Exegetical Insight on Psalm 1 (part 2)
John D. Telgren

In the first three verses, the Psalm reflects on the characteristics of the righteous. In the next two verses, the Psalm reflects on the characteristics of the wicked which is the polar opposite of the righteous. So the Psalm goes on and says,

1) The wicked are unstable. “Not so (are) the wicked ones. But like the chaff which the wind drives away (Psalm 1:4).” The Hebrews who read this Psalm would have readily identified with the imagery here. When they harvested the wheat, a common method of removing the husk was to have a donkey walk on the grain over and over again. The grain would then be taken to the top of a hill on a windy day and thrown in the air. The wind would carry away the husk and the grain would fall back down into the basket. Like that chaff, the wicked are driven by whatever direction the wind is blowing. Unlike the righteouses who are solid, trustworthy, and dependable as a tree, the wicked are flaky, unpredictable, and untrustworthy.

What does this look like? A chaff personality may be a friend to someone only when it is convenient. If it looks uncool, chaff may distance himself when cool people are looking. Chaff may be an exemplary Christian when around church people. come Monday morning, Chaff hides it so he wont stand out or take the risk of being ridiculed. When no one is looking, Chaff might steal something, look at or do something he is not supposed to. Chaff may take a “break” from acting Christianly when no one is looking. Chaff is driven by whatever way the wind is blowing.

Why? It is difficult to fight against the wind. A strong wind might blow you over. It could cause you to dry up and have nothing. If you can’t beat them, join them, they say. Fitting in will get you far in life, they say. But that is not what this Psalm indicates.

2) The wicked will lose. “Therefore, the wicked ones will not arise/stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous ones (Psalm 1:5).” This is probably not talking about the final judgment. The Bible is full of examples of the Lord’s judgment on the wicked in the present time. The Hebrew word used here for “arise” or “stand” is commonly used in legal language. One of the features of Hebrew poetry is putting two synonymous statements side by side. What is interesting in this verse is that “judgment” is parallel to “congregation of the righteous ones.” The congregation of the righteous ones appears to be those who have been vindicated in court, so they “arise,” but the wicked will be driven away as chaff. Whereas the righteous will be successful in life, the wicked will not.

3) The wicked will perish. “For Yahweh (is) knower of the way of the righteous ones, but the way of the wicked ones will perish/be lost. (Psalm 1:6).” Chaff disappears into the wind never to be seen again. No one is sorry to see chaff disappear. No one goes looking for it. However, after the wind has driven it away, what you have left is useful, nourishing, and pleasing grain. This sifting is what happens in judgment. The righteous and the wicked are separated, and the grain is taken into the barn while the chaff perishes.