy issue; nor against the man who behaveth himself wickedly, or who accomplishes his devices. Of these two interpretations of this last clause, the latter is more in accordance with the scope of the psalm. I confess, indeed, that the word twmzm mezimmoth, is commonly taken in a bad sense for fraud and stratagem. But as Mmz zamam, sometimes signifies in general to meditate, the nature of the Hebrew language will bear this meaning, that to execute his devices is of the same import as to effect what he has purposed. Now we see that these two things are connected, namely to dispose his ways according to his desires, or to prosper in his way, and to accomplish his devices. It is a very great temptation to us and difficult to bear, when we see fortune smiling upon the ungodly, as if God approved of their wickedness; nay, it excites our wrath and indignation. David, therefore, not contented with a short admonition, insists at some length upon this point.
The accumulation of terms which occurs in the next verse, in which he lays a restraint as with a bridle upon anger, allays wrath and assuages passion, it is not superfluous; but, as in necessary, he rather prescribes numerous remedies for a disease which it is difficult to cure. By this means, he reminds us how easily we are provoked, and how ready we are to take offence, unless we lay a powerful restraint upon our tumultuous passions, and keep them under control. And although the faithful are not able to subdue the lusts of the flesh without much trouble and labour, whilst the prosperity of the wicked excites their impatience, yet this repetition teaches us that we ought unceasingly to wrestle against them; for if we steadily persevere, we know that our endeavors shall not be in vain in the end. I differ from other commentators in the exposition of the last clause. They translate it, at least to do evil; as if David meant that we should appease our anger lest it should lead us to do mischief. But as the particle Ka, ach, which they translate at least, is often used affirmatively in Hebrew, I have no doubt that David here teaches, that it cannot be otherwise than that the offense which we take at the prosperity of the wicked should lead us to sin, unless we speedily check it; as it is said in another Psalm,
"God will break the cords of the ungodly, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity," (Psalm 125:3.)
9. For the wicked shall be cut off. It is not without cause that he repeatedly inculcates the same thing, namely, that the happiness and prosperity which the ungodly enjoy is only a mask or phantom; for the first sight of it so dazzles our senses, that we are unable to form a proper estimate of what will be its issue, in the light of which alone we ought to judge of the value of all that has preceded. But the contrast between the two clauses of the verse ought to be observed. First, in saying that the wicked shall be cut off, he intimates that they shall flourish fresh and green till the time of their destruction shall arrive; and, secondly, in allotting the earth to the godly, saying, They shall inherit the earth, he means that they shall live in such a manner as that the blessing of God shall follow them, even to the grave. Now, as I have already said, the present condition of men is to be estimated by the state in which it will terminate. From the epithet by which he distinguishes the children of God, we learn that they are exercised by a severe conflict for the trial of their faith; for he speaks of them, not as righteous or godly, but as those that wait upon the Lord. What purpose would this waiting serve, unless they groaned under the burden of the cross? Moreover, the possession of the earth which he promises to the children of God is not always realised to them; because it is the will of the Lord that they should live as strangers and pilgrims in it; neither does he permit them to have any fixed abode in it, but rather tries them with frequent troubles, that they may desire with greater alacrity the everlasting dwelling-place of heaven. The flesh is always seeking to build its nest for ever here; and were we not tossed hither and thither, and not suffered to rest, we would by and by forget heaven and the everlasting inheritance. Yet, in the midst of this disquietude, the possession of the earth, of which David here speaks, is not taken away from the children of God; for they know most certainly that they are the rightful heirs of the world. Hence it is that they eat their bread with a quiet conscience, and although they suffer want, yet God provides for their necessities in due season. Finally, although the ungodly labor to effect their destruction, and reckon them unworthy to live upon the earth, yet God stretches forth his hand and protects them; nay, he so upholds them by his power, that they live more securely in a state of exile, than the wicked do in their nests to which they are attached. And thus the blessing, of which David speaks, is in part secret and hidden, because our reason is so dull, that we cannot comprehend what it is to possess the earth; and yet the faithful truly feel and understand that this promise is not made to them in vain, since, having fixed the anchor of their faith in God, they pass their life every day in peace, while God makes it manifest in their experience, that the shadow of his hand is sufficient to protect them.
10. Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be. This is a confirmation of the preceding verse. It might well have been objected, that the actual state of things in the world is very different from what David here represents it, since the ungodly riot in their pleasures, and the people of God pine away in sickness and poverty. David, therefore, wishing to guard us against a rash and hasty judgment, exhorts us to be quiet for a little while, till the Lord cut off the wicked entirely, and show the efficacy of his grace towards his own people. What he requires then on the part of the true believers is, that in the exercise of their wisdom they should suspend their judgment for a time, and not stop at every trifle, but exercise their thoughts in meditation upon divine providence, until God show out of heaven that the full time is come. Instead, however, of describing them as those who wait upon the Lord, he now speaks of them as the meek; and this he does not without good reason: for unless a man believe that God preserves his own people in a wonderful manner, as if they were like sheep among wolves, he will be always endeavoring to repel force by force.4 It is hope alone, therefore, which of itself produces meekness; for, by restraining the impetuosity of the flesh, and allaying its vehemence, it trains to equanimity and patience those who submit themselves to God. From this passage it would seem, that Christ has taken that which is written in Matthew 5:5. The word peace is generally employed in the Hebrew to denote the prosperous and happy issue of things; yet another sense will agree better with this place, namely, that while the ungodly shall be agitated with inward trouble, and God shall encompass them on every side with terror, the faithful shall rejoice in the abundance of peace. It is not meant that they are exempted from trouble, but they are sustained by the tranquillity of their minds; so that accounting all the trials which they endure to be only temporary, they now rejoice in hope of the promised rest.