Thursday, June 12, 2014

Commentary of Psalm 37 "inherit the land"

A favorite verse used by Jehovah Witnesses is
For evil-doers shall be cut off; but those that wait for the LORD, they shall inherit the land.---Psalm 37:9 
They claim that this teaches that when a righteous Jehovah Witness dies and are resurrected (but are not part of the 'elect' class of 'born again' that go to heaven--the 144,000) they get to live on Earth--again! Anyway, I am interested in first finding the plain meaning of this verse--the idea that King David probably had in mind. Then finding the possible spiritual meaning that applies to the New Covenant.

First, look for the usage of the expression "inherit the earth" or "land," we see God gives Abraham land, but some of the land Abraham has to wait for because God is giving them time to get their act together (which He knows will not happen, but does so nonetheless to give them a fair chance):
And He said to him, "I am the Lord, Who brought you forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it."--Genesis 15:7
And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.--Genesis 28:4 
"And the fourth generation will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites will not be complete until then."--Genesis 15:16
Here are some more examples of land inheritance:
And the Lord said to me, Do not distress the Moabites, and do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land [as] an inheritance, because I have given Ar to the children of Lot [as] an inheritance.--Deuteronomy 2:9
And the Horites formerly dwelt in Seir, and the children of Esau were driving them out, and they exterminated them from before them and dwelt in their stead, just as the Israelites did to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord gave them.--Deuteronomy 2:12
And when you approach opposite the children of Ammon, neither distress them, nor provoke them, for I will not give you of the land of the children of Ammon as an inheritance, because I have given it to the children of Lot as an inheritance.--Deuteronomy 2:19
Israel inherited land that previously belonged to Canaanites (though not all of it, some of it was not taken like those that lived in remote place, or went abroad like to north Africa) and land that belong to some more obscure tribes, as Exodus frequently states:
I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.--Exodus 3:8
And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.--Exodus 3:17
And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.--Exodus 13:5
And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee--Exodus 13:11
And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.--Exodus 23:28
And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:--Exodus 33:2
In the Bible generally righteous people were given the land of wicked people that were judged by God and subsequently evicted, or only allowed to live if they paid tribute to conquering ruler, Israel allowed many others to live in its territory in the time of Solomon on this condition.  When Israel was disobedient they were attacked, if not conquered and made slaves like in the case of the Captivity in Babylon, then were restored to their homeland, or in the Era of the Romans where they also had to pay taxes to Rome to be left alone. 

The plain reading in the mind of King David when writing Psalm 37 was almost certainly God's sense of giving actual land to more righteous nations, and punishing other nations by taking their land.  Perhaps, King David had in mind the boundaries of the land of Israel in their time, after David his son Solomon ruled Israel when its borders were at its biggest:
Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.--1 Kings 4:21
This was a fulfilment of Genesis 15:
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates--Genesis 15:18
Now let's look for similar verses outside of the Torah "inheriting the land," in the Psalms we see:

His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.--Psalm 25:13
 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.--Psalm 37:9
But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.--Psalm 37:11
For [such as be] blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and [they that be] cursed of him shall be cut off.--Psalm 37:22
The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.--Psalm 37:29
Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see [it].--Psalm 37:34
[How] thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; [how] thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out.--Psalm 44:2
For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.--Psalm 44:3
For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession.--Psalm 69:35
And gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labour of the people;--Psalm 105:44
In this see the Psalms talk about TAKING land by force (killing, cutting off, driving out) as part of the inheritance, which cannot refer to heaven--at least not easily! Furthermore, it refers to the SEED of a person inheriting the land as in Psalm 25:13, this is what happened in the case of Abraham, his seed received it, not Abraham himself.
For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.--Isaiah 54:3
When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take [them]: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;--Isaiah 57:13
Thy people also [shall be] all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.--Isaiah 60:21
And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.--Isaiah 65:9
Psalm 37 could have a spiritual application, just as "inherit my holy mountain" seems to. As I mentioned elsewhere, "land" in the Psalms and the Hebrew bible can refer to the temple ground (which was not yet built when David wrote the Psalm, though its not excluded as being prophetic) in which case its sometimes called the "land of the living" and the Temple itself was a sort of Heaven on Earth, since it was where God dwelt on Earth.  Taking into account the Sermon on the Mount--the beatitude about the meek inheriting the Earth probably has the Kingdom of Heaven in mind as an inheritance, and uses "land" as an expression for it since it was used for inheritance in the old testament. 
Here are the beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 It would seem strange for Jesus to interject a earthly existence considering before and after it in the Beatitudes he makes explicit references to people going to heaven for being poor in spirit, and being persecuted for His sake. 

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