20. For the wicked shalt perish, and the enemies of Jehovah shall be consumed as the preciousness1 of lambs; they shalt be consumed into smoke.2 21. The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again; but the righteous is merciful, and giveth. 22. For those who are blessed by him shall inherit the earth; and those who are cursed of him shall be cut off.
20. For the wicked shall perish. The causal particle yk, ki, which is here translated for, might also be rendered as if used adversatively by but or although, unless, perhaps, some would prefer to expound the sentence as of much higher import. But the preferable interpretation is, that there is here a contrast between the subjects spoken of, namely, that the righteous are satisfied in the time of famine, whereas the ungodly shall perish in the midst of their affluence; for, while they trust in their abundance, God brings them to nought by the use of means that are secret and hidden. In calling them the enemies of Jehovah, he teaches us, that they are justly overwhelmed by his vengeance, which they bring upon themselves by their own wickedness. When he says, that they shall be consumed as the excellency of lambs, this is understood by some to refer to the fat of them. But as rky, yakar, signifies excellency, as I have said elsewhere, I have no doubt that this expression denotes the very best of lambs, and such as are of extraordinary fatness: and this is very suitable to the contrast here stated. We learn from this what another prophet likewise teaches, that the ungodly are fattened for the day of slaughter; so that the more sumptuously they shall have lived, the more suddenly shall their destruction come upon them. To be consumed into smoke is of the same import as to vanish away quickly; as if it had been said, There is no stability or substance in them. Those who understand the term rqy, yakar, to mean fat, explain this latter clause in this sense: that the wicked are consumed into smoke as fat melts or wastes away.3 But the reader will see that the first interpretation is better.
21. The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again. Those are mistaken who suppose that the wicked are here blamed for their treachery in carrying off the goods of others by fraud and deception; and that, on the other hand, the children of God are commended for their kindness in being always ready to relieve the wants of their poorer brethren. The prophet rather extols, on the one hand, the blessing of God towards the godly; and declares, on the other, that the ungodly never have enough. The meaning therefore is, that God deals bountifully with his own people, that they may be able to aid others; but that the ungodly are always in want, so that their poverty leads them to have recourse to fraud and rapine. And were we not blinded by insensibility and indifference, we could not fail to perceive the many proofs of this which are daily presented to our view. However great the abundance of the ungodly, yet their covetousness is so insatiable, that, like robbers, they plunder right and left, and yet are never able to pay;4 while God bestows upon his own people a sufficiency not only for the supply of their own ordinary wants, but also to enable them to aid others. I do not indeed deny, that the wicked are reproved for wasteful extravagance, by which they defraud their creditors of what is their due, and also that the righteous are praised for applying to a proper use the bounty of God; but the design of the prophet is to show the high value of the divine blessing. This is confirmed by the following verse, in which he illustrates the difference resulting from the blessing and the curse of God. It then it is asked, whence the children of God are able to relieve the wants of the needy, and to exercise liberality towards them? and why it is that the ungodly are continually contracting debts from which they are never able to extricate themselves? David answers, that the former are blessed of the Lord, and that the latter are brought to utter ruin by his curse. Some expound the word wykrbm, meborakayv, actively, as if it were, Those who bless the righteous shall possess, etc.;5 but this is constrained and absurd. The meaning is simply this, that whatever we need for the preservation and maintenance of life, and for the exercise of humanity towards others, comes to us neither from the heavens nor from the earth, but only from the favor and blessing of God; and that if he once withdraw his grace, the abundance of the whole world would not satisfy us.