The Christian Bible was written by Hebrews, for Hebrews, despite the original language in which it was first recorded. The thought processes in the Bible are not of Greek logicians or philosophers, but of Old Testament trained Jews whose mindset was quite different to the teachings of the western civilisation today.
Let us look at the first 9 verses of Psalm 36, which we will divide into three sections, verses 1-4; 5-9 and 10-12.
1To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David, the servant of Jehovah.
The oracle utters transgression to the wicked within my heart. There is no fear of God before his eyes.
2For he flatters himself in his own eyes in order to find his iniquity, to hate it.
3The words of his mouth are evil and deceit; he has stopped acting wisely and doing good.
4He plots evil on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not hate evil.
5Your mercy, O Jehovah, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
6Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgements are a great deep; O Jehovah, You keep man and beast.
7How precious is Your loving-kindness, O God! And the sons of men take refuge under the shadow of Your wing.
8They shall be satisfied with the fatness of Your house; and You shall make them drink of the river of Your pleasures.
9For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we shall see light.
10O continue Your loving-kindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11Do not let the foot of pride come against me, and do not let the hand of the wicked move me.
12There the evil-doers have fallen; they are cast down, and cannot rise.”
One of the traits of Hebrew and Jewish thinking and teaching is to use both comparisons and contrasts. Thus when we read the scriptures, we need to get into the mindset of the original writers to some extent, to understand not just their meaning, but their attitude toward that which they wrote. This can be tricky for Greek trained minds, which have a hard time understanding built-in contrasts. This is especially so when there are a list of attributes which we take as a comparison, but which the Hebrews meant as a contrast, saying in essence, “No, no, it is the opposite of that!” An excellent teaching on this in practice can be found in our post: “The Lord’s Prayer – A Wider Teaching.”
However, getting back to Psalm 36, we can see how it is built up:
Section 1 vv1-4, consists of 10 sins of the wicked, while
Section 2 vv5-9, consists of 10 characteristics of God and Blessings on the righteous and
Section 3 vv10-12, consists of 4 requests of the righteous.
Perhaps you can see how the compare and contrast works here. After listing out the sins of the wicked, the author changes to an equal number of Godly attributes, comparing and contrasting God and the righteous to the sinners. Having then established the lowly and sinful position of the wicked in comparison to God and the righteous, the author then submits his four requests.
Let us now look at the specific characteristics listed in Psalm 36.
The ten sins of the wicked:
|Transgresses God’s laws||v1||The oracle utters transgression to the wicked …|
|No fear of God, before his eyes||v1||… no fear of God before his eyes.|
|Flatters himself||v2||… he flatters himself in his own eyes …|
|Is sinful and hateful||v2||… eyes in order to find his iniquity, to hate it …|
|Speaks iniquity and deceit||v3||The words of his mouth are evil and deceit …|
|Rejects wisdom||v3||… he has stopped acting wisely …|
|Rejects goodness||v3||… he has stopped … doing good.|
|Plans sin||v4||He plots evil on his bed …|
|Sets himself against all good||v4||… he sets himself in a way that is not good …|
|Loves sin||v4||… he does not hate evil.|
The ten Attributes of God:
|Mercy||v5||Your mercy, O Jehovah, is in the heavens …|
|Faithfulness||v5||… Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.|
|Righteousness||v6||Your righteousness is like the great mountains …|
|Justice||v6||… Your judgements are a great deep …|
|Preservation||v6||… You keep man and beast.|
|Kindness||v7||How precious is Your loving-kindness …|
|Providence||v8||They shall be satisfied with the fatness of Your house …|
|Satisfaction||v8||… and You shall make them drink of the river of Your pleasures.|
|Life||v9||For with You is the fountain of life …|
|Light||v9||… in Your light we shall see light.|
The four Requests for the Righteous:
Continue loving kindness to all who love you.
v10: “… continue Your loving-kindness to those who know You.”
Note that this is in essence actually the third time which this request is made. See also v5 “Your mercy, O Jehovah, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds” and v6 “Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgements are a great deep; O Jehovah, You keep man and beast.”
Continue your righteousness to the upright in heart.
v10: “O continue Your … righteousness to the upright in heart.”
Note that “upright” here means ישׁר in Hebrew: straight, just, proper, righteous, pleasing or correct.
Do not let proud men come against me.
v11: “Do not let the foot of pride come against me …”
Do not let the hand of the wicked take my life or remove me from my destiny.
v11: “… and do not let the hand of the wicked move me.”
Finally, the author determines the end of the wicked saying, in v12 “There the evil-doers have fallen; they are cast down, and cannot rise.” These words ought to resonate with readers of the New Testament, where we find a similar outcome in Matthew 13:40“Therefore as the darnel are gathered and burned in the fire, so it shall be in the end of this world” and Matthew 25:46“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.”
Amen and Amen.