HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And he shall be like a tree – A description of the happiness or prosperity of the man who thus avoids the way of sinners, and who delights in the law of God, now follows. This is presented in the form of a very beautiful image – a tree planted where its roots would have an abundance of water.
Planted by the rivers of water It is not a tree that springs up spontaneously, but one that is set out in a favourable place, and that is cultivated with care. The word “rivers” does not here quite express the sense of the original. (The Hebrew word Peleg, from pâlag, to cleave, to split, to divide), properly means divisions; and then, channels, canals, trenches, branching-cuts, brooks. The allusion is to the Oriental method of irrigating their lands by making artificial rivulets to convey the water from a larger stream, or from a lake. In this way, the water was distributed in all directions. The whole land of Egypt was anciently sluiced in this manner, and it was in this way that its extraordinary fertility was secured. An illustration of the passage may be derived from the account by Maundrell of the method of watering the gardens and orchards in the vicinity of Damascus. “The gardens are thick set with fruit trees of all kinds, kept fresh and verdant by the waters of the Barada… This river, as soon as it issues out of the cleft of the mountain before mentioned, into the plain, is immediately divided into three streams, of which the middlemost and largest runs directly to Damascus, and is distributed to all the cisterns and fountains of the city. The other two, which I take to be the work of art, are drawn round, the one to the right, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens, into which they are let out, as they pass, by little rivulets, and so dispersed over all the vast wood, insomuch that there is not a garden but has a fine, quick stream running through it.”
A striking allusion to trees cultivated in this manner occurs in Ezekiel 31:3-4: “Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of high stature, and his top was among the thick boughs. The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high, with his rivers running round about his plants, and sent out his little rivers unto all the trees of the field.” So Ecclesiastes 2:4: “I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees.” No particular kind of tree is referred to in the passage before us, but there are abundant illustrations of the passage in the rows of willow, oranges, etc., that stand on the banks of these artificial streams in the East. The image is that of a tree abundantly watered, and that was flourishing.
That bringeth forth his fruit in his season Whose fruit does not fall by the lack of nutriment. The idea is that of a tree which, at the proper season of the year, is loaded with fruit. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; Psalm 92:14. The image is one of great beauty. The fruit is not untimely. It does not ripen and fall too soon, or fall before it is mature, and the crop is abundant.
His leaf also shall not wither – By drought and heat. He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden. Job 8:16, note; It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green. Job 15:32, note. It is green and flourishing – a striking image of a happy and prosperous man.
And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper – This is a literal statement of what had just been put in a figurative or poetic form. It contains a general truth, or contains an affirmation as to the natural and proper effect of religion, or of a life of piety, and is similar to that which occurs in 1 Timothy 4:8: “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” This idea of the effect of a life of piety is one that is common in the Scriptures and is sustained by the regular course of events. If a man desires permanent prosperity and happiness, it is to be found only in the ways of virtue and religion. The word “whatsoever” here is to be taken in a general sense, and the proper laws of interpretation do not require that we should explain it as universally true. It is conceivable that a righteous man – a man profoundly and sincerely fearing God – may sometimes form plans that will not be wise; it is conceivable that he may lose his wealth, or that he may be involved in the calamities that come upon a people in times of commercial distress, in seasons of war, of famine, and pestilence; it is conceivable that he may be made to suffer loss by the fraud and dishonesty of other men; but still as a general and as a most important truth, a life of piety will be followed by prosperity, and will constantly impart happiness. It is this great and important truth which is the main design of the Book of Psalms to illustrate.