on Psalms 92 :12
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree - Very different from the wicked, Psalm 92:7, who are likened to grass. These shall have a short duration; but those shall have a long and useful life. They are compared also to the cedar of Lebanon, an incorruptible wood, and extremely long-lived. Mr. Maundrell, who visited those trees in 1697, describes them thus: "These noble trees grow among the snow, near the highest part of Lebanon. Some are very old, and of prodigious bulk. I measured one of the largest, and found it twelve yards six inches in girt, and yet sound; and thirty-seven yards in the spread of its boughs. At about five or six yards from the ground, it was divided into live limbs, each of which was equal to a large tree." Some of these trees are supposed to have lived upwards of one thousand years! The figure of the palm-tree gives us the idea of grandeur and usefulness. The fruit of the palm-tree makes a great part of the diet of the people of Arabia, part of Persia, and Upper Egypt. The stones are ground down for the camels; the leaves are made into baskets; the hard boughs, or rather strong leaves, some being six or eight feet in length, make fences; the juice makes arrack, the threads of the web-like integument between the leaves make ropes, and the rigging of small vessels; and the wood serves for slighter buildings and fire-wood. In short, the palm or date tree, and the olive, are two of the most excellent and useful productions of the forest or the field.
The cedar gives us the idea of majesty, stability. durableness, and incorruptibility. To these two trees, for the most obvious reasons, are the righteous compared. William Lithgow, who traveled through the holy land about a.d. 1600, describes the cedars of Mount Lebanon as "being in number twenty-four, growing after the manner of oaks, but a great deal taller straighter, and thicker, and the branches growing so straight, and interlocking, as though they were kept by art: and yet from the root to the top they bear no boughs, but grow straight and upwards like to a palm-tree. Their circle-spread tops do kiss or embrace the lower clouds, making their grandeur overlook the highest bodies of all other aspiring trees. The nature of this tree is, that it is always green, yielding an odoriferous smell, and an excellent kind of fruit, like unto apples, but of a sweeter taste, and more wholesome. The roots of some of these cedars are almost destroyed by the shepherds, who have made fires thereat, and holes where they sleep; yet nevertheless they flourish green above, in the tops and branches." - Lithgow's 17 years' Travels, 4th., London, 1640.
on Psalms 92 :12
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree - That is, the beauty, the erectness, the stateliness, the growth of the palm-tree - all this is an emblem of the condition, the prosperity, the happiness of a righteous man. The wicked shall be cut down; but the righteous shall flourish. This image - the comparison of a righteous man to a flourishing, majestic, green, and beautiful tree - is not uncommon in the Scriptures. See the notes at Psalm 1:3; compare Jeremiah 17:8. On the "palm-tree," see the notes at Matthew 21:8. "The stem," says Dr. Thomson ("land and the Book," vol. i. p. 65)" tall, slender, and erect as Rectitude herself, suggests to the Arab poets many a symbol for their lady-love; and Solomon, long before them, has sung, 'How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love! for delights; this thy stature is like the palm-tree." Sol 7:6-7. The following remarks of Dr. Thomson ("land and the Book," vol. i. pp. 65, 66) will illustrate the passage before us; - "The palm grows slowly, but steadily, from century to century, uninfluenced by those alternations of the seasons which affect other trees. It does not rejoice overmuch in winter's copious rain, nor does it droop under the drought and the burning sun of summer. Neither heavy weights which people place upon its head, nor the importunate urgency of the wind, can sway it aside from perfect uprightness. There it stands, looking calmly down upon the world below, and patiently yielding its large clusters of golden fruit from generation to generation. They 'bring forth fruit in old age.' The allusion to being planted in the house of the Lord is probably drawn from the custom of planting beautiful and long-lived trees in the courts of temples and palaces, and in all 'high places' used for worship.
This is still common; nearly every palace, and mosque, and convent in the country has such trees in the courts, and, being well protected there, they flourish exceedingly. Solomon covered all the walls of the 'holy of holies' round about with palm-trees. They were thus planted, as it were, within the very house of the Lord; and their presence there was not only ornamental, but appropriate and highly suggestive; the very best emblem, not only of patience in well-doing, but of the rewards of the righteous - a fat and flourishing old age - a peaceful end - a glorious immortality." The following cut will furnish an apt representation of the appearance of the tree, and a proper illustration of the beauty of the passage before us.
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon - On the cedars of Lebanon, see the notes at Isaiah 2:13. The following remarks by Dr. Thomson ("land and the Book," vol. i. pp. 292, 295), with the accompanying cut, will show the propriety of the image here. "The platform where the cedars stand is more than six thousand feet above the Mediterranean, and around it are gathered the very tallest and grayest heads of Lebanon. The forest is not large - not more than five hundred trees, great and small, grouped irregularly on the sides of shallow ravines, which mark the birthplace of the Khadisha, or Holy River.
"But, though the space covered by them does not exceed half a dozen acres, yet, when fairly within the grove, and beneath the giant arms of those old patriarchs of a hundred generations, there comes a solemn hush upon the soul as if by enchantment. Precisely the same sort of magic spell settles on the spirits, no matter how often you repeat your visits. But it is most impressive in the night. Let us by all means arrange to sleep there. The universal silence is almost painful. The gray old towers of Lebanon, still as a stone, stand all around, holding up the stars of heaven to look at you, and the trees gather like phantoms about you, and wink knowingly, or seem to, and whisper among themselves you know not what. You become suspicious, nervous, until, broad awake, you find that it is nothing but the flickering of your drowsy fire, and the feeble flutter of bats among the boughs of the trees. A night among the cedars is never forgotten; the impressions, electrotyped, are hid away in the inner chamber of the soul, among her choicest treasures, to be visited a thousand times with never-failing delight.
"There is a singular discrepancy in the statements of travelers with regard to the number of trees. Some mention seven, others thirteen - intending, doubtless, only those whose age and size rendered them Biblical, or at least historical. It is not easy, however, to draw any such line of demarcation. There is a complete gradation from small and comparatively young to the very oldest patriarchs of the forest. I counted four hundred and forty-three, great and small, and this cannot be far from the true number. This, however, is not uniform. Some are struck down by lightning, broken by enormous loads of snow, or torn to fragments by tempests. Even the sacrilegious axe is sometimes lifted against them. But, on the other hand, young trees are constantly springing up from the roots of old ones, and from seeds of ripe cones. I have seen these infant cedars in thousands just springing from the soil; but as the grove is wholly unprotected, and greatly frequented both by human beings and animals, they are quickly destroyed. The fact, however, proves that the number might be increased "ad libitum." Beyond a doubt, the whole of these upper terraces of Lebanon might again be covered with groves of this noble tree, and furnish timber enough not only for Solomon's Temple and the house of the forest of Lebanon, but for all the houses along this coast. But, unless a wiser and more provident government controls the country, such a result can never be realized, and, indeed, the whole forest will slowly die out under the dominion of the Arab and Turk. Even in that case the tree will not be lost. It has been propagated by the nut or seed in many parks in Europe, and there are more of them within fifty miles of London than on all Lebanon.
"We have seen larger trees every way, and much taller, on the banks of the Ohio, and the loftiest cedar might take shelter under the lowest branches of California's vegetable glories. Still, they are respectable trees. The girth of the largest is more than forty-one feet; the height of the highest may be one hundred. These largest, however, part into two or three only a few feet from the ground. Their age is very uncertain, nor are they more ready to reveal it than others who have an uneasy consciousness of length of days. Very different estimates have been made. Some of our missionary band, who have experience in such matters, and confidence in the results, have counted the "growths" (as we Western people call the annual concentric circles) for a few inches into the trunk of the oldest cedar, and from such data carry back its birth three thousand five hundred years. It may be so. They are carved full of names and dates, going back several generations, and the growth "since the earliest date" has been almost nothing. At this rate of increase they must have been growing ever since the Flood. But young trees enlarge far faster, so that my confidence in estimates made from such specimens is but small." The idea in the passage before us is, that the righteous will flourish like the most luxuriant and majestic trees of the forest; they may be compared with the most grand and beautiful objects in nature.
on Psalms 92 :12
92:12 Palm - tree - Which is constantly green and flourishing.