Exegesis Research Paper Part 1 (Psalm 1:1-6)

Exegesis Research Paper Part 1 (Psalm 1:1-6)

Submitted to Dr. James Wood,

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of

RTCH 500-B25

Research, Writing, and Ministry Preparation


Carlos R. Miller



Psalm 1, as its name implies its position within the book of Psalms, in many ways serves as an introduction to the entire book of Psalms. The book of Psalms is comprised of 150 compositions that are to be sung or spoken by God’s people. God being the audience for the Psalms, which give insights into the expanse of human emotions covering that of praise, thanksgiving, petition, and lamenting. As a book of worship, its purpose is to guide God’s people through all ages. Thusly the theme of Psalm 1, serves the worshipper well as an introduction because it encompasses the purpose of the book of Psalms but also the panoply of the Bible. As it deals with people, paths and destinations, it is a perfect precursor to what you find in the book of Psalms. This paper seeks to demonstrate the contrast of the nature, life and destiny of the godly and ungodly and the overall significance of this text in the life of a Christian.


The context for Psalm 1 is significant in as much as it unveils for the reader the two-fold backdrop for the entire book of Psalms. Psalm 1 is situated within this two-fold backdrop of God’s acts in creation and history in general, but also the history of Israel. Psalms span the time from the origin of man to the post-Exilic joys of all Jews liberated from Babylon.


Although Psalm 1 is viewed as wisdom literature, its context is couched in what most believe as Poetic literature. As the entire collection of Psalms is entitled “Praises” by the Hebrew text, it is from the Greek verb of this word that we get what denotes the “plucking of strings”. This understanding brings the association of musical accompaniment. However, within Psalms there are at least eight literally types of psalms. This Semitic poetry gives insights into Hymns, Laments, Thanksgiving, Confidence, Ascents, Royal, Kingship, Wisdom, and Imprecatory psalms.


The historical context for the book of Psalms is rich being associated with ancient Israel. Israel would use the Psalms in “worship of God, in the temple in Jerusalem. Although there are some that are comprised of expressions of personal devotion, many are songs composed for public worship. As Israel’s custom was to “gather for various religious festivals, they would sing them corporately as an expression of corporate worship to God.”[footnoteRef:1] There are generally three periods of Israel’s history that the Psalms accompany, Preexilic, Exilic, and Postexilic. [1: Edward E. Hindson and Gary E. Yates, The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2012), 248.]


The theological implications of the book of Psalms is seen in the use of “metaphor and imagery.”[footnoteRef:2] As the person and nature of God is unveiled through these two uses. The person and nature of God is clearly portrayed as “Shield, Warrior, Shepherd, Redeemer, Rock, and Refuge for His people.”[footnoteRef:3] An overarching distinctive that is pervasive in Psalms is the fact of the Lord being King over all creation. The sovereignty of God is throughout Psalms, but it does not lessen the role and responsibility of humanity. Although there are portrays of life being chaotic and out of control, and yet there is this steady under current of divine providence of being right on course in God’s master plan. [2: Ibid, 257.] [3: Ibid]


The canonical setting for Psalms is found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Psalms is situated in the middle of the Bible, among what is called the wisdom books. It is the largest book of the Bible and the most often quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. Psalms is organized into five books… Psalm 1-41, 42-71, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150. Psalm 1 finds its place in Book 1 (Psalm 1-41), as a prelude to the entirety of the book as stated earlier.

The overall context of Psalm 1 is relevant for interpreting the passage due to its insights into the content of the passage. Without this basic information, it would be hard to get the true understanding of the passage without engaging in eisegesis.


The overall meaning of Psalm 1 is in tandem with its position in the collection, as a prelude or introduction to the life of the worshiper. This meaning is summarized as being a compendium of the divine actions of God, namely appointing salvation to the righteous and perdition to the wicked. It’s meaning is sometimes built upon a Christ centric interpretation when connected with Psalm 2, however as a standalone text it is viewed “with a more Mosaic/Torah focus.”[footnoteRef:4] [4: S. E. Gillingham, A Journey of Two Psalms the Reception of Psalms 1 and 2 in Jewish and Christian Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 42.]

Contrast of the Nature of the Godly and Ungodly

Psalm 1 gives the reader a picturesque view of two different people. These two people groups are the ones that are in view throughout the collection. Light is shed on the godly (Psalm 1:1-3) and “the ungodly” (Psalm 1:4).[footnoteRef:5] Here in lies the obvious contrast to which this psalm points out. Godly being the nature of one who is said to be “blessed” (Psalm 1:1), while the ungodly nature of the other is simply said to be “not so” (Psalm 1:4). The natures of the two people groups, assigned them to either being blessed or not being blessed. Rightly stated, the condition of the one is a happy. The Hebrew term “ashre”, used in verse one for “Blessed”, describes someone who is privileged or happy. Wisdom Literature commonly uses this expression to indicate someone who is fortunate or privileged (Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:13; 28:14).This privilege of happiness is a direct result of what the godly person avoids and is in stark contrast with the ungodly. [5: Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New King James Version (Wheaton, IL: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1985).]

Contrast of the Life of the Godly and Ungodly

The godly man is said to have a certain walk about him (Psalm 1:1). It is a walk that seeks to avoid the ungodly. The word “walk” in scripture is often used to denote a way of life or conduct of a person. As stated by Barnes, “This walk is not just one that is referring to the past as in “has not walked” but implies much more than that. It is the characteristic of the man who not only has not walked, but also who does not walk presently, nor will walk in the manner of the ungodly in the future.”[footnoteRef:6] This is a determined person seeks to avoid the “council of the ungodly” (Psalm1:1). The council of the ungodly is such that speaks to their knowledge and their advice. The godly man avoids the advice and does not give it value for his life. He also avoids “standing in the path of sinners” (Psalm 1:1). Not only does the godly not take the advice of the ungodly but also does not act in the same ways as the ungodly acts. Lastly what the godly avoids is the overall lifestyle and disposition of the ungodly “sitting in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). This avoidance clears him of taking the scornful attitude of those who mock God. The description is fitting for the arrogant fool who refuses discipline and correction. This lifestyle of the ungodly is one that takes a downward spiral. It doesn’t happen overnight, but one that is characterized by a lifestyle. As the ungodly takes a step here and a step there it takes them from walking, standing, and ultimately sitting in a seat of mocking God. Here is a glimpse into the beginning contrast of the life of the godly and the ungodly. [6: Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2005).]

The contrasting lifestyles diverge even more as seen in not what the godly does not do, but what he does. The author says that the godly “delights in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2). Gillingham states “In Jewish interpretation, the blessed man was identified as the pious, Torah observant Jew”[footnoteRef:7] The blessed man or godly man gains his moral foundations with the God’s law. He gives sufficient significance to what God says about how he is to live. The godly person takes pleasure in reading, understanding and observing God’s law, that he, takes it a step further and “meditates in it day and night.” (Psalm 1:2). A pattern of meditating in the “law of the Lord” forms for the godly. He ponders on it, over and over until its content alters his life in the positive. [7: S. E. Gillingham, A Journey of Two Psalms the Reception of Psalms 1 and 2 in Jewish and Christian Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 42.]

Finally, the contrasting of lifestyles permeates the root of the life of the godly. He is described as a “tree planted by the rivers of water” (Psalm 1:3). The life of the godly is rooted so as to not topple over. The root system to trees are very important in the lively hood of the tree. This tree is not only rooted but is flourishing as well. It has a sufficient supply of water to bring a continues flow of life to it. The quality of the life of the tree is seen in what it yields, as in fruit (Psalm 1:3). The godly lifestyle is one that is characterized by prosperity. However, the ungodly life is “not so” (Psalm 1:4). It is rather characterized as unstable, being like chaff that blows in any direction. The word “Chaff” as stated “is a frequent Old Testament word picture from harvest time of what is unsubstantial, without value, and worthy only to be discarded.[footnoteRef:8] [8: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary: Unleashing Gods Truth, One Verse at a Time (Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2006).]

Contrast of the Destiny of the Godly and Ungodly

The destiny of the godly and ungodly are altogether different. Wherein the Psalm started off with the godly, now it starts with the destination of the ungodly. The ungodly is characterized by a less desirable outcome. Their outcome is “not standing in the judgement, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” (Psalm 1:5). When the Judge of humanity takes his bench, the ungodly will not be standing as acquitted with the godly. There are two different outcomes, destinations for those who are in view. Only the way of the godly or righteous is stated as being known by the Lord, but the way of the ungodly is stated as perishing.


The significance of the text of Psalm 1, should not be overlooked and can’t be oversimplified. Within it’s text is a great wealth of wisdom, laid forth in a procession of Psalms, where Psalm 1 takes the prized position of leading the procession, that ultimately informs the life of the worshiper.

Implications of Psalm 1

The implications that Psalm 1 provides the reader, hearer or ultimately the worshiper is obviously pointed out by the contrasting of the nature of the godly and the ungodly. The implication is that, only the godly will be happy or content in life because they are right or straight with God. So, with this premise in mind, the worshiper needs to choose the way of the godly. This implication is aptly stated to inform the life of the worshiper, of one that is blessed and one that is not. In fact, the Hebrew word that “Blessed” translates “esher” is a plural and denotes a multiplication and intensification of blessings. This is significant as it informs the worshiper, from the perspective of the believing community of redemptive favor (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). This certainly is suggestive in choosing the way of the godly.

Application of Psalm 1

The applications from this Psalm are to be expected not only because of its position in the procession of Psalms as a prelude, but also because of the inherent purposes of scripture as said to be “… profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV). The question of what must I do with what I know, has to be asked of this Psalm, and rightly so, applications are therefore drawn for the life of the Christian and the Church as well. The principles within are to bring forth the spiritual growth that should be desired of every Christian.

The principles that inform the life of the Christian and the Church are derived from the contrast of the life of the godly and ungodly. One of the first principles that is drawn from the text is “The blessed man does not do certain things.” (Psalm 1:1 NKJV). As observed, there is a way he will not walk, a path he will not stand in, and a seat he will not sit in. As these deals with thinking, behaving, and belonging, the application is stay away from ungodly advice, don’t do the things that ungodly people do, and don’t live your life so that you become the ungodly. The godly man has to have the ability to discern good advice from bad advice. The godly man finds good council as stated, “Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors.” (Psalm 119:24 NKJV). He also knows the road to travel as stated “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 7:13 NKJV). Likewise, he knows these things because of another principle “The godly person finds delight in God’s word.” The application for the Christian and the Church is simply to not only read God’s word but read it over and over and thing about it over and over. It is the practice of reading and thinking about the word of God over and over again. This is vividly portrayed in the spiritual formation of Israel, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NKJV). Another principle that is observed from this continual meditation is “Meditation in God’s word is a fountain head of blessing.” The blessing is too fold from our text as seen in relation to the discernment needed to avoid the council, way, and seat of the ungodly. The blessing is also seen in the overall prosperity of the godly person. This is evident by the symbolic nature of a “tree”. This tree is rooted, as not to topple over, because it is “planted”, yet still it is said to be flourishing because it is sufficiently “watered”, and lastly the quality of the tree is evident in its bearing “fruit”. These all summarize the prosperity of the godly person.

Conclusion of Psalm 1

The conclusion is succinctly stated as being “God is the one who appoints salvation to the godly and not to the ungodly.” Our text aptly arrests our attention to this significant conclusion as stated “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalm 1:5-6 NKJV). Herein lies the truths of the desire of this paper, to demonstrate the contrast of the nature, life and destiny of the godly and ungodly and the overall significance of this text in the life of a Christian.


Barnes, Albert. Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2005.

Gillingham, S. E. A Journey of Two Psalms the Reception of Psalms 1 and 2 in Jewish and Christian Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Hindson, Edward E., and Gary E. Yates. The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2012.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary: Unleashing Gods Truth, One Verse at a Time. Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2006.


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