Questions From Readers
◼ Since Psalm 37:29 has been translated “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever,” does it refer simply to Israel’s permanently occupying the Promised Land?
No, that interpretation would be an unfounded limitation of this inspired promise. Psalm 37 holds before righteous ones the prospect of living forever on our earth.
The above rendering of Psalm 37:29 is from the King James Version. As is true of many other versions, it renders the Hebrew ‘eʹrets as “land.” ‘Eʹrets can refer to a distinct region or to the territory of a nation, such as “the land of Shinar” or “the land of Egypt.”—Genesis 10:10, 11; 21:21; Psalm 78:12; Jeremiah 25:20.
So Psalm 37:11, 29 might indicate that the Israelites could have been and should have been permanent occupants of the Promised Land. In accord with God’s covenant with Abraham, they could have remained in that territory that God gave them, with generation after generation enjoying his blessings there. However, it did not work out that way, for the Israelites became unfaithful to God.—Genesis 15:18-21; 17:8; Deuteronomy 7:12-16, 22; 28:7-14; 31:7; Joshua 21:43-45.
According to A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Gesenius, Brown, Driver, and Briggs; 1951) ‘eʹrets means: “1. a. earth, whole earth ([as opposed] to a part) . . . b. earth, [as opposed] to heaven, sky . . . c. earth=inhabitants of earth . . . 2. land=a. country, territory . . . b. district, region . . . 3. a. ground, surface of ground . . . b. soil, as productive.” Old Testament Word Studies by William Wilson says of ‘eʹrets: “The earth in the largest sense, both the habitable and uninhabitable parts; with some accompanying word of limitation, it is used of some portion of the earth’s surface, a land or country.” So the first and primary meaning of the Hebrew word is our planet, or globe, the earth.
Significantly, when Psalm 37:11, 29 was translated into Greek in the Septuagint, the Hebrew ‘eʹrets was rendered by the Greek ge, which “denotes earth as arable land or soil.” Ge is the word that is used in Jesus’ significant prophecy at Matthew 5:5: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.”
Surely Jesus, in quoting the promise of Psalm 37:11, was not speaking merely of the Promised Land. His anointed followers will become heavenly king-priests with him to share a rulership over the entire earthly globe. (Revelation 5:10) Similarly, mild-tempered ones gaining everlasting life as humans will help to restore Paradise conditions over the entire earth. (Revelation 21:4; Genesis 1:28) Thus, all of us can look to the marvelous future fulfillment of the promise: “For the good will inherit the earth, and upon it for ever will dwell.”—Psalm 37:29, Fenton.