on Psalms 37 :20
The enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs - This verse has given the critics some trouble. Several of the Versions read thus: "But the enemies of the Lord, as soon as they are exalted to honor, shall vanish; like smoke they vanish." If we follow the Hebreto, it intimates that they shall consume as the fat of lambs. That is, as the fat is wholly consumed in sacrifices by the fire on the altar, so shall they consume away in the fire of God's wrath.
on Psalms 37 :20
But the wicked shall perish - The general sentiment here is the same as in Psalm 1:1-6, that the righteous shall be prospered and saved, and that the wicked shall perish. See the notes at Psalm 1:4-5. The word "perish" here would be applicable to any form of destruction - death here, or death hereafter - for it is equivalent to the idea that they shall be "destroyed." Whether the psalmist means here to refer to the fact that they will be cut off from the earth, or will be punished hereafter in the world of woe, cannot be determined from the word itself. It is most probable, as appears from other parts of the psalm, that he refers particularly to the fact that they will be cut down in their sins; that their lives will be shortened by their crimes; that they will by their conduct expose themselves to the displeasure of God, and thus be cut off. The "word" used, however, would also express the idea of destruction in the future world in any form, and may have a significance beyond anything that can befall men in this life. Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Matthew 25:46.
And the enemies of the Lord - All the enemies of God; all who can properly be regarded as his foes.
Shall be as the fat of lambs - Margin, "the preciousness of lambs." Gesenius renders this, "like the beauty of the pastures." Prof. Alexander, "like the precious" (part) "of lambs;" that is, the sacrificial parts, or the parts that were consumed in sacrifice. De Wette, "as the splendor of the pasture." The Vulgate and the Septuagint render it: "the enemies of the Lord, as soon as they are honored and exalted, shall fail as if they were smoke." Rosenmuller renders it as it is in our common version. It is not easy to determine the meaning. The word rendered "fat" - יקר yâqâr - means properly that which is precious, costly, weighty, as precious gems; then, anything dear, beloved, or valuable; then, that which is honored, splendid, beautiful, rare. It is in no other instance rendered "fat;" and it cannot be so rendered here, except as "fat" was considered valuable or precious. But this is a forced idea. The word כר kar, properly and commonly means a "lamb;" but it also may the "pasture" or "meadow" where lambs feed. Psalm 65:13 : "the "pastures" - כרים kariym - are clothed with flocks." Isaiah 30:23, "in that day shall thy cattle feed in large "pastures" - where the same word occurs. It seems to me, therefore, that the interpretation of Gesenius, DeWette, and others, is the correct interpretation, and that the idea is, that the wicked in their pride, beauty, and wealth, shall be like the meadow covered with grass and flowers, soon to be cut down by the scythe of the mower, or by the frosts of winter. This image often occurs: Matthew 6:30; Psalm 90:5-6; Isaiah 40:6-8; James 1:10; 1 Peter 1:24.
They shall consume - The word used here means to be completed or finished; to be consumed or spent, as by fire, or in any other manner; to pine away by weeping, Lamentations 2:11; to vanish as a cloud or smoke, Job 7:9.
Into smoke - The meaning here is not that they will vanish as the fat of lambs does in sacrifice, but simply that they will pass away as smoke entirely disappears. All that there was of them - their wealth, their splendor, their power - shall utterly vanish away. This is spoken in contrast with what would be the condition of the righteous.
Psalm 37:20.It is applied to time, as vanishing and disappearing Job 7:6; and to the destruction or perishing of men; Jeremiah 16:4; Ezekiel 5:13. The idea is that of complete and entire consumption and destruction, so that none shall be left. Applied to future punishment, it means that the destruction of sinners shall be total and complete. There shall be no sinner who shall not be destroyed; and there shall be none destroyed whose destruction shall not be entire and total. The expression here refers to the heavy calamities which were about to come upon the guilty nation, but it is as descriptive of the future punishment that shall come upon the wicked.
on Psalms 37 :20
37:20 Fat - Which in an instant melts before the fire.